Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Hasmoneans, and Us

I, too, read the Slate piece by Christopher Hitchens, remembering as I did that this is a man who professionally hated on Mother Theresa for a while and just published a book titled God is Not Great. And I actually liked it, although the Sherbs tells me that Mr. Hitchens's history is a tad reductionist and simplistic.

Hanukkah should be a time of a little philosophical soul-searching for more liberal Jews, because Hitchens's piece builds on a fundamental truth of Hanukkah: we're celebrating the butt-kicking of one society because our religious fanatics weren't comfortable with it. Sure, there's a forced assimilation component to the Hellenic side, as the closest they got to religious tolerance in those days was "we'll let you worship your gods if you also worship ours," but, to a great extent, this was a war to define us as a particularly religious nation.

I'll still be lighting the candles, because, even though I don't like the Hasmoneans and I'm a little suspicious of holidays based on the Apocrypha, I don't have a good enough theological reason not to and I like fried food something fierce. But I take Hanukkah to, in part, warn us of what happens when we get all we want religiously - we can then become big jerks to one another. It seems that the UK chief rabbinate and some Israeli rabbis are in conflict over conversions - mostly because some people seem to want to speak for all Judaism despite getting their position through having support in only a small minority. Just because we've had some big wins doesn't mean we get to be jerks. That's my lesson for the season.

Hannukah: Festival of Backwardsness?

I came upon this slate article indirectly from a frequent, yet anonymous commenter of this blog (sorry if it annoys you that I'm blogging on this, but it was just too extreme to let slip, and I'm in finals and therefore easily distracted). All I have to say is whoa. That is quite a strongly worded piece directed against Hannukah. Ah the joys of journalism and the internet, where one does not need to cite sources or hold a reasonable respect for the subject of one's inquiry (though in all fairness there are plenty of academics who do the same thing but with bigger words). I'm not saying the history is not generally correct. Though my historical knowledge of this subject comes from a freshman class I mostly slept through, I believe the general facts is somewhere in the reasonable range of the truth (obviously feel free to correct me). But the tone is, well lets just say, not really compatible with our societies generally p.c. pluralism.

Before I continue I should note that the article was written by Christopher Hitchens, and he is definitely not a man who shies away from controversy to say the least. But irregardless, it does raise some interesting questions for us..

If I can guess correctly, our readers are probably thinking one (or many many) of these opinions (hows that for precision?):
1. This is (insert adjective) anti-semitism
2. This is (insert adjective) secularism primarily, but also anti-semitic
2b. This is secularism, but walks a fine line between secularism and anti-semitism
2c. This is secularism, not anti-semitism
3. This is correct, but seriously this author must have (insert non-sexist noun)
4. other (who is Zie to tell me what to think?)

Crazy right? Personally, I think there are ways to say something like this that seek to elucidate the facts and not merely anger a community. History can be told from an unlimited number of viewpoints with an unlimited number of agendas. Almost every year I come upon numerous articles that discuss Christmas as a commercial holiday lacking any actual religious meaning or historical fact. However, I do not know if I have ever read someone saying that Jesus represented backwards ideas and therefore to celebrate his birth is to deny enlightened thinking. hmm..

when did we stop appreciating a good metaphor?? Literalists make me seriously angry! Really takes some of the beauty out of life eh? Try reading Shakespeare literally... really doesn't make much sense. end of digression.

So, what do y'all think?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Grad School and God

It's been a really long time since I have written. Granted, Harley may be the only person to have noticed, as I am new and only sometimes interesting... but here goes Jewbiquitous, you new method of procrastination!

This may seem paradoxical, but the vast majority of divinity school students could not care less about God. Granted, this is not a true religious institution but an institution of religion. My university prides itself as being uber academic and empirical evidence means everything and conviction close to nil. Perhaps as it should be -- I know if it were the other way around I'd high tail it back to the east coast. However, would it kill us to show phenomenology (briefly, studying religion from the side of or inside religion) a little respect? Why do the Godless chose to study the exact theologies and communities they largely reject? Because its freaking fascinating.

However, I have been wise in choosing philosophy. I can talk about God in a million different theological or rational frameworks and accept or destroy God at will based upon my superhero like rational skills. (hah!) In my line of work, God is a concept just like subjectivity or beauty or thought itself. I can say Kant's idea of God is flawed (this is a what if, I'd rather not argue this point) in the context of Kierkegaard's philosophy/theology (hat tip nature boy) and it really does not have to mean anything but a grade to me.

But eventually philosophy has to mean something. Ideas matter. Or at least I like to tell myself that. You can turn on the evening news and hear watered down Enlightenment ideas being spewed that may seem passe in philosophic circles but are still in full swing in the actual social world. So in that case, don't we have a responsibility to show a little respect? If i say God is bullshit based upon a logical proof or scientific fact (uh Dawkins) and would it really matter to you?

There is always a theological answer that trumps reason, if the individual cares more about theology than science. I don't know how familiar y'all are with Christian theology but Schleiermacher might have had one thing correct- our feelings and intuitions matter and they do not always line up with reason. But then he went and ruined everything by saying Christianity is absolute (and it almost always is... unless you are reading Maimo or something). My new grad school friend who I will call truth man, would just say that feelings are a result of complex actions and chemicals in the brain. Well yes. But that is a really boring way of experiencing the world. If I am just a series of complex chemical interactions, they why would any of this matter at all. Because it feels like it matters. And I truly believe life is mostly about getting through it without causing too much harm to anyone, especially ourselves. But I digress, the point is... sometimes its just nice to have a little love with my morning helping of rational proofs.

So if some of you out there believe in God and want to write books about God's love... I will be interested to read that. Perhaps. But in the end, I'm probably just another critic.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I do not Love Frank

I just finished Loving Frank while on a plane yesterday. Although I really enjoyed Devil in the White City I was pretty ambivalent about reading Loving Frank.

Both are about Chicago, at least sort of, both feature architects and artists, and both have some historical fiction. Seems like my cup of tea, right? WRONG.

You see, I actually have an issue with books. It's one that I'm a little embarassed about, because I feel like it makes me seem immature, naive, and unworldly. And here it is: I actually can't get that into books whose protagonists do things that I don't approve of. I couldn't feel sorry for Frank and Mamah because they were both adulterers. Their spouses weren't abusive, cared for them, and their lives were nice. They both selfishly left home and family in the pursuit of "happiness."

I just can't get behind that. I couldn't feel bad for them, no matter the censure they recieved because a) they were adulters and fairly irresponsible, leaving others to clean up their mess at home, and b) they KNEW what would happen. Frank was well-known and Mamah well-respected in their community. It should have come as no surprise that they'd be shunned and censured. Does it suck? Yes. But it isn't shocking.

I did manage to cry at the end anyway (I won't tell you why, it'll ruin the book--although Pedant believes, and I sort of agree, that you can't ruin historically-based books because presumably the story is common knowledge), but I didn't love the book. There were some interesting feminist and philosophical ideas (Mamah Cheney was apparently friends with Ellen Key) but it mostly felt like a whiny "the world is against us, boo-hoo."

In conclusion, my book club sucks at picking books, we totally should have read Peony in Love.


I just had a "bagel sandwich" from Cosi. The bagel, if you could call it that, was a puffier version of the flatbread, squared off at the edges, and with a hole in the middle.

I now know what other ethnic groups felt when white people stole their music. I thought I felt this when I discovered that some companies sell blueberry bagels, but I really feel it now.

If you can't eat creamed pickled herring on it unselfconsciously, it's not really a bagel.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Super Bug

Sigh. I'm embarrassed. It's been a while, a really long while, since I've blogged. I didn't go on hiatus on purpose, but I should admit that Jewbiquitous was never labor of love for me. Since the Queen of the World died, it's been more of a chore to blog than a pleasure, mostly because it feels like an echo of her, being the spawn of a comment she once made to Annie and me.

In the beginning of August, Annie mentioned that she was leaving out workplace and that she was planning on quiting the blogosphere. I have not hidden that I miss her here and that I'm thrilled when she decides to post, regardless. I left our office a couple weeks ago and I haven't had it in me for various reasons to sit down at the computer and write. Maybe it's the process of being in transition (to another job, to grad school, maybe to a whole new state!) or maybe I was never built for blogging in the first place. But I do think things and discuss things and I miss writing them down. So I'm not gone, so much as more periodic, now that my full time job involves writing applications and going on lengthy interviews.

