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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A ridiculous satirical story by Isaac-Meyer Dik, which I translated from Yiddish. "The Hullaballoo," aka "The Crisis."

The Hullabaloo

1. The Sorrowful Letter

In the year 5594 (1834), on the morning of Tisha-B'av, when the congregation recites the prayer mourning the destruction of the temple, one of the town's greatest householders entered with a letter in hand and went straight to the trustee, the leader of the community, and said to him breathlessly: "Reb Benyomin, I ask you to read this letter quickly, it's no simple thing, it concerns the whole people Israel."

That speech worked on the crowd like a thousand-pound stone falling into a quiet lake.

And it happened that the trustee read through the letter, burst into tears, wrung his hands, tore his clothes, pulled the hair from his head and shouted: "A misfortune, a great misfortune has befallen us!"

And the people in shul became so frightened that the saying of prayers flew right out of their heads. They turned their glance to the important personage who had brought the letter, and to the trustee, wanting to understand how far this misfortune would extend.

It was, however, impossible to guess. People hurried through the prayer as one does through the second half of the siddur on the second night of Passover, and slipped out into the street. There were soon consultations in progress around every house. One person whispered in another's ear, and nobody really knew what had happened.

2. The Big Meeting

And it happened that while all the people were standing around in little clusters, racking their brains over what new kind of evil decree this might be, the town's sextons were seen running from house to house calling everyone to the rav for a meeting.

First the rav's assistants were called, the greatest scholars. The distinguished householders were called next, and afterwards, the simple folk too, and even those who were total paupers. The only ones left at home were a few who were sitting shiva.

And when all had gathered together at the rav's, the door was locked and the trustee stood before the assembly and spoke on behalf of the rav, who wasn't feeling well. "Let it be known, at any moment it may occur, an evil decree is abroad which strikes straight at the heart. A directive which will affect not just one simple commandment, but the entire survival of our people. It says that no Jewish daughter may be married before the age of sixteen, and no youth before he is eighteen years old. Understand, dear brothers, this is a worse decree than Pharoah's, because his was directed only against boys and this one strikes at us all..."

And he read them the letter he'd received. It had been written by one of his in-laws in the capitol; this in-law had written to him about the secret of the new edict so he could be ready and marry off his daughter in time.

The trustee's speech and the letter hit the people so hard, they all began to cry, not one eye was dry! People thought it was the start of the troubles that bring the coming of the Messiah...

For two hours they sat and wondered what to do. Finally it was decided that everyone who was faithful to God and His people Israel should immediately, right now on the Ninth of Av, marry off his son or daughter so that if the edict arrived the next day it would already come too late.

And this would all be done secretly, so that, God forbid, there would be no pitfalls/accidents/untoward outcomes.

3. The Turmoil/Riot/Stampede in Town

But the crowd had barely come away from the meeting when there was already ranting and raving in every house, in the public bath, in the mill and the poorhouse. A couple of tailors who had slipped out of the meeting early told a certain wadding-maker who had been in the street just then; he inflated the story a bit and carried it between the stores. An hour later the business had been told and retold, most people adding a bit from their own imaginations. Half an hour later, allusions to this edict had been found to exist in the old books. And the Khasidim said their rebbe had already known about this situation for a long while and had therefore already married off his little Shmuel in time.

Briefly: as soon as the assembly had left the meeting, the people divided into two groups - one group, shadchns (matchmakers), the other group, in-laws. It was a rainy day, but people ignored that and walked the muddy streets in their socks [are their shoes off for the mourning of the temple?], one person whispered and plotted with another, demonstrating/arguing/showing how suitable this match or that match would be. By nightfall, more than half the town had made engagements.

The first matches were made by poor people whose Rav was a Khasid. The Khasidic Rav was also something of a rabbi - he took rabbi's payments and gave out amulets; he also dealt in prayer shawls. He made a big fuss about the edict among the menfolk and their wives, and the rebitsin raised even more of a to-do among the women, whom the edict had frightened even more than their husbands, because each of them remembered that by the age of sixteen she herself had already been either divorced or living in disharmony with her husband, whereas her daughter at that age would just be beginning.

And barely had the first stars been seen in the sky, folks hadn't yet even had a chance to eat anything, when khupahs were already going up in the houses - quiet weddings, without musicians, without the ritual clown (badkhn), without the ritual veiling and bedecking of the bride. That's what the Rav had ordered - first, because after all it was still Tisha B'Av, and second, so nobody in town would know.

There were so many khupahs that night, it was hard to find ten men to say the blessings at each wedding, and I, who lived near the synagogue courtyard where the hullabaloo had begun, had to attend all the weddings in order that there be a minyan.

4. The Hullabaloo Grows.

And when it became day, there was already an augmentation of eighty new households. Eighty tallis-wearers came to the small synagogues and study houses, and from that day on people stopped saying takhnun (the supplicatory prayer) until the eve of Rosh Hashanah.

People were keeping company in the streets, wandering around half asleep because in every house they were keeping late hours; one can't sleep oneself, and one can't allow others to sleep, because there had to be a minyan at the weddings. Nattering clusters stood near every house, everybody saying Mazl Tov to everybody else in the street.

