Monday, April 30, 2007

It's a Beautiful Day

Today is the 16th anniversary of my mom's passing. I have to say that I feel really good today. I know that's not a substantive thought to post, but I've written so many sad things in the past several months (in fact, before posting this, I had written a rough draught reflecting on the suicidal undertones of Hamlet's III:i speech), I thought perhaps it was about time to give some good news. It's 70 degrees outside, the sky is blue, and today, I celebrate that my mom had 39 years on this earth and one of the things she chose to do with that time was raise me.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Jews Love: Fitness

This post was inspired by one I read on Orthomom's blog. She mostly talks about the place (or lack thereof) for junk food in schools, however an anonymous commenter made the following statement which I found interesting:

I would like to see our Yeshivas (even the really frum ones! and even the girls!) have serious gym classes with certified Phys. Ed. teachers that show the kids how to stretch and to do daily exercises and to try different sports. Ban Dodgeball!!!

And then I remembered reading something, not so long ago, on, about the immodesty of taking part in certain athletic behaviors in the sight of men, even while modestly dressed. I'm not going to talk about the unfair double-standard again, but instead how physical activity and fitness are not given the proper emphasis in the Jewish community. For the record, I understand that there are a lot of pressures in the modern world that did not previously exist. The double curriculum at Jewish Day Schools leaves little time for after school activities like sports, but that makes this issue all the more important. Traditionally, observant Jews have put more emphasis on scholastics than athletics, which has lead to stereotypes about what Jews look like, and their athletic abilities. I mean, just take a look at Not Chosen's old post about the JAP Workout.

If you want to talk about the history of Jews in sports, there is a lot to talk about, as shown by the book every boy I know received upon becoming a bar mitzvah (as I recall, one of the "sports" is chess). So there were not only Jewish boxers, but according to NNSeek, Jews were also some of the earliest diseminators of different sports throughout Europe. Not sure of the truth of that claim, but is sounds good. What the piece does mention is the concept of the "muscle Jew," which was popular around the turn of the 20th century in Jewish cultural, but not necessarily religious, circles.

Also: random historical fact: at one point, in certain places it the medieval world, Jewish women were considered especially beautiful, and Jewish men virile. I know this from a lecture I attended by a well-respected Jewish historian. Also Ivanhoe. Point being, with the American obesity crisis only getting worse, (American) Jews need to change how we think about fitness, its importance, its place in our community, and how we pass it on to our children. After all, it says in the Talmud (Kiddushin 82a) that of the four things a man is required to teach to his son, one is "how to swim."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Prepare to Be Shocked

In relation to my earth-shattering confession about my OED addiction, I must also reveal that I am, in fact, a huge Scrabble nerd. I won't say I love Scrabble with the same passion and fervor that I love the OED, but I would say that my life would be incomplete without my weekly Scrabble games, which I play surreptitiously online with whomever can stand to play me. I do have both a fancy spinny board and a canvas bound travel Scrabble.

Today, just moments ago, I finished a game with one of my fellow travelors and I received my all time high score.


Sorry, I just got a little choked up there.

I would like to thank my parents, for having Scrabble dates when they first got together and subjecting all of us to this "bonding activity." I'd also like to thank my mom, especially for never giving up on me and for insisting that I keep playing, even though it took me 10 years to beat her. I'd like to thank my Grandma, for never letting me win, never going easy, never letting me get away with even the most understandable spelling errors (seriously: that woman is an intense Scrabble aficionado). But most of all, I'd like to thank the Opera Singer for playing with me, week after week, and for truly challenging me. Sniff. Thank you everyone. It's truly an honor.


Dear Gawker,

I posted about toygers a month ago. Clearly instead of being in your "blogorrhea" feature, it should be under your "already over" feature.


First and Only Endorsement

You could vote for us in the Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards. Or not. I can't seem to figure out how to get a link to the appropriate part of the site.

At any rate, someone (who clearly hasn't read our blog) nominated us for "Best New Blog" and we're in "Group C."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

At Least They're Not Shouting At Me

Once again, as I walked home from work, through the rain that was quickly rendering my khaki skirt see-through, I heard the cries of "Boy-cott, Sai-gon-Grill." Except this time the person who handed me a flier was a young man of Asian decent, who spoke unaccented English, and was wearing a Columbia t-shirt. As I further perused the gathering crowd, it became clear that a majority of the protesters were Columbia and Barnard students.

Besides the obvious indicator of Columbia/Barnard spirit wear, there were some distinguishing signs.

1) They had actually made signs. Clever ones. Those in wage slavery don't usually have access to hot pink oaktag and sparkly pens. At least not in my experience.

2) The diverse ethnic makeup of the protesters. Not to be racist, but most delivery people in this city tend to be of Asian or South American descent.

3)The delivery people tend to be a bit older, let's say late 20's to mid-30's, while these young people looked about 12.

4) The organization of cries. Not just "boycott Saigon Grill" but also rousing jeers at those entering the restaurant, and several other clever cries that I cannot recall.

Nice to see that Columbia students can give back to their community. Although, as far as acts go, protesting for an hour or two doesn't seem like so much. Heck, maybe New York Magazine was right, and Columbians are becoming radicalized. Ha, yeah right. Anything being covered in New York Magazine is, by its very nature, mainstream. And lets be honest. When was the last time a movement at Columbia actually meant anything to the outside world? Oh yeah, 1968.

Good try guys, and while I applaud the effort, maybe you should stop flirting in the picket line. I'm just saying.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Question for the Ages

Are all babies cute?

No, really, that's the question. You see, CJ and I were having a lunch date outside today, when, providentially, a young woman who I knew from college sat next to us. With her baby. To my chagrin I noticed the baby first. I was too busy looking at teeny feet to look at the mom, but once I looked up, I recognized her, said hi, and chatted a bit. Normally I would have asked to hold the baby, but I knew (through the grapevine) that she is somewhat fragile, so I satisfied myself with ogling.

