Saturday, June 30, 2007

Family update

The funeral mass will be this coming Friday. Wake to follow at a relative's home.

So far I am not crying much, or in fact, responding much. I stood for Kaddish at shul this morning and it felt like a physical shock--I got up almost without realizing that was what I was doing.

My father is grieving and tired. Ditto other family members.

Maybe this will be more real when I see the relatives.

This, I guess, is news

Farfour the Mouse is no more. The giant Arabic-speaking black-and-white rodent who was briefly the star of a Hamas-funded children's show, transfixing horrified sane people worldwide, was beaten to death in the final episode of the program. There is something wrong here, when we may never know what happened to Tony Soprano, but we know that Farfour the Mouse was beaten to death by a land-hungry Israeli official.

You want to know what's worse than that? I'll TELL you what's worse than that. I first read the story in the Chronicle, and after reading the first paragraph I thought, I swear to you, that the guy in the mouse suit had actually been beaten to death. By, I assumed, Fatah operatives. Honest to God. I thought, for about five seconds, until I absorbed the next paragraph, that Fatah had sent people to kill Martyr Mouse. I don't know exactly where I got this idea from, except that, well, who else would go to the trouble of killing a giant Hamasnik mouse in front of a studio audience?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Don't Know Whether to Laugh or Scream

So I'm sitting here feeling disoriented and blue, and reading blogs to take me away from work I'm actually supposed to be doing, when I stumbled on Friar Yid's latest. And discovered this. And this.

A note about the Wiki article for the non-Hebrew-reader. It becomes easier to understand what's going on in the Biblical quotes when you realize that the word they are transliterating as qashath or qoshath, and identifying as an unarmed form of combat is the word for 'bow', as in 'the thing one shoots arrows with'.

This may be the funniest thing I've seen in months. I suppose it could be seen simply as a total rip-off, but there is such a long tradition in Jewish history of people claiming to be from far-off Jewish communities, descended from important people and carrying special ancient secrets, that I see the whole set of his claims as sort of an authentically Jewish scam, even if the origins of the martial art are clearly bogus.

And the outfits are way cool. I would like to point out, though, in the tradition of Jewish feminist midrash, that the claim is made that Abir allowed Jacob's sons to plow through the men of Shechem. You know, if Jacob had trained his daughter in the ancient Native Israelite unarmed art of combat, it's possible that none of this would have happened at all. I'm just saying.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We Got The License

The Balabusta and the fella made their way to the county clerk-recorder's office in Oakland, and got a marriage license.

It started out a little awkwardly, since we got off at 12th and Broadway, had no idea where we were going, and had to walk for a ways, but it wasn't hard to find, and wasn't terribly crowded.

When you present yourself to the man behind the counter and say you want a marriage license, he leads you to a computer terminal in the next room, where you are requested to fill out a worksheet with information about yourself, your parents, and dates and places of everyone's birth. Then you hit 'send', and it gives you a four-digit number to take back to the man behind the the counter.

The man behind the counter then gives you a different number, and you wait for your number to show on the overhead screen and lead you to a window.

While we waited, we admired the very modern artwork on the walls. There was a thing made out of buttons and clock faces that looked vaguely like a man's face. I thought it was Dr. King. The fella thought it was Bruce Willis. Turned out that it was the artist's father. The card next to the art did not mention if he looked like either Martin Luther King Jr. or Bruce Willis.

The lady at window six filled out our paperwork, had us sign, and took our $84. Painless.

We also received a booklet formerly entitled "If There Are Children In Your Future". We read this dramatically aloud to one another on the BART ride back.

A successful trip.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hard news...

It turns out that we lost her Friday night, around the same time I was blogging, I suppose.

With apologies to the blogosphere, I don't want to get too deeply into what I'm feeling and what the family is up to, at least right now. I just wanted you to know. Which may be insane, but I know that this kind of thing matters to me when I read other people's blogs--anyway.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I Love Lucy Saves The World

I mentioned going to Southern California to see my grandmother a couple of months ago. Since then, she relocated to a Catholic assisted living/nursing facility, where she became the roommate of a hundred-year-old Irish nun who, quite properly, restored the "Mary" to my grandmother's name (she hasn't used the "Mary" regularly since she was at school being taught by Irish nuns herself, seventy years ago and more.)