After prayers, there was a tremendous puffing on pipes in the small synagoges, there was talk and more talk about the weddings. Some held it to be a great idea that came from the big meeting, permitting the previous night's weddings, and they considered it simply a miracle that they'd pulled it off in time, because they'd heard the edict had already reached Byelorussia and people there were already fasting.

Others, on the contrary, were mocking the whole affair. First, they absolutely did not believe such an edict was on its way, and second, they figured that even if it did come, it wouldn't be such a big problem. Those of this opinion, however, were very few in number and were soon shouted down and called heretics. It soon ended in blows.

Aruond ten in the morning, an important regional matchmaker arrived in town with a big noise, because he had a letter from "other parts" that said a maiden would be forbidden to marry before the age of 25 and a young man, under 30. He was so busy, he prayed by himself at the tavern and didn't even want to drop in on a few rich men who'd sent invitations to him a few times - sheerly out of kindness.

"I don't have a spare minute now," he answered their messengers. "Don't you see? The world is in flames, it burns. For me, every minute is gold."

The regional matchmaker's pronouncement instantly spread across town and everyone, big and small, gathered around the tavern where he was staying, to see him in his good luck. Just as a plague of cholera is good luck for a funeral director, just so was this 'hullabaloo' good luck for matchmakers.

Too, it seemed to everyone that he'd bring along behind him a pack of matchmakers. Some of the rich women started wagging their tongues, hoping to get in at least a word with him. However, it was as impossible to approach him as to approach a great rabbii.

He was just barely willing to see one of the richest men, Reb Elyokim, to pause near his house as he was passing by - he wouldn't even go inside, the rich man had to go out to him in order to consult with him, standing, about a matter, probably about his 12-year-old girl.

"Obey me and do it!" people heard the matchmaker shout at Reb Elyokim. "Obey me, again I say, and do it. Now is not the time for trifling about and being choosy. The world is burning!"

And he left by postal coach. That was demonstration enough for the people of Herres that things were not simple in the world. That a matchmaker wouldn't enter Reb Elyokim's house, and further, that he would travel by post!

And that afternoon the hullabaloo began to advance, hour by hour. It was seen that those who in the morning were full of ridicule were by evening leading their children to the khuppah.

And those people who had first been swept up in the furor the previous evening, and who were of a better station in life, made their weddings in the synagogue courtyard, with ritual clown and musicians, or that is to say, with one fiddler alone, or just a tsimbl player. In a pinch, even just a drummer was sufficient.

The badkhn (clown) had no time to attend more than the service.

On the second night there were even more weddings than on the first, and the town was in a commotion/uproar.

5. The Villagers

The aforementioned bitter tidings had by the third day spread through the surrounding villages with a thousand times greater terror. The village folk began to hear that people had only eighteen days in which to marry off their daughters (and boys, just 30 days). And that for divorced women and widows, it was too late already, and that a divorced man or widower was forbidden to marry a fifth time.

Nu, so they became so very confused, and they threw down the sickles from their hands (it was harvest time just then) and they hitched their horses to the empty rackwagons and rode into town by the hundreds, and they stopped with their wagons in the market square because there was no other place they could all turn in at once.

And before they had time to climb down from the rackwagons and ask if what they'd heard was true, they quickly heard the klezmers playing and saw so many brides and bridegrooms being carried from every little street to the synagogue courtyard, that they understoon everything they'd heard was indeed true and so didn't even bother to ask. They just fell in among the townspeople asking for help in finding brides and bridegrooms.

So the little synagogues and poor children's schools were opened for them, and the poor orphans were driven together, that used to go begging between the houses, and the townspeople sold them to the villagers for a pretty penny.

6. The Rich Folk

And so the hullabaloo advanced from day to day. There were weddings upon weddings, no end in sight, not to mention engagement parties.

And really there were only twenty or thirty families in town who remained indifferent and who hadn't been swept up in the crisis. These were the rich folks, big businessmen, who were neither pious old-style Jews nor Khasids. They prayed sometimes here, sometimes there, wherever was convenient. They'd had little intercourse with the townspeople, they were rarely home. Furthermore, they'd been born in big cities and had come here as sons-in-law, were now already divorced or widowed, and for a couple of weeks had been laughing about the big to-do.

"No," they said, "we don't believe the letter Berl received from his father-in-law in 'other parts.' Now, it certainly could be that that inlaw didn't have the money to pay a gift for his son, and hence wrote the letter so he himself could make a wedding.

"We also don't believe the matchmakers, because they're getting a whole festival/market day out of this. They've made a whole business out of it and told 8,000 lies."

However, their authority/credibility in this matter didn't last even two weeks; their wives didn't rest or let up, they bothered their ears saying they were not smarter than the rest of the world, especially not while more daughters had fallen upon them than upon others. Furthermore, the rav had explained to them that as they separate themselves from the community, this in itself can damage/harm prospects of future matches.

And who could say? Perhaps that regional matchmaker was right? Then one really wouldn't be able to show oneself before God and the community.

And besides all this, their daughters really began to worry like Lot's daughters, that their wouldn't be any bridegrooms left for them, that all the boys would be taken.

In short, the rich men were attacked from all sides, until they had to give in and be swept away in the stream of the crisis.

However, in order to distinguish their weddings from the panic-weddings which were being put together like children's games, the rich men let it cost them a few dozen rubles in bribes to the assessor, to induce him to let their weddings take place publicly, as is appropriate. They thought the assessor perhaps had received an order on the subject. But the assessor, who didn't know anything about anything, let them go ahead and knock themselves out (literally, go head over heels, turn somersaults!).

