Thursday, June 28, 2007

'Some Editors Are Failed Writers, but So Are Most Writers'

This essay about writing made me come pretty close to tears. and this poem about writing is, well, my poem about writing, which was a procrastination from actually writing...

College Graduate
for saving electricity—and money
(you don’t need lights during the day)
quiet except for the TV playing in the apartment downstairs
and the patter of rain hitting the sidewalk below
amid the cramped clutter of the apartment,
big enough for two, but barely,
newspaper sections, open and left in different places,
a magazine or two (sophisticated Newsweek, not trashy People),
a dirty glass on the table,
a full trash can asking to be emptied,
bagel crumbs and a cream cheese knife
on the small kitchen’s counter,
two rumpled, unmade beds, sheets not matched,
worn-out, faded teddy bears next to both pillows,
she sighs,
puts the glass in the sink,
collects a newspaper section or two,
Metro (yesterday’s) from the bathroom, Style (Sunday’s) from the bedroom floor,
sits down at the small, round table
with a cup of coffee, a bowl of cereal
(it is noon)
pushes aside the newspaper
and begins to write

Deep Thought of the Day: The Lawn-Party Edition

My school newspaper threw a party at the end of each semester--a party which people got dressed up for. Which was a problem for a frum Jew because, well, frum girls don't really have appropriate clothing for the "get dressed up and by that we mean wear a dress that is made of almost no fabric" college party. My friend (also frum) and I would spend the end of every semester frustrated that despite our closets full of fancy Shabbos clothing, we had nothing we could wear to the newspaper party.

This ended particularly badly one semester with the two of us standing on a cold corner in Midtown Manhattan after a futile shopping attempt when she stomped her foot and yelled: "I just want to have a dress to wear to the dork dinner! Shoot, now I'm going to end up on Overheard in NY."

Either way, I don't really have to worry about the dork dinner anymore (which does not mean I have outgrown my dorkiness, only that it has been displaced), but this week's revelation: there is also no frum girl clothing equivalent for the lawn party. You find me a tznius alternative to the cute little seersucker sundress. I dare you.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Out of Context

New blog feature--and by that I mean I'll do it once and continue if I ever feel like doing it again. Quotes I came across and really liked. I'm not so cruel, I linked to the context in case you are curious what the heck I was reading.

"I don't personally think D.C.'s too bad. I mean, it's certainly not New York or Hotlanta or LA or San Francisco — don't get me wrong. Those cities all have some kind of unique culture, decent professional sports teams, really tall buildings, extremely attractive people, awesome night life and insane real estate prices." --Wonkette

"What big brothers and sisters have to teach, if that's the right word, is how to win the camp burping contest or wheedle more dessert. I'm not sure you can stage that sort of, um, instruction." --Slate

"'somewhere between JDate and a camel auction'" --NY Times

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Confessions of a Fence-Straddling, Long-Skirt-Wearing Gal

Whenever anyone asks me how I label myself religiously, my standard response is that I straddle the fence between modern orthodox and ultra orthodoxy. But the truth is, I’m not really sure what that means.

Does it mean having newspaper meetings until 15 minutes before Shabbos so that I make Shabbos but just in time? And never mind workplace handshakes (I’ve never been brave enough to go a la Rav Orlofsky and say “I don’t believe in premarital handshaking”), but does it mean letting guys hug me because it would be too awkward to explain negiah? Does it mean going to parties even for just a few minutes where there is drinking and I won’t feel comfortable? Does it mean pulling successive all-nighters during the week and then sleeping straight through Shabbos? Constantly struggling to daven even the bare minimum? Saying every time I go shopping, "If I weren't frum, I would buy that [pair of jeans/dress/short skirt/tank top]"? Choosing a profession I love even though it will make parts of Judaism (like raising the family I don't have yet) incredibly hard?

I’m not saying any of those things are wrong or right, only that they are things I don’t want to be doing, things that are inconsistent with the type of Jewish lifestyle I would like to have. Okay, maybe that means I’m saying they’re wrong.

