NEXUS Magazine, and why are Brits all so anti-Semitic?

NEXUS Magazine, and why are Brits all so anti-Semitic?

I love this radical Aussie magazine. Nexus has been coming to my home for at least ten years, probably longer. I don’t believe every suppressed science & UFO conspiracy theory printed in its pages, but there’s always something stimulating and provocative to read. Plus it has funny cartoons.
My one complaint is that this magazine periodically runs a blame-Israel piece. Some piece of excrement like: the tragedy of 9/11 was orchestrated by Israel!! In the current issue was a glowing book review of a book that blames Israel while also pointing out that people who blame Israel come under fire for being anti-Semitic.
Well, Duh. Blaming Israel–for 9/11, the war in Iraq, or any other evil in the world–is just the next layer of the anti-Semitic onion. People have been blaming Jews for stuff for the past 2000 years. If the pages of NEXUS are any indication, they will be doing so for the next 2000, too–only shifting the level of discourse slightly to blaming Israel.
It’s not just NEXUS that does this. My beloved MI-5 ran an episode with an evil Israeli extremist. Here’s a question: why wouldn’t Israelis be hyper-defensive, when their immediate neighbors want to annihilate them? I don’t watch MI-5 anymore. But I will still get NEXUS, enjoy the articles, and wonder why an otherwise open-minded periodical persists in prejudice against Jews.

Children are evil

I went out to LA last week to discuss the film option for IMMORTAL. Great experience. The movie industry is a business anecdotally filled with sharks and snakes, but somehow I have stumbled upon honorable people. Not just honorable, also smart, creative, funny–a pleasure to be with. I went out for drinks with my gorgeous friend Michelle, and we quaffed too much wine and giggled over nefarious plans. Then I had an enjoyable evening, dining out with an old friend who’s an agent at CAA and with the producer who wants to option IMMORTAL and her husband. Two tables over was Jack Black, looking adorable in a funky hat. “How is this possible for a married lady and mom to be here now?” I wondered. I’m ready to move to LA.

But I live here now, and my family welcomed me back with their usual aplomb: “A movie of Immortal? Great! Can you raise my allowance? Can you iron my dress for the bat mitzvah? Are there any snacks in the house?”

My family keeps me real. The other night I made a seder during which my eldest daughter read an atheist poem by John Keats, my middle daughter sneaked swigs of the Manishewitz, my step-daughter said “Oy Vey” forty times to prove she was an honorary Jew, my 3 year old ran around the table trying to blow out the candles, and my husband fretted about the roast: “Ten plagues? Do you think the roast is over-cooked? That was a really nice piece of meat. How long has it been in? Did you put enough rosemary on it?”

But I soldiered on with the Haggadah, because I am convinced something worthwhile will rub off. The good news is that my eldest says she will still send her children to Hebrew school because “Every child should come to reject organized religion on their own.” The middle daughter expressed a similar opinion when she sobered up. The little one didn’t set herself or the house on fire. And the roast came out beautifully.

Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture

I am a huge fan of computer science professor Randy Pausch. 