CJ, however, was not satisfied. "You think that baby's cute?" He asked, incredulously. When I responded in the affirmative, he said (with some derision in his voice) "You probably think that all babies are cute." I do, actually. I am of the school of thought that all babies are cute, and all brides are beautiful on their wedding day. It is less about the way that someone actually looks, and more about their situation.

Squishy and red, but still cute.

You see, on their wedding day all brides (that I've known/seen, at least) are so happy that it is shining out of them. You can feel their joy, and I think that, that makes them beautiful. For the day, at least. Same thing with babies. They are cute, not only because of their looks, but also what they represent. New life, new hope, often the product of love, and at best an expression of it.

So all babies are cute, and I won't hear anything to the contrary.

Real Conversations

That I've had with my father:

On my (female) cousin having a male roommate:

Dad: You sure they're not sleeping together?
Me: Dad, they have seperate rooms, what would be the benefit?
Dad: I don't know...
Me: She isn't even attracted to them, it's a platonic friendship.
Dad: There is no such thing for guys. They always want it to go further. Guys think with their dicks, that is why we are called "dickheads."
Me: What about with ugly girls?
Dad: Those girls would have to be dogs.

On my BabyBrother's facebook page:

Me: You haven't seen it, right? I told him that he should probably clean it up before he applies for summer internships.
Dad: Well, actually....
Me: Oh dear.
Dad: No, it is just that he left it signed in, and so I removed the line "smoking mad blunts" from under "interests" and scrubbed the rest of it for drug references.
Me: Has he noticed?
Dad: I don't think so. Maybe he is too busy "smoking mad blunts."

On Moving To Israel:

Dad: If you studied (security studies) in Israel (instead of London), Mom and I might live there for a year or so after I retire. Then you could live with us, just as you and your husband will after you get married.
Me: ...

Endogamous Disagreements

A week ago, Annie wrote a post where she asked a question unbearably common in the Jewish world: Why is it that people who come from homes where two Jews inmarried don't feel that inmarrying is important? The post received a lot of coherent, thoughtful responses from across the board, but I did not respond, largely because Annie and I have had variations of this conversation and I didn't want to go over ground we had already tread (see: Respectful Disagreements). That said, I have spent the greater part of a week attempting to write a coherent, thoughtful responses and failing miserably. I will attempt, nonetheless, to address Annie's questions:

Why is it that people who come from homes where two Jews inmarried don't feel that inmarrying is important?

It's true that both of my parents are Jewish and that their marriage was not merely an act of endogamous fate, but in part because they both only dated Jews in college; therefore, I am a person who comes from a home where two Jews inmarried, yet I don't feel that inmarrying is important. I don't feign to speak for all people in this category, but I'll attempt to explain my reasoning, nonetheless. I don't think endogamy is an a priori good and I think the arguments on its behalf are marginally racist, at best. I understand the argument on behalf of marrying someone with similar values, etc, but I don't think that's what endogamy entails. In fact, I have repeatedly witnessed the end of relationships where the values and needs of both parties were met, neither were particularly religious or observant, but the Jewish party could not marry someone non-Jewish. In this instance, the focus on endogamy means artificially curtailing or constraining one's dating pool at the expense of someone who may suit one's values and needs, but happens not to be Jewish.

The next argument I encounter raises the question of Jewish babies. It is along the lines of, "God said we should have lots and lots of Jewish babies. You are far more likely to have Jewish babies, if you inmarry. Therefore, you should marry someone Jewish."

For a moment, if we put aside the "God said" aspect of the argument (a meaningless portion to the atheists and agnostics amongst us), what compels us to perpetuate Jewish peoplehood through procreation? There's no logic behind: have Jewish babies because you're supposed to. To what end? If you argue that Jews contribute something special to the world, an exceptionalist argument with which I am decidedly uncomfortable, then having Jewish babies (and to that end, marrying Jewish) can be rationalized; but just because the argument makes sense doesn't mean it's justified or right.

Beyond the question of whether we have a duty to procreate, does procreation offer a compelling argument for endogamy?

Endogamy may increase the likelihood of children with a strong Jewish identity, but it does not ensure it; nor does exogamy preclude it. If the issue is raising Jewish children, then the focus should be on raising Jewish children. And perhaps those Jewish children would benefit from content above and beyond: marry other Jews, especially since statistics tell us that the majority of Jewish children will come from interfaith households in the next generation. When we make the argument on behalf of endogamy, do we think of the many children in our midst who are the product of interfaith marriage and how destructive that narrative is to their sense of self and their attachment to this religion, this culture. Listening to the endless lectures on inmarrying, I always felt ambivalent at best and alienated at worst.

Let's reason, for a moment, that some people chose to marry for reasons other than procreation, that some people are not determined to choose their mates based on their ability to parent Jewish children. What argument, then, would compel them to marry Jewish? For that matter, if they are otherwise without Jewish content or Jewish connection, why would they marry Jewish? What's the purpose of endogamy without content? If you are a person who is intent to have a strictly observant Jewish home, based on certain rabbinic tenants, then it makes sense to marry Jewish. BUT it only makes sense, in that instance, to either marry someone with the same Jewish content (similar background, similar education, similar point of reference) OR someone willing to devote the time and energy to learning that Jewish content.

Ultimately, marrying Jewish for the sake of marrying Jewish and having babies that are labeled "Jewish" doesn't mean anything, unless there's positive Jewish content. To that end, it would make as much logical sense to marry a non-Jew willing to learn Jewish content than a Jew who's unwilling to engage. At which point, we return to the original argument, which is that you should marry someone with similar values to you, whose goals and needs meet your goals and needs.

