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Jewish Journal

Marty Kaplan

  • Brands make lousy lovers

    1 week ago

    What brand doesn’t belong on this list?  Amazon, Uber, Yelp, Hillary.

    It’s a trick question. They all belong. In recent days, they’ve all been making it harder for their fans to love them.

    I loved Amazon at first sight. Later, when it killed Borders, I forgave it, and called it...

  • The news summer from hell and the end of optimism

    3 weeks ago

    By this point in the summer, a sane person could reasonably conclude that the world is going nuts.  Spiraling out of control, descending into darkness, making optimism a delusional last recourse – that kind of feeling. 

    “What fresh hell is this?” – the question Dorothy Parker...

  • The secret of Warren Bennis’s success

    August 6, 2014 | 12:23 pm

    Though the size of Warren Bennis’s obituary in the New York Times was epic – all six columns across, filling most of the space above the fold on the back page of the A section – its text made no mention of something about him I always thought inextricable from who he was and the...

  • If Norman Lear at 92 is what 92 is, I’ll have what he’s having

    July 23, 2014 | 2:50 pm

    It is not widely known that Norman Lear and I have the same mother.

    Norman once called his mother in Bridgeport, Conn., and said, “Mother, I just got this call. The Television Academy is forming a Hall of Fame. And the first inductees are going to be General Sarnoff and Edward R....

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  • Please manipulate me

    July 14, 2014 | 11:53 am

    What do you call it when media try to manipulate your feelings without first asking for informed consent?

    Tuesday. 

    Example:  The average Facebook user sees only 20 percent of the 1,500 stories per day that could have shown up in their news feed.  The posts you receive are...

  • How to organize your books

    June 30, 2014 | 1:34 pm

    It’s a sin to throw away a book.

    I don’t mean e-books.  If they’re cluttering your e-reader, all you have to do is delete them, and you don’t even have to do that, since you can pretty much fit the Library of Congress on a thumb drive.

    But physical books – the creepy retronym...

  • Five doubting dudes and the holy relics of Mount Mortality

    June 16, 2014 | 1:14 pm

    “Protestant,” I lied, not for the first time, when the Holy Mount Athos Pilgrims Bureau officer asked me my religion.

    In January, when my friend Sandy, who was born Greek Orthodox, applied to the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs to allow five of us to set foot on the Mount Athos...

  • Condi’s cost per minute

    May 19, 2014 | 10:10 am

    Forget whether former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson was paid more or less than her predecessor, Bill Keller.  I want to know why Condoleezza Rice was paid more than Condoleezza Rice.

    Rutgers University offered $35,000 to George W. Bush’s national security advisor...

  • What if we really knew what media does to us

    May 5, 2014 | 10:31 am

    What if we knew that the fictional rapes in HBO’s mega-hit “Game of Thrones” caused real rapes in the real world?  What if we knew that the portrayals of gay characters in “Modern Family” caused actual states to legalize same-sex marriage?

    The catch, of course, is causation. ...

  • One God, one vote

    April 21, 2014 | 10:06 am

    I wonder if Tavis Smiley got the same Happy Passover mailer from Amy Howorth that I did.

    Mr. Smiley and I are neighbors in California’s 26th State Senate District, which includes coastal Los Angeles County, Beverly Hills and Hollywood.  Amy Howorth, the mayor of Manhattan Beach,...

  • The ironic ma nishtana

    April 7, 2014 | 10:05 am

    There are two ma nishtanas – one adorable, and one ironic. 

    They both mean the same thing in Hebrew: “What is different?”  “What has changed?”

    The adorable one gets its charm from being sung by the youngest child at the Passover seder.  Ma nishtana starts the sentence setting...

  • This is how you’ll feel when the GOP wins the Senate

    March 24, 2014 | 10:06 am

    It’s the morning after.

    You stayed up late watching election results on TV.  By the time you went to bed, the Republicans had won five of the six Senate seats they needed to take control of both houses of Congress.  As the networks called each state for the GOP, it felt like a...

  • Which algorithm are you?

    March 10, 2014 | 9:55 am

    I love online quizzes.

