Wednesday, August 31, 2005
And while I sit here, hundreds of thousands of people can't even scrounge through what's left of their lives and salvage one or two keepsakes or items around which they can start their lives over, because even the pathetic wreckage of their lives is still underwater.
And of course, millions of people are still getting over the tsunami last year.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Rabbi Yehudah Rosaries, of blessed memory, was asked if it is permissible to deal in mummies ("mumia" in Ladino) since human flesh is forbidden as food.
He replied that it is permissible. Since the flesh is completely dry and cannot be eaten, it is not forbidden to deal in them because the prohibition depends on the article being edible.
It is true that it is forbidden to derive any enjoyment or gain whatsoever from the flesh of a human corpse; therefore, it would be forbidden to deal in a mummy. However, this prohibition is only true of a Jewish corpse. Since there is a question as to whether the mummy was Jewish or gentile we follow the majority of the world and assume that the mummy was certainly a gentile.
Furthermore, where these mummies are found, Jews do not live. Therefore, it may be assumed that it is a pagan gentile and we are permitted to derive profit from the mummy.
Exciting, the world this evokes. Were there ancient and dusty shops tucked away in secret corners of marketplaces containing relics and strange treasures and mummies? Or mummy brokers traveling from city to city connecting mummy buyer with mummy seller?
My girlfriend is flying back to LA with two of her three girls. The third is staying in NY where she's now attending college. We're used to saying "the girls" for all three of her daughters, and now it's not really possible any more. One of "the girls" just grew up when we weren't looking, and my daughter is growing up as well.
It used to be, when my daughter was younger, people would say "Oh, she's getting so big!" and I'd reply something like "Well, yeah, they tend to do that when ya feed them, ya know..." but now I know why people always remark on how fast kids grow, how big they get, how fast. I know that next thing I know my girl won't be a girl anymore, that I won't see it happen, that she'll grow up when I close my eyes for a second.
And my girlfriend is a little sad, but not very, because her daughter has blossomed into what my girlfriend had hoped she'd become the whole time. Her sisters are going to miss her terribly, however and probably have a period of adjusting to her not being there. Their triad shrinks to a dyad.
OH. For reasons too complicated to go into here, I have a photo of a Tibetan Buddhist statue of Khadrubje. I can't remember if he is a lineage guru or a dharma protector or what. My Buddhist excoworker left him and Dorje Shugden here to watch over me. But Khadrubje sees the emptiness at the heart of all things. Next to him I have a photo of my girlfriend. And I can't see any emptiness in her at all, although she is mostly emptiness, I know. Oh, I dunno. Never mind.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
So we were sitting watching the Video Music Awards because my daughter wants to.
And I was ready to settle in for a night of being bored watching really bad outfits and poor lipsyncing. But then they talked about the movie Rize and how it documents the "Clowning" and "Crumping" styles of dancing that originated in LA over the last few years. So my ears perked up, because I'd heard about the movie and was interested in seeing what the dancing looked like.
So the dancers come out, including the guy who stared it all, Tommy the Clown. And this is pretty cool, because this guy single-handed started a whole new dance thing, where in gang areas, kids are able to get into the dancing and being left alone by the gangs because they respect the clowning and crumping groups. It's a real dance thing started in the streets by the kids in the streets, not a bullshit fad with millions of studio dollars behind it. Clowning and Crumping are basically the antithesis of MTV. The dancers are doing something that takes hip hop away from the hell it's currently in, where every star idolizes what's basically the lifestyle of rich retirees in Florida.
So the dancers being on TV is really big, because not many people saw Rize because it was in limited release. And not many people know about this stuff. This could be the way this genuinely hip hop form of expression breaks out all over the place. They start to dance, and I am excited to see the crazy energetic moves they are doing.
