Sunday, February 28, 2010

Queen Smashti

Inspired by the ladies of Whip It, which was snubbed by the Oscar nominating committee this year, this was me last night (and through most of today). My bad ass roller derby name was "Queen Smashti," since "Smashlee Simpson" was already taken by one of the skaters in the film. The shirt was painted by b-boy extraordinaire, Break Easy, and the old school skates were on loan from my hair stylist. Also, thanks to Dan Sieradski for the excellent photo.

Happy Purim!

In honor of Jewlloween, I'm going to repost the "story" of Purim as I wrote it for the Shushan Channel's program.

The Purim Story (more or less)

In the 5th century BC (Before Conan), in the land now called Iran where rulers to this very day have long, difficult-to-pronounce names (Ahmadinejad anyone?), King Achashveirosh reigned over 127 provinces, and was frequently decried in the Persian press by opponents of “big government.”

The King decided to throw a lavish party for his subjects. He posted the details to Twitter: “Days of party will far exceed the # of characters allowed in this post.”

During one of those drunken nights, the King summoned his wife, Queen Vashti to appear before him naked. The Queen refused, stating that she would only do nudity if it was essential to the role or the development of the character. The King banished her, to punish her disobedience and pretension.

When the King awoke from his drunken stupor, he realized he decided to remarry. After all, it is written somewhere in Genesis, “It is not good for man to be alone with only a brothel of concubines.”

A beauty pageant was organized and Mordechai the Jew decided to enter his niece, Hadassah since she was already in her late teens and still unmarried. However, he cautioned her against revealing her Jewishness in order to the “keep the mystery alive.” Mordechai even changed her name to Esther and disguising her appearance. He applied a liberal dose of self-tanner to his niece’s skin. “No one will recognize you if you are orange."

Esther was selected as the new queen and took up residence in the royal apartments. Mordechai visited the palace nearly every day— mostly to snap candids of the royal family to sell to the tabloids. This was which is how he overheard a plot to assassinate the King with poison (the substance, not the late-80s hair band).

Meanwhile, Mordechai bumped into Haman, the King’s new prime minister. Haman had enacted a decree that all citizens to bow to him on the street but Mordechai refused because he was afraid of how it would play in the Jewish 24 hour news cycle— Did he bow too deeply? Should he have knelt? Should he have remained more erect? Haman, filled with rage at having to address someone at eye level, went to the King and persuaded him to issue an edict killing all the Jews on the 13th of Adar. Evil, yes, but also good at planning ahead.

Meanwhile the King, unable to sleep one night, tuned into Persian Cops, and saw a cheap reenactment of the plot to assassinate him, and realized he had not rewarded the informant who saved his life. He summoned Haman and asked him, “What shall I do to honor the man I favor the most?” Haman, believing it was he, suggested a royal procession with fancy clothes for the honoree. The King, being a progressive on gay rights, decided that a pride parade was the perfect way to reward the “bachelor” Mordechai.

Mordechai implored Esther to use her position as Queen to help her people. Esther asked all of the Jews fast and pray with her before she went before the king. For three days, the Jews of Shushan donned Snuggies (instead of the more traditional sackcloth) and cried out to G-dash-d. On the third day, Esther appeared before the King, who reiterated the offer he had made in an interview with Harem magazine. “The Queen is like sexual napalm. I’d give her half my kingdom to keep shtupping her.”

The Queen invited the King and Haman for a banquet where she revealed that she was a Jewess and that Haman was trying to kill her. In other words: Most awkward threesome ever.

King Achashveirosh decreed that the Jews could save themselves, which doesn’t actually seem like a big win for the Jews. (But as the saying goes, teach a man to fish…) The King also instituted a “death panel” for Haman and his ten sons. Because a family that hangs together…

Every year since that happy day, the Jews read the story of Purim from the Megillah (soon to be replaced by the iPad), dress up in costume, give food baskets and drink until they can’t tell the difference between the blessed Mordechai and hated Haman. Well, at least until they put their glasses back on.

Happy Purim!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Figure Skating and Gymnastics in Bed

Now that the Olympic figure skating competition is over, many of us are nursing spandex and sequin hangovers. Think of this, the final figure skating blog post of the Games, as your hangover salve.

