hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jun. 24th, 2011 03:31 pm)
Forgot to post about seeing The Bright Stream (Ratmansky) a couple of weeks ago. I thought it was delightful. Perhaps a little too much of the tired "ho ho! fat ladies are amusingly ill-co-ordinated! and when people try to cross gender lines, hilarity ensues!" kind of humour, but on the whole, quite lovely, artistically, musically, and technically. With bonus man en pointe and arabesque en bicyclette, which were fun to see - and no-one gets away with cheating on their wives or dumping their fiancees, of which I approve.

This week I saw Kudelka's Cinderella; it's American Ballet Theater, but this one was a lot more Theater than Ballet, and not especially good theatre at that - the jokes aren't funny and go on too long, and the whole thing feels a bit cluttered and ragged. I suppose you could say that's a subtle meta-comment on Cinderella, who is supposed to be ragged; but one expects, for example, a pas de quatre to be a *little* more co-ordinated than it in fact was. Also, putting men into dark suits and then having them dance on a black stage isn't good planning; they look like a lot of bobby-about shirtfronts in some kind of strange puppet play. Another example of *planning: ur doin it wrong* is having a whacking great circle painted on the stage and then doing a whole lot of circle dances that are embarrassingly non-circular. Just looks messy. Still, yummy costumes, and some cute ideas, plus a decent quantity of women with agency (I notice these things).

I rather enjoy the way it works high up at the top of the Met building - you buy a $20 seat, and then when the lights go (this being the Met, successively up and) down,* everyone in the $20 seats sneaks over into the empty $30 seats. With one's opera glasses (birthday-present binoculars from a long time ago), one manages rather well.

* i.e. they raise the chandeliers, and the house lights go down.
Best breakfast in the world ever: rice krispies with chocolate cake crumbs scraped out of the tin (waste not, want not) and raspberries and tea. Cool scented breeze from the park, tweety birds, puppy curled at feet, etc.

Raspberries from the late-night fruit stand near Lincoln Center, purchased after seeing Giselle yesterday. Manhattan life does have its good sides, and being able to buy cheap, delicious summer fruit in the middle of the night after going to the ballet and before an easy subway ride home is definitely one of them.

I find ballet (and gymnastics, and one or two similar things) awfully compelling - something about having tremendous control over your body such that you can do beautiful things and make it look easy. I can do that a bit with calligraphy, but that's scarcely a whole-body enterprise. It's also just nice watching people who are really good at what they do; Xiomara Reyes wasn't, I think, the best Giselle ever (but terribly impressive nonetheless, obviously), and Angel Corella was rather splendid.

Also yesterday, the groundsmen were in, so the gates to the flowerbeds and lawns were unlocked (they keep them locked away behind iron fences lest anybody do something as inconsiderate as, you know, lie on the grass, or sit under the trees). So I went in and dead-headed the roses and pulled some of the bindweed off the honeysuckle (discovered a patch of mint in the process).

Living half in the fantasy world wherein I have a garden, I let the dog off the lead while I was pottering about; she sprawled in the sunshine and rolled happily in my weed pile. I was very proud of her: when she wanted to have a poo, she went out and did it on the path where it's easy to pick up, instead of doing it on the grass. And then she came back to the weed pile like a good dog.

Now she's curled up on the towel I carelessly dropped on the floor, I'm about to work on a ketubah (up to my ears in ketubot this season, thankfully), and all is well.

(Edited to add: later, she took her chewy into her crate, and dropped off to sleep whilst chewing it, so when I look into the crate I see one flippy-flappy ear flopped over a chewed chewy, and a curled-up sleeping dog. It's impossible to get any work done around here, I tell you.)
hatam_soferet: Fractal zayins (zayin)
( Feb. 6th, 2011 09:47 pm)
In honour of its being Adar, I give you Dog Torah.
I have a puppy.

Parts of her are tan-coloured like parchment, and parts of her are black and shiny like Torah ink.

She likes to squirm around on the couch.

I am a sofer stam.

Now read on...

