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I posted a song on facebook for each night of Chanukah. Here’s the full collection for you to listen to during the last few hours of the eighth day. I was aiming for a wide variety and had fun selecting which ones to use.

Enjoy!

behind a cut due to length )
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I will get back to catching up on vacation (and pre-vacation) things, but I don’t want to fall further behind, so here is what I’ve done since I’ve gotten back.

Celebrity Death Watch: V.S Naipaul was a Nobel laureate in literature. Mark Baker was a (primarily) theatre actor, best known for playing Candide in the 1974 production of the Bernstein musical. Morgana King was a jazz singer and actress. She actually died in late March, but I didn’t see her obituary until mid-August. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India from 1998 to 2004. Kofi Annan was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997-2006. Barbara Harris was an actress, both on Broadway (On a Clear Day You Can See Forever and The Apple Tree among others) and film (Nashville, Freaky Friday, etc.) Ed King played guitar with Strawberry Alarm Clock and Lynyrd Skynard and wrote the song, "Sweet Home Alabama." Martin Shubik was an economist whose work included analysis of the best pastrami sandwich in New York. Robin Leach hosted Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Princeton Lyman was a diplomat, credited with helping to end apartheid in South Africa. Marie Severin was a comic book artist. Paul Taylor was an influential modern dance choreographer. Peter Corris wrote crime novels. Susan Brown was a soap opera actress. Vanessa Marquez was an actress, best known for playing a nurse on E.R. Gloria Jean was an actress and singer, who appeared in several 1940’s and 1950’s films. Carole Shelley was an actress, whose roles included playing one of the Pigeon sisters in The Odd Couple. Randy Weston was a jazz pianist and composer. Christopher Lawford was the son of actor Pater Lawford and a nephew of JFK, who also became an actor and wrote a memoir about his struggles with drug addiction. Bill Dailey wa a character actor, known for appearing in I Dream of Jeannie and The Bob Newhart Show. Burt Reynolds was a television and movie actor, best known for Deliverance. Richard DeVos co-founded Amway. Mac Miller was a rapper. Sam Cornish was Boston’s first poet laureate.

I hope you don’t need me to tell you about Aretha Franklin. She was one of the greatest singers of all time and a truly iconic American voice. I’m usually not keen on people being dubbed royalty of some genre, but I will make an exception for the Queen of Soul.

Khaira Arby was a Malian singer. I heard her perform at the Festival Au Desert in 2011 and met her briefly in the market in Timbuktu while I was there. She was apparently the first Malian woman to start a career under her own name. She was also an activist for women’s rights and an advocate against female genital mutilation.

I assume I don’t need to tell you about John McCain. He was an interesting politician, something of a maverick among Republicans. While I often disagreed with him, I do think he had a lot of integrity. In an era of bad behavior, he seemed able to be a gentleman most of the time, which deserves credit in and of itself. He also scored on my ghoul pool list (and almost everyone else’s, alas.)

Neil Simon was a playwright, whose work focused on New York and the Jewish-American experience. He received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer. His plays were a good example of my theory that funny and serious are not antonyms.



Please Don’t Analyze This Dream: I don’t remember the context, but there were a bunch of soldiers wearing triangular green-painted (or maybe enameled) metallic masks that I referred to as "Turkish death masks."



Passion: I saw Passion at Signature Theatre on Saturday. This is one of the more difficult Sondheim musicals, largely because Fosca is a fundamentally unlikeable character, stalking Giorgio, a sensitive man who has the heart of a poet in a soldier’s body. It’s an uncomfortable view of love, accompanied by emotional (and only sporadically humorous lyrics, mostly relating to the other soldiers’ reactions to Giorgio). Despite all that, Signature did an excellent job with it. Claybourne Elder was a convincing Giorgio. And Natascia Diaz made Fosca a little bit sympathetic. Overall, I thought it was worth seeing, but though I will never love the show the way I do most of Sondheim’s others.



Gelato Festival DC: On Sunday, I ignored the chill and rain and went off to the city for Gealto Festival DC. The idea is that you buy a wristband (for $30 plus fees) and get to taste all the gelato you want. There were several gelato makers competing, with flavors designed for the festival.

Crusty Fantasy from Gelato Gourment in Weston, FL was a mixture of caramel, cashews and rice krispies. The name is terrible, but the flavor was reasonably good.

Blue Majik from Gelato’oh Brick & Motor in Philadelphia was pineapple flavored with a blue coloring from algae. It supposedly also had ginger and apple juices, but I couldn’t detect them. I liked the idea of a sugar-free sorbetto, but it didn’t quite work for me, largely because the texture was not as smooth as is ideal.

Apurimac from local DC shop Pitango Gelato was a very intense chocolate. I know some people will doubt this is possible, but I thought it was actually too intense and I ate only a couple of spoonfuls.

Trinacrium from uGOgelato in Miami was my favorite. It was a mixture of pistachio and almonds, with a spray of orange. This was absolutely delicious – a lovely combination, with great flavors and texture. I was clearly not the only person who thought so, as it won the competition.

American Dream from Gelato Bliss in Hagerstown, MD had salted peanuts swirled with a coca-cola reduction. This was better than I expected from that description, but not something I wanted more of.

Butter Pecan from Marinucci’s in Reston, VA was disappointing. They apparently used European butter instead of cream, which gave it a weird mouth feel to me. This was another one where I didn’t eat more than a couple of spoonfuls.

Cheesecake with Cherries from Mike’s Gelato in Columbia, MD was exactly what it sounds like. It wasn’t bad, but I am just not crazy about cherries, so had just a small taste.

Nocciola Chocake from Zerogradi Gelateria in Ambler, PA was hazelnut gelato with chocolate sauce and chocolate cake crumbs. I liked this, but would have liked it better if there were more chocolate flavor.


There were also a few non-competitors:

PreGel apparently sells a gelato base to shops, rather than selling commercially. I tried two of their flavors – hazelnut and cannoli. The hazelnut was excellent, but then it’s a flavor that I tend to like a lot. The cannoli was good, but would have benefited from more crunch.

Bella Gelateria (not clear where they are) had some sort of caramel and coffee flavor. This was just okay. There was nothing wrong with it, but it seemed pretty ordinary.

Moorenko’s from Silver Spring, MD had two flavors. The burnt caramel and pear with walnuts was quite good, but could have used more pear flavor relative to the other ingredients. Their ginger, however, was sublime, with large chunks of fresh ginger in it. If this had been a competitor, I would probably have voted for it over the Trinacrium. Best of all, they said it’s available at a couple of local grocery stores!



