Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Free to be MOT

Filed under : Famous People,Judaism,Music,Travel
On April 29, 2010
At 7:30 am
Comments : 15

If you’ve been reading my Twitter updates these last few days you are probably either wondering who the hell Jaron is or what the hell Jaron and I are talking about. Well, I am here to explain all! Last week, Jane wrote a blog post which was ostensibly a letter to a country artist called Jaron and the Long Road to Love (try saying that ten times fast!) but was really a justifiable complaint about how lots of Christians use Jesus as an excuse to hate. Jaron and the Unwieldy Title of Band played the central role because they have a new record called “Pray For You” which is about wishing lots of bad things on your ex with a sort of churchy motif. You can read the lyrics in that post, I won’t reproduce them.

Now, I’ll get a couple of things out of the way here. While I reeeeally loathe those “Lord, I pray you take Obama in all caps” status messages on Facebook, the ones from my “friends” were all by Jews. Statistically, that’s about right since two thirds or more of my Facebook friends are Jewish. So I didn’t think of that as a particularly Christian thing. And OK, I’ll flat out admit it, as a Yid, people saying they are God-fearing Christians and yet not acting Jesusy has never been a particular concern of mine. I guess I’m just self-policing. I’ll let the Goyim handle that one, because I really couldn’t tell you what’s Jesusy or not.

No, in actuality, the thing that inflamed me most about the post was not hypocritical Christians at all but the fact that Jaron is Jewish. So the stuff about his church and his preacher and his Jesus, well, he doesn’t really have any of those. Or he’s not supposed to, one would think. For me, the issue wasn’t that a Christian wrote a hateful song; it was that he wasn’t a Christian at all! So why should I care that one Jewish guy wrote a song from a Christian point of view? Why was the central question in my mind, “what happened to Jaron????” This is the background.

A long time ago, Jaron and his twin brother had a band called, creatively, Evan and Jaron. If you are a religious Jew, that’s really the end of the explanation. For the rest of the world, they had a hit called “Crazy For This Girl.” But even before they had that hit, they were our band. When I was little, like most music-crazed kids, I wanted to be a rock star. Or marry a rock star. But it never occurred to me that that could ever happen because I was an Orthodox Jew and rock stars played shows on Friday nights and had TV appearances on Saturdays and traveled around to places with no Kosher food. More importantly, there just weren’t any, so you knew it wasn’t possible. Then we had Evan and Jaron who were Kosher and didn’t play shows on Shabbat. And I knew this earlier than most people because I worked at their first label (the one before the hit… but we did try hard).

And here’s the part where I take it really personally. When we were working Evan and Jaron, I think the person most excited about them in the whole entire world was my mother. Although not really a t-shirt person, she loved the “got shabbos?” tee we made to market them. She adored the list I showed her of Kosher restaurants staffers were given so they could take E&J out in any town. She was thrilled that the kids had a role model. I’m sort of glad she never got to hear Pray For You. I don’t think if she were alive I’d even tell her.

So I really, really wanted to know what happened to Jaron. Wikipedia has just a sentence about the new band (which is just Jaron, I think) and skips right from Evan and Jaron to that. I felt like there was a yawning gap there that needed to be addressed. The person who is always in the know about these things is Pious B, so I wrote her. She wasn’t sure but thought it was doubtful that he was no longer Jewish and that it was all just a reinvention. But it still bothered me so I called someone I know at his new label and this person said, “are you sure it’s the same guy?” I guess the Evan & Jaron backstory is not a huge piece of the marketing plan. Intriguing. I reported back to Pi to tell her I was still investigating, and she said, “I will be checking for a Jaron post. He may be a Jewish traitor but he’s still a hot bitch.” Indeed.

Later that day, I received this cryptic message:

From: Pious B
Subject: Add to Twitter


Yee haw!
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

But I did not want to follow Jaron on Twitter. And yet… so I answered, “Oh, I don’t think so. But I’ll ask him if he’s still a yid.” Pi said, “I think he’s a MOT in name only. I always got the impression that the Evan portion of the duo was the religiously committed one, but you would know better than I.”