As I wrote a few days ago, 2008 Olympic champ in gymnastics, Nastia Liukin is dating men's figure skating gold medalist, Evan Lysacek are dating. They claim to spend a lot of time indoors, just hanging out and watching movies when they get the chance of it. Sure. Even if that was true, Nastia turned 20 in October so it is no longer (too) icky to imagine hers and Evan's Olympic style pillow talk.

Let's start with pillows:

Nastia: You got glitter on the pillows.

Evan: No, that's your eye glitter.

Nastia: No, that's the glitter from your costume, you know, the one with the sparkly snakes...

Evan: At least I didn't win my Olympic title in an outfit the color of Pepto Bismol.

On scoring:

Evan, breathing heavily, lays his head on Nastia's chest and looks expectantly into her eyes.

Evan: Well...

Nastia: 9.0

Evan: Wait, don't you guys have a new scoring system?

Nastia: That's only your execution mark, which then gets added to the degree of difficulty.

Evan: Where did I lose a point?

Nastia: Your rotation wasn't complete. And you didn't point your toes.

And finally, the future:

Nastia: What sport do you think our child should do?

Evan: Naturally, figure skating.

Nastia: I asked which "sport," but of course, we'll also enroll our daughter in dance class.

Evan: Well, what "sport" should she switch to once she hits puberty or grows taller than the height of the balance beam, whichever comes first? What then?

Purim @ 92nd Street Y Tribeca

Ever wonder why the 92nd Street Y Tribeca never bothered to drop the whole "92nd" part of its name and just call itself the "Tribeca Y"? It would be a hell of a lot less confusing.

Well, don't hold that against Rob Kutner and Co. On Saturday night at the Tribeca branch of the 92nd Y, they will be producing their annual Purim comedy show, The Shushan Channel, which is unfortunately not part of Time Warner's basic cable package. You can purchase tickets here

I wrote the "Purim Story" for the show's program. Here's a little excerpt from the alternative tale:

King Achashveirosh decreed that the Jews could save themselves, which doesn’t actually seem like a big win for the Jews. (But as the saying goes, teach a man to fish…) The King also instituted a death panel. Haman and his ten sons were hung but first received comprehensive physicals without co-pays.

If the flyer doesn't prove Kutner's comedic genius, check out some of his work on the (way too short lived) Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. Here is the Mormon Song:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

International Agunah Day

The Jews sure know how to suck the fun out of the Olympics by declaring today International Agunah Day. An agunah is a woman who is "locked"- stuck in a marriage because her husband refuses to grant her a divorce. Of course she can't just get one herself cause that would mean that she is NOT a piece of property.

There are many women like this, languishing for years as they eagerly await their husbands' deaths or for liberal thinking to prevail in the Orthodox rabbinical establishment. I think it's more prudent to pray for the man's death. We're more likely to see a solution to global warming before the rabbinic mainstream warms up to the idea that the problem isn't recalcitrant husbands but the inequity at the root of the law. Men and women should be able to get divorces without permission from the other. It shouldn't come as a result of the will/generosity of one to the other.

Probably unwittingly in honor of International Agunah Day, Slate ran this article about a Muslim woman's failure to properly read her marriage contract before her wedding day. It's quite a lovely piece of writing and shows the way another community sometimes doesn't fully respect the rights of one half of its population.

The Olympics, Purim and Tonya Harding

Here is an essay that I wrote that was just published in Tablet about my shameful Harding fandom, Sabbath transgression and Purim.

A little excerpt. This incident has got to be one of my mother's favorite athletic memories, right after the Brooklyn Dodger's World Series win and the "Miracle on Ice" in 1980.

That night, my sister, mother, and I watched the short program huddled together on my mother’s bed. In our jingoistic fervor, we chanted “fall, fall, fall” as the Japanese Midori Ito attempted a jump, hoping to clear the path for the Americans: Kristi Yamaguchi, Nancy Kerrigan, and my beloved Harding. We burst into wild applause when Ito seemingly complied, not realizing we were watching a taped broadcast.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gymnastics vs. Figure Skating: It's on!

