Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I get misty reading this stufff....

It's Wikipedia and their list of donor comments. Seem dry? It's not.

There are donations every minute of every day, in countless currencies and languages. It is so pure - heartfelt gratitude for an appreciated service. I marvel at this thing, something as a selfless force of good that is evolving in front of our eyes. It's just magnificent.

In Defense of Fake Trees

The National Christmas tree is huge and majestic. It's located right behind the White House, near the Washington monument, and it's a popular tourist spot. People also look among the 50 trees (1 for each state) for what their home state's tree looks like. BTW, RI's tree has quahod clams inside a clear plastic ball - well done!
In any case, as I was glancing at the trees with a friend, I realized that unlike that 40-foot National tree, which was alive and well, all of the smaller trees had their roots cut when they were transported here - i.e. they were dead. It then occured to me that December isn't about moving and transplanting trees, but killing them (the HORROR!). And this was the irony - plastic trees, which can get a bad rep and bring to mind "poor old Charlie Brown Christmas"-type derision - these plastic specimens are faaaar better for the earth than REAL trees. Who knew? I'm sure most Americans realized this 30 years ago, but I'm a slow learner... and I'm Jewish, taboot.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Betrayed by White Castle

I thought I had to do it. White Castle - a restaurant completely unknown to me except in legend, lay so close by my girlfriend's house that I could almost smell.... whatever animal was being fried at the time. The legends referring to White Castle were numerous: at least two Beastie Boys references AND a movie. Dianna warned me that my innards would pay the price for my curiosity. I informed her that that no Taco Bell, no McDonalds had ever felled me before.
We approached the drive-thru, starving. It began poorly: We placed our order (4 sliders, some chicken "rings," fries, a chicken sandwhich - all for me) and drove around the side. We were faced with two identical teller windows... and no employees. Our eyes scanned each vacant window. Nothing emerged. After literally about 3 minutes, a woman appeared and took our money. She then handed us our "sacks" of food (OK, I really enjoyed calling them my "sacks of food").
I will describe each of the contents separately:

1. The hamburgers were vile slices of sickness, paper thin with a greyish hue. They were covered by specs of a slimy substance (onions) and a bun shoved into a sleeve of some sort.
2. The "chicken rings" struck me as being absolutely devoid of any love or care whatsoever. I actually felt my emotional reserve being drained by these lifeless loops of... grossness.
3. The chicken sandwhich and fries seemed fine.

I ate half of the above feast in the car. Soon after, I felt as if a huge weight have been lifted from my shoulders...and placed squarely inside my gut. Moving was difficult. My breathing was labored. I felt out of sync with the goodness of the world, forsaken, possessed by lethargy. I wished for death, or Pepto. Eventually it passed. I swore never to eat junk food again. I have no willpower.

Are Zombies Green?

My friend Caroline and I have been discussing this important issue, and I'd like to share it with you, my handfull of readers:

Zombies are environmentally friendly – they consume no natural resources (besides people) and, to my knowledge, produce no waste. They do not use electricity or fuel and would most likely have a carbon footprint of zero.

So: Do we have things to learn from our undead brethren? Are they actually good for the earth, even, perhaps, better than we?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Twitter put in its place... finally!

From Gawker:

"Twitter, the service for posting short updates, has consumed the media elite. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is privately obsessed with it. By the numbers, though, Twitter is an inconsequential nothing. "

Finally I can go back to ignoring this useless, pretentious gargage.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

There once was a man who said "Whoa"

who starred in bad movies for show

His deadpan delights

Made all of our nights

Without him, to the flick we'd say "No"

Powerlessness is.....

.... asking your Health Insurance company for a referral for an outside the network doctor. You are so at their mercy. A small voice at the other end who fields calls like yours all day is the difference between seeing the doctor you want at $200 a session or $30. They aren't doctors, and yet they are approving medical referrals for patients. How did we get to this place? And will the next administration be able to change it? The woman who helped me on the phone was very nice, but I still can't justify the buercracy that employs here, and ennervates (and fiscially frightens) 90% of the nation. I felt like I was before a judge, answering questions simply, directly, and respectfully. Thank God I got that referral...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jews fear this

