Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


The cha-chung remains the same

Filed under : International,TV
On December 31, 2010
At 5:00 am
Comments : 9

(Editors note: This wasn’t really supposed to be the New Years’ post but it took me two days and four different programs/plugins to get my illustrative videos working. That is to say, if you don’t watch the short subjects at the end, I will cry. Unless you’re reading this on feed… or an iPad.)

I have talked a lot about the fact that I only watch old TV but one new(ish) thing I do watch is a sort of remake of something old, that is Law & Order UK. First off, we all know I’m an Anglophile, but second, the first season is all based on stories from the US version and I couldn’t resist seeing how they were Anglicized. By the way, I say newish because this show isn’t really new, it’s just new to me, as BBC America has just started showing the episodes here. Some of the British L&O’s are quite similar to their inspiration-episodes but others aren’t really at all. For instance, “Love and Loss” from Law & Order UK (my favorite ep so far) uses the US episode “Consultation,” as its basis but is an almost completely different story. In “Consultation,” a Nigerian woman dies in a cab coming from the airport after heroin she’s smuggling in her body leaks out. The plot then meanders around to the chief of her tribe (who lives in the US and has diplomatic immunity) and his drug operation. In “Love and Loss,” it’s a British citizen, a teenager who had gone abroad with friends, who has the heroin leak out (and her death is graphic and gross, be forewarned). That then leads to her older boyfriend and his use of young girls as drug mules. So, nearly the same starting point and idea but a whole different flavor of episode.

Some are more subtly different, like UK’s “Hidden” and US’s “Bitter Fruit.” The stories hew closely to each other (spoiler alert!), with a young daughter of divorced parents being kidnapped and the mother killing the perpetrator. Of course, it turns out that she had set up the whole thing to get back at her ex, the child’s father, and she kills the hired kidnapper to cover up her crime. In the US version, she’s driven to it by a bad divorce, depression, addiction to pills, and the loss of custody. In the British version, however, there’s no sympathy at all for her and she’s a total monster who wanted the child kidnapped so that she could make money off the story. It’s fun to guess why the writers choose to go in these separate directions but even more to try to figure out if something was done because of differing laws or culture. For starters, in the UK version, people use knives instead of guns (shockers) and more often than not, there’s CCTV footage to catch them. And when they’re interviewed, they get recorded. And if they’re immigrants, they’re from different countries than the immigrant characters in the US (more often Turkish or Polish or West Indian, rather than Latino). Also, the lawyers, I mean, the barristers, wear wigs and people stand when they give evidence in court. That would have been hard on Betty Broderick, whose trial I watched back in the day, and who seemed to testify for about three or four days straight. Maybe she wouldn’t have told so many long-winded stories.

But when you dissect the episodes, there are other differences which make you wonder. In “Bitter Fruit,” the parents are well-off, older, white people. In “Hidden,” they are young, working-class, and of different races. In the same way, the daughter, Jodie, was on her way to piano lessons in the US but a guitar lesson in the UK when she disappeared. But that makes sense once the first change is made because rich girls learn piano and lower middle-class girls learn guitar. It’s possible that the demographics of the parents were changed to make the “just in it for the money” plotline stand up, as it’s difficult to imagine the upper-crust mother in the US version being motivated by the possibility of selling her story to the tabloids. Of course, tabloids themselves don’t have the same resonance in the US.

This scene was my favorite to compare, as in both versions the same character is depicted but yet each woman is so totally an archetype of her country. In it, the two detectives corner the mother of the kidnapper trying to determine if her son actually visited her the night of the crime, when he left, and if there are any clues to be found. The mother is a working class, hard-bitten type, and she’s not at all fooled by the officers’ “aw shucks” innocent-seeming questions. Her son has been in jail before, she knows he’s no saint, but she will protect him no matter what. She isn’t giving anything away if she doesn’t have to.

In New York (well, Jersey, actually), Mrs. Capetti is an ethnic type and has an accent to match. She makes meatloaf for her son and the only time she warms up is when the detectives mention her television, which her son got her as a gift on which to watch the Jets. In London, Mrs. Carlton is a working-class (I don’t think Cockney is the right word… but something in that vein) Mum who makes roast pork and whose son bought her the TV to watch Chelsea. In the US, Mrs Capetti only lets the detectives into the closet after the threat of a warrant. Not so Mrs. Carlton. Do they not need warrants in the UK? Either way, both women have two newscasts to choose from but are too sharp to let slip which they watched and both keep sheets in mothballs… too bad for them, as you’ll see.





You’ll notice (maybe) that the stills I’ve chosen are the smirks on the lead detectives’ faces as they confront the lady in question with the damning evidence despite all her attempts at subterfuge. No matter the differences, the best things are the same about the two shows: great plots and terrific acting.