On New York Magazine's website today, Aileen Gallagher made the bold pronouncement that "Figure skating is so much better than gymnastics." Them is fighting words, girl!

Most of the article was about how Joannie Rochette skated beautifully a mere two days after her mother died from a sudden heart attack, and I'll admit, I got as choked up as Scott Hamilton did on air. How could you possibly not cry for this young woman? But then Ms. Gallagher used Rochette's age, 24, to make a point about figure skating's sister summer sport, gymnastics.

Women's figure skating and gymnastics are the most popular events in their respective games, but the differences between the two are vast. One can skate much longer than one can be a gymnast; skating does not, as a friend noted recently, "kick you out once you get your period." Skaters are women, not girls. That's why skaters can be sexy, why their poise and athleticism mixes with a flirtation that is enviable and attractive, but not creepy.

It seems Ms. Gallagher doesn't have all of her facts straight. Aside from the Chinese women's gymnastics team, the competitors in senior elite gymnastics competition are not younger than their counterparts in figure skating. The rules don't allow for 14 year old Olympic champions anymore. Kim Yu-na, the heavy favorite to win the gold on Thursday, is just as willowy and only one year older than Liukin was when she won the 2008 all around title in gymnastics.

Not a girl, not yet a woman.

And now that gymnasts can specialize- which is to say, they don't have to compete on all events- many are electing to stay in the sport much longer since they don't have to punish their bodies on their worst events. Recent examples of "older" gymnasts include: Mohini Bhardwaj, Svetlana Khorkina, Isabelle Severino and Oksana Chusovitna, all of whom competed at the Olympics well into their 20s. Now no one would call Chusovitina, "womanly" or "sexy" but she is a mother who won a silver medal at the Games when she was over 30 years old.

Doesn't look a day over 40.

It seems that Ms. Gallagher is objecting not to the age of the gymnasts but to the sport itself. Gymnastics is often less "pretty" to watch and demands a different body type (though both emphasize being petite). It's hard to be sexy on the uneven bars- even if you're older than the age of consent.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More on the unholy union of gymnastics and figure skating

A friend sent me a link to this essay in Slate. It's about figure skating but I'm sure it will resonate with many of the gymnasts out there who worked hard and obsessively but came nowhere near the sport's pinnacle.

Though I'm not bitter as the author professes to be, I do strongly agree with her on this point:

It's just a little vexing that, every time my skating career comes up, I inevitably get asked about the Olympics. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this doesn't seem to happen with other sports. If someone mentions that he played football, his listeners don't automatically say, "So, did you play in the Super Bowl?" Or baseball: "Were you in the World Series?"

Now how many of you former gymnasts out there have encountered the same thing? Anytime you tell someone you used to do gymnastics, they immediately ask you whether you were trying for the Olympic team. Or if you could do what the elites do on television. I've often wondered why admitting that you participate in some sports and activities- figure skating, gymnastics, breaking (I always get asked if I can do head spins even after I tell people that I've only been doing it for a short amount of time) implies some sort of proficiency whereas telling someone you play basketball doesn't compel him to ask you if you're on an NBA team.

In honor of "failed" figure skaters and gymnasts everywhere, I present silver medalist Evgeny Plushenko performing "Sex Bomb." If he had done this at the Olympics, he would've won.

Gymnastics and Figure Skating Romantically Linked

About a month ago on this very blog, I mocked the idea that figure skating and gymnastics had any common ground to explore in response to the State Farm Figure Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular that featured a live "rock" performance by Ashely Tisdale. Here is the original post.

But even if linking the two sports, one winter the other summer, felt a bit forced to this gym and skating fan, it led to the union of Olympic champions in both sports. According to People, Evan Lysacek and 2008 all around gold medalist, Nastia Liukin are officially dating, having met on the set of the show.

More from the K&C

I didn't realize the impact my post from last week, Kiss & Cry Unplugged would have but in today's New York Times there's a decent story about the tear soaked area just off the ice.

But at least one coach is opposed to the Kiss & Cry- Frank Carroll, coach of Olympic gold medalist and champion sobber, Evan Lysacek.

