Live (at least the ransom note says so) From Sochi

Posted in General on February 7th, 2014 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

Bob: Hello, I know that you can’t see us but this is Bob Costas, with Matt Lauer, here for the opening ceremonies of the 22nd Winter Olympics. We hope to have electricity some time tonight. Apparently, we didn’t bribe the right people. In the meantime, Matt and I will be sharing this flashlight.

Matt: Thank you, Bob. Did you know that Russia is the largest country in the world?

: Yes, I finished fourth grade. Would you also like to make an inane remark that Sochi sounds like the name of a Japanese restaurant?

Matt: You noticed that, too. And also, don’t you think that the Black Sea should be in Africa instead of here, and the Red Sea should be here?

Bob: Actually, I am not sure that anyone should be here. In theory, forty-four nations will be participating in the Opening Ceremonies. Most of the delegations, however, are afraid to leave their hotels. Yes, they risk cholera but it is nothing compared to what waits them on the streets here. The teams will still be represented, however, as they currently are being arrested.

: Among the arrested notables is our own Billie Jean King. She is charged with being a gay terrorist.

Bob: Was she whistling “The 1812 Overture” with sarcastic intent?

Matt: Did you know that Tschaikovsky wrote that music as a wedding gift for James and Dolley Madison?

Bob: Yes, the image of a few hundred Canadians and Americans shooting at each other across Niagara Falls certainly impressed the Russians. Tolstoy wrote about it, too. Matt, hand me your notes. Okay, “The Brothers Karamazov” and “The Three Sisters” are not the Russian equivalent of “The Brady Bunch.” Sputnik is not the Russian word for potato–and I have warned you about stiffing your staff on Christmas bonuses. Underpaid Ivy Leaguers are dangerous.

Matt: They get free tee-shirts from the network’s cancelled shows. I save those snotty brats a fortune in underwear.

Bob: Now it is time for the Olympic torch. This will be memorable as the Russians are setting afire the uncompleted part of the stadium. At least, we finally will have some light.

Matt: Our audience now can share the spectacle with us.

Bob: No, Matt, I was looking for the exit.

Eugene’s Inferno

Posted in General on January 28th, 2014 by Eugene Finerman – 3 Comments

Dangerous Cold in Chicago

According to Dante, Hell frequently freezes over.  He imagined much of Hell to be cold.  Of course, a Florentine’s vision of a glacial perdition would be any Midwesterner’s idea of a brisk November.

When reading L’Inferno I remember thinking “I could come up with better eternal torments than that. ”  Dante’s notions would not qualify him an intern in Human Resources.  Let’s tour the Adultery Section:  Circle Two.  Tempestous lovers are trapped forever in a whirlwind.  It is a good metaphor but not much of a punishment.  No, their extra-curricular activities should be videotaped and eternally shown on late night cable television, to the standard accompaniment of appallingly bad jazz.  The embarrassment would be much worse than windburn.

(Don’t quibble that a 14th century Italian couldn’t have envisioned television and video recorders.  Dante concocted an entire cosmological system.  And if Dante needed a little tech advice, he could have asked Marco Polo what the Chinese and Japanese were working on.).

Let’s drop by another sin: gluttony.  According to Dante’s itinerary, in the Third Circle those who have succumbed to their debauched appetites lie in the garbage and waste they created.  However, I think that describes the typical college dorm room.  That may be Dante’s idea of Hell, but for most of us it was one of the happiest times of our lives.  No, the appropriate eternal punishment for gluttons would be to look at themselves in bathing suits and realize why they’re not in the Second Circle of Hell.

I really don’t have the time to worsen all of Hell, but I’d like to do one more neighborhood.  In the First Circle are those souls who had every virtue but the right religion.  The virtuous pagans (and according to Dante, that includes chivalrous Moslems) are only tortured by the thought of their inferiority.  Now, in my Hell I would really rub in Christian perfection.  Everyone in the First Circle would be reincarnated as Jerry and Millie Helper, living next door to Rob and Laura Petrie.

What is Spanish for Chutzpah?

Posted in General on January 22nd, 2014 by Eugene Finerman – 3 Comments

In 1836, Mexico’s failure to enforce a Spanish requirement on its immigrants made it difficult to explain to the Alamo garrison that it was about to be massacred.  A 3000 man army with cannons offered a hint, but the Texans might have missed the subtlety.  So the Mexican army band serenaded the garrison with “The Cut Throat Song”–a musical message to expect no mercy.

