How Do You Jew An educational, informational, conversational blog and (someday) podcast about Judaism, Jewish practices, customs, and rituals, Israel, and whatever else we decide to talk about.

May 13, 2008

Brain dump, Tuesday night

I have to blog a thousand things, but I’ll just keep this to the top that I’m able to think of, in no particular order, before my fingers get tired:

  1. The evil bastards who control the food packaging disaster that is hot dogs and buns are even more devious than I previously suspected: We recently got Hadarya a play kitchen (and PLEASE don’t start with the sexism/promoting gender stereotypes/etc. arguments – she is a very well-rounded child who spends time doing lots of other things, but she sees us both working in the kitchen and loves to pretend to do so on her own), and Grandma Bonnie came through with a ginormous vat of play food to fill the kitchen. The play food container has, I kid you not, six hot dogs and TWO buns. What the???
  2. I’m completely engrossed in the audio recording of Wil Wheaton‘s Just A Geek. His writing is excellent – the stories of his time on TNG, including the hindsight on what a bonehead he was to not appreciate it at the time (he WAS a teenager, after all; it would have been more surprising if he HAD appreciated it); working the con circuit with fellow cast members; his brutal honesty and openness about his emotional fragility over the lack of work, with the concomitant ups and downs of auditions and wasted hours waiting for phone calls; his beautiful stories about his family and his struggles to support them; all of this is good source material, and it’s well put together on paper. But his performance of his own material is evocative, moving, funny, and true, with occasional asides and deviations from the written source that make this feel at once like the special edition of the book with extra features and like he’s performing it exclusively for me (it helps that I’m listening to it in the car when I’m either alone or with a sleeping toddler in the back).
    I’m able to relate to virtually everything he talks about because I grew up with a father who worked in “the industry” (what people who work in the movie/television business call their line of work), so the terms are familiar, and so are many of the settings (walking around studio backlots and sets, the peculiar hurry-up-and-wait schedule of a typical shoot, etc.). In some of the stories, the empathy is even stronger because our paths were even closer – growing up geeky, playing role-playing and video games, seeing all the same movies and listening to much of the same music.
    Then there’s his audition for the co-host spot on Win Ben Stein’s Money. Listening to that chapter was amazing, since I was a contestant on the show. Wil was up for the co-host spot after Jimmy Kimmel’s first replacement, but that wasn’t clear from his description, and since I stopped watching the show after I played on it (that story will get its own post), I didn’t even know there WAS another co-host, nor that he was Jimmy Kimmel’s cousin. That was all cleared up by Wikipedia, thankyouverymuch.
  3. It’s been a very long time since I was as wrapped up in a television show as I was in this week’s House, the penultimate episode of the season. I started watching the series when the strike took my other vegout shows off the air, and haven’t been disappointed, but they really nailed it this week. I’m going to catch up on last week’s episode via Hulu before enjoying the season finale next week. Then Veronique and I can discuss amongst ourselves, dahling.
  4. Is it just me, or is it weird that Hillary Clinton is ignoring the fact that her base, according to all the data I’m hearing, is essentially uneducated white people, while Barack Obama’s core supporters tend to be college-educated? I guess that explains some stuff, like her pandering to people with the proposed gas tax holiday, and how she can get away with calling him “elitist,” and other things. Meh. I so don’t want this blog to be about politics.
  5. I’ve got basic show notes written up for like a dozen How Do You Jew podcast episodes. I just need to put some music together, do a little research on each of my core topics, and start recording. Actually, here are some of the things I want to cover. Any suggestions for straightforward sources of good, solid information about them would be appreciated. The idea is that I’ll introduce and briefly discuss/explain a specific Jewish tradition or halachic practice each episode:
    • Torah scroll, sofer, filling in letters to fulfill mitzvah
    • Kippot/yarmulkes – where is rule to wear, who’s obligated/allowed, different styles and their connotations in different communities
    • Yahrzeit/shloshim/shiva
    • Hamantaschen – Haman’s ears vs. Haman’s hat & possibly other traditional Jewish holiday foods
    • Pikuach nefesh
    • Alright, Jenn should be home soon from the synagogue board meeting, and I need to fill out Hebrew High report cards, so that’s it for tonight… Also, Hadarya is restless and needs some comforting, so off I go.

May 9, 2008

I’m smitten

With Twitter, and with Wil Wheaton.

I got a Twitter account a few weeks ago, and started following some friends and strangers and sending my own updates when I remember (not often enough). After I met Wil at a reading & signing at Mysterious Galaxy last weekend, I started following him, and he’s just as funny in under 140 characters as he is in his longer blog posts and books (I’m listening to Just A Geek in the car, and laughing out loud so much I’m beginning to worry about road safety).

