Sunday, December 25, 2005

I thought I could still sit on Santa's Lap even though I look like him now

This will be my last true Christmas. I say this because this house, my house, the house I've lived in since I was 2 years old will be put on the market in a matter of months. And when we leave it behind we not only leave marks on door frames where we measured me and my brother's heights, and secret spots where we burried our treasures and forgot about them, but I will be saying goodbye to the Christmas I know and love.

What's a Jew talking about Christmas for? Well, I guess that does require a little explanation. My mother's family all the way back to the 1800's on the North Shore of the Chicago 'burbs started to celebrate Christmas because their "forward thinking" Rabbi decided it would be a good idea for his "flock" to assimilate into their new culture. This was just as most them had landed fresh off the boat from Germany and surrounding areas. After all, around that time Christmas had been declared a federal holiday, the first and only religious holiday to be recognized as a federal one to this day (I think I mentioned that in a comment to RB's xmas blog). And it was practiced by my mother's great great grandparents, great grandparents, grandparents, parents, herself, and now me and my brother. We're a secular clan, the Schwarz's, so we don't have the complexity to deal with "cheating" on our real God when we do this. But for the first time it seemed hard to explain last night to a Jewish friend of mine who is of the practicing kind, a true believer of YHWH (she'll probably be mad at me for spelling that out). I think she finally understood what I believed, that we've taken an idea about peace and love and family and sharing and caring that had been concentrated into a religious holiday and absorbed it into our own way of celebrating those same values. But no way was she going to be OK with it. We basically celebrate Christmas the same way everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, but this time, there's a tree, and angels, and a star, and Bing Crosby singing with David Bowie. My mother's favorite type of music is Gregorian chants and traditional Christmas music. It's weird, some may call it hypocritical, but it's what we do, it's a Schwarz tradition, and I've loved every minute of it.

Which brings me back to my original point. Every Christmas morning the family would gather at the top of our stairs in ascending order of age, my brother in the front, my dad in the back (grandma behind him when she could make it to Chappaqua from Baltimore - Hi Grandma!) and we'd all go down slowly to start off with but by the time the choo choo train was nearing the bottom Noah and I were falling over each other racing for the presents. And now, in about 5 minutes, we'll be doing this for the last time. I know, I know, I'm 27, what are we still doing this for? Because it's what Schwarz's do best,
and I'll miss it. I just wanted to share this last minute of magic with you all in hopes you can take it with you and make it a part of your Christmas time as I hope to carry some idea of it with me to my new home, wherever it may be.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good life!

Friday, December 23, 2005

It's finally over, but it's really just beginning

What a messed up week. The biggest shopping time of the year and no one could get into the city to take local businesses from red into black for the year. I was personally effected because my interview was put off during this week and will probably not happen to the new year. And even worse for my Indian friend Ekta, who is now back in India, will not be able to just drop by for an interview like the one she had scheduled the day she left that was cancelled by the strike.

And that's just the icing, or rather the mud on this dirt cake. The millions of hours lost in productivity. The hundreds of millions of lost tax revenue are like the 9/11 on the recession we were having in 2001. There were deficits seen on the horizon and now we've lost our buffer. And most of the deficit to our city will be the product of rising healthcare costs, the very reason the TWU local 100 went on strike in the first place. They don't want to pay more to get more. No one realizes that health costs are going up cause more people are using more services. Ulcer drugs, cancer drugs, AIDS drugs, cholesterol drugs, and not only are we all discovering we need one or the other we're all living long enough to basically guarantee part of our life on drugs. They are all life savers, we should be grateful for the new drugs we have and appreciating the quality of life that still keeps on rising even after we've doubled our own life expentancy last century. And we should even be worried about the drop in drug innovation over the past few years, but that's another story. All this is beside the point that our medical insurance system is defunct with 20% administration costs lowering all of our coverage.

The strike brought up the issue of pensions starting later, at 62 instead of 55 in this case. More and more we have an economy of services where people can work with little exertion as opposed to an industrial state where "workin' in the coal mine" is just impossible after 55. We have to be understanding of those in heavy labor but Mayor Bloomberg brought up an interesting point at yesterdays news conference. He said there are no easy answers. Well yes there are, it's just very hard to make them because we have to hurt now so we hurt less later and no one wants to do that. We must save now so we have something to spend later. We still haven't answered the social security question because we don't like taking away what seems to be working at this very moment. We KNOW we're going to live longer, we KNOW healthcare is only going up, we KNOW it's going to cost us more and yet the burden of providing for our retirements has dramatically shifted back to the employee instead of the employer. We are not a nation of saving anymore. We were until around the 60's and 70's but now we spend spend spend. It's one of the reasons our economy is so booming (or rather our GDP is high even if the lower classes aren't benefiting from it), because living beyond your means literally creates a bigger economy, but it also shrinks your own safety net. At a time when our government has been killing our safety net (just this week taking $8 billion away from people in NEED of medicare) now is not the time for companies and individuals to forget about their own futures.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Brother can you spare a 400 million dollar bill?

