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Posts Tagged ‘humor’

There’s something about those boys from New Jersey, right?

A little bit naughty, a little bit wild, and a whole lot of that special something that makes you want to stay close, even though you suspect he’s nothing but trouble. Even when you see where this is all going, even when you recognize how wrong he is and how foolish you are, you can’t let go.

I’m not talking about Bruce or Bon Jovi or even Frank: these are our icons. As for the swaggering beach bums, hot-shot lawyers and wanna-be Manhattan power-brokers, a smart Jersey girl knows what is what.  But then along comes one or two of these fellas, promising the moon–and you believe it. Or at least I did.

I guess that’s how these guys get elected.

Governor McGreevey–Jim–was a real charmer, with his ebullient manner and boyish grin. He’s just gotten married to a striking but reserved woman; had a baby daughter, and then,there he was: the young new governor of New Jersey. I was an emotionally roiled widow trying to keep busy. Jim offered me the opportunity by making me the Governor’s liaison to the 9/11 families.

Jim and I were once close

Sure, the pay was low, the hours were long and the clientele was demanding. But the perks turned my head: breakfast at the governor’s mansion, calls from his private cell phone, rides in the state limousine—once I was driven from a meeting in Manhattan to one in central New Jersey by state troopers slashing through rush-hour traffic at 100 mph, lights flashing and siren wailing. Turns out our state troopers liked to put the pedal to the metal.

I suspected Jim had a secret life, but I didn’t think it involved massively poor judgment until I learned that it did: he’d hired his male lover at an impressive salary to serve as director of security although the man had little experience save one mandatory stint in the Israeli Army. I watched the press conference, in which he announced he was a “gay American” and ignored the question of public salaries for unqualified friends, with sadness. I wanted him to call. Not long after his press conference, he separated from his wife, Dina. They wrote books, hers and his mortifyingly entitled The Confessionhe moved in with a new friend and studied to be an Episcopalian priest.

He never called again…and that hurt most of all.

Then there was the Senator who would be governor. Jon radiated quiet stability and good intentions.When he decided to run for governor, I was there, squirming at the obscene amounts of money going into the election (could several poor nations be sustained for that kind of cash?), but ever faithful. I was also there for his inaugural, and for  the fancy dress ball, during which time I got another big hug and a whispered admonition to “call and schedule a meeting,” and at his straightforward State of the State address, where he was applauded for his honesty.

Jon could be animated

Jon’s administration, including his communications department, was as closed as Jim’s had been open.  But I still believed in him—for a time.  I still accepted the hugs and got a little tingly when he reminded me that we were going to meet to talk about my working in his administration (I never reminded him that his people were stonewalling me). But I tried not to take it to heart: I knew it was never going to happen. Not that he didn’t need help: his public persona was taking a beating. Not that he didn’t need help: his public persona was taking a beating. He was accused of being indifferent, weak, out of touch and prone to making bad decision. Meanwhile his seatbelt-free accident (another hard-driving state trooper) and his post-divorce relationship with Carla, a powerful union leader and prototype Jersey Girl, were the kinds of incidents that were getting him press.

Carla, #1 Jersey Girl 

I ran into him just before he was soundly defeated in our last election. He seemed resigned to the possibility he might lose and talked about working as an Ambassador. He wanted, he said, to stay in public service.

Speaking of resignation: Jon left public life to return to the private sector that had earned him millions, although apparently not much of a reputation as a smart leader. Last week, following a scandal about missing money at  MF Global, the firm he headed for several years, Jon resigned, forgoing the 12 million dollar golden parachute. Although he is not suspected of misappropriating any funds, he stands accused in business circles of making supremely bad decisions.  Maybe we all did.

Jim, Jon…and don’t get me started on Bob, AKA “The Torch.”  These boys make it so hard to be a Democrat in New Jersey. You know what I’m sayin’.

Maybe that’s why I had my eye on Chris. I was careful; we came from different backgrounds, after all. Still, I warmed to his outgoing nature, I admired his spunk, I was willing to cut the guy some slack and see how he applied his independent spirit and can-do attitude to governing our troubled state. I was, for a brief moment, almost proud of a Jersey boy.

Christie-2Chris  finger-pointing

Shades of Rudy Giuliani! Turns out Chris is more pig-headed than tough; a bully, in fact, who enjoys talking tough and favors a sledgehammer where a paring knife might do. Although he began as a moderate, he’s been side-stepping to the right, more than willing to pander to his national party’s fringes to gain a platform. He also likes to flirt long and hard before letting his supporters down, but by the time he nearly ran as a Presidential primary candidate, I was so over him.

