Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


I should (have watched more) Coco

Filed under : TV
On January 24, 2010
At 12:00 am
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Confession: I’d like to say I was a big Conan O’Brien fan but I really can’t. That’s because I haven’t actually watched any of the late night shows regularly in, oh, about fifteen years. Except for sports, news, reruns, and true-crime specials, I couldn’t even really tell you what’s on TV. But like any trainwreck fan, I began watching The Tonight Show a couple of weeks ago when the whole “Jay v. Coco” drama started happening. Truth? I didn’t even know Conan was hosting The Tonight Show. I thought his show was still in New York. But I have followed this avidly and I couldn’t help but feel, as most people seem to, that NBC and Jay were being classless and acting like idiots. I’ll admit, it helps that I’ve always thought Conan was funny and that Jay was… not funny. And I like Dave better than I like either of them, but he doesn’t figure into this except for the fact that I’ve enjoyed watching clips of his remarks about this on Gawker.

But the more I watched Conan the last couple of weeks, the more I became his actual fan, rather than just an “I’ve seen a few of his shows – funny!” person. And when I watched his last show with his classy words about NBC and this statement, I felt I had to to use a word I rarely if ever do. I think he’s my hero.

Let’s go to the videotape.

But in case you don’t have access where you are or you don’t want to see Conan get choked up, this is too important to miss, and not just because this entire post makes no sense without it. He said this:

All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch, please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality, it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.

I mean, did he have to mention being kind? I bet he could have gotten where he is without being kind and just doing the hard work part. And even though I would say that I’m not against cynicism per se, it’s not the kind of cynicism that’s the opposite of being kind, which is clearly what he means here. I just feel overwhelmed that he would make kindness the final message of his show. Go Coco! And when you come back, wherever you are, I’ll be watching.

Title comes from the name of a classic Supergrass album. In case you forgot the 90′s, the hit was:
Supergrass – Alright


Jew & A: The more you know

Filed under : Jew & A,Judaism
On January 21, 2010
At 11:10 pm
Comments : 8

You may have read some headlines today (or you will tomorrow if you’re more that newspaper type) about a plane being diverted due to some kid’s “prayer ritual.” Or, if you’re a reader of the Jerusalem Post or even the NY Post, you’d get a headline like “Tefillin causes bomb scare on US flight.” (I’ll bet the NY Post didn’t have to describe White Plains as “just north of New York City,” though). Because, to us, Tefillin is neither weird nor scary, it’s just something you use every day like your toothbrush. Well, men mostly, because if you’re religiously observant enough to pray daily with Tefillin, then you probably also believe only men need to do so (but there are exceptions, please don’t gripe at me).

But what are Tefillin and what special powers do they have to bring down planes? In English, Tefillin are known as phylacteries, although I have never heard anyone use this word in my life in conversation. It’s more for the English translation of books about Jews. Or blogs about Jews. But we’re going to use Tefillin here. The use of Tefillin stems from the Biblical commandment to “bind [my words] as a sign upon your arm, and they shall be as symbol between your eyes.” (Deuteronomy 6:8). Like most commandments, observant Jews take these sorts of things pretty literally and that’s exactly what is done. Essentially, Tefillin are two small leather boxes with attached leather straps and they are worn on and wrapped around the head and arm. Inside each of the boxes are parchment scrolls upon which are written the following Biblical verses: the first two sections of the essential prayer of faith, the Shma (which also includes the verse above), Deut. 6:4-9 and 11:13-21, and as well, Exodus 13:1-10, and 11-16 which also reference the reasons for wearing Tefillin.

These verses are a sort of instruction on to what extent one should adhere to God’s words. Take them to your heart. Tell them to your children. Say them when you’re at home and when you go out, when you lie down and when you get up. Wear them on your head and on your arm. Put them on your doorposts and gates (that’s the mezuzah part, in case you recognized it). By donning the Tefillin during prayer, one has God’s words smack against their skin and has their actions (the arm) and their mind devoted to God’s words.

There are elaborate instructions on how to wear Tefillin. I don’t know them because I’m a chick and I don’t have to (women are not required by Jewish law to do time-bound commandments) but apparently it pretty much becomes second nature. It’s a big deal when a Bar Mitzvah gets to wear them for the first time. Then, four years later he gets arrested on a plane.

Even my friend Pammy from Tulsa which is all the way in that state with the surreys with the fringes on top has seen Tefillin. Maybe you have too! They look like this:

And like this when they’re being worn:

Should you wish to reach your destination without a pit-stop in Philly (and who wants that? I kid!), please print these pictures out and show them to your local flight attendant.

Depeche Mode – Wrong


Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way

Filed under : Life in general
On January 19, 2010
At 4:00 am
Comments : 4

Goals: are they a good thing or a bad thing? Because I had a few at the start of this vacation and I’m not sure I really accomplished anything. If only I hadn’t actually set them up, I might have felt better at the end, which is, coincidentally, today. Remember how excited I was to begin my longest break ever? Sure, it was relaxing and all but it gave me lots and lots of time to be panicked out of my mind that this all ends in a few short months and then I have no job. A year seemed like such a long time! Not so much anymore.

So let’s do some accounting.

1. Make a little money

I did do this, actually, and spent my first week at a part-time job that was way more work than I thought it would be. It’s ironic, I hadn’t actually worked the week between Christmas and New Year’s since, oh, 1992. I haven’t gotten the check yet, though. That can’t be good.

2. Get my apartment cleaned up

I’ve had this one for nearly a year. The good news is, compared to what it was before, it looks great! The bad news is, compared to the average home, it’s still a wreck.

3. Start my thesis.


4. Help my brother with his synagogue’s website.

Website? No, but really, I think this is the one I’m most disappointed about. I can’t think I’ll ever have three weeks of free time again to do this. I wonder if I should start now….

