Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Home, home again. I like to be there when I can.

After a week at the in-laws, 2 days on the road, and an overnight stop at a friend's place, we are now back home. Barkley is back to being normal and quiet, like he never is at other people's houses.

Last night while staying at my friends place, B and I somehow ended up at a pre-production planning meeting for a ghost story investigator show, starring quiet girl's sister as the main ghost story investigator, and my friend who we crashed at last night as one of the back up team. Quiet girl's sister is like a pixie version of quiet girl...they talk the same way and use the same gestures and look very similar, only her sister has a pointy-er face and dreadlocks.

The meeting itself was interesting- they will be investigating local ghost stories, and were coming up with a list of stories they could check out. This devolved into looking at ghost videos on the internet and this dude telling ghost stories about some supposedly haunted paintings at his house (they mysteriously appeared in a crawl space!) and a picture he took of a 'ghost' (it had a weird light in the middle of the picture!). There was a newcomer to the group, who will probably be on a side ghost-investigation team. He was first asked about his views on ghosts (skeptical) and his religious views (raised christian, now agnostic). The key members of the show (2 people on the main 'team' and the producer) clearly believe in ghosts to some extent, and spent a long time discussing the sound equipment they could use so they could pick up 'real' ghost sounds, unlike the other ghost hunting shows, which are clearly faking it and have too much white noise or something.

The meeting took place in the office of this producer, who so far has been a record/music dvd producer but wants to move to tv. They are going to shoot a couple of episodes, his office will do production things to it, and they are going to pitch it to a local tv station as a ghost hunter show specifically investigating local stuff.

Other then that, spent maybe 7 hours on the road yesterday and another 6 hours today. Barkley wasn't bad, I ate a lot of junk food, and very happy to be home and putting stuff back in order. We brought basically all our clothes to my in-laws to do laundry (hey, I'm still a student!) so I have to hang up a stuff, but I'm leaving that till tomorrow. We unpacked most of the other stuff and put it all away. Realized we left one of our gifts at the in-laws...oh well, we'll get that in a half a year or so I guess.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Abandoning Eden...In Print! (real life print!)

Frankly I've been hesitant to post this, in part because it contains a bit more identifying information than I have shared before on this blog. The Rockland Jewish Reporter recently published an article about jewish blogs/bloggers, which they interviewed me for. They quote me several times in the article.

It's not a very well edited article, some of the info is inaccurate (for instance I was raised right-wing modern orthodox, which is close, but not the same, as "ultra orthodox") and the author yanked a photo from my blog and printed it without crediting me or asking for permission (which I believe is against copyright law and it was a photo I had only posted for a few days before taking it down).

I also want to state for the record that I had stopped being religious before I ever started blogging, so the journalists' portrayal of blogging as contributing to me being less religious (which I think is what she meant, although it's a bit unclear) is inaccurate. I have another (private) blog that I started at the very end of 2001, while I stopped keeping fully keeping shabbas and kosher in 1997ish (although I continued to partially observe holidays and shabbas and kosher for years afterward due to living with my parents). The subject of my private blog was never exclusively judaism, although I talked about it on rare occasions (excerpts from my private blog are compiled in the first few posts on this blog- I tried to repost everything I said about judaism in my private blog, although I just noticed that I seem to have forgotten 2004, the year I completely dropped observance of almost everything Jewish except a few holidays here or there).

I only started blogging about Judaism in earnest when I started this blog- which was shortly after my grandmother's death in 2007, when I was dealing with my anger over my father using 2/3rds of the eulogy to talk about how he has to honor his mother's memory by making sure his children turn out to be religious. At that point I had already been dating my (non-jewish) husband B for about 6 months, which my parents knew about (and they knew he was not jewish), and my parents had known I was not religious for at least 7 years.


Since I found out this article was In Print and has a picture of me, I've been rethinking whether it was a good idea to agree to be interviewed. The newspaper/newsletter/whatever it is, is distributed in jewish venues around rockland county, and my father frequently is in rockland county for business purposes, and frequents kosher restaurants where they carry this newsletter. It's possible he will see it, or a friend will see it and forward to him, and as a result he will find this blog.

