Friday, November 23, 2007

Can't trust a politician in a pants suit

Over at Seraphic Secret, I find this.

Gonna ignore most of it, since I don't agree with hardly any of it, and it ain't all that new or shiny, but I do have to comment on:

Memo to Hillary: Don't you ever wear a simple trumpet dress, a nice silk blouse and wool pencil skirt? Something, um, lady like? You know why nobody trusts you?

Two words: pants suit.

One acronym back Mr. Avrech: WTF?

Holy bat-granola. Lessee:

1. This woman is currently leading for a major-party nomination for President of the United States, and you're worried about why she doesn't wear a nice skirt and blouse to the debate?

2. I'm pretty sure if she wore pretty dresses to events you'd accuse her of emphasizing her femininity to garner votes. I'm also pretty sure you'd be mocking her middle-aged butt's appearance in a pencil skirt. Just a guess.

3. Hillary looks nice in pants suits, and they're more comfortable than a pencil skirt. You don't want to debate while wondering if your hose are running. Just a guess.

4. I'm not entirely sure why the happy trend of dressing up Hillary never seems to pale. Back when Bill was running, we dressed her up in headbands and sweater sets, and posed her in a kitchen baking cookies. The best outfit I ever saw her in, though, was the fitted leather jacket at the first inauguration of the second Bush. "OK, say I'm a dyke," said the jacket. "It no longer matters, and I look HOT."

5. When Laura runs for President in 2011, I'm sure she will wear pretty prints. It's her style. She will, of course, face endless criticism for it.

6. Oh my God, just shut up. You wonder why feminists keep whining? It's because if we don't let off steam some way we'll explode and split the seams on our unladylike pantsuits.

7. WTF?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

"I'm not going to get a reputation for being soft on turkeys, am I?"

My absolutely favorite West Wing episode of all time is "Shibboleth", in which, among other things, CJ has to choose the more photogenic of two turkeys to receive a presidential pardon.

(Apparently this year, Mr. Bush has already pardoned his turkey. Its name is May. The backup turkey was Flower. I think these are far more tasteful names than the ones a few years ago that got dubbed Yam and Marshmallow. There was a sweet picture of the president and assorted small children petting the turkey. We live in a great country. Where else is it a presidential duty to pardon a turkey?)

Yesterday I trekked to Oakland Kosher to get the turkey. We are going to friends, but they do not keep kosher (or indeed know much about it), so I volunteered to source a kosher turkey. And take it home on BART. Now I am simmering a pot of yams that will ultimately become a dish of slightly candied yams. Should have simmered the yams last night, but did not think of it then. I'm on vacation, and my brain is slightly softened by relaxation.

Tomorrow we go to my parents and eat turkey sandwiches.

A year ago, my father was just out of the hospital. Knowing what we have learned about how sick he really was at the time, I am incredibly thankful simply to have him here a year later, mostly recovered, and happily rattling pans in his own kitchen as he prepares to roast and mash away.

I am thinking a lot about my grandmother. Years ago, when she was in better health and my grandfather was still with us, they would drive up for Thanksgiving. I think that the only time my grandmother met my now-husband was at Thanksgiving at my parents old house on 26th Avenue. My grandpa would sit in the living room watching the game, and my grandmother would show up bringing her own potato peeler in her handbag.

I've decided to take two small measures to reduce my carbon footprint. (This seems Thankgivingy to me.) I'm slowly replacing all the bulbs in the house with CFL ones, and I'm going to stop using plastic and paper bags from stores this winter. We'll see how it goes. THe bag thing will require some organization and discipline, but shouldn't be too hard.

And the usual meanderings about how I'd like to make a me-sized spot in the organized Jewish community...aahhhh. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Zipper triumph

I have been having problems with the zippers on my jeans. I don't know exactly why, but the jeans I current have WILL NOT stay up. Kind of embarassing for a respectable lady such as myself.

God bless Google. I have learned the secret. You take a little ponytail elastic, one of the thin small kind. You poke it through the hole on the zipper pull. You then feed the two loops of the elastic through the buttonhole of the jeans, and when you put the button through, secure the loops by putting them over the button. Works like a charm.

I love things like this.

