Monday, October 25, 2010

The New York Times won't publish "hipster"

Yesterday an essay of mine was published in the Jewspaper of record, the New York Times. It was about how I racially, ethnically and sartorially profile for seats on the subway. It's a heartwarming "slice of New York life" piece, which you can find in it's entirety here.

Or almost. I sold this piece to the Metropolitan section about five months ago, at which time I also received the edits for the piece that was supposed to run over the summer. At the time, it included the term hipster. But fast forward nearly half a year and the term had fallen out of favor with the Powers That Be. In this New York Magazine article about the downfall of the "hipster," it was noted:

In August, after noting that the New York Times had printed hipster as a noun or an adjective more than 250 times in the previous year, Philip Corbett, the paper’s grammarian, wrote an open letter to the newsroom warning against its use.
When the fact checking desk called me, I was asked if I could come up with another term to describe the Williamsburg cliche. I could not so we settled on using the visual description of clothing and facial albeit without the ubiquitous label.

Now personally, I think the piece was improved by the word's removal. The term "hipster" has basically become an insult hurled at anyone who wears ugly clothing that's a bit too tailored or facial hair that's a little too woodsman-y.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's hot as rhinos!

Gymnastike has been putting up great interviews with the gymnasts after they compete in world championships prelims. But towards the end of the chat with the USA's Danell Leyva, something hilarious happens. (At 1:52)

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Teammate Chris Brooks struggles to get out of his spandex onesie following the meet, loudly proclaims, "It's hot as rhinos?!" which sort of ends the interview with Leyva.

What does that even mean?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tablet Interview with Israel Gymnast Noam Shaham

The Israeli women failed to qualify as a team to next year's world championships but the Heeb men still have a shot. Check out my interview with the funny, talented and attractive Shaham at Tablet.

My favorite part of our exchange came when I asked him if he was going to do his signature move on the high bar. (Shaham is the only Israeli gymnast with an element named after him in the Code of Points, which is the Torah of the sport.)

“It turns out that whoever invented this ‘Shaham’ thing is an idiot,” he playfully remarks.

Here is the Shaham, one of the crazaziest moves being done on men's high bar:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

An open letter to Valeri Liukin

It's that time of year- the leaves are changing color, the air is turning brisk and the chalk is flying. Yup, it's time for the Worlds Gymnastics Championships. (I apologize to those of you who come to this blog to read about all things Jewish but would it kill you to watch some flips?) Anyway, the women's preliminary competition has been contested and my partner in gymnastics watching crime, Rachel has some thoughts she would like to share about the talented Rebecca Bross, who trains at WOGA (World Olympic Gymnastics Academy) with her coach, Valeri Liukin, who trained the reigning Olympic Champion (and his daughter) Nastia.

But before we get to Rachel's letter, watch this video so you better understand her complaint. You don't have to be a gymnastics genius to spot the problem.

Dear Valeri,

I am a really big fan of your gym. I love your gymnasts, especially Nastia, a lot. But Rebecca Bross’s feet are so downright awful that I can’t just sit idly by and watch anymore.

From a dance perspective, Rebecca’s feet are seriously, terribly, unbelievably sickled. I apologize, Valeri, if I’m insulting your expertise by explaining further, but please bear with me: Anatomically, a properly aligned foot – both in a flat position and pointed – should have an imaginary line drawn straight from the ankle through the 2nd toe. In examining video of Rebecca on uneven bars, especially as she hits the handstand in her giants, it is quite clear that the imaginary line would extend out through her 4th toe – and maybe even her pinky! It is inexcusable that Rebecca has an enormous gap in between her ankles. Instead of gluing her toes together, her ankles should be glued together!

If Rebecca had been trained well in dance principles, she would have learned that properly aligned and strengthened ankles would allow her toes to simply follow into the correct position. Her sickled feet are incredibly distracting and ruin her otherwise nice body line. Rebecca clearly has flexible feet and the ability to point, yet she points incorrectly.

But sickled feet aren’t only about ruining a lovely line. No. Sickled feet can cause injury, especially if Rebecca ever lands with her feet in that position. How many times has Rebecca dismounted from bars and rolled her ankles? How many sprains have occurred? Sickling pulls the tendons of the ankle out of alignment, which is aggravated further upon landing in that position.