Rosh Hashanah: I went to the traditional service at Sixth and I. On the plus side, I like the cantor, who is reasonably inclusive, versus some who think they’re performing as operatic soloists. On the minus side, the siddur they use has absolutely terrible English translations. And if I notice that, with my lack of Hebrew fluency, they must be really bad. I was also suffering a bit from difficulty focusing, which I will attribute to jet lag. At the very least, I got to spend time with a couple of friends who I see all too infrequently.

Happy 5779 everyone!

Trayf

Jun. 8th, 2018 04:13 pm
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Trayf: This is a world premiere play, currently on at Theatre J, which I saw Wednesday night. I couldn’t resist the description which said it follows the adventures of Zalmy who drives a Mitzvah Tank by day and sneaks away from his ultra-religious community at night to roller skate and rock out in clubs. That isn’t completely accurate – Zalmy is the navigator for the Mitzvah Tank, while his friend, Shmuely, is the driver. But the point is that this is a story about the conflict between religious and secular lifestyles. ("Trayf" is the opposite of "kosher." It doesn't apply only to food.)

Zalmy and Shmuely have been best friends from childhood and their excitement over the Mitzvah Tank - and their efforts to encourage Jews to be more observant - is palpable. They also argue about little things, which reflect on their views towards life. One good example is Shmuely’s insistence on playing tapes all the way through, while Zalmy likes mix tapes. (This is the 90’s. We are talking cassettes.) But things come to a head when they find an enthusiastic man who wants to know more about Judaism – but who turns out not to be Jewish. Jonathan’s father was Jewish, but his mother was Catholic. Still, he’s enthusiastic and Zalmy invites him to Crown Heights, where Jonathan finds a real spiritual home and starts on the road to conversion. He also gives Zalmy mix tapes of secular music, listens to him talk about his excursions to the roller disco, and even gets him a ticket to a Broadway show. Shmuely is upset, not just about the secular influences, but because he feels left out with Zalmy and Jonathan’s growing friendship. There’s also an interesting encounter between Shmuely and Jonathan’s (secular Jewish) girlfriend.

This play had a lot of good things to say about differences and similarity and people searching for their paths in life. It’s clear that Lindsay Joelle, who wrote the play, has a lot of respect for Jewish community (and Chabad-Lubavitch, in particular). It’s also very funny. There are a few jokes that I am not sure a general audience would get, e.g. when Shmuely announces he has a date (arrange, of course) and Zalmy asks who the girl is, he says "Chaya Mushka," and Zalmy says, "which Chaya Mushka?" This is only funny if you know that’s the most popular name among Chabad women (after the late wife of the last rebbe), sort of the equivalent of Jennifer in the secular world at that time. But, overall, I think the conflict and the friendship story is more broadly relatable and I highly recommend this show. I really hope it has a long future, including (of course) being performed in other cities.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Ed Charles played third base, including a stint with the Mets, including their 1969 World Series. Louise Slaughter was the oldest member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Sammy Wilson won a Tony for playing Paul in the original production of A Chorus Line. Frank Avruch played Bozo the Clown in Boston through the 1960’s. Charles Lazarus founded Toys R Us. Louis Kamookak discovered the wreck of HMS Erebus. Wayne Huizenga founded Blockbuster Video. Zell Miller was the Governor of Georgia for much of the 1990’s. Seo Min-woo was a K-pop singer. Linda Brown was the subject of a Supreme Court case on segregation. Stephane Audran was an actress, best known for Babette’s Feast. Peter Munk founded the largest gold mining company in the world. Anita Shreve was a novelist. Stephen Reinhardt was a liberal judge. Connie Lawn was the longest-serving White House correspondent. Ron Dunbar was a songwriter whose works include "Band of Gold" and the execrable "Patches."

Rusty Staub played baseball as part of the original Montreal Expos. He came over to the New York Mets in 1972 and was one of the more notable players for them during my high school years. I have a bobblehead of "Le Grand Orange," acquired when I went to a game in Montreal. He was also the first Mets player to get over 100 RBIs in one season.

Steven Bochco was a television producer, most famous for ensemble shows like Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law. He also created Cop Rock, which is worth a look for the musical aspect.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and the second wife of Nelson Mandela. She was a controversial figure, largely because of the human rights violations committed by her security detail. In addition to her praise of "necklacing," she is said to have ordered kidnappings. She also got involved in fraud related to a funeral fund.

Intern Reception: I went to a reception last week for MIT students looking for policy internships. This appeared to be the year of the economist, with nobody interested in space. I did enjoy several conversations, both with people I knew (including one from an unrelated and, hence, unexpected connection) and who I didn’t. But the most interesting moment of the evening was when a young woman leaned too close to a candle and her hair caught on fire. Nobody was injured, fortunately.

Pesach: As my father used to say to my mother, America is not as rich as they always told us. Here it is a major Jewish holiday and we don’t even have any bread in the house.

Interplanetary Addresses: I get a fair number of invitations to events, not all of which are anywhere near where I live. Not everybody remembers they are posting invitations to international websites or email lists. Therefore, it is not uncommon to get invited to something with the address being given only as, say, 2100 Main Street.

I have developed the mental habit of interpreting such things as 2100 Main Street, Mars.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 1: I was taking a shared taxi to Island Park. I expected to be dropped at the train station, but the driver turned down Carolina Avenue. When we reached my house, I asked to be let out, but the driver wouldn’t stop. Instead, he continued to the corner and turned left onto Austin Boulevard – but in the oncoming traffic lane. I finally got him to stop by opening the rear right-side door, while he was still moving slowly. I threw $40 at him and left. Also, the house numbers were wrong. My house was 127, instead of 60, and the house next door was 241, instead of 66.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 2: I was somewhere in China with my mother. I had arrived a day earlier, so had already taken the river cruise included in our tour package, but I went with her again. Everyone had to show their passports to be able to board the boats and an American man objected. Then we were in the apartment of a man named Anuku and his mother said he spoke such good English because he had studied at Virginia Tech. He had a tattooed Delta on his arm to prove that.

Commute Hell: There was apparently smoke in the tunnel near Virginia Square, so the Orange Line was shut down from East Falls Church to Clarendon. I was smart enough not to think that shuttle bus service would work, so I took the 29N to King Street, where I could get the Blue or Yellow Line to work. It was slow and crowded and reminded me of how much I prefer trains.