So I sent my own letter to Jaron, via Twitter. I asked him if he was still a practicing Jew. Now, I don’t for one minute think that account is actually Jaron. I assume it’s one of Jaron’s marketing people as it’s mostly retweets of people saying they like the song. And, in fact, after waiting a day and remarking that I still had no answer to my question, I finally got, “what question? Thanks for loving the song.” Well, I never said I loved the song and in fact I’ve never actually heard the song and don’t expect to. But I asked again. I said, “what’s a nice Jewish guy doing singing about church & preachers? Are you still a practicing Jew?” That was about as deep as I could get in 140 characters.

Finally, he answered.

I’d like to state, first and foremost, that Pi nailed it, as usual. Also, that whatever I think about Jaron’s decision to reinvent himself for the Country market, I respect this answer and the fact that he even answered at all. I’m not as religious as I was in 1998 either and would find it hard to respond to that in public, in fewer than 140 characters, and with a sense of humor. With regards to that reinvention, when I worked in the record store, for seven Christmases I had to listen to weeks of holiday music and a good portion of it was Jews singing Christmas songs. A Jew, as we all know, wrote White Christmas. I used to joke that I was going to put together a collection of these numbers and call it, “Shalom, it’s Christmas!” Let’s face it, it’s hard to make a living just marketing to MOT’s. But as I told Pi, I just wanted to know whether Jaron was doing a “Barbara Streisand sings Silent Night” thing or if it was a “Bob Dylan plays for Jesus’ team now” deal. Because it deeply matters to me and, I suspect, to a lot of girls who used to go to Evan and Jaron concerts in modest outfits.

The interesting thing, though, is that, as I said, I couldn’t tell you whether “Pray For You” is in the spirit of Jesus or not; that’s not my department. What I can say is that it’s actually a Jewish theme to wish these sorts of things on your enemies. Things like, “may you grow like an onion with your head in the ground.” Here it is on a cross stitch on Etsy. And here’s a list of some other traditional Yiddish curses. So it’s actually sort of a Mosesey thing. I once saw a documentary where someone said, “Christians never dreamed of white Christmases until Irving Berlin told them they should.” I’m truly happy to hear that Jaron still identifies as a Jew but maybe the Yiddish curses don’t translate as well. Still, I wish him well and much success on the new venture. And don’t forget, shuls rhymes with lulz. You can keep that one.

For those on Jesus’ team, MOT = member of the tribe = Jewish

Evan And Jaron – Crazy For This Girl


You can’t download a cupcake

Filed under : Gadgets,Stores
On April 28, 2010
At 3:00 am
Comments : 7

While I wait for answers I need for my next post, I’m focused somewhat on getting myself a new cell phone, something that wasn’t supposed to happen for a while. And when I say cell phone, I use the accepted term, but I rarely if ever talk on it; I use it as an all-purpose internet access machine, just as I have since I originally discovered that I never, ever have to be away from the web. This one is 2.5 years old and while I know it is sadly out of date, the phone I really want is financially out of my reach, so I just stick with it. Until this weekend when I knocked it off the night table and cracked its screen. Oops. But I have a list of things I need and I won’t bore you with them, the only bit of information you need to know here being that the phone that fulfills all of these requirements doesn’t actually exist. But I almost bought a phone today anyway!

I went to the T-Mobile store, just to play with the phones to maybe get used to the idea of simply replacing my BlackBerry with a newer, better, faster BlackBerry. Not to buy one. But the guy talked me into it! Really! And maybe in my heart of hearts I really did want it. Then something went wrong and as they were ringing me up, the credit card literally in my hand, the transaction couldn’t be completed because of my cheap and ancient plan. I felt disappointed, but, whatever, I could just phone up T-Mo and get it done. But that’s the thing: I haven’t. And I doubt I will. I probably will just keep on waiting for the Perfect Phone to come along and in the meantime use my sad Curve with the cracked screen. I have worked in retail sales, although never on commission, so I have a vague idea of the psychology of this. But a big purchase like this one is something I never imagined letting myself be manipulated into making. Weird!

