Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Flyover Country

Yourmoralleader is somewhere over Middle America, headed west to the hovel.

His mission in Tampa complete, we anxiously await the next chapter...

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Humiliation Continues

Apparently I'm a girl.

Here's my picture. Does that look like a girl to you, Bill?

I didn't think so. Thanks for the compliment about my writing, though.

Of course, I know full well just how worthless male compliments are when the intended recipient is a woman, or thought to be a woman. This is not to say that men lie to women, although we do (a lot); it's more a comment on male gullibility.

A year or so ago there was a controversy about the lack of big name female bloggers. Male writers, supposedly, were failing to link and promote the many talented women political bloggers. At least this is what some women (i.e., lesbians) thought.

A lot of women (and not just lesbians) don't understand the male mind. As if men are going to ignore women who write about politics (or sports, or computers, or cars). Ever heard of Michelle Malkin? Or consider the case of Libertarian Girl. A young man worked very hard on his political blog for months on end. But he just couldn't generate traffic. So he decided to call himself "Libertarian Girl," added a picture of a blonde woman (from a Russian mail order bride service), and immediately his hit total went through the roof. Why? Because men are stupid.

I had a similar experience a few years ago. I was watching a reality show and started to post comments on a message board. I thought my comments were interesting and thoughtful, but hardly anyone seemed to agree. I'd start a new thread and ... nothing. I was being ignored. I hate that!

So, as an experiment, I created a new account with a female name. I started posting exactly the same kind of observations and, as if by magic, other posters (i.e., men) started to respond enthusiastically to my comments, saying how interesting and thoughtful they were. It didn't stop there, though. Some started emailing me to compliment me on my perceptiveness. One creep even wanted me to go over to his place and ...


Men are gullible, stupid, and gross.

Why do women put up with us? Perhaps because we enjoy spending money on them. I'd really be interested to find out how much money Michelle Malkin makes from her blog. I bet she doesn't live in a hovel.

Men are incredibly foolish when it comes to women and money. There's even a columnist for a weekly magazine in Orange County (who will go nameless, but here's a pic), who constantly asks men to send her money and presents. And guess what? They do! Why? Because men are gullible, stupid, gross, and pathetic.

You'd think lots of men would start political blogs pretending to be attractive young women, complete with bogus pictures. Just add a Paypal button and ... easy money. I'm sure of it.

This was my mistake, because I'm still waiting for Luke Ford to pay me the $100 (actually, I think it's now up to $140) that he owes me for guest blogging. He's giving me the run around. Now he tells me he just doesn't have the money to pay me. This is an outrage! How can someone who goes on one fabulous vacation after another (London, Paris, and Florida), turn around and say he can't pay his guest bloggers? Next week he'll probably announce that he's going on a year-long world cruise, and taking a half-a-dozen teenage girls with him.

I really think that you (Bill), me, and Al should get together and launch a class action lawsuit. It's the only way we'll get paid ... unless we're prepared to undergo sex change operations.

-- by the Luke Ford Fan Blogger

I'm not sure I like This

I just heard that yourmoralleader was lying back in a lawnchair, poolside, in the greater Tampa Bay Area. The light is on in the deep end and the warm light glows from below the diving board. He's talking (slurring, actually) to another blog owner and bragging : "my guest bloggers are better than your guest bloggers".

Better for him, that is.

Word is that the other bloggers guest blogger gets free run of said bloggers apartment, complete with a stocked refrigerator, and that said bloggers digs aren't a hovel. The other bloggers apartment has wall to wall carpet, as if there's any other kind, and it has NO pet stains.

Well, I just hope that yourmoralleader enjoys himself at our expense, and remembers that the single malt he drinks neat tonight is paid for by our blood, sweat and tears and so-called $20.00/post.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Sun City Center and Free Vacation Getaways.

Well, I can't speak for what my co-guest-blogger says, and I hate to follow her posts. They're so witty and so much in the true spirit of lukeford.net that I just want to step back and read them over and over again. Luckily, they usually get picked up and re-posted elsewhere on the net so I get to see them more than once or twice.

I don't know about the extra curriculars ourmoralleader may be engaging in while on Florida's gold coast but I do know why he went. The great Luke Ford has reached that stage in a Jews life that he begins to plan for the future. He begins looking for his place in the sun, replete with shuffleboard, Buicks, golf carts, pick-up chess matches under kapok trees and early bird specials. Being a newly minted west coast Jew you might think he'd look in Arizona or New Mexico, where condo prices are more reasonable and the infrastructure less taxed but Luke knows what we know. The best Jews in North America are from New York, and New York Jews move to Florida.

So, in response to a 4 color postcard solicitation delivered straight to the hovel by a branch of the Unites States Government, Luke headed to the greater Tampa Bay Area for a four hour, no obligation presentation of the amenities and benefits of living out his golden years in Sun City Center Though this is a 55 plus community, ourmoralleader must be prepared for what the future holds. Besides, playing the part of a 55 yo is no stretch for him.

Though I'm waiting patiently, I haven't heard if he put his deposit down on a condo on the fairway or opted for the townhouses closer to shopping. I do know he had a problem with security, and it had to do with the thumb operated bell on the three wheeled bicycle he was riding and an unbalanced load in the rear basket. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured and the resolution was amicable.

So, don't be surprised if future updates are timestamped in EST and the focus turns to the rising price of everything. Luke's at home now, and not likely to return.

Godspeed, Luke. Godspeed.


PS, Should you see her, please tell Rabbi Kami I said hello.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Judeo-Pagan Chicks Rule

Luke Ford has asked me to guest blog for him (again). I reluctantly agreed (again) -- knowing full well that I was about to get screwed (again).

Because some people think I lie -- which is rubbish -- here, in full, is Mr Ford's original email sent to me before his trip to Europe: "Would you like to guest blog on Lukeford.net?"

Mr Ford is certainly a man of few words, and those few words clearly state that I was offered to blog on his main site, not his backup blog: a blog with a horrible template; a blog that nobody reads; a blog that I didn't even know existed until he told me that he had changed his mind that I wasn't to pollute his precious Lukeford.net site with my potentially offensive scribblings. And now he's doing it to me again -- and, worse still, making no announcement whatsoever that there will be guest bloggers during his Tampa trip.

What is My Moral Leader thinking? Is he trying to humiliate me? Was I too understated in communicating my displeasure at being banished here during Luke Ford's Euro Teen Tour 2005?

According to Kate Fox, as cited by Luke Ford:
Ideally, the English male would rather not issue any definite invitation at all, sexual or social, preferring to achieve his goal through a series of subtle hints and oblique manoeuvres, often so understated to be almost undetectable. This "uncertainty" principle has a number of advantages: the English male is not required to exhibit any emotions ...
That sounds just like me! Apparently Mr Ford's Cro-Magnon Australian brain doesn't get subtlety. Obviously I have been overly oblique and emotionally restrained. So I will put things in terms that Mr Ford can understand:


I'm so furious. I can't even think straight. My blogging will be even more lame than usual.

I wouldn't mind it so much if I could get a straight answer out of the dude. He still won't tell me why he de-linked my fan site. He won't tell me when, or if, he will pay the $100 he owes me from my first stint as a guest blogger. He wouldn't even explain to me why he's going to Tampa. When I pressed him, he answered obliquely, almost English-like, something about a big convention for moral leaders.

"Oh really?" I said. "I suppose your moral leader, the Great Dennis Prager, will be attending?"

"I don't know, maybe ..." Rat Bastard mumbled.

"Speak up," I demanded.

Rat Bastard said: "I gotta pack. Bye."

Well, I've been doing some research on the Internet about this moral leader conference. And, yes, indeed such a meeting is taking place between October 6-11 in Tampa, Florida. It's a convention of leading Jewish theologians from across America. All the different branches of the Jewish family will be there: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Humanistic (i.e., atheist), Judeo-Pagan.

Judeo-Pagan Lady Rabbis

The Judeo-Pagan delegation especially caught my eye. They're all females. That's a bit strange, I thought. Then again the Judeo-Pagans are different. They don't observe the Halakhah. They don't even believe in the Jewish G-d. Rather, they believe in doing whatever you feel, whenever you feel like it, which kind of defeats the purpose of religion doesn't it? You'd think.

A lot of them seem to be converts, or at least that's the impression I got from looking at the names of the various Judeo-Pagan rabbis set to speak. Some like Rabbi Katie Gold and Rabbi Daphne Rosen are presumably ethnic Jews, but others I'm not so sure about. Rabbis Mari Possa, Rita Faltoyano, and Flower Tucci sound ethnic Italians. Rabbi Carmen Luvana could be Cuban, but there's a small Jewish community in Cuba, so it's difficult to know for sure. Rabbi Courtney Cummz, who will be lecturing on the concept of Tikkun Olam, doesn't sound Jewish at all. I'll have to ask Mr Ford about this when he returns from the conference -- assuming he's still talking to me.

-- by the Luke Ford Fan Blogger

Here we go Again

I capitalize letters based on how I think they will look on the page. Especially in subject lines.

I want to do my best for Luke while he's jetting off to Florida, U-S-A so expect to hear more from me soon. For once I know why he's headed southeast and I intend to spill it all.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

So Sorry

According to David Scott, I'm "dishonest," a "doodie-head," and "the worst guest blogger in the history of guest blogging." And that's just what he's called me in public. In a private email, Mr Scott wrote: "I hate you! You are going to hell, you evil atheistical bastard you! DIE! DIE! DIE!"

Let's face it, I suck (a lot).

Not only are my posts incredibly lame, I've been able to come up with just four of them -- this when I promised Mr Ford that I'd update his blog at least five (but no more than ten) times a day.

Luke Ford was ever so kind to ask me to guest blog for him, and incredibly generous to offer me $20 per post. To think, I could've been making up to (but no more than) $200 per day! Alas, I've only made $80 so far.

I hate me (a lot).