“I kept wanting to say, ‘Stop it, just stop it,’ ” his coach, Frank Carroll, said. “I’m very stoic in a way, very disciplined, and I think, when the ski jumpers, when they win, they don’t start to cry. Let’s put it this way: I don’t like figure skaters to cry.”

Now it didn't bother me when Lysacek bawled after his fantastic short program because his mascara didn't appear to run nor did his self tanner smudge at all. (But Evan, I don't care about any of that stuff- you should still call me.) I hope Carroll isn't under the impression that if male figure skaters stop showing emotion after a performance that their sport could be mistaken for something masculine because they're still wearing bedazzled unitards.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Kiss & Cry, Part 2

Clearly NBC has been reading my blog since they just posted a photo breakdown of the Kiss & Cry to their website. That post has been so popular that naturally they decided to cash in on all the K&C hoopla.

My favorite is photo number 10 that has a caption that reads, "And Verbilla looks to be on the verge of tears as another kiss takes place without him."

Someone at NBC got some snark!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Shabbos Calls

When people discover that I was raised in a very strictly Orthodox Jewish family, their first question is usually something along the lines of, "How does your family feel about what you're doing?"

"Well," I start, "it depends on which member of my family we're talking about." As for cousins, aunts and uncles- I've detected varying degrees of disapproval though we've never discussed my lifestyle explicitly. Same goes for my older sister. Though we speak frequently and have a nice sisterly relationship, we never discuss how I sometimes spend my weekends. I am always self-consciously editing myself during our conversations.

This is not the case with my mother. I am completely honest with her because she's made it clear that she supports me and loves me no matter what. I tell her about what I'm up to whether or not it is Shabbosdik. I tell her about the new restaurants I've tried even if I know she can't eat in them. I tell her about my day, my week, my life, and I don't feel judged for what I say.

Last week, I called my mother after Shabbat as I always do. I was in Philadelphia attending a breaking battle. Now that I no longer maintain a strict observance, I don't know precisely when the Jewish day goes out so I tend to wait for several stars to appear in the sky before I dial. I don't want to call too early and have her pick up the phone, transgressing the halacha. And she would answer if she saw my name flash across the caller ID, as she has on a few different occasions. She assumes that if I'm calling her on Shabbat, it must be an emergency. This happened when I was practically living out of my car and on a temping income when I first moved to Los Angeles. I was still very observant at the time but sometimes the anxiety got the better of me and I called her in tears on Friday nights when I couldn't sleep. Technically, this example didn't meet the criteria for permissible Shabbat violation- I wasn't in physical danger and I've never had a tendency to hurt myself outside of a gymnastics setting- but my mother knew her youngest daughter well enough to know that I needed to be talked down, Shabbat be damned.

When I spoke with her last Saturday night, she confessed that she had called her therapist that day because she was feeling a bit down. I had known she had been blue and I had been making an effort to call her every day to check up on her. She lives alone and has since I left for college. My parents divorced when I was 7- I'm now 27- and my mother never remarried. The Orthodox community can be an unforgiving place for a single, older woman and Shabbat can be especially tough to bear without mechanical distractions, such as the phone and television. Hell, it is can be hard for the younger single folks, too. "Mom," I asked, "why didn't you call me? Isn't that the point of having a nonobservant daughter? So you can call her whenever you want to chat? It doesn't even have to be a mental emergency." She promised to call if the situation arose again.

But I didn't trust that she would. I had a feeling that she was too embarrassed to do so. It was one thing to violate the Sabbath for me- she would do anything for her children. Unfortunately, she wasn't ask kind to herself.

So today as I was walking to the park I decided to call the house. I hoped she wouldn't pick up, suspecting that I was having emotional breakdown. I hoped that she was feeling fine, enjoying a cup of coffee as I rang. I hoped she would laugh as I left a rambling answering machine message (as I am sometimes wont to do).

But she did pick up and she was not at all upset that I called. In fact, she sounded grateful. I spoke with her for awhile as I basked in the Prospect Park sunshine. We spoke about our Passover plans. I told her I was planning on joining a local CSA. We barely noted that we were speaking on the Sabbath. After 20 minutes or so, we hung up. I was off to a cafe to write. She would soon be getting ready for her Shabbat Torah study class.

