~ Sunday, March 21, 2004 ~
Well, they *did* say "please explain"...
~ Friday, March 19, 2004 ~
On its application for admission, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College asks,
"Have you ever had a serious illness, injury, or operation? If yes, please explain" and while normally I just check "no" to those, it occurred to me as I was filling it out this morning that perhaps the head injuries I had when I was little might be the sort of thing they're talking about. So, I decided to have a little fun with it:
I’ve had two concussions. Does that count? One was when I was 8; my brother and I were playing in my bedroom, which I shared with my sister. She had just graduated from crib to low mattress, but my mother, just to make sure my sister wouldn’t roll off the mattress and plummet to her death on the floor three inches below, had put a bed rail along the length of the mattress. My brother and I were having one of our epic stuffed animal wars, which are like pillow fights but more interesting, and he’d just invented a new strategy: throw a blanket over your opponent’s head, and then attack her before she can regain her bearings. Clever, no? Anyway, I had just been blanketed, and was trying to walk backward away from the spot where I thought he was looming, about to pummel me with Elephant. I escaped Elephant, but I backed straight into the bedrail, tripped, and fell backward onto the low mattress and into the wall. I broke my fall with the back of my head. I had the second concussion when I was 10; I was trying to surprise my friends at school by showing them a new trick I could do on the travelling bars, and instead, I surprised myself by falling backward and hitting my head on the asphalt. I blacked out for a few seconds, which was an interesting experience. I think I damaged my mother more than I damaged myself. I’m fine now. I’m pretty sure she’s recovered, too.
Current Music: In the Belly of the Whale, Newsboys
~ prattled by Miriam at 5:57 a.m. [+]
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Who knew that Rosie the Riveter was a lefty?
~ Wednesday, March 17, 2004 ~
This is an idea I had that I'd fully expected someone else to have realized already. If I'd had the patience, I'd have replaced "we can do it" with the Hebrew phrase that's transliterated "na'aseh otoh", which means "we will do it," but as it happened, I lacked the patience. As it is, this phrase probably better expresses the intent of the message anyway; it's not that all Jewish women shall wear tefillin so much as that they may.
For the curious, the wiki encyclopedia has a very helpful explanation of the controversy surrounding women and tefillin.
Current Music: "Hey, Julie" by Fountains of Wayne has been in my head all afternoon.
~ prattled by Miriam at 3:12 p.m. [+]
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~ Thursday, March 11, 2004 ~
Finally finished this thing that was supposed to be a companion piece for the Purim performance of Rabbi Jastrow, but wasn't. It's intended to be a spoof of the introductory talk Devorah gives us each morning, in which she shares any pertinent Drisha news and then tells us what we're going to be studying that day.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Tractate #4.
Five, seven, eight and nine,
Everybody up the stairs, cuz we're way behind in our
Schedule for the chapter
We spent five days on the daf
So we've gotta move faster
Whose turn to read this morning?
Nadia's up but she had no warning
Down on the ground floor Hilary's furious
And I hear that
But let's get serious
What can I do? It's hard to function
When you're coping with construction
We have no heat and my markers are drying but
Here is your assignment
A little bit of Rashi, inner margin
A little bit of Tosafot needs enlargin'
A little disagreement written here
Chachamim object to Rabbi Me'ir
A little Yad Remah and when we're through, we'll
Look at the machloket of Rav and Shmuel
Notice how the Rambam makes it clear
Finish to the Mishnah, and we'll do shiur
Tractate Number Four!
Go three lines down
Go and read it all around
Say the phrase like you're proud
Of your Ashkenaz sound
Here's one new sheet
And one new packet
It's written in Greek
But see if you can hack it
And analyze twice
And if it makes no sense
You're reading it right
A little bit of Rashi, inner margin
A little bit of Tosafot needs enlargin'
A little ambiguity makes it fun
A little bit of Targum Yonaton
The Ran's not wrong but his style's sloppy
A little bit of him on a blurry copy
A little Ibn Ezra, not too wordy
Finish up tomorrow, cuz it's twelve thirty
Tractate number four!