But hey, my miserable failure as a guest blogger is, at least, partially Luke Ford's fault. How come no one is pointing a finger at Our Moral Leader and calling him a "doodie-head"? After all, he's the one who shunted me off to his backup blogger site with this stupid template. You try writing first-rate material using this template. It's tough, man.

When I agreed to guest blog for Mr Ford, I was led to believe that I'd be writing on LukeFordDotNet, not this aesthetic disaster with it's awful colour scheme and too narrow margins. The margins are sooooo inhibiting. I can't use big words. They won't fit. Now people think I'm stupid.

And why was I forced to blog here rather than on LukeFordDotNet? Because, like you Mr Scott, Our Moral Leader thinks I'm dishonest.

After I agreed to guest blog, Mr Ford sent me an email with a long list of topics that I couldn't discuss. And even though I promised not to mention them (I crossed my little heart and hoped to die), he still decided to stick me here. Then he had the nerve to warn me (again!) to especially not write about ____, or he would change his blogger password, prevent me from posting, and not pay me!

Imagine how terrible I felt when the Great Luke Ford told me in effect he didn't trust me.

Hurt, that's how I felt! I'm not stupid. I know why I'm here and not on LukeFordDotNet with its supercool minimalist, all-white design.

Yeah my posts suck: they're mean-spirited; there's way too much blockquoting; and there's been too few of them. But I'm still depressed from Mr Ford's cruel de-linking of my fan blog. And then for him not to let me post on LukeFordDotNet, well, it was just too much for me.

I think it's fair to say that there's enough blame to go around: emotionally distraught me; un-trusting rat bastard Luke Ford; and this godawful blogger template. So have a little compassion, Mr Scott. Wasn't it Jesus who said [KJV]: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone"?

For a dude convinced that the world was about to end, Jesus sure came up with some really good aphorisms.

-- by the Luke Ford Fan Blogger

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Say It Ain't So

With Our Moral Leader hanging out with teenage girls across England (and now Paris) it's up to us, his many followers, to start thinking for ourselves. But, alas, thinking is hard -- at least it is for me. So, I've been forced to search the Internet looking for articles on religion and morality as I await Mr Ford's return to regular blogging.

I've found four interesting articles: the first laments the loss of Biblical literacy; the second, by a post-Marxist, points to the Biblical foundations of modern democratic politics; the third contrasts Jewish and Christian ideas on the morality of hate; and, lastly, an article from the BBC (of course!) suggesting that religion, and by inference Biblical morality, is bunk.

Unfortunately, I regard the last article to be the most persuasive of the four. You see this is what happens when the Great Luke Ford puts his holidaying pleasures above tending to the moral needs of his flock -- we get tempted by dangerous ideas, like science, secularism, and fantasies about partying with hot English (and Parisian) teens!

1) In "The Bible Tells Me So: Biblical illiteracy is a shame" the Wall Street Journal's Adam Nicolson writes:
Up until, say, 100 years ago, biblical literacy would have been practically mandatory. If you didn't know what "the powers that be" originally referred to, or where "the writing on the wall" was first seen, or what was meant by "the patience of Job," "Jacob's ladder" or "the salt of the earth"-- if you didn't know what an exodus was or a genesis, a fatted or a golden calf -- you would have been excluded from the culture. It might be said that a civilization consists, at its core, of these easily transmitted packages of implication. They are one of the mechanisms by which cultures can be both efficient and rich. You don't have to return to first principles every time you wish to communicate ... Without the set of archetypes and fount of wisdom in the Bible, our lives would be thinner and poorer. I know my own life would have been immeasurably less if I had never encountered the majestic language of scriptural stories, as told in the King James Version.
2) History professor Richard Wolin discusses left-wing German philosopher Jurgen Habermas' interest in the role of Judeo-Christian belief in a healthy democracy:

Among 19th-century thinkers it was an uncontestable commonplace that religion's cultural centrality was a thing of the past. For Georg Hegel, following in the footsteps of the Enlightenment, religion had been surpassed by reason's superior conceptual precision. In The Essence of Christianity (1841), Ludwig Feuerbach depicted the relationship between man and divinity as a zero-sum game. In his view, the stress on godliness merely detracted from the sublimity of human ends. In one of his youthful writings, Karl Marx, Feuerbach's most influential disciple, famously dismissed religion as "the opium of the people." Its abolition, Marx believed, was a sine qua non for human betterment.
Habermas, in contrast, points to "the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love" as the necessary basis for Western political ideals of fairness and equality:

The "contract theory" of politics, from which our modern conception of "government by consent of the governed" derives, would be difficult to conceive apart from the Old Testament covenants. Similarly, our idea of the intrinsic worth of all persons, which underlies human rights, stems directly from the Christian ideal of the equality of all men and women in the eyes of God. Were these invaluable religious sources of morality and justice to atrophy entirely, it is doubtful whether modern societies would be able to sustain this ideal on their own ... religion, as a repository of transcendence, has an important role to play. It prevents the denizens of the modern secular societies from being overwhelmed by the all-encompassing demands of vocational life and worldly success. It offers a much-needed dimension of otherness ... Religious convictions encourage people to treat each other as ends in themselves rather than as mere means.
3) In the Catholic journal First Things Rabbi Meir Soloveichik of Yeshiva University explores the Jewish idea that it's sometimes virtuous to hate one's enemies:

[Jesus] acknowledged his break with Jewish tradition on this matter from the very outset: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous ... Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." God, Jesus argues, loves the wicked, and so must we.


For Christians, God acted on humanity's behalf, without its knowledge and without its consent. The crucifixion is a story of a loving God seeking humanity's salvation, though it never requested it, though it scarcely deserved it. Jews, on the other hand, believe that Gods covenant was formed by the free consent of His people. The giving of the Torah is a story of God seeking to provide humanity with the opportunity to make moral decisions. To my knowledge, not a single Jewish source asserts that God deeply desires to save all humanity, nor that He loves every member of the human race. Rather, many a Jewish source maintains that God affords every human being the opportunity to choose his or her moral fate, and will then judge him or her, and choose whether to love him or her, on the basis of that decision. Christianity's focus is on love and salvation; Judaism's on decision and action.


The Protestant theologian Harvey Cox, who is married to a Jew, wrote a book on his impressions of Jewish ritual. Cox describes the Jewish holiday of Purim, on which the defeat of Haman is celebrated by the reading of the book of Esther. Enamored with the biblical story, Cox enjoys the tale until the end, where, as noted above, Esther wreaks vengeance upon her enemies ... he is disturbed by Jewish hatred. It cannot be a coincidence, he argues, that precisely on Purim a Jew by the name of Baruch Goldstein murdered twenty innocent Muslims engaged in prayer in Hebron. There is something to Cox's remarks. The danger inherent in hatred is that it must be very limited, directed only at the most evil and unrepentant.
See also Jeff Jacoby's comment on Soloveichek in a piece titled "When Hatred Is Necessary." Jacoby notes: "Jewish tradition holds, with Ecclesiastes, that there is a time to love and a time to hate."

Reading Soloveichek and Jacoby it may appear that Christian morality is clearly superior to the Jewish alternative. But hating one's enemies, and doing them harm, is a pragmatic philosophy in a way that turning one's cheek is not. Jesus' teachings should be understood within their intended (narrow) context. Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. He told His followers to behave as if they were already living in the Kingdom of God: to love their enemies, give up their material possessions, leave their families, if necessary, and follow Him, for the world was about to end.

Now if that sounds nutty consider the following.

4) In "God on the Brain" Liz Tucker points to the scienfitic evidence that the very religious, especially those claiming to have experienced religious visions, suffer from a brain disorder:

Controversial new research suggests that whether we believe in a God may not just be a matter of free will. Scientists now believe there may be physical differences in the brains of ardent believers. Inspiration for this work has come from a group of patients who have a brain disorder called temporal lobe epilepsy. In a minority of patients, this condition induces bizarre religious hallucinations ...


Professor VS Ramachandran, of the University of California in San Diego, believed that the temporal lobes of the brain were key in religious experience ... So he set up an experiment to compare the brains of people with and without temporal lobe epilepsy ... What Professor Ramachandran discovered to his surprise was that when the temporal lobe patients were shown any type of religious imagery, their bodies produced a dramatic change in their skin resistance.


Scientists now believe famous religious figures in the past could also have been sufferers from the condition. St Paul and Moses appear to be two of the most likely candidates. But most convincing of all is the evidence from American neurologist Professor Gregory Holmes. He has studied the life of Ellen G White, who was the spiritual founder of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. Today, the movement is a thriving church with over 12 million members. During her life, Ellen had hundreds of dramatic religious visions which were key in the establishment of the church, helping to convince her followers that she was indeed spiritually inspired. But Professor Holmes believes there may be another far more prosaic explanation for her visions.

He has discovered that at the age of nine, Ellen suffered a severe blow to her head. As a result, she was semi-conscious for several weeks and so ill she never returned to school. Following the accident, Ellen's personality changed dramatically and she became highly religious and moralistic. And for the first time in her life, she began to have powerful religious visions.
I remember reading a similar explanation for the religious visions of Mohammed in Will Durant's The Age of Faith (1950). So, I guess this argument has been around for awhile. But now, apparently, there is scientific proof that moral leaders Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Ellen White, Joseph Smith, et al., were fruitcakes, and so, too, presumably, the Great Dennis Prager and, horror of horrors, the Great Luke Ford.

Oh my.

Mr Ford isn't going to be pleased to find out that he may be suffering from yet another medical condition. I'll have to ask him about this when he returns from Europe. Assuming, that is, that he does return. I have a terrible fear that Mr Ford forgot to pack all his (many) medications, and in a moment of unmedicated weakness he will do something stupid with, or worse to, one (or more) of his teenage admirers, and just like Roman Polanski, he'll never be allowed to return to America (and The Hovel™).

Let us pray that a) the Great Luke Ford isn't a fruitcake, and b) that he proves this by returning from his European vacation with his morals safely intact.

