Friday, August 31, 2007

Jews Love: Bioengineered Food

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

rollin with the rabbi

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

An Open Letter: New Kosher Deli

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

Dear Kosher Deli near my new office,

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

Also, your pickles are kind of gross.


When Democracies Go Bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 27, 2007

Friday, August 24, 2007

Tax Dollar Semites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Great Threat of Birthdays

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

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I love Gene Weingarten

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monkey is not Kosher

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 17, 2007

More on Noses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A hilarious post decrying the trendiness of being Jewish.

And this picture:

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

Native Dress: Part 3?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Native Dress Redux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Native Dress

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

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

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

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Hillel was a Democrat

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

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

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

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

Fight of the Long Knives

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

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

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

The Courage of Their Convictions

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

Don't Know Much About History: Plea II

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

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

I have two questions for you:

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

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

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

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

For Honesty's Sake

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Passing the metaphysical collection plate

The Onion: Churchgoer Tips God For Excellent Week

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

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

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

Monday, August 13, 2007

Reason #322

Why I love David Roskies.

A Tremor in the Force

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

Sunday, August 12, 2007

So this is goodbye...

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

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

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

So this is not farewell, but instead lehitraot.

Jews Love: Comedy and Not Chosen

It's been months since Jewbiquitous has mentioned Not Chosen and it's not because we had a falling out or because we don't still super duper *heart* him (I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth). Rather, Not Chosen quit his job and went on a four month blogging reprieve while working on his book, the publication of which we've been restlessly anticipating since his absence began.

What's the hold-up? Is there anything we can do to further your progress? Do you need editorial help, NC? Should we bug your publisher, clamoring for an advanced copy of your book?

And just a note on your most recent post, NC. Your uncle, while very prodigious with the advice (and likely with the best intentions), is wrong about a central point, and one that I think speaks most aptly to your work: comedy ("stimulate laughter and entertainment") is a good in and of itself and requires no further justification for it's production. Comedy is good. Surely, if you learned nothing else from the Jews, it's that if all else fails, you can always laugh at yourself. And others. Especially others.

Six Degrees of Stargate

I am right this very moment watching Stargate on SciFi with my roommate and I recognized the lead actor as the douche from Mannequin without realizing that he is none other than James Spader, an actor I adore as much for his turn in 2002's Secretary (with the dishy Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose brother resembles a friend of mine, rendering all of our interactions fraught with sexual tension because holy crap Jake is such a hottie, a fact we've discussed in this space before, but which always bears repeating), as for his caustic and vaguely heartless shenanigans on Boston Legal.

Upon looking up Mannequin on IMDB, I was surprised to learn that I recognized the name of the actress who played the titular character (ha! "titular"): Kim Cattrall. For real. Kim Cattrall played the mannequin in that very weird 80's movie about a woman trapped in a mannequin's body who falls in love with the socially awkward guy who designs the windows for a large department store. Who thought of that plot and what were they smoking?

Speaking of people whom you imagine must be under the influence: an older (read: my dad's age), male colleague on Friday asked if I aspired to be "Samantha from Sex in the City."

Why would any person in their right mind ask a much younger, female colleague if they aspired to be a notoriously sex-obsessed character from a racy HBO show primarily focused on sex? Because I volunteered to help a friend with his P.R. and Samantha ran a P.R. firm. Basically, I stared at him in disbelief, before stuttering, "No!" and throwing a look at him that I hoped would disintegrate his insides or at least highlight the impertinence of his suggestion.

All of this occurred before he asked if I wanted to share his seat as we watched a demonstration. Now, I don't think he was trying to be inappropriate. I don't even think he realized the extent to which his offers and allusions were uncomfortable for me. And to be honest, I have had these odd interactions with men before: where they seem uncertain what to do with me, their brains seemingly incapable of straddling the image projected to them in media of hot, young women and the reality of one sitting before them.

More probably, it's the false dichotomy established between the hot, young women and their ability to think and act as agents outside of their young hottness: the dichotomy between women as objects and women as agents. Being a woman who is attractive is not mutually exclusive to being a woman who is able to think and act as a human being. It's not "hot or smart," as Beauty and the Geek may suggest. Sometimes, it's hot AND smart (as all the people who write for this website are).

In that moment, in that meeting, I wanted to say: "It's okay, don't worry. I'm a person, you can treat me like one. I won't bite, I swear." Or, more accurately, "Hey, you there, think of me like a guy. Just another guy. Talk to me as if I were not a girl, a fact that clearly makes you uncomfortable and uncertain of how to deal with me."