A little bit of Rashi, inner margin
A little bit of Tosafot needs enlargin'
A little disagreement going on
Talia insists that Karyn's wrong
Move a little forward, but at what cost?
Jarah is annoyed and I'm just lost
A little bit of clarity, from Rachel Wainer
A little mental breakdown--we're insane here.
Don't be vexed; these
Texts we're reading are never easy
Ask me questions
All you can
Everyone's gonna understand
Tractate Number Four!
Current Music: I'm going to serve Lou Bega an eviction notice if he doesn't get out of my head.
 The entire body of work known as the Mishnah is divided into six orders, which are then subdivided into tractates. This year, we in Devorah's Gemara class are studying Sanhedrin, which is tractate #4 of Nezikin.
 Drisha is on floor #9 of the Jewish Center at 86th St. The building is old, and the elevator frequently breaks. Floor #6 is the bottom half of a swimming pool, and thus does not exist.
 A daf is a page in the Talmud. Spending five days on one daf is really slow. By the way, you can see what any page of the Talmud looks like if you go to e-daf.com and fiddle with the sidebar to request a specific page. Pretty cool, no?
 Each day, one person is elected as Reader, and they read and translate whatever section of the text Devorah is teaching that day. You're supposed to prepare for this job by making certain to read through all the assigned sources before it's your day to read, but sometimes people fall behind in their work and are caught by surprise.
 This being caught by surprise seems to have happened to Nadia more than to the rest of us, somehow.
 After over a month of having no elevator, Hilary decided she was going to organize a protest. She'd stand in the lobby next to the elevator and refuse to climb the stairs until the elevator was fixed, and she encouraged others to join her. Nobody did. This incensed her even more than the lack of an elevator, and she delivered a message to us, via Devorah, that she thought we were all spineless.
 One of Devorah's pet phrases.
 The whole building is being renovated, and poor Devorah gets the worst of it. Her office is directly below the 10th-floor bathroom, which is being completely redone, but was somehow still functioning as a bathroom during renovation. Aside from the constant noise and showers of plaster dust on her computer, books, and person, she's related to us tales of what happens when there's a bathroom above your head and all the sound-proofing layers of flooring have been removed.
 Around late January they turned off our heat for a while.
 Devorah tends to rely heavily upon the giant whiteboard as a teaching aid. She has a charming habit of picking up a blue or black whiteboard marker, beginning to write a word, discovering the marker to have no ink left, and putting the marker back on the metal ledge, as if replacing it and letting it sit there for a while will replenish its supply of ink.
 In the standard editions of the Talmud, Rashi's very practical clarifications are printed in Rashi Script in the margins around the main block of text. He's always on the inner half of the page. Why? Good question. He was considered the most important commentator, so they put him closer to the spine of the book because that way the rats, who would nibble the books from the exposed page-edge inward, would get to his words last.
 Tosafot is a general term meaning other, non-Rashi, commentators who lived and wrote later. They're printed in Rashi Script, too, and they, like Rashi, appear on the page around the main text, but on the outside half of the margin. Rats used to love Tosafot. I, however, am not a rat, and find them annoyingly indigestible, not to mention quite a strain on the eyes. Spend a few hours staring at the Tosafot and you'll be well on your way to earning a one-way ticket to Myopiland. I get teased for refusing to read Tosafot until after I've made an enlarged photocopy of the page in question. Thank goodness for a working photocopy machine.
 Rabbi Me'ir is one of the fellows in the Canon of Rabbis, who frequently tells us his opinion about some mishnah (teaching). Sometimes the chachamim, or "wise guys", disagree with him, and he has to stand and argue his opinion all alone. Poor fellow.
 Another commentator.
 A Machloket is an educated disagreement. Rav and Shmuel are two of the oldest and most famous members of the Canon. They fought a lot.
 The Rambam, aka Maimonides, was an enlightened thinker who could explain everything so that it all worked out perfectly. He sometimes did this at the cost of a literal affirmation of certain creeds, so he's not very popular in some schools.