For about two seconds. And then MTV starts acting like MTV, cutting to the audience so we can see the reactions of celebrities to the dancers. Because that's what the average American, in the mind of MTV, wants to see --who wants to see the performers on the stage perform when we can watch the celebrities watch the performers? And then we back to the dancing for about a quarter of a second. And then back to another famous person. And then back to the dancers. And so it goes for about fifteen seconds, and that's the end of the vital, energetic, REAL hip hop of the evening. And no one knows anything more about Crumping and Clowing because back to everyone trying to look like really old rich people...
I don't know why I got angry. I mean, it's MTV. It's ALWAYS sucked. At least today there's music on MTV tonight. And my daughter's happy.
Friday, August 26, 2005
Oh, My God.
I have no idea what the hell to say so far. I know I'm going to listen to this again and again, but wow. What is this?
It's so far over the top and bizarre. It's about time someone came about and did something to make Tales of Topographic Oceans and Lamb Lies Down on Broadway seem like concise and immediately-accessible works. This is what I love about prog-rock. All the glorious excess of King Crimson or Genesis or Yes, but done in one's garage by a real brother and sister.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
My Sun-Maid Woman
Here you are
wearing a big red bonnet
and holding a tray overflowing with green grapes.
The sun behind you bursts with joy
its rays spreading out
to embrace the world
much as you do.
And no one else would have
as many grapes as this
on their tray.
I, for instance
tried to find grapes
worthy of picking
but rejected most of them
because they were too green
or not green enough
But you move
from vine to vine
see each grape
touch it gently
and each grape stretches
under your loving hands.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Time flies... someone just emailed me asking if I could do a meeting in Denver on October 4th. That's Rosh Hashanah, so I can't do it. Wait a minute! It's Rosh Hashanah already?!? And my daughter turns 12 on the 12th. It's all going by way too fast! How do we slow down time's passage? I can't possibly do everything I need to in this life with everything going so quickly.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
BUT! I don't hate materialism itself. I hate that people generally have no clue how to spend money! People waste money buying stupid things. And the rich are the worst. LA's Westside is littered with boring BMWs and Mercedes, all yawn-causing wastes of money bought more for the brand than the car. The owners of such cars should be flogged and made to donate the cost of the car to charity. But Maseratis... that's different! That's a legitimate use of money. A man in my girlfriend's neighborhood has a 2004 Maserati Gransport, and I shed tears of thanksgiving every time we take a walk and he's left it in the driveway. It's the most gorgeous inanimate thing there is.
Contrast it with the Bentley Continental GT. Loads of people are driving those around LA, but how many of them really CARE about their car? Few, I bet. The Continental is a gorgeous car and it's not to blame, but it's another flavor of the month in LA, like kukui-nut necklaces, and so everyone who can get one has gotten one, and just so they can feel like they are with the trends.
The guy with the Maserati, on the other hand? See, we know he's a real car lover. An aficionado. Someone who appreciates a fine work of automotive art. And someone who doesn't mind sharing with the likes of me. Just his leaving it out in the driveway so we can all gaze at it is a wonderful mitzvah.
This is how it will be with me and my Borsolini fedora! On Saturday night my girlfriend and I were window shopping in Beverly Hills and there was a little Italian store with Borsolini hats in the window, and oh, my hat-craving soul. I'm not sure if this is the model I was fawning over, but God forgive me if it is. It would figure that the hat I really wanted would be $435.
But then again, imagine the role I would assume when I donned such a hat! I'd be an ambassador of goodfeeling and art as I strode around Los Angeles in this unparalleled object of beauty! People would be filled with a sense of wellbeing knowing such style and grace was still extant in the world. But you know, it's the line of the brim that I like, the way the brim is down in front, up in back, the way the line is like half of infinity. I can probably find a nice felt fedora I like for $40 someplace, but oh... that Borsolini.
I never knew I could be so into "fine European" anything, but look at me. Between my lust for Italian hats and my German Rotring and Lamy pens, I'm one Euro-something or other.
Not to mention my high-minded ideals wrestling with base desire. Over a hat. But what a hat.
Monday, August 22, 2005
This weekend my girlfriend and I did my idea of a perfect weekend --we lazed about in bed (well, we didn't really laze), walked along the beach, watched movies, picked out a gorgeous dress for her to wear at her daughter's bat miztvah, and ate wonderful food at a Mexican restaurant. It was a great weekend.
