NEWS FLASH: Chief Justice Roberts Expounds on the New Chief Justice Roberts

After a long summer filled with effusive praise from the American Left for his tie-breaking vote in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, derisively known as Obamacare, Chief Justice John G. Roberts announced that he’s decided to side with Justices Breyer, Ginsberg, Kagan, and Sotomayor on all Supreme Court cases in the future.

“I’m on an amazing ride right now, and Steve Breyer and the Girls have just been super cool with me,” Roberts told a packed house at a Bruce Springsteen concert he was attending with his wife. “I can’t tell you how stoked I am to be right for once. I mean left, right. Get it? Left right?”

Supreme Court watchers were initially surprised when Roberts upheld the PPACA not because he found the law constitutional per se, but because he ruled it a tax. “I know that’s not what the Justices on the Left think, not to mention those other jerks, but why split hairs? I really liked how random it was to surprise everybody, you know? Shake them out of their boots. Let them wonder what Ol’ Roberts was up to. I’ve been trying for years to put my personal stamp on this court, the Roberts Court, also known as the Supreme Court led by me, John Roberts, but nothing else has ever worked like this health vote thing. Before, all anyone cared about was what Smartypants Scalia had to say.

In a tersely worded statement sent to his former allies on the Court Roberts wrote: “Mayday, Mayday! John Boy’s gone rogue. All Mimsey were the Borogrove.”

Roberts later explained. “Well for one, I couldn’t think of anything else that rhymed with rogue, except maybe brogue, but I’m not Irish so who’s gonna understand that? I don’t know if I’ve said this before but I’m on an amazing ride right now, and I’m not ready for it to end. I’ve got tickets to see Lady Gaga in the fall. You just can’t score decent concert tickets when you’re riding herd on the moral Mayflower with those other knuckleheads. I’m still faithful to my wife and all but let me tell you something, after that one health care vote it would be about this easy for me to get a little something something from one of these lefty Mamas.”

The response from the Right came swiftly. “He’s a traitor to all that we Americans hold sacred,” said a spokesman for Mitt Romney, from the new Sheldon Adelson pavilion inside Romney headquarters. “As President, Romney will not rest until Obamacare is overturned and Israel is restored to its status as the greatest country on Earth ever, with Jerusalem as its capital, its center, its heart, its very kischkas!” Oy vey! I love it! A Mormon who speaks Yiddish!

With major legal issues upcoming on the court’s fall schedule, such as a challenge to the equal protection clause, the news of Roberts’ move to the political left was seen by many as a significant change in the direction of the court. We mean the Roberts Court. However, Roberts specified one area in which he would not be willing to change his opinion — the Citizen’s United ruling, which for the first time gave corporations the same free speech rights as people.

“I don’t know about you but I grew up with the idea that when E.F. Hutton talked, people listened. Trying to stifle Hutton and other people like him — well not people people but you know what I mean; it’s just plain wrong. I used to LOVE those commercials!”

Sheldon Adelson: Have I Got a Deal for You

Dear Mr. Sheldon Adelson,

I hear you’re financing a new push to get disillusioned Jewish Democrats who voted for President Obama in the last election to vote Republican this November. Funny you should mention it, but I’m a Jewish Democrat who voted for Obama, and I’m disillusioned with a lot that he has and hasn’t done. For instance, what happened to the so-called public option to provide low-cost health insurance for everyone? Why all the waffling before supporting gay marriage? And why hasn’t he closed Guantanamo? That’s not the kind of change I voted for last election. Like you, I’ve had enough.

So today, for the bargain price of one million dollars, I want to offer you my soon-to-be-Republican vote. Such a deal! Especially compared to the ten million bucks you pished away on those ads for that has-been Gingrich. Not only do I cost a tenth as much, my vote is guaranteed AND the money stays in the mishpucha, not that that matters to a person of your evident worldliness.

Though I don’t live in one of your preferred swing states like Florida, Ohio, or Pennsylvania, I’ll be happy (for an additional $500,000 payable in poker chips) to pack up the other Jewmocrats in my family and move to, say, Boca Raton, where other Jews are known to congregate. God willing, we’ll be able to finally buy a house, as I hear half the mortgages in Florida are underwater thanks to the housing crisis which as we all know was caused by… oh never mind. We can always rent.

