Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


I’d hate to see the ones they disliked

Filed under : The Internets,Travel
On June 29, 2011
At 11:30 pm
Comments : 8

Presented without further comment and discovered when I was researching my trip, from Tripadvisor, hotels travelers recommend:

Nirvana – Stay Away


Planes, trains, automobiles, and Greyhound buses

Filed under : Travel
On June 26, 2011
At 11:15 pm
Comments : 6

I think my rule of thumb for any vacation is that it must take 3-5 times as long to plan as the actual time away. I may have even topped myself this time, especially since the trip goes for nearly two whole weeks. But like most of my vacations, I have planned in excruciating detail where I’m going (West, young man), how I am getting places (see the post title), and where I will be staying (hint: cheap) but not much about what to do when I get to any of these sites. Mostly because I like to experience just two things when I travel: scenery and life somewhere else. So few if any of the places I am going are known for a particular attraction but should be different enough from where I live so that I can sit back, sip coffee, and realize I’m not at home. Also, different scenery and weather (and really, no one wants the weather here in the summer).

So here are the places I’ll be going:
Prince Albert

And because only the trip to Calgary and from Portland will via aeroplane, I will be seeing lots and lots of places in between, including the Canadian Rockies, the bus route where that dude got beheaded (my personal favorite… yikes), and western Washington and Oregon. I am tempted to join Foursquare just so I can have some exciting updates like “Becca is now the mayor of the Swift Current Greyhound Station,” but maybe not. Instead, I’ll just be updating from here and Twitter and Facebook. I remember fondly how exciting it was to sit in a cafe in Greece four years ago and type posts on teeny Blackberry keys. Now I’ll have my iPad, which should make things slightly easier, although possibly add some fun and unintentional autocorrect fails.

In case you’d like a sneak peak while also answering the age old question, “how anal is Becca really when it comes to using Excel for daily planning,” we can get both with one graphic!

Right! As for what I’ll be doing, I’ve left that mostly unplanned, although I do know that I’ll be staying with some crazy dear friends along the way who will be hiding their pets showing me the town. So all in all, I think it’ll be a fabulous time as long as I can keep my head.

That was a terrible, terrible joke. I meant to say, I think the trip will be a riot. No wait…..

Just for that, I’ll be reducing my consumption of Tim Horton’s donuts over the course of the trip from a dozen to ten. All bets on Coffee Crisps are off, though.

In case you want to follow my “Oh, the places you’ll go, eh?” tour (which starts next week), I have a delightful new sidebar area over there on the right, with big buttons (I like big buttons and I cannot lie) representing various ways you can subscribe to JBall updates. In order from left to right, they are:

Like my page on Facebook (then it will show up in your feed when there is a new post)
Follow me on Twitter (ditto, plus all my useless one line statements)
Add me to your RSS feed reader (like Google Reader or Netvibes, etc.)
Subscribe via email (full posts mailed to you at 1am ET the night after they’re up)

So just click on any of those and it’ll take you to the right option. Now there’s no excuse not to know what donut I’m eating!

I think this is the song I use for all my posts referencing Canada. What are you going to do aboot it, hoser?
Bob & Doug McKenzie – Take Off


Thank You (Falettinme Humiliate Mice Elf)

Filed under : Meta/Blognews
On June 21, 2011
At 8:00 am
Comments : 11

Wow, I’ve had more visitors in the last six hours than the last week. That’s because Yahoo News put a photo essay on their front page on a topic I once posted about. It’s been crazy! I’ll bet you can’t guess what the story was about based on the bottom graphic. But in the midst of the thousand searches for that, there were two really interesting ones:

So let’s address these, not because those people will ever come back but because they intrigued me. Lots of people like Jewish iconography even if they’re not so (see Esther, nee Madonna or Sarah Palin) and I can’t be sure why this person wanted to do this, but why not? I more get, “can I do X if I am Jewish” rather than “can I do Y Jewish thing if I’m not Jewish.” Maybe this person thinks it would be insensitive? I don’t think it is. It’s nice to ask but I don’t think you even had to. Mazal tov!

The second one interested me because it was a question I actually asked, although not on this blog. When I did my disaster demo lesson, I wondered what to do. It was obvious to me that I wasn’t getting the job and I was pretty sure at that moment that the job was beyond me. I really wanted to leave the session by saying, “OK, so we both know how that went. If we ever run into each other in educational circles, let’s pretend we don’t know each other, shall we?”