On the other hand, it's damn cool that someone thought my blog was significant enough to write about in an article In Print, even if it's just the Rockland Jewish Reporter.

If he does find this blog I guess my message to him is: A lot of things in this blog are unflattering to my parents and to my family. I stand by everything I have said here, and while he may not agree with my depictions of events, or remember things going differently, I write them the way I remember them, I do my best not to exaggerate in any way, and I try to say my feelings as I truly feel them. On the other hand, I don't want to intentionally hurt anyone. I didn't write this blog to hurt my dad or my family, but to deal with his and the rest of my family's reaction to me going OTD/starting to date B by writing about it, in an effort to work through my feelings and reach out to other people having similar experiences. My dad and members of my family were never the intended audience.

It's also possible that as a result of this newspaper some people from my high school years will find this blog, since it's published in the county where many of them live. If so, hello! I've changed a lot since back then, as you can probably tell. But I would love to hear from you if you're reading!

If anyone is coming over here after reading that article In Print or on one of the other blogs that posted it, hello! Feel free to ask whatever questions you would like! I'm thinking of putting together an FAQ at some point soon, since I get asked the same questions over and over again, so if you want to ask some of those questions you would actually be helping me to compile them.


And now for something completely different:
The hubble telscope advent calandar. 25 pictures from the Hubble telescope, very cool.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Penny (my sister in law's beagle) and Barkley are now bffs and follow each other around the house.

Christmas may be over but I still want to buy this flying spaghetti monster ornament I just found on the interwebs.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Is the chirstmas tree referenced in tanach?

According to my husband it might be. In Yirmiyahu 10:1-4, the prophet Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah) has this to say:
2. So says the Lord: of the way of the nations you shall not learn, and from the signs of the heaven be not dismayed, for the nations are dismayed from them.
[AE note: This might refer to the classical period practice of trying to interpret the will of god by the position of birds in the sky, which I learned about in a class I took on "magic and science in the ancient world" back in college]

3. For the statutes of the peoples are vanity, for it is but a stock that one cut from the forest, the handiwork of a carpenter with a small axe.
Rashi:a carpenter: Heb. חרש, a craftsman.

[AE Note: note that it's statute with a third 'T', not statue the way I first read it]

4. With silver and gold he beautifies it, with nails and with sledge hammers they strengthen them so that it does not bend.
Rashi: and with sledge hammers: A hammer; it does not bend: Heb. יפיק, it does not kneel with its knees. Comp. (I Sam. 25: 31) “a stumbling block (פוקה) ” ; (Nahum 2:11) “and tottering (ופיק) of the knees.”

5. Like a palm tree they are beaten, and they do not speak; they are carried for they do not step; fear them not for they will do no harm, neither is it in them to do good.
Rashi: Like a palm tree they are beaten: He hammers them with a hammer until it has an upright stature like a palm tree.

[The christian version can be read here.]

So according to Yermiyahu, the non Jewish craftsman of his time would cut something from the woods (presumably a tree) and do some kind of handiwork with it (trim it?), adorn it with gold and silver and hammer it until it doesn't totter around and stands straight. I don't remember ever learning this part of tanach, but this sounds like they can be referring to either a Christmas tree or some kind of idol/statue that they built out of wood.

Certainly the tradition of decorating an evergreen tree around the winter solstice predates Jesus. Via wikipedia:
The ancient pagans, Druids, Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews celebrated the Winter Solstice, (Dec. 21st), the day of the year that the Sun begins its ascent in the sky, thereby ushering a fertile time of planting and bountiful harvests. Hence, the evergreen tree represented eternal life and the promise of replenishment during the cold winter months. Apples and other fruit were hung upon the tree to represent the plentiful food to come. Candles were lighted to symbolize the warmth and brightness of the sun. While the Christmas tree is generally associated with Christ, it predates this religious figure by many centuries.

Ancient Hebrews celebrated the winter solstice? what? I know it's wikipedia and totally unreliable, but....what?

Does anyone know what the Jewish interpretation of this passage is? I'm guessing it has something to do with idolatry.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Erev Christmas!