    The one I currently love most is “How Millennial Are You?,” which the Pew Research Center put out on Friday. You answer 14 questions, ranging from whether living a very religious life is very important to you to whether you have a piercing in a place other...

  • Once upon a climate change

    February 24, 2014 | 12:57 pm

    Those who tell the stories rule the world, it’s said, but it’s hard to tell a story unless you know the ending.

    We don’t yet know the ending of the climate change story.  The beginning of the ending, though, happened in Kyoto, Japan in 1997, where delegates from 37 industrialized...

  • The Flappy Bird of Paradise

    February 10, 2014 | 10:16 am

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but Flappy Bird was definitely not just a game. 

    If you’ve been on an aboriginal walkabout, you may not know that, until yesterday, Flappy Bird was the most popular iPhone and Android app on the planet.  Its appeal lies neither in its crappy...

  • The curious case of criticism

    January 23, 2014 | 2:29 pm

    What do you say to a friend whose work has been panned by a critic?

    Until I actually read it, I was thrilled to see a review of the new book by an author I’ve known since college on the front page of the Arts section of the New York Times, written by the paper’s top daily book...

  • Christie’s Weiner

    January 13, 2014 | 10:38 am

    I did not have sex with that bridge.

    That was Chris Christie’s Hail Mary play at his press conference last week.  He looked us in the eye, he told us he’d done nothing wrong and he prayed it would turn out better for him with George Washington than it did for Bill Clinton with...

  • Confessions of an ex-hoarder

    December 30, 2013 | 11:19 am

    I’ve run out of excuses for hanging on to stuff.

    No, I haven’t achieved Zen non-attachment to material things, but I’m no longer on the road to “Hoarding: Buried Alive.”

    It was easiest to get rid of the piles of unread magazines.  Those now get the heave-ho every few months....

  • Mary Poppins does not come back

    December 4, 2013 | 10:07 am

    I knew better than to expect P.L. Travers to write something sweet in my copy of Mary Poppins, but I didn’t think it would be quite so medicinal. 

    It was 1988, and I’d been a vice president at Disney for two years.  From the time I got there, studio president Jeffrey Katzenberg...

  • Iran no-spoiler alert

    November 25, 2013 | 10:36 am

    So where are we in the Iran narrative?

    I mean no disrespect to the victims of Iran’s terrorist clients, or the existential fears of Israelis and world Jewry, or U.S. security interests in the Middle East by calling it a narrative. Real events do happen in the real world, but...

  • The Obamacare Apocalypse

    November 11, 2013 | 10:32 am

    Last week, a professor of physics and astronomy told the New York Times that the probability of an asteroid hitting the earth ----  it happened over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February, with the energy of 30 Hiroshimas ----  isn't once in a century or two, it's once in a decade or...

  • No news is bad news

    October 28, 2013 | 11:54 am

    If you think the widening chasm between the rich and the rest spells trouble for American democracy, have a look at the growing gulf between the information-rich and -poor.

    Earlier this year, a Harvard economist’s jaw-dropping study of American’s beliefs about the distribution of...

  • Textism: Is spelling over?

    October 9, 2013 | 10:28 am

    f u cn rd ths, u cn bcm a sec & gt a gd jb w hi pa.

    You can tell that’s not a text message.  When secretaries were getting good jobs for high pay, no one was texting.

    Those School of Speedwriting ads were everywhere in New York in the 1950s and ’60s, and in New Jersey, where I...

  • This creepy ad can kill you

    September 30, 2013 | 10:28 am

    “You’re not going to let Uncle Sam put his finger up your butt, are you, dude?”

    We’re at a bustling town fair, a few weeks from now.  Kids climb on the firetruck. Community groups sell cupcakes and give out flyers.  At the “Enroll America” booth, people are on healthcare.gov...

  • Most depressing brain finding ever

    September 16, 2013 | 11:01 am

    Yale law school professor Dan Kahan’s new research paper is called “Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government,” but for me a better title is the headline on science writer Chris Mooney’s piece about it in Grist:  “Science Confirms: Politics Wrecks Your Ability to Do...