-- by the Luke Ford Fan Blogger

Monday, September 26, 2005

Actress Michelle Ferre (Female Star of Who Am I?, her one film (it's with Jackie Chan)) Interview

I got these questions to her through her brother.

* 1 When she was a girl, what did she want to be when she grew up?

A1) ... When I was a girl, I had interest in becoming just about anything. The very first "dream" I had, was in becoming a fashion designer. I loved to imagine and draw variety of clothes. But eventually, I came to realize I had a problem. I wasn't good at drawing!

* 2 What was she expected to become?

A2) ... I wasn't expected to become "something" in particular, I suppose. I always had freedom of decision, in whatever I wanted to do.

* 3 What led her into journalism?

A3) ... I did deliver news in the program "CNN Headline" in Japan, but I wouldn't consider myself a hardcore journalist. It all came as a natural flow of coincidence. I majored in International Relations and Political Science at my University. Upon graduating, I had to decide which career I was to proceed in. Interest in mass media along with the educational background, and my ability to speak both English and Japanese lead me naturally to settle in the field of journalism.

*4 What are her wishes for her life?

A4) ... Having experienced acting in a movie, and having experienced the joy of acting, I very much "wish" to succeed as an actress in the movie scene.

* 5 Could she describe any highlights and lowlights from her life?

A5) ... I think the highlights of my life are yet to come, talking from an optimistic viewpoint. But if to give something offhand, it would probably be the opportunity of having played the role in "Who am I." Lowlights, on the other hand are undesirable events along life. Many events are simply undesirable, but most are necessary to make one grow up for what is to come. I tend to find reasoning in any mishaps. This way I can take it, chew it, and digest it, so I can get over with it. Otherwise, too much pessimism just lays you down on the track of negative events. Sorry that I don't have an example of a lowlight event, but experience tells me: "NO FUN" is rather "JUST A WASTE OF TIME", so I'll just keep it to myself.

* 6 What parts of her life give her the most meaning?

A6) ... Family, no matter what. My family has always been on my side, both in good times and bad times. Mutual love and trust within my family has helped a lot in shaping my character. Therefore, I will be what I am, and want to be with people who like me for what I am.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Mission To Britain

Why has the Great Luke Ford travelled to Britain? His objectives are twofold.

First, he singlehandedly seeks to bring ethical monotheism and transcendental direction into the lives of Britain's wretched secular masses. According to a recent public survey, 40 per cent of Britons don't believe in G-d. (Actually, 52 per cent of American Jews don't believe in G-d, so Mr Ford needn't have travelled half way around the world to minister to the lost and confused.)

Second, Mr Ford is (still) looking for his future wife and, disappointed with American women, is now searching the length and breath of Old Blighty for his one true (submissive) love. A bit of advice. Avoid the "women" of London: butch, rude, unpleasant, feministical -- they're just awful.

Perhaps in the English countryside, or better yet up North, Mr Ford may find a fair lady to his liking. Initial reports suggest he's already having some success in Cambridgeshire (see below).

So far so good, but Mr Ford would be better served if he focused less on teenagers (and the elderly) and more on women his own age (save five or ten years).

Luke Ford's decision to abandon American women is a wise one. He appears to be following the advice of the Great Fred Reed, author of the wonderful essay "Marriage, Horror, and Susan Reimer," wherein Mr Reed explains why American women are an "international horror":
Because of The Chip. The Attitude. The bandsaw whine of anger, anger, anger ... It's there. It's real.

You, a young man, may not recognize the Chip if you have never seen normal, warm, happy women. If you are twenty-something and haven't been out of the US, you haven't seen them. They exist by the billion — in Latin America, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaya, China and, last I looked, France and Holland.


Susan Reimer [
a columnist at the Baltimore Sun] is what is out there, guys: bitter that no one wants her (as who in his right mind could?), sure that no one is good enough for her, never having grasped that those who would be loved must first be lovable. Understand this: Susan is America.
So, if Mr Ford can't find his one true love in England, he shouldn't despair. Keep looking, Luke. Mr Reed suggests: "[T]ry Singapore. Argentina is splendid. Many places are. You would be amazed. See what's out there before you marry a gringa with her Inner Susan ..."

by the Luke Ford Fan Blogger

Cambridge Girls Embrace Luke Ford

For the weeks before my trip, I was tired and depressed, so I husbanded my energies for this trip.
I'm writing this report now at 1:05pm Friday in Wapping, near Canary Wharf, London. I'm overlooking the Thamas. I'm sitting in an old warehouse which is being used as a set for an independent movie.
I'm wearing my black undertaker suit, which I also wore on the plane over because I didn't want to carry it around. I just brought a backpack with about 20 pounds of clothes (I just wash them in the bathtub and re-use), three books, two books on tape, a digital recorder and a small digital camera.
My flight over here was everything I could dream of -- I had the company of an attractive smart young woman who couldn't get away from me for ten hours. She was bound to her chair and it was just the two of us by the window and the rest of the world could go to hell.
I did not talk to her for the first 45 minutes, playing hard to get. I buried myself in my Michael Lewis book, Liar's Poker. Then, while we were past Nevada, I turned to her and extended my hand. "Hi, Luke."
She shook my hand. "Hi, I'm Fiona."
Twenty seven, she was a graduate student at Cambridge. Her parents lived in Southern California.
We chatted for about an hour until dinner came. I asked her if she wanted her chocolate cake. She didn't so I scoffed it. Then I asked her if she wanted her waters. She did.
That was about the last thing we said to each other. For the next eight hours, we lived in our own worlds.
I expected that the women in England would be as rough as bags but there are a ton of hotties. The English are reserved however, which makes it difficult to make quick connections like you can in Los Angeles.
What I most love about traveling is that it places you in frequent situations where people are virtually forced to talk to me (such as being seated next to me on a plane, train, or automobile). In normal life, people frequently avoid me. But I've constructed a preferred personality on the internet where I'm a legend on the LukeFordFanBlog.Blogspot.com (don't believe the unflattering things he write about me, nor the true things).
I've been walking about six miles a day. I have several painful blisters on my feet. I've done most of the famous tourist attractions in London, including the Tower of London, the Clink, Parliament House, walked by Westminster Abbey past Downing Street and Whitehall to Trafalgar Square.
I went to Cambridge Thursday, ran into a bunch of 10th grade schoolgirls from Stafford who asked me if i was famous. I said I was semi-famous. I signed about a dozen autographs, took pictures, told them I wrote on religion. They went home and googled me. One just emailed me. I have quite a fan base among the intellectuals in London.
Because I was from Los Angeles, the girls mainly wanted to know if I knew anyone famous, perhaps Britney Spears or Aussie cricketers Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.
I do not.
I haven't run into one rude person in London, but almost everyone is reserved. One buxom blonde woman around 40 was bubbly and outspoken on my train ride back from Cambridge but she's been the only one Brit who's overflowed.
I've seen things here that I've never seen before, such as a mate snorting cocaine so he could have the energy to go out with me that night. Also, on three different occasions, I walked in on a guy taking a wank. I was freaked but he seemed pretty relaxed about it. The English don't take things too seriously.
I've been up early and out late every night. I went to the club Cheers till 3am Thursday morning. It was filled with Tourists and they played an ABBA song. I haven't heard an Air Supply tune since I've been here and I'm having withdrawals.
I'm heading for North London in a few hours to celebrate the Sabbath with some Orthodox blogger friends I've never met. Then Saturday night I'm off to Paris (it's three hours and £100). I'll stay the night at a cheap hotel, take a tour Sunday, and return to London late Sunday night.
For the first time since I've been here, it's raining. The high temperatures have been in the sixties all week and about 50 at night.
This trip has cured my depression, and I'll be feeling even better if I'm able to break down some of that British reserve and truly make a unique impression.
I'm going to hit Oxford next week.
I'm surprised that I've noticed no difference in the way people dress between England and America, though one American executive I saw here said the British dress a bit finer.
I've been reading a great book: WATCHING THE ENGLISH. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the customs of this country.
In Australia we have the stereotype that the English don't bathe. My mom grew up in England and she says she only had a bath twice a week. Now it seems with upgrades in plumbing, the English shower every day just like Yanks and Aussies.
I haven't noticed the horrible teeth that the English are (or used to be) infamous for.
I've been staying in Chelsea, a little over a mile from Parliament House and Westminster Abbey, and just a few blocks from Sloane Square, around which the Sloane Rangers hang out (upper-class trendsetters). My sister was enamored of the Sloane Rangers 20 years ago when she lived here and got a law degree from Buckingham University.
There's little crime in the nice areas I've been (though one side of a street can be in a nice area and the other side a nasty one). The tube (London's underground subway) is clean and people are reserved and well-behaved (though designed by an American, the tube far cleaner and kinder than the New York version). They know how to que.
I'm sitting at a computer with two big screens and I can use my mouse to pop between the screens from the same keyboard. I've never had that before.
The English keyboard has about a dozen differences from the American one. The most important difference I struggled with was the "@" sign. I couldn't send an email until I had found it (it was way over on the right, on top of the single quote mark).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Luke Ford To the Rescue!

I seem to recall reading somewhere, maybe it was on the Luke Ford Family of Blogs™ (I couldn't find the exact quotation), that when Dennis Prager enquired if he could write for the Jewish Journal he was turned down because of his writing style, or lack thereof. Luke Ford is also, apparently, less than impressed with Mr Prager the wordsmith:

There are so many examples of poor writing on the jacket [of Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A human nature repair manual] that I do not have the time to list more than a few:

* The sentence that begins "However ..." The word "however" means "yet" EXCEPT at the beginning of the sentence, when it means "in whichever way," which is not the way the word is used (misused) on this jacket.

* Then there are the sloppy phrases like "in order to be happy." Why not just say, "To be happy?"

* Then there is the phrase "make you personally happy ..." Why do we need the word "personally?" We don't.