Weird Words: Some friends on facebook have been discussing words that they mispronounced because they've only read them, not heard them. I have to admit that I find myself wondering what sort of life people are living that words like "hegemony" or "antipodes" come up in conversation.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Ann Wedgeworth won a Tony for her performance in Chapter Two. Malcolm Young was a guitarist who co-founded AC/DC. Lilli Hornig was a scientist on the Manhattan Project and later advocated extensively for women in science. Mel Tillis was a country singer-songwriter. Della Reese was a singer and actress, probably best known for Touched by an Angel. Dmitri Hvorotstovsky was an opera singer.

Charles Manson was a sociopathic monster.

David Cassidy was a pop singer, best known for The Partridge Family. He played a brief role in my teenage crush rotation, in between Bobby Sherman and a changing cycle of boys at school. I had a one-track mind, but a lot of trains ran on it.

Friday Night Lights: There was a dinner at Sixth and I Synagogue for people 50+ who wanted to talk about building community among those in our age group. Since I have kvetched in the past about how many of their programs are identified as being for people in their 20’s and 30’s, I thought it was worth my time to go. It looks like the upshot will be some sort of on-going series of programs. I should also note that one of the other people there was a guy I know from flyertalk. It’s always interesting when different parts of my life intersect.

Crazy For You: On Saturday, I went to see Signature Theatre’s production ofCrazy For You. Since I believe that the Gershwins are the pinnacle of American music, this would seem like a sure-fire afternoon of enjoyment. Except, the book is by Ken Ludwig, who has written a couple of farces I had the misfortune to see. The combination of TheFox on the Fairway and Moon Over Buffalo are a large part of what convinced me that farce is just not my thing. Fortunately, it turns out that Gershwin – plus a lot of tap dancing – can overcome Ken Ludwig. The show is largely based on Girl Crazy with some additional songs (and some removed) and a somewhat modified plotline. The key thing is that there is a fabulous score and excellent choreography. There is even one line of dialogue which was funny despite being in the service of a silly situation involving both drunkenness and mistaken identity.

There are too many great songs to list them all, so let’s settle for just a few:
I Got Rhythm
They Can’t Take That Away From Me
Someone To Watch Over Me
I Can’t Be Bothered Now
Embraceable You
Nice Work If You Can Get It (which is one of my all-time favorite songs.)

As for the performances, Danny Gardner and Ashley Spencer had plenty of tension, mixed with chemistry, as the leads. Then there were several Signature regulars, including Bobby Smith, Maria Rizzo, Natascia Diaz, Sherri L. Edelin, and Thomas Adrian Simpson. I also want to call out A. Ross Neal as Moose.

If you like an old-fashioned musical, you can’t really go wrong seeing this one.
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Political rants to follow in a future entry. Here’s some catch-up stuff.

Celebrity Death Watch: Joe Bailon was a car customer who was credited with creating the paint color Candy Apple Red. Barry Dennen was an actor and singer who appeared in several musicals (in London, on Broadway, and on film), notably singing the role of Pontius Pilate on the recording of Jesus Christ Superstar. Ann Jeffreys was an actress, most famous as "the ghostess with the moistest" for her role as Marion Kerby on Topper. Tom Paley was a folk musician who performed as part of the New Lost City Ramblers. S. I. Newhouse was a magazine publisher. Arthur Janov was the author of The Primal Scream and responsible for that particularly bizarre form of therapy. Robert Elsie was a linguist and folklorist, specializing in Albania. (He was the collector / translator of a story I have recently started telling.) Michael Jouvet was the discoverer of REM sleep.

Hugh Hefner was, of course, the founder and publisher of Playboy. While the magazine did publish some significant literature, we all know that nobody bought it for that. In short, he exploited women for personal gain. The word for that is "pimp."

Monty Hall was the host and producer of Let’s Make a Deal. He was also a major philanthropist, primarily donating to medical institutions.

Tom Petty was a rock star. A few of his better known songs include "Don’t Come Around Here No More," "Refugee," and "Free Fallin’." Given his years heading up the Heartbreakers, it seems appropriate that he died of a heart attack.

Quarterly Goals: I may need to rethink the definition of the word "complete." On the plus side, I have made a lot of progress on tracing down descendants of my grandmother’s first cousin, who emigrated to Petach Tikvah in the 1930’s.

Queen of Katwe: This was the only movie I saw over the past quarter. (I spent much of my airplane time sleeping or doing puzzles, instead.) Anyway, I thought it was superb. The story involves an Ugandan girl from a poor neighborhood who becomes a chess champion. There is a lot of conflict about what her role in life should be. Her coach, Robert Katande, has other conflicts, as a good job opportunity would keep him from being able to help the poor children he works with. If you’re looking for an inspirational story (with, by the way, a great soundtrack) this is a good choice.

Air Force Academy: You may have seen the video of Air Force Academy superintendent Lt Gen Jay Silveria telling cadets to get out if they can’t treat others with dignity and respect. Not to diminish from the importance of that message, but it bothered me that he referred only to race and sex in his message. The Academy has had a lot of issues with respect to religious freedom - e.g. in 2010, 41% of non-Christian cadets said they were subject to unwanted proselytizing during the previous year. (That was a while ago, but it was the only year I found survey info for. I don’t know their record with respect to LGBT cadets, but there have been plenty of sexual harassment cases. So I wish that the message had been broader.

Yom Kippur: I went to Sixth & I for Yom Kippur, which was a mixed bag. The biggest plus was that the financial appeal was actually the best I have heard. This is not quite verbatim, but the shul president said, "This is the 13th year we’ve done High Holiday services, so we think of it as our bar / bat mitzvah year. At my bar mitzvah, my aunts and uncles came up to me and handed me envelopes. We like to think of all of you as our aunts and uncles."

I liked some of the odds and ends Rabbi Miller threw in during the service, e.g. a story from Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and lyrics from a range of songs (from Johnny Cash’s "The Man in Black" to "Seasons of Love" from Rent). I thought her sermon was a bit too long and not particularly insightful. It could have been done in one sentence. ("Be true to yourself.") As for the liturgy, I have probably already kvetched about most of the departures from tradition at other times. The main one to add to my annoyances was that I thought they gave short shrift to Martyrology and Yizkor. And I particularly disliked how they did Martyrology, with all of the readings talking about incidents in the past year, primarily in Israel. (The sole exception was the murder of Sarah Halimi in France, which the French government has acknowledged as a hate crime only in the last week.)

They had also organized a tour of local Jewish landmarks for the break in services during the afternoon. That might have been a good thing, but the tour guide could not project her voice to be heard over traffic and construction noise in the area. So I went home and napped instead.

Knitting Group: Knitting group was Sunday. Lots of lively conversation and it was good to get out of the house for a couple of hours. However, that also means that I didn’t get household stuff done, sigh.