So why don't I focus on endogamy? Why do I date non-Jews?

I don't see endogamy as a value that is in line with my values.

A Question of Ethics

There are about 13 ways to get to work from my apartment. That is the magic of living in NYC. I can change it up depending on how much I want to walk, how many stairs I feel like I can do, or if I want to get there an extra minute and a half faster.

One of my many options is to take the crosstown bus. I actually really like the crosstown bus. You get to see some of the park, sit down, do some reading, etc. Today the bus was really packed. I was standing near the back door, so when a seat came open, I took it, in the interests of getting out of the way of the 30-million people trying to exit. As soon as the crowd cleared, I saw a young-ish man (I'd say late 20's early 30's) with a cane standing next to me. I thought about offering my seat, but I'm always wary of insulting people, and it seemed like a young woman offering a seat to an only slightly older man might would hurt his feelings, and suggest disability. Should I have gotten up?

There is some talk about disability in Jewish thought. Pirkei Avot says that you should not "place a stumbling block in front of a blind man," but I don't think that they mean that literally. I know that cohanim (the priestly class) who are disabled in certain ways are prohibited from performing cohanic duties, but I think that they still pass on the status to their children.

I tried to find out what other Jewish blogs had to say about the issue of Jews with disabilities, but couldn't really find anything. Anyone have something to add?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Mmm Weddings

(From WashPo, as always)

Dear Carolyn:
I'm getting married soon. One of my groomsmen has a friend I'm acquainted with who can be charming but occasionally seems to relish embarrassing people or making a scene --especially when he's had too much to drink. My fiancee and I struggled over whether to invite him but decided that since I really only know him through my groomsman, it wasn't that much of an issue. I heard he was hurt when a save-the-date didn't arrive, but that was to be expected. That groomsman, however, may be getting married in the near future, and it's a safe bet he'd ask me -- and the oft-embarrassing friend -- to stand with him. Doing the social calculus on the situation makes my brain want to explode.
Invitation Anxiety

Your brain just may go for it, 15 years from now, when you remember how much you cared 15 years ago about wedding-invitation calculus. In the meantime, have confidence in your non-issue ruling. His not being a close friend is ample grounds for courteous exclusion. Just promise me that, when you meet this guy at your friend's altar, you won't launch into an unsolicited explanation session a la, "I'm sorry we couldn't invite you. It was a really small wedding blah blah gak." People on the receiving end of these generally think, "That's okay, we don't like you, either," and simply find the willpower not to say it. In the acquaintanceship rings of a social circle, non-invitations are a fact of life and should be treated as such.

You see, I don't care if I am not invited to the weddings of my acquaintances. In fact, I relish it. That means one fewer person to invite to my own (hypothetical) nuptuals. This has become especially relevant lately, as I am knee-deep in wedding season (as we speak/type? I am trying to find a way to modest-ize the dress a dear friend has chosen for her bridal party) and I am forced to confront my ideas about what makes a good wedding. You see, I want a small wedding, a none-too-fancy dress, and I want the event to be fun for my guests, not an expensive chore.
The black is "photo-shopped" in, and by that I mean "crudely added with microsoft paint." Not bad, though. The difficult part is to actually achieve that with cloth. Maybe bodypaint counts for tzniut? I'm covered, right?

Also I want a rally monkey. CJ just explained the concept to me last night, and I really want one. I'd give up a lot in order to have a rally monkey at my wedding. I think that it would really improve the energy.

Donuts Heal all Wounds

It's been a long couple of weeks and I've been out of the office a lot because of illness and conferences, but I have returned! Triumphant! And I will post incessantly this week so as to begin to heal the hurt that was caused by my extensive absence. Will you ever forgive me? What if I bring donuts? Mmmmm, donut.

I Have Been Remiss

I have recently noticed a trend that I can only describe as of the utmost importance to the Jewish community. It encompasses all of the big concerns: intermarriage, continuity, outreach, and more. There is no aspect of Jewish life which has not been touched.

What is this trend of which I speak? It is female pop-stars engaging in gangsta rap.

Exhibit One: Fergie

She is talking about her crazy lifestyle, and even references the rap scene of the early 90's in her video. She even adopts a rap conceit of "featuring" on her track, using the "Mouf of the South" himself, Ludacris. For the record she isn't really rapping in this video, except for the section "I got problems up to here..." which is even a step closer to singing than rapping.

Exhibit Two: Gwen Stefani

Aside from the fact that this song drives me crazy, Gwen is rapping. About her consumerist lifestyle. And she features Eve, one of the few successful female rappers. This shift is even clearer in "Wind it up" where not only does Gwen rap, but she sounds (both in content, and in style) a huge amount like Fergie from "my humps." There is even a line about "look but you can't touch." And last, but not least, in Luxurious, Gwen uses the same conceit of jumping back and forth to the early 90's, and instead of Fergie's message which is essentially "I still eat at taco bell" she is saying "I worked really hard to get here, and things used to suck for me."

Not only are these two very talented singers rapping, but they both seem to be using the same base material. I'm starting to have some trouble telling them apart.

Take a look at Fergalicious by Fergie:

And Sweet Escape by Gwen:

Both are women who started as the lead singer in otherwise male musical groups, and both have created a cult of personality around themselves. Gwen has her harajuku girls, while Fergie is eternally being fawned over by a group of uniformly (if scantily dressed) men/women whose outfits compliment hers. I want to know what the music industry is thinking (see the Jewish connection? Because we run the media, so this is clearly our fault), and why Avril Lavigne, despite aging four years, and getting married, has gained no musical maturity since her first album.

C'mon, when I see stuff like this I am ashamed to be a member of the tribe. Guys, we can do better than this.