 The central text of the Talmud alternates between mishnayot, or teachings, and gemarot, or discussions on those teachings. If you've finished to the next teaching, you've finished reading and digesting the teaching and discussion that you were assigned to learn.
 Shiur is Drishaspeak for classtime, as opposed to Seder or Chavrutah, which means time you spend in the Beit Midrash (study room) working with your partner.
 Ever notice how there seem to be two ways of saying every Hebrew phrase you've ever heard? It's shabBAT shaLOM or good SHABbes; yom KIPper or YOM kipPUR; ROSHhaSHANuh or ROSH hashaNAH, talLEET or TALLis, chupPAH or CHUPpuh, and you get the idea. Ashkenazic Jews tend to accent the first syllables and turn some of the t sounds into s or th. Sephardic Jews tend to accent the second syllables. Sephardic pronunciation is generally considered more correct, partly because that's they way they speak in Israel. Ashkenazic pronunciation is Old Skool. Devorah tries to use the Sephardic pronunciation, but she grew up speaking with the Ashkenazic accent and sometimes she forgets, at which point I smile (it's still a little jarring to my ear) and Talia and Karyn (who also grew up using the Ashkenazic accent) cheer because they're being represented. That line was directed more toward them than toward Devorah.
 Typical methods of distributing assignments
 Not really
 Gemara class goes from 9 till 12:30 daily.
 This often happens.
 That would be me stepping out of character and speaking autobiographically.
 This awkwardness of lyric was an attempt to parallel Mr. Bega's rhyme scheme. Check it out:
I do all to
Fall in love with a girl like you
Don't be vexed; these
Texts we're reading are never easy
You can read the complete lyrics to Mambo #5 if you want to.
~ prattled by Miriam at 1:09 a.m. [+]
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Not bad for a weblog with a name that sounds like a cosmetic.
~ Tuesday, March 09, 2004 ~
In honor of my having this page for almost a year now, this post marks my first foray into metablogging. Every so often I indulge in a bit of recursive voyeurism and peek through my secret periscope to see what search phrases people are using to find this page. Here are some of them:
1. actress drisha
2. letters ihum
3. jewish glosses
4. rose parade radio broadcast
5. why isn't kant an existentialist?
6. picture of lido cookies from pepperidge farm
7. philosophy's human drama
8. yeats "walking naked" poem meaning
9. plinyl floor
10. halacha door-to-door
11. "pepperidge farm" delectables
12. "ruckus room" "rumpus room"
13. "who broke my window?" LDS
14. "Once i READ A BOOK"+LYRICS
15. "round green rug"
16. victorian ladies + sore bottoms
17. white food turnips camphor sausages inspiration
18. figuring your colored contact
19. schitten ritual
That last one really piqued my curiosity, so I reproduced the search, and found a lot of pages in German that I didn't understand, with the exception, of course, of my page. What I found most amusing about this, and the real reason why I'm writing this post in the first place, is what happens when Google translates my page into German. From what little I know of the language, it seems to be a fairly accurate rendition. Check out the word for "hair elastic".
Current Music: The End of the Tour, TMBG
~ prattled by Miriam at 12:03 a.m. [+]
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How to Panhandle in Manhattan
~ Monday, March 08, 2004 ~
Find a girl who is running up the block at top speed.
Place yourself directly in her path.
Speak these words: "Yo, bitch! You got fifty cents?"
Current Music: Rose Leaf Rag, Scott Joplin
~ prattled by Miriam at 6:49 p.m. [+]
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~ Monday, March 01, 2004 ~
Today during lunch Jarah and I performed the Mr. Sandman/Rabbi Jastrow piece for everyone else at Drisha, in honor of Purim. It went really well. The harmonies sounded right, the tempo stayed even, and everyone laughed in all the right places. Devorah herself was gone during lunch, so when she returned she requested a reprise performance, which Jarah and I gave in her (Devorah's) office just before she (Jarah) had to go teach Hebrew school. Devorah, too, laughed in all the right places. She especially liked the "three point font" bit, as did a bunch of other people, so I was glad I put it in instead of the other line, and particularly glad I saved it till the last verse. It's total big-fish-small-pond, I suppose, in that nobody else seems to have considered rewriting song lyrics, so they're impressed when someone else does it, but I'm prouder of this work than any of my others, perhaps just because I managed to not indulge in a weakness of mine and clutter it with too much overcomplicated explanation. It's short and simple and doesn't use too many big words, so other people can get it the first time, which is the only chance they have.