And so, now that I am posting this on New Years Eve, I wish you all a wonderful 2011, an end to technical difficulties, and some really good TV show marathons on your local cable system.


Holiday Song Pick 2010

Filed under : Music
On December 24, 2010
At 12:05 am
Comments : 2

I’m going to digress from my holiday song post for a few paragraphs to fill in a story I started on Twitter and just doesn’t really lend itself to 140 characters. A couple of days ago, my neighbor buzzed my intercom, which is weird, because, doesn’t he have a key? Why does he need me to let him in? I should say that this guy is an abrasive, argumentative – he’s one of those lawyers who give my lawyer friends and relatives a bad name – gadfly who got voted off the co-op board the year I got in. We are not tight. I suppose, in hindsight, he didn’t have my phone number and didn’t want to just show up at my door. But it was weird, and I was on the phone, making me even more distracted when he actually made it to my doorstep.

As if that wasn’t bizarro enough, he wanted to know if I was interested in putting up holiday decorations in the lobby. I still can’t figure this out because:

a. You may have noticed, I’m Jewish, and my holiday is over.
b. We have no relationship – you don’t even have my phone number or e-mail address – why ask me?
c. Why not just stick the decorations up yourself if you want them so badly?

Again, with the benefit of hindsight, I have begun to think it is because I am a chick and the only one on the co-op board (although there are two gay guys… not that there’s anything wrong with that). Maybe he thinks girls like to decorate? I don’t know. So I said, no, I can’t say I am interested. He said, “not your thing?” I answered, “not my thing.” But I added, or I wanted to add, “but if someone else wants to put them up, I have no objection.” I did not want to be the Jew who said no to Christmas decorations. Instead, what came out of my mouth was, “but if someone else wants to deal with it, I’m OK with that.” Which makes it sound like I’m just too lazy and uninspired to put them up, whereas it’s actually the case that I just don’t care about holiday decorations one way or the other. Great. But whatever. Today I came home and, get this, someone (presumably Lawyerneighbor) had cut out the words “Merry Christmas” from some wrapping paper and taped it to the wall next to the elevator. So now we have:

a. A crappy, ugly, lame-ass, paper-taped-to-the-wall sign up.
b. Something that is completely oriented to people who celebrate Christmas, despite having Muslims, Jews, and some other religions represented in the building.

But I am not going to say anything. Luckily, I don’t plan to walk through the lobby between now and when my last paper is due on Sunday night.

Anyway! The subject at hand.

It was hard to come up with a fifth place Christmas song. I think they’re all kind of tied after my top four (links at the end of the post) and I do not like many of the other pop Christmas songs that other people seem to love, like the Pretenders’ 2000 Miles (droning) or The Pogues’ Fairytale of New York (excruciating). So I think, from now on, we’ll end the countdown (I guess I never thought I’d be blogging for five holiday seasons) and just do “Holiday Songs I have Known and Liked.” And here’s one for this season of austerity.

Even in better financial times, I think I was always enchanted by a Christmas song which includes the line, “we’ll beat you up if you don’t hand it over.” Yes, it’s the Kinks’ Father Christmas and its story of kids like the one who would like a job for his Dad but as a second choice will accept a machine gun to scare all the kids down the street. This may bother Christmas purists but in a world where we have to deal with “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” at least we can have some fun and rock out with the Kinks. And, truly, maybe I just always loved the idea of Ray Davies dressing up as Santa Claus and standing outside a department store.

Happy Christmas, my goyishe friends! And happy listening to everyone.

[youtube width=”480″ height=”385″][/youtube]

Previously (Napster links in these posts no longer work, but the text is still going strong):
Becca’s #1 Holiday song.

Becca’s #2 Holiday song.

Becca’s #3 Holiday song.

Becca’s #4 Holiday song.


There is a light that never goes out

Filed under : Gadgets
On December 21, 2010
At 1:00 am
Comments : 4

So just a few months after crowing about my new phone, I have an even newer phone. But it’s an experiment and it’s a bittersweet one. Like this woman, I really, really wanted to stay with my BlackBerry, but they just couldn’t bring their web experience up to everyone else’s. I found that a lot of the time, if I wasn’t near WiFi, I wouldn’t bother even trying to use apps or check things like Twitter or Facebook, because the screen was just too tiny and the experience too slow and limited. Being in a WiFi environment most of the time (school/home/internship), it felt even more painful when riding the bus or visiting someone, to not be able to have the full experience. But I lived with it because I still loved the BB for so many things.