By contrast to the jacket, Dennis Prager's writing is the triumph of substance over style. Through his use of the passive voice and numerous modifiers, he violates many of the canons of good writing in his pursuit of ideas. But it works.
I'm not entirely sure what point Mr Ford is trying to make here. (Making coherent arguments is not one of Luke Ford's strengths. Nor apparently is criticising someone else's violations "of the canons of good writing" without also violating "the canons of good writing.") He might be saying that Dennis Prager should have written the material on the book's dust jacket, because it was so poorly written by the publisher. Or Mr Ford might be saying that Dennis Prager did write the material on the jacket (as indeed Mr Ford does for his own books), and it's even more poorly written than the book itself. Let's assume that it's the latter, which is the more insightful of the two assertions, and thus probably not the point Luke Ford was trying to make, and agree that Mr Prager thinks better than he writes.

Dennis Prager reminds me of Thomas Sowell. Both write like men: simple and direct. They make their point, and then stop. They are not long-winded. They are not interested in having a relationship with their readers. They seek merely to persuade through the power of their ideas.

Mr Prager's latest column is an illustration of the use of simple prose to make a profound argument. He contrasts the Judeo-Christian moral system with that of the left:

Judeo-Christian values believe the road to a just society is paved by individual character development; the Left believes it is paved with action on a macro level. Many parents, for example, measure their child's character by the child's social activism, not by his or her behaviour toward fellow students. If the child has walked for AIDS, or marched for breast cancer, or works on "environmental issues," the child is deemed -- and the child deems himself -- a fine person. That he or she might mistreat less popular kids in class is not considered ... [L]eftist ideals, being overwhelmingly macro, will always be more appealing to the less decent who want to feel good about themselves. That helps explain those Hollywood celebrities who lead narcissistic, hedonistic personal lives but nevertheless feel very good about themselves by raising money for "peace" or by demonstrating against global warming.
Note Mr Prager's assumption that one can't be a good Christian or Jew and be a leftist. It's profound observations like this that have made the Great Dennis Prager the world's number two moral leader -- behind, of course, the Great Luke Ford.

Kenneth Minogue covers much of the same ground, but in a more elegantly written essay, in the current special issue of the New Criterion devoted to Britain. Mr Minogue explores "two concepts of the moral life," one of which (the Establishment's, i.e., the left's) has led to a self-defeating moral inversion:

We have observed a pretty clean sweep of important moral convictions in the collapse of the virtues of chastity, loyalty, and thrift. Is this merely to be recognized as a case of moral decline? Or have these virtues been replaced by something else? And if so, what? The moral life has clearly evolved -- but where has it gone? The evident answer, I think, is that moral sentiments now focus on benevolence, philanthropy, and charitable causes ... As a new morality, this development prides itself on releasing judgment from a narrow concern with sex in order to bring ethical standards to bear on the really serious decisions made in government and commerce ... The new morality thus incorporates both multiculturalism and "political correctness," in that both basically respond to a solicitude for the sensitivities of people different from "us" ... It has above all identified the people who need help, both those victimized by disease or misfortune in our own society and those afflicted in other parts of the world. Morality has thus liberated itself from the merely personal element of being true to oneself and become a program for perfecting the world ... the transposition of bad moral conduct into the language of social acceptability and social capital removes it entirely from the innerness of the moral life ... The new politico-moral order imposes on us duties to strangers, people we have never met, and for the most part never will. Particular duties to family and friends, much less that central duty of integrity to ourselves on which the older moralists laid so much stress, hardly enter the picture ... Could it be, however, that our very greed for social perfection has destroyed our grip on the real moorings of human life?
Perhaps when Mr Ford returns from his London holiday he can update us on Britain's decline from the religious, peaceable land that it once was, and that I remember, to the secular, violent wasteland of today.

-- by the Luke Ford Fan Blogger

Why Luke is Abroad

Simply put, his mission entails nothing less than saving Western Civilization from demographic doom. All that Luke has been for good and ill, and all that he is capable of becoming, shall find expression is this grand task. Luke aims to revivify the West, beginning with the Jewish community of the UK.

--Mr. Amalek

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Move On….. dot Org

Come on fellow “guest bloggers”. I thought the last post ended on a positive note. Feel free to follow it with self-deprecating jokes about Judaism or hilarious parodies of Our Moral Leaders' visit to the UK.

Personally, I’m falling asleep to warm fuzzy thoughts of him discussing Ethics with “football” fans and, perhaps, women of ill repute in an un-air-conditioned neighborhood pub. The dike is breeched and the floodwaters will surely follow.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Death of a Gentile

In his infinite wisdom, Our Moral Leader has appointed, as far as I know, three guest bloggers while he heads to the UK in search of knowledge and material for his readers. For our part we must exercise patience while we await his return.

As is his way he has provided for you like no other Leader will, arranging a mixture of viewpoints for your pleasure. You have one self-obsessed guest, one Luke-obsessed guest, and one southern gentile guest who is of late concerned with thoughts of death. Just call me “Bill”, because that’s what Our Moral Leader himself calls me.

Anyway, to the subject:

A very close friend passed away last Friday after battling cancer for a little over a year. Upon his diagnosis he quickly called his friends and family and told them of his situation and prognosis. He stressed that though he was young (59), he had lived a rich and full life and had no regrets. He spent the next three or four weeks putting his affairs in order, making an orderly transfer of assets to his children. The balance of this past year he spent fighting his illness with as little disruption to his life as possible. When he saw medical hope gone and his family and friends prepared, he made his peace with God and simply let go. Truly a noble man.

His daughter bravely delivered his eulogy and transformed what could have been a time of grief into a time of celebration of his life and a torrent of pleasant memories. She told several anecdotes about him that illustrated his influence on our lives. The large, protestant sanctuary was full to capacity and everyone in attendance left the service with fond memories of his time on earth.

His tortured body was lowered into the ground at sunset Sunday evening. This new week has begun without him, the world a better place for his time here.

Monday, September 19, 2005

"The Luke Ford Story" is Ready to Lens

That's movie-lingo for "the perfect script is out there, and all I need is for someone to provide the money and talent to turn it into a fine film that elites from across the world will want to see." Seriously, if you are interested, and are someone I might be proud to have tell my story (or at least not ashamed, so no people from the world-of-things-that-are-forbidden-by-the-Torah need inquire) then just drop a line to: rabbigadol@yahoo.com

A Statement Neither Speilberg nor Streisand nor Moore Would Disagree With (at least not in public)

"There is nothing wrong with Hollywood that Islam cannot fix."

All I am Saying, is Give Peace a Chance

Poll: Jordan top anti-Jew nation; Russia most pro-Christian

Monday, September 19, 2005
Jordan leads the Islamic world in its antipathy for Jews according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center.

The poll, which surveyed 17,000 people in 17 countries, said 100 percent of Jordanians viewed Jews unfavorably. The majority of Jordanians are Palestinians, but the late King Hussein and his son and successor, King Abdullah have been known for their pro-American stances.

Russia led all other countries with favorable views of Christians (92 percent) while Turkey (63 percent) had the most unfavorable view of Christians.

The Netherlands led all nations surveyed both in positive views of Jews (85 percent) and negative views of Muslims (51 percent).
Significant numbers of respondents in only Jordan (38 percent) and Lebanon (40 percent) blamed U.S. policies for Islamic extremism.

Respondents in Lebanon, which has a large Christian population, were nearly unanimous (99 percent) in their unfavorable views of Jews. 91 percent were favorable to Christians.

The poll found decreasing support in Islamic countries for Al Qaida and suicide bombings.

Jordan was the exception. In the latest poll, the level of Jordanian support for Bin Laden rose to 60 percent, compared to 55 percent in 2002.

The center also reported increased Jordanian support for suicide attacks.

Fifty-seven percent of Jordanian respondents expressed support for suicide bombings, up from 43 percent in 2002.

In Morocco, support for Al Qaida dropped from 49 percent in 2003 to 26 percent in the latest poll. In Lebanon, only two percent of respondents expressed support for Al Qaida.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Brief Report on the Musical Tastes of the Looters of New Orleans

This from AP:

The Wal-Mart store in uptown New Orleans, built within the last year, survived the storm but was destroyed by looters.

"They took everything - all the electronics, the food, the bikes," said John Stonaker, a Wal-Mart security officer. "People left their old clothes on the floor when they took new ones. The only thing left are the country-and-western CDs. You can still get a Shania Twain album."

If the store had not been looted, it could be open in two weeks, Stonaker said. Now he doubts it will be open by January. "They'll have to gut it and start over," he said.

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Return of Chaim Amalek, America's Favorite Liberal Upper West Side Jew

Luke Ford alter-ego Chaim Amalek reports that he is looking forward to sharing his views with you during Luke's mysterious voyage to the UK. He speculates that the secret purpose of Luke's trip is to breathe some life into the moribund Jewish Kehila [community] of the UK, vanishing as it is under the self-secreted solvents of assimilation and feminism and materialism. But fear not, oh ye Jews of Albion, for Luke Ford is soon to arrive on your shores with both a message of hope and a practical plan of action for survival.

--Chaim Amalek
(if you got a problem with any of this, take it to the esteemed Rabbi Gadol who can be reached at rabbigadol@yahoo.com)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Billionaire Steve Bing Sought A Gangster To Hurt Sean Penn?

This story should break in about a month. There's a grand jury investigation. There's a letter, purported to have come from gangster Donnie Shacks, asking Colombo family boss Carmine Junior Persico to hurt Sean Penn (whose trip to Iraq cost Bing, in Bing's opinion, a lot of money because it hurt Sean as a movie star in such movies as Bing's directing debut Why Men Shouldn't Marry) on behalf of Steve Bing.

Monday, February 07, 2005

I'm Returning To Lukeford.net

Click here. The reviews I got on my six-month change to blogger were not good. Cathy Seipp was particularly insistent I return to my original pristine format.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Who's Better Than Praesidium?

The Rabbinical Council of America hired Praesidium to investigate rabbi Mordecai Tendler.

