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Bill Maher, Islamophobia, and Political Correctness

 

FSM

Breaking News! Bill Maher, host of Real Time and the now defunct Politically Incorrect is politically incorrect!

So say students at UC Berkeley, who are petitioning the administration to rescind Maher’s invitation to speak at their December commencement, claiming Maher “is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for.”  Over 4000 have signed the petition. To sign a counter-petition, click here.

Maher has been accused of bigotry and racism elsewhere as well, for his jokes and comments on the Muslim religion, to wit: “Islam is the only religion that acts like the mafia that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing.” The students’ petition calls this “hate speech.” I call it the truth.

Bill Maher is one of the world’s most ardent atheists, and gives equal time to all religions. As noted on SF Gate, “Maher, along with Oxford professor Richard Dawkins and the late journalist Christopher Hitchens, are among a group of prominent atheists who have taken a no-holds-barred approach in their outspoken disdain for religious doctrine of all faiths.”

As Maher once said, were he alive during the Crusades he’d be raving primarily about Christianity—which he still does—but he’s living now, when ISIS is beheading people. “Islamophobia!” scream his critics.

Well, count me in as an Islamophobe: whether it’s coming straight from the Koran or a perversion of the religion, had I been born in one of many burka_2679987bpredominantly Muslim countries I’d have to go out covered from head to toe and could be stoned to death for adultery. As a Jew I wouldn’t have visited Germany during Hitler’s reign; as a woman I won’t visit Iran now.

Oh, but the politically correct cry self-righteously, we must respect religious customs! Why? Why should I respect any religion that treats women as pariahs? It’s time we stopped this hands-off bullshit of forgiving misogyny and oppression in the name of religious doctrine. For the record, I’m also critical of Orthodox Judaism for barring women from certain religious ceremonies, the morning prayer in which men “thank God I’m not a woman,” and the baffling, bizaare custom of making women shave their heads and wear wigs. As for the Catholic Church, it continues to ban abortion and even contraception, damaging millions of women (and men, and children) with outmoded, antisex edicts.

Ironically, it’s primarily liberals who toss around this term Islamophobia. “Liberals need to stand up for liberal principles,” Maher said during a round-table discussion. “But then when you say in the Muslim world, this is what’s lacking, then they get upset.”

Bill Maher might just end up with a fatwa on his head, like Salman Rushdie who lived in hiding for years, like the cartoonists who portrayed Allah unfavorably, like the filmmaker who was murdered for doing the same. If that isn’t intolerance in the name of religion, I don’t know what is. Why should we respect it?

 

 

Endings: Breaking Bad: Spoilers

Walt & Jesse

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! STOP NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END OF BREAKING BAD!

We could probably count on the fingers of one hand how many long-running TV shows ended in a way that we found satisfying. Seinfeld comes to mind. M.A.S.H. Nothing else at the moment, though I’m sure there must be more, if few and far between. I mean, remember The Sopranos? Thus, when a show does deliver the goods in that last crucial episode, after flawlessly leading up to it with four or five intense programs, it seems like quite an achievement.

The ending of Breaking Bad left me completely, and fully satisfied. I’m not wondering what happened to this character or where did that one go, or why did that idiot do what he did. My one and only complaint is that Hank died, but since Jesse was allowed to live I guess I can forgive Vince Gilligan and Company. Besides, the sacrifice of Hank‘s character was integral to what followed.

Hank and Jesse were the only characters I really liked on BB….and maybe the eccentric lawyer Sol, who made a clean getaway, even if he is stuck in Omaha flipping burgers. Everyone else was either psycho—I loved it when Jesse called Todd and Jack’s gang a bunch of psycho fucks—or whining nags like Skyler and

Betsy Brandt as Marie Shrader (Photo: Imdb)

Betsy Brandt as Marie Shrader (Photo: Imdb)

son Flynn; good god, how those two worked my last nerve! Marie was no prize either, though in the final episode Betsy Brandt finally did some real acting.

Aside from the main climactic events, there were a few elegant touches executed only the way BB can do these things: for instance, the gun-on-a-turntable Walter rigs up to give those psycho fucks what they so richly deserved. The creation of that gadget brought us full circle in terms of Walter’s character, as he harkens back to the genius chemistry teacher we were introduced to in 2008. While he was setting up this contraption, I hadn’t a clue WTF he was going to do with it, and completely forgot it even existed…until the moment when Walt pushed the button that swung open the trunk of his car. Out came Robo-Gun, spinning like the turntable of a record player, firing off bullets instead of doo-wop. Within a few minutes, maybe even less, every psycho fuck but Todd and Jack lay dead and bleeding on the floor. Jesse got the gratification of choking Todd, the sociopath who physically tortured him, while Walt cut short Jack’s last drag on a cigarette the old-fashioned way, with a manual blast to the head.

By the time the cops arrived Walter was dead. Jesse refused to kill him for about the hundredth time in their complex father-son relationship, but it turned out he was shot by his own invention. No doubt he knew it might happen—but Walt’s been living on borrowed time already, and probably preferred to die now rather than endure a trial and prison, only to die of cancer during or shortly thereafter.