Friday, April 20, 2007

But it's not my problem

Here is my issue with grass-roots activism: It is often organized around a single issue, and the activists are all people directly affected. IE women and feminism, people of color and the civil rights movement, the GLBTQ community and gay marriage, etc, etc. In these cases not only are the activists those directly involved, but it is often hard for people who aren't to help out. For instance, I was recently asked to explain what connection I had to the struggles of Jews of Color to gain acceptance within the Jewish community.

What? Do I need a connection? Apparently, to establish my authenticity, I do. I happen to have cousins who are of color, but that shouldn't matter. I am deeply upset by the idea that Jews are racist against other Jews, that a Jew of color can't enter a synagogue to pray without people asking him/her if he/she is Jewish, and how that came to be. That should be enough. No one should have to explain why they feel that an injustice is unjust, whether or not it personally affects them.

I think that this is most insidious within the context of feminism. Issues of equality for women are often seen as women's problem. It is our responsibility to find a working solution to the work/home conflict, to the desire to have both a life and a career. That seems just ridiculous to me. A man never has to choose between having a traditional family life and a challenging career. Why should a woman have to? Additionally, Arlie Hochschield's research has shown that even in families where both partners work full time, the woman is often responsible for the bulk of the housework and/or childcare.

Men need to be involved in the fight for women's equality, they need to see that the current system hurts us all. If more women are able to work in challenging careers, the more people we have providing services, and the more likely it is that the best person for the job will have the job. As it is, women are being shuffled into careers that are "family-friendly," and once a career becomes "feminized" (like teaching or nursing, formerly all-male preserves) not only does it lose respect, but its relative compensation falls.

Point being, men need to see that this isn't a women's issue, it is a community issue. Same with racism, or GLBTQ issues, or disability, or ageism, or class issues, they all detrimentally effect us. And obviously no one person can do everything, and it is unreasonable to expect that a person take action on every injustice, but as Pirkei Avot* says "It is not our responsibility to finish the work, but neither can we ignore it." So pick an issue, write a letter, or email me to ask about advocacy groups (I've met a lot recently) and educational programs.

Lets all work to make this community better in substantive ways. Today.

*Pirkei Avot is a work of rabbinic thought, often referred to as "The Sayings of the Fathers" and basically is comprised of different pieces of wisdom.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hard to Be Flippant

in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy. I went to a high school that sends a high proportion of its graduates to Virginia Tech, and while most of my friends have graduated, there are one or two kids I know from high school/the neighborhood still there. A girl from my high school, who was on my sports team, was killed, and almost all of my friends lost someone, or have been somehow affected.

There have been a number of public requests, made either by Hokies, or on their behalf, that people wear Orange and Maroon (the Hokie colors) this week. Their loss is our loss.

May they be comforted among the mourners of Zion, and all those who dwell on this earth.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Presents, Recieved

In no particular order:

1) Annotated copy of Pride and Prejudice. The annotations start on the cover. The person who got me this gift is awesome.
2) From the roommate: The Making of Victorian Values
3) Sherbs and the Pedant got me a gift certificate to Levana
4) CJ really pulled through on this one, with multiple gifts:
-took me to see Pirates of Penzance at NYC Opera
- bought copies of Topsy Turvy and the Mikado (more to come, maybe Pirates?)
- plastic earrings and "matching" necklace, so that I could feel like I'd been given jewelry.
- an a Capella version of The Luckiest. For the record, I have been nudging CJ to sing to me for a couple months, and originally requested Life Less Ordinary, but I think that he made the right choice. Original song below.

My friends/family know me so well. As my parents forgot my natal day I am waiting for a cool gift from them to make up for it/keep them out of a nursing home.

Good Thing I Didn't Have Anything To Say

Because I've lost my voice. Unclear how. My throat feels remarkably scratchy and unpleasant, which kept me up last night, and gave me a chance to think.

You see, yesterday was Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. It rained all day, which always makes me feel (a little bit melodramatically) as if the world is crying. I am one of those people who rarely cries in real life, but always at movies/books/country music songs. I find it difficult to read Holocaust literature for a number of reasons, the primary one being that I'll weep so intensely that it will be impossible to make out the words. For this reason, I often steer clear of Holocaust memorabilia. When I visited the new Yad v'Shem (Holocaust Memorial Museum) in Israel this summer I basically wept my way through. And then stood on the back veranda, looking out over the beautiful land that is Israel, and was struck with a deep, intense, and immediate desire to live there. That desire was only strengthened by my visit to the Herzl museum (hilarious, but not intentionally so), however, after my trip I returned to the US, to my then boyfriend, and a to life that would not easily make the inter-continental transition.

The love that I have for Israel, an intense, physical love, is only matched by my love for the Jewish people. I am one of those lame people who feels as if I (or a member of my family) has succeeded when a Jewish person does something noteworthy. I feel a connection to other Jews, all of those things that people of my parents generation felt, and those of mine supposedly don't.

And I wonder why. Why is it that people who come from homes where two Jews inmarried don't feel that inmarrying is important? I know that there have been studies done on how young Jews feel that being Jewish is only one identity among many, but that doesn't really answer my question. Why was it important enough to their parents? My Dad mentions that even though he interdated in high school he always knew that he had to marry Jewish. My Mom told me not to interdate, because it was unfair to the other person if I wasn't willing to intermarry.

As a result, post-high school I have dated only Jews. My elder brother has dated a mix, but thanks to my intervention is seeing (rather seriously) a Jewish girl (whom I like a lot independently of the match), but my younger brother hates Judaism. Guess which one of us went to a Jewish day school. If you guessed the Baby Brother, you are correct.

I guess what I am trying to say is, I wonder what was different in my parents' generation, what impetus did they feel that my generation by and large do not? I understand why my peers choose to interdate and intermarry, but not why my parents (who were not particularly observant or committed to Judaism in college) didn't. Chance? Or was there something else?

