Friday, March 30, 2007

Passover: In Pursuit of Freedom

Many of us are preparing to sit down for a festival meal with friends and/or family to celebrate the fact that we were released from the "house of bondage" (which BTW also makes my family giggle. The whip-crack sounds that accompany it are also always funny.) And, to be super-lame and sound like every single rabbi in this country, this is a good time for us to think about others who are not so fortunate. Those who are in figurative or literal bondage.

Danya of Jewschool blogged about Rabbi Levin-Krauss' "empty chair for Darfur" idea, which, for the record, contains a component where you donate the cost of that meal. He suggests a few charities, but I'd like to add IRC to that list. IRC is responsible for those ads in the NYC subway that have a black hand with fingers of different races, or the words grandmother,uncle, father, etc.

Another good option, as Pissed Off Liberal Jew of POLJ points out, is donating to micro loan programs. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was awarded for his work with micro loans, so they've been in the news a lot recently. If you're wondering where is a good place to start, then check out Slate's piece comparing different microlending programs.

One of my problems with giving tzedakah* is that I feel like I can't make a difference. Apparently I'm not the only one, as a few non-profits have arisen (arose?) to deal with this specific issue. The most famous of these is DonorsChoose, an organization which allows teachers to post a "grant proposal" for their school/classroom's needs. Then DonorsChoose finds a way to purchase the required equipment and posts the price online next to the proposal. As an individual you can look for projects that interest you, donate however much you want, and even see how close the project is to coming to fruition. Overall a really satisfying experience. However, if American schools is too limited of a category for you, check out Changing the Present, and organization that works on the same principles, but with a wider variety of projects. I have linked to a project whose goal is to build a schoolroom in Darfur.

Sorry for the seriousness, I promise that the next post will include something silly and/or flippant.

*Tzedakah is Hebrew for charity

Harley, if you want a wife...

Apparently you should be looking at Barnard/Columbia. There are plenty of girls looking to get their MRS degree.

For the record, my parents met in college and married shortly thereafter. I fully expected to meet my b'sheret* in college. That didn't work out, but then again, I didn't plan my campaign quite as thoroughly as "Regina." Clearly that is why I am still at MS/BA instead of MRS/MBA.

At any rate, while I try very hard not to judge other people's life choices, here are my critiques of the article:

1) A Barnard girl? Really? They couldn't have found some girl from Columbia? There are probably an even number of girls at both schools with the same idea, but it just reinforces the Barnard stereotype.

2) There was a great opportunity for discussion of the following topics, which I think that the Spectator really missed:
- the prohibitive cost of private colleges, and the sometimes unpalatable choices that one must make in order to pay off debts
- the work/life balance for women
- the myth of "opting out"
- the fact that "Regina" came from a single-parent home and was clearly very affected by it. She probably has unresolved "Mother" issues
- the value of a "designer" degree

3) I am pretty sure that Liz Delheim was not entirely serious

and, lastly,
4) The line "“I feel a little bad about the fact that like I’m taking a job at [the firm] just so I can get into business school and get a husband. I’m sure there are probably lots of girls who would have liked that job because they would like to do business crap,” she adds."
BUSINESS CRAP? Oh dear G-d. Also, her use of the word "like" makes her sound kind of like an idiot, like, no matter where her, like, degree came from.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

On Bigotry

I support gay marriage. And when I make that statement, let me be clear that to me, it's the same as saying: I support breathing. There's no argument that could suage me one way or another, no gray area in which I can reside, no compromise that would seem to me less than an expression of bigotry. I, for one, cannot wait for the day that the Supreme Court knocks down gay marriage bans as unconstitutional, thereby setting the precedent for equal access to marriage for all couples, regardless of their sexual make-up. I've heard the argument about "marriage" being between a man and a woman; usually, moderates will follow the statement with some point about a civil union for same-sex couples: the same content of marriage without the sticky icky mess of sullying "marriage" with homosexuality. Barak Obama (whom I admittedly heart, wholeheartedly) sums up the point most succinctly, as reported by Towleroad:

"Well, I think that 'marriage' has a religious connotation in this society, in
our culture, that makes it very difficult to disentangle from the civil aspects
of marriage. And as a consequence it's almost -- it would be extraordinarily
difficult and distracting to try to build a consensus around marriage for gays
and lesbians. What we can do is form civil unions that provide all the civil
rights that marriage entails to same sex couples. And that is something that I
have consistently been in favor of. And I think that the vast majority of
Americans don't want to see gay and lesbian couples discriminated against, when
it comes to hospital visitations and so on."
Yes, I agree that marriage has a religious connotation, as does the label. I also agree that it's difficult to build a consensus on the issue for this very reason. I have a radical proposal that will shock all who know me: no more 'marriage.'

If gay marriage cannot be sanctioned because marriage is a sacred institution with religious connotations, then it should not be the government's job to grant it. If civil unions will confer all the rights of heterosexual marriage, without the religious connotations, then everyone should be granted civil unions. If you want to be married, you can go to the representative of your deity/deities/goddesses/earth/Cthulu of choice and have him/her/zim/zir marry you. Remember, the original separation between Church and State was to protect the Church from the State, and not vice verse.

In the interest of keeping you informed on others' opinions, as well as my own endless stream of rants, please check out this panacea of opinions on the subject:

This gay old school conservative, whom I hate to love, but who makes me feel snuggly inside, who links to a legal blog, who give a lengthy refutation to this idiocy, which may be better summarized by Tempus Fugit, the only blogger on this subject with a sense of humor.

I don't know about you, but I need a nap. And a wife. Any takers?

The Circus is in Town!

Ringling Bro.s is in New York! As some of you may know, every year the elephants (and assorted other animals) walk from their trains to Madison Square Garden, in preparation for the circus.

The elephants did their yearly walk down 34th street on Tuesday night, at approximately 12:30. CJ and I stationed ourselves at the corner of 34th and Broadway to watch. We had to wait a while (elephant timing being an imprecise science), but the weather was nice, and the circus kindly sent teaser trucks/trailers ahead to get us psyched up. There is at least one blurry photo of me in front of a truck. The elephants finally trudged by, trunk-in-tails, surrounded by circus employees holding a rope to cordon them off, followed by horses, and teeny Shetland ponies. All-in-all it was super-cutie.

Me and CJ in front of the elephants. Sort of. It wasn't really snowing.

Also, for the record, I am fairly uninterested in hearing from animal rights' activists about how badly the elephants are mistreated. As CJ said "but look at them smiling! How could they be unhappy?"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

On Economic Justice

I keep talking about the importance of a living wage, and it's time to put my money where my mouth is. Or where my email is.

Saigon Grill has been mistreating their delivery employees in a variety of ways, including but not limited to: denial of proper wages and time off, disregard for worker safety, and now locking them out for their attempt to organize. For the full story check here, and for independent confirmation click here. (Although, for the record, I really dislike the flippant last sentence) Please support these workers in one of the following ways:

1) Don't patronize Saigon Grill until they meet the workers' demands (harder for those of us who keep kosher)
2) Send an email to the owners at or call the following numbers (212 875-9072, 212 982-3691) to protest the treatment of their workers
3) Spread the word to friends/family
4) Make donations to support the delivery workers who are locked out (Make checks payable to Chinese Staff & Workers' Association, Attn: JWBS! Campaign, send to JWBS! Campaign, c/o CSWA P.O. Box 13041, New York, NY 10013-0995)

Please help to protest this injustice, it is especially important around Passover time to make sure that wage slavery and unfair employment practices are brought to an end.