We saw Fight Club. How did I miss that movie before? It was an amazing movie and very eerily dealt with issues I've been complaining about for years -- the dehumanization of modern life, the remaking of Americans into simple consumers, our identification of ourselves with our possessions. The idea that we suffer a spiritual crisis. And the places that the movie goes are places I tend to go in my simplistic fantasies. So for the last six years, my societal and political ramblings have been unwittingly echoing Chuck Palahniuk's 1996 book, and poorly at that? That's a depressing realization. All this time I thought I was unique, but it turns out I really am an easily identified and targeted demographic. Also, the movie puts the logical result of my ideals and prejudices into an unflattering light. I don't like my tendency to see the world as being primarily a matter of money that can only be put right by means of violent revolution. It's something I have been working on for years, but still struggle with. It's like my kneejerk response to any problem, my fight or flight instinct, is wrapped up in revolution. I feel a kinship with Emma Goldman, both in her young and naive idealistic phase, and in her later mature and disaffected rejection of every regime that claimed to put these ideals into practice.
Walking along the beach was great -- right at sunset-- the tide was out, and these large jellyfish, around 1' in diameter, were washed ashore. I flicked one back into the sea with a bamboo stick I found, but I'm not sure if the jellyfish was even alive, or if I injured it flicking it back in.
We get quite a bit of bamboo driftwood on the Santa Monica beaches, and I wonder if it comes all the way from Asia or if there are stands of bamboo in Central and South America -- I guess if I read this book I'd find out, but it seems a bit complicated and in-depth, even for me.
I am leaving here in a bit to take my daughter to the dentist for her checkup. This is a normal thing, but until a couple years ago, getting my daughter to let a dentist look at her, let alone touch her teeth, was a major struggle that entailed many tears and knotted tummies -- mostly mine! So while it's a boring and normal thing to take one's kid to the dentist, I am thankful to God that my daughter is now able to go and have her teeth checked and worked on without having a panic attack.
Saturday, August 20, 2005
The signal’s a cough
But that don’t get me off
I summon you to appear my love
Got the weight of the world
I summon you here my love
But you know, Britt Daniel sings this stuff so well that even the really mysterious lyrics come off as fraught with meaning I'm too simple to comprehend.
I am feeling woozy today but better as far as my achiness. I wonder if the Advil is to blame for the woozy feeling? I haven't taken medication in a long time.
Oh. I think Cindy Sheehan should shut up and stop whining. I am on MoveOn's mailing list, and when I got their emails asking for us to protest in solidarity with her, I rolled my eyes. I wish my political stands and opinions were so simple that they'd fit onto a t-shirt or bumper sticker, but they don't. I am not going to stand and protest in support of a woman who says that the war in Iraq is the fault of neo-conservative pro-Israel lobbyists, and then, when called on it, denies she ever said it. I'm not going to ask Bush to meet with this woman again. He already met with her once. And why should he meet with her again? So she can ask her stupid rhetorical question? I am sick of extremist simplistic leftists as much as I am of extremist simplistic rightists. I just want people to start being reasonable.
And another thing. I have decided that the "shul to which I do not go" is definitely Orthodox. I am never going to be THAT observant, but I think I ought to be more observant than I am. Meaning that I am typing this on Shabbat but I want to get to the point where I don't type stuff on Shabbat. I am starting to really feel that there is nothing for me in liberal/rational/Reconstructionist/Reform Judaism. Although some things about Aish Ha'Torah and Chabad irritate me, I am drawn to much of what they have to say in a way that isn't true of liberal Jewish stuff. And it's because liberal Judaism often ends up discarding mitzvot, deciding that practices are just silly, obsolete, indefensible. Things like kashrut, things that supposedly don't make sense, and well, if they don't make sense, we aren't going to do them. For me, G-d is especially present in weird commandments that don't make sense. When I wasn't practicing at all, I used to love ham. Since I became a vegetarian and then started practicing Judaism again five years ago, I haven't eaten anything trayfe, by which I mean pig or shellfish. And I love the taste of all pig products and I even like some seafood, especially squid. Why can't Jews eat this stuff? Who knows. It's certainly not for health reasons. It may be to make it hard for Jews and non-Jews to mingle. But that isn't as important as the fact that it's a commandment that I take on because it's part of being Jewish.