For ages, I dressed in a way that discouraged such discomfort. Prettyboy still claims that I dress conservatively, but he didn't know me back in the days before I owned shorts or wore sleeveless shirts, when I always, always, always wore layers to obscure my curves, before I even owned jeans. I did not cover myself because of any notions of tzniut, but because I was simultaneously embarrassed by my body and nervous that I would never be taken seriously if I was any more than a walking brain.

Then I got tired of dressing so modestly. Frankly, I got sweaty one summer and invested in a tank top, imperfect arms be damned. As I got more comfortable with my body, I realized that, so long as I was dressed appropriately for the situation, maybe it was okay if I occasionally revealed that I had curves under all these layers. Further down the line, after graduating college, I even bought clothing that emphasized the more pleasant characteristics of my body (i.e., clothing that fit).

What is it that makes us feel so uncomfortable about our bodies? Why do I feel so guilty when someone else feels uncomfortable around me, even when I am doing nothing wrong? When I'm wearing perfectly appropriate attire and behaving in a entirely professional manner. And even if I weren't dressed appropriately, even if I were living in some alternate universe where I was dressed in an entirely inappropriate way for any situation, have I somehow brought strange and unnerving behavior upon myself? Or are people responsible for their responses to a situation: is the onus for an appropriate response on each individual?

In this long, rambling post, what I'm really trying to say is that men have and will respond to me in an openly uncomfortable, awkward, vaguely creepy way, and that nothing I do or have done seems to deter them. I'm not sure they can deter themselves. All of which leads me to wonder: is there any thing I can do, any way I can dress, any magical incantation I can say, to stop these situations from occurring? Given that the answer's probably "No," I think I'll continue to dress and act as I do and just perfect my angry death stare.

What does any of this rambling have to do with Stargate or James Spader? James Spader is awesome and Stargate is an excellent movie.

And now, 10 minutes later, upon re-reading this post, I realize that I sound terribly immodest. But it's worth it to sound like a goober, I guess, if it means that I'm starting a dialogue (or more probably, filling up the time that you would otherwise spend working, making a spreadsheet or something).

Friday, August 10, 2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007

My Mom is Hilarious

Now that my baby brother is off at college, my mom has more time to pursue her own interests. To that end she's started taking classes. She signed up for a Melton Hebrew class, and then looked around to find an Israeli dance class, only to see that they were on the same night.

So what did she do? My mother decided that if she couldn't do Israeli dance, she'd do the next best thing... Country Line Dancing. No joke. Every Thursday night my mom drives to the Lutheran Church near us (there are 4 churches in walking distance of my house. At least.) and does an hour of Country Line Dancing. I went with her this week, and it was a hilarious social experiment.

First of all, the class is almost entirely women, and mostly retirees, or women whose attire shouts "mom." Secondly, one of the two guys is named Larry. Larry must be 70, at least, but he drives to class on his Harley, wears a different Harley t-shirt each time (I am told), and dances like a pro. He shook his hips to the "cha cha slide" in a way that I am entirely sure was meant to be provocative. He's also wiry, tattooed, and utterly charming in that Southern gentleman way.

CJ watch out, I might have a new flirtation...

An Open Letter: Machal/Bnei Akiva

Dear Machal/Bnei Akiva,

I actually am not sure what your governing organization is, because my only information is gathered off of the backs of teenagers t-shirts.

You see, I was in Washington, DC yesterday (and it was so fricking hot) to see the National Museum of the American Indian. It was pretty lame, but we can talk about that later. As I walked around the Mall I saw 5 or 6 groups of young teenagers (with no discernible supervision!) in yellow t-shirts, carrying signs, and accosting strangers. The t-shirts said something like "help our captured soldiers" on the front, and on the back said "Machal" "Shevet Shvut" and the date. I googled "shevet shvut" and the only thing that came up was Bnei Akiva sites, and that seemed about right so I'll go with that.

At any rate, you may be wondering why I am writing this letter. You see, whomever you are, I think that your behavior in sending out young teenagers to accost strangers in DC, asking them to write their congresspeople to ask for the release of the captured soldiers bothers me for a number of reasons:

1) You are forcing/coercing kids to do this for you. Presumably these kids are on a Summer program, did they sign up for this specifically? It is pretty hot out there, and an unpleasant job. Are their parents aware that this is what their minor children are doing? It seems rather exploitive to me, and even dangerous, giving the heat, lack of supervision, and the fact that you have left small groups of children/teenagers alone in a city.