On a related note, part of the reason I've been away is that I had a super bug: an antibiotic-resistant sinus infection that knocked me on my ass for the last month. Two rounds of antibiotics and several trips to the doctor later, I am finally healthy. A few observations (I know how y'all love lists):

1) Despite the name, a "super bug" does not give you super powers. It just super sucks.

2) Every time I write "antibiotic," I'm tempted to put a dash in there (anti-biotic).

3) Upon canceling and interview and worrying to my dad, in an email, that the interviewers would think I'm a wuss, he responded, ""If they think you're a wussy, have them call me. I don't raise wussies. Or geraniums, for that matter."

4) Marion Barry is absurd.

... And we're back.

Shabbos With Squanto, Et Al.

The Kvetcher dug up Harley's post from a year ago about Thanksgiving and is not happy with it. The whole controversy is whether or not those Jews who take a more stringent view of Torah and halakhic requirements should celebrate the U.S. Federal Holiday every third Thursday in November, or whether one should avoid it like those temple prostitutes that buzzkill Rashi warned us about. The Kvetcher thinks it's a silly controversy, born of those who just like to pick fights with the secular world.

I'm actually inclined to agree, for the most part. You never hear any controversy about whether or not it's okay to celebrate such traditional American burnt meat festivals like the Fourth of July or Memorial Day, even though you tend to get a lot more Christian god-references in the music on those days. We can take this to the ad absurdum: President's Day Sales - does taking advantage of the discount bring on the wrath of the Divine?

I think there's a reasonable line to be drawn between being a holy people apart and being complete wet blankets about the universe, and looking down on Thanksgiving is the wrong side of the line.

Plus, I love stuffing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Two Quick Things:

1) I just read How We are Hungry by Dave Eggers, and have come to realize that, despite What is the What, I don't really like Dave Eggers. Or short stories.

2) I may be going public soon with my identity. Most of the three remaining readers know who I am already, but it will certainly make it more difficult for me to stalk ex-boyfriends using this name (NB: kidding! I'll still stalk them.)

Also, as a side note, unrelated to either of those points, I learned how to use a paper bindery-thingy today. And let me say, that I am soooo coool.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Mishmash of different things

1. I read Away with my book club. I liked it, and so did the roommate. No one else did. It was my first book club meeting, which was interesting. A varied group of people, and just like in class, there are some people who are smarter or more intellectual than others, and you can't tell the others to shut up because they are adding nothing to the discussion. I really liked the girl who was leading the discussion, though. If I remember correctly, she's a teacher.

At any rate, you should all read it and let me know what you think.

2. A little while ago, Esther Kustanowitz emailed me (and her whole list) a blog posting by XGH about how Esther missed the point in dating. Or she isn't dating correctly. I found his piece to be very interesting (no, seriously) and it made me think about a couple things:

A. We're told from childhood that we're "special" and "unique" then we grow up, are thrown into a new environment (often a city, it's easier to date and get married in a small town/small pool) and told to find someone like us. It's a pretty large order, especially for those who don't have a tight-knit community and the automatic filters of Orthodoxy. It can seem so overwhelming, so people HAVE to define boundaries, (like I want someone who covers her hair, but wears pants) if only to be able to start selecting.

B. We're also told that we shouldn't "settle," but also that "no one is perfect" and that "people can change" but "you shouldn't try to change someone." So what are we supposed to do? Pick someone whom you like the way that they are, but maybe they could be better, but they have to be pretty good already, or else you're worried that you could "do better." It is all a bit confusing. When people are "too picky" I think it comes from a place of not knowing HOW to choose, and making, sometimes arbitrary decisions.

As a corollary to that: while the characteristics that XGH lists (looks, money, family, etc) shouldn't be the only ways that you measure a possible mate, neither should you ignore them. For instance, I have an ex whose family was totally crazy. It wasn't just an issue of when we saw them, but also the example it set for him in terms of interpersonal relationships. He was really nice most of the time, but didn't get that when you're angry, you can't make personal attacks against someone you love. Well, you can, but you shouldn't. It made it impossible for me to be around him anytime that he was frustrated or angry, because I'd be worried that he'd take it out on me. I found myself avoiding conflict, etc, etc. Same sort of deal with looks. If you aren't attracted to someone, you just aren't. That is fine. You shouldn't canonize some ideal of beauty and look for that, but if you happen to have a thing for redheads (as I used to), or smaller women, or whatever, that isn't a bad thing. You have to build a life with someone, and that includes an intimate life. If you aren't attracted to them, your relationship, no matter how spiritual it may be, is not complete*.

C. I believe that if you are unmarried up to the age of 30, that it is possible that it just didn't click for you (I also believe that, on some level, everyone has the love life that they want, but we can talk about that later), but after 30 maybe you should start looking at yourself. The longer you stay single, the more set in your ways you get. That said, I'd rather be single at 35 than compromise and marry some guy just for the sake of getting married. XGH and I might disagree on whether or not marriage is an end in an of itself. I don't want to be married for the sake of being married, I want to find the one for whom my soul calls out (NB: CJ and I have been dating for a year, this week), and I don't think that, that is unreasonable.

*This assumes that you are attracted to other people. If you're asexual, go for it. Also, you don't need to be THE MOST attracted to your mate, but there has to be something.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

At Last My Love, At Last

I went to Chicago. It was beautiful. The weather was warm, but not hot, clear, and gorgeous.

I had two goals:
1) Take public transportation
2) Eat at Ken's

Sadly, I accomplished neither of those things. I was on a business trip, so I either walked or took cabs (but one of my co-workers, who lived in Chi-town gave me the grand tour from the cab), and I ate a lot of salad, but no Ken's. Stupid co-workers who eat stupid treif.

At any rate, I did walk around a lot. I had a drink at the top of the Hancock building (95th floor) and saw all of Chicago laid out for me in lights. I drank some local beer (and non-local tequila) and heard a great deal about aforementioned co-worker's love life. I also spent a lot of time in hotels, in meetings, and in a business suit (which makes me look like an old lady). This, however, was not Chicago's fault.

I called CJ from my hotel room to let him know that I loved the city. His response: "That's nice. You can love it from New York." LAME.

Don't worry though, I am still gathering a group of friends who will all move to Chicago together in a few years. I actually have 10 people who've committed. We'll see how well it works out, seeing as I can't even get anyone to move to the East side.

Oh well. I can dream.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Do you know what happens when a Jew is struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else.

Well, Well, take a look at this: http://www.nypost.com/seven/10232007/gossip/pagesix/pagesix.htm
In short, Halle Berry made an anti-Semitic comment that was poorly edited out on the Tonight Show. Now, I certainly don’t have any problem with the comment itself. Guess what everyone, the secret is out. Some Jews have big noses. As far as negative stereotypes go, there are far worse things to be saddled with. Off the top of my head I’m having trouble remembering them, but I’m sure I’ll think of some as soon as I’m done brushing my teeth of the blood of Christian babies.

No, the real concern here is that Halle’s Berry’s poor decision making has now hemorrhaged out of her ability to pick a good script and into her sense of humor. After Monster’s Ball it has indeed been a slippery slope for Miss Berry; Gothika, Die Another Day, Catwoman, Robots and Perfect Strangers. FACT: If you added up all the dust collected on copies of these films at your local blockbuster you could give the entire state of Texas asthma. Thank goodness for all that good country air.

Oh, and she’s also the weakest link in the X-Men movies.

At least she had enough common sense to ask Leno to cut the bit. What’s kind of damning in all this is her excuse:

"What happened was I was backstage before the show and I have three girls who are Jewish who work for me. We were going through pictures to see which ones looked silly, and one of my Jewish friends said [of the big-nose picture], 'That could be your Jewish cousin!' And I guess it was fresh in my mind, and it just came out of my mouth. But I didn't mean to offend anybody. I didn't. I didn't mean any harm."

Don’t you see? It’s ok, because the joke wasn’t Halle’s at all. It was one of her Jewish friends/assistants. Despite this tired old equation of having “x friend=not prejudicial against x”, I honestly don’t believe that Halle Berry is an anti-Semite. Unlike some other celebrities I could name (but I won’t because it would be apocalyptic…o), Halle Berry doesn’t strike me as having an agenda of any kind. She’s just an actress with a steadily declining career that, in an effort to promote her sub-Paul Haggis Oscar bait, slipped up. I don’t think people should be banned from making off-color comments in service of comedy, especially if they’re satirical. What irks me is that it’s such a staggeringly unfunny bit. Facial photo morphs? Really? Didn’t we all get over this when Goo came out in the early 90’s. I’m not offended as a Jew, I’m offended as a funny person. And believe me, I’m funny. My black friend told me so.