And I probably would have stayed with the BB, hoping by the time my contract was up that either a new model would have the things I liked from iOS and Android devices or that an iOS or Android device would have the things I liked from RIM. But something else happened in between to tip the scales and that was that everyone in my family chipped in together to get me the one thing I wanted for my birthday/Hannukah: an iPad. So now I had two WiFi devices that would frustrate me to no end to not have service on: an iPod Touch and an iPad. I thought about various solutions. I considered trading in my WiFi iPad for a 3G one so that I could get wireless service on it. But that involved a $100 outlay and an extra $15 a month. I thought about getting a portable hotspot but that was the same thing except a $25 charge per month plus carrying around yet another device.

But some Android phones can act as portable hotspots so that seemed the best solution. Just push a button and have the phone spread its WiFi goodness to all my iOS devices. No extra fee and no extra device. So I bought the cheapest Android phone available, the Comet. It’s kind of adorable for all its cheapness (it costs as much off-contract as your phone probably cost subsidized). I didn’t feel so bad about this splurge because I spent 48 hours baking ten orders of rugelach as a special holiday thing for two of my most delightful previous customers and earned almost exactly as much as the Comet cost. Happy Hannukah, Becca – Love, Becca.

As an aside, every time I type or say or think the word Comet, I remember this little ditty from when I was in Summer camp (sing with me!):
Comet, it makes your mouth turn green
Comet, it tastes like gasoline
Comet, it makes you vomit
So eat some Comet and vomit today!

It turns out, these lyrics are only slightly off the standard. But I digress. I really thought I could use the BlackBerry and Comet interchangeably and just pop the SIM card in and out as needed. That turned out not to be the case, since T-Mo, my carrier, has you listed under one or the other. As yet another aside, I cannot say enough good things about T-Mobile. If they have good coverage in your area, use them, if only just to hear them trip over themselves on the phone to please you. It’s like someone promised them a steak if they could get you to say, “Wow, thanks!” Bottom line, they gave me the cheap Android plan, even though it no longer exists, just because I already had the cheap Blackberry plan which no longer exists. And if I want to switch back to the cheap BB plan which no longer exists, I just have to call back. Steak for everyone!

But here’s the rub. I like the Comet and Android very much, just as I thought I would, but I ache for my BlackBerry. My BlackBerry was a workhorse. It was that guy who gets to the office at 6 and leaves at 9 and you just have to glance over to see him working away at his task. There’s no need to bother him! He’s hammering away. And at the end of the day, right on time, he brings you that report you wanted with no typos and no mistakes. The Comet is like… well, me. It sits around and waits till you really need something and then maybe it has it and maybe it doesn’t and you can never really be sure if it’s right. (This post will not be on my resume, thanks for asking). I mean, why do the work before it’s really needed? And if you don’t have it at that point, maybe no one will notice.

The BlackBerry, as anyone who has been near someone who has one can attest, has a little light on the top. It flashes a slow and steady green when it is connected to WiFi or a mobile signal and then switches to a slow and steady red if you have a message of some kind. The Comet has a light but does nothing if nothing’s happening and then flashes green if you have a message. The trouble is, sometimes nothing’s happening because the Comet is just hanging out and having a smoke. It hasn’t really tried to see if you have any messages. Maybe it lost the connection, but as far as you know, it’s just that no one’s trying to reach you. But maybe they are! And the Comet is like, “hey, you know that one time at band camp and… what? Connection? I don’t even really remember what that is.” Sometimes when you wonder if maybe there is a message despite no light and you unlock the screen, the Comet gets busy, like it knows the boss entered the room. Then it frantically checks for e-mails and Twitter mentions and Facebook comments. Sometimes, it doesn’t even notice the boss is around. “Oh hey, remember that time… anyone got a light?… when Sally and Jimmy had that fight and….”

As Pavlov could tell you, it’s this kind of unpredictability that drives a person mad. But there are some predictable things. If I send myself an e-mail and line up my devices, here’s how it goes: the iPad and Touch will ping, one right after the other, then my computer will chime, then…. nothing. Then I get myself a smoke (well, no, that’s hyperbole) and then the light on the Comet starts to flash. Ugh. Even worse, when the Comet is charging, its light is dedicated to showing you that it’s charging and no indication of a message at all occurs. Now, I can’t be having that. My entire psyche is geared to glancing over and seeing the light flashing, knowing something in my world is constantly scanning the atmosphere for messages, and will soundlessly indicate when I have one. I still find myself looking over all the time at the Comet to watch it blink and of course, it won’t do that. But then, sometimes in the morning after I had packed my BB in my messenger bag, I’d glance over at the spot where it had blinked all night. It’s a reflex.