This week, I’ll be interviewing my local Congressman for Does This Make Sense. Rush is smart, compassionate, loyal and progressive.  Everyone around these parts loves him. I’m approaching cuatiously nonetheless. I can’t afford more heartbreak at the hands of another Jersey Boy.

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Yesterday, as one of a group of selected 9/11 family members, I had an opportunity to meet with President Obama. Although the number of invitees swelled at the last minute and the format changed from a sit-down to a stand-up affair, I had my moments with the man. Problem is, I got kind of tongue-tied and forgot some of what I’d hoped to say:


  1. You look AMAZING.
  2. Would you consider closing Gitmo and turning it into a salsa club? I think you’d win points not only on your moral gesture but also for a project that could aid Cuba’s economy, thus marking the first step towards normalizing relations. Even the conservative Miami Cuban-American population would appreciate your cultural sensitivities and their support could be key in winning Florida in 2012.
  3. Michelle has you working with weights, doesn’t she?
  4. Some people are concerned that Pakistan, stung by being out of the loop when it came to the bin Laden mission, will become more dangerous, harboring terrorists and perhaps even sharing its nuclear power. But if you made a movie of the operation, you could cut Pakistan in on international distribution and related ancillary rights as well as job-creating monies generated by filming on location. To play well in certain parts of the world, the filmmakers might create an interactive version in which viewers get to choose alternate endings. This could be a book to another growing cottage industry—the conspiracy theorists. Win-win.
  5. You’re getting grey, Mr. President—but I guess you know that.
  6. You totally rocked at the White House Correspondents’ dinner—and considering it was the night before the big take-down,  you deserve an Oscar.
  7. Say, maybe instead of the usual photo ops, we might take a minute, just you and I, to do some serious talking about domestic and world issues. I have a lot of good ideas and I think it would be very moving to have you sitting with an ordinary 9/11 family member sharing a moment to talk about the personal and the political while you’re holding a copy of my book upright and facing the camera.
  8. Can I sneak a peek at your long-form birth certificate? Please?
  9. Did I mention that you look AMAZING?
  10. It’s an honor to meet you sir. I don’t have anything to ask of you; I just want to thank you for being here today and for doing what you’re doing. I’m a big fan of yours—have been for some time—and oh, by the way, my sister loves you, too.

 (actually, I did say that last bit, which might account for his big grin)  

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 My early teen years were a struggle, to say the least. I was ungainly, unsure and decidedly uncool. Eventually, I would  attain the even teeth, the carefully ironed long hair,  even an  acceptable body shape.  But in 1964, I wanted to look like my older  brother’s cheerleader girlfriends. More seriously, I wanted to be
someone else–anyone else except me.

I was miserable at school. I couldn’t hide my smarts or keep my mouth shut; couldn’t get my footing  or find my place. Ripe for teasing, I tried to stay clear of the mean  girls and sought refuge in music and books. Then, beginning September  22nd of that year, I had a chance to latch onto a debonair chap and his sexy partner, the stars of “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”

UNCLEThe show was both an homage to and send-up of the popular James Bond movies and starred Robert Vaughn and a young Scottish actor named David McCallum. They played agents of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement (UNCLE), an international organization dedicated to stopping THRUSH from exercising its evil plan to take over the world.

The casting was impeccable, the setup fantastical and the details were  inspired. Vaughn’s character, Napoleon Solo, was the classic spy in the 007 mold: suave, clever; with a fondness for the good life and a weakness  for women.  He was cool in an old-fashioned sort of way; a throwback to previous decades.

youngMc
But it was McCallum’s character, the elusive Illya Kuryakin, who caught and held my attention. The Beatles had landed in the U.S. a few months earlier and like so many girls my age, I was drawn to the safely boyish Paul McCartney. But in Illya, I found my soul-mate: a mysterious,
educated (Masters degree from the Sorbonne; PhD in quantum mechanics from University of Cambridge) Russian whose hip calm exterior hid, I was certain, a treasure trove of passion. He seemed to own a wardrobe of swoon-inducing black turtlenecks.  Best of all, he and Solo were working in a spirit of global cooperation to defeat terrorists, anarchists and the like in the middle of the Cold War.  I was hooked.

My mother, in a display of solidarity and support, took pictures of our television set when the show was on and gave me the images. I can’t tell you what that meant to me; it was like having your mother approve of your first boyfriend.

