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What’s Not to Link? (Day Two)

To: Amanda Marcotte From: Jonathan Ames Subject: Backgammon, "Anna" Coulter, Terabitha, Earth, and Yeats

Dear Amanda,

At Jewlicious, there was a lot about a big party, something called the Jewlicious Festival, which happened recently in Long Beach, CA. From what I can gather it was hosted by a Rabbi Yonah Bookstein and his wife Rachel. I like the name Bookstein. Jews have the most absurd names. Bookstein has the word ‘book’ in it and I love books. Sometimes Jewish names seem unattractive to me, but that’s probably my Jewish self-loathing asserting itself. On some level part of me feels intrinsically unattractive because I’m Jewish.

Anyway, at this Jewlicious party, I think some people were playing backgammon; I deduced this from this photo.

Like a CIA expert, I tried to analyze the photo to see who was winning, but it was hard to tell.

I play a lot of internet backgammon. Most of the people you play are from Turkey or other Middle-Eastern countries, though Turkey isn’t quite in the Middle East. There are also Germans, and when I play a German, I’m like, “Okay, you German, let’s see what you’ve got.” I feel friendlier when I play Canadians. Though just yesterday I was challenged to a boxing match by a Canadian writer named Craig Davidson. Well, actually his American publishing house challenged me. I guess he had a book come out in Canada called The Fighter and to promote it he had a fight against a poet and lost.

I once had a boxing match against a performance artist named the “Impact Addict” and lost. The “Impact Addict” jumped off of buildings as his performance art and once shot himself out of a rocket. I fought as “The Herring Wonder,” a reincarnated, Lower East Side, Jazz-era, immigrant Jewish boxer, who trained by eating Herring. My fight was in 1999. I’m not sure I want to come out of retirement to fight this Canadian. He’s twelve years younger than me and outweighs me by 12 pounds as well. A pound for every year of youth. Here’s a picture of me from my boxing days. And here’s another one.

The problem is that my nose breaks very easily. I broke it training for my fight and then re-broke it during the fight. I’m not sure I want to go through that again, but it’s awfully tempting. I still have my “Herring Wonder” robe and silk shorts.

Anyway, there are also a lot of Israelis on my backgammon site, which is called Gammon Empire and I’m not even sure how it got onto my computer. I wonder if the Turks play the Israelis. I also wonder, since you can send messages to each other, if the CIA is monitoring Gammon Empire, since maybe people could secretly send messages about plots to one another. I don’t want to say what kind of plots, but you know plots, the kind of plots that make you plotz. That was bad humor.

Amanda – are you Jewish? Do you have to be Jewish to write for this site? Marcotte doesn’t sound like a Jewish name.

How many words have I written? 527. That’s all I have to write, according to the Jewcy editor, 500 to 600 words, and I’ve only gotten through one blog. I’m going to try to speed things up.

On The News Blog, someone named Queequeg wrote about Ann Coulter. Now I don’t have a television and I’m not a blog person, but I’ve picked up from the zeitgeist that this Ann Coulter is a conservative person. Also, I did see her once on TV when I was in a hotel and it was quick thing about some rude speech she gave somewhere.

So this Queequeg was in a green room with her at some Fox news outlet in Miami and held his tongue and didn’t say anything rude to her, which he sort of regrets, but not entirely since he seems like a gentleman. He was also a bit intimidated by this Coulter.

I take it she has called John Edwards a fag, which is her latest offense.

I imagine she says things like this to make money. I wonder if she really believes anything she says. From my glimpse of her on TV, she doesn’t dress like a religious-right kind of woman. She dresses sort of sexy, which implies a different kind of mindset than a Laura Bush sort of Republican woman. So she’s kind of like the female equivalent of Gay Black Republicans – a seeming paradox. I imagine that she had a very stern father and that she’s exotically submissive in bed. Who knows? We’re all so flawed and confused. Nobody knows what the hell is going on. The Buddhists come close, I think.

Would I be wrong in making the statement that Arianna Huffington is the liberal parallel universe equivalent of Ann Coulter? I feel like a blindfolded kid playing pin the tail on the donkey as I try to keep pace with the culture. I’ve heard of Arianna Huffington and Ann Coulter mostly from my perusal of the NY Post, which is the newspaper I read since it only costs a quarter here in NYC.

I’m not very political, I’m afraid. I’m broken-hearted and passive. I feel bad for the state of the world and do nothing about it. I did go to Ohio in 2004 to try to get college kids to vote. I did this because this writer, who’s wonderfully politically active, Stephen Elliott, invited me. He organizes readings to raise money for progressive candidates. I’m sort of a one-issue human being – the environment.

