Skip to main content


Showing posts from January, 2006

D.P. Camp Gaza, July 2006: News from the Near Future

Displaced Persons Camp Gaza, July 4, 2006: Initially, the victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections last January caused some nervousness among Palestinians. They heartily agreed with the plan to throw the Jews into the sea, but the other aspects of Hamas' platform didn't sound so pleasant.

By March, the Hamas program began to take hold with Shari'a, sex-separated schools, an end to all Western music and cinema, mandatory burkas for women and the confiscation of all shaving equipment for men. The daily beheadings of hold-out Fatah members further heightened unease. Some Palestinians secretly called for joint U.S.-Iraqi intervention to stop the killings. And not a single Jew had been thrown into the sea.

The great revolt began the night of April 12, as Jews celebrated the first seder of Passover. Gazing at dynamic, tolerant Israel so close but unfathomably far away, tens of thousands of Palestinians spontaneously rebelled against Hamas' plague of blood in the most dramatic…

Conversations with a Spook: William Colby, the Spy Who Played Computer Games

In March 1996, I interviewed William Colby, former Director of Central Intelligence, for a profile in the Princeton Alumni Weekly (Colby was Class of '40). Only a month later, however, Colby died in a boating accident in Maryland. Due to Colby's death, PAW never ran the article on the venerable and controversial spymaster. The profile appears here for the first time.

William Colby, the Spy Who Played Computer Games

Seasoned by decades of espionage work during hot and cold wars, William Colby ’40 knew he had to be thoroughly prepared before embarking on his latest assignment in the wilderness of mirrors. A professional would do no less. So Colby, Director of Central Intelligence from 1973 to 1976, started playing computer games.

“I looked at ‘Return to Zork,’” recalled Colby. “I went through enough of it to understand how it worked.”

Colby’s Zork play helped him understand the intricacies of interactive entertainment while he served as a consultant on the development of Spycraft: T…

'24' Alert: George Mason is Definitely a Jew

Inspired by the recent essay revealing Jack Bauer's Jewishness, correspondent Fausta of Bad Hair Blog gazed thoughtfully at the ever-expanding CTU Memorial Wall of Honor in LA and wondered whether the late George Mason might also be Jewish (that's George at the right in the photo, going mano-a-mano with Jack Bauer).

Fantastic idea, Fausta. And you know what? You're right. George Mason IS (or was, anyway) Jewish. Here's why.

One strong factor point to George Mason's Judaism is that he is undoubtedly related to this well-known fellow. My sense is that their grandmothers were second cousins.

During his time at CTU, seasons 1 and 2, Mason was a highly ambiguous character, at least in the beginning. As LA director of CTU, Mason clashed with Jack Bauer and had a history of financial chicanery, both of which made him a prime candidate as a mole.

However, like Judah in the story of Joseph, Mason revealed himself to be a man with a deep sense of self-sacrificing decency. During…

Fantasies of a '24' Obsessive: Jack Bauer is Jewish!

The fifth season of “24” blasted off last Sunday and Monday on Fox, packed with four hours of non-stop mayhem. As a 24 obsessive since the very first episode in 2001, I constantly scan the show for any Jewish angle.

The casual observer sees plenty of skulking Middle Eastern killers, but almost nothing in the way of overt Jewish presence. 24 approached matters of Jewish identity in season 4 with a brief appearance by a sniveling lawyer with a Jewish name who ran into the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) headquarters representing a terror suspect. On the surface, that's it.

What’s a Jewish 24 fan to do?

I thought carefully about this during the season premiere. After a glass or two of slivovitz, my mind refocused and suddenly 24 emerged as the most Jewish show this side of “Fiddler On the Roof” with Harvey Fierstein. Hang with me here:

1. Jack Bauer, brilliantly played by Keifer Sutherland, is Jewish because his real name must be Yaacov Bauer. His last name suggests a back-story with r…

Conversations with a Ghost: The Abbie Hoffman Interview, Conclusion

In 1986 I interviewed 60s radical Abbie Hoffman. Never before published, the edited transcript now appears through the magic of the Internet. This is the final installment.


Part 1

Part 2


Mission2Moscow: Do you ever get tired of being ABBIE HOFFMAN, in capital letters?

Hoffman: Very much, yes. Being underground, if I heard the name I just ducked immediately, I got scared. So I still don’t like to hear it today, to this minute I don’t like to hear the name. But fame can give you access. You can call up people, they don’t hang up. Well, it’s an OK name. I’m proud of what I do – and did.

Mission2Moscow: How do you like to relax?

Hoffman: Orgasms. I’m trying to figure out how to make it last longer than three hours (shrieks of laughter). Believe me, international revolution, that’s how you do it – three-hour orgasms.