The ball on Saturday night was delightful, but not at all in the way I'd expected. I was expecting a Gaskell ball, and this one, while well-proportioned, was a good deal farther to the petite end of the spectrum. Instead of the 35ish I'm accustomed to expecting, there were ten scheduled dances and a few bonus dances squeezed in here and there, plus a set of German Cotillion games during the intermission. Instead of the 500ish I find at Gaskell's, there were approximately 50 people. I'm bad at these estimates, but the hall was far (FAR) from crowded, and it was also about a third (quarter? again, I am ill at these numbers) the size of the Scottish Rite Temple. The band, Spare Parts, was more of a duo than a band, really, but they had adequate amplification and they were good without drawing attention inappropriately...steady, consistent, and tasteful in their choices of Civil War-appropriate pieces. There was, astonishingly, a slight gender imbalance in our (Amanda's and my) favor, probably due to the Civil War reenactor contingent that attended, and (joy!) knew the dances. Amanda had fun making a subtle production of sighing over the Men In Uniform. How period of her. :) Other nice things about this ball, in spite of its smaller-than-expected dimensions, included: the spread of dainties--all beautifully presented, all with calligraphed place cards telling what the food was and its historical source; the shocking consistency of historically correct, well-fitted, and beautiful costumes on women, and some nice uniforms on men; the very danceable wood floor; the ladies' changing area downstairs (which Amanda and I didn't use, but where we stored our street shoes); the dance cards attached by red cord to tiny pencils, presented to every ballgoer upon arrival; the two German Cotillion games we played between the two sets (the first was a simple game in which ten gents polka'd in a circle together while eight ladies stood around the edge of the room until a whistle was blown, at which point the gents found ladies and danced with them, except for the two extra gents, who had to dance with each other...so innocent, it's almost invisible; the second was basically the same as the Paul Jones we sometimes played at Friday Night Waltz when Richard was in charge--1. couples make a circle and progress to the left in time to the music, 2. when a whistle is blown, all turn to face partners and dance a grand chain, starting by passing partners by right hands, and 3. when another whistle is blown, all take the approaching person of the opposite dance role and dance anywhere in the room until a third whistle is blown, at which point all reform the circle--only it was done in waltz time, and the gents were blindfolded, to the great amusement of the audience); the wide age range (there were boys of 12 or 13 and men of 70ish, and girls of 13 or 14 but looking 18--corsets under low-cut dresses will do that--and grandes dames of 60ish, but looking 40--corsets and low-cut dresses will occasionally do that, too); and the uniform friendliness of everyone I spoke with there. I suppose when attendance is so light, each person is more obvious, and people are more willing to share themselves with strangers. The smallishness made it feel more like a "real" private New England ball, somehow, especially because Mr. Patri Pugliese (who, with his wife and children, hosted the ball, I think) announced and MCed the entire night. He also taught all the dances and was the liaison with the band. He has a very gentle sort of commanding presence.
On further reflection, the best part of the weekend really might not have been the ball; it was hanging out with Amanda and Co. on the way up, on the way back, and during the day on Saturday and Sunday at her parents house. "Co." turned out to be only one person, whom I'll call Mountain Man, instead of two or three, which was lousy for the car rental price we each paid, but nice for the person who could sit in back and stretch or sleep during the 5ish-hour drive from Manhattan to Amanda's parents' house.
I'm excited about Amanda. She feels sort of like the part of me that doesn't get to come out and play so much at Drisha. I started thinking she might be a good person to get to know when I met her at a contradance and discovered that she does all the Victorian ballroom stuff I do, and in fact, used to perform the same sort of historical re-creation business I did, only through something run by Mr. Pugliese rather than through Dickens Fair. She didn't know all the mazurka variations, but we got together one evening on the 5th floor of the Jewish Center, where they have a ballet studio, to play with stuff, and she follows like a dream. No. Dreams rarely follow anything. She follows like ei after c.