And so that things might proceed in better order, they hired four poor boys to hold up the poles of the khupa more than 24 hours a day, and the two kinds of musicians in town divided themselves into two groups, one to stand under the khupa and play, the other to bring the bride and bridegroom to the wedding and then play them home again.

And there was a congestion/traffic jam/throng near the khupa, just as around the cantor during the Days of Awe, and all sorts of inlaws would be waiting with the greatest impatience for other inlaws, who were already under the khupa, to leave.

7. The Cantor

It was also a golden time for the cantor, because he was raking in the dough. He sat the whole time in the vestibule with his choirboys. He ate there, slept there, wrote the marriage contracts there (the pen belongs to/pertains to the cantor). And the whole time he'd be sticking his head out and singing "Mi Adir..."

His wife was also there, sellign wedding rings, packets of prayer shawls, glasses for breaking. And it was there that, during the short breaks he had available between one wedding and the next, he would also dispatch the beasts and kill chickens and small animals, since he was also the town's ritual slaughterer.

And it was there that he led the children to the slaughter along with the cows and hens.

Nu, for wedding singing he used to charge twice what it cost for killing a baby goat - because under the khupa there was a double act of slaughter. And this is also perhaps the reason why a khupa has four poles while a stretcher for the dead has only two - because there, under a khupa during the turmoil-time, two were buried, while after the washing of a corpse, just one.

At that time, people didn't do any learning at any of the study houses because every day everyone was attending some inlaws' affair. Those who had no children were also inlaws throughout the turmoil-time, because they used to take pains to seek out, from under the ground, any sort of hardship cases, a cripple, a hunchback, and get them married off.

Rightly did a certain German once say perceptively: "A Christian, when he has a lot of children, makes one wedding. A Jew, when he has one child, makes a few weddings. If he has absolutely no children at all, he makes a hundred weddings."

8. The Crisis kicks it up a notch

And the turmoil advanced from day to day, so widely that the whole town looked like a wedding depot. Even people who were just passing through got married. Should a boy or girl enter the town, before they got to the other side they'd already been made a householder or housewife. The town walls closed in on them, were locked and not let open until they'd gotten hitched.

In short, all classes of people had fallen prey to the panic, poor and rich alike. Lots of children went under the khupa completely without their parents' knowledge. A lot of serving maids, sent to the market for barley groats and flour, came back as wives or didn't come back at all. Plenty of little girls who didn't already have little boys to marry were given to old widowers who were thinking more about the World to Come than about this one.

Plenty of men dragged their brides to the khupa by the hand. Many were attacked/assaulted by the Turmoil unexpectedly and, let it not happen to us, were married off most suddenly.

Here, I just talked half an hour ago with someone who'd gone out to buy buckwheat cakes, a dwarf in his forties, furthermore an asthmatic with a hernia, no thought at all of marrying, all the more so because he'd already divorced two wives. He'd been carrying his buckwheat cakes along, just when the town should have been peaceful and quiet, when all of a sudden, half an hour later, as I live and breathe, he was already standing under the khupa and the cantor was already singing "Mi Adir" over him.

In short, not even a child in a cradle was safe from the panic. For a span of four weeks you didn't see a boy or girl on the streets, just as you don't see a white rooster the day after Yom Kippur.

Prayer shawls were running out, so people cut them in half. Men who died during this period were not buried with prayer shawls because the rav said: "A bridegroom takes precedence over a corpse."

Meanwhile the town didn't give a thought to earning a living. The stores were closed. The people went around in their holiday best and as soon as two people recognized each other they said Mazl Tov! not knowing at all if there'd been a wedding - but then, who hadn't been making a wedding at that time?

9. Two Brothers

And it came to pass, in the days of the hullabaloo, that neither equality of age nor pedigree were taken into account, whereas in previous times folks didn't allow even the slightest detail of their ancestry to be overlooked. People used to set up matches the way you set up a booth on the eve of Succot. But now, a ten year old boy might be put together with an 18-year-old girl and the reverse as well, a ten year old maiden with a young widower.

So it happened that a certain father had two boys, one nine years old and the other seven. The elder was married to an eighteen year old girl, because a younger one couldn't be found, they'd already been snatched up.

Understand, such an engagement couldn't hold up, it was like hitching a silk strand to a coarse rope. With time, that 'man-and-wife' business was such a burden to the nine-year-old that when evening came along he used to hide. He'd creep into a mouse-hole so he wouldn't be coerced into being with such a person who'd embittered his life rather than sweetened it.

It happened that his father beat him a few times, and he began to cry and shouted: "Why do you force me over there? Let Yoshke go today!" (That was his younger brother.)

10. The Sabbaths

Every Sabbath people used to bring a transport of householders to shul, big and small, in little shreds of prayer shawls. They'd go up to the Torah in groups of three or four, as on Simkhas Torah, all at once. The little householders brought slices of challah and chicken drumsticks with them, and they'd eat during the reading of the torah, standing on a bench, hair full of the barley women had poured over them while they'd been bedecking the bride that week... there was no talk of combs around those parts for a whole year, especially during the Panic, when things were simply falling out of people's hands.

