~ Friday, January 28, 2005 ~
We use it for our own amusement.
~ Friday, January 21, 2005 ~
Another minipost. Last night, my family and I had dinner in a large garage dressed up to look like an Italian restaurant. My dad likes it. Fortunately, they make up for the lack of atmosphere with their oppressive waitstaff, who hang nervously over your shoulders asking if you'd like a salad or a drink with dinner, and whether you'd like to hear the specials again. Seriously, I think our waitress had tears of anxiety in our eyes as she asked if everything was okay. Walking away from the restaurant, we passed a Hong Kong-themed (Hong Kongan? Hongkongan? Hongan Kongan?) restaurant that advertised its policy with a sign in the window. I did a double take, passively reading it while thinking of something else, finishing processing it when I was several steps past it, and then stopping short and dashing back to reread it, to see if it really said what I thought it said. It did.
WE DO NOT
USE MSG FOR
They sure don't.
Current Music: The Astor-I-A, one of TMBG's venue songs, has been rattling around in my head for the past few days, although it was just interrupted by the same band's song "about" the New Orleans House of Blues. They were right; it did find me in my workplace, and resistance was futile.
~ prattled by Miriam at 1:59 p.m. [+]
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ACTIVATE GERMAN HAND PEDAL
Oh my God, I just found this. I am dying from laughter.
I think I linked to this sometime ago, but those of you who've never seen the original F.A. and D.W. can enjoy it now. Remember to breathe. : )
~ prattled by Miriam at 5:53 p.m. [+]
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~ Thursday, January 20, 2005 ~
One of the rabbinical students is moving to a new apartment, and she just sent out a plea for help to the student email list. The reason why this is interesting to me is that one of the lines in the e-mail was "come enjoy good company tomorrow while you wait out the snowstorm". Snowstorm? According to Yahoo's weather service, it currently feels like 5 degrees F. in Mt. Airy, and 55 degrees F. here in San Leandro. Ahahaha. Oh man did I ever choose the right time to go visit home. : )
I am less than three California!!
Current Music: Stayin' Up Late With Sonny, Indigo Swing
~ prattled by Miriam at 4:56 p.m. [+]
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~ Thursday, January 13, 2005 ~
The former Mr. Scrooge is ascending to the role of Head Clerk (that's "clark") next Christmas. It occurred to me, as I read that bit of news, that it's a shame he's employed by Mr. Fezziwig and not by the Duke of Kent (whose waltz is part of the Fezzi repertoire), because then, whenever they dance that waltz, they could call it the Clerk of Kent's Waltz, and Bangers & Mash could play a 6/8 version of the love theme from Superman, and then I could snicker to myself.
And that's really what life is all about, isn't it?
~ prattled by Miriam at 1:20 p.m. [+]
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~ Sunday, January 09, 2005 ~
At Stanford we used to blow off steam during Dead Week by opening our windows every night at exactly midnight and screaming. The effect was amazing. You'd hear a slow crescendo of wailing, first hovering above one dorm, and then spreading gradually like the 10th plague in the movie The Ten Commandments until this banshee-like sound of pure suffering was completely surrounding you. The year I lived in Loro, when the poor SLE students were in the middle of their 72-hour gigantic take-home final, I had the unique experience of hearing what was probably the longest primal scream ever. It must have gone on for at least three minutes, which is an insanely long time for a scream. I personally didn't usually participate in the scream, but it was still cathartic to hear that everyone else was going as crazy as I was.
I could really use some of that right now.
~ prattled by Miriam at 12:00 a.m. [+]
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~ Wednesday, January 05, 2005 ~
Last night I went to a hotel called The Four Seasons with some people I know from swing dancing. Apparently this is big thing in Philadelphia; when my neighbors saw me leaving in a dress instead of my usual jeans-and-sweater uniform, they asked where I was going, and when I told them, they said, "Oh, The Four Seasons, wow! Have a good time!" And it *was* nice. They have a band and a teeny dance floor in a tastefully decorated lounge, where they charge exorbitant prices for luxuries like glasses of port, decadent desserts, and cigars. Apparently this is the place you go if you have a date to impress, and a week's salary to burn.