When I was in rehab in 1987, my mother gave me a Sports Illustrated to read and on the cover was a picture of the planet Earth and a detailed article about the destruction of everything, and leading up to my hospitalization I had been going crazy, thinking of every car as a small fire destroying the world and I was a vegan because we were plowing the Amazon to make McDonald’s burgers and I was losing my mind . . . and then I had to be hospitalized because I had polluted myself and been abused by substances (I was a small planet wrecking itself) and then my mother gives me that Sports Illustrated, she was trying to be nice, and it was an issue about the environment and I went even more nuts.

Anyway . . . I eventually became less hysterical and just more passive and brokenhearted, while holding out some small hope for humanity, because when I was a kid I was reading some Encyclopedia and Richard Leakey had some quote about how man is the only self-destructive creature on Earth and that he was wrecking the planet, but that also man was the only creature who might figure out a way to change . . . so I hold on to that.

On Gothamist, there was mostly postings about what’s going on in New York. Nothing really caught my eye. Murders, Alex Rodriguez, new restaurants.

There was something about Bernie Kerik and I thought of him sleeping with Judith Regan, and I imagine that Ann Coulter would like somebody like Bernie Kerik, too.

Not much in The Revealer caught my eye. I did glance at this because it mentioned Bridge to Terabitha which I saw the other night. A friend of mine told me they wept during Terabitha and so I went to it by myself. I love going to movies by myself and I love to cry during movies. So I may have been set up to cry by my friend and started crying before things got sad, and then when they got sad, I really did weep like crazy. I wish I could cry right now in fact.

I’m having euphoric recall about crying the other night. I just felt inside myself to see if I could conjure up some tears but none came. My stomach is full of coffee so that I could write this letter to you and I think the coffee is cutting me off from my soul or wherever it is that crying comes from.

After Terabitha, with my face all swollen and my nose stuffed, I sneaked into 300, but by then my eyes were really blurry because I need glasses and I was sort of emotionally drained, so I couldn’t fully give myself over to 300. Also, the couple behind me kept laughing at and calling the Persian king a “fag” and this affected my suspension of disbelief and my ability to fully lose myself in the film. I don’t think it was Ann Coulter sitting behind me, though. When I go to a movie, I like to guffaw and shout and cry and emote and squirm and writhe. I’m sort of like Ignatius J. Reilly from the Confederacy of Dunces in this way.

Maud Newton – who like Rabbi Bookstein, has a great name – Maud Newton – it’s just a good name; it has feng shui or something; maybe it’s the combination of Maud, which makes you think of Yeats and Maud Gonne, and Newton, which makes you think of the scientist and Fig Newtons . . . Anyway, she writes about this writer James Hynes, who, because I’m an idiot, I have never heard of but she inspires me to check him out.

At first, I thought she was talking about Samuel Hynes who was a teacher of mine at Princeton. He taught a course on the British novel and I recall reading Ford Maddox Ford, Joseph Conrad, Joyce, and a bunch of others, and I was introduced to the word “muddled” as a wonderful adjective to use as a blanket description for the human condition and further along those lines every lecture was on how man was doomed and flawed and a terrible mess, and I was still young then, only 20, and wasn’t yet a vegan and hysterical and I didn’t know that the world and man were this bad, and so I went up to him, half-way through the semester, all worried and frightened, and said, “Every lecture you give paints such a dark picture for the world. What are we going to do? Aren’t you scared?” And he said, “No, I believe in God.”

And that really shocked me. I went running out of the lecture hall. He should have mentioned that in his lectures. Every week he was freaking me out but holding back his own personal antidote to it all . . . and I was only twenty and an agnostic and confused and didn’t know what to do, so I kind of stopped going to the class . . . I was actually quite a mess back then. I had joined ROTC to pay for college, not knowing anything about the military and I couldn’t march and didn’t know how to read a map. So I ended up taking a year off from college and later became a conscientious objector when I realized that I didn’t want to have kill anyone as a means to end conflict and in the long run I avoided going to the first Gulf War, unlike a number of my ROTC classmates.

Anyway, that’s my ramble. A friend just called. I said I was writing a blog for something called Jewcy and she said, with disgust, “Oooh, is that a porn site?” And I said, “No, it’s a Jewish site, spelled J-E-W-C-Y, not J-U-I-C-Y.” She still thought it might be a porn site and I refuted this and then I said, “I’m writing a blog about blogs about blogs about blogs,” which is like that old Gertrude Stein poem . . .

