Friday, March 28, 2008

Expensive Beer and Boring TV make Shtetl go Something Something

All apologies to Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King and the writers at The Simpsons for the title of this post, but I do feel like I'm going a little crazy these days with the skyrocketing prices circulating around my grocery store and booze shop.

However, unlike Homer Simpson and Jack Torrance, I'm not crazy. Commodies prices for anything wheat-derived (that means bread, beer and bagels) OR wheat-fed (that means dairy cows, chickens and cattle) are increasing at a rapid rate while the dollar loses value. In a cruel twist of simultaneous occurences, the price of hops have risen due to poor crop yields in drought-stricken Australia. This is hardly an economist's blog, but I do love a good brew and thus I feel motivated to bemoan costly suds.

What has our world come to when a humble can of Natty Boh threatens to break the bank? Even scarier, what will we have to shell out for tastier brewed options - my personal favorite including the stellar Fat Tire. While others fear recession due to the home loan disaster and the weakness of the dollar in the overseas currencies markets, I will be crying into my beer. Of course, if you're going by the law of supply and demand, maybe a drink isn't such a bad idea.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Health Update

Luckily my grandmother is out of surgery and taking the first tenuous steps on the road to recovery. She is under heavy sedation for the next 48-72 hours, which my aunt contends is all the better so she can't complain. It was a little scary to see her hooked up to SO many tubes, drips, monitors and wires, but I know it's for the best.

They say that crisis can bring out the best or the worst in people and I really have to hand it to my family for doing well when the alert level goes up to orange or red. My aunt, who conveniently enough is a cardiologist, has been coordinating visit availability, playing interference with the doctors at New York Presbyterian, making jokes about the hospital's Shabbos elevator and even buying sandwiches from a Kosher deli this afternoon on her way into the City. Pretty good stuff (especially since she's not Jewish and I'm the only one who keeps Kosher!).

I also want to thank all my wonderful friends both near and far who have been SO incredibly supportive. Promise to get back to my regularly scheduled snarkiness in the next few days... somehow familial medical emergencies have a nasty way of encroaching on my witty reparte.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Say a little prayer - redux

My grandmother, of whom I often blog and speak about, is having open-heart surgery tomorrow to correct a problem with two valves in her heart. The recovery time can take several weeks. We are very, very close and I ask anyone who reads this to please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.
Her name is Susan Schaffer (Liba bat Rivka Raizel).

Thank you!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

St. Mordechai's Day

Tomorrow night marks the start of Purim, Judaism's most raucous holiday. Granted, its competition includes Yom Kippur, the observance of which features a 25-hour abstention from food, drink, sex, leather shoes, perfume and jewelry plus a lot of time in synagogue. Observance of Purim on the other hand involves giving gifts to friends and the poor plus customs of dressing up, eating fruit-filled cookies and getting drunk.

When I was a kid, Purim was one of my favorite holidays. We got to recycle and reconfigure our homemade Halloween costumes and my dad usually went out in drag. Plus, we could never be late for services since my family owned the only copy of the megillah, or scroll read on the holiday. And even though I didn't really get to enjoy it to its fullest extent, it was a great thrill to watch all the adults get drunk. Seriously - it's a custom to get so plastered on schnapps and Crown Royal that you cannot discern between "cursed be Haman and blessed by Mordechai," the villan and hero of the Purim story.

For its striking resemblance to Halloween and dilligent adherance to the official Jewish holiday formula, "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat," I would like to set forth a motion to the general Jewish public that we move to do a little better job promoting Purim. If everyone is a little Irish on St. Patrick's Day, then why can't everyone be a little Jewish on Purim? I'm not advocating for a wholesale commercialization of the holiday, I'm just asking all those Jews who control the media to get the word out about Purim.

Just in case any Madison Avenue Jewish executives are reading my blog, here are some suggestions:
  • Purim - because it's easier to say than HalloGayPrideCarnivSt.Pat Day
  • Esther vs. Vashti - the original Desperate Housewives
  • You don't have to be Jewish to celebrate Purim, but it helps

Whatever you do tomorrow night, here's to a Chag Purim Sameakh (Happy Purim) and besides, if you're struggling for the perfect costume, just go as Client #1-8.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ms. Fabulous Goes to Washington

It's nearly 10:30 p.m. and I should be going to bed soon because tomorrow I'm off to Washington, D.C. for a work conference. The Washington 15, sponsored by the Young Leadership Council of United Jewish Communities, takes place every four years and brings together more than 1000 young adults age 25-45 for various activities of a political nature.

This is my first time attending such a conference and my first opportunity to lobby members of the United States Congress (or at least their staff members) on Capitol Hill. The cynic in me wonders what affect a bunch of young Jews can have on their respective senators and representatives. Sadly, possessing a degree in public policy often just makes you more aware of the crazy antics that go into our American political process and not any more enthusiastic.

In junior high I wrote a paper about how Congress is like a garlic press - squeezing the essence out of a bill and while probably losing something along the way, still coming to the end with a chewed up version of the original. Yes, even in 7th grade I was a snarky kid.

Now as an adult, and more importantly as the lead staff for my local delegation to an activist conference, I try to hearken to the inspirational words of Margaret Mead. She said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Let's hope she's right and stay tuned later this week for post-facto dispatches...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What I'm reading, thinking, doing

Generally, I've avoided diary like entries on this blog and while this post isn't rife with girlish reminiscences, I am gonna give a little summary of what's going on in my life.

