Friday, June 28, 2013

Monarchy as a Transgender Experience

photo of RuPaul by David Shankbone
A young woman’s experience of monarchy (also known to some as menarche) is one of the most important life development stages of his or her life. He may have dreamt of being a queen, but this is a time when he or she first realizes that he or she has royal blood. On the other hand many women who are born females may have always dreamt of being kings. As Mel Brooks famously quips in The History of the World: Part I, “it’s good to be the king.’"It’s important to realize at this point that all good things come with at a price. No pain no gain and the monthly cycle of monarchy with its cramps and mood changes is a roller coaster ride for some. Who knows if the repression of the Victorian age wasn’t the result of Queen Victoria having a rough time going through monarchy? And there were others like Cleopatra whose erratic behavior resulted in all kinds of turbulence. Remember Marlowe’s famous lines, “was this the face that launched a thousand ships/and burned the topless towers of Ilium?” For these reasons, it’s important that every gal have a good understanding of what monarchy means. Think of the Hohenzollerns, the Habsburgs, the Plantagenets, the Stuarts, the Tudors. When has monarchy occurred without bloodshed? A girl or guy can go through his or her monarchy, but she or he won’t come out of it unstained.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Your Next Stop--The Transit Zone!

Remember Rod Serling's immortal words, "You're traveling through another dimension -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's a signpost up ahead: your next stop...”-- the The Transit Zone! Planning on visiting the Taj Mahal, The Great Wall, The Terracotta Warriors, The Great Barrier Reef.  You may have second thoughts after hearing about the pleasures of the transit zone of the Moscow Airport. Besides a T.G.I. Friday’s and Burger King, you might can enjoy celebrity spotting like guess who? Our modern day Clark and Lois, Ed Snowden and his WikiLeaks sidekick Sarah Harrison (“A Stakeout Grinds On in Airport Limbo,” NYT, 6/25/13) And then there are all the locked doors. Behind one of them is, you guessed it, Ed Snowden. The transit area of the Moscow airport is the place to go if you want to be free, at least according to Vladimir Putin, who has declared it the Cayman Islands for those who are seeking freedom from their political liens. There have been rumors that Ed Snowden and Sarah Harrison are actually rehearsing Chekhov’s The Three Sisters behind one of those locked doors. You remember the line "to Moscow?" It was the fate of Chekhov’s three sisters never to satisfy their dreams, but in the contemporary updating not getting there is a boon since it means our two feckless characters can remain in The Transit Zone!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Will Ed Snowden Use Liberty Travel?

Taking the cue from Vladimir Putin who has said that “As a transit passenger, he (Ed Snowden) has the right to buy a ticket and fly wherever he wants,” (“Vladimir Putin: Edward Snowden Still in Moscow Airport Transit Zone, Won’t Be Extradited,” The Huffington Post, 6/25/13) apocryphal travel agents with suspiciously suggestive names are vying to work on his itinerary. The American chain Liberty Travel may not have yet gotten into the fray, but amongst the contenders are such mythological giants as Fugitive Travel, Lost Continent, Trudge the Path of Happy Destiny, Witness Protection Tours, Vanishing Point and New Horizon Line Travel. Whether some of these fictitious agencies will be contacting Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic remains to be seen, as it’s unclear whether Mr. Putin’s statement about Ed Snowden being free to go where he wants applies to outer space. For instance, if Snowden were to be landed on the moon, could he still be extradited by United States authorities (ditto the International Space station or comets which may be approaching the orbit of the earth). Some other potential destinations that fictitious travel agents might be considering include Waziristan (the mountainous region of Pakistan favored by the Taliban), Somalia (home of the sea piracy industry) and Pyongyang, which are all considered extradition proof by most experts in the field. One of the nicest properties that is also on the list is the peak of Mount Everest, from which no fugitives have ever been known to be extradited—though as a vacation property its magnificent views are often obscured by inclement weather. Meanwhile, further questions have been asked about whether Snowden will be able to transfer U.S. course credits to universities in countries where he might be offered asylum. For instance if he had ever taken an introductory course in Public Speaking at an American or European University would he get course credit in Havana or Quito?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Ed Snowden’s Rewards Points