Wingnut Vacation Spots (in which the Balabusta is annoyed)

I need to stop reading Little Green Footballs. They have some interesting links there, but the comments threads tend to degenerate into absurdity, racism, and really weird stuff at the drop of a dime. And they get me aggravated, and since I don't post there, I post here, or irritate my friends over the phone.

Have you ever heard of Eger, Hungary? I sure as heck hadn't, and I sort of suspect that most people who aren't Hungarian probably haven't either. It was the scene of an siege by the Turks in the 1500s, which was heroically repelled by 2000 men, women and children, leading to a famous nineteenth-century novel called "Eclipse of the Crescent Moon". (The Turks came back forty years later, because Turks are like that, and took the town.) It has some pretty churches, a nice little castle, and a ridiculously tall, but cool-looking minaret. Its Baroque town center is apparently a popular tourist attraction.

I only heard of Eger because while I was reading the comment threads on Little Green Footballs, someone said something about 'the women of Eger', and I could tell you even before I Googled it that it was going to be some place in Central/Eastern Europe where they drove the Turks back.

It used to be that the only person I knew who used the expression 'turning back the Turks at the gates of Vienna' was my rabbi, who is eighty-something and German, and therefore entitled. But it's getting to be sort of a wingnutter's obsession online. Turks. Oh, yes, and "Roncesvalles".

Has anyone considered leading theme tours? Or, for sanity's sake, has anyone considered telling these people what European Christians did to one another in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries over land and fine points of theology? (Not when they're eating, though.)

Please don't start telling me about the ugly history of Islam, or discussing modern religio-politics--or do, but that's not the point. The point is that the nutter who brought up Eger knew that everyone would get the code--Turks in Europe, ie, Muslims against the West--and the code is silly. The Turks were expanding all over hell and gone at the time, and would have been whether they were Muslims or not. At the same time, sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe was a HORRIBLE place, with or without Turks. Judicial torture, witch trials, grotesque persecution of ethnic minorities, theocracy, war, war, war, let's talk about MADGEBURG, folks...this is a period in which Christians do some of the ugliest things to each other that you can imagine, but the nutters are happily burbling on about turning back the Turks. Let's fight our own battles in the present, people, and NOT GO THERE. Especially those of us (like many on LGF), who appear to reject the idea that Christianity can be held responsible for its murkier moments, in the same way that they insist Islam must be held accountable for its own.

No one wants to be a sixteenth century Hungarian. Even sixteenth century Hungarians didn't want to be sixteenth century Hungarians. NO ONE wants to be a sixteenth century Hungarian, except for some SCA friends of mine who freely admit they prefer to do it as a weekend recreational thing.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Schmuck found!

After twenty years, a woman finally has a get, after her son contacts the Israeli prison system's Chaplain in Chief and manages to track his father down in jail, where he graciously agrees to write the get he kind of forgot about earlier.

I guess if you're going to run off on your wife and kids and vanish without a trace to Israel where you take up a career in breaking and entering, you just don't think about things like making sure your wife can at least remarry.

Soon a simcha by her, that's all I can say.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Goewin, Oprah Winfrey and the Clash of Civilizations

In the great Welsh mythological cycle, the Mabinogi, there is an episode that begins when the nephew of the great wizard-king of North Wales falls in letch with his uncle's footholder, a pretty young girl named Goewin. The footholder has a position that involves holding the king's feet in her lap when he sits in court, and she must be a virgin.

The letchy nephew goes for help to his no-good brother, who arranges for their uncle to be away from court so that they can rape Goewin. When the king returns, what does the damsel do? Does she conceal her non-virginal status? Does she kill herself to escape shame? Does she go all to pieces and run off to a convent?

Hell no. Goewin lays into the king. He, she tells him, has been shamed. His no-good nephews raped her in his house, when she should have been under his protection. He owes her big time for pain, suffering, and loss of social status (since she cannot continue to be the footholder). The king's honor has been seriously damaged by his relatives' lousy behavior. What does he plan to do to make this up to her?

(He marries her, by the way, makes her his queen, and turns his rotten nephews into a variety of animals for the next several years. So it ends happily, kind of.)

Reading this in college with my friends, we were struck by how refreshing, and strange, it was to read a medieval version of an ancient story in which rape was seen as a crime which left its victim blameless of any shame. Goewin sees herself as someone who has been wronged, and in the Welsh legal tradition, is owed something in exchange for that. She confronts the king without embarassment--he's the one who should be embarassed! The king accepts this, and makes legal amends for what has happened on his watch.

