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Showing posts from December, 2005

The Property Rights Controversy over "Ushpizin"

Two Saturdays ago I saw that the "Israeli Club" at a large synagogue in Fairfield County, Conn., would be screening the hit Israeli movie Ushpizin. I showed up, only to find a bar mitzvah party ending and no movie screening -- not that I could find, anyway.

Had I attended the screening, I might very well have become a direct participant in a simmering controversy regarding the movie: well-intentioned but illegal screenings of Ushpizin in shuls and other places. Capitalizing on the growing appeal of this breakthrough film, the screenings violate copyright law and the property rights of the U.S. distributor of the film, Picturehouse, a joint venture of HBO and New Line Cinema (both units of Time Warner).

I learned of the problem of illegal screenings through a full-page ad for the film in the Dec. 23 issue of the Jewish Week in New York. The ad announced Picturehouse-sanctioned screenings at the Yeshiva of Flatbush on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2. The ad caught my attention with a statemen…

Family Matters, Past and Present

A favorite memory of my late mother, gone 22 years next month, is her fierce financial correspondence with her older sister Charlotte, in Tyler, Texas. Their weekly letters traded news about their investments and the gyrations of Wall Street; Mom groused a lot about a company called Overhead Door. Charlotte was a steel-nerved stock-market ace, creating her own price-trend charts and knowing to the second when to turn on the radio in her kitchen to catch the mid-day market report on KRLD in Dallas. When Charlotte attended my 1980 graduation from Princeton, she reached stock-picker nirvana by meeting Professor Burton Malkiel, who wrote the book "A Random Walk Down Wall Street." She even had Malkiel autograph her copy of his book.

My mother lacked Aunt Charlotte's zest for trading, but she did OK. When she died in January 1984, she left equal amounts of her portfolio to me and my brother, Mission2Houston, 100 shares of each stock to each of us.

During my marriage, the unrele…

Miracle on 47th Street: A Heartwarming Holiday Encounter

Yesterday I took a late-morning train into New York. A young woman sat beside me with a rolling suitcase. Once she got arranged we started talking. She lives in Connecticut and was going into the city to meet her boyfriend of the past four years. He now lives, temporarily she hoped, in North Dakota. Let's call her Maria Theresa (not her real name).

They were meeting at a hotel across the street from my office, and she said they wanted to go look at engagement rings, in the famous Diamond District on West 47th Street, where Orthodox Jews run most of the stores. The place totally shuts down on Friday afternoon.

"I figure we can go look tomorrow," she said innocently, referring to Saturday.

"Um, you might want to go today," I told her. "They're, um, religious Jews who don't work on Saturday."

This surprised Maria Theresa. "Not even during the Christmas season, for the shoppers?"

The question gave me pause. Visions of pious Jews in elf hats d…

"I Am Jewish": A Response

A rabbinical friend recently forwarded a thought-provoking email to me. It came from Rabbi Carol Stein in California and read, in part,

I am preparing to teach a course at the High School for Jewish Studies in San Diego this coming semester. The course is entitled "I Am Jewish" - the last words spoken by the journalist, Daniel Pearl, before his death at the hands of his kidnappers in the Middle East. I am hoping to guide the students so that they too can make that same statement proudly and with an understanding of what "being Jewish" means to each of them. I ask your help.

Please take a few minutes to write a few sentences or a few paragraphs explaining what you mean when you say "I am Jewish." Of course, there is no "right" answer -- being Jewish means different things to each of us. Some of us may think only of the religious aspect -- some the cultural or social or gastronomic.

Below is my response to Rabbi Stein's request.

We live in …

Jewish Policy Forum: Staring into the Abyss That is Iran

Some of the sharpest thought leaders among Jewish conservatives gathered at the Jewish Policy Center forum on Sunday, Dec. 11, at the West Side Institutional Synagogue in New York. The theme that sliced through the two-hour discussion: what can be done, if anything, to counter the onrushing nuclear capabilities of the frothingly anti-Israel leadership in Iran.

Panelists Daniel Pipes, Mona Charen, and Michael Ledeen (all members of the Board of Fellows of the JPC, a non-profit Washington think tank that takes a Jewish and conservative perspective), grappled with the question raised by moderator Michael Medved who asked, aping the tone of liberal arguments, whether the threat of Iran has been left to fester while the U.S. pursues the war in Iraq.

"I don´t totally disagree with you," said Pipes, noting the Bush administration has been "overly ambitious" in Iraq" and that he hoped the U.S. would "reduce our intense engagement" for a larger Iraqi role. He …

Howard Stern? Feh. Let's Talk About Abbie Hoffman.

The well-lubed publicity machine is now squirting out dispatches on the meaning of Howard Stern's move from WXRK (K-Rock) in New York to Sirius satellite radio on Janury 9. I have nothing of contemporary interest to add to the discussion, since I stopped listening to the radio show years ago and never had any interest in Stern's TV show. I still follow his career out of nostalgia for the days 20 years ago when I was a huge fan of him on WNBC and then K-ROCK and even had the incredible opportunity to interview him -- about his back problems and healthy lifestyle.

Around 1986-1987 I did celebrity interviews for a groovy publication in New York called Whole Life Times. Somehow WLT snagged an interview with Stern to talk about his involvement with the Alexander Technique. I drew the assignment. Like other journalists, I found the off-mike Stern polite, cooperative and amused by the on-air alter ego. That was before he got divorced and became the gargantuan King of All Media. The pa…

My Special Evening With Candida Royalle, Femme Deluxe

When I heard that former porn actress and now producer/porntreprenuer Candida Royalle would speak last month at the New York City Junto, a libertarian group, I had a major 80s-90s flashback. Between 1987 and 1995, I was East Coast Bureau Chief for Video Store Magazine. Royalle's company, Femme Productions, was a loyal exhibitor at video trade shows, promoting its expanding line of "sensually explicit" woman-friendly erotica to the retail channel. Royalle started Femme in 1984, so it was still the hot new thing when I started attending conventions of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) for Video Store. I still have a business card handed to me by Femme sales rep (and former actress) Veronica Hart. Our hands almost touched!