Example: He’s off to Seattle for a con this weekend. Here are two Twitters from this morning:
wilw: Kenny Loggins was at the ticket counter near me. The girl checking me in was early 20s and had no idea why her cow orkers were so excited.
wilw: I was unable to see if his destination was the danger zone, but it was clear that he was alright, so there was no need to worry about him.

That made me laugh again, just copying and pasting it.

I’m such a geek.

edited to add: Wil posted the entire Kenny Loggins Twitter adventure on his blog.

May 4, 2008

A million kinds of awesome

Wil Wheaton is living the grown-up geek life. Since growing up geeky in LA, kickin’ butt as a writer in Stand By Me, then being the butt of countless jokes in Star Trek: TNG, Wil got to writing. Specifically, blogging. He’s got the gift, as a writer and a performer, not only to transport his audience to the setting of his stories (familiar snapshots of coming of age in LA in the 80s, playing video games & D&D, getting in on the ground floor of the PC revolution, and more, except for me without the acting bits), but to inspire people to tell their own stories.

He was in San Diego this weekend, and I got to enjoy his reading at Mysterious Galaxy and get his autograph on my brand new copy of his latest, The Happiest Days of Our Lives (a collection of posts from his blog). The setting allowed me to chat with him for a few minutes, letting him know about my absent friends (Stephen [who told me about Wil’s visit in the first place; thanks!], McHank, Paul, Cousin Alli… am I missing anyone?) who were bummed not to be there, and the theory Paul & I have about the Emperor’s limited vocabulary in the Star Wars movies, and my discovery of where the limitation came from (I think we’re all in agreement that “limited” is a good word for George Lucas’s writing aptitude, regardless of his other talents). Wil laughed easily and genuinely, like me. He talks like me, is excited about the same things I am, and I’m super excited to dive into his brain and explore the parts I know so well and those I don’t…

Awesome.

April 28, 2008

A tiny little division…

Filed under: entertainment,Family,funny,humor,Life Online,Parenting — howdoyoujew @ 15:13

…of a major corporate behemoth, I know, but it’s still a cool bunch of people. Some years ago, Hallmark set up Shoebox to create and market humorous greetings cards. They also had a website in the early days of the web called “Funny, but No” to show off card ideas that didn’t make it past the corporate suits. This feature was a favorite of mine way back when, and then it went away.

Then the web infiltrated popular culture totally, and people’s ideas of what was in bad taste shifted noticeably, so the feature is again available on the company’s blog (note that they’re even using the freely available Blogger rather than some fancy, costly, “professional” blog hosting thing).

One of the artists on staff at Shoebox, Brian (who is presumably one of the men in the photograph on the right here), and Brian recently became a dad. I know this because Brian is cartooning his new life as the father of an infant and capturing the experience brilliantly. To wit:
how being a parent is like the ending of a bad slasher film

Check out more of Brian’s work.

April 24, 2008

The Onion takes on the latest US-Israel espionage story

Filed under: entertainment,Israel,News,satire — howdoyoujew @ 09:32

I’ve only caught snippets of the story, since I don’t always hear the entire news broadcasts at the top of the hour from Israel while listening to Reshet Gimmel, but I got the gist of it from this brief review, courtesy of The Onion:

The Onion: Israel got nuclear secrets from 85-year-old American engineer(click for full size version)

April 11, 2008

Shabbat shalom and happy bageling!

Despite the name of the practice, bageling is a very appropriate Pesach activity. I was introduced to this charmingly named entertainment by a friend of my dad’s, who forwarded me the column below today. Happily, unlike in the case of many such forwards, this one still had the author’s byline, and a little Googling turned up the happy coincidence that she is a fellow San Diegan. One quick missive turned into a spirited round of Jewish geography, mutual Shabbat dinner invitations, and a new friend in town. So without further ado, please enjoy (original post at aish.com, with comments):

The Bagel Theory
by Jessica Levine Kupferberg
Some Chanukah food for thought about Jewish connectedness. (originally published December 9, 2007)

This time of year can be challenging for Jews. After the joy of Chanukah subsides, we find ourselves adrift in the Red and Green sea. Our halls are markedly undecked while most of the world is encrusted in boughs of holly. The glare of tinsel and little multi-colored lights blind us at every turn. We dread the awkward pause after someone wishes us something merry and know the discomfort of holiday parties for a holiday that we don’t celebrate.

What can be done to combat the isolation? How can we satisfy a hunger for Jewish connection?

‘Tis the season to go forth and …. bagel.

The Beginning of Bageling

It all started when my friend Doodie Miller– who wears a kippah — was back in college and suffering through a tedious lecture. As the professor droned on, a previously-unknown young woman leaned over and whispered in his ear:

“This class is as boring as my Zayde’s seder.”

You see, the woman knew that she did not “look” Jewish, nor did she wear any identifying signs like a Star of David. So foregoing the awkward declaration, “I’m Jewish,” the girl devised a more nuanced — and frankly, cuter — way of heralding her heritage.