A Bit of Context

For Harley's comment about us joining the "left-wing media conspiracy" (which, for the record, is not what I said, I said the "SECULAR media conspiracy.")

Harley: it drives me crazy when people blame modern or "secular" media for things (ed: it was Michelle, not Semgirl)
Annie: yes
Harley: You know why? It is because people have had kinks for thousands of years.
Annie: False, only since secular media was invented. Britney Spears is responsible for all of society's ills.
Harley: True that, true that
Annie: Homosexuality is also Britney's fault. People aren't born gay, she makes them gay.
Harley: With the rays from her eyes
Annie: yes
Harley: the homorays
Annie: gay-rays

Wow. We are absurd.

I am the Left-Wing Media Conspiracy

Someone came to our site by searching for “secular site:” I am confused for two reasons: (1) if they knew our URL, why did they do a search for us? And (2) we have “Jew” in the name, doesn’t that make us religiously affiliated, if not a “religious” site? Then it occurred to me to be proud. As Annie said: “We’re now officially part of the left-wing media conspiracy.” I, for one, won’t rest until there’s a kink in every bedroom and a ham in every pot.
Take that, Semgirl!

Cue evil laughter.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Because I Can

Harley is out sick (again! stupid Jews with their lack of genetic diversity making us weak), so I am basically running amok. Amok amok amok.

Taking my lead from Jack, here are some songs that I've been listening to:
1) Carbon Leaf- obvi. the entire "Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat" CD, plus some additions from "Indian Summer" and "Echo, Echo."
2) Lucas Reynolds- "The Last Ocean," he needs a bit more polish, but I found this song beautiful and touching.
3) Regina Spektor- "Samson"

4) Feel Good Science- both "September" and "In My Dreams," you may recognize the latter from "My Super Proposal."

5) The Postal Service- "Such Great Heights"

6) Ben Folds- "Gracie Girl," which I heard (some of) recently when CJ called me from a Ben Folds concert so that I could hear the song live. It is possibly my favorite Ben Folds song.
7) HelloGoodbye- "Here in Your Arms," what can I say? I love me some techno. If I could find Eiffel65's "Blue" I'd actually purchase it.
8) Joe Purdy- "The City" but also "Suitcase." Neither of those are on his myspace page, which I think is a major oversight on his part.
9) Better than Ezra- basically all of their stuff, but especially "Desperately Wanting"
10) Brad Paisley- "Whiskey Lullabye," not only do I non-ironically love Country music, but this song actually had me bawling in my car the first time I heard it. I dare you to listen to it (while in an emotionally delicate place) and not burst in to tears. I double-dog-dare you. Although, for the record, the video is sort of gimmicky, and not at all the way I imagined the story.

The video makes it clear that it really IS her fault for cheating on him, whereas the song is more ambiguous, and leaves you to wonder whether or not she is at fault. How culpable is she if she just couldn't love him, and turned him down harshly? The deep questions that I ponder during the day.

It is, it is a glorious thing

To all of you who missed out, Carbon Leaf was super-duper-extra-terrific-awesome. They put on a great show, and closed with The Boxer. They also sang Learn To Fly acoustic and unplugged, which was fabulous. The lead singer, Barry Privett is charismatic and amusing, and the band just looks like they are having such fun. CJ, who accompanied me, is officially the "best boyfriend ever" due in part to his patience with my jumping-up-and-down/singing along.

On Thursday CJ and I will be attending a performance of "Pirates of Penzance" at City Opera, and I could not be more excited. The Pedant saw it and said that it was great. I also wish that I'd known about this version in Yiddish a bit earlier, so that I could go see it. Oh well. As we all know, "It is, it is a glorious thing/To be a Pirate king." I will probably have to restrain CJ from wearing his eyepatch. We're going in celebration of my birthday (yay 20-something+1!) which is coming up shortly.

If you know me in real life, and were wondering what I'd like for my birthday, here are some suggestions:

1. The Making of Victorian Values by Ben Wilson
2. My Secret Life on the McJob by Jerry Newman
3. Your love and affection
4. An a capella version of Life Less Ordinary. You know who you are.
5. A la Baby Brother: a goat
6. Because you knew it was coming: a toyger

If I think of anything else, I'll let you know. Other amusing gift suggestions are welcome. CJ's birthday is also coming up, so if you can think of anything for that, I'd love to hear about it(please keep dirty suggestions to a minimum).

Know Your Jewish Community: Sedarim

Now I'm going home for the Sedarim* (as is Harley), so I don't have to worry this year about where I will find myself on the first two nights of Passover. I will be in the bosom of my family, watching my father giggle at the line "and Moses took his rod into his hand and performed signs with it, and wonders." That NEVER gets old.

At any rate, not everyone will be laughing at such puerile jokes (my mom, for instance) instead they will be at many different types of Sedarim. An article in the NY Observer describes a couple of famous seders held/attended by the LA giliterati. (Warning: NY Observer articles tend to go offline after a couple weeks, so if the link is broken, I apologize) Now I'm all for people experiencing Judaism in whatever way is meaningful for them, but I have an issue with this article. And this is it: "When Roman Polanski was shooting Chinatown and wanted to return to his native Poland in order to celebrate Passover, the film’s producer, Bob Evans, intervened and threw one of his own. The Kiddush was read by Kirk Douglas."

Roman Polanksi wanted to go home for Passover, and was offered, instead, a place at a seder run in an obviously non-traditional fashion (which is great, but I can't imagine that the sedarim in Poland are anything other than traditional). It just strikes me as wrong: "oh, you wanted to go home? We can't afford the time off from shooting, so we'll just make do here. See? Just like home, except with Kirk Douglas involved, so it is clearly better."

Anyway, I did a scan of some of the major sites to see what other kinds of Passover experiences are available, so here's my rundown:

Jewcy: only the one option, In Haggada Da Vita in LA. If you live in NY, sucks to be you.

BluePrint: a "Guide to Passover" which seems to have a fair bit of coverage. A bunch of different options for different experiences, and is not limited to the first two nights. And if you navigate through their community calendar you get a plethora of options.

92nd Street Y: has a community seder, but I'd be wary as it is run by the "director of Jewish outreach" (outreach is often a keyword for intermarried), but then again, I'm a bit cynical.

Blogerher: links to a "seder-finder" which is super-useful. Caveat: all the sedarim are run by Chabad. Less useful.

If you're running your own seder, has a piece on how to add drama to your seder. My family doesn't need any more drama, as shown by the "wine removal incident" of 2004. At any rate, we might actually use the Open Source Haggadah to build our own, as my mom is getting really sick of the "Moses' rod" jokes. Really sick. But seriously, Aish has a list of "10 Ways to Enjoy the Seder" (my suggestion: drink heavily, and sit next to the Pedant) and Tamara Eden posted her response which includes some more global suggestions.

On a more practical note, if you think that the sederim tend to be too long, David Bernstein of The Volokh Conspiracy has a suggestion for a 30-minute seder. For those who wish to incorporate feminist themes into the seder (and really, who wouldn't?) MilbyDaniel gives a good rundown of rituals, and some history. Other progressive options include those of Saul Kaiserman at New Jewish Education who suggests leaving an empty chair in honor of victims of the Darfur genocide.