Once I’m settled in my Southern Republican perch (and for only an extra $250,000 in cocktail vouchers) I can begin to assist you in your primary mission, that of finding other disillusioned Jewish Democrats to spread the good word about Israel, and all the positive things we forgot to congratulate Israel for since Obama took office. Where is all the customary lauding for our staunchest ally? All you hear these days is kvetching about the economy. I don’t want to sound like a racist but you and I both know Obama should have fixed it by now. God built the entire world in less than a week!

Which reminds me (and this would only cost you another 100 grand-marked-down-to-90, payable in whatever that money in Macao is called) I was thinking that we could take all those yutzes from Occupy Wall Street and fly them somewhere in the West Bank. They think they’re such big machers– let them Occupy Judea and Samaria for 45 years or so! Try that on for size, Democrats for Obama!

Like you, I’m tired of Israel getting a bum rap. It’s the only democracy in the Middle East. Well there’s Egypt now, but they didn’t really vote vote. And Tunisia, but I mean, come on, Tunisia?? Next they’ll be telling us that Iraq is a democracy. Well, the Democrats for Obama will.

As a wealthy Jewpublican, a status which your kind funds will greatly help to ensure, I pledge to uphold the principals of Republicanism that you and our candidate Mitt Romney supremely exemplify, such as free enterprise, free speech for corporations, and of course, free access to pretty much any kind of automatic weapon (though for an additional ten grand, payable in ammunition, I could help liberate even more weapons from the grasp of Obamacareandgunsupply).

This is a free country, Mr. Adelson. Know that you are exercising your God and Supreme Court-given right to spend as much of your hard-earned, freely-wagered, offshore-living money as you want on this or any other campaign. Thanks especially, for your contributions to me. I pledge to use them to rid us of the scourge of Demobamacrats because we can no longer afford to gamble on our future. Well not everything, anyway. How about chetzi chetzi, half on Romney, half on eight the hard way?

In Memoriam et Gloriam: Katherine Russell Rich

I’ve made friends in all kinds of strange ways but for the first time a few weeks ago I befriended a person who is no longer living. I assume she’ll never know about our friendship, though I do hope she might have been agreeable to it, given a chance.

My new friend’s name is Katherine Russell Rich. Kathy was a writer and cancer survivor whose survival ended this past April, 24 years after her doctors told her that she only had a year left to live. For that reason alone, even though I’d never heard of Kathy while she was alive, she had me at “hello.” I draw sustenance from people like Kathy who defy the odds. A friend of mine asked me if I’d ever read Kathy’s book, The Red Devil: To Hell With Cancer and Back. At first I thought, Oh no, not another cancer memoir to read, because even though I had just shamelessly added my own memoir to that overcrowded genre, the process of publishing had required me to reread my own manuscript ad nauseum, making corrections. What’s worse, I belong to that group of easily frightened cancer survivors who get panicky when they read cancer stories of no-longer-surviving survivors. I’d sooner read a book about the origins of basket-weaving or the Franco-Prussian War. I was spared many of the worst ravages of my type of cancer (non-Hodgkins lymphoma), and I also managed to sidestep chemotherapy and radiation, and thus I tend to avoid reading books that talk about how bad things could someday get for me.

Thus I can’t quite explain what sucked me into reading Kathy’s book. Was it the arresting picture on the book’s cover, a portrait of the upper half of Kathy’s striking face during one of her chemo-induced bald periods, her eyes piercing and beautiful? Maybe it was her book’s opening sentence: “I found the lump 20 minutes before breakfast, three weeks after my marriage broke up.” I’d also had an upside-down marriage when I got my first cancer diagnosis, so I could relate, though that’s still a helluva good opening line, right up there with “We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold” (a personal favorite, from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). I found myself reading on with a mix of trepidation and curious abandon.