We are safely at my in-laws place in *Not very popular midwestern state* in an exurb of *only large city in state*. We drove here Monday and Tuesday (Stayed overnight at a lovely motel in Bumblefuck, Ohio on Monday night), and Barkley came with us. He was actually really good in the car, although he went a little crazy with barking in the motel and our first night here- I think he was just confused and discombobulated a bit. The motel we stayed at in Ohio had a box of 'hunter's rags' at the front door, which I did not look too closely at.

Meanwhile there are SO many presents downstairs, and normally we open them on Christmas eve but this year my sister in law has kennel duty (she's a vet tech in training) on Christmas eve and won't be getting in until Christmas afternoon, so no presents until Christmas after dinner! Ahhh!

OK, am I like a 3 year old or what? Well, this IS only my third Christmas. :) B and I had a lot of fun wrapping presents yesterday..he wraps them so much better than me, mine also look like a 3 year old wrapped them. :) Seriously though, there's like a mountain of gifts downstairs and there's only 5 of us and the youngest (my SIL) is 23...although Barkley and my sister in law's dog (Penny, a beagle) also get gifts. We still havn't decorated the tree though, guess we will be doing that today. Tonight we have B's family traditional Christmas eve dinner which is made up entirely of appetizers, and tomorrow we are having a big prime rib dinner, followed by the gift opening of course. We all sit in a big circle and go around the circle each opening a gift one at a time until we run out.

Ooh and my mother in law also said we can have her old giant fake tree once we have a bigger place that it will actually fit into (it's too big for them to handle setting up every year anymore), and said I could pick through her ornaments and take a bunch home for our table-top tree- my father in law worked for hallmark for many years so she seriously has the best ornaments ever. :)

Meanwhile the people must not have much to do around here, because nearly every single house on the block is decked out in crazy lights...there's a house a couple of blocks away that has a crazy light show that is coordinated with music you can play on your radio (they are broadcasting it from their house), we drove by to visit the other night and there were like 20 cars just parked outside their house watching the show. :) Apparently they won an award for having the best christmas lights in the *only large city in not very popular midwestern state* metro area.


I was chatting with my brother's ex girlfriend today (we run in the same circles so are still friends even though they broke up like 5 years ago), and she was saying how she remembers when she was dating my brother how so NOT into holidays and family I was back then, and she seemed surprised I was so into christmas now. But the holiday experience is so different between my family and B's family (apart from the obvious, that I celebrated different holidays at my parent's). Holidays at my parent's house were always full of yelling and people fighting (always about religion and politics) and people saying racist/super-conservative things that made me want to throw up. Last time I went home to a family thing, around a year and a half ago, my Aunt spent the entire dinner trying to convince me that Obama was a muslim and how we can't have a "shvartza" as president (*vomit*). I mean it wasn't all bad, and people of my generation were generally nice and not judgmental/racist, and there wasn't a huge dramatic fight EVERY time we got together, but it happened on a fairly frequent basis.

Also ever since I was a teenager, going to family holidays meant being criticized for my religious/personal choices, usually openly in front of everyone. My grandma used to always say "IMPROVE" instead of goodbye when she was leaving, people used to stare at my piercings/hair/whatever and openly criticize me -I have 3 earrings in each ear and had an eyebrow ring for about 6 months a few years ago that I don't think anyone in my family ever got over. I also had dreadlocks for a year, which- you guessed it- led to more racist comments.

While at B's place, everyone gets along and is nice to each other and genuinely just enjoys each other's company and likes each other and acts like normal human beings. I love thanksgiving at his cousin's place too. Maybe it's cause I am new to the family and so they are on their best behavior- but I don't think that's it.


Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oy gevalt

Nearly a year ago, my youngest brother E called me from Israel to tell me that he had talked to his Rabbi about B and I, and his rabbi told him that one of 3 things would happen within a year; either B and I would break up, B would convert to Judaism, or B would die.

Clearly none of those 3 things have happened, and I'm pretty sure they are not going to happen anytime soon (although I suspect that one day B will die...but if all goes well that won't be for decades). I'm not sure if he meant within a year of us getting married or a year after talking to that Rabbi, so I'm waiting until our first year wedding anniversary to send him a letter pointing out the stupidity of that phone call.