I figured I wouldn't hear from her again until after later that night but about ten minutes later she called and left a message (I was indisposed at the time) thanking me again for my phone call.

Now, this phone call doesn't mean that my mom and I are about to start enjoying Saturday day trips to Philadelphia anytime soon. Orthodoxy is a way of life for her and though there have been a few hiccups here or there, she will likely remain so for the rest of her life. But it does go a long way to explaining why my mother has so been so wonderfully accepting of my choices. She understands what it's like to be alone, to be sad. She knew that I was all of those things while I was Orthodox. And to her (if not according to the rabbis), emotional distress and sorrow (especially that of her children) always defers the Sabbath.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kiss & Cry Area Unplugged

Trying my hand at some Winter Olympics fiction.

The term “kiss and cry area” was coined in 1983 by a Finnish figure skating official, Jane Erkko, to demarcate the zone set aside for the competitors to cathartically release their post-performance feelings and await the judges’ scores. Naturally, the U.S. Skating Federation opposed the K&C at first, claiming that it constituted a form of socialized mental health care. President Reagan even spoke out on the issue, stating, “The International Skating Union wants to create kiss and cry areas, modeled on the bloated Finnish healthcare system. But we Americans understand that post-athletic emotions are best handled by the private sector. If they must, they can cry in advertisements for Johnson & Johnson products.” The ISU insisted that the only European thing about the newly established area was the cheek to cheek kissing, which was by no means mandatory, just hot. The K&C was made even more communist when the East German Olympic champion, Katarina Witt was famously photographed for Playboy in the zone. Readers gave her a perfect 6.0, and the issue went on to become a top seller thus confirming the area’s capitalist bona fides. Subsequently, the U.S. dropped its objections. The zone was then carefully rigged with Avatar-esque cameras to capture every twitch for the next James Cameron 3D extravaganza.

But what happens when the cameras malfunction? The skaters stop being gracious and start being real. Here are some of the untold stories of the Kiss & Cry.

* * *

Adam Graves, the former New York Rangers player, lifted up the front of his figure skate and pointed to the toe of the boot. “What’s this claw thing?” he asked his partner, a pert 22 year old, Vanessa St. John, with brilliant eye shadow and plaited blonde hair. She just rolled her eyes at him, and looked toward the scoreboard, clasping hands with their middle aged coach.
Adam stood up and rubbed his back as he paced in front of his partner and coach. He couldn’t fathom how they could sit calmly as others decided their fates. If there had been judges in professional hockey, he would’ve shoved his stick down so far down their throats, the blade would’ve popped out of their intestines like the baby from Alien. True, that would’ve resulted in a trip to the penalty box, but at least the benches in the box had backs he could lean against. At 42 and after nearly two decades of NHL play, his back ached constantly.

Many in the press and public didn’t understand why he decided to lace up figure skates after he retired his hockey ones. Some posited that it was brain damage sustained over the course of his long career that impelled him now to mar his NHL record in spandex and sparkles, that he had been slammed against the boards one too many times.

But like most societal ills, the blame rests with sloth and Hollywood. Without morning practice to look forward to, Adam spent many late nights in front of the television wrapped in a Snuggie and a Slanket, watching infomercials and then what came on afterwards. One morning at dawn after yet another basic cable bender, he got on the phone with his former sports agent. “Have you ever seen the movie, The Cutting Edge?”

But things had not gone exactly as they had in the movie. Adam was happily married so there would be no romance with his skating partner. And though he had requested the most imperious woman that could only be tamed by his roughneck, jockish charm, Vanessa was quiet if slightly passive aggressive. When he asked her if she had seen The Cutting Edge, she thought for a moment. “I think I was 5 or 6 when that came out,” she said.

“But it’s a classic, the figure skating equivalent of Field of Dreams.”

Vanessa shrugged. “I liked Ice Princess a lot,” she said, and skated away.

“Wasn’t that animated?”

“No!” she shot back. That was the closest he got to getting her riled. She was preternaturally poised after so many years of ballet and media training.

