Saturday, January 29, 2011

Horrifying and Amazing

Since I seem to be promoting my friends' websites this weekend, (yesterday's plug was for a good college friend), I figure I'll put up a plug for Barely Fetal, which you should only visit if you're the kind of person who has found himself wondering, "I would like to look at kiddie porn but I'm afraid tykes are just too old for me." Then you should go check out ultrasound pictures with hilariously inappropriate captions. If anti-abortion lawmakers get their way and force women to look at ultrasounds, we should be allowed to caption them absurdly. Fair is fair. (Somewhere in my mind that logic totally works. Just go with it.)

I'm not going to identify the particular friend since he wishes to remain anonymous out of fear for his career prospects and a general deep seated shame for being the kind of sicko who came up with this idea.

Friday, January 28, 2011

NYC Randomly

Is transferring to other subway lines a drag (especially when it's not a across the platform transfer but the kind that forces you to climb three flights of stairs and trek through a tunnel reeking of urine)? Don't you wish you could just stick to your subway line?

Well the folks over at NYC Randomly have come up with a way for you to stay entertained and on one train. Simply input your address and the site will spit out things to do along the subway line -- no transfers necessary. Here a few entertainment options that are on the C's route.

  • Striking Viking Story Pirates, Inc. (Try saying that five times fast.)
  • New Africa Live
  • Franklin Furnace Archive (I can actually walk to that one.)
  • 3 Legged Dog
Normally, I'm not a big fan of the C since I've lost many productive hours to waiting for it to arrive. (Seriously, the C makes Godot look punctual.) But now that I know I can enjoy hours of entertainment without ever switching, perhaps I'll look more kindly on it. Even if I can't listen to my iPod while on it since I'm pretty sure that the combined noise from the screeching and shaking and my music would destroy my hearing.

Anyway since I will be demonstrating my loyalty to the C, I need to apologize to my friends on the East Side. Won't be visiting you guys anytime soon.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How To Be Jewish

The people over at Thought Catalog and writer David Meir Grossman (he says he includes his middle name to differentiate himself from the other more famous David Grossman) put out a hilarious guide on how to be Jewish (as though most of the people who read this blog need any help with that). Among his tips to the Semitic wannabe --say one nice thing about Israel to appease your mother and then reread Peter Beinart. Grossman does encourage you to stay up to date on the "situation" in the Middle East since if you ever find yourself as the sole Jew in a given social situation, you will be called upon to speak knowledgeably on behalf of all Israelis and Jews everywhere. I know this for a fact. When I was traveling down the Adriatic coast this summer, I was often called upon to discuss Israeli and American policies no matter how many times I explained that I was a. not Israeli b. just as disgusted by our lack of universal healthcare as they were.

But this is my favorite from Grossman's post:

Hide your Orthodox background from everyone until you talk to a girl at a party, where you desperately hope it will make you “interesting.” Tell her about the dress code at your old yeshiva and how what she is wearing right now would have gotten her suspended. Say that you left Orthodoxy because you couldn’t stand the sexism.

Wait, my Orthodox background is actually interesting? Well, there goes my entire writing career.

(Special thanks to Dan Klein over at Tablet Magazine for posting this link today.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Big Deal, Oprah

Over the last few days, the intertubes have been abuzz about the big family secret that Oprah Winfrey was going to reveal today (and this of course was not a gimmick to pique people's interests in her new cable network).

So what was the big reveal? She has a half sister. Color me anti-climactic.

I also have a half sister that I didn't know about until I was 9 and you don't see me holding a press conference. I found out about Jessica when I was visiting my father in Miami after my parents divorced. I saw a picture of a young pig tailed girl with brown hair who was neither me nor my older sister. "Who is this?" I asked, handing the frame to my father. I half-expected him to say that it was the photo the frame came with.

"That's Jessica," he said nonchalantly, in a tone that suggested that I should've known. "Your sister." I won't get into the tears and hysterics that followed this revelation but my mother had to be called to calm me down. She even told me that I had met this half-sister, the progeny of my father's first marriage, (wait, first marriage?!) who lived in Texas and was fifteen years older than me. I had been two. My mother and father had just forgotten to mention her to me in the intervening seven years. Parental fail.