But I have been brought up to be polite and although the real reason behind the thank you note is actually to say, “in summary, pick me! Pick me!”, ostensibly, it’s supposed to thank the employer for giving you a chance at the gig. So what do you do when the former no longer exists? I didn’t want them to even think I considered myself having a ghost of a chance. I wanted them to know that I am good enough to perceive when a lesson doesn’t go well. So I wrote it as a strict thank you note: “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to conduct a demo lesson at [redacted] School as well as for the constructive and helpful feedback. It was great to visit and see all the wonderful things you are accomplishing at [redacted].”

Of course, the feedback was all, “this is why you sucked” while I nodded along, but it really was constructive and helpful. Later, I got the official “we’ve decided to go in another direction. The direction of someone to whom we don’t need to explain why they suck” letter. But I was glad I had sent an honest thank you. Of course, if I see them again, I’ll be pretending I don’t know them.

Next post, I’ll be telling you all about my meticulously planned, “if this is Tuesday, it must be Saskatoon,” vacation. It even has a spreadsheet, because I am just that organized. But if that doesn’t happen to work out, anyone know a good resort near here?

Sly and the Family Stone – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)


Jew & A: Weddings

Filed under : Jew & A,Judaism
On June 13, 2011
At 2:30 am
Comments : 10

It’s June and you know what that means! The season of oppressive heat begins! And weddings. Coincidence? I think not. In Canada, they have natural air conditioning, but also weddings. I know, because Deas sent me this question:

I am so thrilled that my current husband and I have been invited to the wedding of a young man who served as a camp counsellor to our daughter. He is now attending medical school in the Caribbean, where the couple will reside until he graduates.

“Chuppah” is at 4:30 with cocktails, dinner and dance to follow. Are there any particular traditions I may not be aware of? And, in terms of gifts, I am assuming that money is always appropriate, and would it be in a multiple of 8?

Any other words of wisdom you might have? I am tres excited to see the canopy ceremony.

Wow, the Caribbean! How can I marry this man? I mean, great question. Let’s talk about Jewish weddings. When I was young, there were two kinds of weddings: the kind you describe above and the kind on TV where everything was totally different. This never confused me, though, since I had already realized that school, weddings, holidays, and everything else on TV barely resembled my experience. Everyone enjoys that – it’s why they invented science fiction.

I’m going to describe a traditional Jewish wedding and not every one or even the one you’re attending will be exactly like this. They may do some of the things but leave others behind. It may depend on their level of observance or how many episodes involving David Tutera the bride has seen on TV.

Jewish weddings usually begin with a pre-ceremony reception, called Kabbalat Panim (literally: greeting of faces). At many religious weddings, the bride and groom have avoided seeing each other for seven days. So to keep this going, at the Kabbalat Panim, the groom and his pals stay in a separate room as the guests arrive and eat a ton of hors d’oeuvres and get plastered shmooze. This men’s gathering is called a Tisch, which is Yiddish for table, and that’s because all the men sit around a table and talk Torah and drink and sing. It’s also where the groom and two witnesses (they must be pious men) sign the Ketubah, which is the marriage contract that the groom will later give to the bride. It lists all the obligations the man has towards his new wife (food, shelter, sex…. that was not a joke; he has that obligation). Also, how he will take care of her in the event of divorce. My mother kept hers in the bottom drawer under some sweaters, but these days lots of couples have theirs designed with gorgeous illustrations and then frame it and put it up.

(I liked this Ketubah because the quote at the top is “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” which is from the Song of Songs.)

In the meantime, the bride gets the rest of the hall. She sits on a throne (well, a fancy wicker chair usually stands in) and is surrounded by her female friends and relatives. Her mother sits on one side and her future MIL on the other and her grandmothers, sisters, sisters-in-law, and bridesmaids stand behind and flank both sides. Here she and they receive guests (of all genders). After a while, the action starts. By that I mean, a trumpet sounds, music starts, and in comes the groom. But you don’t see him at first because he is completely surrounded by other men and they literally dance him into the room to see his bride. Everyone cheers and claps and sings along. The song that is played is called “Od Yishama,” and the lyrics are from Jeremiah:

Od yishama be’arei Yehuda,
Uvechutzot Yerushalayim
Kol sasson v’kol simcha
Kol chatan v’kol kallah

It will still be heard in the cities of Judea
And the parts of Jerusalem:
The sound of joy and the sound of gladness,
The voice of the groom and the voice of the bride.