The new housewives brought their dolls and their jacks to the women's section of the synagogue, and during the day they poured sand into their veils. On Shabbos morning, after prayers, the newlyweds would go around wishing everyone Good Shabbos, and, well, on Sabbath the whole town went wandering about, and inlaws were met up with, some back from reading the Torah at shul, others returning from the morning entertainments that follow a wedding.

Furthermore, inlaws were driving in from many other towns, and so were loads of matchmakers. In the evening there were celebration feasts, at night Sabbath songs sprang up. Briefly, in those days of the Panic people didn't sleep, didn't eat, didn't work, didn't study. They just drank and made weddigns.

11. The end

The panic went on for a full six weeks and would have endured longer if there had been four boys left to hold up the khupa poles. The whole town had been so hornswoggled (the wool pulled over their eyes, literally "veiled") that not one servant girl was left to any household - they'd all married and become, themselves, housewives without servants.

No shoemaker or tailor was open for business because at that time, all commerce and tradework had stopped.

And then, a few weeks later, when the official edict arrived, saying no maiden under sixteen nor boy under eighteen could marry, there were a whole lot of divorces. It was then that the people looked around, seeing how foolish they'd been, and were embarrassed in front of each other.

There were divorces upon divorces. The rabbi's court tried case after case.

A few months later there were twice as many serving maids as before.

Nine months later there were a lot of wet nurses, as in Egypt during the time of the evil decree when the boys had been thrown in the water.

And after that, there remained many deserted wives (grass widows); a lot of men had wandered away into the world and thrown away their wives.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

[Hannah]: Again this obsession with red!

I have found the enchanting, oh-so-patronizing website, which stands for "Mother of the Bride Makeover".

Once again, this obsession with red:
I get it… I have been dressing mothers for a very long time. But, there are limits. One “no-no” is red… let me say that, no let me scream that again: NO RED! It’s not about the style so much as the color RED. Why? you ask. Isn’t it obvious? Red conveys a certain thirst for life that just isn’t appropriate for your daughter’s or son’s wedding, even if you just can’t stand the other mother or her dress.
But wait...
However, red is a terrific color for almost any other woman at a wedding (think guests) or for almost any special occasion (think black tie gala, charity event, dinner party etc.). Red, especially in the form of a flowing gown, telegraphs confidence and excitement.
I don't understand!!??? I guess you're just not allowed to be confident and excited. Sorry.

Are you listening, ma?
Ask your child, prior to purchasing your dress, what expectations or dreams or requirements he or she has for your dress. Ask about their ideas about the style and color of your dress. If possible, ask your son or daughter to join you on your shopping expedition; be sure to make it fun and include a lunch or dinner so the focus can be about the experience not just about your dress. And don’t forget to make sure that you ask about the other mother. Show your concern that you want both your dress and the other mother’s dress to look just perfect for the wedding.
Oh man, I'm dying here.

So what can you wear? This fine website recommends this, and who am I to disagree?

[Hannah]: Fabulous Mother Of Bride gowns

Hey ma, how about these, I think they are really "you":


[Hannah]: Quote of the day

If men must be supposed always to follow their true interest, it must be meant of a new manufactory of mankind by God Almighty; there must be some new clay, the old stuff never yet made any such infallible creature.
- the Marquis of Halifax

Monday, April 27, 2009

Frightening cake-toppers, part two.

Commenter Cynthia (thank you!!) pointed me to this life-size cake topper. The creator wrote:
This life-size portrait wedding cake was inspired by two large bride and groom cakes at a wedding the bride attended in Nigeria when she was a child ... Elizabeth sculpted the head and shoulders in Austin, Tx and Nikki, with Absolutely Editable Cakes, created the wedding gown cake in Dallas, Tx. The head is made out of polymer clay and has 24mm glass eyes which added to the realism of this sculpture. The bride said this incredible cake was the talk of the reception and everyone was taking pictures of it with their cell phones!

My son pointed out that the bride's dress is actually - well, I think the cutting of this cake might have been a bit creepy.

I posted some amazing shots of wonderful realistic caricature cake toppers (that I actually adore) on my new North Carolina weddings blog (custom cake toppers).


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Frightening, ugly cake topper gets a makeover

As you know, my daughter is getting married, and I'm a do-it-yourself type of person and don't like the way wedding vendors overprice their wares, so I turned my attention recently to "cake toppers." I may do a report on them later, but for now suffice it to say that Menticia and I bought some Sculpey and started trying to make our own.

As an online guide suggested, we used twisted wire for an armature (they suggested expensive floral wire, but I used the wire left over from my days with rebar, it's much cheaper). I drilled holes in blocks of 2x4s. We twisted head-loops in the armature, added arm-wires, stuck the wire ends in the block of wood, crammed bits of aluminum foil in and around the framework, and then covered it with a thin layer of polymer clay.

Well, as you see my first try looked more like a Paleolithic fertility goddess than it does any human being you'd like to marry.

My son Ezra said: "Don't worry, Mom, this is just your first one. Imagine how creepy you could make them with a little practice."

He described her theatrical arm gesture as: "Oh, why did you make me like this?!" ...

... and then he asked: "Are you going to inscribe the Word of Life on her forehead?" (This was his erudite reference to the Golem.)

Nice, supportive attitude, my son!