5. Plan my Purim offerings at Cinnagirl.

Well, I thought a little about Hamantaschen. Surely that counts for something.

6. Visit friends.

I’m going to revise this to visiting them on the Internet. Made it with a technicality!

7. Lay on the sofa a lot and eat Pop Chips.

Close! I ate dry cereal. You all remember I’m coocoo for Cocoa Puffs. I think there are still a few lodged between the cushions. Next time I clean, in July, I’m sure I’ll find them.

I think that’s it. My, am I ready to go back to class, if only so I can be distracted from my budget spreadsheet and how many fewer tabs it has this year what with not having any more income than I made at Musicland in high school. On the plus side, I got to delete that pesky “taxes” tab as well. Score!

In conclusion, as I learned from Homer Simpson, setting up goals is the first step towards failing to achieve your goals. The lesson is: never set up goals.

Title comes from:
Pink Floyd – Time



Filed under : International
On January 15, 2010
At 4:30 pm
Comments :Comments Off

Filmed by a student from the Ciné Institute in Jacmel, Haiti.


Jew & A – Adar!

Filed under : Jew & A,Judaism
On January 12, 2010
At 2:15 am
Comments : 5

That exclamation point is important. Don’t say Adar, say Adar! Adar is the sixth month of the Jewish year (or the twelfth if you’re counting from Nissan, when Passover is… we have lots of New Years). Adar as you’ll recall, is the month that has Purim, the festival of treats. This is not its technical name. OK, this is just the name I personally give it. Why would you recall this and from where? Why, right here! A while back anyway. To quote myself:

Hey! It’s a special month on the Jewish calendar and that month is called Adar. It’s awesome and special because you’re commanded to be happy the whole month. Yes, indeed, doomed to happiness for four plus weeks. The happiness thing is because Adar is the month with Purim, one of those holidays where the Jews were saved from certain death (well, almost certain, obviously) and that’s a giant excuse for a party. Tomorrow night begins Purim, the holiday where you give gifts of baked goods to your friends and it’s a mitzvah to get bombed off your ass. That might not be the exact language the Talmud uses, but that’s really the rule.

My Mom was a Jewish educator, as I’ve stated many times here, and she liked to wear a giant button on her coat at this time of year that embarrassed me beyond the limits of teenage humiliation. It said, “Be happy! It’s Adar!” in Hebrew and English. Oh Mom! When I was in college, my grandma died during that month and after that, it was terribly hard for my Mom to be happy then but she wore the big green button anyway. Sometimes commandments are hard. After she died, we found that my Mom had like ten of these buttons. Ha! I kept one but, you know, I don’t actually walk down the street with the thing on my coat.

Too cool. You know what’s even more cool? Someone wrote me based on this post and asked:

Hi! My son’s bar mitzvah is coming up (soon!!) on Rosh Chodesh Adar, and so “Be Happy, It’s Adar!” will be the theme. We’re thinking of giving out Adar/Purim kits containing a gragger, tzedakah box, bag for shalach manot, etc. I’d like to look into including a “Be Happy, It’s Adar!” button, though we might have to have them made up, as I don’t see any being sold online. Can you tell me more about what your mom’s button looked like, or what the Hebrew wording was? A photo would be really helpful, but anything you can tell me would be really appreciated!

JM Could there be a better theme than this? In a world of Star Trek and Twilight themes, Kudos upon kudos. In case you had not surmised from this letter, it’s not yet Adar but it’s fast coming down the pike. So I went digging down into the mildewed basement to my storage space and between the little ceramic challah I made my Mom for Mother’s Day and her check cashing card to Seven Mile Market (come on, I had to save that) was the button. It’s nothing special, I have to say. But what struck me was the Hebrew on it which says, “Mishenichnas Adar, marbin b’simchah.” This does not literally mean “Be happy, it’s Adar.” It means, “When Adar begins, we increase in happiness.” So this made me wonder where this statement comes from and how it got translated into some kind of forceful command. Do it! Be happy!

Turns out it’s from a section of the Talmud called Ta’anit and it’s the second half of a statement which begins by talking about the saddest month of the Jewish calendar, Av. That’s the one where so many tragedies befell the Jewish people including the destruction of both Temples as well as the expulsion from Spain. Bear with me here, because I do not have the complete Talmud in my home and didn’t have time to run over to the Beit Hamidrash (house of study, but in this case, a room in my synagogue with lots o’holy books).

But supposedly, it goes like this. “Rav Yehuda the son of Shmuel the son of Shilat says in the name of Rav: Just as one is required to minimize happiness when the month of Av begins, so too when the month of Adar begins, we increase happiness.” (T.B. Ta’anit 29a)

And so, I’m really glad that I got asked this question so I could learn this. It makes it even more appropriate that my mother was able to get over her sadness to rejoice in Adar, because that’s apparently what it’s actually about, the time to be happy as opposed to the time to be sad. And maybe sad is the wrong word because it doesn’t say that; it says, “minimize” your happiness. Maybe that’s because we’re essentially a happy people. We don’t really need to be told to be happy, just when to lessen our happiness and when to increase it. Or maybe that’s the way it used to be and nowadays, we’re all too stressed and worried and we really do need that reminder, because happiness is not just a good thing, it’s required. So be happy, it’s Adar! (soon!)

Since a Bar Mitzvah exemplifies the future of the Jewish people, it is even more appropriate that it be held in Adar which is the flip side of Av, the month of destruction. I hope that your son’s Bar Mitzvah is a time of great joy for you, JM, and that through him you increase the happiness of all around you.

And, well, I hope you find a slightly more attractive button than this one. Mazal tov!