Anyway, I eventually stopped crying. And then a few days later Hurricane Andrew hit Dade Country, where my father lived at the time. And then I had a whole new reason to cry. (I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.)

I see your half sister and raise you a hurricane.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Inspired by America's Next Top Model

I was visiting Los Angeles this past week where I used to live for my first two years after college. This period was marked by an experimentation with driving and an excess of blond highlights. Anyway, despite being very happy living on the East Coast, I go back once a year to visit friends. While at shul on Shabbos in LA, I bumped into a friend who teaches at Milken Community High School. He told me that they discussed the Top Model recaps that I did for Tablet in class. This is the result of their work.

These kids are pretty funny and I am pleased to have inspired such humor.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Cautionary Tale

It’s a tale as old as time. A young, hassidishe boy grows up hale and healthy until he decides to cut his payos (side curls), get blonde highlights, wear jeans and a knitted kippah. (Oh, and he also puts his feet on the kitchen counter top and talks on the phone.) Then his father has no choice but to kick him out of the house. The troubled teen ends up roaming Times Square (the Disneyfied part, not where the smut shops a few blocks away) until he accepts a cigarette from another Jew, at which point he coughs, clutches his chest and collapses. (I’m going to assume that it was unfiltered.) Cut to: Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital because our protagonist has cancer. Yes, one ciggie kids and you can get terminal cancer. It’s the truth. Singer Shloimie Daskal wouldn’t lie. Thankfully, his father visits him at the end bringing with him forgiveness and a siddur and our young, trouble soul repents his way before his death. Cut to: his father resting stones on his tombstone.

Check out the music video for "Still Your Child," for yourself.

I think our poor young protagonist was treated very badly in this video. As far as I can tell, he commits only two sins and both are not deserving of a death sentence. The first are his boy band frosted tips. Who told him that was still a good look? But perhaps he's stuck in the 90s. In the video, he uses a phone with a cord and wears Aeropostale clothing. Perhaps the only magazines he was able to get a hold of were Tiger Beats from 1997 and he was just trying to look like Nick Carter.

His second aveirah was voluntarily going to Times Square as a non-tourist and not for a Broadway show. What was he thinking? No good can come of that.

My final question/complaint has nothing to do with our protagonist's actions. It's about frum music in general. Why must there always be a chorus of young boys backing the adult male singer? I mean, don't get me wrong, I like young boys as much as the next person (wait, that sounds wrong) but why? Is it some not so subtle message about the purity of youth? Frum music world, try and mix it up, will ya? Perhaps a Greek chorus next time.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Devora Outtakes

I recently wrote of my tattoo on this blog, which is of a bumble bee and based off the meaning of my name, Dvora. At the time, I jokingly wrote that this is only slightly less narcissistic than etching my actual signature into my flesh. Well, now with the publication of an essay, "An Unmarried Woman," about my namesake Devora (and the heroine of this week's haftarah) in today's edition of Tablet, I think the narcissism went from being the punchline to a joke to verging on a disorder. Or maybe it's still a joke.

Anyway, I'm super pleased with how the personal essay turned out and that is mostly due to some superior editing over at Tablet. And while I agree that the cuts made were very necessary, I am still rather fond of a couple of the more humorous outtakes and have pasted them below.

For instance, I can just imagine how an Upper West Side Shabbat meal with Devorah, the “wife” of Lapidot would go when she shows up sans her significant other.

“So you’re married?” a young woman notes, observing a wedding band on their guest’s finger.
“Yes. My husband’s name is Lapidot,” Devorah replies.

“Lapidot? As in ‘torches’?” another guest asks incredulously.

“Yes. That’s his name. It’s a real name. He would be here, you know my husband, but unfortunately he’s away on business in Assyria.” Poor Devorah would be forced to play the role of a closeted gay man who needs to fabricate a girlfriend for Thanksgiving dinner.
Reminds me of the song from Avenue Q, "My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada."