Pictures... )
hatam_soferet: (tea)
( Jan. 20th, 2011 11:48 am)
Went to see La Traviata last night. Marina Poplavskaya as Violetta was glorious, my goodness. Listening to her was just delightful. (I think I also heard her in Don Carlo, but I don't remember noticing then the things I noticed this time.)

The production was one of those Minimalist Contemporary affairs driven by the idea that sets and props get in the way of the audience understanding the characters. To that end, the chorus, men and women alike, was presented as a slavering mass of men in dark suits, highlighting Violetta as The Woman, which was rather effective.

Sometimes contemporary settings of things don't quite work - I recall a Modern Richard III at Oxford - because the story's mechanics just don't translate across time. This one worked exceptionally well, I suppose because the story is basically structured around the idea that Women Who Have Extra-Marital Sex Are Morally Turpitudinous and that one, sadly, translates into the present day rather easily. (Even the tuberculosis thing translates; Poplavskaya's Violetta seemed to have pain mostly in her stomach (?) so I chose to read it as terminal stomach cancer in someone who doesn't believe in hospitals, and that made it all quite believable.)

Anyway, it was really super, although it left me feeling oddly hollow inside. Not in a bad way, just in a sort of empty way.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Aug. 9th, 2010 10:04 pm)
Gabriel: what about [mashed potatoes] on SHABBES? is it דש?
me: no, it's מש
Israeli to Angli: What's 'mosaic'?
Angli to Israeli: It's when you have lots of little pieces of tile, glued together to make a design
Israeli: *looks VERY CONFUSED*
Second Israeli, learning same material: No, it means Moses wrote it.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jun. 8th, 2010 09:13 pm)
"I work at YU," says the young lady at kiddush.

"Oh," says Sofer Boyfriend. "I'm in smicha there" (this was a while ago).

"I just started at YU," says the young lady. "Which part of it are you at?"

"RIETS," says Sofer Boyfriend. "The rabbinical school."

"The Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary?" says she. "That's not part of YU. That's an affiliate of YU. It's not YU proper."

"Well, okay, technically," says Sofer Boyfriend. "But when people say they're doing smicha at YU, they mean they're at RIETS."

"But it's not part of YU. It's an affiliate. The Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary is the same thing as the Jewish Theological Seminary - right?"

"No it isn't."

"Yes it is."

"No! The Jewish Theological Seminary is not part of YU at all!"

"That's right! It's an affiliate!"

At which point Sofer Boyfriend bangs head against wall repeatedly, or some such.

If only I could say something apt and witty about such associations. I'll leave that to you. Have at it in the comments :)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jun. 1st, 2010 12:09 am)
I am entirely, utterly, staying-up-past-bedtime captivated by Look Around You, a cross between the Schools Television of my youth and 1066 And All That.

They're all on YouTube. Oh, am I happy.
Are there wolves in New York? we wondered.

Wikipedia says there have been sightings of wolves in the "outskirts of large cities in Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin."

No data given for New York.

In my opinion, this lack of data proves that there are MORE wolves in NYC than in Minnesota etc. There, there were reported sightings, so the wolves left some people alive. Here, in NYC, there are no reported sightings, so it must be that all the people got eaten by the wolves.

It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude more numerous, or at any rate more thorough, wolves in the New York City area than in, for example, Wisconsin.
Here's an old question: How can you be religious when there is zero evidence to support the idea of Gods and no reason to think such a thing exists? Is it not foolish to act so illogically?

And here's one perspective.

I live with depression. Depression is very clever at erasing evidence. You can list all sorts of reasons for being glad and enjoying life, and depression can knock down every last one of them. When depression is masking your brain, it truly seems as though there is no reason at all to keep going.

But you keep going nonetheless, because you have some hazy idea that there's something beyond what the evidence suggests. Some days faith in that idea is the only thing that keeps you from giving up and swigging lethal quantities of codeine and whisky.

Most people around one agree that giving up is a bad idea. They encourage you to keep it up with the blind faith, against all perceptible evidence and rational analysis. Thus, apparently, sometimes blind faith, against the evidence and contrary to logic, is not wholly a bad thing.