Minor Annoyance: I know this is a first world problem but I was grocery shopping on my way home from knitting group and had four canvas shopping bags with me – two green, two red. I told the bagger to use the green ones first (because they are larger and sturdier and I didn’t know if I would actually need all four.) I had to repeat this five times before she would listen, instead of reaching for the red ones. Of course, she also had no clue how to arrange groceries efficiently, but wouldn’t let me just pack my bags myself. Grrr.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Jake LaMotta was a boxer, best known from the movie, Raging Bull. Lillian Ross wrote for The New Yorker. Maurice Nivat was considered one of the fathers of theoretical computer science. Liliane Bettencourt was a socialite who inherited the L’Oreal fortune and was, hence, the richest woman in the world, despite losing a lot of money in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Daniel Yankelovich was a social scientist and influential pollster. Charles Bradley was a soul singer. Kit Reed wrote both science fiction and mystery stories. Bobby Knutt, Elizabeth Dawn, and Tony Booth all acted on Coronation Street. Barbara Blaine was an activist who fought against clergy abuse.

Federal Budget: Last Tuesday night I went to an MIT Club dinner meeting with a speaker (Josh Gordon of the Concord Coalition, which exists to educate people about the federal budget) talking about the future of the federal budget. When I arrived, the organizer asked me if I had anything to do with the federal budget and I explained that my job touches on parts of the defense budget, so he decided I should sit at the head table. That meant some reasonably lively conversation with the speaker (and, of course, the others at the table.) I don’t think I learned much from the talk, but it was fairly interesting. Too many of the questions focused on health care for my interest level. In short, every other developed country has decided that single payer is the way to go to achieve good health outcomes at an affordable price. I formed my opinion on that long ago. For the record, our for-profit insurance system is inefficient, as a very low percentage of the money taken in actually goes to health care. The fact that there are thousands of people who are paid to figure out what code to use for a large number of different insurance companies is evidence enough of the absurdity.

The Anthem Controversy:I have no interest in football, but I do have a few things to say about the anthem controversy. First of all, it is clear that people have the right not to stand for the anthem. However, there are lots of other examples of first amendment rights not applying in the relationship between employers and employees, so the owners could require players to stand. That would send an undesirable message, but it wouldn’t be illegal. It would be akin to not allowing you to use corporate resources to write a letter to the editor of the newspaper.

Second, that particular protest is not inherently disrespectful to the flag or veterans or apple pie. One can argue about how effective it is, because it doesn’t really tie directly to the issue at hand (namely, racism in policing) but that is a separate (and irrelevant) matter. I can’t really fault people whp have a public platform for using it to speak up about important matters.

Third, some people have shown pictures of President Trump standing without his hand over his heart during the anthem as a statement of hypocrisy. While the Flag Code does say that the right hand over the heart is proper, it isn’t the case for the military, who are supposed to stand at attention. I would argue that the President, who is Commander in Chief of the military, could acceptably do that. And, by the way, remember that Obama was also criticized for not putting his right hand over his heart during the anthem. I will also note that when I was growing up, we put the hand over the heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, but not during the national anthem.

Application to My Workplace: By the way, our all-hands meetings at work start with the Pledge of Allegiance. This annoys me, but I don’t feel like I could not say the Pledge. I do ignore the applause when I am sitting in a conference room at the opposite end of the country where the actual meeting is taking place. We’re muted, so what’s the point of clapping?

Rosh Hashanah: I went to Sixth and I, which had its pluses and minuses. The traditional service was almost traditional. The deviations did, alas, annoy me – calling multiple people for an aliyah, for one, and not really doing the priestly blessing, for another. On the plus side, I thought Cantor Larry Paul did an excellent job of the balance between cantorial showiness and congregational participation, with most of the people around me singing quite a lot. Rabbi Avis Miller’s sermons could have been more tightly written, in my opinion. (I apparently missed Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was there Wednesday night.)

The main thing I wanted to note was that the shofar blower during Shacharit had an interesting technique. I can’t really describe it well, but his shevarim had two notes, in a way that made a siren-like sound. I don’t know if that is specific to some particular region (e.g. I have heard a Yemenite shofar, which sounds somewhat different, but that is because it is made from an antelope horn, not a ram’s horn), but it was really quite striking. He did this both with the plain shevarim and the shevarim teruah, by the way. (For those who have no idea what I am talking about, there are three different shofar calls. Tekiah is the long drawn-out one. Shevarim is three shorter notes. Teruah is 9 or more short blasts.)


Mail: Both my email and my snail mail seem to have been especially slow last week. Should it really take 4 days for something to get less than 20 miles from where it was sent to my mailbox? And the 5 days for an email to reach me was even weirder.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 1: I don’t remember the entire dream, but the gist of it was that two men, one American and one Israeli, had to kill and drink the blood of people to keep from being eaten alive by aliens who looked like a cross between spiders and starfish. They both kept journals about this, with the focus on their trying to be sort of avenging demons. For example, they directed three Korean women to a good diner and paid for their meals, and then went to kill the people who had been keeping the three women as slaves. It is possible that one of the men was actually Bat Boy. At least there was a scene where he was hanging upside down from the crown molding of a room, supported by his toenails.

Don’t Interpret This Dream, Part 2: I was at a restaurant for brunch. For some reason, I had to order at the hostess stand, not at the table. I knew what I wanted (a Mexican omelette), but couldn’t figure out what this particular restaurant called it on their menu.
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I have other things to write about, too, but I've been meaning to post this for a while. I've read a few books over the past months that have some sort of Jewish content to them. Two had to do with Chabad Hassidim, one involved a Conservative synagogue, and one retold a Biblical story (so was sort of a Midrash). All of these are worth reading for different reasons:

Stephen Fried, The New Rabbi: Fried followed a large Conservative congregation in Philadelphia through their search for a new rabbi to replace their long-time leader who was retiring. There’s lots of local shul politics, as well as issues with the broader Conservative movement. I have to admit that a lot of why I found this interesting was because my father had been on the rabbi search committee at our synagogue back in my childhood. So it all sounded very familiar. It was also a good reminder of why I prefer more intimate congregations to the sort of large suburban synagogue written about here.

Stephanie Wellen Levine, Mystics, Mavericks and Merrymakers: An Intimate Journey among Hasidic Girls: The author spent a lot of time getting to know teenage girls in the Lubavitch community and profiles several of them in this book. One of the key points is that the separation of the sexes in the community allows these girls to be loud and outspoken. Some are truly pious, but there are also girls who leave the community and, for example, go to strip clubs and experiment with marijuana. (There’s nothing said about them having sex, so one can only wonder.) I'll admit to being most impressed by the girl who ended up going to college and pursuing a pre-med program. Overall, this is a very interesting read.