Friday, April 13, 2007

The True Love of My Life, Part II

(Linguistic Porn)

In my last relationship, I was repeatedly unfaithful. You see, while my partner provided anything and everything that could be expected of another human being, I still found a bottomless need that he could not fulfill; an insatiable lust that none of his machinations could satisfy; a longing and a love that were not his to address.

I speak, of course, of my love for the Oxford English Dictionary.

We fought and fought over my obsession with the OED, but I kept going back. Every time, I would finish and say to myself: "Harley, you are in a monogomous, loving relationship. You've got to stop this reckless selfishness! Someone's going to get hurt."

But I couldn't help myself. The OED always had what I needed and more, without my asking. It was always there, day and night. And when we were done and I had gotten what I needed, the OED did not turn off immediately, but waited patiently to see if there was anything else I desired, perhaps an etymology or a date chart.

I'm glad that Annie copped to her love of The Washington Post (which I also share) because it frees me to finally make this confession and get the burden of this secret off my chest.

Thank you, Annie, because now I'm free:
I truly love the OED.

The True Love of My Life

WashPo. For serious, though. I was musing about this on the way to work this morning, so I'd like to list out some of WashPo's good qualities, in no particular order:

-huge sunday comics page(s) that is/are inclusive rather than exclusive.

-Judith Martin, Carolyn Hax, and the awful Amy Dickenson (I love to be haughtily dismissive, and Amy gives me an excuse almost every day)

-the bridge column. Every day. Now that's a classy feature.


-the Style section

and it's this last one that is currently the object of my affection. You see, I love politics. And I love pretty clothing. WashPo knows this about me, and caters to my love with an entire section that they call "Style." A year or two ago there was a piece about how Condi Rice wore a skirt suit with black, high-heeled boots when she spoke to our troops in Afghanistan/Iraq/other abroad location. It wasn't accusatory, or the same stale stock piece about how powerful women used to wear boxy suits with those scarf-ties, but now they can look pretty. No, no, this piece deconstructed what it meant for a powerful, single woman of color to dress in a "sexy" way. Last week there was a piece on Nancy Pelosi's accessories, and how she used classy scarves to cover her hair during a Mideast trip.

The dreaded scarf-tie, bane of middle-aged career women everywhere

Now I realize that these are both women, and that some people might take offense to a paper of record talking about powerful women's clothing (and not that of men), but women are judged on the way that they dress, why not talk about it? Deconstruct it, if you will. As Ben Franklin said: "dress to suit others, eat to suit yourself." Although, for the record, now that weight is an accessory, in a way we eat to suit others, but that is another discussion for another time.

Thank you, WashPo for letting me read about Laura Bush's suits/dresses, Condi's Boots, and Pelosi's scarves. My only request is that you talk a bit more about that hottie Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her lace scarf-tie is really heating things up in the judicial chambers of my heart.

Stone cold fox of our legal system RBG

Any Yiddishists in the Audience?

I recieved an email from POLJ asking what "farshimulte" means, as it was on a google search that lead to his blog.

My best guess (and by that, I mean Sarah's) is "to be made narrower." Multe is the word for narrow, and farshi is the verb "to be."

Anyone have a better guess?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, 1922-2007

Jews Love: Israel, for real this time

Take my family, for instance. I went to Israel on a birthright trip the winter of my freshman year of college. At that time my parents joked that I should get a medal for "travelling in a war zone."Since then they've each been to Israel 3 times. Tomorrow today my Mom boards a plane for #4. Why? She decided that it was time to "get her act together" and learn Hebrew, so she's been going to Ulpan* with her sister.

My parents aren't the only ones who have fallen in love with Israel as adults. Jameel made aliyah as an adult (I think), many of the Jewlicious crew live in Israel, have lived there, or just straight up love it (especially the eminently crush-worthy Michael). Even with Mobius making yeridah* next month there is still a lot of love for the holyland in the j-blogosphere. For instance, the rather cute We Love Israel blog, dedicated to the uncomplicated, total slavish love for Israel. For the record, I do think that it is a really cute idea, and I wish that I could love Israel in that way: totally, unreservedly, and without conflict. Sadly my relationship with Israel is a little more fraught. Dvd Avins of Barking Iguana reposts a column from Daily Kos about how love of Israel is different than supporting the Iraq war, a contention with which I wholeheartedly agree.

Jews the world over love Israel. Ethiopian Jews love Israel (although it is questionable how many of the Beta Ethiopians still in Ethiopia are Jewish), Russian Jews (and many other random Russians) love Israel, and now INDIAN Jews! For the record, there have been Jews in India forever, there was a bustling Jewish community in Mumbai at one point, but that isn't what I'm talking about. These are "missing tribe" Indian Jews. People who didn't really know that they were Jewish until recently. And their mouthpiece, Dr. Navras Jaat Aafreedi loves Israel. That fascinated me. Dr. Aafreedi has his own eponomyous blog: Navras, which again, is fascinating.

If you love Israel, and you live in New York, you should maybe consider the JNF's Amazing Race, which takes place on April 22nd. It is a scavenger hunt/relay for teams of 5, with a grand prize of $500 gift certificate towards a trip to Israel for every participating team member. I'll be there. With bells on. Oh yeah, bells.

*Ulpanis an Israeli institution created to help teach immigrants Hebrew on a mass scale. The levels and teaching methods are standardized and have been taken on by many schools which teach Hebrew outside of Israel.

*Yeridah is Hebrew for "going down" and is the antonym of "aliyah" Hebrew for "going up" and colloquialism for immigrating to Israel.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Jews Love: Israel

Take my family, for instance. I went to Israel on a birthright trip the winter of my freshman year of college. At that time my parents joked that I should get a medal for "travelling in a war zone."