  • Hillary, helmets, ‘Crossfire’ and cash

    August 26, 2013 | 11:06 am

    Money, they say, is the mother’s milk of politics.  Also of news, sports and the rest of the entertainment industry.  Three recent stories drive that home. 

    When Reince Priebus pressured Comcast’s NBC to drop a miniseries starring Diane Lane as Hillary Clinton, the hostage that...

  • Reaganism, Capitalism and Sheilaism

    August 5, 2013 | 11:27 am

    If mice can have false memories planted in their brains by scientists, as the journal Science reported recently, then I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that cultures can have false memories planted in their brains by politicians and their media enablers.

    What brings this to mind...

  • CBS vs Time Warner Cable vs You

    July 22, 2013 | 9:39 am

    Here’s progress: Big media companies now think Americans are as gullible as politicians do.  It’s not just candidates who assume we’re nincompoops.  The cable operators and networks take us for pigeons, too.

    Exhibit A is the current battle between behemoths Time Warner Cable and...

  • David Brooks’ own private Egypt

    July 5, 2013 | 11:53 am

    If only David Brooks’ eligibility rules for Egyptian political candidates applied to Republicans as well.

    The problem with Egypt’s brief democracy, the New York Times columnist writes, was the wrong people were elected by the wrong people: 

    “Members of the Muslim Brotherhood...

  • Let’s be Brazil

    June 24, 2013 | 12:21 pm

    I have outrage envy.

    For nearly two weeks, more than a million citizens across Brazil have taken to the streets to protest political corruption, economic injustice, poor health care, inadequate schools, lousy mass transit, a crumbling infrastructure and — yes, in the land of Pelé...

  • Dear NSA (NSFW)

    June 10, 2013 | 7:11 am

    Dear NSA,

    It turns out that our handyman has been looking at gay porn on my laptop.  Is there a way to correct your records?

    Name Withheld
    Washington, D.C.


    Dear Senator,

    We really have no idea what websites you’ve been visiting.  If we’d wanted to know whether you’ve been...

  • Diagnosis: Informed Citizen Disorder

    May 27, 2013 | 12:12 pm

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that one of the great pleasures of my life – reading the New York Times – is also bad for my health. 

    After all, lamb chops are luscious, but it turns out that red meat, not to mention a perfect side of salty fries, can kill you.  Just because you...

  • The day the Earth stood stupid

    May 13, 2013 | 9:28 am

    Say goodnight, Earthlings.

    That message — plus the slimmest of shots at an eleventh-hour reprieve — was announced to the people of the world last week. 

    When this happens in science fiction — 1951’s “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is the classic — the planet pays attention. ...

  • Can’t we all just not get along?

    April 29, 2013 | 10:07 am

    Maybe the problem with Washington isn’t that there’s too little comity  – there’s too much.

    Old hands lament the passing of the era when, by day, partisans went after one another red in tooth and claw, but when the sun hit the treetops the enmity took a breather.  Thanks to the...

  • An apple for the Apple

    April 10, 2013 | 11:21 am

    I ain’t letting no computer grade this column.  No way.

    For one thing, essay-grading software can’t tell the difference between the intentional errors I just made and the kind of mistakes that would torpedo a college or job application.  For another, who needs a machine to tell...

  • Daddy’s Been Arrested

    April 1, 2013 | 8:59 am

    The final inch of the story turned me into an emotional puddle.

    At 6 a.m. last Friday, the F.B.I. arrested Michael S. Steinberg, a 41-year-old stock trader for New York hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors, at his $8 million Manhattan co-op. 

    This brings to nine the number of SAC...

  • The bartender who rescued America

    March 18, 2013 | 10:14 am

    Scott Prouty buried his lede.

    That’s journalism jargon for not recognizing the most newsworthy part of a story – for delaying the real attention-grabber for later.  (Calling a story’s first words the “lede” instead of the “lead” is a beloved fossil from the days when typesetters...

  • Supermarkets say: Please don’t buy the dreck we sell

    March 4, 2013 | 10:27 am

    I couldn’t believe my eyes.

