Friday, October 26, 2007

Update on an earlier post

Waaaay back on June 15, I posted about a case in Georgia involving a 17-year-old boy receiving a 10-year sentence in prison for aggravated sexual assault because he received a consensual blow job from a 15-year-old girl and the incident was videotaped.
Well apparently, not everyone in Georgia is totally backwards when it comes to sex and a new judge has reversed the sentence: Nice to know that justice has been served.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

When Harry Met Sally it was Love Actually. Then she became Sleepless in Seattle until Bridget Jones's Diary turned her into Something New

Whew! It's amazing to me how those damn movie titles just fit so perfectly together.. it's almost as if they were all just trite phrases strung together?
So the past weekend got me thinking about that much maligned genre of film known as romantic comedies, aka chick flicks. We all know them and many of us shell out our hard-earned cash to watch these frequently formulaic 90-minutes of fluff at our local multiplex or on our personal television sets (Christina, I'm looking at you). We tend to think of them as harmless. Light. A great alternative to those "serious" movies, that more often than not tend to feature male characters in leading roles and are likewise marketed to men. But what are we buying into when we buy our ticket to "In the Land of Women Something's Gotta Give because While You Were Sleeping she gave him a French Kiss and now everyone is singing Sweet Home Alabama?"
Now, I will admit to owning and enjoying a few of these so-called romantic comedies. It's true - they are escapist and fun and often feature fabulous outfits. Though, I do often wonder what impact they have on our "real" lives and relationships and the fantasies that they perpetuate.
For example, a certain gentleman caller gave me flowers on our first date this weekend. They were carnations. Would I have wrinkled my nose at them just the same if they hadn't become a part of dating mythology thanks to the romantic comedies of the world?
Floral misgivings aside - back to those clothes. Has anyone noticed that regardless of what job a woman in a romantic comedy holds, she always has fantastic clothes?! With the possible exceptions of Anne Hathaway for the first part of "The Devil Wears Prada" and Julia Roberts for the first part of "Pretty Woman," NO ONE in a chick flick cruises the clearance racks at Old Navy or waits until all the big sales at the department stores. And forget complusively collecting those 20% coupons at Bed Bath and Beyond, that is something only chicks in the "real" world have to struggle with, all the while striving for the perfect home and clothing collection since that's how the movies portray us.
Of a far more nefarious nature is the subgenre of chick flicks where our plucky, beautiful and lovelorn heroine wrests her man from the altar at the last minute, saving him from the wrong marriage and bringing herself the object of her desire. For examples, see "The Wedding Planner" and "The Sweetest Thing." I think these give women the worst illusions about the realities of dating, marriage and love because in real life - when does that ever happen? Kudos to "My Best Friend's Wedding" for denying Julia Roberts's character her man. Besides, who needs a roaming sports reporter when you can have a fabulous gay boyfriend like Rupert Everett?
This is hardly an anti-chick flick manifesto and I don't expect to affect ticket revenues or DVD sales with my above rant, but I do want to raise a little hell. Think about the messages behind the movies. What does it say when a whole rash of movies appear with dead paramours (Just Like Heaven, Catch and Release)? Or when our pets start to claim film titles (Must Love Dogs, The Year of the Dog)? Just a little something to think about.

Monday, October 15, 2007

It's New Jersey - who knew?