Friday, October 19, 2007

thank me later

First of all, if you have never heard of Dinosaur Comics click this now. Seriously. So hilarious especially for the dorkier set (not to make any judgments on our readership, but I think I am changing lives). I thank my buddy science guy for the revelation. Heres a taste:

joking, of course.

PS. alternately, this could just be another thing you all already love, or harley has already posted on, and I could as always just be behind the curve. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Smoke, Mirrors, and Sexy Witches

Stop telling me what to do! Seriously, STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO!!!

"Sexy should be the way you define it--free from peer pressure and the influence of a junk culture." How about free from the endless commentary from all sides about how we should and shouldn't dress ON HALLOWEEN, for hell's sake.

Last year (wow, really, a whole year ago), Annie blogged on Jews and Halloween and how we love it (or don't, actually, love it at all). I'm astounded that I didn't blog about Prettyboy's infamous Halloween party or the costuming I witnessed there.

For the record, there was more skin there than at market day in a nudist camp. There was even a young woman in assless chaps. 'Nuff said.

I went as a gangster, with a cigar and fedora and suspenders. Perhaps my lack of decolletage (and did I mention the assless chaps?) is why Prettyboy claims I dress like a nun (I don't, for the record, dress like a nun). At the time, I thought to myself: I can be sexy without being a sexy nurse or cat or witch. I can even wear pants and be sexy! Plus, it's Halloween! Who cares if I'm sexy (well, um, I did. Prettyboy and I had just started casually dating and I'll admit to wanting to be the hottest chick there. I didn't anticipate assless chaps, but I think I pulled off my own version of hot. My own, much more covered, not purposefully attempting to make that statement, version of hot.)

Yet now, upon reading Debra Condren's Huffpost post (redundant), all I want to do is slap on a pair of chaps and go marching through Times Square. Look at my ass! It's Halloween! Woo-hoo!

I probably won't, there are appropriate times to remove one's clothing and inappropriate times (no comment from the peanut gallery on this one, please). Likewise, I define how and where I want to be sexy (the answers: in any way I damn well choose and anywhere).

I think that's the point.

Sexy isn't about what you wear, so all this endless chattering about clothed and unclothed is all distraction from the real issue: the commodification and objectification of women's sexuality. I know, big words, I'm sorry, but it's true. These commentators aren't talking about clothing, they're talking about women. And in only addressing one aspect of a women (her body parts, her outfit), they're removing her humanity.

Do the endless commentators on women's dress realize that they're compounding the problem by objectifying us? Condren claims that women are disempowering themselves by wearing revealing clothing on Halloween; that the true way to be empowered is to cover up. Yawn. Wasn't there just a book written on the subject?

Once again, it's all how men perceive us:
Single and looking? Consider the type of partner you want to attract when you're
contemplating how you'll present yourself to the world, even for just one night.
Remember: the brainy, fully-clothed-yet-somehow-mesmerizing-librarian look attracts a totally different animal than does the Playboy Bunny who has nothing substantive to say or do. Think about it. Step out as Tina Tequila and you'll attract a like-minded buffoon.
Does no one else see the irony of arguing feminist values from "dress like that and no nice man will want you"?
Think about the issue in terms of discussions about hip hop lyrics. Talking heads mouth off endlessly on their crassness and violence, without addressing the race and class politics underlying their creation. It's a way of pretending to talk about the issues without actually addressing the root of the problems. It's about perception of propriety by the powerful and not about the content of the words and the actions (the language of the music and the wearing of provocative clothing).

So if the issue is that women are only valuing themselves insofar as they attract men, then let's address that. If the issue is that women are objectified and sexualized far too young, let's address that. But let's throw out the smoke and mirrors bullshit that is the discussion of sexy Halloween costumes.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go try on my sexy mental patient outfit.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jews Are Not Perfectionists, According to Some

If you haven't heard about it already, politically reactionary demagogue Ann Coulter was on Donny Deutch's talk show last night, and she told him that his being Jewish was okay and all, but he'd be "perfected" if he let Jesus into his heart.

I'm not too troubled by this. Any moderately (small-c) conservative version of the liturgy keeps the Aleinu and similar statements that, eventually, the rest of the world is going to wake up and say, like the Rowan Atkinson sketch about hell, that the Jews are right. So if other people are harboring the hope in their hearts that I will suddenly accept the Bahá’u’lláh into my heart, as long as it's not a major part of my interaction with those people, I do not care.

My favorite response is from New York Post editorialist (and son of the author of a famous neoconservative article on African-American/Jewish relations) John Podhoretz, who said:
If I could be assured that conversion to Christianity would instantly cause me
to lose 80 lbs., give me infinite patience when my daughters wake me up at 5 in
the morning, allow me to read 100 pages an hour with total recall, feel complete
indifference when some @$%&^ cuts me off in traffic, grow my hair back on
the top of my head and make it disappear from my ears, and keep me from checking
my Amazon ranking when I have a book out, I would seriously consider it.

I second that.

I wish to close with a piece of trivia. While discussing Ms. Coulter's inability to avoid proseltyzing cable talk show hosts, Emily2 and I got into a tangential discussion about the legal concept of "perfecting" secured debts under American law, which allows the person with the perfected debt of getting first proceeds out of the house, car, stock, etc. when it's sold at foreclosure. I set forth that perfecting people has been illegal in the U.S. since the Thirteenth Amendment, to which Emily2 pointed out that most references to Jews being perfected as chattels come from antiquity, with the most famous example ending in a whole mess o' plagues.

Just FYI.

Know Your Jewish Community: Simchat Torah, a little late

This was my first year spending Simchat Torah on Manhattan's Upper West Side. I knew that it was a scene, so, last year, fresh off an awful breakup, I avoided it.

That was a good choice.

Unfortunately, this year, CJ and I were not so wise. We decided to stay, made plans for meals (I hosted two, he hosted one, and we were invited out a lot), and accepted invitations to parties. In general I don't love chag* parties, I don't find them to be in the spirit of the holiday, and I don't really enjoy drinking all that much. It's fine, I'll do it socially, but it isn't really how I like to spend my time.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I had an awful time. Instead of recapping, in gross detail, everything that went wrong, I'll give you a few highlights:

1. Simchat Torah night: no women dancing. At one point it was me, my friend, and three little girls. Their mom actually thanked us for ensuring that there was SOME dancing in the women's section.

2. All of the people who came to services to socialize, not to pray. I couldn't even hear the Torah reading on Simchat Torah morning.

3. The people who got falling down drunk, and then were loud and obnoxious in the streets/hallways, causing me to hear the remark from a doorman that "I hate this holiday, it's worse every year."

4. Anyone who thinks that it is ok to get drunk and make out at a chag party is incorrect. Make out at home. Ew.

5. The lack of spirituality. I came to dance, and to pray, and it seemed like I was the only one.

Long story short, next year I'm going back to Washington Heights.

*Chag is the Hebrew word for holiday.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Great Scotts!

The Scottish have way better senses of humor than we:

(Hat tip: Queerty via Dan Savage, who is unquestionably NSFW.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bragging Rights

Not to brag, but my friends are cooler than yours.

That's right, a close personal friend of mine is part of the documentary team that created Up at Lou's-the Fulton Fish Market Documentary (but in the interest of maintaining my secret identity, I won't tell you whom-- hint: it's not Ed Koch).

Do you like fish? Do you like documentary film-making? Then go see the most amazing documentary about the Fulton Fish Market EVER TO BE MADE!!!!

Friday, October 5, at the Millenium Theatre (66 E. 4st St) at 8pm.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Breast Cancer Awareness Month (Or How My Day Couldn't Get Worse)

Today is offically the second day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Ladies, please eat your greens and walk briskly. Also, don't forget your monthly exams.

And read all the articles to thoroughly freak yourself out about risk factors.

Most of all, educate yourselves.

Meanwhile, I'm going to spend the rest of the month under a rock.

i just kant...