As I progressed though Kathy’s story, I quickly realized that, to put it bluntly, her breast cancer made my cancer look like a weak little punk. While lymphoma and breast cancer can be equally demonic, as with rogue-state nuclear laboratories it all depends on when you first catch sight of them. Kathy’s breast cancer was late-stage and mature in its viciousness, whereas I was an early-detection lucky bastard with a couple of malignant, though indolent, tumors. Kathy’s cancer got into her bones and literally fractured them from within. Say what you want about the pain you’ve had in your life, that’s some serious make-you-wanna-die kind of hurt, which she describes in eloquent and excruciating detail. Yet as punishing and alien as Kathy’s physical ordeal was to me, I found myself laughing with recognition at many of the emotional and psychological pitfalls she ran up against, such as endlessly being asked “How are you?” as if the roller-coaster of cancer ever left one with a desire to answer that useless and fraught-with-nuance question. As Kathy so cleverly puts it, “If the interest was vicarious, the concern made me recoil. ‘I’m fine,’ I’d say, and be exasperated when someone would insist, ‘No, really. Tell me. How are you?’”

Then there was the dating proposal from Kathy’s well-meaning friend, who tried to set her up with a guy with leukemia, as though cancer were the commonality she’d be seeking in a relationship. (SWFWC slated to die soon seeks SWM with similar. Yeah, right.) It reminded me of a story my ex-wife from Beirut once told me about a Vietnam vet who tried to get in her pants by “bonding” over war trauma. It’s amazing what some people think leads to romance.

What I really like about Kathy is how imperfect she was — by turns gruff, insecure and self-involved. I think people have this idea that cancer, or any sort of life-threatening crisis, calls for a type of unattainable, comic-book fearlessness — the ultimate cognitive dissonance, if you will — whereas people like Kathy who are flawed and anti-heroic and who embrace their fears prove to be the most courageous and inspirational of all. She had a relentless determination to get everything down on paper for herself, but also for the next person.

She just as easily could have decided to let her ordeal perish into the thin air of distant memory, where she could safely avoid revisiting it. But thankfully for us, Kathy’s cancer fight set off a personal transition within her to become a writer. She’d worked for years as an editor and claims she only began writing when she couldn’t find a writer to hire, though I suspect somewhere in her fiber she always knew she had the chops.

Kathy had perfect pitch for irony, as when during one of her remissions a spare-change guy asked her for money, saying, “I’m looking for work”:

“Me too,” I exclaimed. “I don’t have a job either.”

“Well, at least you have your health,” he said, backing off.

“Actually, that’s not true!” I said, on a roll. “I had cancer.”

“Well, everyone’s got problems,” he said snappishly, and walked away.

 

Kathy went on to write another highly acclaimed book in her life, Dreaming in Hindi, and by all measures she had more fine work where that came from. So for now all I can say is rest in peace, my new friend, if rest and peace are what comes next on the cosmic calendar. Whatever the case, I’m sure you’ll find a way to mine it for new material.

For more by Michael Solomon, click here.

For more on becoming fearless, click here.

Circumcision: The Movie

Pitch meetings are standard in the movie business. You go into a room full of potential financiers to sell them on your idea. You’ve got three minutes, maximum. It’s a tough crowd, so you learn certain ins and outs to up the odds that they’ll buy your pitch. Define your characters clearly. Describe the whole arc of the story. Have an “up” ending. Wherever possible, use examples of other movies they may have seen and liked, especially ones that made a bundle at the box office. If your movie is about a secret agent who hides out in a high school to find a killer, you might want to say: “It’s likeMission Impossible meets Clueless.”

But pitching doesn’t just happen in the movie business. Ideas are sold in all walks of life, and frankly, some leave me scratching my head about how they were ever initially pitched. Take the idea that Jewish guys like me refer to as: “Ouch… that idea.” Male circumcision. I’d like to have been in on the meeting where that was pitched (and sold!) to the ancient Israelites. Can you imagine? I seem to recall from the Bible that God told Moses, or someone like him, to do it. I mean, I can easily imagine Moses saying to the Israelites: “God has commanded me to lead you forth from slavery. You know, like The Dirty Dozen meets Lawrence of Arabia.” Who’s going to argue with that? “Hey thanks, Mo. Sounds like a great idea. How much you think it’ll cost?”

The 10 Commandments pitch was probably a tougher sell, especially given the part about laying off your neighbor’s good-looking wife, though by then Moses had essentially rescued everybody from the Pharoahs, which in Hollywood is known as having a Monster Hit on your hands, so I could see them going along with him pretty readily. He probably just held up the tablets and said: “From now on people, it’s gonna be like The Unbearable Lightness of Being meets Papillon.”