Adam decided to make one more attempt to make his actual figure skating career mirror his movie dreams of a figure skating career. After all, that and a crushing boredom was why he got into this sport to begin with. “What is this claw thing?” he asked again but Vanessa wouldn’t bite. He had even shown her the montage from the movie. Adam leapt up from the bench. “It’s a fucking toe pick!” he screamed before storming out of the arena.

* * *

Michael and Michaela Roberts bowed in unison at the center of the rink, waving to their adoring fans. They had just finished their short program at the Grand Prix skating finals. Michael leaned over and picked up a stuffed lion that had fallen at his feet. Michaela looked for one of her own but the ice had been picked clean by the ice boys and girls. They were supposed to give the stuffed animals and flowers to the competitors but they never did. They kept them for themselves. “I should report them,” she thought as she skated to the sidelines.
The two parents beamed with pride as they watched their two children locked together, now off rink, like two teens’ orthodontia during a kiss. “You see,” Mrs. Roberts told her husband, “after all the years of bickering, you see that they truly care about each other.” But from his vantage point, Mr. Roberts saw things differently. Michael was holding the stuffed lion behind his back, which his younger sister was trying to grab. There had been another lion on the ice— perhaps several— but to foster a competitive spirit between the siblings, Mr. Roberts had been paying off the ice girls and boys to snatch up duplicate toys for years. Neither his wife nor his children knew about these shady dealings. Michaela, who was always keen to bask in the applause a few seconds longer than her brother, missed out on the best gifts.

“But honey, the crowd loves you more,” Mr. Roberts once told his distraught daughter.

“I don’t care. Michael’s Beanie Baby collection is worth several thousand dollars and will keep going up in value.”

“Oh sweetie, that bubble burst years ago. But gold keeps going up in value,” he said.

* * *

Seventeen year old Nadya Strazheva skated off the ice and into the arms of her coach, Boris Semenova, a Russian man in his late 70s, whose face retained just a few deep creases. He was shockingly well-maintained, as though a lifetime spent on the sidelines of an ice skating rink had cryogenically staved off aging. When Nadya was tired and wanted to hang up her skates, her mother lectured her on the importance of perseverance and preservation, but mostly on the latter point, noting the unnatural smoothness of Boris’ skin. “You already have the knees of osteoarthritic woman,” her mother said. “Do you really want her skin, too?” Nadya shook her head and returned to the rink, nightmares of the Crypt Keeper’s wrinkled visage dancing in her head. Her mother had hung pictures of him around her bed. So Nadya stuck with the sport and found herself in the top ten at the Winter Olympics, looking no older than a child of twelve who has been entered into a Texas beauty pageant.

As she pulled out of Boris’ embrace to sit and await the judges’ verdict, her coach began cursing angrily. “Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he cried, grasping his index tightly. Nadya’s lower lip quivered and the television cameras zoomed in on her pores.

“I thought I did a good job,” Nadya bravely managed.

“Where’d you get your costume? From the whore shop on Tverskaya Ulitska?” Nadya started to cry. She knew she shouldn’t have performed her long program to an instrumental version the Patti LaBelle’s Lady Marmalade but her mother had insisted that the “capitalist pigs” loved this sort of razzle dazzle.

Boris pressed his pointer nearly into her eye. Droplets of blood were quickly pooling along the edge. “I just cut my finger on your fucking sequins. This is the gayest injury ever.”

“Remember when my ice skate blade grazed the top of my head, shearing off a part of my scalp? You told me to put a hat on and get back out on the ice.”

“A flesh wound. Remember when I had that stroke after your fall at the World Championships? I’ve been on blood thinners ever since, you stupid girl.”

* * *

Yuki Nakase skated into the Kiss & Cry zone after her free program. She immediately found her blade guards but not her coach. She hoped he was getting her Kleenex from the bathroom so she could wipe her tearing eyes. She didn’t want to reach into her bra to pull out the tissues she had stuffed there.

She felt the bench rock and looked up. Sitting beside her was not her coach, a slight Asian man but Bela Karolyi. He towered over the diminutive Japanese skater just as he did his former famous pupils, Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

“You can do it!” Bela Karolyi shouted back in a Romanian accent so thick, it seemed a bit put on, which it probably is or should be. He’s been living in the United Since 1981.

