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Politics

July 12, 2011

Yeah, I know I don’t blog here much. But this debt crisis thing is bothering me, and reinforces something I’ve always believed* about politics:

Politics is the art of treating your own opinions like facts and opposing facts like opinions.

*I really only thought of this five minutes ago. But I’ve always believed it.

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The best looks

March 19, 2011

It’s very obvious when someone opens the front door of my apartment building.

You have to wave your little ID card in front of the electronic eye about three seconds longer than you should. You start to put your card away, but you realize the door still hasn’t unlocked. You move the card back to the electronic eye but before it gets there, the door beeps and unlocks.

Crap, you think – I’ll remember this next time.

You open the door – it creaks on its heavy hinges. Because you are clumsy, you push too hard and it slams into the doorstop with a dull thud.

‘Bing,’ the elevator door opens, out of sight, you hear the clacking of high heels as someone hustles inside. You increase your pace – your boots clop against the linoleum.

The person inside the elevator obviously hears you.

You hurry, you hurry – the elevator is in sight, door halfway closed – ‘whoa!’ you say, half-serious, half-wry – you throw your arm forward in hopes that this electronic eye works better than the last one(since if it doesn’t, you lose an arm instead of merely embarrassing yourself).

Lucky for you, the elevator bings again – the door slides open.

You step inside. And standing right in front of the buttons is a sheepish, twenty-something girl with blonde hair. And she’s giving you the look (not the look referenced in the title of this post…a different one). Her smile is shy, hesitant and vulnerable, she brushes her hair behind her ear, she tilts her head, her eyes flicker to meet your gaze for a microsecond and then dart away.

You shake your head, disoriented, as if all girls have the ability to disrupt your concentration with a smile (what kind of benevolent natural selection process would program men that way?).

You shake your head again – you wonder whether you are feeling well. Her hand draws away from the button panel, finger still outstretched. You trace its path with your eyes, and you see it – what she tried to divert you from with her ineffective distraction – it is pointing at the door-close button.

Her eyes meet yours, and they are full of a vicious and unrelenting hatred, hidden beneath the veneer of a vague social contract. You blink, and they are gone, replaced by an indifferent stare toward the front of the elevator.

That is the look. It’s that look that reminds you that there’s a cold-blooded, self-interested Darwinian at the core of each of us. The same look on the face of the man inside a fallout shelter as he listens to the distant thuds of fists pounding on the door from the outside during the apocalypse. The same look that simultaneously ensures his survival and condemns him to hell.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this story. I don’t want to preach some sort of morality.

But do us all a favor – don’t close the elevator on me. I won’t do it to you – I promise.

(I think)

-ben

One for the history books

January 28, 2011

“Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air.”

–  Henry Anatole Grunwald

A majestic quote that reminds us of the power of the written word. ‘The first draft of history,’ is also fantastic phrase that describes journalism. Ah yes – rooting out corruption, exposing the guilty, redeeming the innocent – journalism is truly a noble pursuit.

So please tell me why for the love of God there is an article on the front page of CNN about pregnant Kate Hudson, who just so happens to think that the alien spawn growing inside her, ‘feels like a girl.’ Just to repeat – one of the biggest news websites in the world, on its front page, is featuring a story about a woman and literally what she feels about her unborn child. And you just know if it is a girl, they’ll link to this damn article and say, “What are the odds! This is CNN, reporting live from a placenta-soaked operating room. Film at 11.”

There looks like what could become a very disgusting pun in the fake CNN reporter quote I just made up, but I am mature, and will refrain.

Here’s a question – what does it take to get your thoughts and feelings posted on CNN if your thoughts and feelings are irrelevant? Do I need a publicist to represent me? How much would that cost?

Why should you have Ben on the show? Well I’ll tell you Piers – Ben had a sandwich today.”

“He had WHAT? What kind was it?”

“I don’t know Piers – my boy Ben is a wild card. Don’t you need someone to interview tonight?”

“Yes, God YES! Was there ham on his sandwich? Tell me there was ham.”

“Could be, Piers, could be…”

“Screw the Kardashians, book this publicist’s client on my show, NOW!”

Don’t get me started on the Kardashians.

Additionally, I should mention Kate Hudson is unmarried. Her kid’s baby daddy is her boyfriend who she has no plans to marry.

Tell me – if you met a thirty-one year old woman (who already has a seven-year old child who thinks Kate’s fetus is a girl also) that was thrilled that her boyfriend got her pregnant and that they had no intention of getting married* – how would you react? Would you celebrate? Would you call CNN?

Or would you call Family Services?

