Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


And this bird you cannot change

Filed under : Music
On May 28, 2008
At 11:30 pm
Comments : 8

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic tonight as I’ve just come from Nephew2′s graduation from the very high school I attended. Unlike most people who weren’t very popular, I actually did enjoy HS very much. I had good friends, I did well academically for the first time in my life, and, well, the music was fabulous!

So I thought it would be a good time to highlight the following song which can’t be an iPod Song of the Week because it isn’t available on any legal online source. You know how sometimes you forget a song even exists in the universe until some spark trips a switch in your brain and suddenly the song is there? That happened to me last week! I’ve said before how terrestrial radio here blows but sometimes I need radio and I’m not near my computer where I can hear XM. Places such as the bathroom (yes, I have a music source in every room of my home). When I am brushing my teeth or sticking in my contact lenses, I listen to the classic rock station because it gets decent reception and I just don’t need the greatest song in the world to wash my face to, anything familiar will do. If you have listened to an hour of Q104, odds are good that you will have heard either Carry On My Wayward Son or Freebird. The other day it was Freebird. I don’t know why, but that switch just clicked and the opening chords to Freebird jogged my gray matter into remembering another, more dance-oriented, percussion-laden song with that exact chord sequence starter. And it went… it went… yes! Get off my case!

And then I went a-Googling. And then I found them. The Comateens! The Comateens, whom I only knew from this one track in 1983 (before high school – but memories are just a big stew, aren’t they?), turned out to be a NY band and still together and recording. Who knew? They have their own YouTube page and there, in all its dated, rolled up jacket-sleeved, skinny-tied, mullet-haired, guy playing bongos and smiling in the train station, 80′s glory, is that song I once knew, totally forgot, and then unburied.

And so, I now share it with all of you. Also the fact that one of my teachers came running up to me tonight and shouted, “I love this girl!” Is it any wonder I remember high school fondly?

YouTube Preview Image


Holiday dilemma

Filed under : Sports
On May 26, 2008
At 1:00 pm
Comments : 3

The holidays are so hard for some people and I totally get that. For instance, today, I have the choice between the Yankee game (and they might even win these days), the French Open (it’s raining, though… I thought clay was waterproof?), and lacrosse. No really, my alma mater, Hopkins, is in the title match. I know, that’s not really rare. But this may be the only lacrosse game I watch all year. Actually, I hate lacrosse, but I pretend I don’t on this one day a year. In college, I had to pretend not to every single day. That was hard. Go Jays!

Decisions, decisions.

While I ruminate on that, thanks to all the soldiers who defend and defended this country past, present, and future. You make these difficult decisions possible!

Special thanks to the men and women of the Navy in NY for Fleet Week. I don’t even mind when you exit the subway and immediately stop and look up. You’re too adorable to annoy me!

Devo – Freedom Of Choice


Soul Kitchen

Filed under : Life in general,Music
On May 22, 2008
At 3:30 pm
Comments : 11

I know everyone has stopped thinking about work already (holiday weekend, woo!) but here’s a glimpse of my workplace. I showcase this because I know you have always secretly wondered what a record company kitchenette looks like. Is it anything like the one at IBM? At the law office of WASP, WASP, WASP, & Token? At your particular place of business?

Of course it is! You have this arrangement and signage at your office, right? How else would you know where and where not to dispose of your unwanted CD’s?

(You can make your “they still make CD’s?” and “I already threw all my CD’s in the trash” jokes in the comments.)

How about the fridge? Usual “four levels of fat” milk? Perhaps a juice or someone’s lunch?

Yes, carrots, salad, orange juice, and beer. This pretty much sums up the lifestyle of most people with whom I work. We’re healthy! And we drink at work!

By the way, I was not the one responsible for that one missing beer, I swear.

The Doors – Soul Kitchen



Filed under : America,Travel
On May 19, 2008
At 10:45 pm
Comments : 13

When I think the name of the city of Atlanta in my head, I always say it just the way Scarlett O’Hara does in this scene. Let’s watch, shall we?

YouTube Preview Image

Yes, she was excited and so was I. Not only do I love Atlanta but I have many fine friends there, including Maureen who writes the delightful B-Movie reviews with TJ who I met for the first time. Despite loving sci-fi, Maureen was too tired to make it through an entire episode of Dr. Who the whole time I was there. Of course, we were worn out from eating at the Waffle House (I will be forever known as the Yankee who puts sugar in her grits) and drinking copious amounts of alcohol.

Along the way, I saw lots of other fun people from the Internet, including such commenters as Sarpon and DogandMusicLover (I left out the tildes there). Everyone was as awesome as awesome can be, and I’m not even including the guy who showed me porn on the plane. And they made an amazing potluck with Southern specialties like spring rolls with peanut sauce as well as chocolate cheesecake. OK, maybe not. But I couldn’t eat the brisket. And I came bearing gifts from my homeland, New York. Things like Zabar’s babka and rugelach and Jacques Torres chocolates.

But really, it was more about Southern hospitality. Folks came from all over the South to get together and they all showed me a heap of a good time. I’ll stop now. Anyway, in case you don’t believe me, even though Maureen and I already know each other, she gave me the full limo-driver treatment.

I’d explain about the file folder on her head but people would be all over me like a duck on a junebug. OK, now I’ll stop.

All together now: Everybody had matching towels!
The B-52′s – Rock Lobster


Jew & A – Hassidism

Filed under : Jew & A,Judaism
On May 15, 2008
At 5:20 pm
Comments : 4

This answer is long so I won’t dilly-dally, let’s get right to it.

MsZula (from Missoula – get it? MsZula? Hee) writes:

Late last week I was in Manhattan seeing attire on folks that was new to me. I assume, because of side curl (sorry don’t know official name for this) and yarmulkes, that they are Orthodox? I googled this and didn’t find much. The men were all wearing a silk like coat and the women and girls were all in black skirts and hats.