“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” lasted four years and took me through high school. Even after I grew out of my ugly duckling phase, I remained loyal to the intrepid spies and to the attractive Illya.   Encountering McCallum in recent times on another show that has saved me–NCIS–is like  olderMcreuniting with an old love. McCallum’s Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard is a little fussy, but also funny, smart and sensitive, with a soulful side
that probably owes to his Scottish origins (okay, I’m projecting). He’s not quite the sexy Kuryakin I remember–except perhaps for the twinkle in his eye. But he seems wise in ways that matter. I’m sure he’d forgive my crush on  Mark Harmon’s character. I like to think we have a deeper, more meaningful relationship. He was, after all, my first love.

sources: IMDb; Wikipedia
images: nnbd  firstachurch, photobucket

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Paradox

I think, therefore I am.

I am, so why not be

Or not to be; then possibly

T’was blind, and now I see.

The change I want to see

I must be, but am not

If not to reason why

Then should I try to think,

Or not?

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We live in a world where anything goes. Sort of. Okay, not really. It depends. Money has a lot to do with what’s acceptable. So does
influence—who has it, what she does with it, how it relates to making money. Tastefulness or appropriateness? Sure that might come into play, somewhere behind money and influence.

I’m reminded of what flies—and what doesn’t by two seemingly unrelated New York Times articles. In one, entertainment critic Jon
Pareles noted
the ubiquity of the F word; three out of the top ten songs on Billboard’s “Top 100” have the word f-ck in the chorus—at least I think that’s what he meant when he referred to a “percussive four-letter word.”  This was front page in the print edition, mind you. Of course, the author also recognized that the F word was so common in popular songs right now that it’s kind of lost its punch. If Enrique Iglesias, the smooth-skinned, smooth-voiced Latin crooner, is using it in the title of his new song about, er, making love, then who can argue that crude sells?

The other article, buried in the business section, announced that Gilbert Gottfried, the irascible comic with the irritating voice, was fired from his presumably lucrative gig as spokesduck for insurance giant Aflac. Gottfried’s grating sound and on-stage persona was a perfect match for the reliable, if short-tempered duck. Apparently Gottfried tweeted tasteless jokes about the situation in Japan—and that was that.

My first reaction was one of disbelief that Gottfried had sabotaged his day job so foolishly. Hello? Brain to mouth (or in this case,
fingers). As an ad agency executive put it (in the careful manner of someone who used to walking a fine line): “I think you should think before you speak, and you should think before you tweet.”

Well yes, but let’s recognize that Gottfried is a raunchy comedian of long-standing who has cracked tasteless, inappropriate jokes for years now. His jokes (reported online, although pulled off his website) were stupid, sophomoric and silly—vintage Gottfried. Here’s one:

“What does every Japanese person have in their apartment? Flood lights.” Source: Syracuse Post-Standard

I know—it makes you squirm; me too. But that’s what Gottfried’s known for; and that’s what his employers must have known about him.
Yet they were offended; rather, they were shocked and offended, which prompted my second reaction: Really? A raunchy comedian who has built his career making frequently offensive jokes has surprised you?

Gottfried has a long history of in-your-face humor. Columnist Frank Rich recalled in 2005 that the comedian told what may have been the first 9/11 joke only two and a half weeks after the attacks that took the lives of so many, including my husband. According to Rich, Gottfried, appearing at the Friars Club, claimed he couldn’t fly non-stop to California because “they said they have to stop at the Empire State Building first.”

The joke fell flat

Undaunted, Gottfried pushed ahead and offered up his version of a famous dirty joke that was being recounted by various comedians, whose
performances were then made in to a movie—“The Aristocrats.” Like the professional provocateur that he is, he got the audience guffawing in short order.

I wasn’t offended by the joke. We humans often joke as a way to find relief, especially in the wake of horrific events. Obviously, there’s a
line that separates humor from cruelty, but I’d like to think we can parse the difference. Besides, tragedy is also part of life and life is fair game for the comedian.

Those people who suggested 9/11 was retribution for our sins; or the earthquake in Haiti was a response to devil-worship; or the Japanese “got what they deserved”—those are the people who should be ostracized. But that’s not how things work in our mixed-up, everything goes and nothing goes society. Some can sing about screwing to an audience of screaming preteens, using that percussive four-letter word, and end up being the goose that lays the golden egg.  But a comedian might well be censored—or worse—for doing what he does.