But circumcision? Even if it wasn’t Moses who did the pitch, it certainly wasn’t some guy from the American Medical Association with a bunch of charts to justify it medically. No siree. It was some old guy, from ancient times, when science was in its infancy (not to mention blade-sharpening).

So what was the guy’s approach, because American Gigolo meets Edward Scissorhands was not going to fly with the desert-wandering crowd. They’d been through enough. Did the guy just one day go: “Hey, I know everybody’s been talking about maybe stoning Jacob to death for hitting on Mrs. Esau, but it just so happens I spoke to God last week and he told me that what we really should be doing is chopping off every guy’s foreskin.” At first everybody was probably like: “What’s a foreskin?” because it’s not as if anybody had ever seen this as a separate entity. Men have always thought of their packages as supremely indivisible; sort of an all-for-one, one-for-all situation.

So I figure the guy probably tried to explain himself by pointing to the end of his penis, since pointing was an important means of communication back in biblical times, and everyone was like: “Wait a second, are you saying God wants us to cut our shlongs off?”

“No man, no. Would you relax?! He only said to cut off the flap at the end of our shlongs. Not the whole thing. ”

“Oh. Phew. That’s so much better. Of course, I’m not even gonna dignify something so clearly insane, but in the name of the Talmud and open scholarship and all that, may I ask why you think God wants us to cut off the skin at the end of our shlongs?”

“He didn’t really say why. And you know God. He doesn’t take kindly to being asked why. Hell, half of Cairo is still pulling locusts out of their asses and that was four plagues ago! If you want to ask Him why, you’re on your own.”

What else could have motivated such a practice among the ancient Hebrews if not the fear of punishment from Above? It surely wasn’t the reassurance of anesthesia, which is a Greek word meaning: “Maybe we’ll invent painkillers as soon as we invent ancient Greece, in another thousand years or so.”

Though some today insist (perhaps wrongly) that circumcision is more hygienic, no one even knew what bacteria were back in Moses’ day and even if they had, wouldn’t circumcision still be a personal choice? Why the whole everybody’s-gotta-do-it mentality? I’ve heard the argument made that the Jews started circumcising their males to differentiate themselves from the others, but the ancient Egyptians did it too, so if that were the case, it would mean the Jews did it because they also thought it was — what’s the word? Cool?

I suppose we’ll never know exactly how the first circumcision pitch went, though its outcome may partially explain why all these millennia later, so many of us are drawn to the movie business. As a wiser Solomon than I might put it, when it comes to big ideas, better to get in on the pitch than to wait for what shows up at a theater near you.

Michael Solomon is an award-winning filmmaker and the author of “Now It’s Funny… How I Survived Cancer, Divorce and Other Looming Disasters.”

So You Have Cancer: 10 Things to Do Now, Even if You’re Not Warren Buffett

Cancer is all over the news lately, thanks to early detection, celebrity patients, and those ubiquitous “Hey Cancer” ads. Though medical breakthroughs may be in the offing, the Big C still packs a psycho/spiritual wallop for the newly initiated, no matter what effective tax rate you pay. Here are 10 ways to beat back the cancer blues and be your own best friend:

1) Blame Canada – Or Philip Morris. Or your stress-Nazi boss. Just don’t blame yourself. Because even if it is your fault, right now it’s not your fault. Nothing about cancer is your fault. Give yourself the Robin-Williams-in-Good-Will-Hunting Hug because it’s not your fault. Once you’re all better you can get down on yourself for smoking, or eating poorly, or internalizing your parent’s guilt trips. For now, stay focused on getting better.

2) Divide and Conquer – Learn survivor math. Say the median survival rate of your cancer is five years. Does that mean you will be dead in five years? No, math-slackers, it does not. The median is not the same as the average. A median rate (which is how survival rates are measured) means half the people with your condition will die before the median, most likely people WAY older and WAY more decrepit than you. Are you old and decrepit? Because if you’re not then you can live another 10 or 20 or 50 years, depending on your age, even if the median is only five years. I used to hate math too, till I got cancer. Now it’s kind of awesome.