Anita Diamont, The Red Tent This is a novel, in which Diamont reimagines the story of Jacob’s daughter, Dina. In the Bible, Dina is raped and her brothers avenge her. In this version, she enters into a voluntary relationship and is betrayed by her brothers, who are scheming for their own advantage. This leads her to go to Egypt, where she gives birth to a son and, eventually, reencounters her family. There are some decidedly heretical ideas in the book (mostly involving idol worship by the matriarchs), but it is an absorbing read. And it is worth thinking about different points of view on familiar stories.

Sue Fishkoff, The Rebbe’s Army: Inside the World of Chabad-Lubovitch The two things one finds all over the world are, of course, McDonald’s and Chabad. If you’re Jewish, the latter is a more significant institution, providing, say, a place to go to a Passover seder in Kathmandu. But they are also controversial, for a number of reasons. I will admit that I don’t like that they’re perceived as the face of Orthodox Judaism, versus, say, Young Israel. Fishkoff is generally positive about Chabad, but doesn’t shy away from noting the criticisms of the organization - especially the Messianist tendencies of a large number of their adherents (but not their senior leadership). She also points out that their emphasis on outreach can lead to fairly shallow services, geared towards beginners. Overall, I thought this was a fairly balanced and interesting book. I’m still too much of a Litvak rationalist to be drawn into any Hassidic group, but I thought this was a worthwhile read.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
This is one of those catch-up posts. What can I say? I do a lot of stuff.

Celebrity Death Watch: Arthur Anderson was the voice of Lucky the Leprechaun, telling us about cereal being magically delicious. Doris Roberts was a character actress, who I first took notice of when she played a guest role on St. Elsewhere. Ben-Zion Gold was the rabbi at Harvard Hillel during my years at the superior institution up the street.

You don’t need me to tell you about Prince. And you’d be better off asking somebody else about him, anyway, since his music wasn’t really my thing. Billy Paul, who sang "Me and Mrs. Jones," was more to my taste. But the musician whose death I really want to highlight is Papa Wemba. He was a major figure in the world of Afropop, which is very much my thing. If you can listen to his music without dancing, you may want to consult a doctor to make sure you aren't dead yourself.

Made in Space: As I mentioned previously, the theme of this year’s MIT Club of Washington seminar series was space. This talk was not actually part of the series, but many of the same people were there. The speaker was Andrew Rush, the President of Made in Space, which has demonstrated (in a very limited way) additive manufacturing in space. For example, they used a 3-D printer to produce a tool on the International Space Station. Their plans are a lot more ambitious. I grasp the benefit of not needing things to survive the launch environment, but he didn’t address having the manufacturing equipment survive the space environment. For example, what are the impacts to electronics of energetic charged particles? And he didn’t really talk about the economics at all, since certain components (mostly electronics) would need to be stockpiled in the manufacturing facility. Still, it was an interesting talk. And, as a bonus, one of the people there was someone I was very friendly with as an undergrad and hadn’t seen in close to 36 years!

Book Club: The major reason to belong to a book club is to force yourself to read books you might not choose otherwise. This session’s book was Minaret by Leila Aboulela. It was an interesting book, with a somewhat unsatisfying ending. It would have been helpful to know a little more about Sudanese culture – and clothing, as I had to google what a "tobe" is. (It turns out to be more like a sari than like a burka, which is what I had been envisioning. One thing I continue to find amazing is other people’s limited views of the world. That is, except for the Tajik woman in the group. Of course, they probably think my view of the world is weird - e.g. my scale of how much a country is likely to be a basket case based on what colonial power dominated it.

Speaking of the Basket Case Scale: The worst colonialists were the Belgians. It isn’t clear that there’s an adequate sample size, but I wouldn’t want more countries to be as screwed up as the Congo is.

The Dutch were horrible colonialists, but, fortunately, were usually kicked out by the French or British before they could do too much damage. There are, however, no excuses for the basket cases they made of Indonesia and New York City.

Former Portuguese colonies are, in general, doomed to an eternity of civil war. The only mitigation is that they tend to have great music.

Former French colonies are also doomed to be basket cases. On the plus side, the French are sometimes willing to come back in and help them out. And they tend to have good bread and good coffee.

Former English colonies are a mixed bag. They tend to have some level of democratic government, but may have lasting ethnic tensions. Quality of food and music is more variable.

Former German colonies seem to end up with suspiciously long serving leaders, but, again, it isn’t clear if the sample size is adequate to judge. On the plus side, they tend to have good roads.

Surprisingly, former Spanish colonies may be the most functional. Admittedly, the lifetime of a President for Life may be measured in days, but the periods between junta rule are often reasonably free politically.

Innovation Reception: I had an MIT-related reception to go to on Monday night, which was kind of a pain in the neck since, being Passover, I couldn’t eat much of the food. (They did have some raw veggies.) The talk was fairly interesting, with an emphasis on nano-technology. I have to admit to a certain level of skepticism about the emphasis on nano, largely because of my experience with the technology valley of death. That is, the overwhelming majority of technologies fail to make it from research to operations (or, in this case, commercial viability). Academics are always way too optimistic about this, but it affects the riskiness of technology investments.

Pierre Bensusan: My very favorite musician on the planet playing at a place just a couple of miles from my home? Of course, I was going to be there. I’ve seen Pierre perform live numerous times and I continue to be blown away by his guitar virtuosity.

Passover: I have been somewhat unenthusiastic about Passover this year. The only significant cooking achievement was a frittata with asparagus and mushrooms from the farmer’s market. And, frankly, that is as much a shopping achievement as a cooking one.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
About 5 years ago, I wrote an entry about Mark Glanville’s outstanding Pro Musica Hebraica concert. So I was excited to see that he would be back here for the Spring 2016 concert, along with two other singers, Mathias Haussmann and Anthony Russell, and pianist Alan Mason. Fortunately, my schedule worked and I was off to the Kennedy Center Monday night to hear this.

The bad news came in an announcement by Charles Krauthammer at the beginning of the evening. (Yes, that Charles Krauthammer. I may disagree with most of his politics, but he and his wife, Robin, have created an excellent and important music series.) Namely, the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center is closing for renovations for a couple of years, so there won’t be Pro Musica Hebraica events there. Though I gathered that there will be some, less frequent concerts, possibly at the Concert Hall. Aside from infrequency, that’s bad news because the Concert Hall’s acoustics are a lot worse than the Terrace Theatre’s.