Mr. Metrosexual, one of the regulars at the swing dances here, and a guy with a very unique sort of leading style, has done this type of thing once or twice before, and was organizing a group to do it again, although he was careful to warn us that we should expect to spend quite a bit of cash, or else the staff would *not* look kindly on us spending several hours alternately occupying their best seats and intimidating everyone else off the dance floor. We ordered a dessert sampler platter which was actually not unreasonably priced, and offered a very pretty selection of delicious teeny cakes and succulent berries with whipped cream.
Mr. Metrosexual's original concept was to gather a group of people to go somewhere where they have lindy-able music but no lindy dancers, and to dance our toes off, to the delight of all in attendance, especially ourselves. Mr. M calls this lindybombing. As it turned out, we didn't really dance our toes off, but only because we were enjoying socializing with everyone and admiring the beautiful setting (and perhaps enjoying the desserts) so much that deserting the rest of party to dance to every song seemed downright antisocial. In addition, there were enough of us (11) that the floor wasn't big enough for everyone to dance at once. Maybe if we'd been doing balboa.
Thinking back on it now, it's hard to pinpoint what made the evening so exciting. Certainly, part of it was the beautiful setting. Four Seasons had clearly spent a great deal of energy and money making their lounge as understatedly decadent as they could. We had a table near the fireplace with plush chairs and sofas, several gently glowing lamps, and an excellent view of the rest of the room. The demonstration-dessert tier was directly behind us, and we were across the room from the band and the dance floor. Even the table we sat around was lovely; it was round and low and made of highly polished dark wood, with some filigree design where the legs joined the top. All the details were in place, but that wouldn't have been enough to make the evening so special.
Part of it was also the exhibitionism aspect: in his pre-event organisational e-mails, Mr. M. had pointed out that there is a dress code, and we should respect it. As hard as it is to convince me to put on pretty clothes and go out dancing in them, I gathered all my willpower and managed something decent...and probably overdid it, but it's practically my trademark...I mean, if I ever didn't unwittingly overdress, I might not recognize myself. Of course, when girls see other girls in pretty clothes, they tend to be generous in their compliments, so we all gave and received a few "how nice you look!" cookies, and enjoyed their sugary goodness. The gents all presented themselves nicely too, and I was glad to see that they managed to express their own taste and look distinctive, even within the confines of modern gentlemen's semiformal fashion.
So there was the delight of how pretty our setting was, and the delight of how pretty we were, but probably the main thing was the underlying absurdity of it all. We had no business there, and we knew it, and yet there we were, dancing amid the nice respectable couples like super-high-bouncy balls in an antique champagne flute store, and making the young wait staff, who were probably just kids our age putting themselves through school, grin tolerantly instead of discreetly throwing us out.
Oh, and another thing that made the evening particularly nice from my point of view is that one of the guys was celebrating his birthday a couple of days late (he just turned 30) and so we gave him a birthday jam, and it came up that I am a few days away from 24, so I received a birthday jam too, which I wasn't expecting, but was sort of hoping might happen.
There were pictures, too. Toward the end of the evening, between the band's penultimate and ultimate sets, the series of canned songs included a two-step, and although Miss Idea had never danced two-step before, she was game enough to follow me through one. Unlike my beloved Stanford dance community, among Philadelphia's swing dancers, a girl leading a girl is a rare enough occasion that our camera-wrangler-du-jour had to capture it on film*.
At one point, Mr. Metrosexual laid a cloth napkin across Wired Librarian's lap like an apron, and someone commented that with his shirt and tie and cloth apron, he looked like a waiter. So, willing as he is to bounce off the slightest suggestion, he took the napkin and folded it into quarters and laid it across his forearm, and tucked another one into his waistband, and started playing waiter. My water glass happened to be empty, so I held it up and tried to look thirsty.
