Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Jew & A – memorial candle

Filed under : Jew & A,Judaism
On July 31, 2008
At 9:15 pm
Comments : 8

Edited 9/27/09 to answer all the people Googling where to buy Yahrzeit candles. In the NY area, they are sold at most supermarkets, just ask for candles. They have them at Gristedes, Food Emporium, and often even at Duane Reade.

And now, a question from… me. I didn’t use the form, I figured I’d cut out the middleman.

Dear Becca,

As usual, you forgot to buy a Yahrzeit candle until the sun began to set to begin your mother’s Yahrzeit which is, in fact, this evening. Maybe it’d help you remember if you had any inkling why one lights a candle on the anniversary date of a close loved one’s death. So, how about it?


PS, don’t forget you like to impart a lesson from your Mom on her Yahrzeit.

What a good question! It’s so freaky, but I have no idea what the answer is! I bet you didn’t see that coming. Neither does my all-purpose answer volume, Isaac Klein’s Guide to Jewish Religious Practice (although it does remind you to light a 24 hour candle, that would have been a good thing to be reminded of). Luckily, I have the Interweb as well as The Google.

(This is the actual candle, burning on my actual counter, so you can see, I did pick one up.)

It turns out, lighting a 24 hour candle on a Yahrzeit is merely a custom, not a law which comes down to us from the Torah. But in Judaism, when a custom hangs around long enough, it becomes a law. If it had come from the Torah, though, we’d have something written about why we do it. But I liked this answer from

Judaism sees similarity between a candle’s flame and a soul. The connection between flames and souls derives from the Book of Proverbs (chapter 20, verse 27): “The soul of man is the light of God.” Just as a flame is never still, the soul also continuously strives to reach up to God. Thus, the flickering flame of the Yahrzeit candle helps to remind us of the departed soul of our loved one.

So true.

Now, for the lesson. My Mom was never really a music person as her kids are, but she was always willing to listen to that rock and roll noise we were always playing. Sometimes, she even developed lesson plans for teachers based on it (she worked in Jewish education). I think her best one was about The Doors’ People Are Strange. She liked to ask kids or teachers what they thought the song was about and start a discussion that way. Because like the Jew & A question, Becca’s Mom believed there wasn’t just one right answer to any question, there were merely lots of possible lessons and discussions.

Here are some lyrics to remind you:

People are strange when you’re a stranger,
Faces look ugly when you’re alone.
Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted,
Streets are uneven when you’re down.

When you’re strange
Faces come out of the rain.
When you’re strange
No one remembers your name
When you’re strange.

One answer she got that she included in future workshops was that “faces come out of the rain” meant that for strangers or lonely people, the world was seen through tears. And since everyone is a stranger or alone at some point, it is best to treat others with kindness.

So, there ya go, just as I’m sure Mr. Mojo Risin’ intended.

This is also a good time to tell you that I’ve found my next running challenge, the Metro Denver Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure which is on October 5th. I’ll be filling you in on further details on me, running for my life in high altitude (God help me), as time goes on. If you’d like to join the team with me and Kay and others to make sure other people don’t have their lives cut short like my Mom, let me know! Later, depending on how my kitchen remodel is going, there will be fancee cookies of some sort and we’ll have a whole ‘nother “Give Dough, Get Cookies” bake sale for Komen. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, be nice to each other. I’m not always good at this, but like that flame, I’m always striving.

בזכות מרים נחמה בת בת הרב יצחק
זכרונה לברכה

The Doors – People Are Strange


Goodbye little world

Filed under : Life in general
On July 30, 2008
At 10:30 am
Comments : 6

You know today is a bad day for me because I’m having two cavities filled later and this is not, in fact, the worst part of my day. The hardest part is that it is Bob’s last day here at Still Plugging Along Records, International. I may not have mentioned that Bob is my co-worker because when I posted about her way back when she wasn’t. She had been. And then she was again later. But now she won’t be. I should have warned you, a flow chart/timeline of some sort may be necessary to follow this.

But you don’t really need to know any of this, actually. All you need to imagine is that co-worker you have, the one whose office you find yourself putting your feet up in and badmouthing your other co-workers or moaning because he didn’t call and now what should you do? Coming to work when you’re working with a friend makes work kind of like hanging out with your friends, only with more spreadsheets and “I have to take this call.” And now life without that co-worker.

:: heavy sigh ::

But I want to wish Bob all the best in her new career as a teacher and also say, you’ll come back! Those ulcers you got are not indicative of the pressures of this job! The music industry has a glorious and prosperous future ahead!!!!

Man, I’m sad.