I'm told by one source that these guys are superior to the Praesidium: Sexual Assault Training & Investigations (SATI) and Child Abuse Training Forensic Child Abuse Consulting
Litigation Support Services.

Worst Writing On Wendy

Wendy Shalit's essay on Orthodox fiction in The New York Times has sparked a ton of good writing and bad writing (sharp thinking and fuzzy thinking). The worst? Sandee Brawarsky at The Jewish Week and Esther D. Kustanowitz at MyUrbanKvetch, who also writes for The Jewish Week. Editor Gary Rosenblatt has written some startling stuff in the past, but I fear he has gone to sleep on the job. With the exception of Jonathan Mark, Gary specializes in publishing plodding prose. You can't get fired for that in Jewish journalism.
Esther writes:

As a result, when I write today, I grapple with authenticity, education, power, authority, authenticity, empowerment, tradition, feminism, modernity, identity and everything under the sun.

The most demerits in this controversy must go to the prestigious publication that published Wendy Shalit's essay without fact-checking it - The New York Times. I sent emails to the Books section and to the ombudsman Daniel Okrent asking if the Times fact-checked essays written for its book section. Judging by Shalit's piece (which alleges that Nathan Englander and Tova Mirvis, among other authors, were ignorant of Orthodox Judaism, a completely fact-checkable charge easily refuted by the facts), the Times obviously does not fact-check many if not all of the essays published in the Books section, and when asked about it, they don't reply. So the biggest black eye in all this belongs to Times book editor Sam Tanenhaus who is too big of a weenie to admit how much he and The Times fell down on the job here (and judging by this debacle, many other times as well).

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Orthodox Union Seeks Ban On Kiddush Clubs

From OU.org:
In response to an urgent request from rabbis and educators, the Orthodox Union has designated Saturday, February 5 for OU synagogues across the United States and Canada to call for the elimination of so-called “Kiddush Clubs” during their Sabbath services. To participate in the Kiddush Club, a group of congregants leaves the service to make Kiddush -- often on hard liquor -- during the haftarah reading.

The request was made in late December at a meeting of 65 pulpit rabbis and yeshiva principals convened by the OU in New York to deal with a variety of abuses that have been on the increase in the Orthodox teenage community and which have resulted in a number of unfortunate incidents. The representation at that meeting spanned the spectrum of the Orthodox community. Plans are underway to hold similar meetings across North America.

Shalhevet Should Embrace Its Inner Slut

Julie Fax writes in the Jewish Journal:

Teachers at the Orthodox feeder schools have actively discouraged students from going to Shalhevet. Parents and students report of hearing a teacher at a day school call Shalhevet girls “sluts,” and of getting the heart-to-heart from concerned teachers when a student professes interest in Shalhevet. One parent said his daughter’s eighth-grade mentor refused to write a recommendation when she wanted to go to Shalhevet, and others report transcripts being withheld.

All of this has put Shalhevet constantly on the defensive, but more telling than the communal bad-mouthing is the fact that former Shalhevet supporters have defected. A number of younger siblings of Shalhevet students have gone instead to YULA, a more traditional Orthodox yeshiva and Shalhevet’s primary competition.

A member of a women's prayer group that Julie belongs to sent out a fiery email to all members claiming that Julie (in this article) had called her daughter a slut.
I think that the answer to Shalhevet's enrollment decline is to embrace its sluttiness and advertise it. Teenage boys with flexible Torah observance will flock to its institution.
The people I talk to say that almost all graduate of YULA (and unmarrieds from YU in New York)are virgins but only about half of Shalhevet kids are.
In the Mishna (the oral law transmitted from Sinai according to Jewish tradition), Rabbi Eliezer says that teaching Torah to one's daughter is like teaching her wantonness, while another Mishnaic rabbi, Ben Azzai, says one is required to teach Torah to a daughter (Talmud Bavli, Sotah 20-21).
Shalhevet is the only Orthodox high school in Los Angeles that is co-ed and teaches girls and boys an identical curriculum. That means girls get taught some Talmud, which is traditionally not a subject for the fairer sex (rather they get tales from the Bible and the rabbis as well as husband-pleasing classes and housekeeping instruction).
Max writes:
Hi Luke, as a former student of YULA and current sibling and friend to many inhabitants of Los Angeles Jewish private schools, I have to say
that the problem many people have with Shalhevet, is not that it gasp, teaches girls Talmud, but that it operates almost completely out of sync with reality, save for rampant grade inflation. I am not an eloquent man Mr. Ford, so this may come across as disjointed and I apologize. Shalhevet is a bastion of idiotic the child knows best
style teaching. It is possible to miss all your classes and still achieve an A. "Town Halls" etc etc. (It took THREE! town halls to decide about the wording of a flyer concerning personal items that had been stolen).

Is Rob Eshman Hopeless?

Friday I received in the mail an envelope from the Jewish Journal containing a photocopy of a 1986 article from the paper about the Brandeis-Bardin institute. It was a gesture typical of editor Rob Eshman's generosity.

As I walked home, I contemplated sending him a quick thank you note. I decided not to. I didn't want to seem like a suck-up.

Friday night, walking home from shul, I picked up a copy of the latest issue of the Jewish Journal. The cover read: "Is France Hopeless!? By Rob Eshman"

I immediately thought, "Is Rob Eshman hopeless? Is the Jewish Journal hopeless? Why are they writing more articles about France when they've already done the subject to death and secular papers like The New York Times have already covered the topic far better than the Journal can. Is Rob Eshman hopeless?"

As I walked towards my hovel, I stoken my anger at the Journal, hoping that it would still be warm by Saturday night so I'd have enough emotion to blog about it. Too often I read the Journal Friday night, determine to write an angry blog about it, then 24 hours later, I just don't have enough anger left.

Assembly my tasty Shabbat dinner of a cold bagel and soy milk, I started reading Rob's article, looking forward to tearing it apart.

I figured I already knew what it would say. It'd be the same as all the paper's previous articles on the topic -- that France was by no means a hopeless cause for Jews.

I decided I'd fire off a polite email to Rob asking who paid for his trip.

I imagine that the French government paid for his trip and provided him with all sorts of non-kosher delicacies (you can read into these words what I'm really thinking and resenting. why doesn't anyone try to bribe me with cute little pastries?).

Then I began reading the article and found I was immediately hooked by the anecdotal lead.

"Harumph," I think. "Rob's a good writer."

I read the thing all the way through and consider that maybe Rob does know what he's doing with the paper.

So where am I going to direct all my hatred now that I can't direct it this week at Rob?

As I lay down on my floor at bedtime, I felt a disturbing yet familiar emptiness. It was the sinking feeling I get every time I find a large part of the Jewish Journal interesting.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Finding Neverland

I love this movie. I saw myself in the kid Peter and the playwright portrayed by Johnny Depp.

When my stepmother had to go into hospital for surgery when I was between five and seven, I cried and cried. I did not realize that one could go into hospital and come out better. I was an angry unhappy kid who retreated into a vivid fantasy world. I used to curl up on the sofa and tell myself stories for hours. From age eight onwards, I wrote stories and poetry until I studied calculus and economics in college and lost that ability (haven't written any poetry or short stories since age 21).

My usual experience of watching a movie or reading a book or watching a sporting event is to put myself into the action and wonder what choices I would make. This has often made reading and watching a painful experience because I over-empathize (in my normal dealings with people, I under-empathize, but give me a figure in a certain novel or movie, and I am all compassion).

Forward Fluffs Sharon

"Your questions are throwing me a little bit," Sharon Waxman says. "Nobody's ever interviewed me about myself before."

I find that hard to believe. If it is true, then it is only true because Waxman has refused all interview requests. I remember the time gossip Jeanette Walls got her on the phone about her reporting on the controversy over A Beautiful Mind (Waxman bought into the smear conspiracy line Universal peddled) and Sharon jumped off the phone about as soon as she could.

I encounter these lines ("Oh, I've never done this before, please be gentle") all the time from women. Much of the time it is an attempt at manipulation by the subject, a ploy to get gentler coverage.

Another classic piece of manipulation that Waxman used (it may have been genuine but it is often a ploy) was to say she was running out the door on important business (covering Sundance in her case), thus allowing the subject to avoid difficult questions. "Oh, dear, I just don't have time to get into that." I get those lines all the time.

The Forward piece completely glosses over the long string of accusations about Waxman's methods over the years (from Jeanette Walls at MSNBC to Roger Friedman who kept hammering her a year ago). So yeah, Sharon got off easy in this piece. Her manipulations worked.

The Forward piece never challenges Sharon. Instead, it completely swallows her version of her story, as is typical with easy journalism.

I don't say this as a big critic of Sharon. I enjoy the occasional socializing with her and her husband. Overall, I believe she is a terrific journalist and a good conversationalist. But I can spot a fluff job when I see one, and this Forward piece is fluffy.

What I would've loved to have read is a Sharon Waxman-quality profile of Sharon Waxman.

Some excerpts:

Waxman was born into an Orthodox family in the Cleveland suburb of University Heights, Ohio, where she had what she termed an "old-style Jewish education," studying at a Hebrew day school with the same group of 20 girls from kindergarten through 12th grade. After graduation, Waxman, like many young Orthodox, went to Israel for a year of study. It was a pivotal year both for Waxman and for a number of her contemporaries. "Many of the kids I went to Israel with had a religious awakening," she said. "Many ended up living on the West Bank or the Gaza Strip."

As a student at Barnard, Waxman's allegiances shifted further. "When I started college, it didn't occur to me that I wouldn't stay Orthodox," she said. Convinced that journalism was her calling, she worried about such things as writing for deadline on Friday afternoons. "In hindsight that seems very quaint to me," she said. "It hasn't turned out to be a big conflict." When asked what her level of observance is today, Waxman hesitated and said, "They call it 'à la carte.'" Though most comfortable in an Orthodox synagogue, she does not, she said, lead an Orthodox life.

Blacklisting Republicans?