The other thing it made me realize is why the Nexus One, the phone I covet (although it doesn’t fulfill all the requirements either) has less than 2% of the market. Because it’s only sold on the Internet! I can’t go into a store and play with it and feel like I can’t leave without it and have the slick salesguy convince me that this promotion will end TODAY and I need to get it NOW. I think Google, which does so many things right, has done this thing wrong. When it appears in the store next to the lesser Blackberry or G1 or whatever, then people will want it. Now, it doesn’t work this way for Apple, but people didn’t run out to buy the original iPod either. Apple had to build that “I’ll buy this sight unseen” fanboy clientele and Google hasn’t accomplished that. Not to mention, I also coveted an iPad and happened to have a torture session dentist appointment this week which put me next to the Apple Store. All through the drilling, I kept saying to myself, “survive this and get to go see an iPad!” Well, I did survive and I did go to the Apple Store and guess what? I didn’t like the iPad. It didn’t feel comfortable in my hand and there wasn’t multi-tasking, at least as I’m used to. So now I don’t feel bad that I can’t afford one because I wouldn’t buy one. But I had to try one to figure that out. And I had to be in a physical store to do that.

Zappo’s comes closest to replicating that, by sending shoes overnight and allowing you to send them back free with no repercussions. But if you’ve seen even one episode of Sex and the City, you know people can be talked into shoes like a tech nut can be talked into a 3G BlackBerry. But not by websites… yet.

There is a story to this post title. When I started the baking business, while I was still at the record label, I told a co-worker about it and he said, “Good idea! You know, you can’t download a cupcake.” There are some things that the Internet still cannot provide.

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Sdtk – I Want It Now


Chutzpah bushah cherpa!

Filed under : Rants,The Internets
On April 23, 2010
At 2:15 am
Comments : 9

When I was in high school, there was a girl in my class who thought it was hilarious to yell this out any time the teacher would reprimand someone for acting out. This is because it was hilarious. Maybe you had to be there. Ah, yeshiva high school. It translates, loosely, as “audacity, shame, disgrace!” Well, I call this out at Facebook… again. I can’t really think anything else about a company whose business plan seems to be:

a. Create a great service with few downsides and great privacy control.
b. Sign up everyone and make your service indispensable.
c. Nibble a bit at people’s privacy in an opaque way.
d. When they don’t really notice or are too confused to understand, sell them all out!

Very soon, you see, even more of your information will be available for anyone, whether it be your stalker or your ex or your least favorite corporation, to see. Naturally, they say it’s to give you “a richer experience” but it would seem to me that it’s only a select group of executives getting richer. This week I saw a screening of the movie Tapped (I love documentaries and had seen another great one by that team, Who Killed the Electric Car) which is a heavy-handed but important look at all the damage that’s being done by the bottled water industry. The first third of the film is devoted to the town of Fryeburg, Maine and their fight against Nestle who is mining their town for Poland Spring water. So not only is the town losing a natural resource but it’s so someone else can profit. My friends, Facebook is Nestle and we are Fryeburg. Your information, of course, is the water.

But, honestly, that’s not what bothers me most as a private person who believed what was originally stated by Facebook: that my name, my picture, and my information would remain private. Now, you may say, why not just delete my account? And, in fact, that’s what people are saying all over the Internet. The blasé, “get over yourselves” comments fall into three categories:

a. Who cares if the world finds that picture of me playing beer pong shirtless?
b. It’s free! So shut up already and stop demanding things.
c. Just cut the cord. It’s not like you need Facebook to live.

So, let me answer you, “stop whining, Facebook users” people.

a. I’ll tell you who cares: your next employer. Or not, they probably won’t be your next employer. Or your ex. Or your current significant other’s ex. Or whomever! It’s my desire to be private. Maybe you don’t care but I do and guess what? We’re all different and that’s what makes the world a fun place. Not to mention, they told us our info would be private so whatever my reasons are, I expect them to honor that. That’s why I joined.

b. It’s not free, it has advertising. If I have to see all those ridonculous ads for Acai berries, then someone’s getting paid on the basis of my checking into Facebook several times a day.

c. I always use this description to get people to join Facebook, people who say, “what’s the point? I have other ways to communicate with people.” Well, I have other ways than the phone to communicate with people but yet I still have a phone. People, in 2010, Facebook is the phone and if you’re not on it, you’re Amish. It’s nice to be Amish, but I can’t really reach you unless I happen to be in rural Pennsylvania. When I have this conversation with people, I usually refer them to Farhad Manjoo’s excellent Slate piece, “Everyone else is on Facebook, Why Aren’t You?”. It states it all perfectly. In my world and in many of yours, if you’re not on Facebook, you’re cut off from friends, contacts, and careers.

