Friday, September 28, 2012

Why I am Still Undecided

Two weeks ago may have been bad for the Romney campaign, but this past week was simply awful for the Obama campaign. And while my vote means nothing in the very Blue state of Connecticut, I feel I have to vent.
I don't need to recount the string of events that opened with Romney's disastrous late night press release about the anti-American riots in Egypt, followed by the 47% tape, and ending with the release of ginned-up 2011 tax returns - that was a bad week by all accounts. All it did was add to my sense that Romney is not fit to be President.
But this week? I am stunned -- simply flabbergasted -- that the President of the United States, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize, flew into New York, appeared on two domestic talk shows, gave a silly speech at the UN General Assembly, and then flew out -- and failed to meet with a single counterpart at this annual gathering of world leaders. I want to be clear - I am not the slightest bit concerned that Obama snubbed petulant Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his crazy Ross Perot-like cartoon visual aids. But in the wake of the death of an American ambassador in Libya, an unprecedented attack on an American airbase in Afghanistan which destroyed more aircraft in a single incident than anything since the Vietnam War, and rioting across the Middle East and North Africa against American embassies, I can hardly imagine a time more appropriate to meet face-to-face with the leader of Libya, the leader of Afghanistan, and the leader of Egypt. To send in your lame duck Secretary of State is simply not good enough.
Oh, I imagine the calculations that David Axelrod and company must have made about the potential downside in taking a day out of the President's reelection schedule for a series of meetings with world leaders, any of which might have turned into a public relations debacle. Axelrod -- or some other Chicago political hack -- must have been deathly afraid of some diplomatic "October surprise." I understand that this is a close election, and any unscripted event might drive the not-already-locked-in voter to the other side. But if there was ever a time to assert international leadership and serve the interests of the nation, this week was such a time. President Obama was the first President in 20 years to not hold a single tete-a-tete at the UNGA. To me, this is unforgivable.
And that brings me to the question that no one seems to ask: just who will be Obama's next SecState? Does the inside track go to Susan Rice, who shamefully got on American TV just days after the death of Ambassador Stevens to pronounce that his death was not the result of a coordinated terror attack, but rather the result of the fervor fanned by "The Innocence of Muslims"? I'd almost prefer any alternative to her.
What this all means for me is that I - a lifelong Democrat whose vote is of no consequence - have reverted from my grudging willingness to pull the proverbial lever for Obama to the undecided camp. I barely could muster voting for inexperienced and untested Obama 4 years ago. I've cited more than once Joe Biden telling a group of voters in October 2008: “Mark my words, it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We’re about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here . . . we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.” Well, another "testing" moment arrived this week. And Barack Obama failed.
I await the first debate in less than a week. Color me -- for the moment -- a high-information voter who is undecided.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The Possession & a Jewish Magic Box

I just returned from seeing The Possession. I had to - I am a professor of religious studies specializing in the history of Jewish mysticism. People are going to ask me my opinion. I hope I can deduct the ticket price as a legitimate business expense.
So the movie - "based on a true story" - is simply ridiculous. I don't like horror movies, but decided I had to go. Within 15 minutes, I was fine - because I was laughing so hard from the sheer lunacy of the script and the technically incorrect details of the Jewish content that by the time Matisyahu showed up as a Jewish exorcist I was certain the movie was some kind of comedic parody.
And now I just read that The Possession is the number one box office winner of this Labor Day Weekend, with the 2nd biggest Labor Day opening in movie history, 2nd only to Halloween. If this is what American filmgoers want to go see, I am now certain we as a nation are simply stupid.
The center of the movie is a so-called "dybbuk box." There is no such thing as a dybbuk box. But here is a picture of the prop:
The Hebrew on the box is a mirror image of regular Hebrew. If read R-to-L the words mean nothing, and constitute gibberish. If read L-to-R, one character at a time, you do get translatable Hebrew: "See you the evil of the punishment" or better yet "You will see the evil of the punishment." On the ends of the box is the single word which again is mirror image of normal Hebrew, an incorrect Hebrew spelling of the word "Dybbuk" (if one were to spell "dibbuk" there would not be 2 letter vav's). All in all, a very unsatisfying and implausible and technically incorrect artifact. This mistaken mirror image Hebrew has become a regular feature of Hollywood Hebrew props - for example there was a tombstone in "Weeds" this season whose engraved Hebrew lettering was in mirror image gobbledygook. Why movie makers won't go to the trouble of doing things correct is beyond me.
The movie had a Jewish technical adviser - a Conservative congregational rabbi somewhere in Canada (where the movie was shot). Oy vey! I know what happens in situations like this -- the director wants it one way -- you argue for authenticity, and the result is what the director wants. A shonde fur de goyyim.