Homo homini rodentius est

Losing my religion

Busted! Martha and Co. strolling away from the knishery on Thanksgiving afternoon. And, no, she doesn’t have the power to melt faces. I did that…

I like to flatter myself that I’m a savvy little rat — after all, I was a mere stripling when I gave God himself the heave ho — no small accomplishment in a house full of Irish Catholics. And, yet, I am occasionally surprisingly susceptible to matters of faith in more prosaic matters. Like most people, I tend to believe what I’m told — even by people I don’t personally know, at all. Especially when they live in my television.

Artist’s rendering.

I had my faith thrown in my face on Thanksgiving Day. I stayed in the city this year and my friend Frank and I made plans to see a movie and eat Chinese. Around four in the afternoon I made my way to the Sunshine cinema on the Lower East Side and, arriving ahead of my friend, decided to stop into Yonah Shimmel’s Knishery next door to the theater to get a cup of borscht. I walked into the small restaurant and was immediately met with the image of Martha Stewart sitting at a table with her daughter Alexis and some guy. It was surprising enough seeing her in such a place but seeing her there at dinner time on Thanksgiving Day was nothing less than stunning. It was like running into Santa Claus at the movies on Christmas Eve. My first impulse was to whip out my camera and document it but thought better of pissing her off (she has done time in the slammer, after all). So I quietly paid for my soup and posted myself outside the restaurant where I snapped the shot of her walking away that appears above.

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Brideshead Regurgitated

Brideshead Revisited
Catholicism on the Cheap Charles (Matthew Goode), Sebastian (Ben Whishaw) and Julia (Hayley Atwell), surrounded by similarly gaudy decoration

We’ve been spoiled. For years, Merchant Ivory and Granada produced lush period productions of classic English novels that were feasts for the eyes and the intellect and that forever set a standard — and expectations — for the kind of historical drama that we could expect from British cinema. What an unpleasant surprise then to witness the remake of Brideshead Revisited that is currently in release. We can never again assume artfulness on the part of British filmmakers — even when it comes to handling their national treasures. The new film, cobbled together by screenwriters Jeremy Brock and Andrew Davies and directed by Julian Jarrold, turns the passionate story of Charles Ryder’s religious redemption into a period potboiler about a love triangle gone wrong.

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50 Years On the Road

Jack Kerouac didn’t make it to 50 — he died in 1969 at the age of 47 from a gastric hemorrhage following decades of alcohol abuse. Wednesday September 5th marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of On the Road. I wonder if he’d be happy that after all these years the book is not only still in print, but selling 100,000 copies a year. Maybe not, considering that by the end of his life he’d turned his back on a lot of the passions of his youth. Drunk, bitter and lonely, he ended up being the antithesis of the free-wheeling angelheaded hipster he’d aspired to be once — cloistered away in his mother’s bungalow with a bottle, about as far from the open road as he could get.

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Jerry Falwell faces judgment. Finally.

As a charter member, along with [Tinky Winky], of the cabal that — according to Jerry Falwell — brought you [9/11] and any number of other disasters both natural and unnatural, I can’t say I’m sorry to see him go. But I’ll try to be gracious and not speak ill of the dead.

All I will say is that I find it interesting that God’s servant on Earth was taken at age 73, when my chain-smoking, hard-drinking, divorced parents made it to 74 and 76 respectively. Probably doesn’t mean a thing. I’m just sayin’…

Hitchens debates Sharpton. Both lose.

Krusty HitchensI almost feel sorry for Christopher Hitchens. I attended the “debate” that he engaged in last Monday with Al Sharpton at the New York Public Library. The entire episode was a surreal example of how diminished is Hitchens’ reputation as a public intellectual. For weeks before the event, the library had advertised it as a discussion with him about his new book, [God Is Not Great] — the latest handbook of apostasy to join an ever-growing list of atheist polemics. Then, for some reason (lagging ticket sales?) about a week before the event, it suddenly became a debate with Rev. Al Sharpton. Bizarre, to say the least. Perhaps they were hoping for verbal pyrotechnics — The Thrilla in The Celeste Bartos Forum… so to speak. A reporter for the New York Times wrote it up as a title bout, even listing the proceedings in “Rounds”, which was generous.

A slick self-promoter best known in New York as a man who never met a microphone he didn’t like and who made his name during the notorious [Tawana Brawley fiasco], Sharpton hardly seemed the proper foil for Hitchens’ intellectual challenge of scripture and its place in public life. Though “ordained” at the age of nine (whatever that means), he has never shown much ethical compunction in his own public life, so it was unclear how he could be seen as a defender of religious ethics in the public lives of others. Perhaps, having recently achieved a coup of sorts by raking Don Imus over the coals for his racist mutterings and contributing to his downfall, Sharpton felt that he was anointed to speak on matters of public morals. Ah, but as we know from Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. As events would turn out to show…

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