My grandmother is a tough lady, with a will of steel. Since moving into "Bethlehem House", she has claimed to be a vegetarian (she's not, but they stopped trying to make her eat the chicken broth), tried to bail out of her wheelchair to go exploring...oh, you name it, she's made life a little more interesting for them. Mr. Bluejeans made friends with the nurses in his broken Russian.

He got a call yesterday that she's not doing well, and that he should go down now. So that's where he is. We're now at the point where we're talking openly about funeral plans (we should only be made to look like fools for this), and the sacrament one of my students once called 'annoying of the sick' has been given.

I am sad. I'm worried about my father and his sister. My grandmother is apparently being made as comfortable as she can be, they have someone holding her hand and talking to her. She is being taken care of in this world, and she will be taken care of in the next. The rest of us I don't know about.

And I come home to find my wedding invitations have been delivered.

I wish I could express the full scope and humor and grace of my grandmother on this blog. She should have a movie about her in which Lucille Ball plays a sort of Zorro-esque character who travels the world in a motor home, finding the oppressed and standing up for them. I got lucky in grandmothers. So incredibly lucky.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What is the religious value of 'ick'?

I've been over at Joe Settler's place, makin' a nuisance of myself, and I'm left with some questions from our conversation, namely, what is the religious (or political, for that matter) value of the 'ick' factor?

Apparently the Israeli Tourist Board folks ran some campaign to bring gay travelers to Israel. They included some pictures of gay couples doin' gay couple stuff around Jerusalem. Per Joe, and some other things I've seen on the web, religious MKs and some other people went berserk. These photos seem to include:

This one, featuring two young men in yarmulkes gazing deeply into one another's eyes in a familiar honeymoon-photo location. Joe comments that they 'slapped' yarmulkes on gay models for this, and I have to say, that given the fact the guy with his back to the camera doesn't seem to have bothered to pin his, and may be about to lose it altogether in the passion of the moment, this could be the case. (Also, how does his mother feel about him walking around Jerusalem with a tattoo showing.) (It's also possible that these two models are straight, in which case we have an altogether different kind of deception going on.) Joe tells me that that this photo is the equivalent to a picture of a priest and a nun making out, and asks me to consider how I would feel if I were a devout Christian and saw that.

Unfortunately, I spent a while living in Ireland, a deeply Catholic nation where hiring kissing telegram people dressed as clergy is considered rollicking fun. And equally unfortunately, I think that what Joe is implying is that people like this--boys in kippot who go to Jerusalem for the Jewishness and kiss because they're in love--don't exist--and I know a bunch. Although most of them (I'm thinking of one notable exception, Mrs. Bluejeans knows who he is), they're not that conventionally pretty.

Do I care if the religious MKs were offended? Well, yes, I do. I don't want them to feel bad, but this is the face of Judaism too, and, uh, to modify, they're here, they're gay, they wanna see Eretz Yisrael and they're willing to pay. I'm entirely aware that some people are not comfortable with the existence of religious gay Jews, but they're part of us, (and an incredibly good and strong part too, editorializes the Balabusta). Live, says I, and says the tourist board too.

But apparently some of the lady MKs were not so happy about this picture, which was sent out by the Israeli Consulate in NYC, to interest straight men of a certain age in Israel. The young lady in the photo, as you can see, is stretched out on a wall, in a bikini and high heels, in a bluntly sexual pose. Apparently Dahlia Itzik and Zahava Gal-On were not so amused.

I'm not so amused either. I'm used to this kind of thing, everything is sold with women's mostly naked bodies, but this is, by me, offensive in a way that the other is not. Why? Couple of things. First, the couple in the gay tourism photos are a couple, being sexual together. This woman is being a virtual stripper. Secondly, this apparently is meant to promote a piece Maxim did on 'Women of the IDF'. Please imagine male soldiers being sexualized like this, and then their consulate happily promoting it, and you get the real-world equivalent to this ad.

Joe feels that the reaction is hypocritical--if Dahlia and Zahava weren't willing to support the religious MKs, their outrage now is worthless. I dunno. Where is the outrage of the religious MKs now? Are they OK with this? Is the sexual exploitation of women something they take for granted, or can't be bothered with?