Jeimy had to go home before we had time to "finish" our creatures (hers doesn't look any better than mine).

The next day I baked mine in the toaster-oven (warning: after I did it, my doctor friend Mark said I've now rendered the oven unfit for human use) and discovered that if you lay the golem down in the oven to bake it, the base will catch on fire. (You can see the charring.)

During our "Illustration Friday" session yesterday, I gave my hideous bride a dress, some hair, and a tiara. Oh, and also a nose job and a facelift. Then I painted her and this is how she looks now.

Stay posted for similar future experiments! It was a hoot!


Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Theater"

A friend of mine has a blog at Psychology Today on divorce, and he asked me to paint him a piggybank for a post he was doing called Divorce Piggy Bank - the idea being that every time you do one of the creepy or careless things he suggests in the course of daily living with your spouse, you might as well put some dough in the piggy bank to pay for your future lawyer.

Anyway, it's possible he was thinking of the usual, typical cheerful piggy bank but I thought his subject matter demanded a more substantial, somewhat menacing bank, more theatrical so to speak, so that's what I gave him.

For more "theater" for Illustration Friday, see scary wedding cake topper created yesterday.

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Mark does Illustration Friday: "Theater"


Acrylic on canvas


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Saturday, April 25, 2009

"Siete Dias Enserados" - Greek Sephardic poetry of the Holocaust, new music by me.

David Haim was originally from Salonika in Greece. He survived the death camps and immigrated to Tel Aviv after the Holocaust.

This year our local Yom HaShoah (Holocaust remembrance) memorial featured a speaker from Greece, so Sheva Zucker and her committee worked on finding music from Greek tradition. They wanted to feature this poem although the speaker was not a Sephardic Jew, because Sephardic Jews actually outnumbered Greek-speaking (Romaniote) Jews in the country.

I offered to set this poem to music. I listened to about thirty Greek cds (I bought them all in a bundle on eBay a few years ago!) and then channeled Tsitsianis. Here's the first and perhaps only-ever performance of the song as I put it together. Sung by the Triangle Jewish Chorale, April 20 2009, with Ken Bloom on guitar, Bob Vasile on bouzouki, and I was playing fiddle.

Siete Dias Enserados (free mp3 for download)

It's been brought to my attention (see comments) that the author had a melody for this song and has performed it.

Siete dias enserados (Seven Days Locked Up)
Poem by David Haim, music adapted/written by Jane Peppler

Siete dias enserados
en vagones de bemas
ouna ves alos tres dias
mos quitavan ayrear.

Madre mia mi querida
ya touvites el zehout
de mouerirte en tous tieras
y non passates por el olouk.

Padre mio mi cerido
quien te lo iva dezir
que vinieras con tou ermano
al cramatorio de Auchvits?

Padre y madre ermanos y ermanikas
saliendo todos redjadjis
a el patron de el moundo
que embie saloud ami
que me quite de estos campos
para vos etchar kadich.

Seven days locked up in boxcars for animals. Once every three days they would take us out for air.

My dearest mother, you were fortunate, dying in your own country and not passing through the chimney.

My dearest father, who would have told you that you would come with your brother to the crematorium of Auschwitz?

Father and mother, brothers and sisters, may you all be supplicants to the Master of the World, to grant me health and remove me from these camps to recite Kaddish for you.



Friday, April 24, 2009

[Hannah] "The Baneful Effects of the Spirit of Party...."

Now I am way late to this show, but I finally sat down (a week after this year's election) to try to figure out Berkeley student government, a topic about which I am less than passionate. I would belong to the "cut student fees and don't bother me as I walk to class" party. Obviously, it is incredibly intense, and as with most student governments, spends most of its time debating the nature of student government itself.

Okay! So the Berkeley student government is run on a party system. The two parties - constituted out of the stunningly diverse and huge Berkeley undergraduate body - are, um, I guess, standing for different things, although it's hard to tell from their website, which basically demonstrates that one of the parties is organized around ethnic loyalties and the other one is structured around a core constituency of the engineers (??) working with the fraternities (????). This, obviously, bewildered me.

Luckily there is this helpful three year old blog fighting an (obviously failed) effort to dismantle the party system of student government. It describes the parties thus:
Student Action: The current party in power, Student Action has dominated ASUC politics for the past 10 years, with a short unsuccessful exception in 2003-2004. It exists upon a philosophy of "benefitting all students", ironic because this is exactly what it doesn't do. The party is known as a "moderate" party because of its rejection of communist revolution. Its odd alliance largely comprises of mainly Jewish, White and East Asian voters, Greeks, environmentalist hippies, dormitories, oddball progressives and conservatives. The strangest alliance is with the conservatives, who are told "vote for us because you have no choice" (we'll get to that in a second), even though Student Action has never benefitted conservatives. ... It embodies the principle of resume-building for its senators, executives and countless brainwashed interns. They elect only good-looking candidates, most of whom have no backbone, and are true politicians.