Now, I am not really trayfe-free. Because when you look a little closer, you'll see that I eat non-kosher cheese all the time. And challah that isn't really kosher. And non-kosher wine (though I doubt any pagans were involved in its making). But it's not that I don't think the idea of kosher cheese or wine or challah isn't mportant, it's just that I haven't got that far yet in my practice. It's the idea of working on doing more mitzvot as I can that's appealing to me. And I don't see anyone besides Orthodox (or Conservatives leaning towards Orthodox) with this sensibility. And the idea of Jewishness without mitzvot is appalling. While we may vary in our levels of observance, I guess I am pretty Orthodox in feeling that the 613 mitzvot are there for us to follow as best we can.
So this is my last day being 39. I'm not sure if this really means everything, and I certainly will listen to Carol and not act my age, but then I have the problem of deciding what age I should act. Older, younger?
I'd type more but my wrists are hurting. It's my age creeping up on me. :-)
Friday, August 19, 2005
So it was good today listening to the new Israelisms podcast and hearing Charley and Carol talking about Disengagement and Gaza. The whole thing on TV and in the papers makes me so proud of Israelis. While Israel is not perfect, I believe that one cannot be a Jew in today's world and not be a Zionist. There's just too many places in time where Jews thought themselves safe, integrated into society, and then the other shoe dropped, the new laws came, the pogroms, the expulsion. I am not even sure this will not happen in the US. I have people scoff when I say that, but I am not at all convinced the US does not have a fundamentalist antisemitic future coming. Jews need a safe place in the world.
And the high ideals and convictions of the Jewish state are on display this week. The way that in Israel we have people disagreeing vehemently and still being civil to each other in the vast majority of cases. I know Israel has come a long way from its pioneer days, and that the country is not as idealistic and socialistic as it used to be. But it's still a remarkable place and a remarkable people of which I'm proud to be a part.
So it's a sunny, perfect day outside and I'm feeling happy underneath all my muscle aching. I hope everyone has a good weekend, and Shabbat Shalom.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Oh! Check out the damage to my car! There's damage to the front that will cost hundreds to fix but it's really subtle misalignment of the hood panel and bumper and it's no fun. The rear damage is more fun to look at. It looks like the car is repairable but I'll wait to see what the insurance companies say, of course.
I went to a doctor through my network. And while it really doesn't matter that much, I was trying to find a Jewish-sounding name, but there weren't any. The nearest doctor was Suleman Hakimi. I didn't realize till I got to his office that it was Solemon Hakimi, and everyone is obviously Arabic-speaking Jews-- I'll have to ask where from -- mezzuzah on the door, even a Mitzrach on the wall of the examining room (it was a really cool one that looked to be a print from the 20s). And I got a prescription and I got therapy. Now, I don't like getting massage. But this ultrasound thing-- oh my god. And electrical stimulation, and then massage. It felt so good. Then I went home and to sleep, and this morning I slept all morning, and now I am going to go to work for a couple hours because there's some stuff I have to do. My neck is more generally sore than it was yesterday, my shoulders too, and my lower back hurts. Also, my left arm hurts right where it meets the shoulder. That must be from the seatbelt hitting it... ANd there's this one spot right at the top of my neck that is really tender to the touch. And I feel generally out of it. Besides that, I am fine! And I get to have more therapy tomorrow.
Now I am listening to the David Bowie version of Across the Universe. If I had the Fiona Apple version I'd listen to that too.
Now I am gonna get into my little rentacar and drive to work and see how much I can get done, then I'm going to lie down and have my girlfriend feed me grapes. :-)
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
And when I stopped the woman behind me didn't.