I have been told that there are apps for Android phones that will accomplish this, but so far, none will work for the Comet’s lame little light. It’s funny, before the last post, which was a bit sentimental, the Comet Conundrum already reminded me of that time. I remember being in a foreign land, literally and figuratively, and before going to sleep in a cold bed, I’d put the BlackBerry on the side of it. That flashing light seemed to hum to me that I was still connected to people who loved me. And that’s the power of our electronic devices. Not the games or the turn by turn navigation, but the connections to people not by our side. I need to know that I can count on my little friend to tell me that it is constantly reaching out to see if anyone is reaching back and to let me know reliably if they have. I need to be able to trust it.

I should also mention that the Comet’s battery runs out in less than my typical 15 hour day, and that’s with just average use. In a normal BlackBerry day, I wouldn’t even lose the first bar on the battery scale unless I left it off the charger all night. So you can add that to the “I can’t really count on this to be there for me” column.

It’s funny, I was going to write about a NY Times article/podcast on the subject of the mobile phone being an extension of the self. But instead, I found that I need one that isn’t like me at all. I need one that completes me. This one seems to just turn my mouth green.

Here is a photo taken by the Comet of the most expensive clock radio ever, my iPad. My co-operating tech teacher can’t believe I do this. But I can’t be the only one or they wouldn’t have this app, would they?

Why did I take this picture? I think it was the excitement over a new phone and the promise of a snowy day, not to mention I’m not really myself since I started having to wake up at 6:15am. I haven’t even turned the light on yet in this picture.

The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out


And I send commands, just because I can

Filed under : Music
On December 19, 2010
At 2:15 am
Comments :Comments Off on And I send commands, just because I can

I was reminded this evening that it’s been an awfully long time between posts, but rest assured, it’s not that I am wallowing in sadness, it’s more that I am crazy busy during these last few weeks of the term. I actually had a few things I wanted to write about and will really and truly get to them this week. Or next. Well, I will definitely get the annual Holiday Song post up soon because, let’s face it, that will be pretty stale if it waits much longer. The one about the smartphone as the extension of the self and the one about Law & Order UK and a couple of others will be gotten to as time permits, thanks for your patience.

I did just want to say that I received a present of an iTunes gift card for the holidays and have finally picked up the Deftones’ new(ish) record, Diamond Eyes. I know, I know, and I call myself a Deftones fan. I just kept thinking it would go on sale for $3.99 and then when it didn’t, I couldn’t justify buying music without a real income. Anyway, the point I wanted to make is that it is enough like the last album, Saturday Night Wrist, that I find it excruciating to listen to. If you remember my 2006, you may understand why that is. If you don’t, I discovered that I posted four posts about the Deftones in a two week span back then, but I’ll save you from having to rehash by not linking to them. Anyway, it is a wonderful record, but I may have to give it a rest for the sake of my own sanity. The title of the previous album was never explained, but as I write this on a Saturday night trying to banish thoughts of the past back to where they belong, I sort of have a good idea. Luckily, the present is pretty distracting.

Title is the first line from Diamond Eyes that stuck in my head after many listens.
Deftones- CMND/CTRL


Even Gary and Elaine would know how to celebrate Hannukah

Filed under : Judaism
On December 8, 2010
At 2:00 am
Comments : 6

So Hannukah is winding down and although I haven’t felt very joyful this year, I do have a newfound appreciation for what is the season of miracles. And I am trying to shake myself out of my funk, but I’m not quite there, I think. I’ve mostly kept my Internet presence to this blog and e-mail, which is weird for me, but I am feeling a little unsocial at the moment. Still, I have been saving this item for a month or so and meant to post it just before the holiday. Anything that involves me pulling out my scanner (the printer 3-in-1 is located under the coffee table, such is the New York apartment) will inevitably be put off and delayed. But here it is and it touches on themes I’ve discussed before about how Hannukah is made into something it’s not by American society (big! important! a holiday where families travel from far and wide to get together and bask in the glow of the menorah) and where many Jews try to make it into the Christmas they wish they had. As I’ve said, I get that it’s hard, especially with kids, to be enveloped in a holiday that seems warm and beautiful but which isn’t yours. In its wake, Hannukah has become the “but we have THIS” holiday. And I know that merchants will cater to that feeling.

So in the spirit of Catalog Living (which inspired the title of this post, in case you’re not on the CL express), I bring you this ad. Despite the fact that they are generically called “Blue/Silver Glass Star Ornaments,” the description helpfully adds for those who might be squinting at their placement near the Star of David tea lights and the clear Hannukah intent (you can’t see the Hannukah tableware on the same page and menorah opposite), “make festive table accents!” Yes, these are for your Hannukah table, not at all your Hannukah tree. Wink wink wink.

From Crate & Barrel holiday catalog

Makes you just want to throw another Maccabee log on the fire and gather round the menorah to sing carols, doesn’t it?

Audioslave – Be Yourself