“I can do what?” she wondered. “What are you talking about?”

But Bela did not hear her. He unlaced her right boot and threw it aside. Bela then lifted her into his arms and carried her out of the arena, shouting “Ten! Ten! Ten!” to the audience.

* * *

“What’s taking so long?” Debra Smithson asked her partner, Scott Cooper. They had just finished competing, after having drawn the unluckiest of slots in the meet—first up in the short program of the ice dancing competition. The other pairs jumped up and down nearby, trying to stay fluid after warm ups.

“Maybe they’re having problems with the computer scoring system,” Scott replied. This had happened to them at the world championships a year earlier. It had taken over ten minutes for their marks to be tabulated. The computers had been running on Windows Vista, but the ISU subsequently switched over to Macs to better compliment the competitors’ costumes.

Their coach, Mark, whom they had dispatched to the judges’ table, returned. “So,” he began, “they’re debating the legitimacy of ice dancing as a sport. Some IOC officials suggested that it more akin to ballroom dance on ice. They want to make space in the Olympic Village for synchronized aerial skiers.”

This was not the first time the ice dancing pair had heard this argument and Debra was ready with a rebuttal. “What about that type of gymnastics, you know the one with the ribbon and balls? If ice dancing is not a sport, then surely one that uses props shouldn’t be considered one either.”

“Good point,” their coach said. “Let me go back to them with that.” He hurried along the sidelines and gesticulated wildly at the judges, pretending to twirl an imaginary ribbon, and then mimed being bonked on the head by phantom clubs. The figure skating judges jotted down deductions and held up a string of scores— 5.8, 5.6, 5.0.

“Ooh, they lowballed him on the last one,” Scott said.

“Yeah, but at least they used the old scoring system for him. Who the hell understands the new one?”

The IOC officials began to nod. Scott and Debra smiled as they watched their coach hurry back. This must mean good news. Their Olympic dreams were still alive.

“They agreed with your argument, Debra,” he said. “Both events are out.”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fergie's Next Hit

A friend who recently returned from Israeli showed me this picture:

I suppose that technically that "hump" could replace "bump"- as in "hump" day. And I suppose I could pretend that the image at the top of the sign represents a bump in the road, and not say, a fat man lying down, waiting to get humped. But that wouldn't be nearly as funny.

Gymnast is Named Israel's "Male Athlete of the Year"

I love it when I can honor the name of this blog in a way that isn't completely contrived so thank you Alexander Shatilov for making my blogging life easy. Shatilov, Israel's first world medalist in gymnastics (bronze on floor exercise at the 2009 Worlds in London) won the Male Athlete of the Year award. This is the first time the prize was given to a gymnast.

Shatilov should also win the "Tallest Gymnast of the Year" Award and "Tallest Jewish Gymnast Ever" Award. He's 6'1" people.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


I've never really written about science- not on this blog or anywhere else- but I couldn't resist posting about this piece that was just put up on the New York Times Opinionator blog because of it's title, Unorthodox

It has nothing to do with gymnastics or Judaism or even breaking. It's about ciliate sex.

I guess the "Birds and the Bees" talk doesn't really apply here.

In ciliate sex, two individuals arrive, and two individuals leave: no eggs are fertilized, no offspring are produced. But by the time the two individuals go their separate ways, a massive change will have come over both of them: they will both have acquired a new genetic identity. The second odd consequence is that, partway through its life, a ciliate can radically alter its genetic make-up; genetically speaking, the transformation is so extreme that it’s as if you changed into one of your children. Talk about being reborn.
Another choice bit:
As if that wasn’t enough strangeness, here’s one other peculiar detail. Many ciliates have more than two sexes (or “mating types”) and some — Stylonychia mytilus, for example — have as many as 100. This doesn’t mean that 100 individuals have to gather for sex to take place. Rather, it means that you can mate with anyone not of the same mating type as yourself. In principle, it gives you more choice: with more mating types, more individuals are eligible mates. In my next life . . . .

Monday, February 8, 2010

...For the very first time

Allow me to apologize for not posting my Superbowl recap sooner. I know that you've come to expect only the finest and promptest football coverage from this blog.