Meanwhile, I found out today that for the second year in a row, my brother will be spending his entire winter break (about a month) in Israel, learning with this very same Rabbi.

I wish there were a book or something I could send to him that he would read and suddenly magically realize that religion is a crock, and that these people are leading him wrong. I know I will get flack for that because blah blah blah respecting other people's beliefs blah. But really. I feel like my brother has been preyed upon by these people. I feel like he has been brainwashed by a bunch of people who do not have his best interests in mind. He has given up all his hobbies and things he used to enjoy in order to learn all the time. He used to be a huge movie buff, and would make his own short films. Before he went to Israel for a year, he was planning on going into the film industry. Last year (right after he got back) I sent him a dvd of animated short films, the type of thing he would have been all over before he went to Israel. When I talked to him around 6 months later he told me that with his schedule he hadn't had time to watch it. He also told me he was thinking of becoming a rabbi. A rabbi!

Now readers, you don't know my brother, but last I heard being a rabbi involves public speaking, which is the exact opposite of a job my brother would be well suited for. My brother is extremely shy, and a little...well, when he was a kid there was a question of whether he was on the autistic spectrum or not. Only they didn't have words like "autistic spectrum" back then, and my dad managed to find some shrinks who said he was ok so that the school wouldn't leave him back. Had he been born 10 years later, I think he would have been diagnosed as on that spectrum.

Which makes him perfect for these brainwashing asshats, who seem to prey on people like this- people who don't have the best social skills, who don't have things entirely together. Maybe for him religion is actually a good thing, since it gives him structure. But I don't know. I really worry about him going off to these places and having his head stuffed full of lies. I worry that he has given up the things he used to love, what made him unique and awesome, to have more time for religion. I worry that my parents are complacently letting this happen because since me and my other brother ended up non-religious, they think that enabling my other brother become a fundy (because who else is paying for his trips to israel and his yeshiva fees in the states?) is the only way to keep him jewish. I worry about how our relationship will be going forward, and I worry about him, because even if we have no relationship going forward, he is still my brother, and I love him, and I worry that he is being led astray.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Top 10 albums of the 2000s

Given that the decade is nearly over, I've decided to share with you my top 10 albums of the decade. This list is of course heavily biased towards albums I've been into recently, and I've avoided the tiny bands that no one reading this would have access to.

1. Radiohead- Kid A (2001)

This followup to OK Computer which can easily be listed among the best albums of all time is my pick for the best album of the decade. It's hard to say exactly what genre Radiohead is a part of other then "alternative rock" which is really a catch-all, and can only be described as "Frickin Awesome". This album is best listened to as an album, as like many classic albums the tracks sort of blend into each other. My favorite songs off this album are Idioteque-> Morning Bell. I was however disappointed with the version of Motion Picture Soundtrack they chose to include on this album, as I thought it was overly produced.

2. Beck - Guero/ Guerolito (2005)

Beck is another one of my favorite artists, and Guero is one of his best albums. But what is even better than Guero is Guerolito, which includes all the songs of Guero remixed to even greater awesomeness. My particular favorites are the remix of Girl and Que Ondo Guero.

3. Radiohead- In Rainbows (2007)

You can probably tell I'm a big Radiohead fan. When they came out with Hail to the Thief I was a bit disappointed- although that album has some great songs, most of them were..not as great. But In Rainbows definitely made up for it. My favorite In Rainbows songs are 15 step, Nude and Videotape. Bonus: They did an awesome live video recording of their songs from this album (along with some weird band stuff that bands like to do) here that I highly recommend.

5. Sleater-Kinney- All hands on the bad one (2000)

Ahh, the feminist punk movement, how I miss you. This album reminds me of playing diablo 2, and was one of my favorite albums when I was a wee baby feminist in college, just discovering that some music was about how awesome women are! My favorite tracks are #1 Must Have, which brings up my righteous feminist rage, and Ballad of a Ladyman, which should be my theme song. Sample lyrics: I could be demure like/ girls who are soft for/ boys who are fearful of /getting an earful / but I gotta rock! / I'd rather be a ladyman!