This example should feel familiar to any Jewish single who's ever been awkwardly set up.

Some rabbis posit that Devorah was married to the only other man of note (at least on the Israelite side) in the story – her general, Barak. How do they figure this? Well since “lapidot” refers to fire and Barak translates to lightning and both terms have something to do with fire, then ipso facto, Devorah must be married to Barak. In addition to hewing to an unofficial rabbinic principle of streamlining – the fewer characters to keep track of the better – it also feels like one of those awkward set where you have absolutely nothing in common with your date except for the fact that you’re both single and Jewish. For most meddling matchmakers that is often enough.
Despite perhaps producing a giggle or two, these examples did not belong in the finish product. But on the blog of a self-absorbed writer, they're perfectly at home.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

This Again

I have blogged many times about my abhorrence of the gymnastics and figure skating combo specials, the so-called "spectaculars," where no remarkable elements from either sport is performed. A back handspring on a balance beam? Yawn. Anything that was once in my gymnastics wheelhouse is not remotely exciting. So if even I had a television, I still wouldn't be watching Progressive Skating & Gymnastics Spectacular on NBC tomorrow. (Is it any wonder why NBC is in last place of all of the major networks?)

But my real problem with these specials isn't the incredibly watered gymnastics and figure skating they showcase but what the easy skills betray -- a stunning lack of artistry and musicality from the athletes. When they're competing death defying elements, I can at least be distracted from choreography out of sync with the beat, flicked wrists and spastic movements. Now that's all there is and without double double accompaniment, it's tough to stomach.

photo from International Gymnast.

Yet I understand the impulse of the athletes who participate -- times are tough and you gotta find some way to pay the bills until Cirque hires you for a new show. (Except for you, Nastia. You're rich. You have no excuse.) Hell, I've even worked retail and don't rule it out for the future.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Best Accessory of 2010

I know that these round up posts are supposed to come at the end of the previous year not at the start of the new one but I was very remiss about posting in December. This is a tremendous shame since during Hanukkah, I reached a milestone that's significant in the life of every young rebellious woman's life -- I got a tattoo.

I've often the discussed my desire for body ink -- both in real life and on this blog -- but always lacked the courage to do anything about it even after the New York Times and Kate Torgovnick debunked the whole not being allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery bubbemeiser (old wives tale). I would tell myself that the scars from my spinal fusion, long lines running down two thirds of my spine and one running from my back to the front of my ribs were my de facto tattoos. When I would wear bikinis and I would look at them and they made me feel strong, almost Amazonian. They reminded me of the severe scoliosis that I overcame and how I was able to do all these things that no expected me to be able to do -- from gymnastics to break dancing. I liked how they looked on my body.

But since the start of the fall when my spine and rib issues began, I felt a little less like a bad ass, a little less like myself. I wasn't allowed to dance or do a lot of physical activity, especially the kinds I enjoyed most. I saw the scars on my torso and spine less as signs of strength than of deformity, of something that happened to me and was happening once again. I felt like I was at the mercy of genetics and biology run amok. I didn't own the scars anymore. They owned me. My desire for a tattoo resurfaced once again, this time stronger than before. I needed to do something to my body that reasserted my dominance over it. I wanted to put my stamp on it.

Once again I mentioned my desire to get a tattoo to a new friend. This one was into it. In fact she was planning on one for herself. "I'm getting a second one next week. Let's do it together," she said. And from that moment it was settled. I let her arrange everything from the date to the parlor. All I had to was choose the image I wanted etched into my flesh. No biggie, right?

I had long ago settled on the idea of tattooing a bumble bee, which is what my name translates to from the Hebrew, somewhere on my body, but I hadn't thought very hard about what this bee would look like. Did I want a true insect drawing, one that would look like it would fly off my skin and sting someone? Or did I want a cartoony one like Honey Nut Cheerios bee?

I arrived at the parlor still undecided about what I wanted my tattoo to look like. The decision of where to put it was decided on the cab ride over -- near my ankle, which would make it noticeable if I wanted it to be but would not create any professional problems. Besides, bees "dance" to communicate and God willing, I would be using those feet again to dance and express myself. The placing seemed to work on a practical and symbolic level.