When I arrived in London in the spring of '04 there was a transit strike going on so I had to cab it from Heathrow to my flat for 75 pounds! That's like $140! And it's just commonplace in Europe cause the Unions get their way there too much. And it's one of the reasons why our economy rocks and theirs, not so much.

Yes, I'm a liberal, yes Unions are a good idea, without them there would be slave labor in America, even today. We'd never have the 8 hour work day, the minimum wage, or anything close to a living wage (which minimum wage is still about 3 times less than), and decent working conditions. (Of course I gave all of those rights up to become a copywriter, but that's a separate issue.) It's a shame we need unions, but human greed and selfishness at the top created their necessity. However...

$400 Million, that is what this transit strike is costing NYC every day in lost revenue. That right there, in this one day, is all the money that could have been spent on MTA employees and their demands, but no, they had to break the Taylor Law and strike. That law is there for a reason, so that no ESSENTIAL services are ever denied to the people who need them. This union, the cops, and firemen, cannot strike under the law. People WILL die today because of the traffic and ambulances not getting to where they need to go fast enough. And as long as the MTA and the state government isn't walking away from the talks, I put the blame squarely on the union who is striking.

The transit workers are asking for their retirement age to stay at 55 and not rise to 62. This at a time when America is getting older, Medicare is shooting through the roof, and budget deficits, not surplusses like what we have now, are projected in the future. The unions are looking at the flush of this year created by the housing bubble and temporary low interest rates and using it to justify more money, not to mention that 62 IS the new 55. Give it up transit workers, I am not on your side. And now that you've denied me, and a lot of people more in need of it than me, our city, it will be a while before you are forgiven.

Friday, December 16, 2005

My Indian and her cupboard

Yesterday, before my 3 hour adventure through the world of King Kong, I helped my better darker half (BDH) clear out her Manhattan Mini Storage. She is called my BDH not because of her darker sense of humor, but because she really IS darker than I am. Everybody meet Ekta.

She's been a great Art Director and friend to me over these past few months and now she's flying home to India. And this might be a permanent flight back. :( (do emoticons work on blogs?) How dare you Ekta! Just as we're all starting to love you so much. Kash did a great job pairing us up together and he has been thanked profusely many times by both of us by having him take us out to lunch.

Just on Tuesday she thought to invite me to a WYSIWYG talent show suitably called "Sumthin' Jewy This Way Comes" where Jewish bloggers read some of their works as they reflect on the Christmas holiday. We laughed, we enjoyed each other, Ekta won a door prize! 4 Jewish finger puppets of which she gave me two. Here's my Gelt puppet.

Gelt is money to all you gentiles out there.

And after that she took me to Hawaii! Well, an Hawaiian themed restaurant where we both partook in our true passion: Scotch. And when "Forever Young" came on the stereo, after I insisted she see the South African PS2 ad with that song cause I'm such an ad dork, she was even kind enough to honor me with a slow dance a la Napoleon Dynomite. I will miss you dearly Ekta and we all will be greatful for your return to the states ASAP!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Barkeep! Barkeep!

Now that Bush has finished his 4 days of trying to explain what the fuck we're doing in Iraq and why we're in the in the first place, let me give it to you in Cowboy speak so Bush can understand this too.

Imagine you just walked into a bar and the place is a mess. It's obvious that there's been a major brawl. The bartender is really pissed off and has a few janitors cleaning and is reassuring everyone that he just sent a few bouncers to chase down that fucker who started the fight in the first place.

Things are kind of settling down, trying to look like a respectable place again but the bartender keeps eyeing this one big dude that's been sitting at the end of the bar the whole time. You can tell he's been through the wringer but he's still there, drinking his beer, stealing tips, paying off bouncers, just a dirty guy that likes to sit at the bar and make a little trouble in his little area. He's caused a few fights at the bar before, some with the bartender winking and nodding and some with the bartender having to stop it, but he's tolerated. Till now.

For whatever reason, still pissed about the semblance of his bar, maybe still a little reared up, maybe just pissed the previous shift didn't deal with him, he's calling in the brute's tab. He's saying "Pay up and get out. I think you caused this bar fight in the first place!" The brute shrugs it off. The bartender gets even more pissed and calls back some bouncers to deal with this guy. He's dragged out but that causes an even bigger brawl to start and a chair is flying right at you.

How's that sound cowboy Bushie? You likin' what this bar fight is doing to our bar?

I need a drink.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Fuck this game

I hate the pressure, I hate the tit for tat, I hate the nuance that has no practical application, I hate the acting, the lying, the half truths, the exageration, I hate this fucking dating game!

For the past couple months I've ventured out into the realm of Jdate. I've seen it work, it does for other sites too, and no more games, la dee freakin da! And like most people of my generation, the "date" has basically died off and relationships are born from friendships, hook-ups, etc. So for all intents and purposes I've been going on my first dates, as a 27 year old, now. And I'm loving that I get to skip the "dance" of eye contact then winking the need for inebriation and pick up lines, but now there's the dating. I had one that went well and fizzled, for what reason I don't think I'll ever know. I had another that I think is now a friendship, so bonus, chalk up another friend to the friend pile, but I just had a great date last week that was, at least for me, a "Jaime, wipe that freakin' grin off your face" drive home. And now I have to play the new game of not seeming too interested, and "keeping the ball in my court," don't call before 3 days, jazz steps.