Since then they've each been to Israel 3 times. Tomorrow my Mom boards a plane for #4. Why? She decided that it was time to get her act together and learn Hebrew, so she's been going to Ulpan* with her sister.

I was going to write about Israel, which is always interesting, but Harley and I were chatting (as we are wont to do) and we discovered a new term. The "acquaintance zone." This is sort of like the dreaded "friend zone," which is when you like someone, but you've allowed yourself to become friends with them, and now they don't want to ruin it by dating you. This of course never happens to myself or to Harley because we are super-duper hot.

At any rate, the acquaintance zone, or AZ for short is when you are friends with someone, you like them, they are fun, etc etc etc, except that they are kind of a jerk. You might be friends with him/her, but they aren't really a good friend to you. For instance I have a friend from college, she is sweet, and fun, but really self-absorbed. I've never had a conversation with her where she listened to everything that I've had to say. Never. I have often held her hand when she's had problems, dropped everything for her, rearranged her life, you know, done "friend" things, but no reciprocity. She has now entered the AZ.

I've been streamlining my interpersonal relationships over the course of the last year. You see, I work 9-5ish. I tutor. I observe shabbat. I really don't have time to spend catering to people who cause me tzurres*, so I've been consigning them to the AZ.

No time to talk when my family member dies? AZ!
Cancels plans last minute? AZ!
Doesnt' call on birthday? AZ!
I don't like your boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other? AZ!

Ok, so that last one is sort of unfair, but really, he's awful. For the record, if you are in the AZ I probably still like you, and if you made an effort, we could be friends again, but I'm really not that nice of a person, and I'm tired of making the effort. Just letting you know.

Also: now I have that Auro-DRI crap in my ear in addition to the water. I am really going to make myself deaf.

*Ulpan is an Israeli institution created to help teach immigrants Hebrew on a mass scale. The levels and teaching methods are standardized and have been taken on by many schools which teach Hebrew outside of Israel.

*Tzurres is the ashkenazic Hebrew pronounciation for the word meaning heartache or pain.

Not A Grown-Up

So, CJ is in a Fantasy Baseball league that is taking up his entire life. Now, I love baseball as much as the next person (probably more), but this is getting silly. Especially since he is now torn between his love for the Yankees, and rooting for his fantasy players/against those on other fantasy teams. The agony! The anguish! The silliness!

At any rate, can I possibly be the first person to hear Albert Pujols' name (pronounced Poo-holes) and giggle? Really?

Update on waterlogged ears: still annoying.

I Have Water in My Ear

and it is all that I can think about. To the exclusion of blogging.

No, seriously. I got it from showering at CJ's house over the second days of Passover. There was a particularly high-pressure shower, and I can't seem to get it out. I feel about water-removal techniques the same way that I do about hiccup remedies: that they were created for the amusement of those around the sufferer, not to actually help the sufferer. To wit: jumping on one foot and shaking your head to the side. I was doing this for so long, and with such vigor that CJ began to sing "What is love," a la Night at the Roxbury.

Skip to about 3:08

Other remedies:
-laying on my side for extended periods of time
-hydrogen peroxide applied with eye-dropper (this makes a great fssssssssssh noise really loud in your ear)
-more vigorous head-shaking
-yawning a lot

Anyone have a better idea? Or know where to purchase a "swimmer's ear" kit? Seriously, this is getting silly.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Imus in the Afternoon

I spent the morning reading about Don Imus's remarks on "Imus in the Morning," words that got him suspended for two weeks from radio, I found myself slightly confused about the narrowness and nature of the outrage. Of the commentators who have attacked the racist nature of his remarks, very few (that I've come across) have labeled it "sexist." Can we no longer say that a man who dismisses women as "ho's" is making a sexist remark without being branded a reactionary feminist (not that there's anything wrong with that label)? Why isn't anyone discussing the issue in this context? Would his termination be a question if he'd made the remark about a male basketball team?

Imus defended himself, noting that he calls his wife "the green ho" (delightful) and, in context, the comments were inoffensive because the show "makes fun of everybody." Now, I defend Imus's right to call his wife whatever pet names he wants, but calling his wife a "ho" and referring to an entire women's basketball team "nappy-headed ho's" are qualitatively different acts, for several reasons. First, he knows his wife personally and if she's okay with him referring to her as a "ho," well, that's between them (although I don't love the message it sends to his audience about interpersonal relationships). But considering the intersection between race, sex, and sexuality in this country's history-- that Black women have had their sexuality commodified-- the racism of the remarks cannot be separated from their sexism: "nappy" cannot be separated from "ho."

Orange Tangerine and NOW both recognize the sexist implications of his joke (although Kim Gandy should be forbidden from using the non-word "oughta" in a statement. Kim, you're the President of NOW, not a blogger or the editor of Cosmo. Stop it.), as does Desiree Cooper (who ties the outrage into the controversy over Title IX).

Charles Karel Bouley misses the point on the Huffington Post. Yes, speech is protected under the First Ammendment. For all those who skipped Government Class in high school, that means that the government cannot censor his speech, except under certain conditions (do you hear that, FCC? Back off.) But those calling for his termination are not infringing on his free speech and if NBC permanently takes him off the air, that's not censorship: it's business.

Should NBC fire him? That'd be relatively disingenuous, considering that Imus's remarks have a history of inciting controversy, if not because of their racial content, then because of their misogynistic, homophobic, and nativist content. He's a shock jock in the line of Howard Stern, so of course he's going to be offensive; he always has been.