3) Take Your Google and Stick it Up Your iPad – Don’t be a masochist and try to “learn” about your cancer on the Internet. Every other post you read will make you feel like you’re gonna die any minute. Remember, just because people before you have died of cancer, or even your type of cancer, does NOT mean you will too. So take that, Google founder Larry Page, who once built an inkjet printer out of Lego (it’s fine to search for that kind of useless dreck).

4) Trip Out, Dude – Look yourself in the mirror and say: “I have cancer.” It’s weird the first time, like saying “I’m tripping on LSD” (not that I would know) — but it helps to get used to the idea while you’re all alone. You have cancer, you can survive, and sooner than you think you’ll be looking in the mirror again going, “I don’t have cancer anymore.” That’ll be weird too, but the good kind of weird. The magic mushroom kind of weird (not that I would know).

5) Get Into the Closet – Keep the lights off. You are now a medical imaging device trying to see inside the total darkness of a human body. Sometimes you see things that aren’t really there, like the CAT scan that “saw” potentially fatal tumors on my liver, till a sonogram “saw” they were only harmless cysts on my kidney. Whoops… glad I didn’t jump off a bridge that week. So remember: trust but verify.

6) Think About Sex – I’m a man, so I can’t even get through a top 10 list without thinking about sex at least once. If sex is on your mind during these trying times, remember it’s perfectly ethical to sidle up to a good-looking girl or guy and say: “You know, I wouldn’t ordinarily be so bold, but I have cancer, so I was wondering if we could get naked together.” At least you’re not lying. Lying is unethical.

7) Channel Judge Judy – Will your doctor keep probing and testing you because she thinks you have something else, or God forbid, something worse? Probably. Is he also making sure he doesn’t get sued for misdiagnosis? Hmm… never thought of that. Doctors work in the real world, my friend. Their job is to be thorough, for many reasons, so keep a running list of each horror they look for but don’t find. Not so you can sue anyone. Just to remind you not to be afraid of anything until you’re absolutely sure you have it. And even then, just repeat step 3.

8) Tell it to the Hand – No one knows what the hell to say to someone waylaid by cancer (my best friend asked if I owed him money — at least it made me laugh). Informing loved ones is a HUGE burden, and you’ve got enough on your plate as is. Email is a solid way to keep your peeps up to date, and tell them what you need — namely, their well-timed support. Trust me, you don’t want all your loved ones calling for news every time you go to the doctor. With a group email, they can feel connected to you and also give you some much-needed space.

9) Turn On Your High Beams – E.L. Doctorow once said this about writing, but it’s true for surviving cancer as well: “It’s like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” So each day, just focus on getting to tomorrow. That’s the only “long-term” goal you need to be concerned with till you hit remission.

10) Count to 28 Million, Babe – That’s how many cancer survivors there are worldwide. And with a little luck, you’ll be next. Number 28 million and one. Just like Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow over there at the bar. Wait, they broke up, didn’t they? “You know, I wouldn’t ordinarily be so bold but…”

Michael Solomon is an award-winning filmmaker and the author of “Now It’s Funny… How I Survived Cancer, Divorce and Other Looming Disasters.”

For more on cancer, click here.

Free Book Giveaway on Goodreads

Yes, indeed it’s true. Enter to win a genuine copy of Now It’s Funny…. on Goodreads. Just go to this link: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/22671-now-it-s-funny-how-i-survived-cancer-divorce-and-other-looming-disaste

Thanks for all the wonderful support and emails about the book folks! Since my last blogpost, I’ve also begun tweeting and @nowitsfunny is my Twitter name. I hope I don’t begin to think of the entire world in terms of pithy expressions that fit into 140 characters, though it seems so far that this is EXACTLY what happens when one starts posting on Twitter. You begin to parse your own conversations for expressions that are “tweetable.”

“Waiter, may I have the check?”

Tweetable.

“I sent the check last week and I even spoke to someone in customer service so why am I getting this collection notice?”

Untweetable.

Or maybe not. I haven’t yet learned to count characters in my head. But it’ll come with time. This is sort of the Internet version of trying to write on a kernel of rice. It takes practice.