6. Franz Ferdinand- Tonight (2008)

You might know the song "No you girls" off this album, which was popularized via an ipod commercial when this album first came out. The album is chock full of classicly awesome songs, my favorite being Ulysess, What She Came For and Bite Hard. There's also an album of remixes, and I really like the remix of No You Girls and Lucid Dreams.

7. Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes (2008)

This is a new indie band that has recently arrived on the indie band scene. They have kinda a Simon and Garfunkel/CSNY sound to them, with lots of harmonies and some epic lyrics. My favorite song is White Winter Hymnal and Blue Ridge Mountains. You can see an awesome live performance of them here.

8. Phish- Joy (2009)

No studio work of Phish can ever come close to the awesomeness of their live performances, but Joy is a pretty great album nonetheless. Stealing time from the faulty plan is one of my favorite songs off this album, but I gotta say- the recorded version plays it a little slower then they play it live, and I like the live version better. Time turns elastic is a great track, as is Twenty Years Later

9. Arcade Fire- Funeral (2004)

Another album that the genre is hard to pin down, this album can only be described as "epic" and "haunting." Particular favorites include Neighborhood #3: Power out, Neighborhood #4: Kettles and Rebellion(Lies)

10. Danger Mouse - The Gray Album (2004)/ The Beatles- Love (2006) / Easy Star All Stars- Radiodread (2006)

Technically none of these are original albums, which is why they are sharing the 10th place.

The Gray Album is a mashup album of Jay Z's The Black Album and the Beatles The White Album. It sounds bad on paper, but it's actually a great and oddly compelling album. I don't think you can actually buy this album legally though, it used to be only available over the internet. My favorite tracks are Encore (Which samples Savoy Truffle and Glass Onion) and Allure (Samples Dear Prudence).

The Beatles- Love is also a mashup- this was an album put together by the Cirque De Soleil people, who mashup Beatles songs with other Beatles songs (or sometimes with other versions of the same song), for their Beatles show. I never saw the show, but the soundtrack is awesome- I believe they had access to the original masters and it was produced by George Martin, who produced the original Beatles albums. If you are as huge of a beatles fan as I am, this album will mess with your mind and blow you away. My favorite tracks are Drive my Car/The word/ What are you doing,
Strawberry fields forever, and Come Together/ Dear Prudence

Easy Star All stars- Radiodread is a cover album of Radiohead's Ok Computer that records the album in Dub Reggae. The first time I heard this album was at the Gathering of the Vibes Festival in 2006 while drinking a mojito, and I remember saying "This album is like my have some limes and some mint, and you think they won't taste good together, but they actually taste great together, just in a weird way." Mind you, that was my third mojito.

So there you have it. Soon to come: Top 10 movies of the 2000s.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oh christmas tree

Oh Christmas tree
Oh Christmas tree
I have a tiny Christmas tree!

(pictures soon maybe)

Last night B and I bought our christmas tree, which is the first christmas tree I've ever had! (other then the ones we decorate at the in-laws, but those are their trees, not mine). It is a table top fake tree, and has these neat LED light things that change colors. Very psychedelic. We also got some of those generic colored glass ball ornaments, an ornament that kinda looks like Barkley (actually we got that one a few weeks ago), and one that has a space for pictures (B! I hope you are getting on that right now!) and says something like "first christmas together." Even though as B pointed out like 20 times in the store, it's not technically our first christmas together, but it's our first christmas together as a married couple, so yeah.

Anyways, I LOVE having a little tree in my living room! Somehow it makes the room all homey and festive. We also hung up some lights on our sun porch and we've been turning them on at night.

Growing up I obviously didn't celebrate was always this thing that seemed happy and full of awesomeness to me, but was forbidden and was something that other people did. Later on I started celebrating it in a stereotypical jewish way- for a few years I had big parties on christmas for all my jewish friends, and a couple of years I did the chinese food and movie thing. My first *real* christmas was 2 years ago, at B's house.