Joe says that the Maxim ad does not bother him, while he is offended as a religious Jew by the gay couple one. He also sees hypocrisy in MKs objecting to one but not the other. I say that the gay couple ad does not bother me, while I am irritated as both a woman and religious Jew by the Maxim one. So, here's my question. Does the 'ick' factor actually have a religious nature to it, or are Joe and I both responding to our socialization and opinions around homosexuality, tznius, and Judaism, and trying to put some spin on it?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Caterer Says

Well, the caterer says that I should give up on my thoughts of possibly moving the chuppah out into the courtyard of the shul, since she's done six weddings (four Russian, two Anglophone) there, and it's a wind tunnel.

The caterer likes Rabbi Bruriah, and approves of my plans for the alcohol (two cases of two-buck Chuck, champagne for toasts, a bottle of Scotch for the men over fifty).

The caterer says that I should source the cake myself, that we can have a delicious poached salmon and nice roast beef sandwiches, and that the lima bean hummus is to die for.

The caterer also says that I should be prepared to start carrying my cell phone with me at all times as the date of the wedding draws nigh.

I met the caterer for coffee today. (Just in case you couldn't tell.) It went well.

In other news, I am still wedding dress hunting, and job hunting. Have just received my weirdest response to a resume, the principal writing back and asking if I was aware that today's paper shows that the route from my house to his school is the worst commute in the region.

The caterer says I don't need this kind of tsuris.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Noach goes to the County Clerk-Recorder's Office

Sometime this week, the Balabusta and Groomra will be going to get a marriage license.

We have to appear, in person, at the County Clerk-Recorder's office in Oakland, with ID demonstrating that we are over eighteen, and are male and female (1 each, created he them).

Ethically, I have issues with the fact that we still need to be male and female (I mean, WE are, and I'm happy with that, but that everyone needs to be...oy. I mean that it annoys me that the state of California will not issue a marriage license for a same-sex couple,) but at the same time, it makes me smile that we need to show up in a pair like a couple of creatures about to get on the ark.

I explained this to the fella, and then added "And we give them our $84, and they give us a marriage license."

"Oh," said the fella. "I thought you were going to say that we give them $84 and they give us two of every animal."

In an apartment this size, maybe not the best idea.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Registering boredom

OK. I am doing my register and cum folders now.

For those of you not in the know, doing one's register is, possibly, the most boring occupation known to humankind, except, maybe, the graveyard shift at at a Dunkin' Donuts in rural South Dakota. Worse. At Dunkin' Donuts you can fantasize that a rock star will come in.

Basically, I am creating a handwritten document showing the attendence of my homeroom class for the past year, which needs to confirm in each detail all the information found in the attendence file I compiled for the school over the course of the year. In pencil. Then I need to ink it in, in ink.

It's the kind of thing you want not to take seriously, except that it is, in fact, a subpoenable document, and teachers have found their attendence registers playing a key role in, say, murder trials.

Oh, I am bored.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

School's Out!

And the teacher is left wondering if she is the fool...

I still have one more week to serve, but the students aren't coming in. It's a time to do paperwork and clean up the room, etc.

The last day was long, but it came to an end, finally, with a cute little prayer service, awards, and we pushed them all out the door. What made it both nice and hard right at the end was that several parents showed up to say nice things to me. In particular, the moms of Noam and Daniel surrounded me and got very upset and emotional that I wouldn't be back next year. Both of them have boys who are sweet, but struggle academically and sometimes get in trouble, and I've done a lot with them this year. The moms hugged me and told me they had been looking forward to having me as Noam and Daniel's homeroom teacher next year--and I really would have loved to have been, not only for the boys' sake, but because it is a very nice class--and demanded to know why I was leaving.

That was difficult, because how do you say "I'm leaving because the new principal thinks I'm pond scum, and the diocese agrees with her."? I muttered something about working on my thesis. "I'll type for you, just stay here!" Noam's mom said.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Top Twelve Reasons I Don't Live In Israel

Apparently Nefesh b'Nefesh is hosting some sort of event where people list great reasons to make aliyah. Jameel even made this neat book cover to go with his list.

Unfortunately, this sort of thing inspires the Balabusta to flip out. I'm not sure why. On the face of it, I don't plan to make aliyah--OK, nu, so I don't plan to make aliyah. People who have done seem awfully happy, and I'm happy for them (the Balabusta is a hard-core theoretical Zionist), and maybe I really should make aliyah--but herewith are some of the major reasons I don't.