-ben

* And P.S. – why does possessing money and fame grant you immunity to certain social norms designed to provide children with stable family backgrounds?

Novel! Vacation! Hell yes!

December 23, 2010

I know I said I would post more regularly to this, so I apologize to myself (and the five people who visit this site every day, God knows why) for not doing so. I’ve actually been pretty busy finishing my book. If you have a Kindle, you could (and should) buy it for five dollars. If you don’t have a Kindle, not only are you living in the nineties, but you can download a free Kindle for PC app and use that to read it. You can also download a free one-hundred page sample from this very blog.

Sidenote – it’s very funny to say from this very blog in a grave tone of voice. Blog is just one of those words I don’t think will ever be taken seriously (by me, at least).

Other than that, I’m not sure if I have anything of significance to say right now. I’m on Xmas vacation back in Moorestown, and I won’t return to work until 2011. There’s an ambulance flashing its siren across the street, professionally hung Christmas lights are illuminating our neighbors’ house, and now that the book is finished, life feels a little strange without some big project to bury myself under.

Oops – and the ambulance just drove away. It also feels a little strange to think that life at the house across the street may never be the same after tonight, just like that, and I would have no idea.

Anyways, you have every right to doubt me when I say I’m going to blog more, but I’m really going to try this time. Stay tuned for lots of breaking news and analysis, straight from this very blog.

Ha ha.

-ben

And a year later…

October 11, 2010

I’m going to try and post more regularly to this, given that I just paid ten dollars to keep benjacoby.net registered to its rightful (and somewhat handsome) owner.  Also, for some reason, there are still five or so hits per day consistently registering here.

For kicks, here are some of the Google search terms that drove people to my site (and my comments):

“don’t drink in college” (nice)

“short story of a man a woman and a flowe” (typo intentional)

“why do guys detag pictures” (the answer is that he is just not that into you)

“lighting their fires: raisin” (really??)

“dr. ben jacoby” (my health consulting services run at about $200 an hour. I make housecalls within the borough of Manhattan)

“wives that flash” (this comment goes out to you, the one person who searched for this – I hope my site was a big help to you)

And finally,

“ben jacoby, writer” (I like the sound of that one. That’s why I’m going to try to keep up on this blog)

So, those are the funny ones. I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop, watching the drizzle falling on Avenue A, listening to the thunder cracks, finding myself anticipating the lightning flashes. Two entrepeneurs on my left are planning a competitor for Foursquare and scribbling in notebooks. Two girls in front of me look much older than they are, and they are discussing the med schools they want to attend. The waitress has trouble with her English, but in a good way.

I moved to New York about a year ago. Will I live here forever? Probably not.

But I don’t regret my time here for a moment.

-ben

The Thirteenth War – Short Story

July 1, 2010

Another story from my writing club. Let me know how you feel

He loads a bullet into his rifle and pulls a pack of cigarettes from his holey denim jacket. As he lights one, he wonders whether he loves his country. He decides he does not. He is not religious either – if his family discovered his tattoo, were they still alive, he would certainly not be allowed home.

He is sitting on a rickety stool and tries to answer a question.

Should he kill the soldier on the street corner below?

He had loved America when he was younger. He admired the founding fathers and forgave them for owning slaves while pronouncing that all men were created equal, the great hypocrisy of their time. He forgave them because he knew he would like to be forgiven too, were he living in accordance with the hypocrisies of his own time.

And of course, the man knows how one influences others – or himself – with the subtleties of language. For instance, the difference between killing the soldier and murdering him.

That he is killing a soldier, an American soldier, instead of a man, or an American man.

Killing a father – perhaps. But certainly a son.

In primary school, he wrote an essay on how he respected the American justice system, even if it meant a few innocents would be wrongfully convicted. He wrote how it hurt him to say this, but that if finding justice in this world were easy, it would not be notable enough to write an essay about.

He takes a drag of his cigarette. Is he ending a life or inflicting death? Does he intend to inspire terror in the enemy (whose enemy?) or bring hope to his people? And are the people on the streets below his people? If they knew of his tattoo, of his beliefs, he would certainly not be one of their people.

He is, of course, a bringer of both war and peace.

That is to say – peace eventually.

In secondary school, he researched the Vietnam War and its American domestic opposition for a school project. He sketched out a peace sign on a scrap of paper and took it to the neighborhood grocer rumored to have a tattoo on his body.

The store was empty of product and customer, it was missing patches of ceiling. The grocer smiled at the teenager with the scrap of paper and admonished him to be careful, to consider his choice a bit longer.