What I'm reading - right now it's two books. One is Don't Get too Comfortable by David Rakoff. In the same sort of vein as Sarah Vowell or David Sedaris, Rakoff takes a sardonic but journalistic look at class in our modern society and how ridiculous luxury can be. It's not quite as funny as essays by the other two, but it does have more of a sociological study bend that is still pretty comical.

The other book I'm reading is Everything Conceivable by Liza Mundy. It's about the profound revolution taking place in the area of reproduction and the plethora of serious ramifications it has for our world. From serious analysis of the fertility industry and the ravages of IVF to consideration of the ethical, religious ramifications of a woman giving birth to a child not biologically related to her to the health affects children born of assisted reproductive technologies compared to naturally conceived children - this book is fascinating. And scary. And both in a good and bad way. READ IT.

What I'm thinking - that it's about damn time we pick a Democratic nominee for President. That I'm stoked for St. Patrick's Day and springtime (and other holidays I'm gonna blog about later). That rent in New Jersey is entirely too expensive. That doing my taxes was no fun this year. That I really need to buy some new work clothes.

What I'm doing - I'm off to Washington DC on Sunday for a big work conference for young adults. Pretty stoked to meet some new people, do some stellar networking and party with my volunteers. I'm also celebrating some friends' birthdays this weekend in town. Oh - and I'm not sure if this qualifies, but hopefully by simply saying the word "globbing," I can say that I've globbed.

What's making me laugh - one of the volunteers who is taking the train to Washington with me had this to say about the whole Elliot Spitzer prostitution debacle: "Spitzer allegedly paid for the call girl to take a train from New York to Washington ..." Do you think he would pay for us?
Seriously the funniest thing I read/heard all day, especially about this awful incident.

That sums it up for now... hopefully my trip to DC and the impending Jewish holidays will provide some good fodder.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dayan HaEmet

Upon hearing especially bad news, and upon hearing of a death, many Jews utter a simple blessing that acknowledges God as the "true judge," implying that the circumstances of such an unfortunate occurence are beyond our control and that the explanation lies in the mind of the Divine.

It's not a particularly easy blessing to say, though I've found it gives me some comfort and at least gives me something to say. However, I struggle even more with the blessing when the reason seems so clearly to stem from human actions.

This afternoon, headlines blared with the news of a fatal shooting at a yeshiva in Jerusalem. The shooter, an Arab from East Jerusalem, was ultimately killed by a paratrooper who was a student at the yeshiva and two police detectives. However, before he was taken down, eight students were killed and many more wounded.

In the midst of preparations for the new month of Adar, traditionally a month of joy and celebration, those on all sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict must now choke down a bitter pill of escalating retaliations across Israel and Palestine. Ironically close to the land where Hammurabi's Code (and the Torah for that matter) set down the framework of an eye for an eye, innocent civilians must grapple with the ramifications of violence almost every day.

It's far beyond the scope of this blog, or my few dabblings in studying this conflict, to make salient policy recommendations or to condemn politicians anywhere on the spectrum. All I can do - and I ask my readers to do the same - is to pray for peace wherever there is conflict.

This particular, horribly bloodied battle, remains closest to my heart, because I am a Jew, but I am also keenly aware of similar fights around the globe - in Kenya, in Columbia, in Pakistan.

May God grant true and lasting peace to all who dwell on earth, and bless all of us with the gift of peace.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

The title of this little piece is not in reference to "Fractured Fairy Tales" from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show... althought that shit rocked back in the day. No, this week week I'm blogging about the hair-raising machinations wrought by Chris Marsh on the penultimate episode of Project Runway. PR is one of my all-time favorite shows and I regularly race home from my West African dance class on Wednesday nights to watch Heidi, Tim, Nina Garcia and the rest of the gang duke it out at Mood Fabrics, late nights in the sewing room and of course, on the runway.

Last week's episode featured a faceoff between jersey-fabric drapery god Rami Kashou and drag queen cum Edith Head wannabe Chris Marsh for the coveted third spot at Fashion Week and therefore a chance to win the big prize. Both designers expertly pushed themselves to their design limits to create mini-collections for the judges. Chris also pushed the envelope of good taste with his use of human hair to trim his garments.

Yeah - in case you're a little shocked - he trimmed his garments in human hair.

He lost, and it certainly begs the question, "was this the ultimate bad hair day?" Let me state for the record that I do find the use of human hair in lieu of synthetic animal fur a little on the creepy side, but since Wednesday I've been wondering, why?

I don't bat an eyelash at wearing wool jackets or sweaters or leather shoes; and plenty of people wear fur and silk, other animal-based fabrics. Some of those sartorial creations require the death of an innocent animal - and this just hair! The human who donated the hair was not likely fed an odd diet, or kept in physically restraining cages in order to make his/her hair grow better. So why should we find wearing it repugnant?

Now, I know (and faithful readers will well remember) my previous post on the wearing of wigs, natural or synthetic, and I'm setting those aside for this conversation. Today, we're just focusing on hair used as ornamentation on garments and trying to determine what about it creeps us out so much. Can we not disassociate from Buffalo Bill? Are we afraid of accidentally wearing our friends? Is this some long-buried fear of the hairstylist come to life?

The creep factor seems to bridge gender and age barriers and nonetheless fascinates me. While I don't think I'll be racing out to buy a Chris March original with chestnut brown trim any time soon, it will certainly make me think twice when I get my next hair cut. If it's just going to go in the trash - why not reuse it and be en vogue at the same time?!