The Jewish Demographic study revealed a shocking fact - 40% of the Jews in that state had.....omigoditstoohorrible.....a CHRISTMAS TREE in their houses! Truly! Surely the tree was just visiting, right? Just popping in? No - it been assembled on PURPOSE! By Jews - or at least by a Jewish / non-Jewish couple!
There is something about this tree that can cause a strange feeling in the Jewish stomach. I say "can cause" because I once considered myself to be in the "I'll never have a tree in MY home" crowd. Today, I see myself in another category, best described as "chilled out."
Older Jews, religious Jews and those who work in the Jewish community have oodles of Jewish pride, and may tell you about it if you are not careful. Part of Jewish pride isn't about being something as much as it is NOT BEING something else. That something else Jews fear is simple enough - everything that's not Jewish. We have a word for it "goyish." Not surprisingly, the term is an insult.
Huge groups of things are labeled are goyish and considered to be "for others." Linking them with Judaism strikes us as odd - incongruous as Duchamp's readymade wheel /stool (at right). Some example of things "traditional" Jews can't understand: Wonderbread, peppermint bark, and sailing.
Jewish culture is extremely xenophonic, understandably to a great deal. For many, this xenophobia IS Judaism - their identity is largely constructed by avoiding things that Jews avoid.
But there is more than just this "us / them" divide - some go even further, and see these things as symbols of "A Jewish Paradise Lost," a sign that the "other" culture has worked it's insidious way into our own system. For these people, seeing a Christmas tree in a Jewish person's house is like seeing someone with just a single boil of Bubonic plague on them - you know that soon enough it is going to cover them entirely. They view the person as lost, and move on.
I am pretty much ashamed that this attitude is so prevalent in our community. I understand that Jews are obsessed with self-preservation and any signs of "waywardness" send our already high anxiety through the roof. But I also think there is an internal smugness and self-righteousness that is painful to behold. I believe it is OK to hold one's own culture in esteem while respecting someone elses'. Many Jews I know would disagree, although there are more progressive schools at work which, of course, are maligned by traditional Judaism. Many of these groups put on a face of tolerance, while inside they are patronizing and hoping - PRAYING - that their children will not become ONE OF THEM. It has no faith, it has no flexibility. It is, as someone one posited about Judaism - "an old man saying no."
The tree is a symbol that brings joy to millions of people. It is simple, bright and cheerful. It's origins can be assailed, but why bother? Those who bring up the Pagan roots of Christmas in a derisionary way should known that all things are compilations of what has come before it. Judaism is not immune.
(Wow - that's an angry post!)

Lemon aide

I acquired a lemon. It was large – the size of a fat thermos. I
loved sniffing it. It made me think of Pine Sol commercials. Then I
corrected myself and thought of Lemon Pledge. I wondered how tough it
would be to zest a lemon. I decided to bring it home and see what
would become of it. I had an idea: On that particularly cold and
dreary winter day, I carried the lemon home in my hand on the walk to
the metro, on the train and on the way home. That small lemon was like
a beacon. Winter clothing is uniform – it is drab, diffuse, meant to
merge together and avoid the eye. The yellow was like an orb on
sunlight amidst all the browns, blacks and gray coats. Eyes from all
over darted to it and were fixated, even for a second. It was the most
striking thing aboard our $50 million metro that afternoon, to be

Monday, December 15, 2008

Review: Doubt (2008)

This movie does so many things, and all of them excellently well: It is a comedy, it is a historical drama, it's a suspenseful thriller which plays loud and strong despite completely lacking any violence, sex or barely even mentions of either. The tension that it sets up builds to an unbearable point, and the ending is so abrupt at first it seems tacked on. In the end, however, the title says it all, and leaves the viewer fully satisfied.

Friday, December 12, 2008

This woman thinks I'm a jerk

At the checkout at Target yesterday, I noticed that our cashier wore a Muslim headscarf. She was young - probably 17 or so, and had a nice smile and dressed very fashionably (And, no, the pic to my left isn't her, but I needed some sort of visual aid). I have two weaknesses that frequently embarrass those around me - I love people, and I am impossibly curious. This leads me to ask people I don't know questions about stuff I'd like to know.

For the life of me, I could not remember what the name of the Muslim headscarf was. So asked her what it was called. Just to know I was semi-culturally literate, I offered up my best recollection of what it was called - a "Is it a kuffi-yah?"

Her smile shifted to a look that was equal parts disbelief and disappointment.

"Uhhhh.... no," she said in classic teenage haughtiness. "It's a hijab."

"Oh right!" I said with a smile. She didn't return it. She rang me out without another word.

I couldn't understand why she was so upset at my good-intentioned question. Then I Googled Kuffiyah. It looks like this (below). Oops.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review: FCIC Holiday Party 2008

Simply put - I ate too much. I thought that only ever happened on Thanksgiving and at Chinese Buffets.... but I stand corrected. Some highlights: the Peach cobbler cheesecake, the cauldron of delectable meatballs, the Vegan chili, the "non-meatballs" (i.e. disguised falafel) and more. Who would have thought a group of public information specialists could be such great cooks? Oh, and during the merry melee, my Secret Santa gave me gummi worms.
.....And then it came to pass that there was a tradition reminiscient of the great holiday of Festivus - the crappy gift exchange (aka the White Elephant Gift Exchange). I thought all white elephants had long ago been harvested for piano purposes, but I guess not. These gifts all belong in a QVC museum - owls made of seashells, cat mirrors, very shoddy Martini glasses, a nose irrigation system. I love this place.