fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Hiroshi Arakawa was a Japanese baseball player and later managed the Yakult Swallows. Edwin Benson was the last native speaker of the Mandan language and made an effort to teach the language to children in North Dakota. Bob Krasnow co-founded the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Javier Echevarria Rodriguez headed Opus Dei, a controversial part of the Catholic Church and a favorite target of conspiracy theorists. E. R. Braithwaite wrote To Sir, With Love. Alan Thicke was an actor and talk show host, probably best known as the father on Growing Pains. Thomas Schelling was a Nobel prize winning economist, specializing in game theory and complex systems. Henry Heimlich invented the Heimlich maneuver. (Note: he did not die of choking.) Zsa Zsa Gabor was an actress and socialite, who was at least as famous for having had nine husbands.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Another former colleague passed away earlier this month. Bernie Klem had an office catty-corner from mine, despite which we had an occasion on which we both flew from L.A. to Washington for me to give him a briefing. My favorite story about Bernie is the time he was checking into a hotel that asked him for a government ID to get the rate within per diem. He just said, "I'm traveling undercover" and they gave him the rate!

Three Holiday Parties: I have survived the party season, with minimal stress. My condo complex party has been less interesting since the Scottish guy realized that it wasn’t formal and, hence, gave up wearing his kilt to it. On the other hand, the food is good (as long as you get there early enough to get some of it) and the conversation can be interesting. It’s never a bad thing to get to know your neighbors at least a little bit.

The second party was at work and the stress level is lower now that they cater it, instead of doing pot luck. They were doing partial pot luck for a while, with folks doing appetizers and desserts, but they went full catered this year. They had okay Italian food with the definite highlight being the tiramisu for dessert. As for the white elephant gift exchange, my contribution was a hot cocoa gift box from Penzeys, which consists of cocoa, two hot chocolate mixes, a jar of cinnamon sticks (well, actually, cassia, but normal people are not as snobbish about this as I am), and bay leaves. Don’t ask me to explain the latter, because I can’t. Unfortunately, it got chosen towards the end, so it’s hard to say if it would have gotten stolen. I ended up with a set of teas and an infuser, along with hot chocolate sticks and a Trader Joe’s shopping bag.

The final party was at my former great-grandboss’s house. That one was pot luck and I find it intriguing that the offerings included Kentucky Fried Chicken and Wendy’s chili. I brought a Mediterranean pasta salad, for which I will offer a recipe below. There was good conversation and entertainment, in the form of our hosts (and their daughter) singing and me telling a couple of stories. The downside was that the party was in Manassas and, oy, that is a long drive. At least the morning ice storm was long since over and the roads were in good shape.

Flyertalk Dinner: I posted that it had been a while since we’d had a get-together, expecting people to suggest something after Christmas. But it turned out that a lot of people were free on Thursday night. We went to Sine Irish Pub in Pentagon City, which is always reliable. It was cold enough out to justify eating things like shepherd’s pie or fish and chips. And, of course, there was the usual travel conversation.

Silver Belles: This was a cute little holiday musical at Signature Theatre. The premise is that the Silver Belles of Silver Ridge, Tennessee put on an annual pageant for the local orphans. But now their leader, Oralene, had been struck dead by a bolt of lightning (which also, not coincidentally, destroyed her still) and they are struggling to put the pageant together. Oralene gets to influence things from beyond the grave.

There’s a lot of Southern-inflected humor and quirky characters and reasonably lively music. Donna Migliacci was excellent as Oralene. I want to particularly point out her expressive reactions to the crazy things the rest of the Belles do. There was also great chemistry between her and Dan Manning, who played her husband, Earl. The other outstanding performance is by the always wonderful Nova Payton. However, it bothered me that she as the one African-American performer was playing the sexy, vamp role.

I’m not big on either Christmas fare or country(ish) music, but I still thought this was worth seeing. It’s certainly a hell of a lot better than the umpty-umpth version of A Christmas Carol.

Carousel: Finally, I went to see Carousel at Arena Stage. I’ve always been lukewarm towards this musical. There is some lovely music, e.g. "The Carousel Waltz," but I have trouble with the whole "he’s your man, so you put up with him even when he hurts you" stuff. In short, I think Billy is a jerk and Julie is an idiot. And, yes, I understand the psychological damage abuse does and why Julie behaves the way she does, but it still annoys me.

