You know, I don't think I've ever actually heard "White Christmas."
Sure, I know that it was written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant, and that it's become a vital part of American culture. I'd definitely heard part of it before, the end part, where everyone sings "may all your Christmases be white"...but does the song really go like that? Is it really sort of pretty and actually funny? Does this make me a bad Jew? (Add this to the fact that I admitted on our Jewish parenting site that I actually like Halloween, I'm about to be kicked out of the so-Orthodox-I-don't-own-a-TV camp for reals.)
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010
You know, I don't think I've ever actually heard "White Christmas."
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
We watched Jaws tonight (on Netflix Instant--is there someone who keeps a list of amazing movies on Netflix Instant, to weed out the great stuff from the trash?) and I am agonizing, agonizing. Every scene of that movie is so well-thought out. Made in that way that movies don't get made anymore, with long lingering scenes and visuals that any 12-year-old would decry as fake in a second, but you know that's the way these things work in real life. One second you're just smokin' a cigarette
and the next, you're, well, lunch.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Why do we love to read about food?
I'm in the middle of Kosher Nation, a history of kosher food in America. The if the industry is a veritable behemoth -- kosher sales, according to writer Sue Fishkoff (who blogged for us last week), make up a billion-dollar subset of the American food industry -- then this book is a travelogue of its guts and insides. Fishkoff writes with a surgeon’s steady hand, casually recounting episodes in the past few hundred years of kosher food in America in between these bizarrely compelling interviews with kosher supervisors, Reform and independent rabbis, and Chabad rebbetzins who give challah-baking classes. In a nutshell, she talks to virtually everyone across the spectrum who has something to offer to the discussion of kosher food in America -- what it means, where it comes from, and why people care about it.
I love food writers. (It’s not just that I’m married to a meat-loving personal chef, I promise.) I’m fortunate to work with two of the best, Tamar Fox and Leah Koenig, who aren’t just foodies but writers with a lust for flavor: When they write, you can feel the saliva sandwiched between the words, oozing out. People are surprised by how many food books are coming out these days, but they shouldn’t be -- just look how much erotica/porn/gossip/dating books are written and published every year. People love reading about sex because we all have it (or want to). But we’re so damn intrigued by reading about food because we constantly have it. And need it. And, just like skeletons, we all have one, but we’re never sure what they look like up close -- and when we see it from afar, we’re both scared and fascinated.
Fishkoff is a great writer, and it’s easy to imagine her sleeping in a bed each night surrounded by kosher symbols and diagrams of cut-up kosher animals. But the passion that people are already feeling about her book -- that gets me wanting to read passages out loud to everyone in the room at the time -- isn’t just the mark of a great book. There’s something about food that fires us up, that makes us more personally invested.
Maybe it’s that we all eat. Or maybe it’s that Fishkoff and Foer, in writing about where our food comes from, know more about what we’re eating than we do. And in their stories there isn’t merely an emotion that we recognize, but a pre-conscious action that they’re defining for us, peeling away the layers of flesh and showing us what we look like on the inside.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
When you pray by the first light of dawn, the Talmud says, Heaven pays attention to your prayers immediately. And when you time your prayers so that they culminate with the Amidah prayer at the moment that the sun breaks the horizon -- again, according to the Talmud -- that's the moment where the gates of heaven are flung open unreservedly, so that any prayers are answered immediately and without question.
My daughter is still on East Coast time. She woke up at 5:00. This is the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean from the villa we've been staying at. (We're down the street from Julia Roberts and one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Although, at this particular moment, none of that earthly name-dropping stuff seems to matter.)
Monday, November 1, 2010
So I'm editing this little daily email called Jewniverse, which tells you about one cool/amazing/unusual thing each day that you've never heard of. (If you're like my mom, someone probably forwarded you this thing about a Yiddish workout video about five thousand times in the past week; and we also show you things like rabbis in space and a blessing over weird fish.)
And this is one of those little behind-the-scenes stories that would go on the director's DVD commentary, if emails had that sort of thing.
A few months ago, I was at the ROI Conference in Israel -- which was mostly a way for a bunch of Jews with wacky ideas to get together and trade ideas and get blown away by each other. We had one big, intense networking night, culminating with a concert by Koby Oz, lead singer of Teapacks -- who caused the biggest stir in years at Eurovision with this awesome/insane performance about Iran:
Oz -- whom you'll notice in the video, wearing the wild beret and that great vest and doing drop-kicks -- just released a solo album. The ostensible highlight of the networking night was a performance by Oz and his band. Except that, because (a) the audience was composed of funders and prospective fundees, and (b) you had a handful of us wacky Orthodox Jews, nobody really paid attention. The event happened during a mourning period called the Three Weeks, when some people don't listen to live music -- so I ran to the Western Wall and had my own punk-rock crying freak-out and then unexpectedly ran into my favorite Hasidic movie star.
Flash forward, and -- equally unexpectedly -- I get Koby Oz's album in the mail.
And, most unexpectedly of all, I listen to it. And it's freaking amazing.
It's unexpectedly quiet and reserved and meditative, featuring a duet with his dead grandfather in that Nat "King"/Natalie Cole style -- only, Oz's grandfather is a Yemenite cantor, and the song is about God.
I won't tell you much about the album -- you can read the Jewniverse for that -- except to meditate on the irony of it. Oz, a secular, Tel Aviv-based Israeli musician, makes this album whose name (Psalms for the Perplexed) is a subtle pun on two major religious works (Psalms, of course, and Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed) and whose entire concept is exploring what is and isn't religious, what it means to be Godly in our society and to ourselves.
In short, it's a game-changer for the entire genre -- an album of love songs about God.
Dammit, Mr. Oz. I'm stunned. I'd take off my hat to you -- but, you know, it's a yarmulke and all.
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