She's just over thirty but looks my age, and she's stunningly beautiful and comfortable with it, so while we were upstairs doing the requisite three-hour-ball-preparation-marathon (while Mountain Man stayed downstairs until the last five minutes, chatting with Amanda's parents about business...how classic), she was not at all ashamed of playing dress-up in very pretty things and grinning coyly into the glass with bubbly girly satisfaction. ("I'm so pretty!" she actually said, although not entirely seriously.) She admits to desiring nice things, in spite of the materialism implied, and when I saw the aesthetic loveliness of her parents' home, I could understand why. (The guest room, where I slept, had a hand-made quilt in shades of green, which matched the towel and the carpet.) She likes admiration, and gets it. She's a struggling actress, but not struggling as hard as some. She knows the words to all the worthwhile musicals, including G&S, and takes song cues almost as often as I do. She doesn't pun back at me so much, but she gets them and appreciates that sort of thinking. She likes third-grade jokes, and we passed some time in the car trading them...the one about no tomatoes had her laughing for several minutes. (You know: What's red and invisible? No tomatoes.) She seems to make the same relationship-related demands and errors that I do, and to be attracted to and to have the same difficulties with the same sorts of personality traits in others. Many of the choices she has made in life, when they weren't the same as the choices I've made, were the ones I almost made, and vice versa. She's Unitarian, which is, as far as I can tell, the "Christian" version of Reconstructionist Judaism. She was thinking seriously of becoming a minister for a long time before she chose performing. Talking to her late Saturday night, after the ball, cuddled under the hand made quilt, felt like talking to an alternate-universe-version of myself.
Mountain Man and I didn't hit it off so well. To his credit, he did a good job of being a gentleman throughout the ball, but at points over the rest of the weekend there were other parts of his personality that impressed me unfavorably. He seems to be, in many ways, rather good at conforming to the stereotypes of "Man". The sad thing is that I think this is intentional. Aside from the physical aspect--he's quite tall, and broad of shoulder--he also seemed overly given to doing the sorts of things that are joked about in those annoying jokes that bitter women make up about their ex-husbands. Amanda had taken the first driving shift, and when we stopped to switch drivers, he asked if either of us had a hair elastic for him to borrow while he drove. His hair is shoulder-length, and I guess it bothers him to have it loose when he drives. I had two elastics, one light blue and one black. I let him choose. Mountain Man chose black. "Really?" I queried, looking at his light blue plaid shirt and his faded jeans. "But the light blue one would match your shirt and jeans so perfectly." "Yes," said Amanda. "Look, it's the exact shade of this stripe here." And he explained (I wish I could remember his exact words) that the light blue would be too feminine. ??? I guess for some people it's important to look manly by wearing black hair elastics while driving to Massachussetts with two ladies in the car. Okay.
Later, while he was driving through part of Massachusetts near Boston, a pickup truck ahead of us wasn't going fast enough for his liking (we were doing 70 in the left lane) and he handled the situation by continuing to go at the exact same pace even though the pickup, which remained in front of us, continued to go slightly more slowly. I was once in a car with another guy from my past whose first name was the same as Mountain Man's, and as Past Guy looked down to fiddle with the AC for a moment, I watched, increasingly disbelieving, and mute from terror as we rear-ended a pickup in front of us. The pickup was stopped at a red light which Past Guy hadn't seen. All of us were fine, but the hood of Rosenante, Past Guy's light blue Toyota Tercel, had crumpled like aluminium foil. I did a good job of not acting like I was scared until the next time I was in a car and felt as if we were approaching the car ahead too quickly. My breathing grew shallow and I kept involuntarily slamming on the passenger-side brake. In fact, I've never really completely gotten over that reflex. Anyway, back to the recent past, I decided that Earlier Than Necessary was a better time to speak up than Later Than Necessary, so as I watched our rental car continue to close the distance between us and the pickup in front of us, I said, quite clearly, "Uh, you're planning on slowing down, right?" No response. We crept closer. "Please slow down." Mountain Man: "He shouldn't be in the fast lane if he's going to move so slowly." Closer. Me: "He's not changing lanes!" Amanda, loudly: "I am NOT comfortable with you driving this way." Then Mountain Man dropped back, and proceeded to execute an elaborate lane-changing maneuver in which he ended up going all the way to the second lane from the right and back again to the left just because he was so determined to pass this pickup. After about 10 minutes I started breathing normally again, and Amanda drove on the way back.