The other main party - swept into power last week, I might add, is described thus:
CalSERVE is the oldest ASUC politica party, originating in 1986. It is staunchly progressive, and its philosophy is social justice. Because it professes that it only benefits the underrepresented students at Berkeley it is somewhat narrow-minded, with a reputation of being hostile to many groups on campus, among them some groups that traditionally support Student Action. Rigidly controlled, CalSERVE senators are forced to vote with the party line in fear of being liquidated or sent to a Gulag. It appeals to underrepresented minorites (Blacks, Latinos, all 5 Native Americans), overrepresented Filipinos, progressive Whites and Asians, and Graduate Students. Slightly more honest and candid than Student Action it loses its appeal because it targets certain voters and communities. Strangely, it has been recruiting many ethnic moderate libertarian/conservatives (Justine Lazaro, Ashley Thomas) and Jews (Max Besbris) in an attempt to fight back attacks of being racist and bigoted. Of the senate candidates who are elected, all of them are extremely attractive and hot; of the executive candidates elected all of them are extremely unattractive and ugly (go to ASUC history to see what I mean). A few of their male members have resorted to physical violence or the threat of physical violence on the senate floor.

Nightmare comes true: spaghetti sandwich

Also from Consumerist. The kids and I used to joke about the disgusting concept of spaghetti sandwiches but we did not have vision enough to think of pasta pizza. But Domino's Pizza does!


Everything under a dollar. Or over a dollar.

I saw this at Consumerist. Hah! See the small signs too.



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I am sick of the internet.

I've been in hiding for a week working on a new wedding music website and Pratie Head videos. I've been joining wedding directories...

... and converting stupid JVC Everio .MOD video files of recent performances.

(I like my new JVC camcorder but I HATE that JVC invented its own proprietary video extension which only works with its own extremely crummy software - so crummy I'd think a high school sophomore could do better, except when I said that to Ez he said doubtfully, "I dunno, I wrote some pretty lousy programs when I was a sophomore in high school." So the upshot is, it takes hours to convert the .MOD files to something ordinary programs can use, like .AVI for goodness' sake...)

I stayed up till 4 in the morning two nights in a row because I had three gigs in a row and the second one was four hours away and Jim and Beth and I blabbed all the way there and all the way home and I was so jazzed I couldn't think of anything better to do than struggle with css (cascading style sheets) for my new site until it was almost morning...

And the next night, I couldn't sleep again after our local Yom HaShoah Holocaust memorial service on Monday night. This year's speaker was a Romaniote Jew who was shipped from Ioannina, Greece to Poland in a cattle car during the war and who did not die in the crematorium on her arrival at the concentration camp because she decided to walk with her girlfriends when her family stayed on the truck. Only she, of all of them, survived Birkenau and Bergen-Belson - but just barely. Monday she was too upset to give her talk in person, so they showed a video of her while she sat in the audience.

And that made me think, soon the remaining Holocaust survivors will be so elderly they won't be able to talk to us and share their stories any more - and then, they'll be gone.

And so I was so upset that I stayed up again working on "Triangle wedding musician" fol-de-rol. I really want to do more weddings: everybody is in such a good mood and if there are not a lot of people present I don't have to feel guilty about it!

But I forgot to mention, another reason the Yom HaShoah memorial was so meaningful to me this year is that I've decided to quit conducting the Triangle Jewish Chorale as of next month. It's been fourteen years, time for somebody else to do it. So this was my last year of doing "Ani Mamin" with them and that made me feel weird and sad...

But also, this was the first time - in the quarter century I've been singing for this memorial service - that the music was not Ashkenazic (from Eastern Europe). Since our speaker was Greek, we did a Greek song, and because there were many Sephardic Jews in Greece, we did a couple of Sephardic songs, one of which I sort of wrote.

But that will be for another day; I have to get away from this computer now...

I've been making wedding music videos lately.

I also stayed up till three in the morning two nights in a row putting a new Triangle-area wedding music site together: Wedding Music in North Carolina. Maybe I'll write some more about it later.


XKCD sometimes makes me sigh.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

[Hannah]: Here comes the bride... EVERYBODY RUN!!!

The Urban Caballero, aka the Companionable Atheist, and I are getting married. And I was just musing over the fact that lately, these days, when you tell people you are getting married you feel the urge to add...


Those brides who think they control the heavens.
Who need a separate "going away outfit".
Who have to talk to their bridesmaids like this:
I'm in a similar prediciment. My ceremony begins at 2pm, yet I know certain relatives (even a couple of my BMs) are habitually late. I've told the BMs that they need to arrive 1/2 hr prior to the ceremony and that I will not wait for them to arrive if they are late. I fully expect one BM to be late. If that's the case, she can sit with the guests if the processional has already started. I disagree with having a 1/2 hr difference on the invite. The guests that arrive on time or early end up waiting the longest. I think it would be odd to list a ceremony time at 1:30pm.

Who consider decorating the wedding venue's restroom a "Don't Miss" detail (This one really made me laugh):
The restroom is an often-overlooked space that, when given a little tender love and care, creates an unexpected wow. It doesn't take much either -- even the slightest bit of decor will perk up and personalize this space.
How to do it Add small bud vases of flowers, give the bathroom new "Ladies" and "Gents" signs, or splurge on some monogrammed towels in your wedding colors. To really impress your guests, scan childhood pictures of the two of you through the years, laminate them, and post them on the bathroom walls.

Who think this belongs on a chatboard under a thread titled "Horror Stories:"
Am I crazy or is this a problem? Both my mother and I agree that her wearing red as mother of the groom is crazy but am I overreacting?