So Facebook, now that you’ve made yourself the phone, now that you have expended lots of effort getting even people like my Luddite, privacy-crazed friend and my 73 year old aunt to join, now you’re going to sell us all out? What’s the opposite of that “Don’t Be Evil” philosophy?

Oh right.

Should you want to read more, including how to fix your settings as much as possible to not have people you don’t want getting their hands on your information, try these excellent resources:

Gawker: How to Restore Your Privacy On Facebook

Simplehelp: How to reclaim your privacy by disabling Facebook’s “Open Graph”

Protect Your Privacy, Opt Out of Facebook’s New Instant Personalization

Depeche Mode – Shame

In the absence of a replacement for Napster’s free streaming links, I’m going for the time being with a link to the Amazon page for that song. It’s only a 30 second snippet but on the plus side, you can buy it if you like it.


Of space and sound

Filed under : Music,New York City
On April 13, 2010
At 4:30 am
Comments : 4

Today, for work (I know I don’t mention it a lot, but I have a part-time job!) I was sent on an errand to put up posters at other area Ed schools. My last stop was NYU, a school that it never occurred to me to attend, I think because I still associate it with people I knew who wanted to spend college hanging out. PS, I now wish I had spent college hanging out. I know this is a weird thing to say, but the last time I was at NYU or its environs had to be at least fifteen years ago. How strange is it to not have seen a major area of the city in which you live in a decade and a half? But I think I’ve been resisting going down there because, as you may have heard, the area has changed a bit since I used to get my hair cut and shop down there with the other 80’s Goths. But it’s sort of like that Thing in your fridge that you keep avoiding because it’s been in there too long, and the longer you wait, the moldier it gets. I knew the area was getting more and more mallified. I heard, naturally, about the K-Mart and the Starbucks.


I could get all grandma on you and tell you about all the cool clothing shops and record stores that looked like your basement, only with vibrant-colored-haired people blowing smoke in your face as you perused the…. records, but I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. But that’s how it is to me eternally. So I knew it would be hard but I was unprepared for the lump in my throat and tears at the edges of my eyes as I passed the Chipotles and Au Bon Pains. It’s not that I didn’t expect it, I just liked that the last image of it that I had in my head was back when those stores in which I used to discover fun things with my friends dominated the landscape. So now that it’s over, I plan on deleting all those images from my brain’s computer. But I have two take aways from this day.

a. On the way home, I kept hearing this sung phrase in my head, “it’s a clear cut case.” Then I remembered a song that I hadn’t thought of in years and years. What odd piece of seeing the Village again shook this loose? Who knows! But it’s below, should you want to hear the song that got dislodged.

b. There are still great record stores in the Village and elsewhere. This Saturday is Record Store Day. Should you not be an observant Jew, please head over to your local record store and find some incredible releases special for this day. Or you could go anytime! To find your local participating record store, check out the Record Store Day Website. Odds are, these days, no one will blow smoke in your face.

c. I’m never going back there again. I know, that’s three, but I’ve begun deleting and can’t remember where I am.


The vast melting kugel

Filed under : Food,Judaism
On April 4, 2010
At 1:15 am
Comments : 11

Last night, partially inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution (in which he shows schoolchildren, in disgusting fashion, how chicken nuggets are made) and partially by my missing my regular meals, I made my own chicken nuggets. Now, unlike the elementary school kids, I don’t actually eat chicken nuggets very often. But I confess to snarfing down lots of Chik’n nuggets, that is, the Morningstar brand of fake chicken. That’s because, a. for Koshery reasons, it’s aggravating to make meat dishes at home, and b. I’m actually sort of partial to Morningstar’s fake meats. As to why I eat such a convenience food, I can’t really describe to you how often I mis-time my day and only realize about a half hour before I am supposed to leave that I’m about to spend the next three hours in transport and in class, neither of which are conducive to eating, without any food in me. So I make something quick which can be nuked in the time it takes me to get dressed.