Anna Gunn as Skyler White (Photo: Imdb)

Anna Gunn as Skyler White (Photo: Imdb)

At least Walt made his confession before dying. Earlier he goes to see Skyler and begins by saying “Everything I did…” but she cuts him off, a great relief to her and to me, who could not bear one more bullshit declaration that he cooked meth and killed people “for my family,” the word so weighted in this context I could vomit. But Walt surprises her, and us: he tells the truth this time. “I liked it,” he said. “I was good at it. I felt alive.” It’s not like we didn’t know it, but still, I wanted to applaud: the guy came to terms before meeting his maker, if that is indeed what’s in store for him (and the rest of us).

Satisfying ending or not, saying farewell, even to characters I loathed, is just too sad.  The older I get the more I lose, and the more I see that’s one of  life’s big lessons. It’s why the Buddhists practice non-attachment: “When you ain’t got nothing you got nothin’ to lose.” But if I cry every time a show I love ends, imagine what it’s like when I lose real people or things. I don’t have to imagine…it’s happened enough already. Focussing some of life’s sadness on a show I loved is convenient. Satisfying.

Goodbye Heisenberg, you psycho fuck!

Bryan Cranston as Walter White (Photo: Imdb)

Bryan Cranston as Walter White (Photo: Imdb)

Big Blue Eyes

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Garry Moore, quintessential 50s TV emcee. Photo: Wikipedia

Garry Moore, quintessential 50s TV emcee. Photo: Wikipedia

Some time around 1950, my mother sent away for free tickets to some corny daytime television show. I don’t recall what it was, only that it wasn’t a soap opera or game show. The emcee, to whom I was rude, blunt, and contemptuous, might have been Garry Moore. The sponsor I vividly remember: Chef Boy-ar-Dee. At

Chef Boyardeethe end of the program each mother-child pair marched across the stage, shook the emcee’s hand, and received a can of ravioli. This ceremony was televised, was part of the programming.

When it was our turn, the emcee smiled at me and cooed, “Where’d you get those big blue eyes?” Four years old, I thought he was an idiot. “I was born with them!” I said, silently conveying the tag, “Stupid!” He was taken aback, but luckily we had to keep moving so the next kid could get a can of ravioli.

My little playmate Barry was home in his Bronx apartment watching TV and sucking his thumb. When I came on camera he shrieked, “That’s my Marcy!” Or so his mother told me. I guess he didn’t notice my bitchiness—or maybe he was used to it. Or maybe it made perfect sense to Barry that I called a grownup on his bullshit: of course I was born with my blue eyes—where else would I have gotten them? For years I’d tell this story for laughs, proud of my youthful honesty. Now, having reached an age where I know who I am and how I got here, I see that my behavior came from a personality in development, one that I cultivated and honed and carried with me into the future. It was not a personality likely to generate success in most areas of life.

The evidence was on my quarterly report card: in first grade, when they only gave out “S” for Satisfactory or “U” for Un, straight S’s ran down and across for every subject but one: “Works well with Others.” Unsatisfactory! Marcy does not work well with others! These days a parent who saw a report card like that would rush their kid to the nearest shrink. My parents ignored it.

Cartoon: Dane Anthony

Cartoon: Dane Anthony

 

This wasn’t really unusual; in fact, it would’ve been considered odd if they had consulted a shrink. That’s the way my generation’s parents were: they pushed us out the door in the morning and expected us back by supper. We were to do our homework without their help, do well in school, wash our face and comb our hair. They were nothing like today’s “helicopter” parents.

The other day I heard someone roughly my age on a podcast, talking about the parenting style of the generation who raised us, who raised me. It might’ve been Marc Maron, who I listen to a lot, but he’s younger. Whoever it was, he joked that our parents won World War II, saving us from living in a Hitleresque world

Photo: "Life Under Nazism" at from Center for Holocaust & Gender Studies/http://www.chgs.umn.edu/histories/documentary/nazilife/index.html

Photo: “Life Under Nazism” from Center for Holocaust& Gender Studies/http://www.chgs.umn.edu/histories/documentary/nazilife/index.html

under Nazism; now what more could we possibly want from them? The guy he was talking to said he didn’t think our generation could’ve done it, that we could not have won the war. He had a point.

Still. I’m not the only one who was raised by a system of benign neglect (or worse). I’m not the only one struggling not to be bitter, who genuinely wants to stop blaming my parents for my problems. I’m not the only baby boomer who would like to be able to forgive them.

Dead or alive, they deserve no less.

Television

Idiot box. Boob tube. Little blue screen. Television: It’s bad for us. It scrambles our brains, makes us passive, kills creativity and eats up time. To most people, though, it’s irresistible.

Until I got older and began spending so much time alone in silent apartments, I wasn’t into random viewing at all. My family  got our first tv set when I was four, and even then I remember being restless and bored when it was on. When the whole family came together to watch The Ed Sullivan Show or Dinah Shore, it was such a rare event that I’d stay just to be in the same room with them, but I found it almost painfully difficult to sit still. (Maybe it was their choice of programming, come to think of it!)  I did like Jackie Gleason and Red Skelton, but most television bored me.