Who fight with their fiances like this:
Did the wedding planning take a toll on your relationship?
Sita: It was six months of planning, with no mother involved. The two of us planned everything. I would have meltdowns and yell at him.
Alex: We fought. My husband would say, “You’re going to drive me insane. You just need to make a decision!” But you stress about every decision. All of a sudden, you can’t make one. At one point we decided to schedule times to talk about the wedding. We said, “You know what? We can’t talk about this all the time!”
Sita: My husband would say, “You’re more than the wedding.” It became my mantra: I’m more than this wedding; this wedding does not define me.

We are trying to figure out how to reconcile a Jewish traditional ceremony with our modern needs, and my rabbi has sent me an article she wrote about getting away from the tradition of Ye Olden Times, in which the wedding was a process done by a man to a passive woman. Which is funny, because today the wedding is a process perpetrated by the woman upon the man - who, as was the case with the woman in olden times, is required to demonstrate his assent to the marriage basically by refraining from running away.

I'll let you know how much of a maniac I become as this year goes on. Ma will keep me honest. In the mean time, everybody practice your bridal simper.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Melinama does Illustration Friday: "Fleeting."

Some favorite lines from "Brightly Dawns Our Wedding Day" (Mikado).

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Mark does Illustration Friday: "Fleeting."


This started as an attempt to draw an infrared image but I don't understand heat and colors well enough. Back to the drawing board... next week.


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Monday, April 13, 2009

Grass seed in 2009: the twenty-five pound bags now weigh twenty pounds.

I tried googling this situation but couldn't find anything, so I guess it's just how things are: this year suddenly all the grass seed bags which used to be 25 pounds are now 20% lighter. The price is the same, or a little higher, than last year. Did you notice?

Also, did you notice the price of Nyjer thistle seed for the wild birds is almost twice as high as last year? Even though I have huge colonies of finches who've dedicated their lives to my feeder, I don't think I can afford to support them any more. (The marketers changed the name from Niger to Nyjer due to, uh, pronunciation difficulties.)


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Memos from Tiny Boss Lady

One of the old Slavs has been posting her daughter's notes on Facebook and they make me laugh so hard. About the yogurt, the mom says: "She could have thought outside the box - after all, she DID have a fork." Click the images for a larger view.

Some pictures from the 40th reunion of the Yale Slavic Chorus

Hannah and I rendezvoused in New Haven last weekend to join almost 100 other women, ages about 19 to 60-something, to sing loud music from the Balkans in Battell Chapel.

The first night we had Thai food, sang a little, and poured over old photo albums.

It's amazing that there are singers in some of the pictures who simply cannot be identified. The institutional memory of undergraduate groups is so poignantly short; four years and you're out. So it's easy for events, and people, to be forgotten...

This instantly became one of my favorite t-shirts ever. The girl wearing it is a baby Lutheran minister.

We tried to behave ourselves and pay attention. Unfortunately, the conductor was very short. To boss that many women around, she should have been about seven feet tall.

This is me and Galen Brandt, who was conductor way back when. The first time I heard the Slavic Chorus sing, I got goosebumps from the top of my head all the way down my calves.

There is a man in this picture, the only one ever attached officially to the chorus.. His name is "Celo" (as in chelovyek, guy) or "Cello" (he plays and teaches and conducts strings). He started the chorus in 1969, when a tiny handful of female students had just arrived at Yale to end the all-guy-club thing.

Celo told us he started the chorus "because it would be a good way to meet girls" and that when he announced auditions, "an amazing group of goddesses entered the room." Here he is with a few of the goddesses. That was actually before my time, and this was the first time I laid eyes on Celo; he had been a mythical figure for me all these years.

After our first day of rehearsing, the current slavs threw a party - fabulous food, and the playing of Zlatne Uste ("Golden Lips") Slavic Brass Band from NYC.

I forgot to mention that Hannah and I were not always paying as much attention as we should have.

The first reunion was the 25th - I took Hannah, she was only 11. The next, the 30th, she was 16 - I taught her all the songs and she sang in the concert.

The third, the 35th, she was a senior and, amazingly, was conducting the chorus, so I had the exquisite pleasure of watching my daughter boss us all around. She is very, very good at bossing. I wrote about it here and here.

This time, Hannah pointed out to anybody who would listen that it has actually only been FOUR years since the 35th reunion, the one she hosted, so there was a clear breakdown of arithmetic. However, Corinne really wanted to host us all, and who would pass that up???

Sunday afternoon we crammed ourselves onto the stairs in the Chapel and had a wonderful time making a huge amount of noise. I got a movie of it all - I think - but haven't had the nerve to try and figure out yet how to get it online.

This is our tiny conductor Corinne. She did a great job.

After the concert we massed for pictures as the sun went down.


Passover Chocolate (Cocoa) Brownies

I was supposed to bring treats to Yiddish Book Club today, and was actually trying to follow a pre-existing recipe, but I got very distracted; by the time I realized I'd made several errors, it was too late to go back, so I improvised. The brownies turned out wonderfully well. Don't overcook them.

Passover Brownies

3/4 cup cocoa
3/4 cup matzah cake meal
1/4 cup melted butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 c. chopped nuts
1 teaspoon instant coffee
Beat eggs, one at a time, into melted butter alternating with sugar and cocoa. Add instant coffee melted in 1/2 tablespoon hot water. Stir in cake meal and chopped nuts. Cook in 9x13 pan at 350 for about 15 minutes or to taste.