They almost looked like the Amish version of the Jewish religion. From what I could tell they were speaking English, but with an accent. Are they most likely all immigrants? I was fascinated, but managed to not stare.

So can you tell me a bit more about this? Are they the most strict of this faith. Are most Jewish people in Israel this strict? Are the women considered equal? Other people’s lives and faiths fascinate me. Where I live (Montana) is pretty much Wonder White Bread when it comes to things like this.

TIA from the girl that needs to get out more often. :-)

I write about Hassidim from time to time and I just throw the word around like everyone knows what I’m talking about. And then I see questions like this and I realize I’m a dumbass for thinking that. Or a New Yorker. Or both.

But who are the Hassidim and why do I immediately know that’s who MsZula is talking about? I’m going to start with a Hassidic story. Once there was a poor peasant boy (all Hassidic stories take place in Eastern Europe) who lived far from any town. One year on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement which is the most sacred day on the Jewish calendar, his father took him to synagogue. But the boy knew no prayers and couldn’t read the siddur, the prayer book. All day (Yom Kippur prayers last all day), the boy felt a spiritual need to pray to God but did not have any way to express it. In his pocket he carried a whistle that he used to gather the sheep he tended and as the final, most important Yom Kippur prayers started, he reached for it and whistled loudly. Naturally, everyone was shocked. But the Baal Shem Tov, who was the founder of Hassidism, was there and told everyone that the boy’s prayer had been the purest and the one which opened the gates of Heaven for everyone else’s prayers.

That’s the essence of Hassidism, that knowledge isn’t the important thing, heartfelt love of God is the road to a good and meaningful life. The Baal Shem Tov lived in Eastern Europe in the 18th century and passed down his teachings to the leaders of the various Hassidic sects we know today. Hassidism comes from the Hebrew word hasidut, or piety. Hassid is singular, Hassidim is plural.

So why do they dress so funny? The Hassidic sects are known for their insularity and devotion to their Rebbes, or the leaders of the sects. Those in the United States came over from Europe at various times, mostly around the time of Holocaust, and reestablished their communities here. Many went to Israel and did the same thing there. The sects are known mostly by the name of the town in Europe from which they came. The Lubovitch (a.k.a. Chabad), for example, which is the largest sect, come from Lyubavichi in Russia. The Satmar, who are the people at B&H Photo, came from Satu Mare, Romania. The Skver come from Skvira, Ukraine and now live in a place they call New Square. Seriously! Other famous ones are the Belz, Bobov, Breslov, Ger, Puppa, and Vizhnitz. We had matzah made by the Puppa (pronounced poo-pah) on Passover. This led to many “every party has a puppa” jokes, but I digress.

The Hassidim sought to preserve the culture and values they knew in Europe. Because of this, much of their clothing stems from the period of time Hassidism was founded. Some also have distinctive meanings that correspond with Jewish values of modesty and Hassidic values of communion with God. The shtreimel, or furry hat, was probably the fashion of the day in 18th century Russia and Poland. The long, silken coat is to cover the body. A special sash some wear is to separate the upper and lower parts of the body, that’s for personal modesty. Some wear slipper-type shoes so that they don’t have to defile their hands by touching their shoes during the day. Additionally, the clothing styles of different Hassidic sects differ.

Re: the sidecurls, those are called payes (pronounced pay-ess – in Sephardic Hebrew, payot – pay-oat), which are worn due to the Biblical command not to shave the face. (In case you were wondering, the prohibition is against using a blade, which is how many Jews justify shaving; they use an electric razor).

Hassidic women, and many Orthodox women in general, dress to unimpress. That is, modesty is the most important thing. Skirts below the knee, often to the ankle, and tops that cover the elbows and sometimes wrists, are the standard. Married women cover their hair. Hassidic women, like the men, tend to dress in dark colors. Becca once went to a Hassidic synagogue in Baltimore by mistake in a bright floral dress. Awkward!

Let’s get to your specific questions.

They almost looked like the Amish version of the Jewish religion
Hassidim are like the Amish in that they keep to old traditions in order to preserve their religion and culture. Hassidim do use electricity but don’t have TV’s or computers.

From what I could tell they were speaking English; but with an accent. Are they most likely all immigrants?
As mentioned in a previous Jew & A, Hassidim mostly speak Yiddish, the language of the shtetls (small Jewish towns) from which their ancestors came. They were most likely born here in America and speak English with a Yiddish accent.

Are they the most strict of this faith. Are most Jewish people in Israel this strict?
Hassidim are part of a larger, very traditional group, called Heredim (literally “those who tremble [before God]“). They don’t belong to sects specifically but are very conservative religiously. I would say they are the most strict of the faith. There are Hassidim in Israel. There are also regular old Orthodox (that is, observers of traditional Jewish law living in the secular world) in Israel. But most of Israel is secular, actually.

Are the women considered equal?
This is a tough question to answer. I’m going to give you my personal feelings on the topic. In Judaism in general, men and women have different roles and different spheres. They are different and thus hard to compare. By today’s standards, people often think the women’s roles are lesser but I would argue that it wasn’t designed that way. In Hassidism and right-wing Orthodoxy, women’s roles are pretty proscribed. But “equal” has many meanings and I would say, by the strict definition of your question, in Hassidism, as in all Judaism, all people are created in the image of God and are therefore equal. But in the way I think you mean the question, like, can a woman do everything a man can do, no. But men can’t do things women can either. Everyone has a role, it just depends on which role you give value to. For good or bad, our society tends to give more value to the roles traditionally performed by Hassidic men.

Thanks for asking!