So how do we get from this to Oprah?

Well, yesterday on the way home from my parents' house, I picked up a copy of the current issue of Time, in which Carla Power proceeded to tick me off big-time.

"Indecent Exposure", it's labelled. The head quote? "What is it? Westerners have no problem with bare flesh on billboards, but pray in private. Muslims keep quiet about sex, but pray in public five times a day. How the two codes clash."

In her attempt to sort all this out, Power makes some of the big dumb mistakes that often go with this kind of musing:

BDM #1: Identifying the West as one big chunk, thereby not being able to make much of a case. Power points out that the French are OK with bare breasts on billboards, but won't allow hijabs in public schools. However, in the U.S. bare breasts are big scandal, not allowed on billboards, hijabs are allowed in school, and megachurches thrive, while Time magazine itself rates presidential candidates on the God-O-Meter. So who here gets to be the "West"? At any rate, Power provides no evidence of Westerners feeling embarassed about prayer (as opposed to the French just hating Muslims), except for her apologizing once when she walked in on a Muslim coworker who was praying.

BDM #2: Identifying sexual abuse with sex, and assuming that people cover up sexual abuse for the same reason people make love in private and don't flash their bare butts on TV--modesty. Sexual abuse is not concealed for modesty's sake. Sexual abuse is concealed for power's sake. "Modesty" becomes an excuse, sure, but it has nothing to do with what is going on. Modest people do not sexually abuse others.

Power steps right into this, by giving as examples the child actor from the movie of The Kite Runner, whose character is raped by another young boy. His family is now fleeing for their lives, because they're afraid they will be targeted by relatives upset by the shame of the scene. The kids who starred in the movie are being evacuated to the UAE. Power also mentions the denunciations still aimed at Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani rape victim who took her attackers to court, and a little Egyptian girl who received death threats after being interviewed by CNN about her back-alley genital mutilation.

Modesty? This has nothing to do with modesty, and the West knows it, having only recently escaped from crap like this ourselves. But you wouldn't know it from Power. "When Oprah Winfrey spoke of her childhood sexual abuse", she explains, "she became a goddess is a society convinced that it's good to talk." Never mind that Oprah herself had a lot to do with convincing our society that it's good to tell the truth. The implication is that a more traditional, conservative culture would expect Oprah to keep her mouth shut. Which it did. Which she did for many years. But don't tell me that Muslim countries are coming from some special cultural place when they shut up and threaten their abuse victims. Oprah could tell you something about how we did and do it right here at home.

When you lie, you can convince yourself that you're a good person. You can silence your victims. But it ain't got nothing to do with decency or propriety. It's got to do with shame. Shame is only appropriate for people who actually do bad things.

Look, Americans pray without shame, and for the most part, keep our sex lives indoors. And we have finally mostly gotten to a place where Goewin, or Oprah, can say, "I was attacked. I was abused," and we blame the abuser, and not the victim. This is not the difference between, as Power puts it, 'the culture of exposure and the culture of propriety'. This is the difference between the culture of respect and the culture of opression. And we have ample evidence that both can thrive in all kinds of cultural settings.

Adventures in Kugel

OK, so I'm crazy. The vilde chayas at Moonbat were having a pre-Thanksgiving feast on Friday, and I was asked to bring something. So I said I'd bring a potato kugel.

There was sort of a multicultural theme going on. Anyway. Kugel.

First, no one knew what the heck a kugel was. Secondly, has the Balabusta ever made a potato kugel from scratch before? Heck no. Had the Balabusta even unpacked the wedding-present Cuisinart she intended to use in the making of this maiden kugel? Heck no. Does this stop her? Go on and guess.

Basically, it looked like a kugel when I took it out of the oven.

Anyway, I realized I might be in for some trouble when I noticed that the kugel had been neatly sliced into cubes and then put on plates with the pumpkin pie to await dessert time, because, as she realized while relocating it, they had mistaken it in the kitchen for an apple cake. OK, the French call potatos pommes de terre, so maybe not SO far off...

It was just too weird for most of the kids. Luckily, one of my coworkers really took to it, and made off with all the leftovers.

It actually wasn't the worst kugel I've ever had. It tasted, basically, like a potato kugel.

Next year, I think I'll bring gefilte fish, and see how that goes down.