The performances are excellent, with Nicholas Rodriguez as Billy Bigelow, Betsy Morgan as Julie Jordan, and Kate Rockwell as Carrie Pipperidge. It is also a pleasure to see actual dancing on stage. But, overall, I find the story too off-putting. If I have to see a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, give me South Pacific.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: The only death that crossed my radar this time out was that of Shimon Peres. He served a couple of terms as Prime Minister of Israel, as well as holding several other prominent political jobs there, notably Foreign Minister. I’d say his most significant accomplishment was the peace treaty with Jordan. But he also deserves a lot of credit for Israel being as much of a technologically advanced nation as it is. He also wrote poetry, but I am loathe to list that as an accomplishment for any politician after having heard praise for Stalin’s poetry at his house museum in Georgia.

Baseball: The Red Sox clinched the American League East. Yay! I am also reasonably pleased that the Nationals won the National League East. As for the wild card slots, I’d kind of like to see Detroit pull things out and beat out Toronto, just because the Tigers have some appealing history.

Quarterly Movies: Well, make that "movie," singular. The only movie I saw over the past few months was Seven Psychopaths. I chose it because it was written and directed by Martin McDonagh. Like pretty much all of McDonagh’s work, it is weird and violent, but funny. At any rate, it held my attention.

The Quarterly Goal Update: I didn’t make much of an attempt over the past few months, largely because I’ve been so swamped at work. My email inbox at work is ridiculous – back up over 6000 items. The only other thing I’ve made any actual progress on is dealing with papers, having handled about 2/3 of what had migrated to the bedroom floor.

Speaking of Paperwork: I went to pay my county property tax bill for my car on-line. And I discovered that they had changed my address to some address in a town I’d never heard of that isn’t even in the same county. I called and got it changed back, but the point is that they should notify people when there is an address change so they can verify that they did it. (Apparently, someone did it by phone and the clerk typed in the wrong property number.) The whole thing was bizarre and the security implications are scary.

New Years Rosh Hashanah is Monday and Tuesday, so let me pass along my wishes for a happy, healthy 5777. I will also pass along wishes for a happy fiscal year 2017 for all of my friends who have some sort of U.S. government affiliations.

Two, two, two new years in one.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Patricia Elliott won a Tony award for playing Countess Charlotte in A Little Night Music on Broadway. Lemmy Kilmister founded Motorhead. John "Brad" Bradbury was the drummer for the ska group, The Specials. Meadowlark Lemon was the most famous player for the Harlem Globetrotters

Dave Henderson played baseball. While he was only with the Red Sox for one season, he hit a critical home run in Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS, which kept the Sox in the running and let them, eventually, get to the World Series that year.

I want to especially highlight Scottish singer / songwriter Andy M. Stewart. Apparently, he had been quite ill for some time and was paralyzed after failed spinal surgery. At least he didn't have the galloping bollickitis. (Before you ask, it's a lyric reference.) Anyway, I saw him perform at least a couple of times with Silly Wizard, as well as during his later tours with Manus Lunny and Gerry O’Beirne. I loved both his voice and the wit of his songs. When I first heard "The Queen of Argyll" (on one of the Silly Wizard albums), I played it about a dozen times in a row. (I still think "the swan was in her movement" is a brilliant line.) I really need to go out to listen to Celtic music more.

Good For the Jews: This is a music / comedy duo who do a show every Christmas eve at Jammin’ Java. It makes a good outing for the NoVa Chavurah. I’d gone a couple of years ago and went again this year. They didn’t have a lot of new material, but there was some. And it was fun hearing some of their older stuff again, e.g. "They Tried to Kill Us, We Survived, Let’s Eat," "Going Down to Boca," "Reuben the Hook-Nosed Reindeer," etc. And there was a Steven Wright style Pesach joke I thought was brilliant. Some of the humor is a bit crude, but we are earthy folks after all.

The cutest thing was after the show when David (one of the guys in the duo) talked with a woman from our group he had sort of flirted with and sort of picked on during the show. It turned out that she thought her family might live near his, but he couldn’t remember the name of the development in Florida they’re in. So he called his mother – and then put our friend on the phone with Mom.