1. Throughout the past couple thousand years, the Diaspora has produced vibrant, glorious, kickass Jewish cultures. I am still part of one. I believe that it is important. I belong to an old and constantly evolving Jewish community, one that has demonstrated its ability to thrive without being rooted in the auld sod. Jews are like tumbleweeds. We pull up roots easily, but each plant carries with it the potential to create a whole new world of tumbleweeds. (Also, we push over people's fences, and...OK, I am not going any farther with the tumbleweed analogy.)

2. Also, I don't speak much Hebrew, at least not modern-type Hebrew. Tanach I can manage. I realized the flexibility and the limitations of my Chumash-based vocabulary the day I realized I did not know the Hebrew word for 'car' (although 'tank' I could manage), but when one of my father's oddball Lutheran friends asked how to say 'How many camels to make that little girl my wife?' I could answer with ease.

3. I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m freeeeee,
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up, next to you, and defend her still today.

‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA.

This reason loses something on the screen, since you cannot hear the Balabusta's gleeful offkey singing in an assumed Southern accent, and you also lose out on her final yell of "PROUD to be an 'Murkin". It is, nevertheless, true. I am so absolutely gone on this country it boggles the mind.

4. I'm not rich enough to make aliyah. Please note Jameel's little jab about 'leaving wealth and luxury', well, as I already whinged at Jameel's site, I don't have enough wealth and luxury to leave it behind.

As I also whinged at Jameel's site, I think I was scarred for life by a column in the JPost a couple of years ago. It was written as a welcome letter to two typical new American olim, and I kind of freaked out badly about it. It burbled on quite a bit about cleaning ladies and 'good' schools.

5. I am not smart enough for Israeli politics. I cannot deal with all these teeny-tiny political parties, and shifting loyalties, and the way Sharon is a big hero to the settlers one day and a big villain the next, and the weird British-inspired thing where you have elections any time a bunch of people get a bug up their nether bits. It's too confusing. I am proud to be an 'Murkin, where at least I remember the name of the two important parties, and when the next election is.

6. I enjoy the intense frustration on new employer's faces when they realize they can't get out of giving me the High Holidays off. I would miss that, if we ALL had yontiff off, and they didn't even think about it.

7. I have an addictive personality. If I give in to the pressure to go live in Israel where the action is, soon I will get pressured into living in the West Bank. And then I will get pressured into moving into a not-quite-legal settlement. And then a not-quite-legal settlement without running water. And then (and all this could happen in just a couple of weeks) I will be living up a hill smack-dab in the middle of Ramallah, in a shelter made out of a couple of shopping carts. Or sleeping on Jameel's couch.

8. If I were a convert, the Israeli rabbinate wouldn't recognize my conversion, and if I married in Israel they wouldn't recognize my marriage, and frankly, I'm just not in the mood for all of that. And if my Conservative shul is to come under attack, frankly, I'd just a soon that Gentiles be behind it.

9. Do you have any idea how long a flight that is to be back in San Francisco for the chagim? I would be a WRECK.

10. When is the last time two ######## whales unexpectedly took a wrong turn into the Gulf of Aqaba? Thought so. Also, the Jerusalem Pride Parade seems to be having trouble getting off the ground, while in San Francisco we line downtown with rainbow flags for weeks in advance.

11. If I leave now, the terrorists win.

12. I do not believe there is a single Trader Joe's in all of Israel. And if you think I am driving to frickin' Amman for my kosher chicken, my Tuscan Italian salad dressing, my organic tomato sauce or my really cheap palm hearts, you have got another think coming.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

"That's Just the Beginnings of Synergy"

OK. If you have not seen Mad TV's iRack episode, you need to.

Live, from the world of the seventh grade

Saudi Arabia comes to New Hampshire.

Now, please note that this is courtesy of Little Green Footballs, hence the hysterical language about the coming caliphate and 'dhimmitude' (this is not a real word in English, people). But there have been enough of these 'pretend to be an Arab' events reported on from middle schools that I am beginning to get rather curious.