I live much of my life on the basis that there is a state of being better than the one I presently perceive, even though the depression in my brain makes me unable to reason out how this could be. Even though all the available evidence suggests that such a belief is entirely unfounded, I choose to believe it, and no-one would say me nay.

As a religious person, I also live much of my life on the basis that there is a state of being beyond my present perception, even though reason and observation cannot support it.

Just as sometimes the depression lifts and life can be enjoyed, sometimes life's perspective widens and transcendence can be experienced. Both of these add value to my life.

The frames of mind which lead to each are precisely similar. One does not require any more suspension of disbelief than the other. It is not about living one's life entirely by rational scientific principles and then having a whole different set of rules for religion that require reason to be abandoned; from this perspective, it is simply about how much one concedes may be beyond the evidence. If it is not unreasonable to live with irrational faith concerning the one, it does not seem unreasonable to live with irrational faith concerning the other.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 21st, 2009 08:47 pm)
This made me terrifically happy, and this was definitely an eye-opener. I live in a scribal cave in New York City, it's good to be reminded that there are amazing floaty blue things out there.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 19th, 2009 08:50 pm)
All right all right, I can't not post about Susan Boyle, evidently.

Some of the Tweeting Susan Boyle is happening because it is nice to be reminded that entirely ordinary people are frequently much more talented than we assume. This is well and good. But we do not need to be Tweeting Susan Boyle because zomg look fat lady sings, see the monkey dance, do we? It is a fact of life that you do not have to be 18 and sexy to sing nicely. So I hope none of you are doing that.

I thought the clip was freaking super because Simon Whatsit gets far too much mileage out of being an utter git, and watching his jaw drop, and everyone else's jaws drop, was entirely satisfactory.

I also rather enjoyed it because it's a potted version of Utter Wish-Fulfilment, as in, random ordinary person dearly wants to be a success and it comes true and everyone is wowed to bits, and come on, if you've got any appreciation for soppy at all you've got to appreciate that. Triumphing against all the odds and seeing the pwnage of one's enemies is one of the oldest songs out there, and Susan Boyle sung it, and despite the fact that it's only a good story because everyone's horribly judgemental about people like her, it would still be a sad thing if we weren't tweeting about it.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 14th, 2009 02:27 pm)
Having received an unexpected bill from the doctor's office, I gathered my metaphorical spoons, girded my metaphorical loins, and telephoned the insurance company.

Well, let the record show that:
* the phone was answered at once
* the person on the other end wasn't in a bad temper
* and communicated clearly, without using insurerspeke
* they agreed it wasn't my problem
* and are not denying payment
* it's just that the doctor's billing cycle and the insurance's paying cycle don't quite match up
* so it's okay
* and she didn't make like I was a fool for not knowing that already.

Thanks, universe!

And for your viewing pleasure, under cut: )
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Apr. 13th, 2009 08:49 am)
peeps for passover - a construction after my own heart. If you liked the Lego Bible, you will probably like this.

Hilarious (read the product reviews)

Breaking news shocker, exercise won't make you thin if you're already at your body's optimal weight

scary - I didn't know heat from candleholders could ignite tables.

Serious effort to combat Artscroll's dominance in the siddur market. Winning quote: It is almost like the ArtScroll siddur is a household word - er, "almost"??

This made me very very happy and is completely non-political.
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 18th, 2009 10:07 pm)
Visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island today since sister is visiting. Beautiful day for it, my goodness; perfect sort of day to be out on the water.

I liked two things especially about the Statue of Liberty. One, the way the statue was made of sheets of copper shaped by hammering into a mould, and then bolted over a framework - that's just very interesting; I knew it was hollow, but not *that* hollow. The other thing I like is that her tummy sticks out further than her bosom. It is so unusual to see representations of women which look like an average woman. I can look at Liberty and think "Hey, I look like that!" and that is more inspiring than you might believe.