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Passover chocolate mocha orange sponge cake

For the second night seder, I wanted to make a cake, and devised this one out of the ingredients I had. It turned out wonderfully well!

Passover mocha cocoa orange zest sponge cake

9 eggs (preferably from your own hens)
1-1/2 cup white sugar
zest of an orange
3-4 tablespoons of cocoa
7/8 cup matzo cake meal
3 ts freeze-dried coffee dissolved in 1-1/2 tablespoons hot water
jam (your favorite flavor)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a tube pan (I also got a small-sized loaf out of this recipe but you could cram it all in the tube pan).

Separate the eggs. Whip the yolks until light, adding 1 cup sugar and orange zest; whip till the mixture is light and thick. Add cocoa and beat some more.

Beat egg whites and gradually add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, continuing to beat until they form peaks.

Dump the hot water-coffee mix into the yolks, along with half the matzah meal and half the egg whites, fold gently. Then add the rest of the matzoh meal and the rest of the egg whites and fold again. Gently spoon into tube pan (and loaf pan, if you like).

Bake for somewhat less than an hour (check!) check with toothpick or see that sides have shrunk from pan somewhat. Don't overcook it or it will be dry.

Hang upside down on a wine bottle till a bit cooler. While it's still warm turn it onto the plate and spread jam on it so it doesn't dry out.

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Passover rolls

I forgot to buy matzo (I know, I know) but I had cans of matza meal (oh! they are only half full when you open them, what a rip off!) so I made rolls this morning.

Pesach popovers

1 cup water
5 tablespoons of oil, butter, or a combination
1 ts salt
1 cup matzoh meal
4 eggs
Bring the first three ingredients to a boil. Take them off the heat and beat in the matzoh meal. Then beat in the eggs, with a wooden spoon, one at a time, it will take a while for them to be absorbed. Leave the mixture to sit for ten minutes. I dropped them off a teaspoon, in blobs somewhat smaller than a walnut, cooked them at 350 degrees for maybe half an hour (check).


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I am inspired by Blind Pilot, but not enough to start bike touring with my fiddle.

You might have heard the story on NPR this morning about indie-pop musicians in very good shape who have done a couple bike tours.

As a mom I had to smile to hear that they left Vancouver without a map, got hopelessly lost, and almost quit on the spot. But they have young energy. Below, extracts from the NPR story, the whole transcript will be available later today. I think the last comment below is the one to take away from this story...

They talked first about that same tour, down the west coast from Vancouver to, supposedly, Mexico. Actually they only got as far as San Francisco where their bikes were stolen.

"It was a fine ending to that tour," Nebeker tells Morning Edition's Ari Shapiro. "Ryan took it a bit harder than me."

"Yeah, because Israel got his bike back," Dobrowski says. "He found it on Craigslist for sale, so he bought it back for like $50, and I lost my bike forever."

They recently finished a second bike tour with a couple of additional bandmates, hugging Highway 1 down the coastline.

One of their most memorable scenes occurred at a tiny grocery store in Leggett, Calif. As the group played, a crowd began to gather around it, including a handful of unexpected onlookers.

"It was great, because all these truckers said that they'd seen us for the last few days," Dobrowski says. "We were playing music and having beers at this little grocery in the middle of the woods."

"Everything was bike-powered," Nebeker says. "We had little bike trailers and carried our instruments."

Other band members, like bassist Luke Ydstie, even constructed their own storage pieces to help move equipment. "He calls it a treasure chest," Dobrowski says, "but everyone else calls it a coffin. And it definitely gets the most attention."

While the band had a number of shows lined up in bigger cities, many of its performances weren't planned in advance, a decision Nebeker attributes to the uncertainties surrounding traveling by bike — like flat tires and getting lost. Other bands may cringe at the thought of such a tour, but the recipe seemed to work for Blind Pilot.

"It's more appealing to us," Dobrowski says. "I'm sure a lot of people still want the drugs and the women and the tour bus, but we like our campfires and our lakeside biking friends."

The two friends spent a summer living in an old cannery building with no plumbing. It's a landmark locals call "Big Red."

"They used to make and repair nets there and repair boats," Nebeker says. "It was built in the late 1800s, and it's just standing on pilings in the river. So it was great just to be out there. It's private; the only sounds are the water, the wind, the birds, the pilot boats going back and forth, and some of the big ships coming into the mouth of the Columbia there."

That's where they came up with the band's name: Blind Pilot. Nebeker's father bought the cannery building years ago, so he and Dobrowski were free to spend their days there, writing music and painting.

The winter after the duo lived there, though, a huge storm swept in off the ocean. Nebeker recalls assessing the damage for the first time.

"The place where Ryan and I were recording and spending most of our time, the top floor, is what got sort of lifted up and blown out into the river. I cried when I first saw it. It was really tragic just to see it, kind of with its top blown off.

"But I also feel really lucky that we did it. We went out there and made what we did while we still had the chance."


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Moses is Departing Egypt: A Facebook Haggadah

HAH! Heh.
The Passover Seder, the oldest continuously observed religious ceremony in the world, tells the story of the Jews' Exodus from Egypt. Jewish tradition says that people of each generation must imagine that they personally had departed from Egypt, and the sages say that each generation must tell the story in its own terms.