Does that excuse his remarks? No, I think he should be decried for saying things that are sexist, bigoted, and contribute to the culture of hostility in this country. We'd all do well to stand up and say: Imus, shut up, you bigoted SOB. You are a poor man's George Carlin and we're tired of listening to you excuse your unfunny rants as "comedy." Do I think he should be denied the right to say those things? Not legally. Legally he can say whatever he wants and I'll defend that right to the end of days. The real question is if NBC does fire him, is that censorship or infringement on freedom of speech, as Charles Karel Bouley implies? No, it just removes him from a national podium, which NBC, as a private organization in a free market economy, has every right to do. Imus has been spewing venom on air for 30 years. Anyone who has heard his radio program knows he's a shock jock. If NBC decides that Imus no longer has any entertainment value or that his particular, tasteless brand of humor is too vulgar for their evolved and enlightened programming, they should fire him.

And for every writer, blogger, and talking head who point to rap music, Chris Rock, and others who regularly use similar phrasing in their music, comedy, and writing and say, "If he were Black, say Chris Rock, Mo'Nique, Marsha Warfield, this wouldn't be happening," to you, I say: it's all about context. Surely, there is language that is appropriate and acceptable in some contexts and not in others and coming from some people and not others. I'm tired of this response to racial slurs. Read Kant's Critique of Aesthetic Judgment and then see if your arguments hold water. Ridiculous human beings.

I'll give Imus the last word, since I know he likes that:

"Here's what I've learned: that you can't make fun of everybody, because some people don't deserve it. And because the climate on this program has been what it's been for 30 years doesn't mean that it has to be that way for the next five years or whatever because that has to change, and I understand that."

See? Even Imus understands.

Monday, April 09, 2007


It's Spring and I'm twitterpated, which isn't nearly as dirty as it sounds, originating as it does in Bambi. I'd say the causes are manifold, including finally having conquered my ridiculously lengthy and absence-inducing sinus infection and the blue sky residing outside my window. I do not at all think my mood is related in the least to the recent return of a beautiful Italian man from a lengthy trip.

How does my mood affect you? Well, I have now started and discarded half a dozen posts. I will be on my game soon. Also, I have definitely been doing a lot of work. Annie's observing yuntuv and I'm being responsible. Absolutely. Totally concentrating. On all of my work. Because I have a lot of work and I've been out sick. So just be patient with me, please.

Flower: [about two birds fluttering around] Well! What's the matter with them?

Thumper: Why are they acting that way?

Friend Owl: Why, don't you know? They're twitterpated.

Flower, Bambi, Thumper: Twitterpated?

Friend Owl: Yes. Nearly everybody gets twitterpated in the springtime. For example: You're walking along, minding your own business. You're looking neither to the left, nor to the right, when all of a sudden you run smack into a pretty face. Woo-woo! You begin to get weak in the knees. Your head's in a whirl. And then you feel light as a feather, and before you know it, you're walking on air. And then you know what? You're knocked for a loop, and you completely lose your head!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Know Your Jewish Community: Passover Food

I hate Passover food. As a mostly-vegetarian, my diet contains a lot of beans, corn, rice, legumes, and grains, so Passover sucks (if only I were sephardi/dating a sephardi, there could be an end in sight). However, most Jews seem to love Passover food. How do I know this? Lots of people gain weight during Passover. Ergo, they are eating a lot, and they must be enjoying it, right?

Amy of Cooking With Amy has a couple dessert recipes that don't look so heinous. Although the heinousness of Passover deserts is, of course, relative to how much you want a dessert. Gillian Pollack of Food History talks a little bit about traditional Greek Passover foods, which are probably better than traditional Eastern European Passover foods, which include things like gefilte fish--the hot dog of the fish family.

One Jewish Dyke of her eponomyous blog has a bit of a rant about the prohibitive cost of Passover food. Which, I agree, is absurdly high. However, in this case one can understand how the overhead would be much higher, even than regular kosher food. She seems to be a bit surprised at the existence of Passover Pizza (mmm Passover "convenience" foods, whoda thunk it?), as is Jason Weinberger of Spot of Bother. All I can say on the subject is that Jews get stupid while shopping for Passover. You have a short period of time in which to do your shopping, a limited supply, and a shortage of good ideas. The result? My Mom has 4 different vinegars, and 3 canisters of spray oil, but no soups (except for matzoh ball). I have 3 cans of tuna, a container of light KLP mayo, and a package of string cheese.

Anyone else have a weird food combo? Also, for the record, as I live in NY, I don't need to stockpile, as I have been going, every morning to one of the (three!) kosher supermarkets within a five block radius of my apartment to purchase premade food, at great expense. It is, however, cheaper than buying the raw materials, AND the necessary equipment to assemble it, as I have zero Kosher for Passover utensils/equipment.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

I am a Philistine

When I go home for Jewish holidays I spend a lot of time reading. My family is not sabbath-observant, so it is impossible for me to attend services (unless I want to walk 12 miles each way), and our den is dominated by a tv and a computer. Which are often both in use. By my baby brother, who, by the way, has an inexplicable love for T.I.

At any rate, this forces me to either sit on the fancy couches in our living room, outside in the hammock, or retreat to "my" room. But once in any of these locations, the list of things that I can do to entertain myself is somewhat slim. Hence the reading. As a result of this I finished three books over chag: Fear of Flying, Sharpe's Company, and War and the American Presidency.

I read Fear of Flying (by Erica Jong) and realized that I feel the same way about Erica Jong as I do about Phillip Roth. They say some really great things, things that I can identify with, and describe my feelings about certain situations, BUT they are both too graphic. I mean, I'm all for trashy sex, but both of them are clinically graphic in a way that seems more icky than sexy. All I could think of when reading about "the zipless f*ck" is that her fantasies and mine are waaaay different. I don't think that I am really made for modern fiction.