2) Even if these children are consenting, I have a problem with those who cannot vote lobbying those who can. There are other ways to influence politics, and if they wanted to raise money for a PAC, or hold a consciousness-raising event, fine. But it sits ill with me for them to ask constituents to lobby their representative when those asking are not in a position to do so. They can take none of the "risk," and don't really have to put themselves out there in the same way, so it seems unfair to ask others to do so.

3) I am a Zionist (CJ would say post-Zionist, but we can talk about that later), I am an American, and I am ticked. By lobbying people on the streets of DC, you are helping to spread the belief that Jews vote in America based on Israel. I hate when people do that, and I hate when people think that, that is the case. I would consider this a chillul hashem*, as you are, in fact, hurting other Jews. I have a Jewish friend who wants to work in the government, and he has to answer awkward questions about his allegiance to Israel in interviews. And that is just anecdotal. It is well known that Jews in the intelligence community have to answer many more questions than non-Jews, and why? Why? Because people like you behave in a way that makes Americans think that Jews are first Jews and second Americans, when for many people, that is not the case. We live in America, and I firmly believe that America's foreign policy should not be decided based on what is best for a third party state. I love Israel, I love the land, and I believe that the soldiers should be returned, but I don't think that there is any benefit in lobbying Congress. Lobby the UN, or the states that are giving sanctuary to Hamas and Hezbollah, but not Congress.

I hope that you will read this, and maybe identify yourself as whichever organization, so that I can properly address my complaints.


*A chillul hashem is an act that makes Jews look bad, and a crime against G-d.

Fascism of the Mammaries

A brief disclaimer:
Ordinarily, I am a big proponent of breastfeeding. It is part of my game plan for the stewardship and care of future Autodidacts. But the idea of not having the option to do so on my own terms incenses me beyond belief.

Last week, New York City health officials announced that formula would no longer be given out for free in city hospitals. This effectively shackles women to their babies and to their homes, reversing years of women’s progress in the workplace. Not every woman has a job that is compatible with the demands that breastfeeding makes on a woman, both physically, emotionally and economically. And it is precisely the women whose jobs make it impossible to breastfeed who rely on free formula.

Furthermore, just because some women DO have jobs that might yield to the demands of breastfeeding does NOT make it okay for them to be forced to do so or judged for not doing so. And the ban sadly ignores situations in which the health and habits of the mother renders the “breast is best” maxim untrue, as in cases of babies born to mothers living with AIDS or various addictions.

I can already hear the choruses of dissent out there, waving the specter of the trans-fat ban and pointing out to democrats like myself that this is a prime example of reaping what one has sown. But it is not. The trans-fat ban was a crucial public-health measure. While the vast majority of diners are free to exercise personal choice as to what and from where they will consume, there is a large population in our city whose choice is usurped by the simple economies of putting food on the table. Why would someone making minimum wage favor a few paltry items of fresh produce when they could have an entire meal for a buck?

It is this latter group of people who are getting creamed by this latest “public health” initiative. Somehow, I don’t think it will make things any better to know that at least that cream is trans-fat-free.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

i do what i want: part uno

yesterday a friend sent me this article about how a new york city council member is trying to ban the word "bitch"... i say "wha?" honestly, i don't even feel like ranting about it because everyone i shared it with did it for me. however, i thought i was doing a dishonesty to my new status as blogger to not share this with you. read this. talk amongst yourselves.

my comments:
  • first of all, how can you ban a word?? is that first amendment only around for show and for when the government wants to protect the minute men and all those folks protesting outside of abortion clinics?
  • old (usually white) people don't understand rap and this appears to be yet another racist attempt to squelch something the ruling class doesn't know, understand or appreciate. funny when juxtaposed with this article in am ny today. do first amendment rights end when it bothers some folks "sensibilities."
  • however, it is a federal offense to scream "fire" in a crowded theater. so language can't be used to incite a riot. but thats context... can a word be all bad? does it matter who says it?
  • what about ho, dyke, fag, kike*, etc etc... they arent bad enough to make legislation? are women's rights that much more pc than freedom from hate crimes in general?
  • if they ban "bitch," my sister may just have to learn to call me by my real first name.
  • you can NOT change culture by banning a word, an action or an experience. you can never really truly ban these things on their own. hello racism for example. you can make it illegal to discriminate against someone based upon the color of their skin, but no legislation can force you to stop being a hater. the only way to end [insert something bad like racism] is to change the system that profits and benefits from said bad thing. sexism and racism can't end by getting rid of words.. you have to change the system. ::fist in the air::
  • this is totally ridic

politically correct bitch

** bad words used merely to illustrate a point and not meant to cause offense.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Nonsense is the Fruit of Boredom