At first it appeared to be a paper work snafu that enabled Ed Snowden to avoid being extradited from Hong Kong for espionage. However, soon other troublesome issues started to emerge concerning  the Snowden affair. Ed Snowden has ostensibly been doing a lot of economy class traveling. The Times had a nice little chart on the front page of Monday’s print edition, showing how Snowden went from Honolulu to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Moscow, and then showing hypothetical routes to Havana and Caracas and Quito (“U.S. Traces Path as N.S.A. Leaker Flees Hong Kong,” 6/24/13), but one of the unanswered questions relates to his rewards points situation. The Times reported that despite disclaimers on the part of the Hong Kong authorities, it was the Chinese government who was apparently responsible for enabling Snowden (“China Said to Have Made Call to Let Leader Depart,” NYT, 6/23/13). In addition, The Times also reported that Julian Assange “met last week with Ecuador’s foreign minister to support Mr. Snowden’s asylum request,” (“Offering Snowden Aid, WikiLeaks Get Back in the Game,” NYT, 6/23/13). In the same article, The Times described how Sarah Harrison, “a British WikiLeaks activist” was with Mr. Snowden “on the Aeroflot airliner that carried him on Sunday from Hong Kong to Moscow.” What's most significant however is that neither WikiLeaks, nor any of the countries involved in Snowden’s odyssey including the U.S. has dealt with the irksome matter of the rewards points. If you commit espionage in one country, can you receive rewards points on the airline of the country which is offering asylum? Aeroflot does have a bonus program and the question of rewards points for fugitives is a matter that will ultimately have to be dealt with by the ICC at The Hague. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Koch Tombstone Mix-Up

Ed Koch at Christening of U.S. Lake Champlain
The Times recently ran a short one half column length piece entitled “Incorrect Date of Koch’s Birth On Tombstone,” (NYT, 6/17/13).  Apparently Ed Koch’s tombstone had his wrong date of birth. The Times was following up on a story which WNBC-TV originally broke. “I inverted 1924 to l942 and I’m going to fix it,” Tommy F. Flynn of Flynn Funeral & Cremation told the Times. “It was a simple human error.” George Orwell employed a similar technique—in his case on purpose—in the creation of l984, inverting the year of its creation l948 for the title of his dystopian novel. As currently listed on the tombstone Koch would have lived to be 71. Of course his true date of birth l924 means Koch lived to the ripe old age of 88, as reported in the Times’ original obit, “Edward I. Koch, a Mayor as Brash, Shrewd and Colorful as the City He Led, Dies at  88,” NYT, 2/1/13. What is interesting is why Koch whose parents were Jewish chose an Irish funeral concern, Flynn Funeral & Cremation Memorial Centers to do the work? If nothing else it was an ecumenical choice for a mayor who presided over a constituency that was the epitome of the melting pot. But let’s say he had entrusted the making of his tombstone to the Riverside, a Jewish funeral parlor, would it really have made a difference? “ Still the Times commented “Koch spent years meticulously preparing for his death,” and quoted Mr. Flynn as saying “he worked with Mr. Koch for eight months designing the granite tombstone.” In an article in Tablet, “Ed Koch’s Catholic Send-off,” (5/21/13) Jonathan Cohen describes how in spite of his pride in being Jewish, Koch was drawn to the Catholic Church. “Ed was Jewish to the core, but he had a special affinity for Catholics,” Diane Coffey, Koch’s former chief of staff, is quoted as saying in the piece. A maverick to the end,  this may throw some light on why he didn’t entrust his image to a landsman.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fill the Void

Fundamentalism has it right, were not the belonging and other satisfactions it provides bought at the cost of autonomy and individual freedom. And Fill the Void, which deals with the Ultra-Orthodox Haredim of Tel Aviv, should warm the hearts of the Christian and Muslim counterparts of the characters portrayed in the film. On a global level fundamentalism creates the conditions under which men and women can function and thrive. For example, the attraction to sexual differentiation and prescribed roles which brings many who have strayed back into the fold (and which lies at the heart of many these ritual bound credos) can be understood as a relief for refugees from modernity with its war torn sexuality and Pandora’s Box of ambivalence. While remaining totally faithful to the world it describes, Rama Burshtein’s film complicates matters, not so much extrinsically by virtue of her characters living in the 21st Century, but intrinsically by playing on the struggle between tradition and free will. Free will is of course a very Jewish idea and even within the confines of the traditional society Fill the Void inhabits, one is almost disconcerted by its presence. In a nutshell, the void of the title is the result of the death of Esther (Renana Raz) during the birth of her son Mordechai. Yes the film takes place on Purim and as we all know Esther and Mordechai are key figures in the Purim tale. However, the real question is how Yochay (Yiftach Klein), Esther’s grieving husband, will raise his child. Will he move to Belgium where a prospective new bride awaits him or will Esther’s younger sister Shira (Hadas Yaron) become Yochay’s new wife? In one sense you have a classic Yiddish melodrama of the kind that played on Second Avenue in the Golden Age of Yiddish theater. Yet there are differences, the Yiddish theater portrayed a secular world and this is a religious one. The language of the movie is Hebrew. And most importantly the repertoire of emotion that eventually pulls the heartstrings of both the characters and the audience would have been almost biblical, were it not for the fact that it was so shockingly modern.