All of a sudden it's like I'm at the beach and my car is lifted up and thrown into the car ahead of me by a massive wave. My neck hurts. The tea that was in the cupholder infront of me near the floor is suddenly all over the car. My glasses are off my head at an angle. my cellphone is somewhere on the floor. And Dawn and Drew are still talking about sheep's balls and how big they are. So my iPod came through just fiine. Hoorah. It took me a while to figure out how to turn off my car and my iPod. Then for a few minutes the three of us just sat in our cars in the #2 lane while all the other cars fought their way around us, honking.
And the whole time (well, after the first few minutes, when I was really freaked out and crying and trying to find everything in my car) I thought of the plaintiff in the court case I was a juror on, Mr. Melendez, and how he's in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. And he can't move around. He can't lift his hands. He can't irritate his wife by coming up behind her when she's trying to put on her makeup and caress her breasts and nuzzle her neck.
And so I thank God for my life and my health and I enjoy the whole process of being able to photograph the damage to my car and to the other cars. I send kind and comforting vibes to the woman who rearended me. When I see her business card says she's in design, I ask her what shedoes. She tells me she's an interior architect. She offers to do my place next time I remodel. The woman I was pushed into happens to work at the building next to mine. We make small talk. I'm standing on the side of the freeway socializing. Life is good. Life is so good.
And now I am on hold with my health insurance trying to get a live person so I can get a referral to an urgent care. And my girlfriend is coming to this Starbucks to hang out and help me. And I'll be able to hold her and nuzzle her neck in public and embarrass her. How can God not have me in the palm of Her hand? How can I not be incredibly lucky?
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
But last night was great. I made my g/f cilantro pesto, and it turned out really well. My dinner skills are all pretty much limited to two things--
- 1) Variants on pasta with homemade sauces, like pestos or red pepper sauces
- 2) Variants on basic Ayurvedic stuff -- basmati rice, mung beans or lentils, and steamed veggies with spices
This is, however, lightyears from where I was ten years ago. Back then I was eating TV dinners and processed everything.
Man, I am scatterbrained. Before I started typing here, I was trying to work, but I had all these things I had to type here in my head. Now I am here I am thinking about work stuff.
So back to work.
Monday, August 15, 2005
I have had this 'goal' of losing weight for my 40th birthday for months. And while I have kind of exercised, I have not eaten well. It's not I've generally eaten poorly, but I have eaten way too much. And this weekend, I actually lost a few pounds. And yesterday, although we were supposed to fast, it being Tisha B'Av, I totally forgot, and ate. But I did eat sensibly. So this morning, I weigh myself, am happy and committed. So lunchtime coworkers invite me to lunch and I went and ate way too much... I am now falling asleep and feeling betrayed by myself. Truly, I am my own worst enemy. I am the Fool of Proverbs. Either because I am being idolatorous, and have made losing weight into a false god, or because I am always sabotaging the goals I set with my thoughtless behavior.
But to less stressful things. eMusic has all the Destroyer albums now. Previously, they only had Streethawk, a Seduction. So I am overdosing now on the exhilarating Your Blues and This Night. Destroyer is one of those bands that's one guy plus whoever he has record with for that particular album. So this Daniel Bejar guy is basically Destroyer. His voice and singing style are really close to Bowie in his Ziggy period, but the lyrics remind me of later Bowie -- very cut-and-paste and opaque. The music is kind of Decemberists, kind of. Lots of fun. Bejar was part of the New Pornographers at some point, so he's the vocals on some of Electric Version.
My g/f is back from her trip to the East Coast. It was fun picking her and her girls up from LAX and seeing everyone again. Her girls have their dad and I'm not trying to compete or anything. But we have a relationship of sorts, and I do miss them when they're not around.
Yesterday my g/f and I we went bra shopping! It's hard to beat bra shopping for sheer weirdness of the usual rules being out the window. Normally we try and avoid staring at breasts. At Victoria's Secret, it was a salesgirl and I intently inspecting the way my g/f's breasts looked in one bra vs another. Very weird and fun. And we discovered the demi was the way to go.