Things you don't know about me:
(1) I'm an excellent cook. Tonight, I will make steak and avocado fajitas, rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes, and green bean salad. (Annie is also a superb cook, by the way. I miss you, Annie! I'm bored!!! It's lonely back here, all alone.)

(2) I used to collect rocks as a child. Sometimes the fancy ones, but usually just ones I found on the street. If I'm in an interesting place or see a cool rock, I will still pick it up and put it in my pocket, which accounts for why my enormous bag is very heavy. That and the books.

(3) I am obsessed with vegetables (it frightens Prettyboy, but I usually don't make him partake. And I chew gum after broccoli, so he's not subjected to the smell. Wimp).

(4) I'm an avid g-chatter and a compulsive status-message-changer. I chalk that up to my desire to always be accurate. So, for example, if I'm back from lunch, "Out to Lunch" is no longer accurate (nor is it very clever, but I can't always be perfect, people). Right now it says, "holy crap entertain me I cannot focus on work and I'm slowly losing my mind!" I don't hold to the same grammar rules in status messages that I hold to in other correspondence. Actually, that's inaccurate, I do obsessively check my grammar, even in my status messages, but the impact of the sentence rests in the absence of punctuation (things you did know: I am a nerd).

My status messages are not always a reflection of my current state of being. Sometimes, it's a response to a news item or a wish for something chocolaty or "avocados are nature's mayonnaise."

Periodically, my messages get me into trouble, particularly if I'm alluding to a private conversation and, taken out of context, the statement makes me appear to be (A) a psycho-crazed loony, (B) seriously sexually confused, (C) evil in an unfunny way, or (D) all of the above.

Plus, I have to be even more careful of its contents now that my mom has gmail. She has yet to figure out g-chat, but just give it time.

(Hattip: Nataliedee)

And now you know far more about me than you ever wanted to know. Any questions?

Once More into the Breach

It's nearly impossible to discuss the Israel/Palestine conflict without everyone getting up in arms. We come into each discussion with so many preconceived notions, so many past hurts, so much baggage that even a discussion between friends can devolve into shouting matches. I spent most of my time at the seminary with my mouth shut as a result, thinking that I could do more good addressing the many other complicated international situations, situations that I could discuss without that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was somehow pissing off everyone.

This morning, Zie, a long-time Palestinian rights activist, and I had a lengthy discussion about the problem of addressing the issue without sound like an asshole. She and I are in the same ballpark, but I don't always agree with her labels. (I'm not sure "Zionist" is always the right label for those on the more conservative side of the issue nor am I sure if it's always a bad word. I use "conservative" side to denote those traditionally referred to as Pro-Israel. I don't like that distinction, either. So let's call them "right-wing zionists," to clarify their politics.) Regardless of where either of us fall on the issue, we both want to do it justice, so here it goes:

Zie: Is the Israel/Palestine too controversial a subject for the blog?
Harley: It's not too controversial and I would never advise you to step lightly. Just remember to be as respectful and keep the discourse as high as possible. A high level of discourse: no ad hominem attacks, nothing below the belt. Not that you would EVER do that.
Zie: Ok, I get it, but this Abbas meeting is too good to pass up.
Harley: We keep a broad readership because we have different opinions but are always [Ed: “always” being a relative term here, I’ll admit] even. Do it
Zie: Oh and Bush meeting with the "president" of Afghanistan
Harley: Just do it in a way that's informative and not inflammatory (or aim at that-- I usually fall short)
Zie: Ok, I'll do my research. and merely provide a few facts
Harley: you can provide commentary, of course. I don't want you to feel that you can't say whatever the hell you want. You can and should
Zie: But I'll be nice
Harley: That'd be great
Zie: The paper is funny today. One article of settlers being forcefully taken from their homes and right next to it an article on the wall that states the the building of the wall steals 10% of Palestinian land... next to another article saying Olmert is committed to a two state solution, but its "just not time yet." Hmmm. It’s so old news, it’s almost boring; there’s nothing new. I feel like reading Ecclesiastes
Harley: that's why I haven't touched the conflict almost at all
Zie: I noticed
Harley: It's so hard for me not to sound really angry every time I write about it
Zie: Yeah thats going to be a challenge
Harley: And I figured if I was just going to add anger to the discourse, well, that's not really an addition at all
Zie: Yes it is!
Harley: no, if I were doing something active, that would be adding
Zie: Sorry, I don't subscribe the whole "discourse" B.S. Zionists can say they are willing to chat about it, but Palestinians are getting screwed. I agree about action.. but speaking out is action!
Harley: I feel the same way about all human rights issues and all issues period. Speaking out is action, but speaking out when anger undermines your content is just adding venom to the mix and that's not useful, it's polarizing. No one listens
Zie: The world is already polarized.. People just don’t like having their nice lives disturbed. Me included. I think we need to make some noise if we want to be heard. Otherwise, people have no reason to listen. We don’t have to be mean about it, but presenting the facts is one of the strongest forms of opposition
Harley: I agree entirely. Presenting facts in a way that will be heard, even better. I agree that the world is polarized and that we should speak out, loudly, against injustice, but I want to change people's minds, you know? And I know that antagonizing them is not the way to do it. We have an audience with a variety of views, some of which I vehemently disagree with, but I want to rise above the fray and counter anger with calm, even though that sometimes seems impossible and I often fall short of it
Zie: Well, that’s the all time struggle, but I think people hide behind talking about "discourse"
Harley: I'm not hiding behind a discussion of "discourse," but I am tired of all the talk about honesty and straight talking if it's only going to be justification for vitriol; that does nothing for a cause; it just gives people reasons to continue to ignore you
Zie: I understand and I agree that being rude never helps. I am so confused about how to make change. But I know one thing- the seeds of the future have to be clearly represented in our methods today.. anger will only lead us to anger.. violence to violence, you know. But how do you fight guns with stones? I think it comes down to numbers, which comes down to class. Discussion is sooo important, but what’s more important is who you are talking to. Will the other person change their mind or are they dependant on the society/problem/situation?

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Autodidact is here

The Autodidact has arrived.

Hey there kids, it looks like I'm to be joining this here lil' party.

Harley, I hope you know what you're doing...

Ready for a bit of the old ultraviolence, eh?

Mrs. Autodidact has a First Name

Unsatisfied with merely existing under the shadow of her better half, Mrs. Autodidact has decided, by the grace of the inimitable Harley, to enter the world of blogging. Therefore, let it be known that henceforth, she shall be referred to as Duchess. Also, she shall speak of herself in the 3rd person, apparently.

Jewish geography and general tidbits:
  • Duchess studied at the same seminary as Harley (connection to Jewbiquitous--established).
  • She once lived with a relative of Annie's (two--two Jewbiquitous connections--ah, ah, ah, ah!!!).
  • She has at times considered herself a poster child for the Conservative movement.
  • She wrote her college thesis on the dirty things that people do with their Barbies.
For an example of the intersection of these two disciplines, click here (don't worry; it's safe for work).

welcome to me

yo. I'd like to officially welcome myself! Woot! Woot!

i am Harley's bffae (to basically explain my connection to said blog)... Though we met in (Conservative) seminary, i hail from Reform roots. i've been believer, atheist, agnostic and back again. Mmmm.. wrestling with Gd.. quite the mental/emotional exercise. Throw in a little Marxism and a bit of anarchism and you have a person with quite the ongoing religious and political crisis. word.

[i also hate capital letters and proper sentence structure when not writing egghead papers... so you are forewarned. however, i do love commas and the always useful ellipsis!!]

Soon, oh so soon, I will be a student at a nondenominational divinity school in the Midwest. There I will spend my days studying comparative theology and in whatever time leftover i will be messing around with graphic design, art and planning a fabulous lesbian wedding (!!

My B'Sheret*, who will be herein called B'Sheret (sorry if there are any homophobes offended by this term, actually i lied, i couldn't care less if you are offended), is a Jew by choice and the coming year will be all about making that official before the wedding.

So with the warning that i am an emotional, cultural, even superstitious Jew, not halakhic, my first Jewish question to throw out there to the open minded: Did Gd, if there is a Gd of course, send her to me in part because she is bringing me back to Judaism? Dude, twenty bucks says we are keeping Shabbos by Pesach!

B'sheret means soul mate, it can also mean fated.