Afterwards, we went over to Amphora (a nearby diner) for desserts. (Or, I suppose, non-desserts, as some people got stuff like appetizers or breakfast items.) I realize they were very busy, but the service was truly atrocious. Slow is one thing, but forgetting to bring items (or bringing the wrong item) is another. And I have a particular dislike of waiters who auction off items.

Jewish Christmas: I did the traditional movie and Chinese food thing. For the movie, I chose Spotlight which was superb. I will say more about it when I do my quarterly movie review.

As for the Chinese food, that was a Chavurah dinner outing to East Chateau. Which is conveniently close to my place and has very good food, though the service is slow (and they also tend to auction off the food, which is a real problem when one person at the table can’t remember what she ordered). Still, there was good food and good conversation and that’s pretty much all one can hope for at this sort of thing.

The Rest of the Weekend: I had grand plans for achieving organizational nirvana. I did get rid of a few odds and ends. I got about halfway through the annual desk drawer clean out. And I actually read the entire Sunday Washington Post by the end of Sunday.

But there is much much more to go. Sigh.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Last Week’s Entertainment: I went to see a documentary (Famous Nathan about Nathan Handwerker and his hot dog emporium) at the DCJCC Tuesday night. I’ll have more to say about that when I do my quarterly movie wrap-up.

Then, on Wednesday night, I went to the opening show of the new season of The Grapevine, which has moved more conveniently to Busboys and Poets in Takoma. I’d comment on it still being in darkest Maryland, but actually it is on the DC side of the line. And, most importantly, it’s easily metroable. There were two storytellers, followed by an open mike. The first teller was Shirleta Settles, who I had not heard of before. She did a folk tale, with excellent voices and strong singing, and was very animated and entertaining. She was followed by Jon Spelman, who did a couple of excerpts from The Prostate Diaries. One of those was quite timely since it had to do with his experiences on the Camino del Santiago, which [livejournal.com profile] fossilfreakca had just started on. He did a good job of making the excerpts make sense while telling something less than half of the whole piece. As for the open mike, I told "Two Foolish Old People," a badly mistitled Mongolian story.

Speaking of Storytelling: I am part of the Better Said Than Done fundraiser for the Reston Nature Center this coming Saturday night (September 19th). The show is at 8 p.m. and doors open at 7:30. We had rehearsal on Sunday afternoon and the show (which has a theme of "Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire") is going to be hot, hot, hot! You should come if you are anywhere in the general vicinity.

Rosh Hashanah: I went to services at Shoreshim in Reston. Overall, I’d say I’m looking for something more traditional. In particular, I would have preferred a more complete Torah reading , rather than just the first Aliyah. I also prefer not to have musical instruments (though I can actually make an argument for including them) and very much prefer not having microphones (though that is a losing cause for the most part). On the plus side, the drosh (sermon) was both brief and relevant and the shofar blowing set a high standard.

I Despair for Our Future: The internet is exploding today with the story of Ahmed Mohammed, a 9th-grader in Irving, Texas, who was hauled off from school in handcuffs because a teacher and some cops were too dumb to be able to tell that his homemade clock wasn’t anything like a bomb. I’m proposing supporting him with a Bring Your Clock to Work Day.

At the same time, there’s an 11-year-old kid in Virginia who is serving out a year suspension (having to go to some special school as a result) for having what someone believed looked like a marijuana leaf in his backpack. Except it was actually a Japanese maple leaf. He (or someone else) may have joked that it was pot, but sheesh.

I suspect that if I were a kid nowadays, I’d end up in juvie over something similarly dumb.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Two quick notes for the first night of Chanukah:

1) My father used to come up with elaborate ways of calculating how much Chanukah gelt to send us. I remember one note when I was in college that had to do with a progression of how many latkes one should eat (doubling each night, if I recall correctly), accompanied by a recipe, and a check to cover the cost of the ingredients.

2) The candles I am using this year are beeswax. They appeared to be bigger than the standard boxed ones you get in the supermarket. But, at least based on one night, they burn faster. Since it is customary not to do housework while the candles are burning, I am not sure whether that is good or bad.

Chag sameach!
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I had planned to crochet a whole bunch of little snowflakes and enclose them with my Christmas cards this year. For people in warm climates, they would be a nice way to have a white Christmas. For people in cold climates, they would be snow that did not have to be shoveled. These would also be accompanied by a long chatty but not bragful letter. And, of course, it would have all been mailed in time for the cards to arrive yesterday or today.

