Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"i just don't dig on swine"

This SiF hysteria was getting out of hand (although it did produce this touching tribute to school nurses). Thank goodness Arlen Specter stepped out to shift media focus onto something else. My newsfeed lit up with love for Arlen moments after his announcement, and Twitter's been abuzz all day.

It seems a bit to me like a deathbed conversion. Did he suddenly realize it must have taken a blue God to put a black man in the White House? Did he want to be in good graces with that deity when his time comes? Or is he just crushing hard on Michelle, like the rest of us?

Regardless, he has my blessing. Go with guilt, Arlen! If Charlotte can be a Jew, you can be a Democrat. Don't let those spurned, angry wingnuts get you down.

I don't have the Sif; I do, however, a pretty mean cold that's left me with a voice like Bea Arthur, and two interviews over the next two days. Hopefully my prospective employers have a soft spot for the Golden Girls. Hopefully they will also view my coming in this condition as a show of dedication rather than obliviousness. Hm. Perhaps I shouldn't shake hands?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

quotes quiz!

Here's a quiz that I saw on the Face and I thought it would be more fun to do it here. Below are 15 quotes from 15 of my favorite movies, and you try to guess which movie each comes from. NO GOOGLING and no using IMDB.

Whoever can guess the most wins a prize of my own devising.

1. "Remember, honey, on your wedding night, it's all right to say 'yes.'" Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

2. "I've been thinking with my gut since I was fourteen years old, and I've come to the conclusion that my guts have shit for brains." High Fidelity

3. "What ain't no country I've ever heard of. They speak English in What?" Pulp Fiction

4. "Street slang is an increasingly valid form of expression. Most of the feminine pronouns do have mocking, but not necessarily misogynistic undertones." Clueless

5. "He owns the police!" Chinatown

6. "Is that your blood?" "Some of it, yeah." Fight Club

7. "2,000 years of glorious history from Moses to Sandy Koufax -- you're damn right I'm living in the past!" Big Lebowski

8. "Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear." Empire Records

9. "You sure have a way with people." "Well, they're my species!" Harold & Maude

10. "If you hold back anything, I'll kill ya. If you bend the truth or I think you're bending the truth, I'll kill ya. If you forget anything, I'll kill ya. In fact, you're gonna have to work very hard to stay alive." Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels

11. "In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." The Third Man

12. "Is butter a carb?" "Yes." Mean Girls

13. "A faceless man rips off your clothes, and that's the sex fantasy you've been having since you were twelve?" "Well, sometimes I vary it a little." "Which part?" "What I'm wearing." WHMS

14. "Technically speaking, the operation is brain damage, but it's on a par with a night of heavy drinking. Nothing you'll miss." ESoTSM

15. "Wallace Beery. Wrestling picture. What do you need, a roadmap?" Barton Fink

BTW, Sorry for that last post, guys. It just kind of slipped out. Maybe it was the product of one of those "runners highs" I've heard so much about.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

a swelling heart

I love this illustrated essay from the NYT: "May It Please the Court."

I love the power of context to say, sometimes, what words can't:

I love having neighbors, especially ones with a roofdeck, thanks to which I have my very first suntan of the season.

I love that I live with someone who loves me more than I love me, and gives me something to strive for everyday. Also he hangs pictures. Welcome, Marilyn, to Montague Street!

I love that it's in the 80s and beautiful today, that our windows are flung open and I'm wearing a bright blue dress, that I have a new book from the library and what feels like all the time and the all the luck in the world.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's always midnight on Montague Street

I live in the Land of the Broken Clock, under the jurisdiction of the Broken Clock, and what's supremely funny about this is that it's a fancy one-year-old "radio controlled" La Crosse we were given as a wedding present. We tried changing the batteries, which didn't work, and now it serves as a constant reminder of how imperfect even high technology can be.

Speaking of imperfection, Robin Givhan of the Washington Post argues that Susan Boyle should get a makeover. Susan Boyle, the middle-aged singing phenom who has succeeded without altering her image one jot, should, now that she's made it, stop being so damn frumpy:
Boyle has charmed millions, in part, because she comes across as unpretentious and pleasant. But she's hardly Everywoman. She's an odd duck, a bit of a loner. She's a character. And she's living out a fairy tale.

