Thursday, August 23, 2007

I Lied (Kind Of)

I'd mentioned in a previous post that I might eventually blog about my personal version of the Big v. Aidan debate.

I'm not going to. (Sorry, RWAC!)

I'd started to, but it just got way too personal. If this blog were more anonymous, I might have gone through with it. But too many people who read this actually know who I am and who I associate with, so it just doesn't feel comfortable to post that much insight into my love life where casual acquaintances can read it. Besides, both guys involved in the debate have been known to peruse this blog, and they didn't agree that I could write about them in such a way. Even if I gave them code names, it wouldn't be appropriate.

So all I will say is this: if Big and Aidan were horses on the Racetrack of Love, Aidan would have just pulled ahead by a length. This is a first in the history of the Cara Derby.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I Think I'll Stick to Victoria's Secret

At first, I thought, "Cool!"

And then, I thought "Eww!"

A few minutes later, and I still think this invention is just kinda icky.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shul-Bashing: The Latest Manifestation

This is an old pet peeve. It goes back years. Those who were floating around the blogosphere back in the days of the Chicago Chevra, as MoC once called it, might remember discussions/debates between Velvel and myself regarding the portrayal of our shul to others. I’m sorry to say that the situation has not improved. If anything, it’s probably worse.

My perspective on this issue is likely to be different from that of other shul members. For one, my general course of action is to sit back and observe before jumping into the fray, so I’m less likely to shoot my mouth off at the slightest provocation. This also means that I observe the behavior and provocation of those who are shooting their mouths off. More importantly, my family has been a member of this particular shul for over 100 years, so I have a strong attachment and desire to defend it. The caveat is that I wish to defend what the shul once was, not what it is now. Overall, I cannot approve of the direction the shul has taken over the past 10 years.

Here’s where the peeve part comes in: not a week goes by that I don’t here someone criticize, slander, or mock some aspect of the shul. Such criticisms and mockeries are rarely based on anything legitimate. Two examples come to mind: the mechitza, and the new program director.

  1. The mechitza: I’ll be the first to admit it. The mechitza is very low. In fact, it is as low as is halachically acceptable. But the important part is that it’s halachically acceptable. Would I like a higher mechitza, so that there are fewer weirdos looking at me while I daven? Sure. Is it worth kvetching about? No. It was built according to halacha, and given the okay by R’ Yosef Soleveichik. If he was okay with it, why does anyone else need to complain? Particularly all of those anyone elses out there who do not have smicha, are not in a position to accurately debate R’ Soleveichik’s poskin, and are wholly ignorant of who even gave the mechitza the okay to begin with. I heard over the weekend that there are people in NY who refer to my shul’s rabbi as “Rabbi Low-Mechitza”. This irks me even more than the people who actually attend this shul and kvetch about it. Where are we taught that it’s permissible to mock like this? If someone can please point to the daf, perek or pasuk that teaches us that such mockery, such ignorant slander, is a good thing, I would much appreciate the lesson.

  2. The new program director: she’s a woman. Gasp! A woman that was hired to coordinate the shul’s programming. Chas v’chalilah! So why the big stir? Because the shul’s rabbi, an unabashed feminist, calls her “rabbanit”. Therefore, people mockingly refer to her as the assistant rabbi.

    She’s not.

    Sorry, folks. Her title is “programming and ritual director” not “assistant rabbi.” True, the staff member who recently left the shul was the assistant rabbi. While one can’t ignore the shul rabbi’s feminist leanings, one also should pay attention to detail: if she was the assistant rabbi, they’d have called her that. There is no reason to tell people who do not attend this shul that it has a female assistant rabbi. There is no excuse, for example, to refer to her husband as “the new rebbetzin”. There’s no excuse to disparage this woman before she’s even held her job for a full month. Yet all of these things have happened. Again, not cool.
    (For the record, I’m currently having my own issues with the new shul staff member. But that’s because I don’t understand why the new shul program director didn’t stick around after maariv last night to attend a shul program.)

I’ll probably expand on both of these at a later date, since I don’t foresee either topic magically vanishing. But they really boil down to the same thing: speaking negatively about a shul and community, without any thought to the image you are helping to create (or perpetuate). And some people wonder why Moshiach hasn’t turned up yet.

Things on which I may soon blog

1) My own response to the Noah Feldman malarkey. Belated, but this is my blog, so who cares?
2) Shul-Bashing. It’s a pet peeve, and time to revisit it. But now with a new feminist (or anti-feminist?) twist!
3) My personal Big. V. Aidan debate.

Emphasis on the word may. It all depends on how much time I have and whether or not I change my mind about sharing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Just returning the shout-out...

Actually, I'm flattered to be remembered,though it makes me feel a sudden urge to step up my own blogging. But did you have to bring up Amshi?

Things I Don't Normally See On My Way Home

My normal routine on my way home from work is to hop on the train/bus and either 1) talk on the phone, 2) read, or 3) zone out. The other day, I found myself abruptly yanked out of my post-work zone, when my attention was caught by an object not normally seen from a bus window. We'll slip into a first person retrospective to help you visualize...

It's around 5:15, Friday afternoon. I'm standing on the bus, zooming down Lake Shore Drive, lost in my own little world. Sometimes I'll look at the sunlight bouncing off Lake Michigan, and contemplate how shiny and sparkly it looks today. Then I'll simply stare off into space, pondering thoughts that occassionally may border on 'deep' but usually stay in the realm of tangential.

Idly, I watch the cars go by. One of them is clearly owned by people in the midst of moving. Strapped to the roof of that car is a medly of household items: blankets, small boxes, a teddy bear, a stuffed elk head...