He stamps his cigarette on the cracked cement, stands from his stool, and lets gravity carry him downwards, where he sits cross-legged on the floor and unzips a black duffel. He pulls out a folded tripod and begins to snap the legs in place.

Snap, like setting a bone.

Snap. He would consider thinking about all the bones he’s set, the bones of his dead and dwindling friends, but he doesn’t want to get sentimental.

Snap.

He flips the tripod up, reaches into the duffel for his rifle mount, centers it on the stand, runs his fingers along a groove in the metal that he readies to twist and lock into place.

The woman he loves – she had traced her fingers along his tattoo the nights they had been given together, nights without end that passed too quickly.

Snap.

Three months later, the teenager was sitting in the dank, back room of the grocery while the grocer traced the outline of a peace sign on the boy’s arm.

“I suppose there is no one to stop you now,” the grocer said, and the boy had nodded and looked away, as if staring at a pitiful creature cowering in some dark corner of the room. “Other than God’s insistence you shouldn’t.”

A soundless splash hits the floor. Hot today, – it’s just sweat, he tells himself.

He nestles his rifle in the mount, and it is weightless within the natural crook of arm, shoulder and chest. He lights another cigarette, leans forward, his jacket tight against his slight frame, and stares through the sight.

He sees the soldier, and a little boy cowering in the darkened corner of his ruined bedroom.

He sees a little girl holding up a flowering cleome for the soldier, its yellow petals flecked with sand and dust, and himself, standing over an open grave in an improvised cemetery, bringing his family together after being torn apart.

He lifts his hands from the rifle and wipes them on his jeans, as if he could clean them. He asks himself a question, like he has many times before – should he kill the soldier on the street corner below?

“I know I shouldn’t,” the boy had said to the grocer, as he prepared his needle and ink. The boy then asked whether Lyndon Johnson had ever cried while contemplating the dead boys he sent to Vietnam.

“I think he did,” the boy said. The grocer shrugged and said that this was not a question he concerned himself with. The boy then asked whether Richard Nixon cried while contemplating the dead.

“I think he did too,” the boy said. The grocer smiled and told the boy to be still as he dragged the pulsing needle across the boy’s shoulder.

To this day, he still believes they cried.

Another soundless splash hits the floor, and he imagines a bullet in the soldier’s neck, a clean kill – he wraps his fingers around the handle of the rifle, rubs his thumb along twelve crudely carved notches in a hesitant ecstasy, oh God, how clean kills are the dirtiest.

And should he kill the soldier on the street corner below?

Amidst the silence and distant death of modern war, there comes a simple and familiar answer: of course he shouldn’t.

And then – a damp trigger and a dead man, a flower falling in a desert of peace.

Easter Sunday – Flash Fiction

July 1, 2010

Howdy…I’m sorry it’s been awhile. Here’s a little piece of flash fiction I wrote for my writing club with my friend Joe Kovacs. Let me know what you think! It’s called ‘Easter Sunday’

—-

Every Easter, to celebrate the holiday, I make the drive to my family’s gravesite and sit against my father’s stone.

I imagine my family rising from the dead, like Jesus Christ, and my life with them.

I see my mother, my father – I wake up on Easter Sunday, drive to my old family home to find them in the kitchen among heaping plates of French toast and bacon, and God, the smiles on their faces, a celebration of being alive through love and breakfast. After we eat, my parents go upstairs to make love and celebrate the warmth of each other’s bodies.

And my brother, my sister – they hurry me along as I wash my dishes so we can start searching for the Easter baskets. They both forget that we are no longer children, but age is not so important anymore. We prowl around the house like detectives – it has never seemed so big, so open.

I move into a new house, closer to theirs, so I can spend more time with them – to devote myself to life as part of a family again.

A few months pass. My father has started looking for work and my mother has begun to restock the wine cellar. My brother is just thrilled to carouse around town and smoke marijuana with his friends, and my sister reunites with her ex-boyfriend – there is no more time for the resentful pride and egotism that once ruined them as a couple.

Now it’s almost been a year since the resurrection. I pick my brother up from the sheriff’s office on a DUI charge, and we go to the family house for Good Friday dinner. I walk in and my mother sneers at me with familiar tannin-stained teeth. My father asks for money – when I inquire about his job, he pins me against the kitchen door with whiskey on his breath. My sister is pregnant again. She hugs me and scratches her cheek with nicotine-stained fingernails and tells me she wants to keep the baby this time. She bursts into tears and falls into my arms.

I excuse myself, walk outside, load the shotgun I keep in the trunk of my car, and shake my head.

Jesus, this is why I killed them in the first place.