Rebecca is a great gymnast. She has a bright future ahead of her. Please, correct her feet. Just as she trains any other skill, Rebecca will need to retrain her ankles and feet to align correctly. But she can do it. The quality of gymnastics at WOGA is too high for Rebecca’s feet to be overlooked, especially if one day it costs Rebecca her career.



P.S. I have 20 years of dance experience. Please consider hiring me to teach your gymnasts proper dance technique. Also please pay me a hefty salary. I hear the weather in Texas is nice.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gymnasts can't dance

I can think of very few gymnasts who actually "dance" in the way most of us understand the term. The one who comes readily to mind is former UCLA star and Canadian Olympian Stella Umeh. (Or Svetlana Boginskaya for the originality of her movements.)

Shannon Miller, one of my personal favorites, generally did a fine job of performing the choreography she was given but I wouldn't call her a good dancer. If you take the tumbling out of these floor routines, they wouldn't be worth watching for the movements in between the passes, even for those with the best arrangement of elements. They're generally not interesting enough or emotionally connected to the music well enough in their own right.

Which brings me to the Figure Skating and Gymnastics Craptacular. At these events, the gymnasts do so little actual gymnastics that they are forced to dance. Which they can't do. The result is painful to watch.

Here are a few egregious examples:

And 2008 Olympic Champion, Nastia Liukin:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jew Girl Radar

On the Scroll at Tablet today, I've contributed a post not about Top Model-gasp!- but about the latest in fall fashion, which I suppose isn't as far from modeling as say, the Holocaust. (Or is it? Let's see if I can do this in a few simple steps that I learned in school: A young frum girl goes on a reality show and stops observing halacha strictly. In other words, she assimilates. "Do you know where the most assimilated Jews in Europe lived?" my teachers asked. It was a rhetorical question. "Germany," they answered triumphantly. If I follow that logic then modeling=assimilation=genocide.)

Anyway, back on the topic of fashion. According the fabulous site, Man Repeller, which was created by Leandra Medine, a former frummy herself, to describe styles that are designed to keep men from wanting to have sex with women, this fall's fashion trends seem to be drawing inspiration from the looks sported by yeshiva girls all over (i.e. long black skirts and elbow skimming tops). Leandra merely noted the hilariousness of this development- it's hard for those raised with these dress standards and have later moved away from them to understand why someone would willingly choose to dress this way in order to be fashionably forward.

But what Ms. Medine fails to address is how this development in fall clothing will hamper Jew girl radar. As I explain in the post, women lack that single sartorial item that identifies them as "Orthodox" the way that a yarmulke marks observant MOTs. Yet over time, we've developed ways of spotting one another in a crowd. My concern is that if the rest of New York starts dressing like yeshiva girls, it will seriously mess with the Jewish radar.

Two asides:

I apologize for the all too brief explanation of why I think "Lo Ya'aleh al Isha Kli Gever" doesn't apply to pants but my editor asked for no more than eight words despite my protests that this topic is actually a "thesis unto itself." Maybe one of these days I'll get around to writing an epic blog post on the subject.

And last night a Tablet coworker noted that she worries that in her knee length loose fitting skirts, tights and sweaters- ala Brooklyn hipster- she would be mistaken for a frum woman. I reassured her that she was safe from being so misidentified. The reason- her shoes. She was wearing sensible clog style shoes. Orthodox women, I explained, take great liberties with their shoes since this is the only place they have total freedom. Many wear high heeled shoes that look like they should come with a bull whip. (Who knows? Maybe they do.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Jerusalem vs. Athens

Last night, a friend informed that my Tablet article about Esther Petrack and America's Next Top Model had been mentioned unfavorably by a rabbi at the Jewish Center, which is an Orthodox institution on 86th street between Amsterdam and Columbus. While this is hardly surprising given the comments that have been left at the site and the Tweets from the Orthodox Union, this friend what he told me something that I hadn't yet heard in response to my ANTM recaps: "The industry is steeped in the philosophy of Athens, not Jerusalem."

Wait, people in Hollywood retire at 55? (Well, if you're a female actress, you're likely forced into retirement well before you hit that age.) Sign me up for "Athens."