Anyway, the concert was titled Wandering Stars: Two Centuries of European Jewish Song. Part 1 covered 19th century European songs, while Part 2, which had to do with 20th century music, focused on "exile and remembrance." I’m not crazy about associating exile with Europe, but that’s another subject for another time.

So, music. Glanville kicked off Part 1 with three songs by Salomon Sulzer. The songs were fine, though a bit more along the lines of German romanticism than I’d prefer. A bigger issue is that they were short, and I felt a little bit cheated in that respect. Glanville did a good job, but I think he’s a stronger performer with other material.

Russell was a revelation. His rich bass is perfectly suited to the Yiddish art songs he performed, which included a piece by Sidor Belarsky, as well as Belarsky’s arrangements of other composer’s songs. Russell has made a specialty of Belarsky’s music and that’s really quite a musical bashert. (Before someone asks, that’s a Yiddish word that means "destiny" and is usually used in relationship to marriage.) I particularly liked his performance of Israel Alter’s "Akhris Hayomim."

Then came Hausmann’s turn. He started with two pieces by Alexander Zemlinksy, both of which dealt with war. Again, they felt very Germanic to me, though the liveliness of "Mit Trommeln und Pfeifen," which is essentially a soldier’s marching song, did break up some of the air of lamentation. But to make sure that the audience could stay at least a little bit in despair, he moved on to Mahler’s "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen," i.e. "I am lost to the world." If you ever want to wallow in alienation, you just have to pull out the Mahler.

The first half closed out with all three singers performing another Salomon Sulzer song, "Wanderlust Israelitischer Handwerker." This was a livelier, somewhat lighter piece, urging traveling craftsmen to be cheerful and trust in G-d’s protection. It was a good way to end the set.

The music in Part 2 was much more to my taste. Glanville started with two pieces by Alexander Oshanetsky. "Oy, vos ken you makh, s’iz Amerike" is a humorous piece detailing the differences (primarily in sexual mores) between Europe and America. Glanville clearly enjoyed singing it and the audience roared with laughter. The other piece, "Vilna, Vilna," was full of longing and memory for that city. When I saw that the next piece was "Es brent" (“It is burning”) by Mordechai Gebirtig, I turned to the friend sitting next to me and whispered that it’s a remarkable song. And, hearing it live again, it remains as powerful as ever, with the horrifying image of people standing with their hands folded, watching the shtetl burn instead of using their own blood to staunch the flames. By the way, the program notes say the event in question was a 1936 pogrom in Przytyk, so it is not technically a Holocaust song. Avrom Brudno’s "Unter dayne vayse shtern," which closed out Glanville’s set, is, however, and it reflects an anguished longing for G-d and the despair. Glanville has the emotional control to perform material like this without overdoing it and that is why I am such a big fan of his.

Next up, Hausmann performed a suite of songs by Hanns Eisler. They were somewhat too modernist for me and, frankly, I didn’t really know what to make of them. That was followed by Erich Zeisl’s "Die Nacht bricht an," another piece I found too modernistic. Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s "I wish you bliss" was more to my taste. None of my dissatisfaction reflects on Hausmann’s musicality. He sang just fine, but was singing pieces that, for the most part, I didn’t much care for.

The highlight of the concert was Anthony Russell’s final set, again of pieces primarily arranged by Sidor Belarsky, but by various scomposers. Shmuel Polonsky’s "Mayn yungt" and Zelig Bardichever’s "Bessarabi” were straightforward songs of longing and memory. "Viglid" by Leyb Yampolsky followed and is literally a lullaby, but the lyrics reflect the inability to provide the good life a parent wants for a child. Russell’s resonant voice was simultaneously soothing and sad. He closed the set even more powerfully with the combination of two traditional songs – the African American piece "My Soul is Anchored in the Lord" and the Jewish prayer "Va’ani Tefilati," which is one of the most beautiful parts of the High Holiday liturgy. This was jaw-droppingly beautiful. In short, Russell (who is an African-American Jew by choice, by the way) conveyed such sheer spiritual power that I can’t imagine any audience member was unmoved. Yasher koach!

There was an encore with all three singers, but, since it wasn’t in the program and I didn’t take notes, I won’t trust my memory on it. I know it was a Schubert piece on a Hebrew text and that Glavine dedicated it to the memory of his recently-deceased mother, but I don’t have more to say than that.


Anyway, all in all it was a very good concert. I did buy Glanville’s second CD and, if Russell had had any CDs there, I would have bought them. I do highly recommend checking him out on Youtube (and, of course, in person if you have the opportunity) because he has a truly remarkable voice.
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)
Celebrity Death Watch: I know one is supposed to identify Jeremy Tarcher as a publisher (primarily of self-help books), but to me his significance will always be as the husband of Shari Lewis (and, hence, the step-father of Lamb Chop). Until reading his obituary, I had not realized that he was also the brother of trashy novelist Judith Krantz. (I mean that her novels are trashy. I’m sure she is a perfectly lovely person.)

Al Seckel was a collector of and author of books about optical illusions. Back when the giant redwoods were saplings and I was an undergraduate, I took a series of biomedical engineering classes, one of which involved sensory and motor systems. Aside from getting to play with some intelligent prostheses (remember the Boston arm?), we had problem sets that involved predicting what an optical illusion would look like, essentially by taking its convolution with a model of the human visual system. I still think that was one of the coolest engineering classes I took at MIT. (The coolest class I took overall, however, was Evil and Decadence in Literature, but that’s another matter.)

And then there’s Yogi Berra. True, he played for (and managed) the Source of All Evil in the Universe. At least he also managed the Mets. Aside from being notable as a catcher, he was (of course) well-known as a folksy and humorous philosopher. I cannot tell you how many times (admittedly as a Red Sox fan), I have taken comfort from knowing "it ain’t over till it’s over." And, like Yogi, on weekends I often "take a two hour nap from one to four."

Yom Kippur: Wednesday was Yom Kippur. It was also (part of) the Pope’s visit to Washington. I considered just going to Shoreshim (which is in Reston, so well away from any potential chaos), but I was reasonably sure I would be disappointed in their abbreviations to the services. So I bit the bullet and went downtown to Fabrangen.

(I should interject that I had a similar situation some years ago. Pope John Paul II visited Boston during Yom Kippur in 1979. I don’t remember any particular impact on the area around the Vilna Shul on Beacon Hill, other than the joking about saying "Gut Yontif, Pontiff.")