The Rolling Stones – Miss You

But title comes from:
Remy Zero – Goodbye Little World


iPod song of the week – Tears For Fears

Filed under : iPod Song of the Week
On July 27, 2008
At 11:45 pm
Comments :Comments Off

Sandwiched between the two songs you know from Tears For Fears’ monster breakthrough album, Songs From the Big Chair, is one of my favorite songs of all time. That is to say, it’s not “Shout” or “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” although they are both fine songs.

When I was a kid at summer camp, I once got stuck in the washing machine building during a hail storm, which was no easy thing to deal with as it had a tin roof and sounded something like what I imagine it is like to be under fire, except without all the fear of being killed. Well, maybe a little of it. During that, I listened to this song about fifteen times in a row on my walkman. I lost count after a while. Speaking of fear, most Tears For Fears songs are angsty and dealing with this theme. Good name, right? Only Rage Against the Machine have a moniker better dealing with their subject matter. TFF’s first album, The Hurting, was all about their terrible childhoods and all the melodramatic detritus that remained. The second record had the exact same tone but delved into various other topics as well. What I think this song deals with is a sort of Marxist “the owners of the means of production torture the workers and this causes FEAR.” I don’t know, I’m still not sure. But it’s the sort of sad and desperate tone over a lush, dark, and jazzy groove that I love best. I always liked Curt’s songs better in TFF but this is a Roland song and his voice really suits it. Find out what this fear is about indeed.

And now a bonus photo essay as I was at my camp today. I’ve mentioned this before, but my parents both worked there and I was sort of raised there. I go back fairly often for one reason or another. If you can go back in time, I suggest you set yourself up to grow up in a summer camp. It’s fantastic.

This is the washing machine building with the tin roof. Sort of. Something must have happened to it because they built this shiny, new, exact replica in its place. A group of teenage boys was making a racket within as I took this photo. Don’t let that take away from the peaceful easy feeling you get. Really makes you think of laundry, doesn’t it?

Now, just to remind you, the picture in the sidebar comes from this camp and I did once post an updated photo (sans me in the stripey pants with mud) to show you it looks the same. Today, though, there was an actual puddle! And so, here’s a better update.

(Sidebar photo enlarges upon your click if you want to see better. Even if you don’t)

If you are like me and are shopping for a new refrigerator, it may give you pause to know that this one is the same one I grew up with and actually pre-dates me. I think it is about forty years old. Still works like a charm and is, uh, just as attractive.

It doesn’t fit inside the bunk, it’s on the porch. But this is OK, I’m not sure how one could get curtains to match it.

I may have shared stories about volunteering at the local mental institution when I was a teenager. Or not, I have a mind like a sieve. But that place and the people in it have stuck in my mind all my days. What I’m sure I haven’t told you, though, is that the Metro-North train stop is in the middle of the institution. While I’m sure that was convenient for visiting your loony loved one, it’s a little freaky to be waiting for the train home. Even if the place is no longer operational. Somehow, a desolate, abandoned institution is even freakier.

Now you’re in the mood for angst, aren’t you?

Tears for Fears – The Working Hour

Streaming audio available on the iPod Song of the Week page.


From the classes I’d like to take department

Filed under : Tennis
On July 25, 2008
At 5:00 pm
Comments : 4

I was up at City College the other day and spotted this fun sign.

It’s my understanding that this is what the professor does when you conjugate well.

Shahar Peer

That’s Shahar Peer, the Israeli tennis player. But you know what they say about jokes you have to explain…

Have a delightful weekend!

Rockpile – Teacher Teacher


I hope you got fat

Filed under : Life in general,The Internets
On July 22, 2008
At 11:00 pm
Comments : 7

I’ve resisted writing about Facebook mostly because so many other people have done it and done it well. But then I just couldn’t really hold it in any longer and so here we are. In the beginning, I didn’t even want to join Facebook. It seemed so silly and high school. Not that I didn’t like high school, I just didn’t want to be sending plants and getting poked. Plus, I already have means to keep in touch with my current friends and I made a decision years ago to let the past be, lying undisturbed in slumbering peace. It’s really all Pious B’s fault. She came over one day and got me started.

But here’s the thing I need to tell you. I kind of imagined all those people from my past were dead. I mean, wouldn’t I see them or hear about them otherwise? Please don’t tell me they are alive and well and just living in other places. It’s too hard to believe. But it turns out that’s not true. I mean, they’re alive all right. Mostly. But they live in the same place, I’ve come to find. And that place is the Interweb. Well, some are better at it than others but I suppose that’s like everything else.