Just afterward, Wired Librarian was walking back around to his chair when an older gentleman at another table snapped his fingers and called out, "Garcon!" and indicated the offensive presence of the used plates in front of him. He and WL held character for a delicious few moments before the real waiter arrived with the gentleman's check. Pity one of us wasn't holding a camera while they were holding character, but I think we were too busy cracking up.
I also wish we had a picture of the band, Beau Jazz. They were very friendly to us in spite of our silly requests, and more to the point, they were exquisitely danceable. The singer's native language was French, which I didn't realize until she sang La Vie en Rose with an accent that melted us all. I also wouldn't have guessed, from observing her in her very proper cocktail dress and conservative heels, that when she's not performing at Four Seasons, she plays electric guitar. There's something about heels and electric guitar that are mutually exclusive.
*And by film, I mean pixels.
Current Music: Popsicle Toes, Diana Krall
~ prattled by Miriam at 10:54 p.m. [+]
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What? I *am* writing!
It's Dead Week at RRC, which means I have two 10-15-page papers to write and two giant Hebrew finals that demand studying. So, like any sensible person, I'm getting right to work, cleaning my room, catching up on e-mails, and posting for the first time in half a year. Rose-Colored Glosses, taking sporadicality (sporadica? sporadity?) to new heights.
Adele's poor little ethernet port gave up and died some time ago, so in order to gain access to my sticky, sticky interweb, I've been using a high-speed ethernet adapter that plugs into a USB port and hangs out her back end like an off-center beaver's tail. Not very pretty, but I found the piece on e-Bay for like $15 and was just ridiculously pleased to snag such a good deal...and it died last weekend. Hmph. I used that opportunity to start taking full advantage of my wireless-capable router by replacing that dead beaver tail with the elegant duo, a wireless card and adapter. Kind of like an early birthday present from hahorim sheli, and what a birthday present it is. I really really like being able to [not] work on my papers wherever I want, not just at my desk. Somebody should welcome me to the 21st century. I'm only a few years late.
One of the papers I'm not writing right now is for my Christianity class, a required course at RRC. We all attended two Christian events of our own choosing (the vagueness of the term "event" is intentional, to allow for latitude) this semester, and the first we discussed in class, around mid-semester. The second is to be material for the final paper--not so much a presentation and analysis of what happened (that was what we did with Christian Event #1) as a presentation of how we experienced it. That's RRC for you. I'm not sure the two are all that different for me--I tend to direct my focus externally and try to pay attention to what's going on, rather than directing my focus internally and figuring out how I'm doing as the event goes on (I mean, what am I going to do, go to Mass and take my own pulse every 5 minutes?)--so my experience tends to be as close to "what happened" as I can make it, with (of course) the inevitable rouge (or whatever)-tinted filter through which I inevitably see things. So I suppose the "write about your experience" thing isn't really so egregious an assignment, even if it does seem to be kind of non-academic in its thrust. Still, and this is the main thing that bothers me, the assignment seems a bit like it would lend itself to telling a long rambling story without a clear conclusion, rather than lending itself to, say, applying the material we've actually been studying in class to a real situation. Why isn't the prompt, "Analyze the event in light of one or two of the texts we studied"? Why do we have to do this "talk about your experience" business? What, a rabbi has to be in touch with her feelings or something? Grumble grumble don't wanna psychoanalyze myself grumble just wanna be a student and learn stuff grumble grumble.
Come to think of it, I'm going to have to figure out a different plan of attack for both this paper and the other one I'm not writing right now, for my Reconstructionist Thought class. I had a long conversation with my professor (let's call her Madame Grandvent) after class today (yes, class today, and yes, it's *that* kind of Dead Week) trying to figure out exactly what it was she wanted from us. Apparently our paper for that class is supposed to be an answer to the question, "What is Reconstructionist Judaism?" but it's not supposed to be a paper. It's supposed to be a Talk we would give, but written down. It's supposed to be simple and easily comprehensible and light and sugary and fluffy and not too complex (lest we should commit the cardinal sin of causing our hypothetical readership to break their heads open trying to think), which is exactly the way I -NEVER- write papers. Apparently everyone here has it in for the academic style or something.