I will be enjoying my family's fairly traditional seder where candy is given for good questions and good answers, the wine flows freely, and so do the jokes about Moses' rod.

*Sedarim is the Hebrew plural for Seder. The direct translation of "seder" means order, but in this context it is the festival meal that takes place on the first night/two nights of Passover, generally including a great deal of ritual, and readings from a book of liturgy called the Haggadah.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Update: Happy Cat, Sad Cat

Annie, always supportive in my times of need, sent me the following photo to addend to my post:

Reason #435 why Annie is the best wife ever!

On Sibling Rivalry

I have two brothers. Harley has 13-million siblings, a couple dogs, and a goldfish (ok, I might be lying about the goldfish). I was thinking about this because the object of my derision, Amy Dickenson posted a question by someone who's sign-off was "Sandwiched Daughter."

After I grew up, and stopped giggling at the (I am sure unintentional) dirty comment, I began to think about my own situation. You see, I am the middle child. I am a "sandwiched daughter" with an older brother whose brilliance was never in question (although, sorry Pedant, sometimes your work ethic was), and a younger brother who is hilarious, but has managed to lower parental expectations of himself without lowering the level of affection they feel towards him. This was most recently demonstrated by a conversation with my father:

Father: In case something ever happens to me or Mom, I put the papers in your name.
Me: What?
Father: Yeah, I figured that if we're ever in a position where we can't make decisions, you'd be the best one. Pedant is too soft-hearted, and would probably leave us on the machines forever, and Baby Brother would pull the plug immediately. Mom and I thought that you'd probably be somewhere in between.
Me: Um, thanks?
Father: The papers are in [redacted location] with the rest of the emergency stuff.

For the record, he's probably right. At any rate, I read Amy's response, and again, agreed in part, but not whole with her advice, and thought that she lacked tact. For instance: I have recently come to the realization that really, it's ok that my parents didn't support my academic/athletic career in the same manner as they did for Baby Brother. He needed more enthusiasm, and when he was in high school, he was the only child at home. For much of my high school career I was one of two or three at home. Not to mention that my parents paid for college.

I kind of think that gives them a free pass. They gave birth to me, raised me with love and affection, so that I never wanted for anything, and THEN they paid for college. The deal was, I could go wherever I wanted, as long as my Dad could complain as much as he wanted. So when I have to take an extra train from the airport erev Pesach so that my Mom only has to drive 1o minutes rather than an hour to pick me up, or my parents insisted that I was ENTIRELY PACKED by the time they came to collect me in college, I don't really mind. Some of my friends have different deals with their parents, and that is great for them, and as much as I like to complain that the parents spoil Baby Brother, it is really just for the sake of nudging them.

That said, (back to Amy) while I think that I have an obligation to care for them in their old age, I don't think that a child should be punished for a parent's poor financial choices. Yeah, Sandwiched Daughter should help support her mother, but she should sit down with a financial planner and figure out how that can be done without hurting her children's college funds, or her retirement. One must balance obligation to family with obligation to oneself. Maybe Sandwiched mother should move closer to her children, so that they can give support in ways other than financial, and in return the mother could help with childcare. There are many options, but I don't think that this poor woman should feel like her only choices are to give money or to leave her mother out to dry.

As for me? My parents are totally moving in with me (living around the corner) when they get old and grey. If only because watching my Father interact with my (hypothetical) children would be hilarious.

A Whole Bowl of Sad

I haven't posted all week, for which I apologize. A close friend lost her mother and, considering the events of the past two months and my own history, I've been too overwhelmed by sad to post anything approaching coherent.

Paradoxically, although I consider myself a rationalist, I'm extremely superstitious: salt over the shoulder, spitting to ward off the evil eye, not walking under a ladder. I always feel slightly embarrassed when I do these things, but I do them compulsively; one might even say religiously, if it didn't give the acts pagan connotations (connotations which they already carry in droves). From where do these superstitions arise? As with everything, I trace the roots to my childhood. My parents, my mother in particular, were both very superstitious. My mom once scolded me emphatically for "jinxing" her (you know, when you both say the same thing at the same time and one of you says "Jinx!" and fun and hilarity ensues until someone says their name five times? Neither funny nor hilarious when you're mother flips her shit over it). Once she had regained her composure (it happened quickly; she was a very easy-going woman, ordinarily), she explained superstition to me. I couldn't have been older than five or six, but I remember that moment vividly. I especially remember her fear. To put the event in context, I always think of this interaction occurring right before she got sick, although I know that's impossible.

My father's superstitions were more insidious and, thus, more dangerous. He believes that if too many good things happen, bad is due. Counter-intuitively, he also believes that bad things herald more bad things: bad things occur in threes (at the very least).

Why this long soliloquy about superstition? Because if bad things do, in fact, come in threes, then what's next? I'm already exhausted from this series of unfortunate events. And I am wary to live my life fearing the good because it indicates that I am due for misfortune. Nor do I believe with the small (silent) rational part of my brain that the one necessarily follows the other. It's been a long time since I believed in the reward/punishment heuristic argued over in Job and Qohelet. How, then, do I maintain the illusion of control over the bad things? Spitting, throwing salt, avoiding ladders.

Like so many other things, superstitions are a way to order our world, to feel some sort of control over the chaos that leaks in through the cracks of our day to day reality. We tend to look askance on superstition because the acts it entails are so patently absurd; yet, considering the ritualistic and symbolic acts in which many of us engage in the name of religion, renders that judgment small-minded, if not marginally hypocritical. Unless, of course, you believe the distinction that God ordains the one and condemns the other, in which case, you are fully within your rights to look askance on superstition, and I am fully within my rights to disagree with your distinction.

I once had a discussion with the Queen of the World's friend, the Baltimore Rabbi, after he saw me do the salt thing. He asked me why I bothered (in the context of my religious views or, to be clear, my areligious views). I explained that we encounter life initially in the language and modes of our parents, before framing our own. That so much of the way we engage is arbitrary, based on an accident of birth and belief, that to decry on form over another, particularly when you have no myth surrounding the acts, no illusion as to their power, is as arbitrary as the forms themselves. We go through life doing all manner of odd things. Throwing salt seems relatively harmless; but now I wonder, is it? I say I have no illusion as to their power, yet I do them in the hope that they'll somehow exert power, in the slim useless hope that they'll affect my outcomes. Stripped of religion, stripped of God, stripped of the illusion of control, my fears confront me naked, unarmed. Where do I go from here? In what do I clothe myself?

Confidential to my Traveling Companion: I cannot express how sad I am for your loss and how much I wish I had the means to comfort you, although I know nothing can. Our love and thoughts are with you and your family.