Here is the number:

The Texans probably assumed that they would be bored to death.

Some 120 years later, a John Wayne movie wanted to use “The Cut Throat Song” in its soundtrack.  But the composer Dmitri Tiomkin knew that he could do better.  In a way, he did…

Of course, Santa Anna did not have the foresight to include a full orchestra in his army.  And he would have had to melt down some cannons to increase the brass section.  There is also some question as to how the Texans would have reacted to Tiomkin’s lush, seductive music.  Probably panic…They were ready to die for Texas…but not same-sex dating!

Second Thoughts on the Second Reich

Posted in General on January 11th, 2014 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

“Germany is ‘not alone to blame’ for the outbreak of the First World War quote from Die Welt


Yes, for too long we have ignored Belgium’s aggression.

Germany did not have a monopoly on belligerence, myopia and stupidity; but it probably was the majority stockholder.

And the blame largely rests on one particular German.

Kaiser Wilhelm II could have been worse. (Consider the German voters’ subsequent taste in chancellors.) Nevertheless, the Kaiser was a bellicose, bellowing moron.  It takes an uniquely repellent person to inspire a military alliance between Tsarist Russia and Republican France. Britain and Prussia had enjoyed two centuries of excellent relations; then Kaiser Bill opened his mouth, supporting the Boers, announcing his intention to have the World’s powerful navy, and just being his dangerously insufferable self.   Two centuries of amity–and one century of anti-Russian policy ended–and reversed.

Dramatists can be great historians–providing an eloquence that the actual historical figures usually lacked. The British production “The Fall of Eagles” depicts the last days of Imperial Germany; as his Empire collapses, the Kaiser is complaining that he never wanted this war. Hearing of the Imperial tantrum, Hindenburg agrees. “It is true. The Kaiser never wanted a war. He only wanted a victory.”

New Year’s Resolutions

Posted in General on December 31st, 2013 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

I promise to always wear a helmet when I am riding with Hell’s Angels.

When encountering someone named Justin, I will try to refrain from a lecture on the Byzantine Empire. (This resolution also applies to anyone named Zoe, Theodora and Nicephorus.)

I will try not to scream at the television whenever I see Lena Dunham nude. Although most winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor would be just as horrified.

That is about it. Otherwise, I really am quite content with my stagnant quo and I hope that we will continue our sado-masochistic (but intelligible) relationship in 2014.

Happy New Year!

Boxing Day

Posted in General on December 26th, 2013 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

This day celebrates the invention of production placement when Arena Sports Productions gave the infant Jesus a pair of authentic Spartacus boxing gloves.  There were tentative plans to arrange a fight between Jesus and the future emperor Claudius.  However, some doubted whether the palsied, stammering Roman would be a fit match for a carpentry major at Nazareth Community College.  It was hoped that Jesus would cure Claudius before beating him up.

As you know, however, that fight never happened.  The first real Boxing Day bout occurred between St. Stephen the King of Hungary and St. Stephen the Very Tactless over whose feast day this was.  Since this was prior to the Marquess of Queensbury rules, Tactless Steve and Paprika Breath fought it out with poison tipped crosiers.     (Fight available on pay-per-view.)  And it was a split decision.

(So, do I have a career with Wikipedia?)

The Nativity

Posted in General on December 25th, 2013 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Now showing at Mangers everywhere. Check your local listings.

Here’s what the critics have to say.

A Pre-Proustian Bildungsroman”: The New York Times

Obama’s socialized medicine wouldn’t permit Virgin Birth”: The Wall Street Journal

At least Ben Stiller isn’t in it.“: Eugene


p.s.  Let’s not forget today’s historical significance:




The Wailing Wall Street Journal

Posted in General on December 22nd, 2013 by Eugene Finerman – 1 Comment

December XXV, Annum I

New Management, New Image for LORD & Co.

How to Teach an Old Dogma New Tricks

JERUSALEM ”In a land this poor, it is not surprising that the Jews could not afford more than one God. Nor could the choosing people offer their deity the customary “perks” of divinity. Their generic God has to be invisible: it saves a fortune in marble. The Almighty can also forget about hosting theater, orgies and gladiator games. Here Heaven has a low overhead.