The other problem is that there are so many aspects to Recon'ist Judaism that I can't possibly talk about all of them in depth in one paper, even in one 15-page paper. Maybe three or four aspects. I asked Mme. Grandvent whether she wanted us to focus on prayer, or community, or halacha, or God, or social action, or Torah study, or healing, or spirituality...? She kind of smiled and said, "Yeah, those sound good." *boil* The first paper I wrote at Stanford, for my fall quarter IHUM (Freedom and Eros in Philosophy and Art--best IHUM ever, by the way), I vividly remember Stephan Käufer, our section leader (who seems to be currently teaching a course at Franklin and Marshall, right here in PA, quite similar to the one I took with him at Stanford...cool), instructing us to narrow our thesis to a "laser-like focus" (let the ls roll slowly through your tongue!) because otherwise our papers would be too wide in scope and grow large, awkward, and ungainly. The wider the scope, he taught, the more impossible it is to prove the point stated in the thesis...and so the more precise the thesis, the clearer and better the paper. That's what good writing is, but that's not what she wants. It's as if Mme. Grandvent is asking me to write fluff. Insubstantial sugary fluff, stretched out to cover every topic possible, nearly falling apart, it's so thin, but that's okay, because as long as you stand far enough away, no one will see the holes in the writing.
That's not what Reconstructionism is about! It's NOT some happy little ragtime onestep. It's Argentine Tango...subtle, and complex, and not necessarily immediately graspable, but it's deeply attractive to people who are willing to keep coming back to it, willing to sit and work through things and really try to figure them out. At least, that's the aspect of Reconstructionist thought that's interesting to me. And that's the way I want my paper to be...I want to capture that complexity, to choose two or three intricately related aspects and conduct an in-depth exploration of them and only them, replete with delicate points, complex ideas, intricate interrelations, and ultra-compact language, and then conclude with something fancy*, but thisassignment, apparently, wants nothing to do with that kind of carefully crafted writing. No, we have to take that beautiful complex tango and present it as if it were no deeper than a onestep, which just isn't true.
The other thing that's disturbing me about this is that we (my entire class and I) are beginning to think that nobody really knows what Reconstructionist Judaism is. Mme. Grandvent certainly doesn't--she spent part of Wednesday's class reading to us from a debate that occurred over e-mail in which various leaders of the movement (including her) were struggling to hammer out just what Recon'ist J'ism's core values were.
-Is it the non-supernatural theology?
-No! That was Mordechai Kaplan's thing, but it's not essential to the movement! Today we value deep spirituality above all else!
-What do you mean, not essential? How can you call Mordechai Kaplan's theology nonessential to his own movement?
-How? He didn't care about his own theology anyway--look at how many different, opposing ones he had! He only cobbled some makeshift theology together so that he could use it to unite and revitalize the Jewish people!
-What do you mean, didn't care? Of course he cared; why else would he have spent so much energy trying to figure it out?
-You're wrong; what matters isn't his particular theology, but rather that we all should struggle to figure out our own theology. To adhere to his instead of formulating our own would be absolutely anti-Reconstructionist!
...and so on.
*sigh* This is going to be a difficult paper.
*I just remembered that that was another Käuferism; later in the quarter, when he was preparing us for the in-class multi-essay final and trying to help us believe that we really had no reason to worry, he demonstrated how to answer a sample prompt: "Just start by introducing the topic with a sentence or two, say how Plato defined the soul, put in some transition, tell how Nietzsche defined the soul, show how they're different, and then do something fancy," he said, flicking his wrist carelessly. It was the "do something fancy" part that had me worried. It was years before I decided I finally understood what he meant by that.
Current Music: I still have Poet's and Sprite's wedding waltz in my head, from playing it on the accordion earlier today.
~ prattled by Miriam at 8:46 p.m. [+]
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