I am slightly more than halfway through writing Christmas cards. The first batch got mailed yesterday and the second batch this morning. There are no crocheted snowflakes. Nor is there an annual letter.

I did, however, write a line or two on every card, instead of just signing my name. That counts for something, right?
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I am done with holiday parties for this year. While I have an invitation to one tomorrow night, I have too much to catch up on to spend the time driving an hour and a half each way.

The first was my condo complex party, which was mostly a drop in and chat with a neighbors and eat type of deal. It's livelier when my Scottish neighbor wears his kilt, but, alas, not this year.

Then came a potluck at work last week, for which I made chocolate rum cheesecake. There was, of course, way too much food and a surprising amount of alcohol. The only problem is that our office layout is not easily conducive to socializing. We don't all fit in the large conference room, so we end up scattered in small groups in a few rooms. At least people didn't go and hide back in their cubicles, which has happened at some of my previous jobs. (There was actually a second potluck this week for my organization, since we are scattered at two sites, but I had a meeting which conflicted with it.)

My previous organization does a lunch out. We went to La Tasca and ate massive quantities of tapas. There are other tapas places I like better (notably Jaleo for local ones, though my favorite is still El Molino in London) but this is good value. And it was a chance to see several people I had not seen in some time, including my former boss.

Last night, there was a party for the Arlington Yarn Bomb project. The essence of that was knit, crochet, eat. The food was not super exciting, but the company was good. There were prize drawings, but I didn't win anything.

Finally, my corporate potluck was today. Again, there was way too much food, though (oddly) only one chocolate dessert. This one involved a white elephant gift exchange. My contribution was a Sheldon Cooper bobblehead doll. I ended up with a scent diffuser, which is perfect for regifting next year. Regifting is a time-honored tradition there and our vice president ended up with the traditional pink footie pajamas.

At home, I finished writing cards. Since Chanukah ended this past Saturday, I can consider myself officially done with the holiday season. Excapt, of course, for Holidailies.

Video Link

Dec. 19th, 2012 10:48 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
This is the new holiday story I told on Saturday night. I will remind you that all the stories I tell are true, but they didn't all happen exactly that way.

fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I would have posted this last night, but livejournal was down when I sat down to write it. This messes with my Holidailies schedule, since the portal only lets you update every 8 hours. I will attempt to get caught up by writing earlier in the day tomorrow. Or Friday. Or something like that.

Anyway, I went to the Authors Out Loud talk on Kosher Christmas at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center on Monday night. Rabbi Joshua Plaut talked about his book on how Jews respond to Christmas. His thesis is that Jewish celebrations of Christmas as a secular American holiday are actually good for Christmas. Anybody who knows me will know that I disagree.

First, he talked a bit about the history of Christmas as an American holiday. It didn't become a national holiday until 1870 and I think he missed an opportunity by pointing out that many early colonists (notably the Puritans) were opposed to celebrating Christmas. He also failed to point out that Christmas as a national holiday should be clearly unconstitutional. (I know I have no chance of winning that, and I don't need to piss people off by pressing the point, but it is pretty obvious to me.)

From the strictly Jewish standpoint, there's a big distinction between the reactions of German Jews and Eastern European Jews, which reflects differences in their behaviors outside of America. So, for example, I was surprised to learn that Theodor Herzl had a Christmas tree. My understanding from my father is that relationships between Jews and non-Jews were generally good in Lithuania except on Christian holidays (more Easter and, actually, particularly Palm Sunday, than Christmas). But, certainly, one can't really expect people to embrace a holiday that was treated as an excuse for pogroms.

At one level, I handle Christmas the same way I handle, say, Diwali. I'm happy to go to parties friends have, but I don't need to celebrate explicitly myself. When I was growing up, we did help neighbors trim their trees and my mother got out the cookie press to make dozens of butter cookies in shapes like trees (decorated with green sugar crystals) for neighborhood events and we always drove around town looking at decorated houses. But we would never have considered having a Christmas tree. (I should note that for Chanukah we lit a candle menorah, and, when the candles burned out, turned on an electric menorah.)

So here's my problem. Doesn't that secularization of Christmas that Rabbi Plaut celebrates diminish its religious context for those for whom it is a religious holiday? Just as I hate the Supreme Court ruling that lets menorahs be on public land because it assumes they are secular symbols of Jewish identity, I can't understand why Christians don't object to calling a creche non-religious as long as there are a few reindeer thrown alongside it. While I think that objecting to people saying "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" hardly constitutes a war on Christmas, pretending that Christmas isn't a religious holiday does.