Jewbiquitous Outing: Dave and Busters

This might not actually count, as Harley didn't come too. Oh well. At any rate, last night the upstairs neighbor, his ersatz girlfriend, CJ and I all decided to play tourist and go to Dave and Buster's in Times Square. I'd never been to Dave and Buster's before, and was a little bit skeptical, but it was amazingly fun. At some point in the evening I decided that the true measure of fun is tickets earned, and vetoed all games that did not lead to tickets.
For the record, I am awesome at the game where you race horses by bowling a little ball into certain holes on a board. And CJ is awesome at the "polarbear-hitting-a-fish-with-a-bat" game. We ended up with about 950 tickets between the four of us, which enabled us to get a whole bunch of random crap that we don't need, including:
-two Dave and Buster's pint glasses
-deck of Dave and Buster's cards
-3 squishy rubber balls that look sort of like sea anemones

A great time was had by all. It was sort of like Chuck E. Cheese's for adults. Although I was greatly disappointed that DDR did not give out tickets for a good performance. As we were there for a couple hours we were able to do a pretty good game sampling, and discovered that some have a much higher ROI (Return on Investment) than others, and as one of our party is a consultant, we spent a lot of time talking about how to "maximize" our tickets. Are we lame?Yes, yes we are.
Look forward to Jewbiquitous Outing: Carbon Leaf Concert coming post-Saturday night. There's still time for you to come too!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Teaser

Harley: Dude, you should dye your hair red.
CJ: So that Annie will actually be attracted to me and not have to lie to herself?
Harley: Yes

5 minutes later

CJ: that's nice
Harley: What is? That you need to be a redhead for your girlfriend to love you?
CJ: yes

For the record, CJ is blond, and very attractive.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ask Annie

1) Women in skirts bending over. Really? That is what lead someone to this blog? I'm not even dignifying that with a question. Ew.

2) Can Kaddish be said for anyone?

Define "anyone." Generally kaddish (a prayer recited in honor of the dead) is said only for immediate family and/or spouses, but some interpretations are broader than that. I know of a few Reform Jews who have said kaddish for friends, substituting the words "al yoshvei tevel" for "al kol yisrael." (All those who dwell on earth, as opposed to the entire nation of Israel).

3)Guilty pleasures Jews, or What guilty pleasures do Jews have?

I'd assume that that is a question you'd have to ask on a case-by-case basis, especially since guilt is so subjective.

4) Madame Butterfly Feminism, How can feminism be used as a lens through which to examine Madame Butterfly?

Well, the story lends itself to feminist criticism. The story is rife with issues of gender, including, but not limited to the sale of Butterfly to Pinkerton by the marriage broker, her total reliance on him for financial support, and the dynamics of divorce in Meiji Japan. Basically, Madame Butterfly would not be a feminist heroine. She waits for three years for her "husband" to return, and when he does, and requests sole custody of their only child (whom he has never met, nor had prior knowledge of) she gives in, and then kills herself. She isn't even angry at him, just sad. Lame.

5) Matzah, celiac, Can people with celiac disease eat Matzah?

They probably shouldn't. Celiac disease disrupts the absorption of nutrients into the small intestine, and is aggravated by gluten. People on a gluten-free diet could either try to get gluten-free matzah (matzah can be made out of any of 7 different grains, not just wheat), or just give it a pass. I wish that I could.

Ok, these are pretty lame. People, if you are going to find this blog through random search terms, at least they should be interesting.

But for the record, while we're talking about advice: Amy Dickenson is a jerk. For instance, in today's column I can't really disagree with her advice (much as I'd like to), but she calls one person "immature" and chastises the other for being "extremely wasteful." Abby would have gotten the point across in a much more tactful way.

Jews Love: Secular College

For the record, I didn't forget "Jews Love: St. Patrick's Day," but as the holiday took place on Shabbat, and I was nursing a red wine hangover from Shabbat dinner, I didn't feel particularly celebratory. Nor was there any green beer nearby. If you want a short summary of the REAL reason for Jews to love Saint Paddy's day, take a look at DaboysOf905, where JT has a good explanation.

Now, to get down to business. Secular Colleges. I went to one. Harley sort of did. I'm pretty sure that David Bogner of Treppenwitz did (and the navy too!), and he turned out alright. Although, apparently it was a near thing; Phoebe discusses (on Jewlicious) Shmuley Boteach's most recent rant in JPost, this time about how secular colleges, among other things "make kids dumber." For the record, I don't recall a "giant orgy filled with misogynistic men" although it might have made my freshman year more interesting. I should ask Michael and Chris (of Kosher Eucharist) though. They look like they had more fun at college. Maybe even a misogynistic orgy or two.

And another thing, as Phoebe points out, it doesn't look like religious/seminary universities are necessarily so much better. Certainly if you ask David Kelsey about his experience at YU, he wouldn't really recommend their environment as so conducive to learning. Or necessarily to focusing on academics. I know that back in the day, when my parents lived in the same neighborhood as Stern College, they used to see frum kids making out in doorways on Saturday nights. Maybe it's a different era now, but Shmuley is closer to my parents' age than to mine.

Yeah, I have some issues with the university system, and as I may have mentioned before, I think that High School should be 3 years long, with a year of mandatory national service afterwards (or optional catch-up time for students who need an extra year to compete required courses). I think that many students arrive at college without a real understanding of the opportunity which they are being given, and there are a lot of people who just need an extra year to grow up. Clearly I am an FDR-style democrat. But none of these is necessarily the fault of secular colleges. The institutions haven't really changed as much as the culture, and while the institutions are guilty of not adapting, that is all they are guilty of.

And in case you were worried that only the Orthodox are down on secular colleges, Conservative Apikores of Live "Frei" or Die! has an old post on how Jack Wertheimer (JTS provost) claims that "American college campuses [forbid] Jews -- or any other white ethnic, for that matter -- from "identifying" (whatever that means) with their ethnic group."

Yeah, I totally noticed that at college. I had a very difficult time identifying with my ethnic group. Right. Not.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Jews Love: Cats

Me: That's it, I'm moving to England!
CJ: Why?
CJ: You know, the more time you spend indulging this crazy fetish [for toygers] the crazier you get.

As I may have mentioned before, I don't actually love cats. And with the exception of the graphic novel "The Rabbi's Cat" I have no information on other Jews loving cats. With the exception of one of my college roommates, who keeps adopting cats, despite being allergic to them.

However, after seeing this picture on Gawker, well, I knew that I had to investigate further into the seedy underbelly of the world of lolcats. From what I can tell, lolcats are pictures of cats in strange/funny positions with text superimposed over the top, providing a caption. A common form for this is "Im on UR----- doing -----." Example "Im in ur basketz, cuddlin ur bearz," accompanying a picture of a cat in a basket, cuddling with a bear. For whatever reason, these crack me up.

The definitive one appears to be, which is sadly under construction. There are some others though:

-I Can Has Cheezburger? which is basically hilarious, but more cumulatively than on an individual level
-The Funny Cat Page is moderately amusing, and along the same lines
-the Snopes string is hilarious, if only because people actually spend some time analyzing these
-Moggy is less funny than unremittingly cute. I have a friend who is obsessed with images of what she calls "cat in a glass." It is pretty self-explanatory, and she once submitted an image of same to demonstrate "things that make me happy" on an application. No joke.
-And for those "Whose homely face and bad complexion/Have caused all hope to disappear/Of ever winning man’s affection" Men and Cats

Hope you didn't have any work to do today.

Update: a few that I'd forgotten: Cats in Sinks, Stuff on My Cat, Cats that Look Like Hitler, and last but not least, that site where the kittens sing heavy metal (if anyone can find it, please send me a link).