Diane Sawyer introduced him to me last week via a television special, and I rushed to the computer to order his book. It’s wonderful: warm, honest, funny, candid, sad. Full of advice both sage and heartfelt. Practical, human, earnest, wry. Lovely in every way.
Perhaps my favorite musing of his was on the value of “earnest” over “hip.” Yay, someone voiced what I’ve always thought! I’ve never been hip, never been interested in being hip, never will be hip. What the hell’s the point? It’s an exterior value, not an interior one. But earnest, and telling the truth: ah, now those are qualities I can get behind. Those are qualities I revere. I have certainly been in trouble a million times for being earnest and truthful. Ever try speaking up to point out that the emperor has no clothes, when the politically correct thing is to admire his well-tailored suit? Not appreciated! In this demented world, which I believe is infected with the moral relativism of a rhetorically abusive psychotherapy, “hip” is preferred to straight on candor.
I strong-armed my middle daughter into watching the youtube lecture, because Randy says things that I’ve been trying to teach my kids forever. These are old fashioned values that have fallen out of favor with the advent of the psychotherapy-inspired philosophy that “everyone is wonderful and whatever you do is great and super.” 
For example, the importance of writing thank-you notes by hand. This middle daughter, who is a feisty, funny, sweet girl, good-hearted and full of both honey and horse radish, fought me ferociously over writing thank you notes for her myriad bat mitzvah gifts. A mother less tough and determined than me would have surrendered this battle early on, because my middle daughter screamed and yelled at me over every single note. It was so unfair that she had to write them! I was the meanest mother in the whole world! So-and-so’s bat mitzvah was a week before hers, and that other girl hadn’t even started her thank you notes! But I hung in there. My daughter wrote those thank-you’s. And she lost her computer privileges a bunch of times for mouthing off to me with unacceptable disrespect. She really has to stop swearing at me.
It’s not easy to be the kind of mother who will go toe-to-toe with a screaming 13 year old and insist that she do the right thing. Pausch writes, (page 168), “It’s been well-documented that there’s a growing sense of entitlement among young people today. I have certainly seen that in my classrooms.” But it’s not all the kids’ faults, and not all of society’s fault. The blame falls also on parents who won’t hang tough and insist on better manners, better behavior. On parents who won’t respect their kids enough to tell their kids the cold, bitter truth: that self-esteem is earned from the inside, not granted from the outside, and that it comes after hard work, self-discipline, perseverance, and painful failures that have to be rectified. See how unhip I am to believe this?
And this is one of the reasons why I don’t have a high opinion of current psychotherapy. My two older daughters both see therapists: their parents had a rotten divorce, and there is a serious difference in the values now espoused in the two homes. The therapists are both decent, well-meaning people. I like my older daughter’s therapist for her tact and ability to negotiate compromises. She’s good at it. And I like my middle daughter’s therapist for his intelligence and honesty. He’s really good at calming people down and cutting through the bs to get to the kernel of a situation.
But neither of these intelligent, well-meaning, competent people live with my kids. Neither of them is going to face the screaming battles, the 2:00 am phone calls, the emergency room visits, or the slobbiness in the home. Neither of them is going to be the one to drop everything and rescue, help, problem-solve for, or otherwise take care of my kids: that would be me. And they hear one-sided versions of events.
My middle daughter’s therapist took me to task for the way I discipline her. He’s worried that it’s too severe and will damage the relationship. One of my favorite methods of discipline is to have her write sentences. Eg, “I will not curse at my mother,” 1000 times, or “I will complete my assignments on time and if I lose an assignment, I will replace it immediately,” 100 times. I like this method because I don’t get aggravated, so she doesn’t get a charge out of my charge, and because I firmly believe that the words go from her hand and eyes into her brain.
“But she hates you when she’s writing them!” the therapist told me.
“Of course,” I said. This is the thing that so many parents don’t want to face and tolate: sometimes, if we’re doing our jobs as parents, our kids hate us. It just isn’t easy to teach kids to do the right thing, so that the kids don’t grow up to be entitled jerks.
In addition to hating me in spurts, my middle daughter also loves me. I let her off after 400 hand-written “I will not curse at my mother” sentences, because mercy is important, too. Though if she keeps yelling the ‘f’ word at me, I’ll hold her to 1000 times.
And she loved “The Last Lecture.” She came to me with her eyes damp and a wide smile on her pretty face, thanking me for having her watch it. “It was so great mom! It was all about living, and, oh, everything!” she enthused. Sometimes having an earnest, unhip mom who wants you to do the right thing isn’t all bad.

IMMORTAL the movie

My reps are working on a deal with Hollywood. Very exciting! So I’ve started playing the game: cast the movie…. But my first consideration was the score, and naturally, the great Ennio Morricone came to mind. Yep, he’s getting old, but wouldn’t it be great…. The soundtrack to the motion picture The Mission has to be one of the top 10 most beautiful pieces of music ever. It’s just unearthly gorgeous. I think IMMORTAL is worthy of Morricone’s prodigious talent. And he’s worthy of it.

Casting: Brad Pitt is too old. Sorry, sir; you have the acting chops and the beauty to play Luca, but Luca looks like he’s 28 or so for over a hundred years, and you’ve matured past that. To your credit. My daughters, who have an opinion about everything, mention Hayden Christensen. I don’t know him as an actor. Ryan Phillipe maybe? Someone with the reach to play Luca’s humility as well as his dogged persistence in seeking love and questioning God.
How about it? Any readers out there with opinions? Who plays Luca, Giotto, Silvano, Maddalena, Caterina, the young Leonardo, Lorenzo de Medici?