I really really like it. All the lights and trees are really pretty, and I love how my neighborhood looks now with all the houses lit up. I love the gift exchange, and buying/making gifts for people is almost more fun then getting them! Getting a bunch of gifts at once is pretty awesome too- growing up my family wasn't much of a gift family, and getting a bunch of gifts at once is something I never really experienced until I started celebrating christmas (maybe at my bat mitzvah, but that's it). I would get maybe one present at my birthday, but usually would just get money to buy my own present, my parents would give gelt (money) for chanukah too. At a certain point my parents stopped giving anything at all to us, and started making charitable donations in our name around Chanukah time. They still do that in fact- I spoke to my dad a few weeks ago and he is going to donate to a battered woman's shelter in my name. Which is pretty awesome, I admit (Last year I asked him to donate to footsteps, but I don't think he actually did that). But you know what? Getting gifts is just nice dammit! And getting a bunch of cash is totally not the same!

I love getting together with family for a big meal too- B's family traditionally has a meal made up entirely of appetizers on christmas eve, followed by present opening, and then a big meal on christmas day. Having grown up in a Jewish family, and having a big meal every Friday night and Saturday afternoon, I really enjoy getting together for a big multiple-course meal. With only two of us at home, we don't really have a lot of opportunities for that, although we usually have a big breakfast together on Saturday mornings and we eat dinner together every night. But we don't even have a real table to eat at, so it's not the same. Once we have kids I'd like to start doing some kind of weekly big special family meal, along with having regular dinner together every night of course.

Is it weird that I feel no desire at all to celebrate any of the holidays I grew up with? I still like thanksgiving, which I grew up with, but all the jewish holidays...they just don't really hold any meaning for me. I guess becuase I always felt they were an obligation, or a restriction on things I couldn't do, but I don't remember feelings of excitement or joy about Jewish holidays that were similar to the way I feel about Christmas. I love Christmas!

Meanwhile I know chanukah starts sometime this week (which I found out from my calendar), but I have no desire to light my menorah, play with dreidles or eat latkes or sufganiot(jelly donuts). And I probably won't do any of those things, unless I happen to run into a chabadnik on campus giving out free latkes (because as a jew and a grad student, I can never turn down free latkes). On philosophical grounds, since Chanukah is a celebration of religion over Secularization/Hellenization, it seems someone wrong to celebrate it.

Also for those who eat latkes and also eat at mcdonalds- are the hash browns at mcdonalds breakfast totally the same as a thick latke or what?

Please no comments about how I'm a nazi/horrible jew/might as well convert to Christianity cause I'm such a goy now. You also can read about The true meaning of christmas over at B's blog.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I guess I haven't been posting a lot lately, but it's been a pretty busy semester.

But there's a light at the end of the tunnel! This week I have to grade about 50 final papers for the class I'm TAing for. I hand those back to my students a week from today, and after that I am FREE of this class until January! (When we will be meeting up to grade the final exams, at which point I will be free for reals). Tomorrow I teach my last 2 recitations of the semester, and while I'm a little sad that I won't be teaching again for a while (I'm taking next semester off to finish my dissertation), I'm not unhappy to be done with this class in particular. I don't want to go into detail on a public forum, but lets just's been rough. I'm really looking forward to getting my weekends back, as this whole semester I have spent at least 1 weekend day (and usually both of them) reading and grading for this course. The prof required something due every week (either a quiz or an assignment) so every weekend I've had 50 of something to grade. Bleh. But after these 50 papers, and the 50 quizes they are taking tomorrow, I have nothing to do until the final exam! :)

In part to celebrate the end of this horrific semester, B and I are taking a road trip to Virginia from Friday-Sunday to see the Charlottesville- Phish show on Saturday night, and will be staying by good friends of ours who we haven't seen since the summer. On the way we will also be taking a detour to visit the National Mall area of Washington DC, and another detour to visit the ever-awesome Quiet Girl. We will have Barkley with us, so we can't go to any museums in DC or anything, but we plan to visit the Washington and Lincoln memorials and walk around outside the White House. Hopefully when we visit Quiet Girl her American Bulldog Bella won't eat Barkley, as I hear Bella likes to eat other dogs.