There aren't a lot of them. I have been teaching seventh grade for the last three years in the dark blue heart of the liberal-left heartland, and I have never had anyone suggest one of these shindigs to me. The closest I ever came was a discussion with a seventh grade social studies teacher about whether he should dress as Mohammed for the day (he routinely dresses as key figures from the seventh grade history curriculum. And being Jewish, I figure he probably looks more like Mohammed than he does King Sundiata--who he has appeared as. Or Ghengis Khan.) We decided against the impersonation for reasons of not offending the little Afghan girls in his class. (The ones who used their hijabs to provide cover for their Ipod earphones.) I thought maybe he could be a pagan Arab offering reports on what he's heard about this new religious leader, but we finally decided to drop the whole idea.)

But these events. There seem to be some key elements that show up with all these things--the dressing up and the taking Arab names--but this one seems particularly offbeat in that it recreates life in, of all places, modern Saudi. Why not Egypt? Why not, say Pakistan? Why not medieval Arabia, which is what the kids study, and could have offered a slough of impressive people (women included) for the kids to impersonate as they lead folks around?

So, on the one hand, this was clearly a pretty odd idea, on the other hand, I have to deny the LGFers contention that this has become normative in U.S. education. Trust me. It ain't.


So, comments? I'm having gut reactions, not thoughts, here.

The class of 2007

Done graduated.

So Friday went a little something like this...

Up at 6, out the door at 6:35. Wear long flowered skirt, coordinating sweater, cute slide sandals.

Catch two buses and the BART train to school.

Realize too late that the bus is not stopping at the school, the bus is going to do a loooong loop around a couple of adjoining blocks and drop me off three blocks away from school.

Dash through the doors just as the whole school has started to wonder where I am.

Tend worked up overexcited kids until 12:30 when we dismiss for graduation day. Go have lunch, buy nylons, realize that nylons cannot be worn with outfit I have on, as cute slide sandals slide right off them, endangering my life and limb.

Take two buses--two long, loooong buses--to a job interview in Berkeley. Interview with a whole panel of people, who have a checklist of questions. Feel as thought not doing a very good job of answering the questions. Feel very blue. Catch two more loooong buses. See a really frightening looking accident scene on the way back. Feet starting to hurt from the cute slide sandals.

Arrive back in school neighborhood. Grab slice of pizza, orange juice. Report to school.

As soon as arrive in schoolyard, attacked by excited eighth-grade girls in graduation robes. Their eyeliner is in the building, and they do not have keys, can I let them in? Let them in. Then am found by Mrs. Crazy Teacher, now in state of high tension about graduation. I have, she tells me, stuff to sign. Mrs. Principal is "in the back of the church" with it.

I tour around for a while, looking for the 'back of the church'. Finally discover she meant the rooms behind the altar itself, where the priest and altar servers do their prep. I hang around there until Mrs. Principal notices me. "Can I help you?" she asks, a bit too crisply.

I explain. Mrs. Crazy Teacher bustles in, says she has stuff for me to sign, and then gets into an emotional 'thing' with Mrs. Principal because Mrs. Principal has carefully put the diplomas in alphabetical order, and they're not supposed to go in alpha order, but in GRADUATION order. They deal with this for a while. I wander off to put my coat and portfolio behind the piano, and say hello to Mrs. Science Teacher's wife who is playing the flute for us at the graduation, but Mrs. Crazy Teacher grabs me. "Where are you GOING?" she hisses. I explain. She freaks. She HAS the stuff for me to sign.

I sign.

The graduation itself was actually very nice. Leis, mylar balloons, very high grown-up heels on the girls, screaming relatives, smiling grandmothers, and flowers all over the place.

I felt pretty lousy. I won't be teaching there next year. I won't be watching my homeroom class graduate in that church. I don't belong, I'm just being kept on sufferance until they can get the kids out of there (end of NEXT WEEK!) and clean the place up, and give the language arts position to someone else.

I've seen the someone else, although I was not consulted about who it should be. She's younger than I am, taller, thinner, and is apparently a protege of the consultant woman who decided I couldn't teach for beans. She is also, according to some sources, the girlfriend of the stepson of the consultant. The stepson of the consultant has been hired to be next year's sixth grade teacher. He has no teaching experience. This is going to be fun, fun fun, but I won't be there. I will be somewhere else. Doing something else.

Got home at ten-fifteen. Feh!