Sunday, October 25, 2009

Things I've learned in Seattle

For the past few days I've been in the Pacific Nortwest for the first time, staying on Bainbridge Island, which is reachable by ferry. When I think of ferries, I think of Staten Island, and how the best part of SI is the ferry. I can't remember the last time I've set my foot on solid, well landfilled SI ground.Thankully, Bainbridge is a whole lot better than Staten Island. To my knowledge, it's never been used as a garbage dump. And autumn is a great time to visit. The leaves have turned colors, just like my hair.

Anyway, here are a few of the things I've learned while in town.

1. Not all coffee is great in this town. I thought that I could wander into any small, independent coffee shop and get a great Americano. But I've had a few bad ones (or at least as good as the ones in Starbucks). Thankfully, I've also had a few outstanding ones.

2. Speaking of coffee, there's a glam hip hop group called Fresh Espresso. I am being completely serious.

3. It has a great little sex toy shop in Capitol Hill called Babeland. I was tempted to purchase one of their reusable tote bag that had the name emblazoned across it, but then I thought, Would I really use it to carry my groceries home?

4. And finally, some new terminology. I must thank the guy at the Crumpet Shop near Pike's Place Market for teaching me these words. In the grand tradition of Guy Love from Scrubs and bromance, there is Brotox, which is a heterosexually acceptable type of referring to the poison some inject into their faces in order to deaden the muscles. (I've only had it injected into my soul. It's worked out for me though the maintenance can be a bitch.)

Dude, I'm having problems hitting on the high school seniors cause of all the crow's feet I got around my eyes. I need some Brotox.

Okay, that was two sentences. Sue me.

The other term the Crumpet Shopper taught me was Broner. He didn't fully explain it to me since he had to go back to work (the shop is apparently a family business) but I figure it's an erection achieved in the presence of one's male friends, but completely straight.

Right.

Feel free to put it into a sentence(s) for me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

No Homo, continued

In the "No Homo" post and the video, Michael Safi (of the "That's Gay" segment on Current TV) highlights the songs of Lil' Wayne for hilariously egregious use of "No Homo."

Well, it seems that the rapper will have plenty of opportunity to utter "No Homo" in the coming year, and it won't be at a concert or club. Lil' Wayne is going to jail for eight months after pleading guilty to gun possession.

Well, thank God Lil' Wayne is well versed in the "No Homo" catchphrase since jail is perhaps best known for homoerotic situations. I'm sure that when he is released, he will have a whole new album of songs about prison life. And if he made ample use of the homophobic idiom before prison, I imagine that the next album will be overwhelmed by the phrase.

Maybe he'll even name it "No Homo."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Giant Gymnast

Gymnasts are supposed to be short. And Jews are supposed to be even shorter (at least according to my dating experience). A Jewish gymnast should be a midget. So how did the first Israeli gymnast to ever win a world championship medal end up a virtual giant. At 6'1" Alexander Shatilov's physique is more befitting a basketball player instead of a flipper.

Not that I'm complaining. His bronze medal marks the fulfillment of a childhood dream of mine. When I first started receiving a monthly gymnastics magazine, I would scan the results from all of the competitions, first to find the Americans in the standings, and then the Israelis. This was how I demonstrated the Zionism I was taught by my parents and school.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No Femo

Back when I was in high school, my teachers were careful not to use the F word around us. This term was not a four letter word that rhymed with "Canuck." It was actually 8 letters in length and rhymed with alcoholism, and was perhaps considered worse than overindulging in drink because at least the Torah allows us to partake in some spirits.

What could be so terrible that it's name was spoken only in hushed whispers?

Feminism.

Yes, the movement that gave us Gloria Steinem, Hilary Clinton and most recently (and unfortunately) Sarah Palin is not well-regarded in the frum community. You don't women to become too uppity and believe they can read from the Torah or learn Talmud, things that clearly are prohibited to them. I mean, clearly, so clear you would never even ask where or why or how? It's simply a given, just like the geocentric model of the universe.

So it would make sense that a traditionally Orthodox person would not want to be accidentally mistaken for hairy legged feminist or thought to be in cahoots with one. To avoid such a situation, (and in the tradition of "No Homo") Michal S. has coined the term "No Femo," to ensure that you're never suspected of supporting equal rights for women.

Here's how it's used:

1. "I'm so proud of my daughter's bat mitzvah speech. No femo."

2. "I don't think women should have to ride at the back of Jerusalem buses. No femo."

3. "It's a shame women can't see the Torah from the Ezras Nashim. No femo."

So go ahead, say anything that reeks of egalitarianism. "No Femo" will have you coming up misogynistic.