Bye Bye, Love

With Annie's impending departure for greener pastures, I've invited some collaborators to Jewbiquitous. Most of them you'll recognize from their various mentions and responses in past posts. They represent a fascinating cross-section of Jewish life, culture, and interest, and I know that their thoughts will add breadth and depth to this blog. As they each write their first post, they'll introduce themselves more completely.

I'll also offer a more complete adieu to Annie when the thought of it doesn't make me all teary and silly-looking.

Don't Know Much About History

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

I have two questions for you:

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

(2) What gaps are there in your Jewish history knowledge that you wish would be filled?

Feel free to answer however you like, even if you're unsure if it actually responds to either question. I'll be re-posting these periodically, in the hopes of getting responses from new readers.

Thanks, everyone!

Home is Magic

So I'm at home, in the bosom of my family, for the week between jobs. Basically, it's awesome. As I don't live here regularly, I'm not expected to take part in the regular upkeep of the house (ie painting the garage, or gardening) but only to clean up after myself; something I do on a regular basis.

As a result of this, I have had plenty of time to read, work out, and watch TV. These are the things that I've discovered:

1) Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld is insightful, well-written, but towards the end I just wanted it to be over, as it was agonizing to read (mostly because I remember those awful teen feelings).

2) Throwdown with Bobby Flay might be my new favorite TV show. Not only because of my love for Bobby Flay, but also because it is a charming, and good-natured competition. I watched Bobby lose "competition meatloaf" on the basis of the fact that his wasn't as "comforting" as the other.

3) The JCC gym near me is awesome. No one is ever there, there are TVs eternally set to Law and Order, and I am the youngest person by 20 years. Magic.

4) I am no longer MTV's target audience.

That is basically all. Now it is time for me to go try on some bridesmaid dresses. *sigh*

Friday, August 03, 2007

Sick and Sickened

I was out sick for a week with a virus that made me want to pull a Max Cohen and put a drill through my frontal lobe (am I the only one who thinks of Pi imagery when I'm feeling really under the weather? Does that indicate some severe mental issues on my part?). Yet, I didn't feel truly nauseated until I read Norman Lamm's response to Noah Feldman's New York Times article in the Foward (lots of possessives there, sorry-- the Feldman piece was in the Times, Lamm's response was in the Forward).

We've been over this issue again and again. You all know both how I feel about in-marriage and how I feel about the absurdity of our attitudes towards exogamy. We've discussed at length how I think that our attitude toward out-marriage and patrilineal descent (and by "our," I'm referring to the more traditional strains of Judaism, who don't recognize P-descent) alienates Jews and shrinks our community unnecessarily, how I think that it instills bigoted attitudes, and reinforces a tribalism that's unhealthy for anyone who lives in a global community.

I don't care if it's halakha or if it's biblical; it's not an argument to which I'll concede; laws codified several hundred years ago (not to mention those that come from a text written when selling your daughters was legal and considered normal) don't hold moral suasion to me, now.

Norman Lamm says that it makes him weep that Noah Feldman has undergone "self-imposed alienation" due to his "weakness of the flesh"? He asks:

For Heaven’s sake, do you prefer that religion — any religion — deal with any
thing but that which is important in life? Is this the Judaism you want? One
that will make you feel warm and fuzzy and cuddly, one that will make
grandiloquent pronouncements and issue pretty pieties — anything but what is
really an “important life decision”?

I think that Noah may wish for a Judaism that doesn't enshrine bigotry as tradition, that provides his wife with the opportunity to have a Jewish household or to exist in a Jewish world, that treats her like a human being, even if she chooses not to convert. Who wants to convert into a religion that will only have anything to do with you on the condition that you convert; that only values you as a wife and mother if you convert; that looks beyond the fact that your children attend shul and that your husband engages in Jewish life because you chose not to convert? That may not be the intent, Jews do value non-Jews, but the effect is to devalue Feldman's wife as a person, even before she was his wife.

And the argument that a major value of Orthodox and Conservative Jewry is in-marriage and so that justifies their attitudes is specious, to me. Maybe it's time to question a "value" that "forces" the community to treat a human being like a sack of air or that denies membership to a valued scholar because of whom he marries.

I think Noah may wish for a Judaism that has moved beyond the mindset that Judaism can only survive if we fend off assimilation. I know I do.