All the best,

Jonathan Ames

P.S. I’m not going to proofread this. I wrote it an hour and it’s 1 p.m. and I think Jewcy needs this, so if there are weird typos, I apologize. I just did a word-count – nearly 2,000 words. I’m a typing fool. Two thousand words in an hour. It’s like what Capote said about Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

To: Jonathan Ames From: Amanda Marcotte Subject: RSS Feeds, YouTube, Laura Bush v. Ann Coulter, and Bono

Dear Jonathan,

I’m in awe of your ability to type/write 2,000 words in an hour. And here I was thinking that I was prolific.

In answer to your various questions: No, I’m not Jewish. I hope and suspect that’s not a problem. My last name comes from the mysterious tribe of French-Canadians. I’m not really paranoid, but I have heard here and there that some people suspect that feminists are paranoid, and my need to please the crowds forced me to tip my hat to those folks. And yes, Bill Donohue and the Catholic League are one and the same thing. I suspect that Bill Donohue thinks that he is all Catholics, as well. If you want to read my entire tale of woe in tangling with this man, I wrote about it in Salon.

In answer to your other question, I fear explaining what an RSS reader is to you if your eyes are already taxed from internet backgammon. (I used to have an addiction to internet gin rummy, so my sympathies are with you.) It’s a very simple, but maddeningly addictive internet tool. All you do is create an account at someplace like Google and then you start adding feeds from various blogs and websites that update regularly, so you can read them all in one place and assure yourself that you’re not missing out on anything.

I have 167 blogs feeding into mine right now. I highly recommend not getting one, if you cherish your free time. For that reason, I also applaud your decision not to have a TV. Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have a TV, either, but that’s because I’m strapped to my RSS reader.

I will say that I’m detecting a slight tendency towards being a Luddite from you. Am I guessing right? Being a Luddite has the pleasant side effect of saving money, if nothing else.

Looking over your contest to determine the most phallic building in the world, I have to admit that I prefer your initial pick of the Williamsburg Bank Building over the eventual winner. Sure, the Ypsilanti water tower looks more like a penis than the Williamsburg Bank, but that doesn’t make it more phallic. The water tower has some of the organic-looking humility of a human penis, whereas the Williamsburg Bank strives towards the unrealistic grandeur that makes something truly phallic.

Ann Coulter may not seem like she’s a conservative ideal of womanhood at first blush, but after giving it some thought (and writing a blog post about it), I’m inclined to think she is an ideal, just a different one from Laura Bush. Laura Bush is the fantasy wife in the conservative world, but Coulter is the fantasy mistress. Laura Bush will make you feel like a patriarch, but Coulter’s faux wit and faux sexiness is supposed to make you feel like a man.

Looks like the guest bloggers at The News Blog are intently covering the Justice Department scandals today. That said, the blog post that caught my eye was this one about Viacom suing Google over YouTube, and what Viacom calls copyright infringement issues there.

Jonathan, I’m not sure if you’ve ever succumbed to the urge to watch videos on YouTube, but if you haven’t yet, I also recommend avoiding it. You can’t download entire movies to watch there, but for folks who go for the emotional highs and lows, you can watch just the clips of the most moving scenes and get your crying fix without spending more than the length of the scene to do so. It probably does violate all sorts of copyright laws, but it would be a shame to have this resource snatched away.

I’m adding The Revealer to my RSS reader right now. This item about how Bono’s new slogan “Africa is sexy” sealed the deal for me. The more I see of Bono, the less I like of him, and now that I’ve seen a lot of him, I probably have an unfairly low opinion of him. Surely there are many worse people out there who I should hold in lower esteem than I hold him, but I can’t because I don’t see enough of them to dislike them with the same intensity I reserve for Bono. My apologies if you are at all a fan of U2.

Looks like Maud is coming back to Texas for SXSW, and is happy that I’ve granted her official home girl status so she doesn’t have to feel like one of the Brooklyn hipsters that leave us local types both with a feeling of awe and disdain. The latter especially reserved for those who expect their food orders to show up in the same hour they’re ordered in restaurants downtown. Drink your beer and pipe down; you sound like the tourist you are. Locals know to get there and order your food before you’re really hungry, especially since no one here takes reservations, either. Hope you’re taking note for your upcoming visits here, Jonathan.

And with this letter coming in under 900 words, I must hang my head in shame compared to my correspondent.



Check the Daily Shvitz for updates on this installment of Movable Snipe.

Previous Movable Snipes:

John Derbyshire and Daphne Merkin [James Wolcott, Reason's Hit & Run, Design Observer, Kesher Talk, Matt Yglesias]

Michael Helke and Fiona Maazel [, , , , ]

Spencer Ackerman and Melissa Lafsky [Captain’s Quarters, Feministing, TNR's The Spine, Jossip, Wonkette]


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