It’s hard to imagine this scene so I’m including a random video from YouTube. In a Pavlovian reaction, every video I watched made me emotional, even though I don’t know these people. When you are there witnessing it, it’s the moment you kind of think, “OMG! So-and-so is really getting married!” It makes you sniffly. This part is called the Bedeken (or many alternate transliterations of Yiddish) or covering the face of the bride. Because when Rebecca saw Isaac for the first time, she covered herself with a veil. The groom checks to make sure it’s really the one he’s supposed to marry (you scoff, but look what happened to Jacob!) and then he lowers the veil over her face. The bride’s father, as in this video, often kisses her and gives her a blessing.

I really love how excited the bride and groom (who looks about 15… and smashed) are to see each other in this one, so I picked it even though the chair wasn’t wicker. Feh.


Everyone then proceeds to their seats for the ceremony, where, you guessed it, the chuppah is. Most Jewish weddings do not have separate seating by side of the family. This is, again, something I have only seen on TV, but I assume is real. You can tell me if it’s not. The chuppah is a canopy on four poles and it makes a little house. You may think this symbolizes the bride’s transition from her previous dancing gig, but actually, it more stands for the new household that the bride and groom are creating. By “chuppah,” your invitation means “the main ceremony.” Chuppah really symbolizes marriage itself, as in the blessing one gives a new baby that he or she will advance to Torah, chuppah, and ma’asim tovim (good deeds).

In traditional Jewish ceremonies, both the bride and groom are walked down the aisle by their parents. There is no giving anyone away. Another difference is that the bride and groom usually choose some piece of music they like and it’s usually not Here Comes the Bride. When the bride reaches the chuppah, she walks around the groom seven times. Seven is an important number in Judaism and lots of things in the wedding are done in sevens. I won’t go over the whole ceremony, but it involves drinking wine and the giving of rings, and later, seven blessings are said. Also, the Ketubah is read (but it’s in Aramaic so you may also get a translation) and given to the bride. At the very end, the groom smashes a glass under his foot because even in our happiest times, we remember the destruction of the holy Temple in Jerusalem.

The bride and groom then go off to the Yichud (seclusion) Room where they, uh, have some alone time while the witnesses stand outside and make sure no one messes with them. Often, they sit and eat something as the custom is to fast the day of one’s wedding (it’s like Yom Kippur for the bride and groom – a day of prayer and renewal). But, really, what happens in the Yichud Room stays in the Yichud Room. The guests go off to begin the Se’udat Mitzvah, or festive meal. Once the bride and groom come in to the main hall where everyone’s already started tucking in to their appetizers, the room goes crazy with wild dancing. Sometimes, the bride and groom are raised up on chairs by their friends. This is a good time to not stand right next to a bunch of drunken people holding other people on chairs.

It’s an important mitzvah (commandment) “l’sameach chatan v’kallah,” that is, to make the bride and groom happy. So you will often see people wear fun costumes or juggle or dance in front of the bride and groom, who can rest for a bit and enjoy the show. Then there’s more dancing and eating and a benediction at the end.

Now, all of the above should be taken with this grain of salt: these are all the main traditions. Your friends may not do some or most of them. But just in case, there they all are!

So now to your practical inquiries. Whatever you might give to anyone getting married would be appropriate for a Jewish couple. The custom of, when money is given, giving it in multiples of 18 is because in Hebrew, letters are also numbers and the two letters which make 18 are also the word for life. Jews like life a lot, despite all the complaining which may make you suspect otherwise. So if you do give money, multiples of 18 are a lovely gesture, although you don’t have to.

Mazal tov to the bride and groom and thanks for writing!