Blah. Sorry for the lack of participation (and general rabble rousing usually found in my contributions), but grad school is totally nuts. I have recently started divinity school, and let me just tell you... the fun here is definitely dead. Plus Christian theologians totally love to prove why Judaism is lame... and there's nothing that makes me more "Jew-ish" than reading old white men say how Jesus is the only way to go, and how Jews are lacking in the morality department. Throw in a lot of Kant and you can witness my crankiness. Plus evidently everyone in the MA program already knows the topic of their PhD dissertation!! what!

Alas, I would be lying if I said I wasnt having fun. Not actual fun, but student fun. You know, reading until your eyes hurt, debating for enjoyment, dropping names of dead philosophers... totally a good time. Email me if you want to talk about free will or your noumenal self! wooo!

On another note, the trees here are lovely and cars slow to ensure they do not hit me as i cross the road. People hold doors when my arms are full and my building actually has a perimeter. Life is nice, if not lonely without the "family."

... and i promise to write more (often and interestingly) when i actually have internet! woo

(and tent dresses are totally dumb and look bad on everyone... harley is 99% always right :) )

Another Letter

Dear Security and Assorted Men at My Building,

I'm really flattered that you take the time out of your busy schedule to hit on me every morning. When I wake up in the morning, I think to myself, "All I really want today is to feel awkwardly uncomfortable upon entering my place of work. Please, please let someone much too old for me compliment my outfit!"

But seriously, please stop. I don't mean to be bitchy, which is why I've always been sweet in the past. It's not that I don't think you're very nice guys: I do, really. But please stop with the compliments and the telling me to 'smile.' If I'm not beaming when I walk past you on my lunch break, keep in mind that we're not out at a bar, but, in fact, at our place of business. I could have something business-related on my mind (I don't) or just be really really cranky that I'm at work (I am). And, by the way, that's not flirtatious, it's creepy and annoying.

Also, it's very nice that you like my outfit or think that I'm looking "goooooooood" today. I appreciate the sentiment, really, but it makes me very self-conscious. In fact, it makes me not want to walk through those lobby doors even more than the fact that I'm going to work makes me not walk through those those doors. Who would have even thought that was possible? So, in the interest of my comfort, please keep that one to yourself.

Couldn't we just be cordial? How about a "Hello, how are you this morning"/"Fine, thank you" perfunctory relationship. That way, I can happily ignore it when you stare at my chest and you can go about your business of harassing delivery men.

Please? Or do I have to bring Prettyboy in here and get all kung fu on your ass?

Thank you.


P.S. Could you give the hot UPS guy my number?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dear Women of New York,

Stop wearing tent dresses! They are unflattering and unattractive! Just STOP! Don't look at me all saucily like that. You know what I'm talking about and, secretly, you agree.

I know, I know. It's hard. When Fashion says it's right, it's so hard to say it's wrong. I feel your pain. I know the siren call of fashions that will never suit my body, of formal shorts and skinny jeans. I feel your pain, I do.
But here's a hint: if it makes the model look preggers, it's not going to look good on you.

See how her eyes are downcast, as if to say, "Oh no! What was I thinking when I put on this dress? You can't even tell I have a figure under here. I could be smuggling the Hindenburg under here."

It's time to stand up for yourselves, women of New York. Stand up for yourselves and shout from the rooftops: I refuse to wear something that someone could mistake for a muu-muu! I refuse to walk around in what may be misconstrued as camping equipment! I refuse to be mistaken for a giant toilet roll cover!

Thank you for your time. Damn the man; save the Empire [waist].


On Linguistic Irony

About a week ago, Eboo Patel, the creator of the Interfaith Youth Core, wrote a brief article for The Washington Post and Newsweek's On Faith project: On Muslim Antisemitism. In short, the piece discusses the voices in Islam condemning Anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

The title of the article caused my brain juices to percolate (always dangerous and slightly messy): Muslim Anti-Semitism. It seemed to me that that phrase was linguistically ironic, at the very least, considering that the world's Muslim population are, by and large,* Semites themselves.

The use of "Anti-Semitism" as "Anti-Jewish," which was the term's original, if etiologically confusing, meaning, obscured the meaning of "Semite": a label that covers Jews and Arabs alike.

To clarify, a Semite is "A person belonging to the race of mankind which includes most of the peoples mentioned in Gen. x. as descended from Shem son of Noah, as the Hebrews, Arabs, Assyrians, and Aramæans. Also, a person speaking a Semitic language as his native tongue." (Thanks, OED)

So, technically, to be anti-Arab is also to be anti-Semitic.

The whole thing reminded me of the conversation that I had with the Afghani cab driver about the nature of modern anti-Semitism.

All of which just made me realize how the forms may appear to shift, but, functionally remain the same. Which is really to say: think carefully about those unfair epitaphs you before hurling them at others.

*I'm using a broad definition of Semitism extrapolated from the reach of Semitic languages in the late ancient period. Using that matrix, the Middle East and Asia Minor are both considered geographically Semitic areas, where Semitic languages are still in use. This area is also the geographic area where counties with a Muslim majority are concentrated. It should be noted, for the purposes of intellectual honesty, that by numbers, the highest populations of Muslims live in South and East Asia (which also includes Iran and Afghanastan), but constitute a minority, proportionately, in those regions.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A Revamped "On Atheist," AKA: Whatever Happened to Jared Leto?

You’re buzzing along and suddenly, one day, you look up and realize that you don’t recognize this place. Your parents have moved from their three bedroom house in Rockville to a condo in Potomac (zip code makes all the difference). Your siblings have paired off and procreated.

You’re living in Brooklyn and you’ve blinked and suddenly all your friends are moving away to pursue PhDs and law degrees and you realize that no one lives here anymore. You look in your closet and you realize that you own more shoes than Satan and not a single pair of them are anti-establishment Doc Martens. In fact, the closest you get to anti-establishment are a pair of Rocket Dogs you picked up on sale at DSW at the mall. It suddenly dawns on you that, without you recognizing the change, you are an adult, in your mid (not early) twenties, and you’re going to have to start getting serious about shit.

So you research PhD programs because you’ve always wanted to be a historian and doing programming at a non-profit is just not cutting it; you begin to discuss the M-word (it rhymes with carriage) with your significant other because it seems de rigueur for people in your age bracket; and you finally trash your well-worn collection of middle school papers that you’ve been schlepping from apartment to apartment for the last half decade, ever since your parents determined to sell the family house and move into the aforementioned condo.

Feeling all alone and finally reflecting on the myriad of insecurities that seem to have piled up on your doorstep while you were out at one of those Bryant Park summer movies drinking red wine from a plastic cup, you turn to the one thing that always helped center you in times of trouble (or in times of ennui): God. But something strange has happened here, too. Like your parents, like your friends, like your stability, God has packed up and moved away. You were so certain about God, but you realize that while you were learning other things, you unlearned God.

What do you do now? Is God like the PhD programs and apartment cleaning? Do you go out and try to recapture God, to reconnect with God like you reconnected with all of those random friends from high school whom you barely remember and with whom you now have to have a series of those vapid “remember when” conversations? Are you going to have “remember when” conversations with God?

What does the new, improved, grown up version of yourself do?

You hear all the time about people finding God, but rarely about them losing God. When you declare yourself an atheist, you proclaim that there is no God, but no one talks about the pain of that loss, a pain more deeply felt because it also entails losing those whom you’d consigned to heaven, now no longer extant. It’s the second loss of your mother, whose death was the impetus for your intractable belief in a higher power in the first place. And how do you respond to that loneliness, that loss, without the structures of the religion that had always been there to embrace and comfort you, that had provided a context for your relationship with God, that had given words to your still, silent pleas back when you didn’t have the words yet to ask the right questions or describe what you needed.

Does losing God mean losing religion? If you no longer have God, can you still benefit from the forms and rituals that religion provides? Paralleling your realization about the end of your childhood, once you realize that God is gone, can you retain the benefits that you felt when still in the innocence of youth?

I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that I continue to observe Shabbas, in my way, and to follow the rituals, to attend a shul that allows me to be myself religiously and politically, and to engage with Jews across the spectrum of observance and faith. I figure that, if there’s a God to be found, I’ll be in the right place to find God. And if not, then I’ll just be in the right place for me.

As for Jared Leto, I’m sure he’s out there, somewhere, along with other expunged remnants of my adolescence.

and we're back...