Anyway, it turned out that the metro was not the nightmare everyone feared it would be. Not that it was perfect, as they are still dealing with some track issues that will probably have the Orange Line (and Blue and Silver) with fewer trains than scheduled for the rest of our natural lives. (I think they said about 6 weeks, but they said that the weekend track work they have been doing for the past decade would take a year.) But I got there reasonably close to the beginning of services, which is, as Jewish time goes, early. (Note, however, that they were starting late, because of the Pope’s visit.)

So… let’s see. Mostly closer to traditional service than Shoreshim. A bit too much showiness in some singing, e.g. rounds, which are a hard thing to do for those of us who are not inherently musical. Leaders for some sections were too chatty, but that’s kind of okay on Yom Kippur because it’s not like you’re trying to get out of there to get to a meal. Some of the things people said did resonate with me, e.g. the image of Japanese pottery in which cracks are filled in with gold to create a beautiful new object. And a poem (in the lead-in to Yizkor) that had to do with ironing underwear. My favorite part of the service was an addition to "Al Chet" (the list of sins we ask forgiveness for) which was written by members of the congregation. My least favorite was that they used a Reconstructionist machzor mostly, but not completely, leading to a lot of page-flipping to an additional book. (This is a common problem, by the way, but it still drives me nuts. It’s hard enough for Little Miss Short Attention Span here to pay attention to where we are without us suddenly being 100 pages away.) No musical instruments, at least, though there were microphones. And they have the entire congregation bless one another, instead of having the priestly blessing, so lose both tradition and drama. (I am more comfortable with skipping it altogether, actually, but really I want it done correctly, i.e. traditionally.) I left at Mincha, since I can’t lose on Jeopardy again by not knowing Jonah. And I needed a nap.

Overall, I’d say it was a reasonably satisfying and reasonably meaningful service.

I’ll also note that there is a part of me that expects to hear the High Holiday liturgy in my grandfather’s voice, since he was generally hired to do that at our shul when I was growing up. And then, it’s been a lot of years, and I can’t really remember his voice all that well. I actually remember it best on something entirely non-liturgical. I used to play the piano for him to sing Yiddish songs to, because my brother was too showy and impatient to accompany other people when we were kids. (I assume he has gotten past that, since he plays in bands and does sing-alongs.) So I think particularly of Grandpa whenever I hear the song "Papirossen." Somewhere I have a recording of him. I need to find that.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Candida Royalle was a porn star. Jack Larson played Jimmy Olsen in the 1950’s Superman television series and later became a playwright. Moses Malone was a basketball player. Max Beauvoir was a biochemist who became a high-ranking Voudou priest in Haiti. Herschel Silverman was a beat poet. Jackie Collins wrote trashy novels, the most successful of which was Hollywood Wives. Daniel Thompson invented the bagel machine, leading to the proliferation of the bland, soft, bagel-shaped rolls which destroy the name of that noble treat. Robert Simon founded Reston, Virginia, a planned community where I have been known to spend time (some of which is mentioned below.)

Two pitchers the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League died on the same date, September 13th. Jane Jacobs played almost all of her career for Racine, while and Emma Bergmann moved around teams a bit more, but most notably pitched no-hitter for Muskegon in 1947.

Unetaneh Tokef 1: I should have mentioned an insight I had on Rosh Hashanah. I usually think of Unetaneh Tokef (the most dramatic prayer in the High Holiday services) in terms of the physical fate of people, i.e. "who will die by fire and who by water" and so on. But it does also refer to psychological states. "Who will be serene and who will be tormented" is another aspect of the possibilities for the year. I’m not sure why I never noticed that before, but I find it oddly reassuring at a time when so many people I know are dealing with various types of mental struggles (their own and other people's).

Unetaneh Tokef 2: I keep playing with science fiction and fantasy ideas for people’s fates. Stuff like "who by aliens and who by dragon’s fire." I am sure somebody must have written this poem already.

New Story: In retrospect, signing up for a show without actually having a story on the theme may not have been a great idea. The show in question was a Better Said Than Done benefit for the Nature House in Reston. I figured I could come up with something on "Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire," in the course of several weeks. Well, I did, but it was somewhat pointless and not as funny as most of my stories. More significantly, I was stressing out over it and tweaking things until the last minute. Overall, it went okay, but it wasn’t as much fun as it should have been. On the other hand, it was a good challenge.

Pricy Beer: I had dinner with flyertalk friends at Fireworks Pizza last night. I continue to find their beer list intimidating. They have something called Tart of Darkness which goes for $44 for a 25 ounce bottle. I went for the Evil Twin Imperial Doughnut Break at $10.75 for a 10 ounce draft. Which is still more than my pizza (the tartufo, which is mushroomy goodness) cost. The beer was interesting, with almond and coffee flavors and a very slight sweetness. I would drink it again.

Presidential Candidates: Oy.

Who Buys This Shit?: There is someone on Etsy selling glitter pills that are supposed to turn your poop all sparkly. This cannot be healthy for either you or your plumbing.

Other Stuff: Knitting group was Sunday, also in Reston, and was (as always) fun. My calendar is a complete mess, but I need to find time to schedule a couple of other things. My house is also a mess and I need time to work on that, too. Plus ca change …
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)
I have various other things to write about but tonight starts Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) and I wanted to make a translation of some testimony of my father’s available. I believe he submitted this in order to apply for reparations money.

This is my translation (with some assistance from Google translate, but much of the language was within my limited German reading skills). There are a few notes in italics which are things I’ve filled in.

Sworn Declaration

Today, the (date not filled in – it was some time in 1955) appeared before me the man named Erich Nadel, a student living at 1508 St. Marks Avenue, Brooklyn, NY and explained the following to me under oath:

I was born in Koenigsburg, East Prussia on September 15, 1929. (The actual date of his birth was September 1, 1930. He had lied about this to the Nazis during a particular selection and the earlier date was on all the paperwork, so he stuck with it. He celebrated both dates.) A year after my birth, my parents managed to continue to Kovno, Lithuania. I went to school there and was there when the war began. After the occupation of Kovno, the Nazis forced me to wear a yellow Jewish symbol. At the end of August 1941, I was brought to the Ghetto Slobodka-Williampole. The ghetto was fenced with barbed wire and guarded by armed police. The Jewish council was headed by Dr. Elkes. Although I was a minor, I was forced to work in the laundry (I am not sure this is the correct translation of waschanstalt but Google's suggestion of "wash institution" wasn't any better), of the Ghetto workshop and afterwards for the N.S. K. K. ( i.e. the National Socialist Motor Corps).

The work was under forced conditions and I was not paid for it.

In July 1944, while the Ghetto commander was S. S. Hauptsturmbanfuhrer (not sure how to translate this – it is sort of high main leader) Goeke, I was forcibly transported to Dachau, LagerNumber 1, near Landsberg. (I chose not to translate Lager to Camp since I think it is clear enough as it is.) There I was given the number 81520.