Screenwriter Robert J. Avrech writes:

Because if they knew that I am a Republican I would not work in Hollywood. I would not get hired for anything.

They want me to assasinate this talk show host. But I have convinced them that we must be "fair." I have shamed them by appealing to the liberal guilt gene, telling them that if the film comes across as a hit job, it will not be taken seriously, and The NY Times will dismiss the project. This really frightens the executives. Thank God liberals are so easy to manipulate.

I know a writer who has a nasty heroin habit, but he works pretty regularly. I know another writer who is a cross dresser. He also works regularly. They are considered a) a victim, and b) courageous. I don't know many Republicans who are out of the closet. There are a few, but most of us are quiet about our political beliefs. In my case, it's even more complicated because I'm a religious Jew. And let me tell you, Hollywood hates religion. Unless it's maybe Buddhism, something totally non-threatning and non violent a religion where men get to wear saffron robes. Hollywood people, for the most part, are Wahabi secularists. If people found out that I am a Republican and Shomer Shabbos Jew, well I don't even want to consider the consequences. Blacklisted? It's not out of the realm.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Phony Cops Pay Another House Call, But They Won't Pay Another

A month to the day that they came calling last time (when they knew I was not home), three men claiming to be cops came to my home and showed their phoney badges to my landlord and asked various questions about me and said they were trying to contact me (though they could never be bothered to call me). They claimed to be with the LA District Attorney's office. They didn't leave a business card. They just harassed my landlord again and left this name and number: "Ron Robinett. 213-974-3622."
Interesting that this should happen just as I start writing again on disgraced private eye Anthony Pellicano.

Hey "Ron," tough guy who likes to bother women and children instead of facing me like a man: Next time you and your friends set foot on my property, none of you are going to leave alive.

A friend writes: "DA investigators rarely make appointments. Same with police investigators. They want to catch you unguarded and surprised. The business card thing is fishy but I wouldn’t put too much stock in it. I would say that chances are good that you are the subject of an investigation."

An Interview With Novelist Tova Mirvis About Issues Raised By Wendy Shalit's NYT Essay

Thursday morning, I emailed Wendy Shalit for an interview. She has yet to respond. I suspect she is not happy with the following essay:
From the Forward:

Judging a Book By Its Head Covering
By Tova Mirvis
February 4, 2005

But the fact that we are insiders to the Orthodox world is irrelevant. Since when must a fiction writer actually have lived the life he or she writes about? Since when must one be a murderer to write "Crime and Punishment," a pedophile to write "Lolita," a hermaphrodite to write "Middlesex," a boy on a boat with a tiger to write "Life of Pi"? Yes, it seems, Shalit has outed the whole tawdry lot of us. She's revealed to the public the terrible truth: Fiction writers make up things.

What is true is that these portrayals apparently don't capture Shalit's experience of being a baal teshuvah, or to use her definition, "a deeply observant Jew who did not grow up as one," they aren't consistent with the personal fulfillment she's found recently. And this, I suspect, is what bothers Shalit most. But instead of being able to allow for that difference of experience, she labels these other portrayals as false. If someone doesn't see Orthodoxy as she does, then he or she must not really understand it. Englander has said that he experienced his upbringing as "anti-intellectual." But she doesn't think it was, so what right does he have to say this, least of all publicly? It's this discounting and de-legitimizing of any individual experience other than her own that is so troubling.

It's bad enough she does this to people. What's worse is that she does it to fictional characters. She attacks books for depicting characters who deviate from communal norms. Englander besmirches Judaism by depicting a fight in a synagogue. Rosen creates a character, an unmarried Orthodox man who sleeps with a female Reform rabbi. Reich imagines an overweight dietician who gorges on Yom Kippur. People like Shalit attack a story by saying, "But not everyone is like this." Of course not. But the fiction writer is saying, "Let's imagine one person who is."

I call Tova Mirvis Tuesday morning, February 1, 2005: "Could you tell me about your background in Orthodox Judaism?"

Tova: "Contrary to what Wendy Shalit might believe, I am an Orthodox Jew. I've been part of a Modern Orthodox community my entire life. I went to [Jewish] day school, yeshiva high school [Orthodox], spent a year studying in a yeshiva in Israel. I've davened every week in an Orthodox shul and I send my kids to an Orthodox day school."

Luke: "Do you read Hebrew?"

Tova: "I read Hebrew. I can read Jewish texts. I have studied Talmud. Credentials? I keep kosher. I don't turn the light switch on [on Shabbat and festivals]."

Luke: "Where did you go to college?"

Tova: "Columbia [with a degree in English literature]. Then I went to the Columbia MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) program."

Tova studied seven years at Columbia.

Luke: "You spent your entire life in Orthodox Judaism."

Tova: "Right. It's funny to find out from The Times that apparently I didn't. I thought I did."

Luke: "Have you ever spoken to Wendy Shalit?"

Tova: "No. I must confess to firing off a pissed-off email in the middle of the night."

Luke: "Did you have any inkling that this article was coming down mentioning you?"

Tova: "No, not at all. It was surprising, to say the least. I was home in a crazy Boston blizzard [Tova lived in New York for 13 years until moving to Newton, Massachusetts in the summer of 2004] with my children and some neighborhood children and my agent called me..."

Luke: "Were you a rebel vis-à-vis Orthodox Judaism in your childhood or college?"

Tova: "I wish I was. No. I was the quintessential good girl. My big rebellion was to go to Columbia.

"My relationship to Orthodox Judaism is not uncomplicated. I struggle with issues of feminism and egalitarianism in the Orthodox world. I observe but I question. Questioning is part of what it means to belong to the community. The notion that one is either in or out of a community is not true. Insiders of this world know it's not true. A little hug on a back porch is not outside the experience of day-to-day lived [Orthodox Judaism]."

Wendy Shalit writes in The NYT:

Another character, Bryan, is a 19-year-old who returns home from Israel as a deeply religious radical, renamed Baruch. Yet at his engagement party, he's suddenly starring in a Harlequin romance: out on the porch, Baruch embraces his fiancee and she leans ''in close, their bodies gently pressing against each other.'' It's bad enough that a yeshiva student would embrace a woman not related or married to him, but to do so in public is even worse. Yet Baruch's younger sister isn't surprised: ''They who pretended to be so holy in public were just like everyone else in private. It confirmed what she had suspected: that it was all pretense.''

Here is the scene in question by Tova Mirvis. The young couple are alone, "as alone as they'd ever been," out back on a dark porch. They're engaged and have never touched each other before.

They sat next to each other, on chairs whose legs were touching. Tzippy's and Baruch's arms almost touched as well. She was scared of what she would feel and scared of how he would react, scared that he would pull away in horror and scared that he wouldn't. But she couldn't stop herself. She leaned toward him and grazed his hand with two of his fingers. It was so ligght, so soft, that it could have been imagined or wished. she did it again, to be sure it had really happened. She ran her fingers across his hand, and her body tingled with the shock and pleasure of actually touching. Too thrileld and scared to move her hand, she waited to see what would happen next.

He held her hand. He gently stroked her fingers. he wantged to touch her face which he had stared at these past few months. He wanted to kiss her mouth, which had distracted him when he learned, when he davened, when he slept. He put his arms around her and she leaned in clsoe, their bodies gently pressing against each other.

Just as his lips were about to find hers, a looming figure appeared in Baruch's head. It was the face of his rabbi who whispered in his ear, "So you haven't changed at all." If he leaned any closer to Tzippy, these words would come true. One kiss and he would disappear. Guilt outpaced desire and he pulled away. He was surpised at her and surprised at himself. His married friends had warned him of the pitfalls of engagement. The knowledge of what you would one day be able to do threatened to overepower even the strongest self-control. It was dangerous to walk the edges. That was where people got lost. Baruch stood up and turned around. They both tried to pretend that it hadn't happened.

As they went inside though, the initial touch replayed itself in their heads, mirrored back from every angle. A hundred hands reached for each other. A thousand fingers intertwined.

Luke: "What about the hug being at a party and in front of people and that that is unlikely?"

Tova: "That is not uncommon. I went back and looked at that section [and asked herself], did they hug? It's a debatable point. It was a slight hug. It was not in front of people. [Wendy] doesn't mention that the hug was immediately ended because Baruch feels intense guilt about it. He has Wendy Shalit's mindset."

Tova repeatedly pronounces Wendy's last name as "SHALL-it." I believe the correct pronunciation is "Shuh-LEET."

Tova: "The scene is about the struggle between [divine ideals] and physical desire. To say that no unmarried people [of the opposite sex not related to each other] in the Orthodox world touch each other is a stretch, to put it mildly. Her comment afterwards: "It's bad enough that a yeshiva student would embrace a woman not related or married to him, but to do so in public is even worse." That misses the experience of being in that moment, which fiction does. Fiction is not shaking your finger at someone and saying, 'Naughty!' It's about what does it feel like to want this hug, to touch somebody you want to touch."

Luke: "Have you spent a significant period of your life completely outside of Orthodox Judaism?"

Tova: "No. Maybe according to Wendy Shalit, I have, if mild transgressions put one outside."

Luke: "You haven't gone six months without going to shul?"

Tova: "No."

Luke: "Do you know anything about Haredi [fervent Orthodoxy] Judaism?"

Tova: "One of the weird things about the piece is the notion that Modern Orthodoxy is somehow invalid. She says that to be Modern Orthodox is to be familiar with 'some traditional customs.' That's an odd thing to say about Modern Orthodoxy. There are numerous differences between Haredi Judaism and Modern Orthodoxy but they share a lot more than what separates them, certainly in the experience of day-to-day life, particularly in how human emotions reconcile with religious law.

"I do have a lot of experience with ultra-Orthodox Judaism with close family members who are part of the ultra-Orthodox world. I have family members who are part of the Haredi world."

Luke: "Do you hate the ultra-Orthodox world?"

Tova: "No."