(Add some more of your own in the comments.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No Hetero

A comment left by JSolid on the No Homo entry was so funny it merited a blog post of its very own.

I present you with the unabashedly pro-gay response, the "No Hetero" rap, sure to be a Top 40 hit.

I'm sitting on the dick
and lovin' it - No hetero.
I'm a top to your bottom,
and a bottom to your top,
If the abs are a six pack
Don't stop - no hetero!
My t-shirt's tight and I'm cruising spots,
I want ass-cheek-dimples on someone hot-to-trot,
I'm a genuine friend of Dorothys
So get on your knees and please -
No hetero!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

No Homo: Jewish Edition

By now, many (or even most) of you have watched the video (embedded below) about the phrase, "No Homo."



"No homo" is the best thing to ever happen to the homophobic man. As the video explains, the phrase is used to make potentially gay seeming interactions- such as wearing skinny jeans, and uttering "fabulous"- safe for heterosexuals. But what of the circumstances particular to Jews that would require such a declaration?

1. Circumcision- Mohel to male infant as he raises the knife. "No homo." Or anything involved in the entire circumcision process, but especially the metzizah b'peh (when the mohel sucks a drop of the circumcision blood. To Stephanie Meyer and the writers of True Blood- you got nothing on the rabbis!)

2. Mikvah- Ritual immersion requires complete nudity and is sometimes in the presence of others. When it's only women, it's hot (For proof, see this post). When it's just naked men, a firm "No Homo is needed.

But those examples are obvious...and obviously not gay.

Here are a couple you may not have considered:

3. When beginning to say the Amidah (which is a Jewish prayer), one typically takes three steps backwards and three forward (someone cue the Paula Abdul music). Now if a man was in an Orthodox synagogue where there is gender separation for prayer, the person behind you would also be male. If he was to, say, back up into another man, "No Homo" would be absolutely necessary lest anyone think that the accidental bump was somehow like a toe tap in a men's room. (Also, a section just for men to rock back and forth and sway in unison- another cause for "No Homo!" if I ever heard one.)

4. Jewish weddings (and especially the Orthodox ones)- When performing for the pleasure of the bride and groom, it is common to see one man sitting atop another's shoulder. Whether top to bottom, or bottom to top, an emphatic "No Homo" is required to make this situation totally heterosexual.

Of course since the Jews are God's "Chosen People," perhaps we should choose a different term, one that distinguishes our gay fear from the greater secular homophobia.

No Faygele anyone?

Doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

Leave your suggestion for an expression and/or other Jewish situations that it can be applied to.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fourth Rotation

Kurbatova on floor- Opens with a tucked double back. I knew I wasn't going to like it when I learned that the value of tucked double backs was being increased. I feel like I'm watching gymnastics, circa early 90s, except without compulsories and better form and technique.

Sloan- lovely routine, but of course disconnected from the music. Still great form and great landings.

Kaeslin on the vault- I've rethought the butterfly leotard. I like it. She represents the neutral Switzerland- I think harmless butterflies works as an alternative national symbol. It's either that or bank vaults.

Lauren Mitchell on floor- I really like this gymnast and she clearly has some dance ability so this time I blame the choreographer. Did she hear the music before she picked elements?

Porgras on floor- Beautiful on floor. Look forward to seeing more of her in the future so long as I don't have to watch her on bars ever again.

The commentator describes the consecutive leaps as the "passage of dance." And so it is but more like the funerary rites. Sigh.

Tsurumi on vault- another full twisting Yurchenko. It is the early 90s.

And Bross. Wow, didn't see that coming. And sadly, Bross can't even make a fall dramatic and engaging.

Medals:

1. Sloan
2. Bross
3. Tsurumi

Third Rotation

Yawn. I'm bored. I know it's a post Olympic year worlds, a rebuilding phase, but at least in 2005 we had a good rivalry between Nastia Liukin and Chelsie Memmel.

And, I refuse to comment on the floor exercises as long as the commentators insist on using the term "dance" in connection to it. The code of points needs to come up with a new word for what the movements between tumbling passes are called. Also, in the time it took Koko Tsurumi (who I have otherwise enjoyed) to set up for one of her turns, I could've gone to the bathroom and back. If you have to think about that long, it ain't dance.

It is because of this lack of dance that I like the new rule on the women's side- they have to fully stick their landings. They can't step back and dance out of it, well cause they don't dance.

Bross- very strong routine and nice to see a Patterson done well.

Sloan on beam- Wobble, wobble (sigh).

Porgras on the beam- What a lovely start, showing beautiful form and flexibility. Such a shame.

I almost can't be bothered with the rest of them. I'm going to slice the brownies.

