Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Now you know how happy I can be

Filed under : Fancypants Prep,Music,Reasons to be cheerful
On February 29, 2012
At 10:00 pm
Comments : 4

(Sorry, Jew & A will be delayed one day due to the death of Davy Jones)

It is really hard to write happy posts when people keep dying. Stop dying, people I like!

But, a story.

One of the grades I teach is Kindergarten, something I never, ever in my life thought I’d do. Sometimes as I look at them I try and remember what it was like to have the mind of a five-year-old, how everything was new and exciting and mysterious. I remember just three things from Kindergarten and here they are.

1. I remember our daily snack: Tam Tam crackers and orange Juice. The juice had pulp and I hated pulp. But I drank it. Once in a while, we had popcorn from an electric popcorn maker (remember those?).

2. I ran away from school. Yes, really. I slipped away at recess with a friend. This was not the original plan. First off, I was supposed to go with my BFF, Leora, but she chickened out at the last minute. Also, I had this ruse that I conceived: I’d prick my finger on the nearby thorn bush and need to go to the nurse, then I’d slip away from there. I don’t remember why this didn’t happen or how I planned for my friend to join me. Anyway, my new co-conspirator and I managed to get about eight or ten blocks before we got tired and turned back. We met a search party along the way. As an adult, I cannot believe there wasn’t a law suit over this.

3. Speaking of my friend, Leora, I remember the elaborate lies we’d tell each other, trying to top the other. The one I chiefly remember was, “I saw Davy Jones in the park.” “Yeah, well I talked to Davy Jones in the park.” “Oh yeah? Well, I kissed Davy Jones in the park!” I was absolutely sure she was telling the truth and also that she believed me. I try to keep this experience in mind when listening to Kindergarteners tell me about the incredible things that happened to them.

But this is all to say that when I was in pre-school and Kindergarten, reruns of The Monkees played every day and I’d watch them in utter fascination. I felt sorry for my siblings who had to go to real school and miss the show. It was good to be young. Really young.

I am not sure what the happy thought is here. Innocence? Kindergarten? Oh wait, it’s the music. Happy, poppy music.

RIP, Davy. I’ll see you in the big park in the sky. Later, I’ll tell my friends all about it.


Jew & A – At the Circus

Filed under : Jew & A,Judaism,Reasons to be cheerful
On February 28, 2012
At 11:45 pm
Comments : 6

It’s late and I need to remain cheerful so let’s get to it!

Friend of JBall (but not Derek & Alex) Elena asks:
Becca, I’m cataloging a book on the history of Jewish theater in Gdansk, Poland, and the English summary says the Talmud “directly forbids going to theaters and circuses because they are places of sinful idolatry and blasphemy”. Do Orthodox Jews still follow this instruction? Or it is considered a very old-fashioned viewpoint? I always knew clowns were evil!

OMG, this happened to me last time when I was at the Ringling Brothers when all around me, vendors were hawking cotton candy and fresh, hot idols. And the kids! What blasphemers. No, actually, the Talmud is referring to the types of circuses they had back then, which, when combined with theaters, were the kind of entertainment you’d leave your home for in the evening. Circuses and theaters of the Talmudic period did indeed often involve a ritual sacrifice (I guess it was the national anthem of its day). Plus, the rabbis of the Talmud were extremely wary of anything that might bring Jews into contact with idolators and their ways, which is why Judaism can be so strict and probably why it has survived all this time. Hannukah, as we’ve discussed a few times, is about the struggle of Jews to resist the influence of another culture… one which prized theaters and circuses. So the prohibition was twofold: to avoid the sacrifices to idols and foreign gods that took place at circuses and theaters of that period and to avoid mixing with the wrong element and taking on their ways.

Nowadays, the ritual sacrifices have mostly gone away, what with all the coming attractions they have to squeeze in at the multiplex and the way it kept reducing the number of performing animals in the circus. As I’ve mentioned, “Orthodox” can mean a lot of things, from someone who keeps mostly Kosher to people who dress in the garb of the 18th century and won’t sit next to the opposite gender on the bus. This latter group, the ultra-Orthodox, still avoid entertainments such as theater and circuses, but also TV and radio. On the other end of the scale, it’s recognized that our pastimes of today bear little resemblance to those of which the Talmudic population were fearful. So yes! And no! But I do wonder whether the Jews of Gdansk were strict about it. And whether clowns are evil because they secretly worship Baal.

Here is my favorite circus memory, because I know you meant to ask but just ran out of space. Mmm hmm. When I was in my early 20’s, a cousin and I took my nieces and nephews, all under 10, to the circus. We bought them treats (no idols). We saw acrobats. We saw clowns. We saw animals do tricks. It was (and this is totally my own phrase) the greatest show on earth. Afterwards, we returned the children to their parents and Sister1 asked them, “did you have a good time? What was your favorite part?” My nephew didn’t hesitate and answered, “it was the best thing ever! When the elephant peed right in the middle of the ring!” Wow, was I glad I had spent that money.