Dressed completely in black with striking blonde hair, Royalle arrived at a hotel meeting room that was packed with at least 75 people. As they say, sex sells, although on this night the sex (talk) was free. Her new book, "How to Tell a Na…

Drop Everything and Listen to This Song, Right Now

The good and daring folks at WFDU in New Jersey played this here little song yesterday. I thought, "Hey, this song is about me!" My ears pricked right up. After the first chorus I wrote down the lyrics and immediately located the song and the artists online. Vince Gill's country supergroup the Notorious Cherry Bombs released the song on its self-titled album last year.

Without further ado or introduction, click on this link. Really, right now, don't wait a minute, to enjoy this classic country anthem, "It's Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night . . . " and I'll let you figure out the rest.

"Where God Was Born:" Bruce Feiler Visits the Delivery Room

A few days ago I heard Bruce Feiler speak at the Borders store in Stamford. He was promoting his new book "Where God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion." His other books on the Bible (a/k/a the Torah to we folks of the Hebraic persuasion) always catch my eye at bookstores; I've never read them but decided an author appearance would be a good way to start.

Rabbi Josh Hammerman of Stamford's Temple Beth El introduced Feiler, who visited Israel, Iraq, and Iran while researching "Where God Was Born."

Feiler spoke of the Bible as a book about God and humans struggling to develop a relationship, despite constant disappointment. The exile to Babylon (modern Iraq) was critical to Jewish thinking, he explained, because the exile showed that the relationship with God matters more than the land and state that disappeared after the exile.

Despite the common image of the Bible (and reggae singers), Jews did not just sit by the rivers of Babylon and wee…

Confessions of a Jerry Capeci Junkie

The deal went down like this, as it does every Thursday morning.

Before leaving my apartment, I checked to make sure I had a quarter. I always do the deal with a quarter. Things go faster that way, you know?

I hit Hope Street and scurried south, toward the Springdale train station. I knew exactly where to go, and my supplier was waiting inside with a fresh batch of the best stuff. My hungry hands grabbed what I wanted. Looking around, I slid the quarter toward her on a glass counter. In return, she said the mysterious words she always says, in her mysterious Filipino accent, "Have a nice day."

The tension rose as I walked quickly to the Springdale station, as I had to wait to get on the train and be seated before I could finally get my fix. But my patience earned its reward, for a few minutes later my Thursday could properly begin.

Because for mission2moscow, Thursday is always JERRY CAPECI DAY in New York.

My quarter supported the only newspaper I actually buy daily, the New Yo…

Winter Wonderland, and Preparations Thereof

Winter came early with snow Sunday morning. That was the teaser for the bigger Nor'easter to start Monday evening. Since I'm working at home, I took the time to swing by the Greenwich library to stock up on provisions, since I may also be snowbound Tuesday. Thus, solitary entertainment:

"Dressed Up to Get Messed Up" by Roomful of Blues, with the delightful album art, below.

Now that's what I call album art. 

"Santana" by Santana

"Abraxas" by Santana

"Caravansarai" by Santana

"Light of the Moon" by the Pierces (I've never heard of this female duo, but I sure liked the cover art)

"Live" by Delbert McClinton (can't wait to hear ol' Delbert sing "Lipstick Traces")

"Day Dreaming at Midnight" by the Sir Douglas Quintet (a buncha long-haired Austin hippie types who were popular in the 1960s. Can't wait to hear "She Would If She Could, She Can't So She Won't." Pure poetry)


A Father's Obligations: Shmoikel and I Go Ape

As a father, my portfolio of responsibilities includes giving my son Shmoikel a good cultural and moral grounding. Some highlights of my efforts:

-- Ending each night by saying the "Shema" prayer together, and starting each day by reciting "Modeh Ani"

-- Driving him around as a baby on Saturdays to the sounds of Irish and Gaelic music on WFUV

-- Explaining the difference between capitalism and communism

-- Teaching him that "bad pop music is bad pop music, whether it's in Spanish, Swedish, or Hebrew"

-- Together Watching "The Planet of the Apes" (POTA) movie series

We had great father-son bonding this weekend with POTA. Over the summer we watched the original POTA and greatly enjoyed it. It holds up incredibly well from the eerie beginning to the shattering climax. The cultural pay-off came quickly when Shmoikel saw the movie "Madagascar," which has a scene of a tiki version of the Statue of Liberty. One of the characters sees it and sta…

Greatest Mis-Heard Song Lyrics Ever

Every year or so, I'll hear a song on the radio that breaks through the aural sludge to capture my attention. That happened with "Closing Time" by Semisonic and even in Spanish, with "Soy Mujer" (I am a Woman) by La India (The Latina Kate Smith, given her belt-it-out style). I became entranced with a snippet of theme music from the Brazilian telenovela "Senhora do Destinho" (Woman of Destiny). Those melancholy five seconds of music haunted me for months until I finally heard them again on my Rhapsody online music channel and I identified the song as "Encontros e Despedidas" (Arrivals and Departures) by the incomparable Maria Rita.

Lately, I found myself tuned in to a group called the Killers because of radio play of their song "Somebody Told Me." The song has a dense, lyric-heavy sound; what caught my attention were the lyrics I heard, or, more important, thought I heard when the song played on WPLJ in New York.

I found one phrase p…