Occasionally, I forget to blog for a few days, then I get embarrassed that I've not blogged in several days and, confronted with the onus of "catching up," I illogically continue not to blog. It's like when you've forgotten to call your grandma for a couple weeks and, stupidly, discontinue calling her out of fear and embarrassment, thereby making the original sin far worse.

So, um, sorry! Hi, guys! I'm still here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I Know Some People Who Have Some Repenting To Do

Besides myself of course. I have a lot of trouble with repentance, but that's not really the issue here.

1. Whoever it is that is trashing the bathroom at my new office: It is so absurd. On my first day of work I noticed the printed signs in every bathroom stall that encouraged employees to wash their hands and not leave a mess. This seemed totally absurd to me, until I noticed that despite TWICE daily cleanings, the bathroom is disgusting by 4pm. Once I walked in to see that someone had taken paper towels and strewn them all around and in a toilet.Why? There is plenty of toilet paper.

2. The inventor of the bagel: I've gained 10 lbs this past year, and it is in large part due to the delicious nature of bagels.

3. Whoever thought it was a good idea to keep office buildings freezing: It is wasteful, uncomfortable, and bad for the environment. What happened to 60 degrees?

4. Google: I have many issues with Google this year. Their refusal to not record searches/ say that they'll never turn them over to the government for one. But my most recent issue is with Google presentations. Google has made its name by providing simple services with many nifty features. Presentations doesn't even come close to PowerPoint (as much as I hate it), you can't build charts, or graphs, or really even images, and forget importing anything over 2mb. Google, way to raise my hopes and then dash them.

5. High Heels: They are awful. Expensive, uncomfortable, and cause lasting damage. Why again are they necessary in a business environment?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Law's the Law - But Should It Be?

Yesterday, the District of Columbia did not get the right to vote, and the Maryland Court of Appeals (which is the supreme court in Maryland) stated that the law of Maryland, as currently constituted, does not allow for same-sex marriage.

In both of these cases, the naysayers fell back on a position that was, basically, "what you've proposed sounds good, but that's not what the law says." This, I think, opens a fascinating question for Judaism as well, especially for those of us who do not want our religion to be like the Amish, wearing exclusively buttonless outfits and shunning most advances made after the Sixteenth Century.

We, of course, have The Law, which is divine (even if divinely inspired and not divinely written) but also speaks to a tribal early iron age people who can't just clone all the red heifers they need. When the law "says" something, assuming that we are not going to be tied into the most unchanging of dogma, how do we know when the law is able to change according to the time, and when something is supposed to be a principle for the ages?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Absit Invidia*

It feels wrong to let today go by without saying anything about the anniversary of September 11th. It also seems unlikely that I can say anything that hasn't already been said, and probably more eloquently.

I will say this: it's hard to think about that day, now, without also thinking about the war it spawned. And it's hard to think about that war and to look at the fallen soldiers, on either side, without seeing the faces of my friends. I would by lying if I said that I knew how the hell to get out of Iraq in any way that makes sense and opining about what should or shouldn't have been makes no sense at this stage.

I thought to look to history for guidance, but so many mitigating factors shape the course of a war, that it's nearly impossible to draw any worthwhile lessons. Historians speak of wars won and lost, but ultimately that only affects who dictates the terms of peace until the next war.

And so I feel irrevocably sad for all those lives lost in the towers and also for the lives lost in response. I pray, in my own way, that reason will triumph over idiocy, in all its many forms, on all sides of this war. And when I say "war," I want to be clear that I'm speaking globally.

As I said when the Queen of the World died, the only lesson you can take from a catastrophe of this magnitude is to work tirelessly to make the lives of those we love a little better, a little happier, because we will all be here together for so short a time. That seems relatively doable, right? Maybe we could also try to solve world hunger and poverty and end ignorance, too, but I don't like to get ahead of myself.

And if that sounds like contrived sentiment, I apologize.

*Absit Invidia, Latin, "Let ill will be absent"

Thursday, September 06, 2007


I really don't like defending politicians who do scummy things, but every time a (usually Republican) politician gets caught in a sex scandal, you get dozens of variants of this rant, including something like this sentence:

"There's nothing worse than a self righteous, moralizing hypocrite. "

Can we all agree that there are plenty of things worse than self righteous hypocrites?

People with scary ideologies who are completely consistent are probably worse. As are amoral people who seek only temporal power and authority.

Let me just throw out some world leaders whom we all can agree were not so good people (a list chosen to create minimal tangential controversy):
  • Idi Amin
  • Papa Doc Duvalier
  • Rafael Trujillo
  • Ferdinand Marcos

I don't think that any of these people, who collectively have caused huge amounts of human misery, could be accurately assessed as being self-righteous, moralizing hypocrites. To the extent that they said one thing and did another, it was because they personally felt exempt from the rules, or they were just disposed to lie to keep themselves in power.

Furthermore, hypocrisy is a cop-out accusation. It allows the accuser to duck the fact that he likely agrees with either what is said or what is done.

For example, let's say I take a vocal public position against random mass murder of people in restaurants. Then, for reasons unknown, I go to a local restaurant with a machine gun and shoot a lot of people. I am a hypocrite. But there's nothing wrong in my going around and saying that shooting people is bad, whether or not I shoot people. It's my shooting a bunch of people that is morally problematic.

But let's say, instead, that I belong to a religious sect that doesn't believe in reading newspapers. You catch me reading a newspaper. Reading a newspaper is not a horrible thing. There's nothing wrong with doing it, even if I'm not living up to my standards. It's just that my belief is silly and always was. It's, in some respects, intellectually bizarre to fault people for not living up to a moral code you find stupid and pointless.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Wedding Crashers

I just finished reading this article in The Washington Post about a Groomzilla. Now, before I spew some venom, let me clarify a few points:

1) I enjoy attending other people's weddings. I've now had the pleasure of seeing several of my friends marry and the honor of being in their wedding parties. Few moments are more beautiful than watching people who love each other pledge their fealty forever. (Crap, I can hear TR retching from here. Sorry, honey)

2) I am not against weddings as an institution, so long as the people getting married put as much thought in choosing the institution of marriage as they do in the color of their bouquet.

3) I am not cantankerous.

Alright, so putting aside the rampant gender generalizations sewn throughout the article ("Mike's the woman, because he does the cooking, cleaning and decorating" at home, says Atta.), and even pausing to concede that the stress of planning large events are enough to put anyone on edge, can we all join in a giant, impassioned "WTF?!?!?!?!" at the self-involved absurdity of this man's approach to planning his nuptials? Several months later they're "aggrieved" because they had to pour their own salad dressing and get their own drinks?!?

Maybe some perspective is due. Hey, Mike and Rita, you two found the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. Who cares if there was a wilted rose in one of the centerpieces?


On a related note, at my nephew's birthday party, I was discussing the exorbitant price of weddings with my brother's dad (my mom's first husband), his stepson, and another guest. The woman was bemoaning the price of her daughters' weddings, saying that the cheapest wedding you could have these days costs at least $20,000.

Me: Well, not quite. The cheapest wedding is two people and a judge.
Stepson (with whom I'm quite close): I'm surprised. I would imagine you to be a fairy princess wedding type.
Me: I'm actually quite low maintenance.
Brother's Dad: Well, then, you're the first woman ever to be low maintenance.
Me: [Stunned silence.]

Did I mention, "Sigh."?

Any takers?

Happy Birthday, Baby!

My nephew is so totally cuter than this baby

Last Saturday, September 1st, my family celebrated nephew's first birthday. My sister-in-law (SIL) is Korean, so we had a traditional Korean first birthday celebration, called a Tol. SIL's family came and loaded their home with Korean pears, apples, strawberries, pineapple, rice cake, small rice cake dumplings, and lots of sweets.

They dressed my nephew in the birthday clothes: pink jogori (jacket) with puple paji (pants), striped durumagi (long jacket), a blue vest printed with a gold pattern, a jonbok (long blue vest) with a gold pattern, and a hongsadae (traditional belt) over it. On his head he wore a bokgun (black hat with a long tail), on his toes he wore tarae-busun (traditional socks), and hanging off his belt was a yumnang (traditional round shaped pouch). He looked ridiculously cute.