Friday, November 09, 2007

And what are you doing for Sigd next year?

Noticed this in the JPost.

Sigd is an Ethiopian Jewish festival that happens on the 29th of Cheshvan (but was actually celebrated yesterday, rather than tomorrow, because apparently it can't share time with Shabbos--details unclear to me, ask a kes.) It celebrates and renews the brit made at Sinai--apparently in the Ethiopian minhag, Shavuos (as they don't pronounce it) is only a harvest and pilgrimage festival and doesn't take on the historical cycle stuff (that's a technical term, of course).

Anyway, now the Ethiopian community in Israel wants Sigd to be on the official religious calender in Israel. One girl interviewed made a parallel with Mimouna, which is celebrated, or at least noticed, more widely in Israel than just the Moroccan community now.

So, thinks the Balabusta, regardless of what the Israeli rabbinate decides to do--the Balabusta doesn't care too much about the Israeli rabbinate at the best of times--should the Balabusta be doing something for Sigd next year? Or Mimouna for that matter? (Mimouna, I got to tell you, I normally celebrate by eating large amounts of pizza, which I don't THINK is a Moroccan custom.)

First, the Balabusta has some strong opinions about preserving Ashkenazi customs. Actually, the Balabusta has some strong opinions about everyone preserving customs, it's just that the ones that she's inherited to preserve are Ashkenazi. I actually want to learn to daven and leyn in the old-fashioned Ashkenazes pronunciation--in a very short period of time, that will be gone at least from my own community unless a few of us young ones decide it's valuable. And I firmly resist the 'let's all eat kitniyot' movement. (You can do without rice for a week. I'm sorry. If God had meant for you to be an Abulafia, you would have been one. Cope. Or convert. ((Can you become Sephardi by choice? I've always wondered.)))

But I like the idea of doing something for Sigd. Why? Not because I feel the need religiously--in my mind, Shavuos has me covered--but because I want to feel the connection to the entire global Jewish community. For me, maybe, it's a time to learn and teach a little about the Ethiopian Jewish experience, to cook something different, and examine the Jewish world from a new angle. Same for Mimouna. A chance to say to the whole Jewish world that hey, we brought cool things back to each other from the far corners of exile, to hold them out to one another, and cherish them.

So anyway--what do you cook for Sigd?

Day Off

For some reason George C. Moonbat takes off the Friday, not the Monday, of the Veterans Day weekend. I don't know. Whatevah. I'm just glad to be at home for the time being.

We are having more drama, and I can't blog about it. I wish that things would just settle down so that I could teach lessons about sonnet structure and get some rest.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Difference Between Nancy Pelosi and a Moonbat

You wouldn't think this would be hard to work out, but an astonishing number of wingnutters believe that Nancy Pelosi is not an affluent Italian-American Catholic grandmother who has spent her life in mainstream politics, she is a freakazoid hippie moonbat who wants to destroy America. The wingnutters believe similar things about Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer, and Democrats in general. They also believe that the fringy socialist/communist/anarchist/flag-burnin'/Palestinian supportin' loony-tunes crew is, in fact representative of the Democratic mainstream, and that they vote for Democrats.

It is really hard to convince them that, in fact, this is not the case. You'd think that photos would help:

THIS is Nancy Pelosi

THIS is a moonbat. You can tell, because she's wearing the moonbat outfit, and carrying a helpful sign to explain her political orientation.

But just in case this doesn't work, a message from Zombie.

Hopefully, this sequence of photos will clarify a few things about how the people who prevent me from joining peace marches feel about the Democratic Party.

Tehillim Request

If you say tehillim, or pray in an organized or disorganized way, or send white light, I don't care, send some the way of my boss, the ed director at the school I work at. It's an emotional health crisis, and while he is getting proper medical care, he can use all the prayers he can get right now.

Do I sound ambivalent? That's my problem, not his. (I, of course, am the one who walked in circles around the Safeway last night, praying aloud ((softly, but you could definately hear the argument with Herself going on as I passed)) so that other shoppers got out of my way. My bad.) He doesn't have a Hebrew name, and I don't know his mother's name, and I don't want to put his English name here, just in case, so just pray for a descendent of Sarah who is the Balabusta's boss, and I think they can send that to the right department of the Heavenly Administrative Staff. They're good, up there.