My Children’s Arms

for my daughters

In my children’s arms, round like hula hoops
===there is fizz redelicious of my quarnicky heart
=====all gooped over with toockly cooties and broken
=======from having stepped on the cracks
===============of my mother’s back

In my children’s bellies, soft like banana dough
===there are spangles all bubbly set in my sloop eyes
=====and rainbow gurgles that clummer hum in my throat
=======from songs that were shuckle shushed too long ago
===============by those who should know

On my children’s heads, crunchy sweet and true
===there are tickle stars growing from flowergold sleeves
=====knit about with fairykin pumpkins and leprechaun lofts
=======and glimmer charm wags that my soul lost on its way
===============from heaven to stay

In my children’s arms, in my children’s eyes
===there is love and anguish and knowing too wise
=====for this piddledunk world and its spinachy ways
=======its clambersome nights and blistering days
=========I offer my arms for their snuggletug ease
===========for their dream down wares and their ’zactly stuff, please
===============let it be enough

by Traci L. Slatton

originally published in LIMESTONE: A Journal of Art and Literature, Fall 2003, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.



My husband the sculptor claims to know I’m happy when I ask him a deep, unanswerable question at bedtime. He’ll move around the bedroom and bathroom, methodically performing his evening ablutions, putting away his glasses, taking out from his armoire another pair of plaster-encrusted jeans (sculpting is construction work for geniuses). Just as he’s sliding into bed beside me, I’ll turn troubled eyes on him. “How does anyone ultimately know God?”

“Uh oh, you must be happy,” he says. He sinks down into the bed and closes his eyes. Usually that’s when I lean over and put my nose next to his. I’m the persistent sort, not easily distracted.
“But really, what’s the nature of sensory apparatus for the divine?” I’ll say. Or something of that nature, eliciting a groan and sometimes also a kiss. My husband is a calm, earthy man who works with his hands putting clay on an armature, with his head in considering morphology and psychology, and with his heart in his love for truth and beauty in the human body. He doesn’t spend a lot of time pondering the ineluctable.
But novelists do. And lately I’ve been thinking about free will and fate, and their intertwinings in the individual life. The life I have been ruminating on is my daughter’s.
She was not accepted at her top college choice. She was waitlisted at her second choice, and she received two other waitlists at schools that were high up on her list. She was accepted at three great schools, and she’s weighing her options.
She has had many accomplishments on several fronts, and she had a bright outlook for her college options at the end of her junior year. That changed with her first semester senior year grades, which were not as stellar as they always have been in the past. Now, 3rd quarter senior year, her grades are back up. Clearly it was not a matter of ability. Something else was going on.
So what was going on? A temporary brain glitch, brought on by the intense stresses of the college process, about which so much was written this year? Trauma and shock at what she experienced and witnessed in an impoverished foreign city, when she went on a medical mission with a charity? Self-sabotage? Or did she simply not want to attend the family alma mater? Was she trying to separate herself out from the family DNA, and this is the only way she knew how: shoot herself in the foot so she had an out? I keep thinking of Nicolas Cage and Cher in Moonstruck, when she tells him that he was a wolf who chewed his own paw off to escape the trap of an ill-considered marriage. Isn’t it a shame he couldn’t get out without the suffering and pain of the loss of his hand?
It hurts to see her hurt. Some part of her deeply wanted to be accepted, and that part is now in pain. And she feels embarrassed in front of her peers, like they’ll think she’s stupid. And she hates the extended anxiety and uncertainty of the waitlists, though I’ve counseled her to do due diligence on her current options. “Write a gracious letter accepting the waitlists, and then tuck them away in the back of your mind,” I said. She nodded to me, her big eyes filled with sadness.
But it’s not about my counsel anymore. It’s about her own choices and actions, and the consequences of them. She’s getting ready to leave and begin the great journey of her own self-determined life. She’s taking up her own destiny, with its mixture of fate and free will, good luck and bad luck, synchronicity and accident. All I can do now is give her lots of love. And serve the same function as that corrugated strip of roadway beside highway lanes: make a bumpy, obnoxious noise when she strays too far out of her path. It’s one of the great unanswerable questions, in my mind: why it is that the parent-child relationship is only successful when the child leaves.