So he stood (with aid from my brother and SIL) in front of the table and he had to choose one of the items placed in front of him, the choice of which would presage what he will one day become. According to Lifeinkorea.com, he was supposed to choose from

-bow and arrow: the child will become a warrior
-needle and thread: the child will live long
-jujube: the child will have many descendants
-book, pencil, or related items: the child will become a successful scholar
-rice or rice cake: the child will become rich (some resources say choosing a rice cake means the child is not smart)
-ruler, needle, scissors: the child will be talented with his/her
-knife: the child will be a good cook

My brother and SIL modified the list a bit (instead of a knife, they had a plastic fork, for example, and they had a $20 bill for prosperity). My nephew chose the fork, the pen, and then a book. His grandma (my SIL's mother) kept pushing the $20 bill at him, to encourage him to be prosperous. He picked up the sticky rice cakes and put them back 15 times before finally tasting one.

Mmmm... delicious rice cakes

Then we all ate ridiculous amounts of food. And then we went to a Korean restaurant and ate even more food. I happen to love Korean food, but my father is perhaps the most unadventurous eater in the history of ever. Here's a man who, at fifty-eight, has never chewed gum or eaten an olive. On Saturday, he not only tried sushi for the first time, but also willingly ate bulgogi and fish cake. He was pleasantly surprised; needless to say, we kept the kimchi and other chili-spiced food away from him (he thinks white bread is spicey, I'm not sure if he would survive wasabi).

By the end of the day, we were stuffed and exhausted, but my nephew, as always with that bubbly, happy, delightful child, offered us all smiles and giggles.

Happy Birthday, Nephew!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Jews Love: Bioengineered Food

This is a really important (albeit seriously slanted) documentary on the state of bioengineered food. For my own part, the discussion of agricultural/organic patents is incredibly disturbing, and lends an entirely different moral imperative to the organic/local farming idea. I'm not sure this is the entire doc, but you can find out more at The Future of Food.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

rollin with the rabbi

So in a few hours, I will be traveling with Besheret to the motherland to visit with my childhood Rabbi who will be performing our wedding ceremony next summer. Whoa. Is it weird to be nervous about meeting with a woman you have known since Kindergarten and met with weekly through adolescence?

I guess, in a world where same sex marriages are by and large not sanctioned by the state/secular authorities, the only authority we can find for our union is in Reform Judaism (and I'm sure Reconstructionist and some Conservative folks). Plus she will be the first Rabbi with whom my fiance will discuss her conversion. And we seriously don't have time for Besheret to be turned away three times. I'm moving to the Midwest in two weeks! And lets be honest, who really likes riding the commuter rail?

Doing the "Jewish" thing in my life is so much more complicated than someone like my mother who ditched her Italian boyfriends for a "nice Jewish boy" like my dad, and then got married by Rabbi Whoever at the local Young Israel. If one more person asks me if same sex marriage is "legal" in NY, I might just scream. Or pout and shake my fist with purpose! When did the Jewish ritual stop being enough to be legitimate? mmm American pluralism.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

An Open Letter: New Kosher Deli

( I wasn't going to blog, but I couldn't help it, I am STEAMED)

Dear Kosher Deli near my new office,

you suck. You are, on average $2.50 more expensive (per ITEM) than my previous kosher deli. You didn't have whole wheat bread, and you charged me extra for lettuce and tomato on my sandwich... and then DIDN'T PUT THEM ON.

Also, your pickles are kind of gross.


When Democracies Go Bad

Zie and I had a discussion in the comments to her post on language charter schools which I think is really branching out into something very different than the merits of any particular school - that is, basically, if we let democracy choose the method of teaching our children, can we let democracy choose the content?

You can tie this to "Jewish issues" in a number of ways; not only in the curriculum fights regarding the Arabic and Hebrew language schools Zie referred to in her post, but regarding curriculum choices among schools in the Middle East and with creationism and school prayer generally.

In the United States, the First Amendment pretty much bars taking a religious standpoint, but let me posit the following hypothetical:

The appropriate curriculum-deciding body in a school district in Rhode Island, elected and supported by a majority of the people in that area, are significantly dissatisfied with the current state of the federal government. In response, they wish to teach their children a relatively jaundiced view of the federal constitution, with an emphasis on state sovereignty.

Therefore, they vote to only have textbooks which describe Rhode Island's ratification of the Constitution as an act of national extortion by the other twelve colonies and emphasizes the corruption and tyranny of the Lincoln administration during the Civil War. This view will produce citizens highly skeptical of any federal power and wishing to dismantle much of the federal administrative state.

The position taken by this hypothetical Rhode island curriculum-setting body is not objectively true. But, if we assume that it is supported by a majority of the constituents in the jurisdiction, and does not violate the Establishment Clause, should we really object?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tax Dollar Semites

So in honor of my first day of unemployment I have decided to blog! woot! woot!

This morning, while going out for my first bagel and iced soy chai latte of freedom I happened to buy a NY Times. When was the last time I actually read a real paper (e.g., not am NY)? So while sipping my latte and enjoying a p-funk, I noticed this article on the front page. It was obviously a not so subtle hint from the power(s) that be that I have been neglecting my blogosphere responsibilities.

In Broward County Florida, (Ft. Lauderdale area, incidentally about 45 minutes from my parents) an Orthodox Rabbi and his cohorts have started what he claims to be the first English/Hebrew charter school, i.e., free, tax dollar payed for, public school that teaches classes in both English and Hebrew. They are being seriously watched for any mention of religion, which, as anyone who knows a bit of Hebrew may be aware of, is quite hard. Hebrew is littered with sayings that have a literal religious connotation but in everyday speech is used quite secularly. So anyway, evidently while Miami is referred to as "Little Havana," parts of South Florida could also be called "Little Jerusalem." (oops.. wasn't that Vilna back in the day?)

I guess my problem here is that I don't really have too strong of an opinion. And that bothers me. If we were discussing a right wing, bible belt public school that teaches creationism, I would be up in arms. But I think my heeb status is once again making me instinctively side with the Jews. Probably why it took me until Sophomore year in college to have a real opinion on Israel/Palestine (but I'll save that for another day, shall i?)

They say they are trying really hard to teach Hebrew as a language for students whose parents often primarily speak Hebrew. There are TONS (and I mean tons) of charter schools across the country that are dually Spanish and English and I think they are a great idea. They are found most commonly in South Florida, Texas and California and my cousin (heeb like me) is in one. His parents think its important for him to learn a language young. There are tons of studies that show that students who learn dual languages (or more) as a small child will be benefited intellectually etc.

But, I am pretty glad that officials are at least giving them a hard time to ensure the complete lack of religious content. I mean, look at the controversy in NY over the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a charter school in Brooklyn that plans to teach a dual Arabic/English curriculum. The crazies over at the Sun (I had to deal with those reporters in college over numerous political skirmishes, and I feel 100% justified in calling them crazies... or at least always ideologically driven, which is, in my opinion, an awful way to run a newspaper) have painted it as a terrorist training school. Which is ridiculous.

So here is what I make of this- Dual language schools are wonderful (and I wish I had gone to one) and I hope this school survives... if it is just that, a language school. So proceed with caution, and be damn sure to let in any child who wishes to attend. Why does my gut instinct tell me that they sneaking in a few brachas :)

On a last note - in mid/high school my language options were French, Spanish, Italian or German. In this world, besides Spanish, I'd say the next most useful would be Arabic. Can we separate language, religion, culture and politics?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Great Threat of Birthdays

According to Slate, the Washington Post Company-owned website that many on Jewbiquitous have come to love, the traditional Latin American fifteenth birthday party has become for some the "go forth and hook up" ritual. Ross Douthat, a somewhat conservative commentator, reads the article and says that:
The same coming-of-age tradition that in an agrarian society segues naturally into marriage and family can, in a more permissive cultural context, function as a license for sexual activitity and unwed motherhood. The same network of extended families, churches, and stay-at-home mothers that sustains a traditional social order can provide a temporary cushion that makes second-generation family breakdown more socially acceptable than it should be.
Which brings me to b'nei mitzvot. Nobody's kidding nobody that a thirteen-year-old boy or a twelve-year-old girl are ready to join the adult Jewish community. In some jurisdictions, they're still not even liable for their own tortious (personal injury causing) conduct. For various reasons, we don't really hear about teen pregnancy in the Jewish community. But that's not the point.