I know that outside influences change and shape Judaism, but I refuse to see those changes as dilution. I refuse to look back fondly on shtetl life, a ghettoization we were forced to live under for hundreds of years, and see it as an optimal way to live my religion. The Judaism that exists today is new and different: different from that of a Jewish nation in ancient Israel and Judea, different from that which thrived in kahalim across Europe, different from the pockets of competing traditions that peopled the Lower East Side at the turn of the century.

We spend so much time being afraid of losing ourselves, we spend so much time focusing on what we had, that we no longer look to the richness of what we could have.

I realize that what I say means very little. As a liberal, atheist, non-halakhic Jew, I might as well be speaking gibberish. Change comes from within and, like Noah, I've put myself without by the nature of my views and my choices. But when people like me opt out because they no longer see Judaism as a tenable choice, no longer see the community as one with which they can struggle, what does that say about Judaism?

I attended the (Conservative) seminary because I was fascinated with the history of Judaism and its texts. After thousands of years, we have so much to offer the outside world, so much wisdom, so much ritual, so many intricacies. Since when is halakha more important than humanity? Where's my Judaism? I would hate to accede to The Rooster, especially because I know how much he'd enjoy it and I'd hate to give him the satisfaction, but Jews like Norman, who'd cut off his nose to spite his face, all in the name of law, make it so difficult. Law may be all we have, but when it forces us to act inhumanely, we have to look closely at our values and wonder if the great, often liberal (for their time) rabbis were alive today, would they approve or our exclusivist, reactionary take on the religion they molded?

I hope not.

An Open Letter: Cabot Cheese

Dear Cabot Cheese,

I'm not sure how to say this, but, I love you. You have replaced Tillamook in my affections as the best kosher cheese. I discovered you a few summers ago when I was working on a farm that hosted my local 4-H fair. You donated a large number of single-serving cheeses, and I was hungry, I figured that there was no chance of a heksher*, but I checked, just to be sure. Lo, and behold, the tablet K.
It was like magic. Tasty, tasty magic. Yes, so I know that some people don't think that tablet K is an acceptable heksher, but a heksher plus the fact that cheese manufactured in America (meaning only cow milk unless specifically indicated otherwise) is good enough for me.

But Cabot, not only are you kosher, a qualification which Tillamook shares, but you also are hekshered in a number of varieties. While I can only enjoy Tillamook's yellow cheddar, you have many different options. Reduced fat, both 50 and 75%, reduced fat Jalapeno, horseradish, Harpoon IPA, and many more. I cannot tell you how much this means to me. Good cheese options! Reduced fat options! This is magic.

Cabot, I love you. Please never forsake me.

*A heksher is a symbol that certifies that a product was created under the supervision of a Rabbi, and is kosher according to his authority

Thursday, August 02, 2007

This is Adorable

Courtesy of the Videologist, this couple's first dance was the one from Dirty Dancing. I think that this might be the cutest thing I've ever seen.

Bad Day Again

So today is my penultimate day at my job, and it is already sucking. Why? Because:

1) It took a million years to get to work, and in the meantime I was stuck in a sweaty, sweaty environment. So much for looking nice for my date tonight.

2) A bird pooped on me as I exited the bus. No joke. Actual bird poop, on me. And then I had to walk a couple blocks before I could do anything about it.

3) I am exhausted, so I decided to get coffee (unusual for me), and the guy was out of skim milk. Now I am drinking coffee that I don't really want, and it's fattening. Awesome.

4) I couldn't figure out what I wanted to wear this morning, and the roommate (she is my fashion consultant) left before me, so I look sort of like an idiot.

5) Harley is really sick, so I have no one to play with.

At least a bridge didn't collapse under me... which, by the way, is one of my biggest fears. I am always worried about falling through the subway grates, and I rush over bridges because I'm worried about them. I hate when my irrational fears become rational.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Philandering Italian Politicos are Magic

In Italy, Christian Politician Found With Two Prostitutes
The Daily Telegraph August 1, 2007

ROME Â-- An Italian politician whose party represents Christian values has been embroiled in a scandal involving two prostitutes, a hotel room, and a large amount of cocaine.
Cosimo Mele, 50, a Christian Democrat UDC MP, was caught out when he had to call an ambulance to the hotel in Rome after one of the girls suffered breathing problems.
The property entrepreneur, whose wife is pregnant with their fourth child, has now resigned from his party.

The scandal's timing is sensitive since the UDC Party has been calling for all MPs to take voluntary drug tests.