Now I couldn’t live without it. When I used the phrase “random viewing,” I meant that (1) I didn’t keep it on if I wasn’t actually watching;  (2) I never, but never, turned it on before dark; and (3) I only turned it on to watch a specific show, about which I was often obsessional. These were few in number; usually one or two shows a season grabbed me and I couldn’t miss a single episode—and we had no copying apparatus then. (I remember being freaked out lest I  go into labor with my daughter during the anxiously awaited final episode of The Fugitive.)

Since I love to make lists, I’m always looking for new topics. Herewith is one of the tv shows I’ve been insanely attached to over the years. If they seem like a lot, remember, we’re talking about a time period of fifty years. Half a century. Good Grief!

Sitcoms

Father Knows Best (I was ten-plus and wanted to be “Kitten.”)
All in the Family
M.A.S.H.
Mary Tyler Moore (#1)
Golden Girls
Kate & Allie
Cheers
Frasier
Seinfeld
Roseanne (in reruns only)

Dramas

The Fugitive
Doctor Kildare
The Lou Grant Show
Hill Street Blues
Cagney & Lacey (#1)
Law & Order (still!)
Knots Landing (guilty pleasure)
L.A. Law (in reruns–it ran opposite Knots)
Judging Amy
House (getting ready to retire this one soon; it’s going downhill)

Reality

Lately I find myself much more interested in reality shows – though some are truly unbearable – than in fictional tv. I’m just more curious about what real-ish people are doing these days (as much as they can be real on tv).

Wife Swap (actually I can no longer bear this, it’s vile; I used to like it until it devolved into real slime, and I needed to take a shower afterwards)

Top Chef
Kate and her 8 Kids, in whatever format
Supernanny
Millionaire Matchmaker with the crazed Patty Stanger
Animal Planet
(lots of shows that keep changing. Some favorites are Animal Cops, It’s Me or The Dog, Parolees and Pit Bulls, and #1, Pit Boss)

Then There’s Radio…

I’ve got NPR on 99% of the time, and occasionally KFOG. Now, Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m., I’ll be switching on KPFA for Robbie Osmon’s Across the Great Divide. Robbie chooses a topic from the past week and puts together two fantastic hours that express the theme. He knows every genre of music; he plays corny country, old rock n’ roll, and obscure artists with cult followings. GREAT stuff!) (Except that he began today with four, yes, 4! versions of We Shall Overcome, which he has been playing every single week lately! I suppose it’s appropriate, given the times.

Movie Star Sex

Cover of

Cover of The Way We Were (Special Edition)

Yesterday Oprah Winfrey reunited Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford on her show as a sort of tribute to their 1973 movie The Way We Were. Millions of women all across the country, including me, shed millions of tears at the sight of these two coming together again. TWWW is the chick flick of the century, a story of unrequited love that breaks your heart every time, whether it’s your first or seventh viewing. For me, the ultimate Barbra Streisand fan and aficianado (see At the HoJo with Babs), the most intriguing aspect of yesterday’s show was the way they interacted: they just could not keep their hands off each other. Their kiss-hug greeting was more than just friendly, and throughout the interview they held hands; every once in awhile a hand would roam. Strangely enough, I’d never wondered if Babs and Bob (she calls Redford Bob) had a real-life affair, being so caught up in the film version. Yesterday I couldn’t help but wonder, what with her facial expression announcing that she was dying to go backstage and grab him good. As my friend Angie said when I asked what she thought, How could they not?


I got to thinking about movie stars’ sex lives, a topic that’s never seriously engaged my interest. I wonder why – after all, the possibilities are endless. Think about it: we plebes have our little fantasies that we think are so risqué, while these golden girls and boys have endless reels of erotic drama to play with when the cameras aren’t looking. Think of all the scenes that end at the bedroom door: why wouldn’t the actors take them to their logical conclusion? Why wouldn’t Babs and Bob have had breakup sex, makeup sex, falling-in-love sex, angry sex – you name it, that movie relationship covered the gamut of human emotion. Why wouldn’t they fly to the nearest bed after the day’s shooting ended?


Celebrity fantasies are nothing new — but people frequently use them as cover-up: to the question What’s your fantasy? a person will often respond by naming Brad or Jen or Angelina, rather than confessing their deep personal dramas. We all have them. Some of us have even written about them. My friend Shar published a couple of collections of sex with the famous and beautiful called Starf*cker.

I’ve dreamt, in my sleep, of doing a 3some with George Clooney and Jimmy  Smits. Even that now seems mundane compared to imagining celebrities with each other, completing all the truncated sex scenes in PG-Rated movies, incorporating the characters into their bedroom fun. By comparison, the straightforward celebrity fantasy seems almost clichéd.

I’ve gotta go now: I have a ton of movies I want to watch again. Camelot. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. All About Eve. West Side Story. And oh yes — The Way We Were.