Wait, what was that? I snap out of my zone, and look more closely at this car. Sure enough, amid the jumble strapped on the roof (and I'm not sure how they've rigged it so that nothing is flying off), I see what is unmistakeably a dead, stuffed animal head. It may not be an elk. Perhaps it is a reindeer, or a caribou. Nor is it merely a dead animal head; after closer inspection, I see a couple of dead animal legs poking out of the various blankets. Soon, the elk-bearing car has outstripped the bus, and the dead animal goes zooming off to its new home.

Naturally, I laughed, and immediately reached for my phone to tell a friend about this oddity. While she and I texted back and forth, I got off the bus, and walked home. As soon as I got to my street, I noticed a woman walking a few paces ahead of me. Every few moments, she would stop walking, and start dancing. Then she would walk a few steps, stop, and dance again. It seemed to be the day for odd sightings.

As I walked by her, I became aware that she wasn't a woman, after all...

Friday, August 10, 2007

A 'Big' Surprise

One of the first things I saw online this morning was an announcement that Chris Noth signed on to play Mr. Big one more time, in the eventually-coming 'Sex and the City' movie. I don't know how I missed hearing that this movie was even a reality, being the S&TC aficionado that I am, but I was really surprised with this morning's article. And surprised at my own reaction.

I think I'm a little disappointed that they're making this movie. I would have thought that I'd be jumping for joy. More S&TC! More, more more! But something about the whole concept of a post-finale feature-length film just isn't sitting well with me. After a few moments, I figured out why...

I liked the ending. It was believable. Every character's personal drama was resolved in a satisfying way, without being sappily 'happily ever after.' I don't need to know if Mr. Big and Carrie ultimately get married and have munchkins wearing miniature Manolos. I don't need to know how long Samantha really stays with Smith. I'm perfectly content leaving them where they are at the series' close. Creating this movie means reopening old drama or creating new drama, and that somehow seems to interfere with the entire vibe of the series and the finale.

True, no details of the storyline have been disclosed, other than that it will take place a couple years after the finale, to take natural aging into account. But if Mr. Big is making an appearance, one can reasonably speculate that some of the storyline will involve miscommunication and friction between Carrie and Big. After 6 years of miscommunication and friction, can't we leave them be? Can't we just hold on to the notion that even the most dysfunctional couples can eventually get it right and make it work?

And herein lies the real reason why I'm so on the fence about this movie. It's punching holes into the underlying romanticism and optimism of the series. Despite the honesty and cynicism of the characters' attitudes towards sex and relationships, the ultimate message was about searching for love and that one right person. The finale left me happy that each character had finally found what they needed. I don't want that image to be marred.

Of course, this is probably impacted by the fact that I've always been more of Big fan than Aidan aficionado, both in terms of show fandom and real-life preferences. So I really just don't want to have been wrong.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Overdue Snayim Stats

Ok, so the softball season actually ended a couple of weeks ago. I've been remiss in posting the incosequential details of my inconsequential summer pastime.

In a nutshell: we were solidly mediocre.

We finished as the 8th seed in a 12 team league. We were eliminated in the first playoff game, 4-3 in extra innings. It's not such a bad way to go, all things considered. More importantly, we had a blast.

I already miss seeing my teammates every week. I do not really miss having to be up early on Sunday mornings. Since I have several weeks before Sunday school begins, this means that I now have several Saturdays nights to play with. There's no excuse for coming home before 2:00am. 4:00am is preferable.

In other social news, Softball Sundays have been replaced with Trivia Tuesdays and Karaoke Wednesdays. I'm good at the first, and lousy at the second.

Hold the Ketchup!

This gives new meaning to Chicago-style hot dog

Further evidence that Chicago is, in fact, the greatest city in the United States.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dodging Bullets Vs. Dodging Drafts

I generally refrain from posting my thoughts about current hot topics in Israel, for the main reason that I do not yet live there. This is not to say that I am not entitled to an opinion, but rather that I don't feel qualified to express it in such a public way.

However, with today's op-ed about haredi draft-dodging, I feel the urge to add my voice, however ignorant and/or insignificant, into the blogosphere. So here it comes, the opinion I've been holding in for years:

Draft-dodging really, really pisses me off.

The aforementioned article specifically refers to haredim evading army service, but that pisses me off for different reasons than chiloni draft-dodging. Both, however, make me angry.

1) The haredi issue: This, unfortunately, is inextricably linked with the "Eretz Yisroel vs Medinat Yisrael" debate. For me, I don't care what you call it- you're a citizen (for those who are not citizens...well, that's a rant for a different day...), you're getting government aid to raise your children, feed your family and keep a roof over their heads, and you should have to follow the same laws as everyone else. You want to be a Kollel husband? Then do your years of service in the army, and spend the rest of your life learning. No one person can claim that their life is more precious than someone else's, so why should someone else's child risk their life so that yours can learn Gemara and pretend that the outside world doesn't exist?

2) The chiloni issue: As much as the non-haredi world likes to sling mud at the Men in Black, let's not forget that an uncomfortably large percentage of the draft-dodgers don't play for Team Frumkeit. Unless there's a genuine reason not to serve in the army, I just don't understand why so many are trying to back out. Obviously, it makes sense not to be eager to put yourself in a situation where you might be maimed or killed, and are almost guaranteed to lose friends. But to actively try to avoid protecting Israel? It simply doesn't sit well with me. It makes me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Maybe this is just a very normal "Religious Zionist in America" perspective. I'm sure that, if I were a mother in Israel with army-aged children, I would stay awake at night worrying about them. IM"H, I'll someday be that mom. And I can't help but feel that, as much as I would worry, I would be far prouder to have children serving Tzahal, and protecting the country I love so much, than to know that I raised draft-dodgers.