Transformation is always part of a good story. Cinderella didn't go to the ball in hand-me-downs. She went looking her best in a glorious gown and won the heart of the prince. The ugly duckling becomes a swan.

The tale of Susan Boyle will not be complete until the shy spinster blossoms. Those who have been entranced by her story so far should let Boyle's fairy godmother finish her work.
In other words, why should Boyle change? Because the narrative demands it! In fact, why stop at clothes and hair and shoes? This "shy spinster" needs a prince, too. I for one will not rest until Susan Boyle gets boinked good and proper.

"Spinster," indeed. Jesus. What world are we living in? Maybe she's gay, Robin. Maybe she's not interested in sex. Who cares? Her personal life is her business, and she doesn't need the Standard Gift Basket of Our Approval ("Comes with lipstick, a Maserati, and arm candy for the red carpet!")

For the record, I'm not sure what Susan Boyle looks like or sounds like. I haven't watched the YouTube video (should I?) But I also don't care. Let the woman enjoy her moment in the spotlight. Her story doesn't have to be a fairy tale to be interesting, and even if this is her own personal fairy tale it doesn't have to conform to the Disney model.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Whither Thou Goest, I Will Go

  • I am married.
  • My husband wants to be a law clerk one level up in a District Court
  • District Court clerkships are incredibly hard to get, especially in popular locales such as Washington, DC, New York, NY, and San Francisco, CA, and their environs
  • I have no interest in leaving Brooklyn
  • But my husband has a dream

ME: How about when we're 30? I thought we agreed that when I'm 30, you are allowed to take me from New York.
HIM: 30 is a long time from now. I would really love to apply for next year.
ME: Next year I will still be less than 30.
HIM: But now is when we are still young, still mobile, still flexible ...
ME: 30.

HIM: How about we look at where I could go and you could say if one place or another would be more enticing to you? After all, it would only be for a year.
ME: Okay. Shoot.
HIM: Bridgeport, CT.
ME: My parents did not send me to Jewish Day School for 13 years so that I could wind up in Connecticut!
HIM: But I have roots there --
ME: Anyway it's too cold. Next, please.

HIM: Concord, NH.
ME: Too cold.
HIM: Burlington, VT.
ME: Too cold.
HIM: New Haven, CT.
ME: Too cold.
HIM: Come on! We're not talking about Alaska.
ME: Too cold.
HIM: Providence, RI.
ME: Maybe.
HIM: Maybe?
ME: Maybe. But probably too cold.

HIM: Okay, how about the South?
ME: Where are the clerkships there?
HIM: Nashville, TN.
ME: Too Christian. I've heard horror stories.
HIM: Shreveport, LA.
ME: The last Confederate command to surrender! Plus there's a whole Wikipedia section labeled "Churches."
HIM: Roanoke, VA.
ME: Are you crazy? People disappeared in Roanoke. It could have been aliens. They could come back. Plus there's a whole Wikipedia section labeled "Crime" with a subsection on "Gangs."
HIM: Yeah, but it's gone from 2nd worst city in VA to 5th.
ME: Next, please.

ME: How about you wait a year to apply?
HIM: That's fair. And in return, you'll be fine with my applying to ...
ME: Hawaii; San Juan; Columbia, SC; New Bern, NC; the Virgin Islands; Arlington, VA; Portland, OR; Jerusalem; and the Hague.
HIM: And maybe Memphis and New Orleans.
ME: Yes.
HIM: Thank you.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Green beans at the seder

As a hostess, my mother is conscientious, even, you might say, fastidious. Mr. Ben learned this his very first Passover with us back in 2001, an experience so scarring it is no surprise it took him six years to propose. His reaction could probably be summed up by a friend at this Passover who leaned over to me and remarked, "There are so many rules!" Uh, yeah. But what would Judaism be without rules?*

I don't mind rules. I'm used to them. Don't stack the china. Don't mix patterns. Don't fetch something out of the kitchen yourself. Don't eat dairy with the meat meal (even if you're a vegetarian). Don't break anything. My mother has her own version of Leviticus and even though it isn't written down, she thinks the rules are self-evident and she doesn't quite understand why some people don't immediately get it.