We still have an "out into the world" ritual for people who aren't going out into the world for at least five more years, usually more. Does that make sense?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I love Gene Weingarten

The following illustration and explanation were created by the hilarious humorist, Gene Weingarten for his Live Discussions on washingtonpost.com:
"As you can plainly see, the line representing Presumptions of Magic has a steadily downward slope of approximately 43 degrees, beginning in the era when hominids attributed all observed phenomena to supernatural causes. These include such things as Thor creating lightning with thunderbolts, dyspepsia being caused by disruption of bodily humors, torrents being attributed to the weeping of Matlalcueitl, the Aztec rain goddess, plus your occasional Cacodaemons, Simulacra, Succubuses and whatnot. EVERYTHING had a mystical explanation. That's because people were fearful, ignorant, and desperate to give meaning to life.

If a philosopher or social scientist were to try to encapsulate a single principle that yoked together the intellectual process of civilazation, it would be a gradual dismantling of presumptions of magic. Brick by brick, century by century, with occasional burps and hiccups, the wall of superstition has been coming down. Science and medicine and political philosophy have been on a relentless march in one direction only -- sometimes slow, sometimes at a gallop, but never reversing course. Never has an empirical scientific discovery been deemed wrong and replaced by a more convincing mystical explanation. ("Holy cow, Dr. Pasteur! I've examined the pancreas of a diabetic dog, and darned if it's NOT an insulin deficiency, but a little evil goblin dwelling inside. And he seems really pissed!") Some magical presumptions have stubbornly persisted waaaay longer than others, but have eventually, inexorably fallen to logic, reason and enlightenment, such as the assumption of the divine right of kings and the entitlement of aristocracy. That one took five millennia, but fall it did.

There remain many unanswered questions about how the world works, how our bodies work, where we came from, and so forth. We're workin' on 'em. When you think about it, though, there is only one fire-from-the-sky booga-booga notion left. But it's a biggie.

So here we are in 2007. And the question we must ask ourselves, as dispassionate truth seekers, is: Which is the most likely place that civilization will find itself in the year 3000? Will it be position A, or position B?" - Gene Weingarten

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monkey is not Kosher

You know, you have an entire post's worth of links and notes outlined from the weekend, and then someone does something so eminently postworthy that all of that goes out the window.

I am referring, of course, to a New York Sun article about a Liberian woman who ran afoul of customs by trying to smuggle monkey meat into the United States. She claims that the food-grade monkey parts are for some religious purpose, and therefore she should get a free pass.

The Liberian woman's attorney, who happens to be Jewish, is really putting forward the "sacred food" angle.

Now, it could be that, if you asked nicely in advance, Immigration and Customs Enforcement would let you have your religious monkey meat. But it's pretty clear on the website that you can't just bring foreign meat into the United States.

So, my thought for the blog this morning is: how far should exemptions for religious observance go? I know the law on these things, which means that you can't make a public health risk for yourself or refuse to get a social security number, but I don't know how far "it's my religion" should take us in this modern world. And I've been kind of a jerk about religious exemptions on occasion.

Friday, August 17, 2007

More on Noses

Prettyboy's nose, on a slightly less handsome man's face

Zie mentioned that her nose is the most remarked upon part of her face when people say she doesn't look Jewish (to be fair, she has one of the cutest little button noses in the history of ever, second only to Prettyboy's perfectly rendered nose. Now that I think about it, his nose may be a major motivation for me if I ever come around to considering procreation. Our progeny would be short, but with a perfectly formed nose. Alright, I just freaked myself out a little there. Back to our regularly scheduled, non-parenthetical post.).

I don't have a large nose. I don't have a small nose, but I don't have a large nose. It's not like the 'before' picture in the nose job scene in Space Balls, but it is, emphatically and unquestionably a nose, taking up space (too much?) in the middle of my face. I've always had a bit of a complex about my nose. My mother had a nose job when I was in first grade. She had always hated her nose and I suppose she figured that she was in the hospital so much anyway, they might as well throw in a nose while they were at it.

Years later, I found out that she made my aunt promise that she would get me a nose job if I needed it. Keep in mind here, that my mom was on her deathbed and she made my aunt swear that I would have a nose job if I needed it. I'm not saying that to undermine all the other stuff that I'm sure she was anxious about, but rather to emphasis the source of my nose-neurosis.

This neurosis was compounded by my paternal grandmother. The last time I saw her, I was fifteen and we were shoe shopping for her. We were sitting together and she leaned into me and motioned for me to come closer. She looked deep into my eyes and said, "You are so beautiful. Like a movie star... But you're going to have to do something about that nose, huh?"

So there you have them. My grandmother's last words to me. What a legacy.
And so that's why I so emphatically compliment Zie's nose and why I'm so obsessed with Prettyboy's. They are so perfect and little. No one would ever think to mention to them that they need to do anything to alter them.

On a related note, I've recently come back into contact with my best friend from high school. We were hanging out last weekend and she said, "I have to ask: did you just not notice or were you too embarrassed to say something." And I responded with confusion, "Say something about what?" Apparently she had had a nose job that rather drastically changed her nose. Now that I look at pictures from high school, I recognize it, but I just didn't notice it on her. Both noses fit her perfectly and she's stunning regardless, so I guess I should worry less about mine. It also had never occurred to me that my vocal insecurity about my nose made her feel worse about hers (something else she admitted to me).

When I did a google search on Jewish noses, I came up with the following hits:
A children's book from the German Propaganda Archive.

The historical implications of plastic surgery on "Jewish" noses and this Jewish Encyclopedia entry.

A well written blog post comparing Jewish anti-Semitism to Arab anti-Semitism (we're all Semites).

A hilarious post decrying the trendiness of being Jewish.

And this picture:

For now, I've come to terms with my nose, with Prettyboy's assistance (he calls himself a nose connoisseur and claims that mine is his favorite.) What? I don't need outside reassurance to bolster my morale, but it sure does help from someone with as impeccable a nose as his.

Native Dress: Part 3?

It happens in every culture, with every stereotype.. its inevitable to see a person and immediately assume their life. We often assume class, race and even sexuality based upon certain stereotypical triggers. I'm not saying that every person sets off in the morning to exhibit as much bias as possible - rather, I think people in this city often go as far as they can to not offend. We define our selves in a million ways - short, sensitive, smart, Latino, queer, Jewish, artist, type A personality, etc., etc. However, our conglomerate identity is tied up in our view of the "other." We define the "other" in their similarities and differences to ourselves.

(note: if interested in philosophical elaborations on the "other," read my boy Levinas, by far my fav Jewish philosopher, even if he is often impossible to read and understand clearly or quickly. I'm sure you'll be hearing more from me on him)

People see my fiance and all they see is that she is Korean, yet she was adopted by a white, Protestant family. Through other adoptions, I have more Asian people in my family and life. Yet when people pass her on the street they expect her to have a history and culture she neither experiences or understands.

I'm always hearing that I "don't look Jewish" because my nose is small, and interestingly enough, my Jewish friends always say my nose is my best feature. Folks often speak Spanish to me on the street because my appearance (hair, body, skin color, clothes) makes them believe I am Latina (often Puerto Rican here, but Cuban in Miami). People see similarities in me that cause them to place me in a context that is familiar to them. I'm sure if I was seen strolling down a street in Norway, the locals there would have a different idea of my heritage/history/ethnicity. Or Israel. Or Africa. Or Missouri.

I may make jokes about how everyone here thinks I'm Latin... but I'm actually damn proud that other folks want to claim me as their own.

To get Jew-y: I get tons of sideways glances when I wear pants etc., to an event for my good friend who is orthodox. And you can bet she gets looks wearing long skirts and shirts in a heat wave, while spending time with my friends. It is all about context, all about how we view ourselves and standards for dress/behavior.

We want to find similarities (guess the Jew on the train) just like we want to pick apart differences... We build communities on shared histories, shared interests, shared humor. I am not saying this could ever end - could humanity really stop categorizing ourselves? I'm not that optimistic, or that I think it should. I won't get all "we are the world" on you but identity is what makes us feel whole, gives us a place in our communities. We thrive on definitions and its in bridging the definitions that we learn anything. We just need to make damn sure we watch who we are damaging in the process -- uh... racial profiling anyone?

Native Dress Redux

The Pedant's post from this morning reminded me of a thought-process I had on the subway this morning.

I don't dress Jewy (that is, traditionally or with tzneis) and I look Jewish if you know I'm Jewish, but I've as often been asked if I'm Irish (dyed red hair), Russian (I am), Polish (that, too), British (I have no idea), and French (that was in Israel, actually; apparently I have a French Hebrew accent). All of those are nationalities, I realize, and you can be Jewish and those, too, but you get my point (I hope).