Yesterday, I arrived at my friend's apartment about 30 minutes before the kick off and learned which teams were playing- The New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. I didn't know which team to root for. As a fan of U.S. gymnastics, Indianapolis holds a special place in my heart since Kim Zmeskal won her world all around title there, a first for the Americans. On the other hand, residual Katrina guilt made me want to root for the Saints. Not that I thought I a Superbowl victory would cure the ills of a city that drowned in the past decade, but at the very least, they could stick the trophy into the levy to plug a hole, like the little Dutch boy did by sticking his finger into the dike.

So I was torn. And also clueless as to how the game is played. One of the revelers spent a lot of time explaining what a first down is. I promised to reciprocate in 2012. I told him I would explain the gymnastics Code of Points during the Summer Games. I thought this was more than fair but he passed on the offer.

Since the Colts were the first on the scoreboard, I jumped on their bandwagon even though the Saints' had prettier uniforms. Of course, I was forced to switch to the other team after halftime when it became obvious that the Colts would not win. But their likely victory was not the only reason I now favored a Saints win. It was because their quarterback is a lot hotter.

But the highlight of my Superbowl experience had to be the food. At halftime, the host ordered pizza from Domino's. I had never before had Domino's (or any fast food for that matter) and I was quite excited to finally taste this little slice of Americana.

The pizza boxes looked just like they did on television but the pizza inside- it was smaller than I expected. And the crust was fluffy, like a cake, not crisp the way God intended it. I can't comment on the cheesy bread cause I didn't get any. Sigh.

When I told my fellow party goers that I was slightly disappointed by my first Domino's experience, they told it was normal, that the pizza isn't particularly good but not so bad that you don't order again. After all, it is pizza. And as the saying goes, "Pizza is like bad sex. Even when it's done bad, it's still good." Or something like that.

Pre-pubescent delivery boy not included.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Camel Milk Chocolate

So it seems that my laxity in kashrut has its limits- camel milk chocolate.

Would you suck on her teat?

I was leaving the Union Square subway stop yesterday when I noticed a sign for "Milk Chocolate."I saw a man handing out free samples. I bounded over, eager for a piece, and that's when I noticed a word above "milk."


As in camel milk. Now many of you know I eat "out" vegetarian food in un-hechshered restaurants. I don't ask too many questions. I don't care if my pizza was in the oven next to a slab of bacon and is therefore covered in bacon essence because bacon essence is delicious.

But camel milk chocolate? I rode a camel when I was in Israel. It's a nasty animal and Hollywood has yet to make it cuddly and likable in a film. I'd sooner eat pig milk chocolate. At least pigs have a long history of being cute- from Charlotte's Web to Babe.

Contains 10% camel spit

Dvora, Defined

According to the Urban Dictionary, dvora means:

a hot stupid bitch, who laughs a lot and doesnt understand too much with a girly/kiddie sense of fashion, very confused all the time, but still cooler then you'll ever be, she is a total bimp/cheesecake

I do laugh a lot but I'm not sure what a "bimp" is though possible definitions include "butt pimple." Oh well, at least they called me hot.

But when I think of Dvora or dvora, Devorah or devorah, I tend to think of this:

You've all been warned!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Srugim at the JCC plus bar night

I wrote this post over at Jewschool last week about the upcoming screenings of the Israeli television show, Srugim over at the JCC on 76th and Amsterdam, which is set to start tonight

Since the program does not air on any channel in the U.S., I was forced to download it illegally on the Internet thus opening my computer up to a whole host of viral threats. But it was definitely worth it.

While I'm still forced to endanger my hard drive in order to keep current (I am now in the midst of the second season and unwilling to wait till it comes out on DVD) those of you just getting into the first should go check it out. I can't imagine a better opportunity to pick up a guy/girl- while watching a show on the Upper West Side about religious singles struggling to meet their bashert on Israel's equivalent of the Upper West. How meta of us!

Monday, February 1, 2010

B-boy Meen187

Check out the article I wrote about b-boy Meen187 at TheCypher. This particular b-boy has a special connection to the Jewish community. He was featured holding a box of matzah last Passover on this blog (and on the Jew and the Carrot).