Mr. Mele said, "I did nothing other than go to dinner with a friend who introduced me to this girl. Since it was late, she came to bed with me. How many politicians go to bed with young girls?"

He said he had nothing to do with the other girl who had "taken drugs or something else." She had felt ill, and he had called reception.

He added: "So politicians in the UDC do not make love? Of course, I recognize Christian values. But what has that got to do with going with a prostitute? It is a personal matter. This affair has nothing to do with family values. I cannot be branded a bad father and a bad husband simply because after five or six days away from home, an occasion presented itself."

Seriously, how many politicians DO go to bed with young girls? I also love his whole defense. The last paragraph actually made me laugh out loud.

I've never gone this far

This woman faked her own kidnapping to avoid a blind date.

Thanks Jezebel.

In other news (also from Jezebel) Anna Quindlen (who is a rockstar) interviewed anti-abortion activists to ask what should the punishment be for women who have abortions after they are outlawed. Watch the video, it's fascinating.

What I found was interesting is that the people were interested in prevention of abortions, not the punishment of women who had them. Also the people who said that they had "never thought" of what would happen to the women. I disagree with some of the questions that the guy asked (like "what does it mean for society if we have a law with no punishment?") but I really found the protesters to be reasonable; driven by what they believe is their calling to peacefully protest what they see as a moral wrong.

Do These Kids Know

That Aqua songs are pretty dirty? The euphemisms are pretty easy to decode. The words are actually "I'm going wham, bam, thank you ma'am."

Also: I actually laughed out loud when the kid got hit by the chair, it was so unexpected.

And I love this song:

Hillary Is Clearly A Slut

An earlier email conversation with another blogger, I got to thinking about modesty. And the modesty that I've been thinking about has been Hillary Clinton's.

I told my elder brother that I wouldn't touch this issue with a 10-foot pole, but it seems impossible to avoid it. So let's start with the article that touched off the issue: Robin Givhan, a fashion writer (get it? her job is to write about fashion) talked about Hillary's choice to wear a sort of low-cut top to a debate. She then gave a run-down of Hillary's fashion history. Pretty standard, right?

That article has been linked to, by, at last count, 511 blogs. In the days that followed, WaPo alone had something like 7 articles about the cleavage (or according to Andrew Sullivan, the lack thereof), the coverage, the firestorm, the accusations, and the anger of the Clinton campaign. One of my favorites suggested that the problem is that Hillary didn't expose enough cleavage and compared her to a British politician who wears low cut tops and necklaces which show off her "attributes."

And then, Hillary's response: from HillaryHub, a campaign ad that says "pay attention to your hair, because everyone else will" with a display of her many different haircuts. I love it. Finally she shows a sense of humor, or at least her handlers do.

Basically this seems to me like a tempest in a teacup. Mostly stupid. Except that it does say a lot about what we, as a culture think about the sexuality of our female leaders. Mostly that we don't like it. And that whoever is dressing Hillary now is MUCH better than those idiots who handled her while Bill was in the White House.

I'm not even sure what this is about

WTF is Chocolate Rain?

On Obesity

So I've been watching Shaq's big Challenge, and I have a couple of thoughts about it:

1) Parental involvement really affects how much weight the kids lose. The parents that were fully on board had kids that lost between 40-60 pounds, those whose parents weren't as involved lost FAR less (25-30). The smallest kid lost the most weight, and actually is a normal weight now, mostly because his parents really helped him along. Which brings me to my second thought:

2) Why didn't his parents also diet? They were already preparing healthier meals for him, why not for themselves? Shaq provided a stair stepper for the kid, couldn't the parents use it too?

3) As great as this program is, how many kids are going to have a trainer to work with them 2 hours a day, 5 days a week? And Shaq to ease the way in their school? This program clearly cannot be implemented on a national level, although the "Shaquille O'Neal wellness wheel" could.

4) Why didn't Shaq provide diets with recipes for the kids? It's pretty standard in most weight loss programs. Dieting (when done correctly) can help to lose more weight than exercise (although it is ideal to do both), yet their wasn't much focus on what it meant to 'eat healthy' other than just to cut out junk food. The only exception was for Chris, whose parents were taught how to make their traditional ethnic food in a healthier way.

5) I just read an article about how some school in Arizona (now can't find it) had the kids protest the vegetables in their cafeteria, and they just won the right to a taste-test of cost effective alternatives. Although, for the record, I don't remember my cafeteria food being that unhealthy. But then again, I always brought my lunch.