Look out across the Hudson. Look beyond the industrial wastelands in Newark and Elizabeth, the sprawling monuments to capitalism in Paramus, and even beyond the paragons of suburbia that crowd the landscapes of Bergen, Passaic, Essex and Union Counties. Look about 40 miles inland and keep looking until you get to the Susquehanna River. There you'll find the reason they call New Jersey the Garden State. Hundreds of farms grow vegetables and fruits, raise animals, create various animal by-products and many open their doors to the public on a regular basis.
Just a 25-minute drive from my suburban hamlet takes me out into the rolling hills of Morris County and within easy access of fantastic opportunities to get in touch with nature. This weekend being the first for me in a month that hasn't included a Jewish holiday and/or a trip out of town, I was able to head west to check it all out.
First, on Saturday night I did my very first corn maze. For those unfamiliar, corn mazes involve hapless individuals (or teams) willingly entering an labyrinth made entirely of corn stalks. The farms lay out intricate patterns and have themes that guide both the design of the maze and various clues found therein. We went to a place with a Manhattan theme and absolutely nothing in common with the borough's famed grid system. Two hours later, we emerged - slightly frustrated, rather hungry and with new-found respect for corn stalks.
Then on Sunday, I ventured out to the Valley Shepherd Creamery - the only sheep dairy in the State of New Jersey. Truly an artisinal place of business where they literally do EVERYthing pertaining to the process - they breed the sheep (you should hear the owner's story about bringing sheep semen over from the Netherlands), they raise the sheep, they milk the sheep through a highly-advanced automated system, they slaughter the lambs, they make the cheese, age the cheese, sell the cheese, sell the wool, sell the manure... and the work goes on.
I highly recommend their cheeses - you can get them in their store in Long Valley, at many farmers markets throughout New York and New Jersey, and this year only they are selling a cheese in the Williams-Sonoma catalog.
If none of these options work for you, take an afternoon and check out what IS in your area. Most cities are not so far from working farms and I think it's important that we remember food doesn't come from a grocery store. It comes from the incredibly hard work and dedication of people who do this because they love it. Find organic, artisinal, locally-produced purveyors near you and support them. Visit them. Take classes. Use their products whenever you can (even in favor of organics sometimes since shlepping organics from Florida cancels the earth-saving benefits when a conventional product from New York is available). Get involved. Or, as Nancy Botwin might recommend - grow your own.

Monday, October 8, 2007


So maybe you've been reading this blog since I began it (because I cajoled you or you're related to me), or maybe you stumbled upon it from a link or Google search (p.s. I'm the first hit you get - take THAT JewWatch), or maybe you actually found something I wrote remotely interesting and have stuck around. Regardless of the answer - thanks. In return, I thought I'd spend a little time on how the name for this blog (and my somewhat assumed identity) came about.
Most people have heard the term "ghetto fabulous." The African-American community has used this to describe a certain style of dress and attitude informed by the urban landscape to which they have historically been confined and elevated to a higher level with the addition of "bling," in the form of jewelry, cars, cribs, etc. Just like jazz music, hip hop and many popular cultural phenomena, ghetto fabulous represents a co-optation of an already co-opted term. The ghetto originally referred to city-based areas where Jews were confined in Eastern Europe. Today, ghetto fabulous has a derogatory undertone at times, but is also celebrated in song, fashion and style.
The counterpoint to the ghetto was the country-style shtetl. Since many Jews in America, post World War II live in the suburbs, it seemed fitting that describing a larger-than-life Jewish persona should only be called "shtetl fabulous." Makes sense, right?
The shtetl fabulous look has its own bling to be sure, but maybe it doesn't have to feature perfectly highlighted hair; pert, post-operative button noses; and a Long Islander accent. MAYBE, it could be something far less based in Philip Roth's shiksappeal fantasies... maybe it IS super curly, unstraightened brown hair; big noses; Naot-based sandal tan lines; big boobs and hips and this time a Brooklyn accent. However, my decision to call this blog Shtetl Fabulous, goes beyond the sartorial.
I have often identified with the African-American experience having grown up as a token Jew in heavily-Mormon Mesa, Arizona. I wasn't simply another type of Christian and I wasn't a clearly marked racial minority - I was "other." Being of a community and still not entirely belonging is often characteristic for many types of marginalized people, but somehow blackness spoke to me even though there were only 3 black students in my graduating class of 850.
I also think questioning, pushing the envelope and identifying with other oppressed people are big in the Jewish community and it's something we have in common with our black brothers and sisters. By using the term "shtetl fabulous," I hope to reference our Jewish history, engender a little discussion about labels, demonstrate some hardcore Jewish pride and make a few people smile.