During the time I was in Lager Number 1, I worked for the Kommando Mohl to build an underground aircraft plant. Although I was a minor, I was forced to carry heavy sacks of cement for 12 hours each night for three months. In November 1944, I became sick and was transferred to Lager Number 4. I remained in Lager Number 4 until April 26, 1945. On that day, I was brought back to Lager Number 1 and was freed the next day. After being liberated, because I was sick, I was brought to the refugee hospital in Landsberg. After a month, I was brought to the Sanatorium (there is a blank here – I assume he intended to fill in a name) in Landsburg. Then I traveled to Italy and arrived there on August 1, 1945. On August 15, 1945, in the Displaced Persons Camp at Bologna, I contracted the malaria from which I still suffer. From October 1945 until May 1947 I was in Santa Maria de Leuce (in the Lecce district). After that I lived in Palese in the Bari district from April 1947 until December 1947 and Barletta in the Bari district from December 1947 until my emigration to America.


I came to America on March 29, 1948 on the S. S. Sobieski from Naples, Italy. Since April 20, 1954, I have been a citizen of the United States of America and have lived at the address mentioned above since July 1950.

I assure the correctness of my sworn disclosures. I am aware of the importance of a sworn declaration and the consequences of a false sworn declaration.

I sign the same in the presence of the notary of my free will.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Somehow, I had missed David Malki's creation of the idea of Chanukah duck in this Wondermark cartoon. The idea is that the duck quacks a puzzle for the entertainment of children each day of Chanukah.

Apparently, not long after, Yakov Hadash perfected the concept with this song, complete with puzzle.

I now have two new ambitions:

1) Create 8 quackable puzzles

2) Have someone write a klezmer song re: one of my more ridiculous ideas

Why, yes, in case you hadn't noticed, I am easily amused.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Norman Bridwell wrote Clifford the Big Red Dog. Sy Berger invented the modern baseball card. Harold M. Shulweis was the rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom, a large and prominent Conservative synagogue in Los Angeles. And Joe Cocker was one of the greatest rock singers of all time.

Chanukah Cluelessness: There should be a market for customized Chanukah candles, so you can specify the colors (monochrome or combinations) you want. There is someone who is selling a so-called personalized Chanukah candle on etsy, but that seller has absolutely no idea what Chanukah candles are. (It is a single candle, with a family name on it. It might be suitable as a yahrzeit candle, but probably not as it isn’t in glass.)

Winning the Battle: The other dimensional creatures have returned not only my scissors, but a theatre program I have been looking for since mid-August. Of course, they are probably just borrowing something I haven’t looked for recently, but I will take what victories I can get.
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)
First, a few quick celebrity death watch notes. Gil Marks wrote about Jewish food. Ken Weatherwax played Pugsley Addams on TV. Mary Ann Mobley leveraged being Miss America into an acting career.

I have a number of serious things to write about, but this has been a hectic week and I am more inclined to be frivolous. Today’s holidailies prompt has to do with holiday music. The token Chanukah songs that got thrown into the mix for chorus when I was growing up were Mi Yimalel and I Had a Little Dreidel. The former is okay, but the latter annoys me. Clay is obviously a completely inappropriate material to make a dreidel from, since it is fragile. And you don’t just wait for clay to dry; you bake it in a kiln.

So let’s try some alternate lyrics.

I have a little dreidel
I made it out of wood
Getting splinters playing
Would not be very good.


I have a little dreidel
I made it out of tin
Now I can gamble pennies
Along with all my kin.


I have a little dreidel
I knitted it from wool
If you tried to spin it
You’d see that I’m a fool.


I made a little dreidel
With origami fold
No matter what I use
This song is dumb and old.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I mentioned a few posts back that I needed to make some decisions about how to approach the mourning process. Here is a bit of an explanation.

Judaism divides mourning into various time phases, which strikes me as a very natural way of addressing the process of grieving. The first, Aninut, is the period from the death to the funeral. This was, frankly, pretty much a blur, completely filled with making the funeral arrangements and notifying people. Then came Shivah, the 7 days starting from the funeral and there are a number of practices which I would have been stricter about if I were there alone but I didn’t want to put my brother and (especially) my uncle on the spot. For example, I wasn’t about to say that a 78-year-old man, even one as robust as he is, should sit on the floor. I will also note that my experience almost 30 years ago for my father was different, partly because he had been more engaged with the local Jewish community and partly because, being so much older, many of Mom’s friends were unable to travel even moderate distances. (And, again, she had outlived a number of her friends and relatives and many of the remaining ones are in Florida.)

Anyway, I am now approaching the end of Shloshim, which is a total of 30 days (counted from the burial, so it includes the Shivah). I’ve observed that period fairly strictly, most notably by not going to social events (including not going to the theatre, even though the show I had tickets for was a non-musical) and not wearing new clothes (though I have washed clothes). This also meant canceling a trip I’d planned.

The question involves the remainder of the 12 months of mourning for a parent. I will note that there was less of a question when my father died since, having newly moved to Los Angeles then, I had pretty much no social life established there. It was easier to be somewhat stricter given that I was settling into working life. (And, also, I was substantially more observant then, which is another subject for another time.) Anyway, I think it’s fairly straightforward for me to avoid wearing new clothes (except, possibly, if I finished knitting something for myself. There is a slight loophole which involves having someone else wear a garment for a few minutes.) Also, I do not consider pantyhose to be actual clothing. (I consider this related to allowing myself to go to a dance class for exercise though I wouldn’t go out dancing. I cannot really explain why these are the same thing in my mind. But, anyway, I did stock up on pantyhose when I was passing an outlet mall on my way back from donating books to The Book Thing.)

Avoiding parties is also fairly easy, but there are some issues that come up with a few events I would normally go to. For example, the National Storytelling Conference typically does have some musical entertainment as part of the events and that is definitely iffier. But I think I can easily just not attend those portions of the bigger event. The National Puzzlers’ League Convention feels harder to justify but easier to find technicalities to allow. I am inclined to forgo one or more of the larger frequent flyer events I would go to, which, unfortunately, probably means I won’t go to New Zealand next year.

The biggest dilemma is with various theatre tickets I have (mostly my Signature subscription), some of which are for shows (and, specifically, musicals) I was really looking forward to. Part of me thinks my mother would not have wanted me to avoid them on her behalf and part of me thinks this is just rationalization on my part. So that’s the part I still need to sort out, but I have some time to do so.

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fauxklore

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