    I was in a Minneapolis branch of Byerly’s, an upscale grocery chain in Minnesota.  Scanning the aisles for a small extravagance for my dinner hosts, I noticed that the shelf labels included not just the price-per-unit, which I’m used to, but little...

  • How to avoid meteors

    February 18, 2013 | 2:43 pm

    NASA scientists say that meteor explosions like the one last week injuring 1,200 people in Chelyabinsk, Siberia, are 100-year events. The last time a big meteor crashed into our planet, incinerating 80 million trees in the Tunguska region of Siberia, was in 1908. So if you’re...

  • Being American is bad for your health

    February 4, 2013 | 1:03 pm

    “Americans are sicker and die younger than people in other wealthy nations.” 

    That stark sentence appears in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, and it comes from the authors of a landmark report – “Shorter Lives, Poorer Health” – on...

  • Opinion: The Post-Kumbaya President

    January 21, 2013 | 8:42 pm

    I wonder where Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan are having dinner tonight.

    Four years ago, while Democrats danced at inaugural balls, Reps. Cantor and Ryan dined at The Caucus Room, a Capitol Hill steakhouse, along with other top Republicans, including Rep. Kevin McCarthy, and Sens. Jim...

  • The future of technology: Fear of fun

    January 9, 2013 | 1:07 pm

    Some day not all that far in the future, a new kind of entertainment is going to be perfected that will either be the coolest video game ever or the media equivalent of a lethal man-made super-virus.

    You can predict what that entertainment might be like just by extrapolating from...

  • Fear of fun

    December 30, 2012 | 6:10 pm

    Some day not all that far in the future, a new kind of entertainment is going to be perfected that will either be the coolest video game ever, or the media equivalent of a lethal man-made super-virus.

    You can predict what that entertainment might be like just by extrapolating...

  • Sandy Hook, Sandy and the politics of learned helplessness

    December 16, 2012 | 1:28 pm

    "We have got to get Michelle to make this her priority."

    It was my friend Judith, a wise woman, a mother and grandmother, on the phone from across the country, the evening of the day of the Newtown massacre, trying to figure out how to enlist the first lady in a campaign against...

  • Two, three, many Grover Norquists

    November 28, 2012 | 10:11 am

    So Grover Norquist turns out to be a colossus with feet of clay.

    Norquist, in case you don't watch too much cable news, is the Washington lobbyist who for years has threatened hundreds of conservative candidates with defeat unless they signed a pledge to never, ever vote to raise...

  • GOP smart on copyright for 24 hours

    November 19, 2012 | 8:26 am

    They threw Derek Khanna under the bus.

    On Friday afternoon, the Republican Study Committee – the House caucus that promulgates right-wing orthodoxy – posted on its website a startling policy brief about copyright law.

    Written by RSC staffer Derek Khanna, a 24-year-old...

  • My Chris Christie hypocrisy

    November 5, 2012 | 11:00 am

    I was against Chris Christie before I was for him.

    If Obama wins, when all the exit polling gets sorted through, it’s those images of the Democratic president touring the hurricane damage arm-in-arm with the Republican governor that may turn out to have given him his advantage. ...

  • What do (suburban) women want?

    October 18, 2012 | 12:32 pm

    If you watched any of the debates on CNN, you saw two worms at the bottom of your screen. Well, they looked to me like worms, or maybe caterpillars, scrunching and stretching throughout the 90 minutes. Actually they were real-time graphs — with one color for men, another for women...

  • How to lose the next debate

    October 4, 2012 | 11:23 am

    President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the first 2012 U.S. presidential debate in Denver on Oct. 3. Photo by REUTERS/Michael Reynolds

    A couple of weeks ago, when I wrote a “Romney Wins First Debate” column, I didn’t think I was going out...

  • Marty Kaplan: Romney wins first debate

    September 24, 2012 | 9:02 am

    If the media-industrial complex obeys its usual laws of supply and demand, the political headlines over the next four weeks are fairly predictable: Romney Wins First Debate. Ryan, Biden Debate to a Draw. Obama Wins Second Debate. It All Comes Down to the Last Debate.  

    I’m of...

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