She laughs. "I don't even think in those terms. How do you hate worlds? I'm so closely interwoven into it. I'm not sure my characters are ultra-Orthodox, maybe yeshivish or right-wing. I think my books are more about Modern Orthodoxy.

"That hug, which seems to have drawn her greatest irritation... Because a character succumbs to a moment of desire and therefore I hate the ultra-Orthodox world? It's outrageous. I disagree with her characterization of my novels as portraying the Orthodox world as 'contemptible.' I've heard a lot about my novels. I've never heard that before. I think it is not true."

Luke: "That charge has not appeared in reviews of your work?"

Tova: "Not once. I've been faulted for portraying it [Orthodox Judaism] with too much love...for not pushing my characters hard enough, for not having any of the characters leave Orthodoxy. At readings for The Ladies Auxiliary, I was asked if community was good or bad. Fiction doesn't deal with those terms. I don't even think in those terms."

Luke: "Are your novels good or bad for the Jews?"

Tova: "I don't even think about it."

We laugh.

Tova: "I've been on a Philip Roth reading binge. It brings to mind the questions Judge Leopold Wapter asks [of the Philip Roth character in the book The Ghostwriter]. I've just finished my piece for the Forward where I say that Wendy Shalit is a modern-day Leopold Wapter.

"I'll disagree with the premise of your question and answer it anyway. I don't know what we gain by presenting hagiography: 'We don't struggle. We don't question. Maybe we have a small moment of pettiness, but we are happy here. You might have issues in your life, but not here.' I'm not sure that benefits the Orthodox world."

Luke: "How accurate a reading of you and the things you struggle with and the things you observe are your novels?"

Tova: "They are not autobiographical but I'm in there all over the pages. The Ladies Auxiliary, ironically, is very much about what it means to be an insider or outsider. I am a sixth generation Memphian. I grew up as an insider in that world but at the same time feeling outside for not always agreeing with the community. There was the sense that if you deviated in the smallest way you would find yourself on the outside. I am certainly not Batsheva [the convert to Judaism in the novel]. I am not even any of the high school girls.

"I grew up with such a strong sense of being from somewhere, and I think about how you hold on to that desire without it becoming suffocating and requiring conformity. The Outside World is about how people wrestle with this question of tradition and modernity, how people make those tabulations in their life."

Wendy Shalit writes: "Mirvis hones in on hypocrisy..."

Tova: "I have no problem with hypocrisy [as Wendy defines it]. If Baruch believes in this strict interpretation of Orthodoxy yet he hugs his fiancee on the back porch, is he a hypocrite? Is that the best word we have for that? I think it's about human failings and the tension between divine ideals and human needs. The whole notion of hypocrisy is so baffling to me. I almost want to write against the idea that you are either this or that.

"I was interested in what happens to the dreams and desires that are not kosher. What happens when people belong to communities and their private feelings do not always match that. What is that individual's experience? In the Modern Orthodox family [in Tova's novel The Outside World], I wanted to write about the father Joel who describes himself as an observant agnostic. It's not about whether it is good to be that or bad to be that, but what does it feel like to be that. That's what fiction does. Her piece has nothing to do with fiction."

Luke: "I find it hard to believe that the things your characters saw and did are foreign to you. This all comes from a world of possibilities you are familiar with."

Tova: "Very much so. Their struggles are very much my own struggles. To hear that those are not authentic is, what polite word can I use, surprising."

Luke: "Do you known anyone in Orthodoxy who keeps shrimp in the freezer?"

Tova: "I had a friend in college who told me this story. I've always had this uncomfortable feeling that someone in Memphis thinks I am on to them, but I have no idea who it is.

"I think Shalit's piece loses any notion of humor. There's no possibility for humor in Wendy's worldview.

"Whether someone actually keeps shrimp salad in her fridge isn't important [in determining the veracity of a novel]... It's the metaphorical shrimp salad, the things that people do that don't fit in. Everyone has them. I suspect Wendy Shalit has her own metaphorical shrimp salads in her freezer and it doesn't make her hypocritical or an outsider. It just makes her a normal person."

Wendy criticizes you for writing that a group of neighbors smuggled televisions into their homes in airconditioner boxes.

Tova: "I'm guilty of the crime as a fiction writer of making something up."

Luke: "But this isn't unknown in the Orthodox world?"

Tova: "It's an urban legend in the Orthodox world. The air conditioner box has become a catch phrase. It signifies for insiders about what one is doing in private. If you go from door-to-door in Borough Park, will you find that all of them have done that? Of course not."

Luke: "Do you think your novels inform your reader why people would want to be part of Orthodox Judaism?"

Tova: "They might. It's certainly not what they set out to be. I've heard from a few people that they've had to read my novels in their conversion classes. That's nice and funny but not my goal. I hope that what they [Tova's novels] do is ask questions about what it means to live inside a world. What is the experience of living with rules?"

Wendy Shalit writes: "The novel's jacket copy announces that ''The Outside World'' is meant to explain ''the retreat into traditionalism that has become a worldwide phenomenon among young people,'' but the uninformed reader might wonder why any young person would want to be part of such a contemptible community."

Tova: "Her use of the word 'contemptible' is outrageous. Do shrimp salad, a hug and bride magazines add up to a contemptible portrayal, so that one would think, 'I could never live in that contemptible world.' I'm not sure what she is referring to.

"She used to think that Hasidim were all bad, all mean."

Wendy writes:
At 21, I was on the outside looking in, on my first trip to Israel with a friend who was, like me, a Reform Jew. One day, we wandered into a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem, and suddenly there were black hats and side curls everywhere. My friend pointed out a group of men wearing odd fur hats. ''Those,'' he explained, ''are the really mean ones.'' I never questioned our snap judgment of these people until, a few years later, I returned to study at an all-girls seminary and was surprised to discover that my teachers, whom I adored, were men and women from this same community.

Tova: "Now they're all good. It's a black-and-white way of looking at the world on both counts.

"I don't feel that it is portrayed as contemptible. It's my world. I live in it every single day. Often there's this notion that Orthodoxy is swallowed whole. People will say, 'Oh, but she's Orthodox." As though I am not a thinking wrestling person. That, to me, is the biggest problem with her interpretation of Orthodoxy. There's no room to question. I hope that my books portray that tension.

"I remember from my book tour with The Ladies Auxiliary, one lady would raise her hand and say, I could just kill that Mrs. Levy. Those women were the most narrow petty bitches I've ever seen in my life. And another person would say, 'I love that book because it has such a warm sense of community. They care about one another.'

"Ultimately, that difference of opinion is not about the book. It's about the reader. It has to do with where they are coming from and what they want to see represented. Someone who wants to kill Mrs. Levy has her own experience of being inside or outside.

"I want to write books that press buttons. I'm not interested in writing parve [a kashrut term that refers to food that is neither meat nor dairy] fiction.

"I found with The Ladies Auxiliary, the farther someone was from Orthodoxy, the warmer they felt the portrayal was.

"I go home to Memphis all the time. I live in that world. I'm the one who wrote that book. I understand the feeling that I've aired the dirty laundry... 'Will people want to move to Memphis still?'"

Luke: "What have you had to deal with in the Memphis community?"

Tova: "It's a mixed reception. It divided along the lines of insiders versus outsiders. People who felt themselves deeply inside that world were very upset about the book. Either it was nothing like Memphis or it was exactly like Memphis. People told me that they didn't read the book but a copy of all the negative passages had been passed around. People were busy trying to play who's who. They wanted to crack my code.

"At the beginning, it was upsetting. It became funny. Apparently there were five candidates for Mrs. Levy including one man. People who did not feel like insiders loved the book. One person said that it felt like I had explained her life to her. She always wondered why she hadn't felt accepted here.

"When I go back there, I watch my back."

Luke: "But it's not so bad you can't go back."

Tova: "It's also the Southern thing. People will never say anything to your face. People will give me this smile and say, 'I read your book.' That's it."

Luke: "How did your parents feel about the book?"

Tova: "They were great despite that my mom heard a comment about it every day, every time she left her house. They loved the book and felt like it spoke to a truth for them and their experiences. When I was writing the book, my mom would say, 'You're not really going to do this, are you?' I had to promise that not only would I not use any Memphis names, they couldn't even sound anything like Memphis names."

Wendy Shalit writes: "But before there can be hypocrisy, there must be real idealism; in fiction that lacks idealistic characters, even the hypocrite's place can't be properly understood."

Tova: "My idea of idealistic characters is characters who hold ideals and struggle to realize them. I think Baruch is idealistic. He aspires to something higher than himself. He doesn't always reach it.

"What Shalit is really asking for is idealized characters. She praises books, not on whether the characters are fully realized, but do they promote ideals."

Luke: "Did you write or approve the jacket copy for The Outside World?"

Tova: "I approved it. Writers get very little say over book jackets. It's the publisher's job. But it was not my favorite line in the jacket copy."

Luke: "Yes. I would not think that The Outside World was primarily a way to explain a retreat into traditionalism."

Tova: "I agree."

Luke: "Do your novels indulge the baser instincts, such as the desire to eavesdrop on a closed world?"

Tova: "I don't know that eavesdropping is so base. All of our lives are closed to some degree. The act of reading is a form of eavesdropping on other people's lives."

Luke: "Did you consider when you were writing that you would be feeding a wanted belief among many of your readers that the ultra-Orthodox are crooked and hypocritical and lacking any competing claim to the truth?"

Tova: "No. I might be feeding the notion that they are also human."

Luke: "Have you read Ruchama King?"

Tova: "I blurbed her novel [Seven Blessings]. I think it has many nice things about it. I would praise her for the intimacy of her moments, her details, and the delicacy of her language."

Luke: "Eve Grubin?"

Tova: "I'm friendly with Eve Grubin as is Wendy Shalit. I haven't read Eve's book but will once it is published. I think she's a nice person. I think it's odd to have someone in The Times Book Review when their book hasn't been published. I think Eve was praised for becoming Orthodoxy, not for her poetry."

Luke: "Allegra Goodman?"