There is something surreal about meeting your childhood friends as an adult. Previously, this had been done in one evening every ten years. Now, it’s done all the livelong day as you see that the weirdo guy from HS and his plain-jane wife have their pages covered in sex quizzes. There are quandaries you never thought you’d face such as, if you find one of the “popular girls,” is it OK to add her as a Friend now that you’re both about equally successful in life? Or do you respectfully wait for her to add you in case, ohmigod, it would be embarrassing to her to have your face on her page? The answer, of course, is you don’t Friend her because, really, why would you want to be FB friends with someone who never talked to you in real life? Then she adds you as a Friend and you switch to thinking, “see how easy that was? Why couldn’t you do that when we were sixteen and it mattered?”

My high school friends came third, actually. First came all my relatives (duh, Pious B was my first Friend, remember). Then came some actual friends from the Here and Now. Then came the high school friends. They come in waves because the first thing you do when you Friend someone or they Friend you is troll through all their Friends and see who you know. Suddenly, you are Friends with ten people from your high school. Not bad when your HS had 86 people.

But as I’ve said, I liked high school. And I’m exaggerating because there were too few people in my school to really have a popular group. But there were people who didn’t invite me to their parties. Now they are my Friends. Although I’m not sure they’ll ever be my friends. But this isn’t the point. The point is to have a long list of people on your Friends page and to have some loose connection to people you really have no desire to have more than a fifteen word conversation with. (The kind you’d have at that ten-year reunion before excusing yourself to get punch).

Last came college. As you’ll know from reading this blog for a couple of years (I’m making a big assumption, I know), I did not have the most fantastic college experience known to mankind. In fact, it sucked wind. This was not 100% the fault of those with whom I attended it, but they didn’t help either. Needless to say, I am in touch with precisely one. She’s not on Facebook. I did do a search under my school and year and the only person I could find that I knew was the guy who tried to prod me out of my hangover regarding College Boyfriend (this was after break-up #1) and never quite succeeded. He thought I had big problems. He didn’t know the half of it. He copped a feel at the movies. I was unimpressed. Naturally, I immediately Friended him.

If you’re on FB, you know there are a few different protocols. If you’re really psyched to get back in touch with someone, you send them a note with your Friend request or immediately after. If you’re just pleased to be reacquainted, you write something welcoming on their wall. Something you don’t mind lots of other people seeing, like, “It’s been ages! Your family is so lovely.” If the family is not lovely, and I’m not naming names, but it’s happened, you can say, “you look exactly the same!” But they don’t, they really don’t. Wandering Hands from college is paunchy and going bald. It happens. If you’re wondering which thing I said to him or vice versa, the answer is alternative #3. We said nothing. We’re Friends, it’s enough. I can’t tell whether he just got married to a woman with kids or if he just got around to changing his Relationship Status to Married this month and they are in fact his kids. I suppose I could write and ask but, well, it’s enough. Still, that’s always fun to see, especially when someone becomes Friends with their spouse. There’s nothing more disconcerting than “Bob Smith and his wife of twenty-five years are now Friends.” It’s about time, isn’t it?

If you know me and my neuroses, you know that I rarely reveal all to any one person. I even have lots of names. This makes a place like Facebook where you show everything to everyone especially complicated to navigate. Lately, the big decision is whether to tell people from my youth that I have a blog and that this is, in fact, it. I’ve been slow with that. Some people were easy decisions. Others I haven’t yet decided about. But writing this post I knew I’d be slamming the door shut on several nominees. The one with the not-lovely family. Wandering Hands. Through Facebook, I had lunch last week with a guy I dated in high school (he was in college then, woo). I did tell him and even showed him where he was mentioned in this blog. I say this as a kind of hi-wave. Hi! Ironically, he and his family live just a few blocks from the other relationship I had in HS and his family. Life is odd.

But this weekend, the guy who tricked me into attending my torture-chamber of a college (he used a really hard sell and, while I’m sure he believed it, little of it was true) joined and since his sister is a childhood friend and a Friend, he found me easily. Suddenly, I am Friends with 20 people with whom I went to school. One of them, my mopey roommate of Junior year (you can already see that neither of these people will be told about this blog, can’t you) started a group for those of us who ate in the one-room Kosher area. These are the people with whom I dined every day for four years. Scary! She e-mailed me frantically to say no one was writing on the wall of our group! She made me an officer. Ye gods and little fishes. Right now, that one person with whom I am still in touch is chortling, I know it. Yeah, I wrote on the wall. Then others did. I guess I kind of owe her. I took advantage of her depression to get the bigger room with the walk-in closet.

By the way, College Boyfriend is not on Facebook. But his wife is. I know who she is because I honed my Webstalker skills way before the age of social networking. In case you are wondering, his family is lovely.

Post title was inspired by a college acquaintance and new Facebook Friend and comes from:
Violent Femmes – Fat