Sunday morning, Amanda (who can cook things) decided we ought to make an omelette for breakfast. After I passed a few minutes by washing and coring mushrooms while she beat eggs and fiddled with spices, I realized that Mountain Man was doing something odd. He was sitting in a nice winged chair reading a newspaper. "Would you like to help me with the mushrooms?" I asked. "Of course," he said, and up he got. He found a large knife and sliced the mushrooms paper-thin, which was fine, if a bit of overkill, but when you're a guest in someone else's house, why not offer right away without being asked? Is cooking really so ominously light blue?
I sometimes wonder why it is that my close male friends tend to identify, or be identified, with a certain image that isn't particularly marked by a preponderance of testosterone. Am I unfairly ignoring all but a certain subset of society? Then I remember what it's like to hang out with the testosterone-driven guys, and how certain thought processes that I take for granted seem, in their case, to be seriously impaired, and I feel thankful that I've found the good ones.
Current Sounds: raindrops on pavement
~ prattled by Miriam at 7:09 p.m. [+]
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A little bit of Berkeley
On Saturday, I saw a car parked on 95th and CPW that was once light blue, but is now entirely covered in bumper stickers. I'd seen it once or twice before (it sort of stands out around here, where most of the cars are one solid color without any bumper stickers at all, and of those, about 50% are yellow for financial reasons) but now I finally had time to stop and look at it closely. It had New Jersey plates, and the owner of the car seemed to have a broad spectrum of interests. There were several about drumming, including one about a short period of time when places all over the world would have drumming sessions simultaneously, which is an interesting idea, but it would be a nightmare to get all the drummers to play in rhythm with each other. The owner also seemed to be a big fan of hiking/backpacking, because much of the driver's-side-door was covered with prismatic stickers naming national parks. There were a bunch of pro-choice and pro-vegetarianism slogans on the roof, and plenty of pro-intellectual anti-establishment slogans like "not fooled by the government" on the passenger's door, which made me sigh and miss Berkeley a little. (Not that New York isn't pro-intellectual--it decidedly is, probably unnaturally so--but differently from the way Berkeley is. In Berkeley, the young hip clever vocal people rail against whoever's in charge, but in New York, those people act like they *are* in charge, and inasmuchas New York is a cultural center of the world, they're right. To put it too generally, people are much more interested in watching New York than New York is in watching other people. As a result, it seems to me that there's much less interest in marketing things by trying to convince people that our product is somehow related to that other hot item that you've heard of, or the "as seen on TV" method. Trends seem to show up here first, before they've been named and boxed and sold at Hot Topic. Maybe it's the three-hour time difference.) There were the cute-clever standards like "hang up and drive" and "my karma ran over my dogma" sprinkled about liberally, but among them were a few I hadn't seen before. Two of my favorites were, on the passenger's door and just below the trunk, respectively, "Militant Agnosticism: I don't know and you don't either!" and "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons/For you are crunchy and good with ketchup". There was another about dragons on the hood which I have forgotten. In a space of honor just above the right side of the bumper, and looking as if it had been there longer than many of the others, was the familiar black and white sticker saying "They Might Be Giants".
I found it highly satisfying to see a bumper-sticker-covered car that is not in motion, and to be able to stop and take a few minutes to read every last bit of text. I hope the owner wasn't peeking out a window and watching nervously. Peeking out and watching proudly would have been okay.
Current Music: Complete Paranoia, TMBG
~ prattled by Miriam at 2:03 a.m. [+]
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