Then we saw Broken Flowers. Gorgeous movie. Bill Murray is wonderful. Very ambiguous ending. It's like the movie was one long shot of an ice-covered lake. At the end, the ice begins to crack. And that's it. Of course, the movie is not just one shot of an ice-covered lake, but Bill Murray's character Don Johnston IS frozen in the movie, very passive, paralyzed into inaction by an unknown event or life crisis. And when he ends up flying around the country to visit ex-girlfriends to see which one of them wrote him an anonymous letter saying he has a 19 year old kid who is on a road trip to find him, it's only because his internet-savvy wannabe-detective next-door neighbor tracks everyone down and plans the whole trip. Nothing in this movie is caused of Don's own volition until the last minutes of the movie. There is a great arc in this movie. It's not fair to compare Bill Murray's character here to his character in Lost in Translation or The Aquatic Life or any other of his recent roles since he suddenly became one of our finest actors. But it's safe to say that if the other recent movies he's done irritate the hell out of you, Broken Flowers is definitely not for you.
Something hit me as we watched the previews --- I feel so unusual and odd most of the time, in my taste in movies as everything else. But when these little indie moviehouses get an audience for movies like Broken Flowers together, the theater is suddenly filled with people that share my taste in movies. And all the previews are often movies I want to see (mixed with one or two pretentious period costume drama pieces geared towards women). And then I realize that I am part of a neatly defined demographic that can be advertised to and classified and compartmentalized, despite all my feelings of uniqueness. Which is comforting, or scary, depending on what's going on in my life at the time.
Anyway. Back to work.
Thursday, August 11, 2005
The View From Here guys had an episode where they went to this Israeli Arab town and had really good hummus. Except I discovered the pronunciation is really hOOmus where the h is the Hebrew "hairball-in-throat" sound. The whole idea of hummus makes me excited because I never knew it was so easy to make, and now I make it all the time. Probably not good stuff, but as good as the stuff in the stores. I did have one of our friends, an Israeli, tell me once that my hummus was good, so maybe it doesn't suck. And I'm even buying the garbanzo beans and soaking them and everything rather than using cans! And I'm discovering that tahini from the middle-eastern grocers is so much cheaper than in the supermarkets. Not to mention spices like cardamom and coriander and cumin. Cardamom is SO expensive in the supermarket, like $12 for a typical-sized spice jar of ground. You can get a huge bag of pods for a few bucks at these markets.
Along similar lines -- I bought a few mortars and pestles last year to help with grinding and pounding herbs, and started making pesto. Pesto, of course, is named for the fact you make it with a pestle. Except no one makes it with a pestle. They make it with a food processor. But when you make it with mortar and pestle it's so good! And my boss recently told me about cilantro pesto -- basically just replace the basil with cilantro. And I've made that recently and had it turn out very well. And cilantro is an herb that's very good for me according to ayurveda.
Back to work.
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Anyway. Being at work again is weird. At the conclusion of the trial I had a strong feeling I wasn't doing anything important and needed to change my life and take on more responsibility, like get my masters and do something more life-changing than my current job. We'll see. Now that whole feeling is fading. Soon it will be as wispy and faint as a dream and I'll wonder if I really felt anything at all, so pulled back into my normal life I'll be.
Having fun with podcasts. Currently I listen to
- Keith and the Girl
- Dawn and Drew
- There are Jews in Alabama?
- Elvis Mitchell's The Treatment
- Soccergirl, Incorporated
and I have to say, that of all of these, Keith and the Girl is closest to me unsubscribing to, because they are too productive for me. It's fun to listen to -- Keith and Chemda are very interesting, very am ha-aretz, I think, in a good way, but they do an hour a day. It's too much to keep up with! Soccergirl's shows are so amateurish and patched together, but they are short. Same with Dawn and Drew. And Jews in Alabama and Israelisms come out less often so you can look forward to the shows and enjoy them and keep up with them.
Back to work!