Mission2Moscow: Your mother called you an excellent bowler. You were a jock back at Brandeis.

Hoffman: Sports? Let’s see, tennis. I love playing pool,…

Conversations with a Ghost: The Abbie Hoffman Interview, Part 2

This continues my 1986 interview with Abbie Hoffman.

The introduction can be found here.

Part 1


Mission2Moscow: You once said that politics is swaddled in “perhapses.” What do you think is the biggest perhaps for you – personally or politically?

Hoffman: Maybe the drug bust, going underground. The world of Latin America would have been known to me only through the media. It wouldn’t have been known so much from direct contact. Never mind the direct experience of somebody who worked and lived there as a fugitive. Also, the battle on the St. Lawrence River as another person, as Barry Freed. It would have been very easy for me to avoid it, but seeing, in a sense, my true identity come out, that I am a community organizer, that when I see a way to beat the powers that be, when they are about to commit an injustice, I just have to act. I don’t know how to sit there and watch it go by, or rationalize.

I was tested in the underground. I was tested by having my kids forced t…

Conversations with a Ghost: The Abbie Hoffman Interview, Part 1

In 1986 I interviewed 60s radical Abbie Hoffman for a New York publication. The edited transcript, taken from five hours of conversation, never was published. Thanks to the Internet, Hoffman's wit and energy can now be read by a new generation. The introduction to this piece can be found here.

Hoffman: I was just surprised last month to get a call from Walt Disney to use me in a commercial to plug their latest movie, Ruthless People. It’s funny to get a call like that.

Mission2Moscow: Are you going to do it?

Hoffman: I turned it down, no.

Mission2Moscow: Why did you turn it down?

Hoffman: They wouldn’t let me see the movie, for one thing. But there is a big difference. These things, like being called by Walt Disney, or being on the Phil Donahue Show or talk shows, speaking to large numbers of people. I am used by the U.S. Information Agency as propaganda around that world that this is how much free speech we have. Probably 90 percent of the readers of Whole Life believe – believe the f…

The Functional Value of Heartache

Adult dating involves set narratives, similar to job interviews. Two people make an acquaintance and, as they proceed, start talking. Initial conversations often are rituals of standard questions posed, reliable answers proffered. If the elusive chemistry exists, the masks slip down so the less polished self emerges. The real connection begins then.

The masks slipped quickly last spring when I met a woman I'll call Tieta. From our first encounters, online on JDate and then in person, I sensed something special about her -- and, as important, about us. We revealed bits about ourselves that very few others know. I allowed plans for what we could do, what we could be, to form in my mind. That's what happens when somebody touches the reptilian boy-girl attraction node deep inside me.

It didn't last. Tieta thrashed in a spider-web of complications involving parents and exes that thwarted our relationship, so we constantly took one step forward and two steps back. Finally, she dec…

Bubba Ho-Tep: An Outstanding Addition to the Lee Harvey Oswald Film Collection

Long-time readers of this blog know well my academic interest in cultural works referencing Lee Harvey Oswald. Several psychiatrists have traced this obsession to repeated viewings of Oliver Stone's JFK at impressionable times in my life.

Anyway, I'm pleased to announce an outstanding addition to the collection of Oswaldiana: Bubba Ho-Tep, a beloved low-budget movie about a decrepit Elvis (or Elvis imitator) wasting away in an East Texas nursing home. Another resident is President John F. Kennedy -- or, at least, an elderly black man who insists he is in fact JFK, diabolically disguised by Lyndon Johnson. The two team up to battle an evil mummy who's terrorizing the good citizens of the Shady Rest Retirement Home.

JFK, played by the late, great actor Ossie Davis, decorates his room with pictures of Oswald, Jack Ruby, and others. The centerpiece is a Dealey Plaza scale re-creation, including -- be still my heart! -- a "Lee Harvey Oswald Depository Playset, complete with…

The Cinematic Record of the World Trade Center

In his new movie Munich, Steven Spielberg shows two Israeli Mossad characters talking with the World Trade Center in the background. I haven't seen the movie, but I'll take the word of Philadelphia Jewish Exponent editor Jonathan Tobin, who wrote, "Spielberg even uses an image of a still-standing World Trade Center to punctuate a scene in which Avner rejects Israel to lead us to falsely think 9/11 might have been avoided had America also abandoned the Jewish state. With Oliver Stone and others preparing 9-11 movies, I've become curious about the cinematic treatment of the WTC. Spielberg takes a forboding approach while Stone deals head-on with the day itself. My interest comes from a different angle: how did the WTC figure into earlier movies, and can those films be seen without a shudder? Is the WTC simply there, part of the background, or in some Spielbergian sense do the towers add another layer of meaning and dread that viewers understand only in retrospect? One t…