A scientist by training told me at a Shabbat meal recently that he couldn’t understand people who believe in global warming but not evolution (i.e., a good number of frum Jews) because you can’t say you believe in part of science. To him, that means you don’t believe in science at all. Maybe that’s true, but, to me, science doesn’t have anything on God. And, to me, that’s what orthodoxy means—believing in, and acting on, the priority and primacy of God over all else.

And, well, I’m not sure I’ve been doing a particularly good job of that. Sure, you say, I keep Shabbos. I daven most of the time. Brachas, check. Long skirts and long sleeves and high necks, check. Starving myself at work lunches where I can’t eat anything because of kashrut, check. But I’ve been cutting corners where I shouldn’t be, picking and choosing when I don’t believe that’s an option, and that worries me. And I know how self-righteous this may sound, but I also know that I am not incredibly pleased with where I've been standing religiously, long skirts and all.

What now, then? Can I go on doing what I’ve been doing now that I’ve publicly confessed and have thus been alleviated of my guilt (maybe the Catholics were on to something)? Can I pretend, now that I’ve done my requisite religious pondering, that I’m fine? I really I hope I don't.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Why It's a Good Thing I Don't Drink

Because this would be me if I did:

From (bastard child of

Remember That Time I Did Those Tequila Shots and Used "Ain't"?

Girl: Oh god, I must really be drunk -- I'm mixing my metaphors!

Bucknell University

Friday, June 22, 2007

Headlines on Dog Runners, Lead Paint, and Expensive Camps

I know, I know. I've been away for a while. I'm back, though I can't promise how frequently. We'll see. For now, some articles for your reading pleasure.

  • Maybe I should do this with my free time. Too bad I don't like dogs. And I don't exercise.
  • In which my sister and I wonder if our 2-year-old brother might have had high levels of lead (which led to a house inspection that drove my mother insane) because he was sucking on Thomas the Tank Engine and not because there was lead paint on our walls.
  • Should I feel relieved that there are no Jewish camps on this list of the most expensive camps New Yorkers send their kids to or should I feel gypped that exorbitantly priced Jewish camps can't make the list? My competitive spirit wins out. Also, I never went to sleep-away camp and I like making fun of what my friends' parents paid.
  • Excuse me while I go rub this in my siblings' faces... (Also, while I wonder if The NY Times eploys any copy editors.)

Friday, June 01, 2007

This Post Has No Real Title Because the Endless Possibilities for Spelling Bee Puns Disturb Me

“The chaotic life Of a twelve year old Is too hard And you never know what’s coming next But in spelling Things have logic and line And in spelling There’s a greater design"

I watched the National Spelling Bee last night for the first time. And though the watching of it was incredibly entertaining--my sister told me I was the "biggest loser ever" for watching, but it was fun, really--the whole concept is sort of awful. These kids have spent entirely too much time memorizing the spellings of obscure, useless words (girolle, rascacio, bouleuterion, urgrund--spellcheck doesn't even know them, though spellcheck also doesn't recognize "spellcheck") and only one of them can win. So the rest of them end up disappointed and on the verge of tears. On national television.

Though it is cute when they're really excited about winning, like this girl from a few years ago. OK, maybe it's a little freaky too. But the kid who won last night doesn't even like spelling. When asked after he won if his opinion of spelling bees had changed, his response was: "What? I'm supposed to like spelling more now?"

And spelling bees are not particularly good or educational for students, either. It's essentially just an intense competition for the dorks, and much as I heart dorks...

It seems cruel to let children participate in these things that are all about winning and a useless skill and just increase this ridiculous competitiveness. The Cranium games are trying to single-handedly reverse this trend by trying to reduce the competitive aspect of games. (Though, upon telling my five-year-old brother who had just lost at a Cranium game that he had done a good job, he said, "But I'm still a loser." So unclear how well the Cranium games work.)

Anyhow, last night's lesson is that I am not letting my kids enter spelling bees. Ever.