Second Rotation

Downie on vault- You gotta love the British commentators. Even when discussing their "own" gymnasts, they don't fall into jingoism. When asked if she had a shot at a medal, the "expert" commentator (as opposed to the Everyman commentator) merely said that if she hit all of her routines, she could have a good result.

Porgras on uneven bars- I always look forward to watching the Romanians on uneven bars. Nothing I like better than poor form and a labored swing. But more important than all of that- she has cheekbones that could cut glass.

Deng Linlin- Cute but the Chinese aren't helping their case against the underage gymnast claims with this one. My 8 year old niece looks more mature. Decent routine, labored kips (again).

Sloan- don't care what anyone says about her flag feet. I will take her flag feet anyday over the labored kips of the Chinese, Semenova's flexed feet and the way Rebecca Bross keeps her feet together anyday.

First Rotation, continued

Yang Yilin- She's growing up. Looks like a girl of almost 15 now. Her skills all seem labored and she ends with a face plant on her dismount.

Kurbatova on vault- First time I'm seeing her. I suppose her game face is meant to say, "Someone just killed my puppy." Powerful double twistingYurchenko.

Rebecca Downie and Rebecca Wing- Love the British leotards. Looks like someone locked the designer in a room with a bedazzler and told him/her to "Go nuts!"

Italy's Galanti- another leotard I adore. She has a zebra pattern on her arms, because you know, Italy is known for it's zebras.

Worlds Live!

I just finished cooking for Shabbat and will live blog the women's all around competitions from London, England. Well, I'm not in London. I'm in Clinton Hill. But if you want to watch along with me, go to Universal Sports.

Right now, they are warming up and the commentators are not the usual Tim Daggett/Elfi Schlegel combo from NBC. They are the British commentators. I'm already enjoying their accents. It will help me overlook any stupid they things will inevitably say.

Lauren Mitchell on vault- double twisting Yurchenko.

Ana Porgas, Romania- full twisting Yurchenko. Really? What is this? The NCAAs?

Ariella Kaeslin, Switzerland on bars- looks like she has giant butterfly on her chest.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What's the Matter with West Virginia (and South Dakota)?

I'm not particularly technologically inclined. Those of you who read this blog know this since I still can't seem to correctly size video embeds so they don't spill over onto the ads that no one clicks. (Come on- don't you need a Jewish marriage contract? Or a sparkly leotard? Or both?)

But recently I "discovered" the Map Overlay function on Google Analytics. (It's Columbus week so I feel justified in my choice of word. I know that others have made this discovery but they are less important. Also, this discoverer also comes bearing smallpox.) Now for those of you who also got off the computer short bus, Google Analytics allows me to keep track of how many of you lovelies read my warped rantings. And the Map Overlay function tells me where in the country (and in Canada) my readers are located.

I was very pleased to note that I have readers in every state of the Union except for South Dakota and West Virginia. And I don't get it. Don't the folks in "real" America need to know how to properly innuendize the prayers and the Torah?

Okay, so I'll admit this. Perhaps I've made one too many "Incest is Best" jokes in reference to West Virginia. And to that great state, I offer my apologies. I always appreciated that you guys seceded from Virginia to remain in the Union during the Civil War. No seriously, I do. One of the high points of the Civil War for me, right after the Gettysburg Address and the Emancipation Proclamation.

But come on South Dakota! Or SD. Can I call you SD? What have I ever done to you? And what I can do for you so you read my blog? I don't want my blog to become like the Republican Party- an increasingly regional, older white male party with a shrinking yet loyal base. My blog needs to be an enormous tent, like the Ringling Brothers Circus. I mean, I already write about gymnastics so we got the acrobats.

And to my loyal readers- please reach out to a friend in SD or WV and send the link. I need your help to spread my subversion.

Stay tuned tomorrow for some live blogging of the World Gymnastics Championships from London! (Presently going through my thesaurus to find more ways to say "sparkly." As in, "Rebecca Bross' leotard is sparkly." Or, "There are sparkles in He Xexin's hair.")

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Shacharit Innuendo

During shacharit (morning prayers), Jews typically bless God for being zokef kefufim, which translates to "straightening those that are bent." I suppose it's a reference to hunchbacks, scoliotics like myself, or perhaps even to crooked genitalia. The text does not get specific so a myriad of interpretations is possible and welcome. After all the Sages say, "There are 70 faces to the Torah."

Anyway, from my last suggested interpretation you can see I'm a master of innuendo as is anyone who grew up Orthodox and sexually repressed. I remember that in college when I hosted large Shabbat meals in my suite, I would sometimes invite the "token" Gentile, who in this story we'll call Susi. After the meal and the Sabbath, Susi called to thank me for the invitation. "I never thought I'd hear so much sexual innuendo spoken at a Sabbath meal," she remarked.