As for the latter two? I enjoyed them immensely. I love me some historical fiction, and Bernard Cornwell's battlefield narratives are great. He strikes a balance between the importance of individual actions, and the power of numbers. It shows that individual actions can influence a battle's outcome, but that it must be weighed against the relative strength of numbers and technology. He also does a great job of showing how the British army worked on a day-to-day basis. Arthur Schlessinger, z"t is a great writer, and while the book isn't quite what I expected there is a great break-down of how Bush managed to get us into Iraq, and what that means in terms of political theory, as well as for the presidents who follow.

Moral of the stories? I can read endlessly about battles, not so much great works of fiction. The War Studies Program at King's College keeps looking better and better.

Passover: Annie's Crazy Family

Before I get to talking about the sedarim, I just want to point out that Jewbiquitous just got their first ever "Nigerian Spam" email. Although this one appears to have originated in Burkina Faso. My favorite part of this email is that it begins with the words "Compliment of the day" and then goes on to describe a plane crash. Awesome. I am more than willing to send it along to anyone who would like to read it in its entireity.

And on to sedarim. So, as I've mentioned before, my family likes to kick off the seder with "tequila shooters." No joke. As a result of this, last year I had to explain "body shots" to my Mom and Aunt. Hurrah. Then followed by my Dad, Uncle, and adult Cousin. This year's word of the seder: Choad. Apparently on the drive down to my house my cousins were playing ghost (a spelling game, second only in popularity within my family to "geography.") and the littlest one used the word "choad." As a result, I had to listen to the elder members of my family make choad jokes all through the first seder.

For example
Aunt: Ooh, a luxury suite, that's a big hotel room.
Uncle: But it's no choad.

The best part of this story? The cousins called their older brother (a senior in college) to confirm the definition of choad. He was in class, but rarely gets calls from his brothers, so he left and answered the phone, almost in a panic. He picks up to hear hysterical laughter. And then the question. His response? "You called me for this? Really?" My family is amazing.

Other jokes that we tell every year that I missed;

Q: What is the difference between parsley and [female genitalia]?
A: No one eats parsley.

Q: Why do we dip eggs in salt water?
A: Because the Israelites were up to their balls in salt water.

Last, but not least, it was decided, on the second seder night, that when my father becomes too senile to lead the seder, I will take over for the cousins. In response I claimed that my seder will be ruled with the "iron fist of tradition" as opposed to "ask a good question/give a good answer and get a piece of candy." Which leads to many moronic questions, like "what IS the meaning of all of these laws that have been given to us?"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

In Honor of Annie

Annie's out of the office because, you know, chag, so I'm left here to my own devices. The effect of her absence: 1) irrevocable sadness, 2) I'm actually getting work done. Since neither of these are entertaining to you, I have a gift, sent to me by the Monologuer:

I am oh so very good to you.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Bit of Mush: On Family

I'm adopted. To be clear, I was not orphaned, my parents did not give me up as a baby, nor am I now on an endless quest to find my real family. My birth mother died when I was seven, my father remarried, and my stepmom adopted me. The tale is slightly less linear than that progression, however, and I am about to bore you with its rendition. Read on, if you're in the mood for a bit of mush.

Eight years, seven months, and five days after my dad remarried, my stepmom adopted me. Give or take a couple days.

I had a mom, true, but by the time my stepmom stepped in, she was more conceptual than concrete. Plus, I had plenty of room in my heart and family for more mothers. To a younger me, there was no conservation of motherhood: each child gets one, and only one, mother; to get a new mother, you must forfeit your old one; that made no sense to me. What did make sense was that I had a mother, who could effectively no longer do her job, and now I had another mother. Not a replacement mother or a stand-in mother. An unequivocal mother. Someone there to mother me. Seems so simple. Nothing ever is that simple.

For the years between my parents' marriage and my adoption, I feared (quite rationally, considering my history), that something would happen to my father and my birth mother's family would take me away. I started calling my stepmom, "Mom," instead of [name redacted] somewhere in eighth grade. I don't remember the exact moment because for me it was such a natural progression. The truth of the matter is, I had never found "stepmom" to be a useful label to describe our situation. She wasn't an extra mom or separated from me by any "steps." She was, and is, "mom." I recognize that this mental exercise confuses people. We have several categories and labels in our society, all referents to the nuclear family. If you are not the nuclear family, you are something "other" and must be defined in relation to the nuclear family. Thus "mom" vs. "stepmom," "dad" vs. "step-dad," not to mention the endless permutations wrought by new family structures.

I was seventeen when I asked my mom to adopt me. We were in the car, driving back from shul (I had astonished my parents after my Bat Mitzvah by asking them to drive me to shul for services every Saturday morning), and I asked my mom, point blank, why she had never adopted me. A reconstruction:

Me: Mom, how come you never adopted me?
Mom: Um, well, uh... I always wanted to, but at the time your father thought it would be too difficult for you and your sister and too difficult for your family and friends. But I always wanted to.
Me: Well, I think it's about time [or something equally insolent].
Mom: [smiling] I think that's an excellent idea. Let's talk to your father. I guess this means I'll have to adopt your sister, too. We'll ask her, as well.

So, my mom asked my sister, and we all asked my dad, and he drew up the papers (being a gifted lawyer), and five months later, we all stood in front of a family court judge, who pronounced us mother, daughter, and daughter, and then we had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. I share this story with you now because I'm home for Passover, chilling out at my parents' condo, basking in the smell of my mom's matzo ball soup, and realized how unfathomably lucky I got. Don't get me wrong, my mom's a nutcase (now you see, it runs in the family), but she's my nutcase. I'll never understand why she took us all on, especially because we were completely unhinged at the time, but I'm eternally grateful for whatever misfire convinced her to marry my dad. And now that she's bound to us legally, she's stuck with us forever.

Thank God.