I never realized till I was trying to find a song for this how many wedding song reference traditions not encountered in Judaism: wedding bells, chapels, etc. So we’ll just go with this old chestnut.
Billy Idol – White Wedding



Filed under : Student Life
On June 5, 2011
At 3:30 am
Comments : 6

Recently, they closed the bookstore at my school and for good reason. Anecdotally, I can tell you that in the two years I attended most recently, I did not buy a single thing in this store. Not a notebook, or a textbook, or a school t-shirt (there’s a better selection in the main Columbia store and I did buy a hoodie there my first semester – the computer lab is hella cold!). Even the used books turned out to be more expensive than new ones on Amazon and I ended up using my computer to take notes (you may remember earlier posts where I spoke about notebooks gleaned for me by our wonderful assistant at The Record Label – those went to my niece in college. Oh, and my daybook… I soon switched to Google calendar). But apparently, I am not the only one who discovered these things and even more so, that you could sell books online and get more than you would selling them back to B&N, who ran the store. So it closed at the end of my last semester.

The funny thing is, several other things that were touchstones for me when I attended the first time (you may or may not remember that I dropped out to take an internship at my first label) were all removed and changed just as I’m leaving now. And I say leaving now, even though I already graduated, because I agreed to stay on at my part-time job there through June. Or until I slit my wrists from the horror of this job, whichever comes first. But anyway! Beyond the bookstore, where I did actually buy textbooks and notebooks the first time around, there is the so-called Commuter Lounge. I really don’t know why it was called this. As professional grad schools do, this one has many commuters but I never understood why they needed a special place beyond, say, the library or the cafeteria or the regular lounge. And there was nothing unique about it, it’s just a large nook off a hallway, with candy and soda machines and an ugly black pleather sofa which snaked around the space. When I was a commuter the first time (a real one! I lived with my parents for the first semester and drove in every day from the suburbs – the only time in my life I drove on a daily basis), I spent most of my time in the regular lounge which had actual windows and better sofas. But I did hang occasionally in the commuter lounge as it was a good place to stop when you had a few minutes between classes and I remembered it very well all through the in-between years. And this space remained for fifteen+ years, just being remodeled last month! Now it has warm tables and chairs and there seem to be more actual people sitting in it.

Then there is the thing I recall best from my first go-round, the row of telephone booths that lined the hallway leading up to the cafeteria. It was here that I made my desperate weekly call to the A&R guy at the label for which I wanted to work to ask him yet again if there were any internship openings. One day after several months there was, and the rest is history. I was kind of shocked to arrive in 2009 and see that they were still there. Really? Phone booths? They finally tore them out early this year in a redesign of the hallway. I think I would have been saddest to find those gone.

As I’ve said before, the hard part of coming back to some place that meant something to you, either positive or negative, is seeing the changes that other people shrug about because they were there and it happened naturally and gradually. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have hit the jackpot and seen all these things happen so that I can digest them. If I had started school in Fall 2011 and found the bookstore gone and the commuter lounge redone and the telephone booths vanished, I would have understood but I would have felt the loss of a connection with the school I once attended as a confused college grad.

Last week, at the part-time job I will be ecstatic to leave, I was telling the woman with whom I share an office, a young doctoral student, about my new job. I mentioned how they would be counting in some of my years in the music business as teaching experience and how grateful I was that I would not be considered entry level. I mentioned the actual number of years I had worked and she looked stunned. She said, “but how could you have worked so many years???” I said, “what do you mean?” She stammered, “but I thought you were just a few years older than I am!” Ladies and gents, I am at least 11-12 years older than her. Just a few years ago, my real age would have bothered me. I worried, working in a youth culture, that I would be out of touch and not hip. Now I realize that my true age is what gives me confidence going into my new job. I have some sort of experience and knowledge about life that she, who actually teaches a couple of community college classes, doesn’t possess. And you can’t learn it in school. It’s why grad school was so awful the first time and so great now. The school, despite the cosmetic, hasn’t changed. I have changed. And I’m really glad to have lived and learned all these years.

This was my favorite thing about the bookstore. You could buy actual children there. I never asked, I assumed they kept them in the back.

Two housekeeping notes:
1. There was a problem with my server last week and although I thought it had been solved, a couple of comments (including mine) were deleted, but I have added them back. Sorry if things looked odd for a couple of days there.
2. I lied, I think this is the last post tagged as Student Life.

I have attended ten or twelve U2 concerts in my life but the last one was on the Popmart tour. I hope this is still the play out music.
U2 – 40