That’s just quacked up.

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As I prepare for my entrance into what are colloquially known as “the cranky years,” I’m becoming especially sensitive about the marketing—or lack thereof—of services and products to the senior population. Besides pills, pads, portfolios and various insurance vehicles (including my personal favorite, the reverse mortgage, in which at least one of the participants hopes for an early death), pickings are slim. Apparently, people over sixty don’t give a damn about music, art, exercise or, god forbid, fashion–okay, except for Lauren Hutton and maybe Steven Tyler.

Lauren Hutton (image: marie claire) and Steven Tyler (image: TV Guide)

But baby boomers—and God  help me, I am one—are not going gentle into that good night and designers and manufacturers are belatedly turning their attention to developing stuffs we future oldsters don’t yet know we want.

Yeah, fine; it’s about time.  But now this: in order to assist product designers and marketers, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab has designed the “Age Gain Now Empathy System,” an ungainly turn of phrase that allows the developers to playfully call it AGNES (presumably after someone’s grandmother).  AGNES is actually a bulky, space-age looking suit with various restraints, harnesses, weights and other features that are suppose to mimic age-related limitations. According to the AgeLab website, AGNES “has been calibrated to approximate the motor, visual, flexibility, dexterity and strength of a person in their mid-70s.”

 “I’d rather be writing a paper”

I’m all for products that, in the words of an upbeat health policy analyst, “allow for wellness and prevention and lifestyle enhancement.” But I’m flabbergasted that MIT would squander its resources developing an ugly-looking space costume that twenty-year-old students can wear around to understand what seventy-five feels like. Why not ask a 75-year-old?

Better yet, why not develop a system that allows those in their mid-seventies (or those who feels that way) to experience being twenty again? See, I had this idea…

Introducing the “Age Reversal Now Illusion Experiment” or ARNIE® (patent pending)

 The ARNIE® features a Lithium battery-powered propulsion system that keeps its wearing moving along. Double torsion springs absorb excess stress while high-capacity electric cylinders offer the strength of a college football linebacker. Glasses provide optimal vision using digital SLR technology. A small onboard computer monitors vital signs and supplies infusions of B-6, B-12, glucosamine, Viagra, and, for an additional cost, medical marijuana via a discrete, non-invasive transfusion system. The deluxe version also included New York Times crosswords, Sudoku, and reruns of “Jeopardy.” Best of all, the ARNIE® emits a powerful mind control beam that can reach up to 500 people at a time and creates the illusion that the wearer is a young, hot, twenty-something. Comfortable and lightweight, the ARNIE® can be worn year-round (even to the beach!) and folds to fit comfortably in your pocket or handbag for those times when you might want to take advantage of senior citizen discounts.

 Come on, MIT! Let’s put those research dollars to good use!

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Make It Easy On Yourself

New Year’s resolutions: they’re irresistible. We make them, break them, flout, revile, or ridicule them but they are as ubiquitous a ritual as champagne on New Year’s Eve. The calendar and the clock conspire to awaken in us the promise not only of longer days and warmer weather but also of redemption: “This year, I will…”happyny

In the interest of providing comfort, ease and peace of mind to our friends, I have, with the help of several compatriots, compiled a list of resolutions most of us will not fail to achieve. Herewith, in 2011,  we resolve to:

1. get some sleep
In a nod to the insominiacs, we do not specify how much sleep we resolve to get nor add the burden of expectation that we will sleep every day (which also includes the party-goers among us).

2. eat
Here we define “eat” as taking sustenance in any form.

3. drink
Same thing.

4. turn head to the right
Anyone who drives will want to turn the head in order to back out of a tight space or engage in parallel parking. Those who don’t may have occasion to cross the street or glance back to make sure they’re not being followed.

5. smile
This is a bit more challenging. After some debate, allowances will be made for grimaces, smirks, tight-lipped half-smiles, and foolish or vaguely threatening grins.

6. look out a window
Even cellblocks have them, although they can be difficult to reach.

7.  leave the house wearing clothing
Any clothing is permissible; we wanted to allow for those of us who may shuffle out the door in our pj’s to get the paper. Anything after that is a matter of common sense, of course.

8. ignore someone
It’s going to happen anyway; might as well make it a resolution.

9. complain
Ditto.

10. spend time on one or more social networking sites
This really is a no-brainer.

Feel free to share your can’t-miss resolutions…and have a great entry into 2011.
image: photofurl

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