Now go get yourself a free book…..

 

 

N-Hexane hits Apple workers and Beverly Hills High School Students

I just read that Apple factory workers in China who cleaned iPad and iPod screens were poisoned by something called n-hexane. We may have something in common. I was one of the kids (or rather, I am now one of the adults) who was involved in the Erin Brockovich-led lawsuit against Beverly Hills High School which alleged a cancer cluster among the alumni of the school. I write about it at length in my memoir, but the short version is that in the end the suit ended up being settled, with no admission of wrongdoing from any of the oil companies nor the city of Beverly Hills (the suit against the city was actually thrown out for lack of evidence). At issue among other things was the presence of n-hexane in air quality samples taken by Brockovich’s then law firm Masry & Vititoe on the campus of Beverly High. N-hexane is what’s known as a toxic “constituent” of oil and gas production. What does this have to do with high school, you may wonder? It turns out that beneath the rarified campus of Beverly High there are 18 oil wells. That’s not in dispute….it’s just a fact, though it’s not part of any “welcome package” distributed to new students. It’s more of a hush hush thing which brings in revenues of close to $1M per year.

I’m glad to see that Apple workers are finally getting to see their suffering brought to light. Meantime at the high school campus there will be a drilling and production ban that goes into effect at the end of the year 2016, though they say the city council can extend the deadline if there “should there be a finding of public interest.” I really sincerely hope that I didn’t get cancer due to n-hexane at Beverly High. I suppose I may never know. But it strikes me as ridiculous that oil production is still ongoing and guaranteed at least another 4 years at the school. Imagine if Apple responded to the n-hexane issue by saying they’d change their policy in another four years. But they’re a private company, and it would likely cause such a stir that their beloved share price might fall. Beverly High is a public school, and thus probably doesn’t have to worry about the whole town fleeing elsewhere for their education.

A Book is Born

In another couple of days I’m going to announce the release of my memoir. Yikes.

About a dozen years ago my Dad made me go to the doctor to get a colonoscopy. My Dad doesn’t know the first thing about medicine but he knows a lot about worrying, and my Dad wanted to be sure all his kids got colonoscopies when they turned 40, just in case. As it turned out the colonoscopy revealed nothing. But still my whole life wound up accidentally getting flipped upside down, and faster than you can say “holy Toledo” I learned I had lymphatic cancer, I broke up my 11 year marriage, my hometown got attacked and I lost my business and sole source of income. That’s all in my — dare I say — sometimes comic memoir. Okay, I dared, and that’s all I care to say about the book right now.

Instead,  I’d like to turn my attention to something else that shook up my world this past couple weeks…..the emergence of Jeremy Lin. I’m hopelessly caught up in Linsanity. I watch the Knicks on TV and then I race to the NY Times webpage to read the coverage of each game, as if I hadn’t already just watched and listened to it being totally over-analyzed and picked through for every possible morsel related to Jeremy Lin. Sometimes I’ve even made up errands that require me to use my car (alas driving is not a big part of where I live) so that I can tune into sports radio and listen to whatever Bob from the Bronx and Sal from Seaford are thinking about the Knicks while I buy more pet food. I haven’t gone so far as to call in to ESPN, but I’m as close to it as a guy who hates being put on hold can get without actually dialing the digits. Why am I so obsessed? Well for one, I’m a lifelong Knick fan, and they have been horrible for over a decade. But mostly, I love good stories, and Lin is a GREAT story, no matter how you feel about his religious convictions and the expression of them thereof, which I won’t get into but you can probably sense where I come in on the spectrum of publicly expressed religious beliefs. Okay, I will get into it briefly. I still remember watching a post-game interview with several Knicks back in 1999 when Allan Houston thanked God for the victory, and then Larry Johnson came on and  thanked Allah. I was thinking that the Knicks could have used a Jewish and a Buddhist player just to be sure that Yahweh and Gautama didn’t feel left out. But mostly I was thinking that religion, and military flyovers for that matter, are best left out of the world of spectator sports. And public schools as well, while we’re at it. Go Knicks! Go Jeremy! But please go to church or to synagogue or to a quiet room if you need to thank your Deity for an assist. “Mike from Jersey City, you’re on the Fan……”