I also don't understand why all the hoopla about Christmas stops on December 26th, which is the 2nd day of a 12 day holiday, but that's another subject.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
1) When did Christmas lights on houses start? Obviously it was before I was born, since I've seen them my entire life, and I know that there were candles on Christmas trees in the 19th century, but what about those lights strung around windows and roof eaves and such?

2) On something more relevant to my own life, I have actually made it through 1 Maccabees (since I am making a push on one of my goals for 2012) and I am confused about some dates. The feast for the dedication of the temple is the 25th of Kislev, which is correct for Chanukah. But, later on there is a feast day to celebrate the slaying of Nicanor, which is given as the 13th of Adar. That is suspiciously close to Purim, which is the 14th of Adar. (And which is actually Biblical, since the Book of Esther is canonical, unlike Maccabees.) And even later on, there's another celebration related to cleansing the tower of Jerusalem, with its date given as "the three and twentieth day of the second month" which should mean the 23rd of Iyyar. Which is quite close to Lag B'omer, which is the 18th of Iyyar and has a more complicated historical basis, especially for Litvak rationalists like me.

Can someone explain what is going on here and will I be even more confused after reading 2 Maccabees?
fauxklore: (Default)
Last night when I was driving home from the dentist (and a stop for grocery shopping on the way), I noticed one house that had very elaborate holiday decorations up. It reminded me that every year we would drive around to look at people's Christmas lights. There was one house that always went all out. When those people moved, the people who moved in did nothing. If I remember it correctly, they pretended they were Jewish, even though they weren't. One of the ironies of this whole thing is that I think we usually did this drive-around when Mom picked us up from Hebrew school.

Not particularly seasonal, but thinking of being in the car with my mother driving reminds me of a silly little thing she used to do on the rare occasions when she'd drive us to school. See, my elementary school and junior high is right by the water and there is a sharp turn on the road there. So she'd always call out, "I'm going to drive into the water, I'm going to drive into the water." And we'd tell her to do it. Many years later when I lived at Venice Beach, she came out to visit. We'd gone out to dinner somewhere and I drove around the Marina and called out, "I'm going to drive into the water."

Giving my father equal time, my favorite seasonal memory of him had to do with his theory about the weather. He insisted that cold and snow were a Soviet plot. See, the Russians had these giant air blowers installed in Siberia ...

I was also reminded of my dad when I was reading some of Leo Rosten's "H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N" stories the other night. In particular, one story involves a new student who writes well, but can't distinguish between the "s" and "sh" sounds and always uses the "s". Kaplan mocks this student for being a Litvak. (Rosten was a Galitzianer, which is why I can dismiss his books on Yiddish as having no scholarly validity. Why, yes, my family roots are in Vilna and Kovno, at least on my father's side.)

Anyway, I didn't really realize my father spoke with an accent until I was in college. He just spoke the way he did. And he didn't have trouble with "s" sounds in English. I suppose he can't have had trouble in Yiddish, either, since he was fine with words like "shlemiel" and "shmendrick" and "shmegege." But he got the "s" and "sh" sounds confused in Hebrew. He used only one of those and, oddly, I can't remember which one he used. I remember noticing this especially when he led the seder every Pesach and thinking it was a sort of speech defect. After reading that story, I wonder if this was just how things were said during his youth in Kovno.

On another minor linguistic note, my father's favorite word was probably "capisce?" (Which is pronounced roughly ka-peesh.) Even though I knew perfectly well that he was fluent in Italian, I was probably close to 30 before I realized that this was Italian for "do you understand?" and not a Yiddish word.

Squirrels!

Jan. 21st, 2009 06:18 am
fauxklore: (Default)
Today is squirrel appreciation day. In honor of the holiday, I will refrain from referring to dubious ideas as "squirrely" today.
fauxklore: (Default)
In case any of you were not aware of this, today is Thesaurus Day.

I hope it's happy, blissful, blithe, cheerful, chirpy, convivial, ecstatic, elated, gay, gleeful, jolly, joyful, joyous, jubilant, merry, mirthful, pleasant, sparkling, etc.

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