Tova: "I love her work. I love Kaaterskill Falls. Paradise Park is a riot. I would contest [Wendy's] characterization of Allegra as a 'sympathetic outsider.' It doesn't do her work justice. And it isn't so sympathetic. If you talked to people from the community that Kaaterskill Falls is based on, I don't think they would agree with Shalit that it was so sympathetic. And I don't mean that as a charge against Allegra. I mean it as a compliment. I think her work is funny, sharp, and pointed."

Luke: "I find it hard to believe that Allegra is an outsider to Orthodox Judaism."

Tova: "It depends on your definitions."

Luke: "I am sure Allegra has spent time in Orthodox Judaism."

Tova: "The whole notion of a classification system [of outsider/insider] is highly offensive. Who's deciding which of us is in or out? I would argue that Nathan Englander is an insider too. Wendy doesn't take into account that there are many ways to be insiders. When you grow up in a world, you know a world. Nathan knows this world deeply and fully. Just because he doesn't believe in it now doesn't remove that. It's a matter of knowing his stuff whether he practices it or not."

Luke: "Is it unbelievable to think that an Orthodox rabbi would write a dispensation for a man to see a prostitute?"

That is the key story in Englander's collection of short stories and also occurs at the beginning of the Israeli film The Holy Land.

Tova: "It's a Talmudic story. I bet that Wendy, with all her claims to be an insider, did not know that it's a Talmudic story. That's what is so disturbing about the way his work is treated [by Wendy].

"I think the single most outrageous line in the piece was: 'Englander's sketches were fictional, but did most people realize this?' Well, they're called fiction. It's not about whether it does happen in life. It's a story."

Luke: "Tova Reich?"

Tova: "I haven't read her. I know her brother is an Orthodox rabbi."

Luke: "If so, then it is hard to believe she's an outsider to Orthodox Judaism."

Tova: "Apparently one becomes an insider by feeling the way Wendy does about the world. By her logic, if you know the world, you must love it. And if you don't love it, you don't know it.

"Pearl Abraham is not mentioned in the piece because she disproves the thesis. Pearl Abraham grew up in the ultra-Orthodox community. The Romance Reader is about her rejection of that world. She certainly knows the world."

Luke: "Did you read Chaim Potok's novels?"

Tova: "I did growing up. I saw the movie The Chosen and read it. My Name is Asher Lev. Davita's Harp."

Luke: "I read all of Chaim Potok's novels when I was a kid and reread them during my conversion to Judaism. Now I gorge on Jewish fiction. I'm struck the difference in the intellectual caliber of the characters between Potok's characters who are obsessed with intellectual questions such as Biblical Criticism and other questions about texts, and the lack of that contemporary Jewish fiction."

Tova: "I disagree with that. For Baruch, it's a text-based struggle. In Orthodox Judaism, sociological details are not separate from theological ones. Halacha [Jewish law] is so minute. That characterizes that world. In the discussion of domestic details, there are large theological questions. It's the way ideology is lived through sociology. In a world where clothing and every gesture matter so much, The difference between seamed stockings and unseamed stockings can speak volumes about who a person is as an Orthodox woman."

Luke: "To me the primary question one would ask in determining whether or not to lead an Orthodox life is does one truly believe that God gave the Torah. That question does not seem to be present."

Tova: "Because it is taken for granted. It is taken as a given. If they are arguing about putting dish racks in a sink to make it kosher, God is implicit in that conversation."

Luke: "Do you believe in God?"

Tova: "Yes."

Luke: "Do you believe God gave the Torah?"

Tova: "I do. I think it's more complicated... I don't believe in the fundamentalist notion that he wrote it down and handed it off but I believe in an evolving dynamic chain of tradition. It has formed my life. It is complicated. I would guess that I don't believe in it in the same terms that Wendy Shalit does."

Luke: "How about in the terms that Maimonidies formulates in his eighth of thirteen required beliefs [the Jewish prayer Yigdal, which translated into English reads: 'I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses, our teacher, peace be upon him.']"

Tova: "Remind me."

Luke: "That the Torah is divine. That every word of it is divine. And if a person was to say that a single word in the Torah is not divine, that that is outside permitted belief."

Tova: "I don't know. That's a good question. Part of my Orthodoxy is that you don't have to know all the answers. I don't know. It's a good question."

Luke: "This was a question that obsessed the characters of Chaim Potok novels and it obsesses me."

Tova: "What's interesting about Orthodoxy is does the term mean sameness of belief? There's little sameness of belief in Orthodoxy. There are basic tenets. I don't think one could articulate an Orthodox theology that would apply across the board. It's complicated and I live with that complication every day."

Luke: "Orthoprax means correct practice. Orthodox means correct belief. Sorry to hone in on this, but would it be more accurate to call you Orthoprax than Orthodox?"

Tova pauses: "I don't even know where to begin. No, I have no idea. I don't know what those words mean. Is someone who belongs to an Orthodox synagogue and drives there [on Shabbat and festivals], is he Orthodox? I don't know. Is one who davens three times a day but eats out [in non-kosher restaurants], is he Orthodox? I don't do that, before that gets tagged on to me, but I don't know. I don't know what these terms mean. I don't really think about them. I don't know that there's a need to define in that way.

"I am Modern Orthodox. I am liberal Orthodox. I am feminist Orthodox. But what does that have to do with my right to write fiction? The whole question of where writers are coming from is problematic and the least interesting way of looking at novels. I don't know what my own personal beliefs have to do with it. Is it a credential test?

"People ask [a prominent Jewish author] if he believes in God. They want a yes or no answer. He thinks it's not a yes-or-no answer but a discussion. To live in the Orthodox world is to be engaged in these questions and discussions and to wrestle with them and to be part of a conversation. It's not to have all the answers. I just don't believe that anyone does."

Luke: "Are you familiar with Louis Jacobs?"

Tova: "Vaguely."

Luke: "He was on the way to becoming Chief Rabbi of England in the early 1960s. They found a book he wrote in 1957 called We Have Reason To Believe where he accepted what is the universally held view in academic study of sacred text that the Torah is composed of different strands composed in different centuries and woven together over centuries. Because of that, he was thrown out of Orthodox Judaism.

"I bring that up because with your vast secular education, I am sure you are familiar with literary criticism and the asking of three basic questions: When was something written? Who wrote it? For what purpose was it written? If you apply those three basic questions to sacred text, you would come up with an answer completely different from that of traditional Judaism to its sacred texts. Do you wrestle with this?"

Tova, pauses: "Sometimes, but not to where I need to have the answer, to resolve it in my head. I think the same applies to issues of Orthodoxy and science."

Luke: "Is Jewish Orthodoxy compatible with Modernity?"

Tova: "Yes."

Luke: "So one can be authentically Orthodox and authentically Modern?"

Tova: "That's what the Modern Orthodox movement is about. Modern Orthodoxy was founded on the principle that one doesn't live in separate worlds where we do our Orthodox thing and then we do our Modern thing. We integrate them."

Luke: "Do you think it is true?"

Tova: "Do I think that it is true?"

Luke: "Ontologically, ultimately? That you can be authentically Modern and authentically Orthodox and integrated?"

Tova: "I do."

Luke: "I'm sure that much of what you learned at Columbia ran completely counter to your Orthodox Judaism?"

Tova: "I don't know. It didn't."

Luke: "Did you ever take a class in Bible?"

Tova: "I didn't. I regret that.

"I think these are interesting questions but they don't have to do with fiction, with my fiction.

"I think of Wendy Shalit's piece as a tzitzit-check, a sheitel-check. What are your credentials for writing. As a writer, I don't pretend to have all the answers to the theological questions of Orthodoxy. I don't pretend it in my life and I don't pretend it in my fiction.

"I don't think that writing from a place of certainty makes for the best fiction.

"I can discuss with you my own doubts though I don't think that I need to. Orthodoxy is not always an easy package to hold together.

"I take issue with her argument that because characters struggle with communal norms and divine truths they are outsiders. I think she wants to do this to writers and to our characters. It is the second one that pisses me off more."

After the interview, I exchanged some emails with Tova.

Eighty minutes after the conclusion of our interview, Tova wrote me:

I must tell you as well, in hindsight, that I have an isssue with many of your questions. Upon thinking about it, I wondered whether questions such as whether I believe in the one of maimonides 13 principles of faith are intended for discussion and thought, or to determine whether I'm really the insider I claim to be. if the former, then I truly am interested in the conversation and the ongoing exploration. But if its the latter, then I'd make the same objection as I make to her piece. Must we believe in the 3rd principle of faith, for example, to write legitimately about the ortjodox world. What if someone only believed in numbers 1-11? Does that disqualify them? And since its so on point, I'd love to quote the Ghostwriter, which I mentioned: "Do you practice Judaism? If so, how? If not, what qualifies you to write about Judaism for national magazines?" I'm feeling a little too much of Judge Wapter in the air.

I replied:
That was my favorite section of the Ghostwriter. I do not believe that you need to believe in anything to write on Orthodox Judaism or any topic. My questions on your beliefs were to find out where you are coming from. I realize this is a very sensitive area for many people... I had a fascinating discussion along a similar line with Alana Newhouse...in my book on Jewish journalism.

Later, I emailed Tova: "Why have you stayed Orthodox?"

Tova wrote back: "I've stayed Orthodox because it's who I am, it's my childhood and its my family, my parents and my children, and it's part of all my memories. I'm Orthodox because I love ritual, because I love the texts, love the idea of a chain of ideas passed down from generation to generation, each one adding one more link. Because I love Shabbos, love that the chaos of my everyday life quiets down for those hours. Because sometimes when I least expect it, a cantorial tune, a word of a prayer will catch me off guard and move me, make me feel a longing for something deeper, fuller, higher. I've stayed Orthodox even though so many things about it anger me, so many things feel problematic and troubling and unresolvable. And I stay because the Orthodox world is so much wider than some people believe, because one can doubt and wrestle and observe and believe and that is all part of this tradition."