This morning, I saw a man in a velvet kippah and I thought to myself: I wonder if he knows I'm Jewish. Not that it matters, but I often think that around people who are wearing overt cultural markers of our shared identity: do they know I'm Jewish, too, and that I've read that tractate of Talmud, and that I went to seminary, and that I share the same rituals with them? Would they consider me part of their community, if I did? I'm Jewish, but I worry they would consider me Jewish and not Jewish, if you know what I mean.

Maybe that's just my insecurity speaking, but it's something I felt deeply in college, where there was a very large, very active, very accepting Orthodox community, if you knew all the right things to say, wear, and do. To say the least, I didn't. I didn't fit there. I could never pass. I had friends who could pass, who successfully integrated themselves into the community, even without the right yichus, but I always felt I stuck out like a sore thumb, the same feeling I got when I attended my high school boyfriend's country club (he was WASPy enough to have a III at the end of his name).

That said, I was in a cab the other day and, after hanging up the phone with Prettyboy (don't worry: I asked the cab driver if he minded if I used my cell phone first, since I know that loud cell phone talking in an enclosed space can be annoying), the cab driver said: "You're Jewish, right?" I kind of froze there for a second, wondering if I should tell the truth or not. Who knew why he was asking. I'm not paranoid, but I'm less than willing to depart with personal information to someone who currently has several tons of steel at his disposal. I'm compulsively honest, though, so I said, "Yeah, why?"

He explained that I spoke just like his ex-girlfriend, who was also Jewish. He's Afghani and we spoke at length about anti-Semitism (of all Semites) and what it would be like to live under a world dominated by the PRC. I then explained, at length, the difference between Chinese, Soviet, and Marxist communism and the historical progression of socialism as a theory of government. Some days, I love living in this city. All right, ever day.

So what's my point? (I find that I ask myself that a lot, recently, but enough about my existential crisis.) I yearn to be part of a community and to be included, but I've made choices that have set me apart from a specific subset of my community. That saddens me, but it's a choice that I embrace because it truly represents who I am and accurately reflects my Judaism, my Jewish (Jewish) identity. I've spoken here before about sacrifices. Sometimes, proudly stating who you are and in what you believe closes doors and that's got to be okay if its honest.

Native Dress

In the Guardian, I learned that a Nobel Prize-winning native Mayan advocate was almost kicked out of a Cancun hotel for looking "too local."

While there's a lot to be said about ethnic prejudices in Latin America, this blog is not "Mayabiquitous," and in fact, the article got me to thinking about prejudices regarding clothing in our own community. Are we too quick to prejudge other Jews based on how "observant" their clothing is?

Generally, we're not kicking people out of hotels (in the US, anyway), but I get the feeling a lot of assumptions are made, and I'm not just saying that this is only a problem for the more secular/modern Jews.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hillel was a Democrat

Rabbi Irwin Kula, President of CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in New York and brother to my childhood cantor, posted the following in The Washington Post:

An excerpt:
Imagine if liberals would argue and teach conservative positions and conservatives would argue and teach liberal positions before they fiercely fought for their own truth. Imagine if “pro-life” and “pro-choice”, “anti-war” and “pro-war”, traditionalists and New Agers, secular and religious, blue states and red states, Republicans and Democrats…would commit to really learning and exploring each others views before arguing their own.

At the very least our debates would be far more intelligent and substantive and at best we might even begin to see more clearly a different perspective on reality…maybe even a hint of God’s perspective: “These and These are both the words of the living God.”

Mmmm...I relish the rare opportunity when the intersection of religion and politics does more than make me want to either gag or move to Canada.

Fight of the Long Knives

In the latest Forward, there's a recounting of a fascinating custody battle: evidently the custodial ex-husband, a recent convert to Judaism, wants to have his twelve-year-old son circumcised now, and the non-custodial ex-wife is against it. The twelve year old's wishes? In dispute.

As a guy Jew, I've never felt that circumcision has had a net negative on me; having not had to learn either the term or the meaning of "smegma" until I started watching Red Dwarf seems to be a net plus, in my opinion. Plus, circumcision reduces the risk of one of the last great dread diseases were I charming and jerk enough to engage in promiscuous unprotected heterosexual intercourse.

Still, this case raises issues. It's somewhat imperious (and not very Jewish-seeming) to just yank kids into the religious fold a year before their bar mitzvah. On the other hand, most complaints against circumcision are so broad that they make Jewish ritual male circumcision seem like the most barbaric thing ever.

The Courage of Their Convictions

Max Blumenthal, of The Nation, The Huffington Post, and Media Matters fame (and son of Sidney Blumenthal, aide to Bill Clinton in his presidential years), composed the following brief piece at the College Republican National Convention (hat tip: Eli Valley):

Don't Know Much About History: Plea II

I warned you guys that I'd be periodically reposting this question, so here it goes:

As you may or may not know, I spend a great proportion of my work hours thinking deeply about Jewish history; so much so that it hurts my brain. I've been having lengthy discussions about gaps in knowledge, areas of interest, points of disagreement, and I was wondering if you, the various variegated readers of Jewbiquitous, could help me out with a very unscientific survey.

I have two questions for you:

(1) If you could go back to any period in Jewish history, when would it be?

(2) What gaps are there in your Jewish history knowledge that you wish would be filled?
Feel free to answer however you like, even if you're unsure if it actually responds to either question. I'll be re-posting these periodically, in the hopes of getting responses from new readers.

And a self-serving question: does anyone know of any good, scholarly books written about the history of the Devil (how the idea emerged, how it changed over time, how it was incorporated into religious and cultural traditions)?

Thank you, again! You know, you're my favorite.

For Honesty's Sake

I realize that you are all anticipating one of my long, thoughtful, intelligent posts on something important and all that I keep posting are little snippets that I find interesting. I will deliver on that content sometime soon, sometime after the seismic shift that is Annie's departure stops rattling me to the core of my being and I can concentrate once more. And also, I have a lot of work to do, now that there's only one of us.
That said, while you wait, look at what Fox has done! That's brilliant. There's no other word for it. Why are you still here reading? Look at what Fox has done!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Passing the metaphysical collection plate

The Onion: Churchgoer Tips God For Excellent Week

Unused to the collection plate, the notion may seem rather gauche to many Jews, but I find the sentiment behind it to be rather—echoing Harley’s delicious wordchoice—titillating (yup, that would be Mammary Mention #2 for me). I think that there is something profoundly spiritual about having a tangible representation of the blessings in one’s life.

Most people tend to do most of their “God-talk” when they need something or when things aren’t going well. Case in point: I sincerely doubt that Janis Joplin’s famous Mercedes Benz song would have had such staying power if she had been singing about how happy she was that she had actually gotten the luxury items that she wanted.

Now I’m not advocating that synagogues incorporate a collection plate or anything into their services (although synagogue-sponsored luxury vehicles are always welcome and appreciated), but I wonder what spiritual impact might be had from actually stopping once in a while and looking around and saying, “You know what, things are going okay. If that’s Your doing, thanks.” Maybe it would make the world a slightly better place because people would be a little less bitter and unhappy. And you know, even if religion is just a social construct, I’m okay with a construct that encourages me to stop and appreciate the blessings in my life.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reason #322

Why I love David Roskies.

A Tremor in the Force

I wish that the Queen of the World had lived to see this happen.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

So this is goodbye...

I had planned to write some intense piece about how much blogging has meant to me and all of that, but, on this, the eve of my new job, I find that I'm just too jittery to focus on anything but nervousness.

What I do want to say, besides, you know "goodbye, and it's been fun" is that I would like to keep in contact with those bloggers whom I feel are friends. So if we've been emailing, please, keep it up, I'll continue to email from Anniegetyour@gmail.com, even if I won't blog so much.

As I take some time to acclimate to the new job (read: to corporate toolery) I am probably going to take a break from all things blog, both reading and writing, but I hope at some point to come back and comment, and maybe even blog again. CJ has a super-secret, actually anonymous blog (one where he does not call himself CJ) and has asked me to contribute, so I might show up there. And if I ever feel the fire of righteous indignation for some social injustice, which I'm sure I will, POLJ offered to let me guest post, an offer I hope that he intends to keep.

So this is not farewell, but instead lehitraot.