Somebody's Got A Case of the Mondays

Shabbat is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is awesome to have a day where you are forced not to work. An "island in time" as Heschel said. Or was that "castle in time." I can never recall. At any rate, a seperate day where food prep has been done, and you have no responsibilities but to G-d is kind of a nice thing.

But it screws my weekend. It means that unless I miss services I never get a chance to sleep in past 9am. It also means that any chores have to be done on Sunday, so I have to run errands, do my laundry, cleaning, finances, etc all on Sunday. I (and most traditionally observant Jews) rarely get a real day "off." This year, due to the many, many weekday chagim, I actually won't get a single day of vacation.

Before anyone says something, I know that observance is my choice, that I don't "have" to live like this but it certainly strengthens the case for either moving to Israel, or working at a Jewish organization. Lame.

In other news, CJ bought me a stuffed tiger, so that I'd stop hassling him to get a toyger. Little does he know that I won't give in.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Savage Inequalities

Here's the story: I read Savage Love (and anything else Dan writes) religiously. Sex positive attitude combined with snarky rejoinders = fabulous and funny. Last night, I was reading the Slog (The Stranger's collaborative blog) and I came across Dan's diatribe against Garrison Keillor. I do not listen to the radio (I am a heathen, I know, and my kind will lead to the death of public culture in America, blah blah blah), but I do have my finger on the pulse of American culture (hard to say that one with a straight face-- soon, I'll be claiming all sorts of false credentials) and I have heard of him/come into proximity with his work/other euphemisms for coming into contact with him only through other people and not ever reading or listening to him myself.

Now, I take Dan's word as gospel, with the occasional exception (he does not like vaginae as a rule; I think vaginae are neato), so when he denounced Keillor as a "withered old hypocrite" for his recent piece on marriage and monogamy in Salon, I assumed that he was accurately describing an anti-gay hate monger (a la Peter Pace). But I was befuddled: I thought Keillor was a progressive? He has a radio show on NPR and he's known for satire, so he must have been kidding, right? I went to the website and read the piece and I must say, I'm conflicted about it. I sent it to Annie, who determined that it was satire and it seemed to have the intent of satire, if not the effect.

Conflicted, I put on my gumshoes (ha ha! get it?), and went to find some answers through the magic of the internet. Basically, I asked my friends and did a google blog search. The Autodidact pointed me to Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, where he confirms Dan's interpretation. Every blogger who has written about the article in the last two days agrees with their reading. Except my friend, Carebear, who said: "Garrison is too smart not to be writing a certain kind of satire. I think he makes fun of both contemporary and traditional lifestyles equally in this piece. [Yet], I think it doesn't quite hit the target." Compelling arguments all.

But you know me. I can't rest on the laurels of the opinions of others. What's a blogger to do?

Well, being the huge nerd that I am, I printed out the article and mapped Keillor's idea progression, to see if the piece was a cogent satire or the ramblings of a bigoted madman. I will not bore you with the details, but I did write them up and if you email us, I'll send you a copy. I am such a nerd.

Anyway, what were my findings? Keillor's style may be absurdist ramblings, but that doesn't make it good writing. Or funny. Although it did have funny bits. Like the part about the cowboys. The funny bits lead me to believe that he meant the piece to be satire, but misfired. Perhaps the fact that the piece was completely illogical and incoherent speaks to his desire to highlight the absurdity of arguments against gay marriage. Yet, because he was all over the place, he diluted any chance he had at successful satire.

A good satirist knows how to frame the argument logically so that the absurdity of the point speaks for itself. If the framework itself is impossible to decipher and the internal logic impossible to discern, then it doesn't matter if the intent is satire. If no one can read it as satire, it's a failure. And if it's a failure on an issue this sensitive, then it goes to speak against your cause and, worse, it undermines your authority (at least until everyone forgets this ever happened).

My conclusion? Keillor is an asshat not because I think his article actually intended to be insulting to the queer community, but because its affect was insulting and, more importantly, he hasn't come out and apologized (or even commented!). Anyone can shrug off the effect of their words with, "Don't be so sensitive. I was making a joke," but if that's the case, then he should at least have the balls to say so.

Did you hear that Keillor? You have no balls! Just like a toyger.

NB: I mean balls in a figurative sense; as a woman, I have no balls in a literal sense. Nor would do I mean to imply that victims of testicular cancer, a devastating disease that is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 34, are not capable of bravely putting themselves on the line.

Jewbiquitous Outing: Madama Butterfly

Before I talk about the opera I'd like to note that I lost my monthly metrocard, and as I don't get it with a credit card (stupid TransitChek), I can't have it replaced. I am not well pleased.

At any rate, Harley was sick, so the roommate and I went to see Madama Butterfly at City Opera, which is not quite as cool as the Met, but still pretty cool. The premise of the opera is that an American Lieutenant (Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton) for some reason is stationed in Japan, and decides to take a wife, and a house. Both of them are 999 year leases, but can be cancelled at any month. He gets the 15-year-old former Geisha Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly). They marry, and she is super into it. He, however, always plans to eventually marry a 'real American' woman. At some point he leaves, and Butterfly waits for him for three years, and shortly after he has left, bears him a son. She gets the news that he's coming back, and gets super-excited, as she has believed his promises that he'd wait for her, etc, etc. In the meantime she is growing progressively poorer, and ignoring possible suitors (apparently divorce was super-easy in Japan).
She stays up all night waiting for him, and falls asleep at dawn. At dawn Pinkerton arrives with his friend the consul and his new wife, Kate. They want to take the boy. Long story short, Butterfly agrees, tells him to come back in half an hour, and just as he enters the house calling out "Butterfly" she kills herself.

Ok, so the music is fabulous, interspersed with the leit motifs of "the star spangled banner" and "sakura," which is kind of neat. The singers were great, the costumes were beautiful, and the staging very interesting. I have no qualms with any of those. Here are the questions that I would have for Puccini, the author:
1) Why is an opera about Americans and Japanese people in Italian?

2) How can a Lieutenant afford a foreign wife, and a fabulous house? Corollary to that: unclear on the mechanics of how/why he felt the need to marry someone, stay in Japan that long.

3) How come he comes back on the same warship three years later? Lieutenants don't usually stay on ships that long, they switch around. Is he still a Lieutenant?

4) Why is the ship white? The Great White Fleet wasn't until 1904, and Puccini first wrote the opera in 1899. Although according to the liner notes, the definitive version was not produced until 1911, which might answer my question.

and last, but not least:

5) A 15-year-old? Really? You seduced and left a 15-year-old? And this was her second career after being a geisha? Ew.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dispatch from the Elder Brother

And no, he doesn't eat tin foil.

The Volokh Conspiracy has dissected my favorite joke: The Muffin Joke.

Big brother's take? "The NY Times says your favorite joke isn't funny, but conservative law professors disagree." Incisive commentary, that.

Also: in unrelated news, the more I think about it, the more I want a toyger. As a result of this increased desire, I have been walking around making what CJ calls "angry-claw-face." See what happens when Harley is sick?

More cogent posting tomorrow. I think that all of the spreadsheet-ing that I've been doing at work is melting my brain.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Toygers, and Coulter, and new foods, oh my!

Teeny Tigers! Toygers are a new breed of cat that looks like a tiger. They are super-cutie, even though I don't like cats ( I do, however, love kittens). CJ says that I should watch out, because it might eat my (at this point imaginary) dog.