Thanks for writing in, Elena! If I can stay awake then, we’ll get to another Jew & A question from another of my favorite people tomorrow.

If you were looking for the happy thing in this post, it was right there! The circus. It’s almost circus season! And if you can’t be happy at the circus, there’s something wrong with you. Or you’re a Hasid. Or you’re afraid of clowns. Could even be both.

If that didn’t make you happy, the title comes from a Marx Brothers movie. Go watch it! We’ll still be here counting down the happy tomorrow.

Wow, I haven’t heard this song in a million years. I can’t believe I threw this cassette out in the mid-90’s.
Erasure – The Circus


Wherever you lay your deckchair

Filed under : Depeche Mode,Music,Reasons to be cheerful
On February 27, 2012
At 9:30 pm
Comments : 4

Another thing I’ve wanted to write about is the lullaby album of Depeche Mode covers recently released by Rockabye Baby. I ordered it on CD just because I loved the cover image so much. More on this in a moment. If you like DM (and really, who doesn’t?) this album will please you immensely. It’s full of perfectly detailed lullaby version of such classics as Personal Jesus, People Are People, and my favorite, Stripped. I guess that last one is for when your child needs a diaper change.

My favorite on the album is Everything Counts, which you may remember is now, in revision, considered my favorite song of all time. I think hearing the main riff in glockenspiel is more than I can handle. It’s adorable overload!

But the artwork is beyond awesome and its two main pictures are now my wallpapers at work (laptop and iPad), where kids tell me they love them every day, having no idea where they originate. Rockabye Baby artwork is always based on an iconic image of the subject band with a teddy bear taking the place of whatever human or animal is usually the focus. So instead of Dave Gahan trekking through mountains and snow to find peace and solace in his royal robes, we get these:

For reference see these stills:

Or better yet, the actual video.


What I love about the premise of the video is that even kings in their royal robes can find peace and contentment through simple things like beauty and serenity. And that happiness really = contentment (I got that from the Mishna, actually, and not Depeche Mode, but still). So when my kids tell me it’s so cute, I want to say, “but it means so much more!”

Of course, if they would just let me enjoy some silence, I’d be happy.

PS, this video inspired Coldplay’s song Viva La Vida. Sorry about that.

Buy the Depeche Mode lullabies album here.
A sample of Everything Counts here:
Rockabye Baby – Everything Counts


Part 3

Filed under : Reasons to be cheerful
On February 26, 2012
At 9:00 pm
Comments : 3

I couldn’t resist naming this after “Reasons to Be Cheerful, Part 3,” since it is my 3rd post. There is no Part 1 or Part 2, that’s the joke I guess. Anyway!

For those who wanted Jew & A, there are now TWO Jew & A questions in the queue and I will absolutely get to them this week. It’s just that being high on cold medicine is not a perfect state in which to write lucid texts. I mostly spent the weekend reading novels I’ve already read plus playing Freecell. It’s been productive.

But speaking of books I’ve already read, I bought a few more Judy Blume novels from Powell’s recently and found over this reading that one was missing some pages just near the end. Ugh. But Powell’s is just awesome and told me to not bother sending it back and they’d just refund my money. So here’s my reason to be cheerful/Adar post for the day: some places still remember what awesome customer service is! Shop at Powell’s!

Besides Powell’s, I want to shout out to AUL Superstore who I have been meaning to talk about for over two years (oops). While I was doing the bakery, they took care of a problematic order of mine way above and beyond what was needed. It just amazed me. So if you have a bulk grocery order (or, really, any grocery order), totally shop there. They will take care of you.

So three (ha) cheers for businesses that still consider customer satisfaction to be important.

I really wanted to use Jesus Jones’ “Are You Satisfied?” but it appears they took it off the mp3 download album. There must be a story here but I’m too cheerful (and high on Sudafed) to research it.


Takes me to the clouds above

Filed under : Music,Reasons to be cheerful
On February 24, 2012
At 5:00 pm
Comments :Comments Off on Takes me to the clouds above

Speaking of happiness in times of sadness, as well as the legacies of those who have left us, this was the song that made me love Whitney Houston. She was truly the soundtrack of my life in that the characters in movies rarely get to choose the music they live by. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, Whitney’s music was constantly playing – in friends’ cars, on the record store’s sound system, and on MTV while I waited for something more goth to come on. Over those years I even got to like it. What a voice she had! And how beautiful she was.

My favorite song by Whitney, and the only one I ever purchased (on cassingle!) was “All the Man That I Need.” I just adore that whole song. However, it’s just not happy enough for this project. Instead, I choose this song whose video made me want to be Whitney Houston. I settled for doing my eye make-up in the same style and colors as hers as shown here. It was a look just made for Yeshiva high school. *cough*