The question is can this religion be marketed? Gaius Phelonius of the Janus Theology Fund sees the potential. “Paganism is a headache. You have to sacrifice to all these Gods. You forget one, and you end up in a Greek tragedy. Now, if you had one all-purpose God, and a very cost-conscious one at that, think of what you’ll save in this world and the next.

“Monotheism can sell. Our focus groups show a decline in brand loyalty. People don’t see a real difference between Ceres and Isis. This is the biggest market erosion since the collapse of the Mother Earth cult. The public is ready for a change, and they are going to love this product. Think of it: a God with morals. A deity you can trust with your daughter.”

Phelonius did concede that monotheism had certain image problems. “All right, in terms of charisma, He’s no Apollo. That can be overcome. He’ll seem more likable if He has a wife and Son. The real challenge is to make Him less ethnic. Right now, he’s a little too East Coast. His idiosyncrasies about pork and foreskins won’t sell in Ephesus or Corinth. But it’s only a question of packaging.”

Savaging Mr. Banks

Posted in General on December 16th, 2013 by Eugene Finerman – 7 Comments

I imagine that the largest circle in modern Hell is filled with damned souls eternally clicking their remote controls in the desperate search for worthwhile television. Either they will never find anything or stumble upon the last two minutes of something actually good. My recent perdition was catching the very end of Mary Poppins.

Even by our jaded post-Walt Disney perspective and our exacting standards of computer animation, “Mary Poppins” is still quite charming. In fact, given the film’s popularity, I am surprised that there has never been a sequel. Much of the cast would still be available (although Dick van Dyke is older now than Arthur Treacher was in 1964).

Unfortunately, British history would be very uncooperative in the project. Here are the likely fates of the characters:

Bert is killed in World War I. You’d think a chimney sweep would have more immunity to chlorine gas.  The widowed Mary Poppins tries losing herself in physical abandon and that does help D.H. Lawrence with his writer’s block.

Exercising her long-sought right to vote, Mrs. Banks proudly marches to the polling place and contracts the Spanish Flu.  Mr. Banks will always blame Lloyd-George for her death.

Flying over London, Mary Poppins is shot down in the Battle of Britain.  The victorious pilot has an umbrella painted on his Messerschmitt.

Young Michael Banks goes to Cambridge and meets Guy Burgess. Michael is taken under Guy’s left wing…and other appendages. The least of Michael’s transformations is becoming a Soviet spy. He eventually defects and the shabby old pensioner in Moscow will drink himself to death.

Having gone through four husbands, three fortunes, and innumerable scandals, Jane Banks is now in a nursing home near Brighton. Among her escapades, she had affairs with both the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; but who didn’t?  The Golden Flapper is said to be a literary inspiration for Evelyn Waugh and a medical one for Alexander Fleming.

Yes, the history may be a little sordid for Disney but perfect for HBO.  And there are other children’s classics worth a sequel.  How about John Le Carre’s “Wind in the Willows”?  Who is the Mole in MI6?

The Tournament of the Decayed

Posted in General on December 3rd, 2013 by Eugene Finerman – 20 Comments

You have been waiting to know how I did in Jeopardy’s Fan Favorite Contest.  But Sony made me sign a terrifying contract, demanding my silence.  It is somewhat unnerving to read such recurring phrases “sue you for damages, if and when we feel like it” and “you don’t think that the Geneva Convention will protect you.”  The enclosed photos of Nanking, 1937 were probably gratuitous, especially with the question “Wish you were here?”  I definitely got the hint.

So you had to wait because I had to wait.  Today, however, Sony has freed me from my bondage of silence.  I can finally make the announcement!  Unfortunately, it is more of a whimper.  I did not win the contest.  Unless there is a miracle or a scandal, I will not be in the tournament.

You can’t  say that I didn’t try.  On the contrary, I threw myself in the campaign–a one-man repertory company.  I was center-stage, promoting myself and barraging you for votes.  During that one week, I lost sleep, gained weight and had a wonderful time.  I reveled in the theater of politics; I discovered my inner sociopath. While I certainly enjoyed the campaign, I am not quite so thrilled with the outcome.  Disappointed would be an understatement.  Surprised would be an euphemism.

But I want to thank you all for your support (except Leah Greenwald, but she had a decent excuse; and I was her second choice).

And please stick around; I may need you for the next tournament.