Sorry for going out of order, but my "Coulter" part of this post is longer than any other, so I figured that I'd save it for last. At any rate, I'm a regular McSweeney's reader (even though I hated A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) and just discovered this feature: reviews of new foods! It reminds me of the time that my elder brother went to a foreign country and kept a blog (before there really were blogs) of all the weird drinks that he consumed. Granted, at one point my baby brother bet my older brother that there was a food that he (the elder) wouldn't eat, and in the quest to prove this ate orange peel, coffee beans, and tin foil. Point being, there is not much that my elder brother won't try at least once, and find something positive to say about.

Last, but not least, is Ann Coulter. Besides sharing a name, Ann and I have little in common. However, when Slate chose to pitch this series of cartoons on their front page, I may have changed my mind a little bit. Not about her being a whole bowl full of crazy (she is), but about her characterization. In one cartoon, she is writing a vitriolic polemic while attatched to an IV bag of ice. In several others she is dressed as a witch. All of this makes me wonder how her gender informs the discourse about her. She is often portrayed wearing a small, tight dress and heels, or in situations that reference her sexuality. Granted, she is a (somewhat?) attractive, slender, blonde woman, and one who definitely wears sexy clothing; but how often do we talk about what color ties Rush Limbaugh wears, or his shoe choice?

I don't use the word b*tch, mostly because I feel that it is often used to describe women who are ambitious, agressive, or successful, by men who are uncomfortable with this "unfeminine" behavior. While I might agree that Ann Coulter is a total whackjob, one that has verbal diarrhea, and a total paucity of objective morality, I wouldn't call her a b*tch, just like I wouldn't call Pat Robertson a b*st*rd.

So, basically, News Media, you should point out the holes in Ann Coulter's arguements, not her stockings.

I'm Not a Feminist, But...

Sorry I've been absent for a little while. Sometimes life smacks you full on in the face and you don't know whether to be happy or sad: nutty little neurons firing all over the place and no where to go but crazy. In the interest of distracting you from my slow dissent into madness, I would like to rant endlessly on things that have bugged me this past week.

Apparently, we still live in the 9th Century BCE (thanks for the heads up, Autodidact). Gosh! And here, I thought the purpose of International Women's Day was to reflect on the rights of 51% of the world's population (now would be a moment to enjoy a UN with enforcement power). In reaction to this heinous miscarriage of justice, let's consider the way our laws surrounding rape and their prosecution also demonize the victim. Surely, our courts are not nearly as villainous as this one, but we should be cognizant, too, of our attitudes towards sex, shame, and agency.

Speaking of women, rights, and meaningless rhetoric, let's address one of my least favorite phrases: "I'm not a feminist, but..." I first heard this phrase in high school, after we read Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. Young women in my class would stand up and say, "I'm not a feminist, but... I think that Virginia Woolf makes a good point about the need for personal income and property to support artistic endeavors." Think of what that phrase means: I'm not a feminist. What you are literally saying is, "I am not an advocate of the rights of women (based on the theory of equality of the sexes)." (For those of you who are wondering, I lifted that definition directly from my one true love, the OED.)

Why would you say such a thing?! Why would you announce it? If it's actually true, if you do not advocate the rights of women (and NB: equality does not necessarily indicate sameness, although I personally don't approve of the Plessy v. Ferguson principle), then that's one thing. I disagree with you and I will use every rhetorical tool in my kit to convince you of that, but more power to you for stating your principles so baldly. Yet, I do not thing that's what you mean, is it? It's not the first part of the phrase: "I'm not a feminist." It's the second clause, "But..." You are about to contradict yourself. You are a feminist! A closeted, rights-desiring, equality-grubbing feminist. You dirty, dirty feminist. I know your secret.

I am not the only person with this pet peeve. Check out: Laura (and her aptly titled blog), Runes, the 21st Century Mom, as well as this article in the f word, an online journal about contemporary feminism in the UK (those crazy Brits: they call masturbation, "flicking the bean"-- delightful! What will they think of next?).

(Some) Jews Love: Kosher Food

I keep "strictly" kosher. Harley does not. This means that Harley is more popular than I am, as I force all of my friends to go to kosher/vegetarian restaurants with me, or to listen to me act like a martyr while eating my salad (sans dressing). Some might argue that this defeats the purpose of kashrut, which may/may not have been an invention by the rabbis to force Jews to eat together, or at least not with non-Jews. For instance, last week I took my definitively non-Jewish male best friend (from now on Platonic Best Friend, PBF) and his girlfriend to a kosher dairy restaurant. There I had a fairly good meal, as did PBF, his girlfriend, however, made the mistake of ordering pizza. It was so awful that she could not finish.

There has been some talk about pizza recently, kosher, and otherwise, not to mention the somewhat recent creation of KosherNY, a (somewhat) complete database of kosher restaurants in New York City. According to Kosher-NY there are 14 restaurants in Manhattan alone that serve kosher pizza. Sadly, few of them are reviewed, so I cannot speak to their quality, except for those that I have actually tasted.

According to Gridskipper "you can't have a real city without Jews, and everyone knows that Jews won't come unless you have a kosher pizza joint," so by that reasoning, LA is now a real city. Thanks Hill Street Pizza! For those who don't live in a "real city" Baleboosteh provides a recipe for kosher pizza, although I'd like to point out that the kitchen, ingredients, and utensils determine the kashrut of the final product. Another option for out-of-towners is Flying Kosher Pizza. Audrey of LowConcept (where I found the idea) is the only person I know who has heard of it, and she didn't eat any, but it sounds like a promising concept, if any good. Either that, or it speaks to the ridiculous heights that kashrut has achieved. Either or.

DAG of NFOSS is on the type of quest that I totally support, both for its unscientific nature, as well as its general uselessness. He is trying to eat at a kosher pizza place in every state that has one. Not every pizza place, nor a pizza place in every state. I love arbitrary distinctions. More useful is DMZ of Critically Kosher's review of Tov Pizza in Baltimore. Final verdict? Cheap, fast, but kind of grody. I've been to Baltimore many a time (my mom buys her hats there) but we always have Chinese, not pizza. I guess that my mom (a vegetarian) is a fan of the "meat that my husband can eat, but that I at no point have to touch" idea.

And last, but not least, courtesy of Tzvee, a "pizza war" in Teaneck. No, I am not kidding.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Spot the Ridiculous Statement

From the New York Times :

The national sorority forced 23 members of its DePauw chapter to leave the sorority’s house in December, and a half-dozen more women later quit in protest. The action greatly diminished the chapter’s diversity, because the women who were allowed to stay were all slender and conventionally pretty. Those evicted included some overweight women; several nonwhite members either were evicted or left the sorority on their own.

See? I even helped.

Also, I <3>Slate. And Barbarians. And people who unironically use the words "totes" and "obvi."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Warning: Offensive Content

You must be 18 years or older to read this post.