She also puts on a beautiful Seder.

This year however she made one mistake. Green beans. That's right, friends. Green beans are not technically kosher for Passover and she served them at BOTH SEDERS. Oh the shame.

Green beans fall under a category of food called "kitniyot," which are permitted for Sephardic Jews, i.e., those from Spain and the Arab world, and not for Ashenazic Jews, i.e., most of us. This is because Jews in Spain & the Arab world had more freedom under Islam than Jews in Europe did under various tight-ass Popes and Czars. So while Sephardic Jews got to throw parties, write poetry, and generally have a good time in good weather, Ashkenazic Jews were stuck in dour shtetls, looking over their shoulders for Cossacks, and inventing new laws to make life even more difficult for themselves.

Well, I reject this tradition of suffering for the sake of suffering. Sure, much of my lineage is based in Lithuania and the Pale of Settlement (Russia/Poland, depending on the year). But my father's family originally hailed from Turkey. The fun-loving Jews! Those are my real spiritual ancestors, and they eat rice on Passover; rice, yes, and green beans too, and soybeans, and corn. There is no end to their wild ways.

My 96-year-old maternal grandmother seems to have absorbed some of this hedonism, even though she is descended from those drab, staid Eastern Europeans. When my brother and I were arguing back and forth about whether soybeans were permissible to eat, my grandmother interrupted us. "Do you know what I ate today?" she said. "A piece of bread."

Now that left us speechless in awe.

Happy Passover everyone! Happier still: only a few days left.


Friday, April 03, 2009

In gay news

When you're a teenager, my god, is there any issue more intense than sexuality? Love, acceptance, rebellion, identity, are you going to be an insider or an outsider, are you going to disappoint your parents ...

For me, it wasn't as simple as, Was I attracted to boys? Of course I was attracted to boys (the attractive ones, anyway, like Jonathan Brandis, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jared Leto).

I was also afraid of most of them, which complicated the matter, and starting about midway through eighth grade they weren't particularly interested in me, which didn't help either. At the same time as the boys were ignoring me, I became catnip to lesbians.

Fending off anyone's advances is difficult for me, and it was even harder when I was so desperate for physical affirmation and affection. But sleepover after sleepover, I laughed off the awkwardness or said things like, "Wouldn't you be more comfortable in your bed?" In some ways, it would have been so much easier to just be like, Yes, you're right: I wear glasses and I don't wear make up, ergo, I am a dyke.

When I fell in love with a boy who loved me back my freshman year of college, I was almost as relieved as my mother. (Oh, she had her suspicions.) The longer we stayed together, the more the issue faded and I found perfect middle ground for myself. Instead of being queer, I surrounded myself with queer people. They tended to have the right politics and not care that I didn't wear make up, and the gay boys didn't scare me at all. Plus, gays and Jewish ladies are a natural constituency: we have Sondheim and Streisand in common! Not to mention intellectual snobbery.

Today I had lunch with two old friends: my oldest-and-bestest, who's now an illustrator living in a "Boston marriage" in Park Slope (or is that redundant?); and the boy who was my first kiss and seven years later my senior prom date, who's now a gay Williamsburg hipster of the first order. Both of these individuals got way more action with the opposite sex in high school than I did, in case we need a reminder of how little what we do or don't do in high school means.

I told them excitedly about today's Midwestern bombshell ("Is this Heaven?" "No, it's Iowa"). Neither cared nearly as much as I did.

There should be a phrase that applies to this situation -- like "the zeal of the convert" but specifically meaning "the zeal of the near-miss." It's akin to survivor's guilt. Straight guilt? I can't be the only one who feels it.

Anyway, well done, corn-producing, Obama-nominating state! You get two thousand gold stars in my book.