But it’s Passover and I miss my Chik’n nuggets and tangy BBQ sauce snack/quick meal. So I went to my local Kosher shop and just knew that they would have pre-made chicken nuggets and they did. But even if you are like me and are well aware that all the extra costs of cleaning for Passover are built into your food, you might not be prepared for the fact that they were selling four chicken fingers (maybe about the size of 1.5 nuggets each?) for $5.15. Seriously. The mind boggles. So instead I walked away with a package of chicken breast and a box of the Passover equivalent of Shake n’ Bake which is made of the ubiquitous mix of matzah meal (or matzah mel as my mother called it; I think that’s Yiddish), potato starch, and spices. Then I went home, cut up the chicken into nugget size, and proceeded to create some semblance of what we call chicken nuggets. And they tasted fab!

Hey, did you know that you can’t have dishes made with flour or corn, like breaded chicken nuggets, noodles, or corn flakes, on Passover? If so, then you are already ahead of the Pioneer Woman, everyone’s favorite Internet recipe sharer. Now, this is not to take an easy poke at Ree because God bless her for doing a Passover recipe when she’s not even Jewish and I doubt more than 5% of her readers are. For the record, here are her three mistakes:

1. A noodle kugel, and with corn flake topping, for Passover
2. Stating originally that a dairy recipe should be served with meat.
3. Correcting herself to state that the kugel isn’t Kosher for Passover because it’s dairy and the seder is a meat meal. In fact, you can easily have a dairy seder, but either way, serving dairy with meat isn’t not Kosher for Passover, it’s not Kosher, period.

But again, hurray to her for trying, and the inadvertently comical nature was kind of awesome. No, instead I’d like to pick a quibble with the commenters. I should state right off that it’s already my pet peeve when people ewewew others’ food choices (if I had to list my top ten reasons why I’m happy to no longer be at Big Ass Record Company, the guy who said “ew, that is so gross” every time I had fish for lunch would be way up there), but it’s somehow even more disturbing when it’s an ethnic or religious food item. Maybe I’m too politically correct but those “I could never eat that staple of life those people have been eating for forever” comments just rub me the wrong way. That’s all to say that, Ree, I forgive you for your totally wrong Noodle Kugel on Passover recipe and bringing a ham to someone’s seder (really!) but I just cannot forgive your commenters for:

“When I saw the word ‘Kugel,’ I thought you were giving us a recipe for Kegel exercises.”

“this is the first time I’ve questioned your recipe sanity. I twitched a little when you dumped the sugar in the noodles.”

“Well, I cringed when I saw the peaches.”

“Sorry this one does not look good to me at all. Peaches and noodles in the same dish. ??”

“I have a thing about mixing foods together that should not be. Noodles-Peaches- nuh-uh!”

“Umm.. This has got to be one of the most bizarre recipes… LOL… not sure I want to try it…”

“No… nope, nuh-uh, negative. You will NEVER convince me to eat noodles mixed with peaches and baked in milk… blargh”

“Nastiest crap EVER!”

One person even blogged about how this Jewish custom was an aberration of nature. Thanks!

So, a PSA for an Easter-Passover morning: Ashkenazic Jews eat something called kugel. The noodle kind often has bits of fruit in it. Get over it! Learn to live experimentally like this well-intentioned yet spellingly-challenged person:

“I would never think to combine egg noodles with fruit…so different, at least to me. I need a potlock dish, so maybe I’ll try this. Thanks for expanding my pallet.”

Indeed. Remember, we grew up on hummus before PW’s readers could tell it apart from spackling paste. And look at what’s the trendy food now. But even if you could never do that, how about, “I’ve never heard of such a dish, with noodles and peaches. Interesting. Very interesting.” Someone did say that, despite the fact that I didn’t put it in blockquotes. It messed up my unified paragraph. But see how you can say, “I would never eat that” without telling an entire culture that you think their customs are freakish?

Not to mention, realize that things you eat every day would seem gross in abstraction, you are just used to eating them. Dried out, processed grain cereal floating in cow’s milk….ew! A chicken’s unfertilized egg? Blech. Have you never traveled and tasted something that you’d never even considered a food but that tasted divine? No? You need to get out more. This is one of the reasons why Jamie Oliver thinks he needs to change Americans’ food habits. But as much as all that annoys me, mocking someone’s traditions is always off-limits to a well-brought-up person. I’m not trying to be an offense collector, I just think it’s sort of a rude thing to do. I always wanted to call that guy at work’s parents and tell them they missed an important piece of parenting.

But thanks, Pioneer Woman, for being inclusive, even if your audience isn’t quite ready to expand their, er, pallets. Just don’t bring a ham to my seder.