I have a shocking confession to make: I have a vagina and, sometimes, I refer to it using that word, “vagina.” Even if I didn’t call it “vagina,” even if I called it “hoo-hah,” “poonani,” “fanny” (there’s a funny story to that one), “koos” (oddly, a camp favorite), or “minge” (which always made me think of that disease that dogs get), I would still be talking about my vagina. Even if I were never to mention it by name, never refer to it in passing, never imply its existence by wearing pants, I would still have a vagina, nestled between my legs. It would still be there, lying in wait, ready to offend young children, staunch conservatives, and high school principals. For those not in the know, I am referring in this rant to the latest vag-induced kerfuffle at John Jay High School in upstate New York. Three young women (or “wymin” or “womyn” or, more recently, “vagina smugglers”) were suspended for one day, ostensibly for “insubordination” and not for using the word “vagina” when they read a piece from Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. (I’m already exhausted just from the use of quotation marks denoting that my words are used ironically and do not necessarily represent their originally intended meaning. “Meaning.” I think I have carpel tunnel syndrome now.)

Georgia O'Keefe does not have a vaginal fixation.

What does this issue have to do with Judaism? Well, beyond the fact that 50% of us are smuggling around vaginae on a daily basis, there’s a serious dearth of vag-focused discussion on Jewish blogs. I did a search on such blog aggregators as Jrants, Jewishblogging, Cross-Currents (not quite an aggregator, but so expansive, it may as well be one), Jblogsphere, but found nary a mention of “vagina” (although Jblogosphere did lead me to an adorable post on sex ed by Jack’s Shack; it wasn’t gynocentric in the way I was hoping, but that was totally understandable, given the sexes and ages of the parties involved). This notable absence puts me in mind of that Peter, Paul, & Mary song:

Where have all the vag-es gone, long time passing?/ Where have all the vag-es
gone, long time ago?/ Where have all the vag-es gone?/ Young girls have picked
them everyone./ Oh, when will they ever learn?/ Oh, when will they ever learn?

Luckily, the witty and wonderful Tamar Fox of Jewcy fame has written more than one article elucidating the intersection between vaginas and Jewish texts, for which we all owe her a serious debt of gratitude, in addition to an enlightening diatribe about language and the nature of swearing. You will be unsurprised that I have a liberal opinion on censorship (nearly never appropriate; and I say "nearly" because I dislike making absolute statements, for want of a caveat). However, the principal of John Jay had the right to say: Ensler's content is inappropriate for the young children in our audience, please choose a different piece. Her monologues are controversial and evocative; that's their purpose; and some of the writing may be too risque for some audiences. Sans "vagina," how did he expect the women to introduce the piece?

"We are now going to read a piece from the [Word Redacted]

"The [Special Place] Monologues"

"The [Flower Garden] Monologues"

When he singled out "vagina" as an inappropriate word, he overstepped the bounds of decency. It's the accepted, clinical term for a part of the body. Saying "vagina" is no different from saying "ear" or "nose." The sexualization or degradation implied when you label that word dirty is far more destructive to the young children in the audience than using the word itself. Instead of owning up to the fact that he censored the women and suspended them as a result of their speech, he justified the suspension as a reaction to their "insubordination." To clarify, when you
tell someone not to say something, it's censorship; you get in trouble with censors when you say the word you weren't supposed to say. But don't take my word for it, let's check my favorite

According to the OED, censorship refers to 1. The office of a Roman censor (or its period); 2. a. gen. The office or function of a censor (see CENSOR n. 2); official supervision. spec. control of dramatic production and films (see CENSOR n. 2b, e). And a censor is one who exercises official or officious supervision over morals and conduct.

Given this definition, I would argue that Principal Richard Leprine acted as a censor and that his suspension of the young women constitutes censorship.

What's next? Are we going to demand that people not say "nunnery" in that famous Shakespearean tragedy?

Principal Leprine, get thee to a [euphemism for a brothel].

Ask Annie

It's that time again! Hooray!

1) All your beis, I think that was meant to be Where can I find all your base are belong to us?

Don't worry, it's right here. For those not "in the know" it is a video made of a famous mistranslation of a Sega game from (I think) Japanese into English.

2) Motzei Shabbat practices, as in What are common motzei shabbat practices?

Some traditionally observant Jews have a melave malke, a party right after the end of the sabbath to celebrate, where there is food (often cake and candy) drink (alcohol and otherwise) and singing. There is a Chassidishe idea that one of the bones in your spine is sustained entirely by food eaten during the melave malke. Otherwise, it appears that Jews in NYC have a tradition of going out to the movies, specifically to the Lincoln Square Theater at 67th street.

3)Pronunciation Moadim, well ok, What is the pronunciation of moadim?

Mow-add-eeem. At least that is how mine sounds. CJ's is probably better.

4)Frum Jean Skirts, which is probably Why do so many frum girls wear jean skirts?

Ease. If you hold (as many do) that women can only wear skirts, and that those skirts must cover the knee, your sartorial choices are immediately limited. You see, most people in our culture, when dressing casually, wear jeans. They are easy to match, comfortable, and accessible. There is really no equivalent for skirts, so some genius created the jean skirt, a melding of the two. It functionally serves the same purpose, and allows for some variety in wardrobe between weekday/casual and dressy clothes.

5) wHY cANT jEWS mARRY nON Jews?

Why can't you capitalize properly? In all seriousness though, define "can't." Lots of Jews do marry non-Jews, haven't you read the recent scholarship? We LOVE exogamy. Continuity is a goal for many religious and ethnic groups. Endogamy is the quickest route to continuity, as it increases the likelihood that any progeny will be of the religious or ethnic group. So, if your goal is Jewish continuity, you should marry a Jew. If you don't care, or don't think that the religion has anything to offer, or you fall in love with a non-Jew, or a million other reasons, then you should marry the person with whom you fall in love, regardless of their background or beliefs. I will, however, add, that I think that it is easier to fall in love with/marry someone who shares your core beliefs. But, that's, just like, my opinion, man.

5) Do Jews wear engagement rings?

Ha. Do we ever. It isn't a part of Jewish law, but many Jews do give/receive engagement rings, to show love and affection, as a sign that the person is "taken," a status symbol, or a combination of all of the above. Diamonds are preferred, and the bigger the better. Ok, so maybe I'm just a bit jaded. At any rate, a wedding ring (at least the one given at the ceremony, and according to Jewish law) is not supposed to have gems in it, and should be plain gold metal. However, afterwards, one can wear whatever they'd like, or even nothing at all.

6) How much is a roll of quarters at a bank?

$10. You pay for the exact value of the quarters. At least at your bank that's how it works.

7) And, via email: What's the best way to snag a hot Jewish girl?

Tough one, actually. This write-in is from "godless and lonely" so I am assuming atheist. As per my earlier statements, he should probably find one who isn't so invested in Jewish continuity, or endogamy. Then woo her according to her interests and proclivities. For instance, CJ took me out for beer, good music, and conversation about WWII strategy. Harley was won over by sweet words, a manly physique, and general good-humor. Unless I've misread this question, and it really means "how do I hookup with a hot Jewish girl?" in which case I refuse to answer. If you don't have enough game to score a hot Jewish girl, I'm not giving you an in lest "too light winning make the prize light."

That's all I've got for now.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How I Spent My Purim

Harley and I are still recovering from Jameel's purim podcast, which we found to be both hilarious, and hard work. As a result, I'll just give you a run-down of what I did for Purim.

I heard megillah read at Darkhei Noam, an Orthodox Minyan that has a mechitza (divider), and where there are many opportunities for women to participate. For instance, well over half of the megillah readers were women. I went with the roommate. Because I am pretty lame I came straight home and did not go to any of the parties available in NYC. The roommate went to the bangitout party, and I had friends who attended Hazon at Makor (supposedly a lot of fun), SouthPaw, and other locations.