And the thing is, like most things I've learned in my life, I was already taught them in movies. But of course I don't grasp them till they happen to me. Case in point, Swingers. Fucking Favreau couldn't wait and fucked it up with ihs 90 messages on her machine. But in the end it wasn't the game that won out because Heather Grahm called him. Go Heather!

Maybe if I were freaking busy beyond belief I'd be able to handle this better, but I'm not. So my brain loves to keep my perpetual motion machine of thoughts going. Which, I'm sure is a nice thing, a romantic thing, to keep thinking of this girl, but I'm also sure is only creepy in other people's eyes. So I don't call, and I wait, and I have say things like "sure" and "whatever."

But trying to be empathetic, I get why there is a game. I understand how we have such nuance to make each one of us have something special to offer that no one else can. Or at least a new pick up line no one has heard yet. And confidence IS a real turn on, but why is it usually the polar opposite of caring and attentive? And still I'm wondering isn't there a better way people? Tell me there's a better way where we can all be honest and not miss an opportunity that could be "the opportunity" all because we didn't realize all the rules to "the game."

God I hope she doesn't find out how to read this blog!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

ABC is in preproduction on a new mini-series about the Holocaust. Nothing new there. There's been a lot of tellings over the past couple decades as the last of the survivors of the Holocaust are dying. But there's something special about this particular story, it's not that is about a particular girl, or her husband to be, or their amazing story of escape that failed only to have to try to survive in German occupied Holland from 1940 to the end of the war. It's not about anything having to do with that story or the making of it. It's about who will produce this movie. ABC is in talks with Mel Gibson's production company, founded to create Passion of the Christ, so that the controversy will bring in more viewers.
First, the justified crap to get it out of the way: I will always defend freedom of speech and expression. And I would hate my government if it ever tried to censor even the likes of Mel Gibson. I believe in the free market and I believe in the capitalism that comes with it and if that means we get a lot of what I don't agree with, then that's the price I pay. I have to have faith that common sense and decency will win out in the end (though this has not been happening so much these past 5 years.)
I saw the Passion illegally downloaded, 'cause how do you boycott a movie you haven't seen but how do you boycott a movie once you've paid? Aside from the fact that this really isn't a good movie, just a lot of torture and eerie scenes, I dislike the movie for the message it's passing on. Mel Gibson is a member of the Catholic Church from before Vatican II. He even built a church on his property because there is no one around who practices like he does. But I look to his father most of all for Mel's views. Because it's easy to not say things and therefore not reveal your true self, but when you don't deny things, that's the way into how you really think. Mel's father has said the Holocaust never happened, that it's made up. And Mel has gone far enough to say that there were lots of atrocities in WWII and that Jews died just like everybody else died and Jews did die in concentration camps. But right there he is making the holocaust the same as political assassinations or soldiers dying on the field or innocents being bombed during a battle, and not the planned extinction of a race. Plus he went out of his way to say, and here is the key part, that his father never lied.
So why am I putting two and two together? Messed up point of view with a bad movie? Because there is an agenda behind it. He made that movie to spread his message of what he thinks life/god/everything is really like, which as I said before is his right to do, but it is my right to boycott it and to boycott the rest of his works so that I send my message that I disapprove. That I will defend his right to say it is one thing, but to condone it, to approve of it, to let it go by without me saying my piece, that will never happen. Which brings me back to ABC who is simply, as they have even stated, using his religious controversy to increase ratings. All ABC is doing then is condoning Mel's view along with their Holocaust movie. Granted he'll have nothing to do with the making of the series but putting his name on it, what purpose does that serve? They think it will bring the Christian community that believes in what Mel is doing to the idea that the Holocaust happened and here's some of its story? What kind of irony is it when you get a person to back something they don't believe in so that others will believe more in him? And what does that do to the original message?
If this turns out to be something good it'll be like watching Hitler have to give the gold medal to Jesse Owens. Watching something wrong having to do something right, Mel having to come out and push for a more respectful view of the Holocaust. And the way this is playing out that is not going to happen. And if this turns out bad, it will be like the family that turned in Anne Frank so they wouldn't get into trouble. It will be us, the Jewish community and everyone else who believes in keeping what really happened alive, dropping our principles for the sake of vanity, for the sake of the limelight of controversy at the expense of what we believe in.

Monday, December 05, 2005

And now we draw to a close

All the big wigs just left for the actual pitch and boy are my arms tired. This was a great experience that I'm sorry I missed the majority of, but to be a part of it in any way was great. Cars are probably the most advertised things ever and yet fresh ideas keep popping up. It's gotta be the single best thing to point to when people think there are no more ideas left. Cause there always are. And there's nothing new to say here when I say if some of these things actually go made we could out do CPB in a lot of ways. Fingers crossed. Well, back to late mornings and more concepting on spec. You will be missed, little strawberry poison dart frog.