"It happens every week," I replied, referring to the innuendo though I suppose Shabbos also happens on the same schedule.

"Well I guess that makes sense. Since you guys can't have sex, all you can do is talk about it. Me, I can go back to my dorm and sleep with my boyfriend."

Rub it in Susi, I thought. Rub it in

Well tonight someone sent me another little irresistible bit of innuendo, which relates to the blessing I quoted at the beginning. The source wishes to remain anonymous. Apparently some people have dignity.

She wrote: "I'll be zokefet YOUR kefufim," which seems to imply something similar to that which I already stated. The speaker wishes to take that which is bent or flaccid and make it erect, though in this case, she wisely feminizes the verb's conjugation to zokefet. Sex, not gay sex, is being discussed (whereas in the original blessing, the masculine is doing the straightening on the masculine. How scandalous of Artscroll!)

And while we're on the topic of Hebrew grammar, let's discuss kefufim, which is in the plural. This is where the sexualized interpretation of the verse runs into a wall. Last time, I checked the only thing that comes in multiples in men's nether regions requires no straightening. But there is another possible explanation though admittedly, it is a stretch- one girl with two men. Or if we hew to the grammar of the original, two, perhaps maybe three men and no women.

God, I love Jewish text study.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Simcha with the Torah

When I was younger, all it took was one year. In that time, Simchat Torah went from being one of my favorite holidays to my least liked one.

What happened in those 365 days (or 354 if we're going to lunar on the calendar as is the Jewish tradition) to so drastically change my attitude towards the renewal of the Torah reading cycle?

I turned 12.

When I became a woman in the Jewish sense of the word (which was at least a decade before I became a real adult woman in the psychological sense), I was no longer allowed to enter the men's section of the synagogue. My very presence would be considered immodest. When I entered through the back and hung out behind the metal folding chairs, very far from the dancing up front, I was chased out by male contemporaries with shouts of, "You're not allowed in here! Get out!" as though they were protecting their clubhouse from cooties.

"Fine," I said, backtracking, "but can you meet me in the lobby and bring me some candy?"

At least they were kind enough to do that. But they were not yet B'nai Mitzvah so perhaps this minimal amount of contact between the genders was still permitted.

I sat in the women's section with my mother and older sister, glumly eating my candy. A year earlier, I had been in the thick of things, dancing with my uncle and the Torahs that had been removed from the ark for the occasion. Now I was stuck behind the mechitza, forced to watch others have fun instead of getting to participate in the action. Yet aside from my age, I didn't feel any different. I wasn't any taller or more mature. I wasn't less inclined to jump around and make noise. (It seems that this last inclination will never go away- no matter how much cartilage I don't have, I will always jump up and down when I'm excited.) But none of that mattered- even if I hadn't qualitatively changed and become a lady, I was going to be treated as though I had.

One woman, noticing my obvious unhappiness, leaned forward and tried to cheer me up. "Don't worry sweetie. It will be different when you have a husband and children dancing on the other side." A few other women nodded in agreement. I stood up and asked my mother if I could have the keys and go home. If it was going to be at least a decade before I could again enjoy Simchat Torah, at least I was going to wait on the couch with a good book.

Until I went away to college, that's exactly what I did. I would go to synagogue for the start of services and then leave to read. Some of my friends were having fun at Chaim Berlin, a men's yeshiva in Flatbush, but I wouldn't join them. We had been warned against attending at school. Inappropriate things were said to happen outside the building on Simchat Torah. I think guys and girls might've even talked as they leaned against the parked cars. Anyway, I didn't want to get in trouble so I stayed home with Thomas Hardy.

This started to change when I went to college. Though the mechitza remained up at the Hillel's celebration, the women were actually given a Torah or two to dance with. I had never been so close to a Torah before since my bat mitzvah was simply a party, held on a Sunday in a catering hall, not a shul. It's embarassing for me to admit this but I was actually a little overcome to be so close to the scroll that had been governing my life since birth. This marked the last time I could definitely feel the presence of my soul but even that may have been heartburn.

This year, as I have for last few years, I've participated in egalitarian services, which means that involvement is not only circumscribed by enthusiam (or lack thereof), not gender. And these days my enthusiasm has admittedly waned, especially when it comes to Jewish ritual. So I was surprised when I felt it ressurrected, at least in part this past Simchat Torah. As I recalled a time when I had wanted to join in but wasn't allowed, I felt blessed to be able to "dance" in the presence of friends and the Torah.

(There it is- I felt it- my soul that is. Then again, I ate very late that night. It still could've been heartburn.)