As a result, I was able to make it to services on time (9am sharp!) for shacharit and megillah reading. My parents happened to be in town, so I made CJ come with us. He sat with my dad, and my mom and I sat in the women's section, strategically located to be able to watch CJ with my dad. The most entertaining part of megillah reading was the guy with the trombone who kept playing short riffs whenever 'Haman' was read. At one point he played a riff of CJ's college's fight song, and I was terrified that CJ would yell out something school-spirited, but fortunately he didn't hear. Otherwise uneventful.

We had brunch, and then my parents left. This gave me an opportunity to deliver some of my awesome mishloach manot. Of course I didn't make hamentaschen (Orieyenta's put me to shame), and it was nowhere near as crazy as Ranger describes the delivery process in Israel to be. The Town Criers has a really good description of the requirements for mishloach manot (read: at least one package to one person with two blessings).

This brings me to an etiquette issue: what do you do if you get mishloach manot from someone whom you did not give to? Do you send one package to one person, or one package to one domicile? For instance, an acquaintance of mine made up three mishloach manot for my apartment, one each for the Jewish girls, but ignored the Iowan, who lives with us. I hadn't budgeted a mishloach manah for her. Another friend gave a basket addressed to me, addressed to me and CJ (really, receiving them as a couple? already?) but none to my roommates. The last thing I need is another way to offend people. I guess I probably should have asked Shifra a couple weeks ago. Why does Amy Dickenson never address these critical issues? If she has ONE MORE about who should pay for the wedding, I might actually stop reading.

Anyway, I attended a seudah (festival meal) at the roommate's house. For those who are concerned, I only had a glass and a half of wine (a glass over my normal consumption at shabbes meals). OrthoMom, Shira of On the Fringe, Greg of Presence, DAG of NFOSS, and Rabbi Gil Student of Hirhurim (along with many others) address the issue of drinking on Purim, its necessity, the commandment (or lack thereof) and the problem of children (especially teens) using the holiday as an opportunity to drink to excess.

At any rate, it was a fun and busy day. I didn't actually dress up this year, due more to lack of prior planning than any other reason. Sad. Maybe CJ will let me dress up as a princess for my birthday outing. For which I just ruined the surprise. Oops.

Friday, March 02, 2007

For Heaven's Sake, Think of the Donkeys!

Here at Jewbiquitous, we pride ourselves on bringing you the issues that most effect the Jewish people. Today, as part of this proud tradition, I offer you this story from The Register. Ever since the days of Balaam, donkeys have played a central role in Jewish life and lore. From this tradition we learn:

1) Men and donkeys must share the burden. This story demonstrates a man literally sharing the burden of a donkey's heavy load, but we must understand the figurative meaning as well. For years, man has unfairly placed too heavy a load on the back of the donkey: emotionally, psychologically, physically. We have now reached the time where men and donkeys can band together and forge a bond of true, inter-species, brotherhood.

2) Even if the donkey does not belong to us (and truly does a donkey belong to anyone?), we must lighten its load. Even if we came across Dennis Prager's donkey, carrying weight of the Jewish people on its back, we must help it carry the load.

3) Hillel reminds us that Ki Tetze taught: "You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together." How do we apply this lesson to our non-agrarian lifestyles? Different people have different strengths and weaknesses; forcing them to work together will overtax the one and may compromise the other. I in no way take this lesson personally.

4) Donkies have a hidden holiness. I always suspected. Perhaps that's why a donkey will be the Mashiach's primary mode of transport.

For these reasons, I suggest a letter writing campaign to the magistrates in Galway, Ireland, in support of the Unlawful Accommodation of Donkeys Act 1837. It's time we act. If not for ourselves, then for the donkeys.

Annie Says...

Annie has just informed me that I may write a history post, but if it's boring, she reserves the right to make snarky comments. In the interest of, well, being interesting, I'm putting myself out there for you all. Ask me any question you like and I'll answer it (with the exception of information that will reveal my true identity). It can pertain to anything at all: history, religion, philosophy, clothing, movies, shoes-- anything you can think of to ask.

Alright, have at me.

Jews Love: Purim

Harley will take care of the blog round-up, so instead I'm going to share something a little bit different. While we were trying to come up with a good podcast for Jameel (we managed to do about 30 of them, as Ezzie points out, honestly, we thought that we were erasing!) we realized that we aren't the biggest fans of Purim, and here are our reasons why:

1) Hamentaschen: good in theory, not so much in practice. The cookie is often dry, and the cookie: jam ratio is a delicate thing, much like cereal:milk. They are often pareve (dairy-free), and a cookie without butter is not a cookie worth eating.

2) Paucity of Girls' Costumes: you can be Esther, or you can be Esther. Although I guess you could be Vashti, but how do you differentiate? Laurel Snyder has one suggestion: "wear black," but that isn't really true to the story. My mom used to suggest that there were two ways to be Vashti: wear a nametag (she was a big fan of the nametags for esoteric costumes); wear only crown and jewelry, and no clothes. While Vashti technically refused to do that, it would certainly make a statement.

3)Questionable Moral Content: Vashti refuses to strip, and she is banished, whereas Esther sleeps with the king (a non-Jew!), and she is the heroine of the story. Do we really want to be telling little girls that their power is sexual power over men? And that, that is heroic?

4) Celebrating a Massacre: at the end of the story the Jews arm themselves (why couldn't they have done that without the king's decree?) and slaughter their enemies. They are so filled with bloodlust that they ask for, and are granted a second day to do so. I can't really get behind the celebration of a massacre, no matter how "just" or "provoked."

5) Make Merry with Wine: part of the festival is a festival meal, or seudah, during which you are supposed to drink more wine than you are accustomed to doing. In my case that would be any, as I am not a big drinker. Anyway, how are you supposed to celebrate with wine when kosher/supervised wine is so bad? Yeah, there is some good supervised wine, but boiling does not improve it.

6) Megilla=Long: that is why we say, when referring to "the whole thing" we often say "the gantze megilla." While this year is a bit different (as the fast day did not immediately precede the holiday), usually you are sitting, trying hard to hear every word, and REALLY hungry. I am not a fan.

7) Mishloach Manot Competitiveness: the mishloach manot, or giftbaskets are often another way for people to showcase their wealth/creativity/spare time. It almost seems like you have to have them dipped in gold to be good enough for your neighbors/friends/the secular Jews whom you are supposed to be mkareve'ing. For the record I gave out a plastic solo cup with a mini V8, mini vodka, celery stalks, and pretzels. I wanted to add little hot sauces, but I couldn't find them. Lame. And mine are SO much better than CJ's.

8)No Interpretive Megilla Dance: this one is Harley's. She claims that it is a "damn shame" that the rabbi does not allow her to perform (in simulcast) an interpretive megilla dance from the bimah.

9) Not Good for Asthmatics: I can never leyn certain parts of the megilla, as I don't have enough lung capacity to read the names of all 10 of Haman's sons in one breath.

10) Extra-Biblical: and you know how much we love the bible here. We super-double love it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Too Hungry to Blog

I don't really fast well (it makes me really tired and cold, hence sitting here in my overcoat), and can't think of anything beyond 6:30pm when I can break.