This incident launched a hypothesis which would henceforth be known as the Bagel Theory.

The Bagel Theory stands for the principle that we Jews, regardless of how observant or affiliated we are, have a powerful need to connect with one another. To that end, we find ways to “bagel” each other — basically, to “out” ourselves to fellow Jews.

There are two ways to bagel. The brave or simply unimaginative will tell you straight out that they are Jewish (a plain bagel). But the more creative will concoct subtler and even sublime ways to let you know that they, too, are in the know. (These bagels are often the best; like their doughy counterparts, cultural bagels are more flavorful when there is more to chew on.)

Bageled at Boggle

I suspect that Jews have been bageling even before real bagels were invented. And while my husband and I may not have invented bageling, we do seem to have a steady diet of bagel encounters.

An early bagel favorite occurred when my kippah-wearing husband and I were dating, and we spent a Saturday evening at a funky coffee house with friends. We engaged in a few boisterous rounds of Boggle, the game where you must quickly make words out of jumbled lettered cubes. Observing our fun, a couple of college students at a nearby table asked if they could play too. After we rattled the tray and furiously scribbled our words, it was time to read our lists aloud. One of the students, who sported a rasta hat and goatee, proudly listed the word “yad.” Unsuspecting, we inquired, “What’s a yad?” He said with a smirk, “You know, that pointer you read the Torah with.” Yes, we were bageled at Boggle.

On our honeymoon in Rome, we were standing at the top of the Spanish steps next to a middle-aged couple holding a map. The husband piped up in an obvious voice, “I wonder where the synagogue is.” My husband and I exchanged a knowing look at this classic Roman bagel and proceeded to strike up a conversation with this lovely couple from Chicago. After we took them to the synagogue, they asked to join us at the kosher pizza shop. As we savored the cheeseless arugula and shaved beef pizza — to this day the best pizza I have ever had — this non-religious couple marveled at traveling kosher and declared they would do so in the future. A satisfying bagel to be sure.

Holy Bagel

In the years since, our bagel encounters have become precious souvenirs, yiddishe knick-knacks from our family adventures in smaller Jewish communities. Like the time the little boy at the Coffee Bean in Pasadena, California, walked up to my husband, pulled out a mezuzah from around his neck, smiled and ran away. (A non-verbal bagel!) Or our day trip to the pier in San Clemente, California when an impish girl in cornrows and bikini scampered over to say “Good Shabbos.”

We have been bageled waiting at airline ticket counters, in elevators, at the supermarket checkout. And I myself have been known to bagel when the situation calls for it, like the time I asked the chassid seated a few rows up on an airplane if I could borrow a siddur.

On a recent trip abroad, however, we did not get bageled even once. That was in Israel where, thankfully, there is just no need.

Ultimately, why do we feel this need to bagel? Does it stem from our shared patriarchs, our pedigree of discrimination and isolation, a common love of latkes or just the human predisposition to be cliquey? I maintain it is something more. Our sages say that all Jews were originally one interconnected soul which stood in unison at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. Now scattered across the Earth, as we encounter each other’s Jewish souls, we recognize and reconnect with a piece of our divine selves. The bagel may have a hole, but we bagel in a quest to feel whole.

So the next time a sweaty stranger at the gym says to you, “I haven’t been this thirsty since Yom Kippur,” smile. You’ve just been bageled — adding another link in the Jewish circle of connection.

March 10, 2008

Lovely and talented people I know

Filed under: entertainment,Family,Good News,music,tikkun olam,video — howdoyoujew @ 10:36

The lovely and talented Hazzan (Cantor) Alisa Pomerantz-Boro, who just happens to be the person responsible for introducing me to my lovely and talented wife, conducts the children’s choir at her shul, Congregation Beth El in Cherry Hill, NJ (her lovely and talented daughter, Rebecca, is third from the right in the top row):

February 15, 2008

Cyanide & Happiness strikes again

Filed under: entertainment,funny,satire,webcomics — howdoyoujew @ 10:18

I mentioned this webcomic once or twice before, always noting that it’s sick and twisted and usually hilarious. But today’s smack at one of the election’s hot button topic is truly…well, look:
Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net

February 8, 2008

Blasphemy has never been so funny.

The thing about Israelis is, they we are equal opportunity offenders.
Christians? No problem:
If Mary had been a modern Israeli woman (5 MB WMV download)

Chasidic and other ultra-orthodox Jews? We got you covered:

I’m sure there’s plenty of stuff out there to cover Muslims and others, too, but I’ll leave it to others to find (and point me to, of course).

February 6, 2008

What do we want? CHANGE! When do we want it? NOW!

Filed under: Commentary,entertainment,funny,humor,music,Politics,satire,video — howdoyoujew @ 16:26

Who’s gonna make it happen? EVERYBODY!

well, at least I know that when I go to Washington I’ll be able to get some change.

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