I confessed to the tattoo artist that I didn't know exactly what I wanted but I knew that it was neither an insect or a cartoon. This kid was pretty laid back about my not-request and went to work sketching. I made the artist redo the drawing several times until I saw something I could live with for all eternity. I almost felt guilty about it but reminded myself this wasn't like sending soup back to the kitchen if you don't like it. Unless of course this restaurant was in hell and you would be forced to eat it forever.

Dvora, meet Devorah. (My tattoo spells its name differently from me, transliterating the shwa na from the Hebrew with an "e." Way to be a conformist Devorah.)

Thankfully, I'm very pleased with the image the artist came up with since it'll be with me for awhile. And despite the fact that I nearly passed out (I do poorly at blood tests -- why did I think this would be any different?), I'm very happy with my eternal accessory. I think it might even win Best Accessory of 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Elephant Walk

In this new year, my goal is to leave you with scary visuals. Yesterday it was the granny panties. Today it's the elephant walk.

This is the lovely and talented Kate Richardson, who competed for Canada and UCLA, on the floor exercise. She is doing her signature floor routine, choreographed by Val Kondos-Field, who actually teaches her girls how to listen to the music and dance. Imagine that. (I one time saw Kate Richardson on UCLA's campus. We were in the bathroom, washing our hands at adjacent sinks. Though I was giddy inside, I remained outwardly nonchalant. I am a New Yorker after all.)

At 0:57 is the elephant walk. That's how I'm getting around my apartment tonight. In granny panties.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Urkel Underwear

File this one under TMI, guys.

Everyone has a blizzard story. Some spent hours digging out cars that were buried by the snowfall and plows. (I, like many other car-less New Yorkers, smirked as I watched this spectacle and thanked the gods that I didn't own a vehicle in this weather. And now they're all laughing back since the MTA raised fares on the 1st. It's amazing how they've mastered the art of saying "Happy New Year" and "Fuck you" simultaneously.) Some were stranded in airports or cities with a temperature many degrees above freezing. My friend described West Palm Beach as "chilly." Oh, how you have suffered. Thankfully, my tale is much more lighthearted.

My building doesn't have laundry so I have to lug my clothes to the laundromat. Because of general inconvenience and annoyance, I try to do this only twice a month. I was nearing the two week mark when the snowpocalypse hit. There was no way I could lug the 15 pound bag nearly two avenue blocks in all that mess. And then even as it started to melt, I thought it unwise to carry my laundry through the slippery sidewalks especially while still recovering from back and rib issues. (See this recent post for more information than you could possibly need about my medical conditions.)

But as the snow melted so did my supply of clean underwear and last night I realized I had no clean pairs for today. This thought struck me as I passed a CVS so I ducked inside and towards the aisle where they sell Hanes and Fruit of Loom though the selection was slim. For women, there were just briefs, white ones, which are just about as unsexy as you can get. And the smallest ones that CVS carried were at least two sizes too large. I bought them anyway.

This morning I was forced to wear these white cotton monstrosities. They went up so high that they were practically at my ribs. This would not turn on a Hugh Grant-like cad. I was more Steve Urkel than Bridget Jones.

I haven't worn underoos like this since before I bought my first training bra. (This happened very late, around 13 and even then I truly didn't need one. In fact, it wasn't until the end of high school that I graduated from an "almost A" to the real thing. Oh yeah.) It's the kind that covers every inch of your ass and then some. It's the underwear that never heard of low rise jeans. I made sure to dress in the highest waisted jeans I own and dressed in layers on top so you couldn't see the awkward panty line, which ended right around my navel when I rolled it over a couple of times.

This is not me.

Anyway, I brought my clothing in to be cleaned today and will get them back tomorrow afternoon. I have just one more day of white cotton hell.

Some of you might be thinking that my first post of the New Year should've been something more profound, about what I hope for the coming solar cycle or about what I've learned from past events, but I don't change (at least not in essentials) so why pretend? Live and don't learn -- that's me.

Happy New Year!