Ellis Island was interesting for being modern. My mental immigrant is apparently stuck in 1850; the building has mostly been restored to its 1920s look, tiling and panelling and so forth, with many photographs of people doing things which, if you look carefully, are quite obviously not set in 1850. Intellectually of course I know that immigrants weren't all coming from 1850, but I was continually being surprised by how modern everything was. Telephones and consumerism and Roaring Twenties.

(And even so, there were still a lot of deaths from infectious diseases like measles. Vaccinate your children!)*

I was surprised to learn that most people only spent a few hours there, also. It makes sense in terms of red tape - controlling illegal movement and infectious disease* - but seems awfully cumbersome to ferry thousands of people out there and back again almost right away. The building has these gigantic echoing halls, which reminded me, a first-generation immigrant myself, overwhelmingly of Customs&Immigration at JFK airport, in whose gigantic echoing halls I went through much the same sort of procedure.

What I noticed very strongly, and hadn't been expecting at all, was how white it felt. Liberty Island is covered in stuff about how coming to the USA was an escape from tyranny, oppression etc, and the statue is symbolic of hope, freedom, etc. Ellis Island is covered in stuff about how coming to the USA was a chance at a new life, a better life, free, hopeful, etc. I couldn't help thinking that there are a heck of a lot of people for whom coming to the USA was an *act* of oppression and a deprivation of liberty, hope, freedom etc. Different period, obviously, and historical context and so on; you wouldn't expect Ellis Island to be talking about anything much other than Europeans. I was just suddenly very aware of white privilege and having it, and that awareness flavoured my day.

Especially re Statue of Liberty - she is placed strategcally in the harbour such that she is the first sight of new immigrants, and as such she comes to represent hope and freedom and suchlike as per American Dream. Except that said immigrants were not a) Native American b) South American c) Black d) Asian, and I find myself wondering if Liberty's cultural significance looks different from other perspectives, or whether it's all melting-potted.

So an educational day, but not at all in the ways I had been expecting.

* gratuitous pro-vaccine plug, yes
hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Mar. 6th, 2009 04:11 pm)
Onion win excerpt:

...Mouse-killing isn't solely the province of organic and medical scientists. Many other scientists kill mice, as well.

"As a physicist, I don't really have much cause to use mice in my regular research, which mostly requires the use of theoretical math," said Dr. Thomas Huber, author of the 1996 study Mouse Elasticity And Kinetic Rebound In High-Acceleration Collisions...

In other news, I've just put together a worksheet for those who would like to begin learning to write Torah-style, but don't want to get into quills and suchlike just yet. This is a worksheet that gets you going on motor skills and eye skills, and you can do it with a two-dollar calligraphy marker. I'm going to keep it off the internets for the moment, so if you would like a copy, bung me an email.
yahrzeit candle in glass jarI mentioned glass paint a while back, you may recall, and I've finally got around to taking the pictures that will make a blog post a bit more satisfying than "I made this stuff, you can't see it, but it's quite cute."

yahrzeit candle jarIn keeping with my habit of posting seasonal topics at wildly inappopriate times of year, this is a post about what to do with yahrzeit candles when you're done burning them. They have a certain ritual-logistical function on two-day festivals, so around festival time you can build up quite a collection, if you're that way inclined. You see? Not seasonally appropriate in the slightest. Go me.

painted glass jarSo you get your candles; the ones in glass jars, because the ones that come in tin pots Are Not As Cool. You burn the candles. Then you wash the jar inside and out until it's nice and shiny.

These are the kind of spiffy glass paints that you slosh on and then bake in the oven. The paint is very very very runny, and everything looks an awful lot better if you outline it first so that the paint doesn't dribble all over the place. The outlining stuff comes in a tube like toothpaste, and you squirt it on decoratively. More about how you do all this stuff here.

painted glass jarWhen it's dry, you colour in the shapes. I took a tip from the iPod Nano; something that of itself is not especially attractive looks exponentially better when part of a rainbow. One jar - not especially noteworthy. Different colours all lined up - look rather nice, even more so when the yellow one isn't leaning over drunkenly.

I thought about doing them with Jewish images, stars or something, but flowers are easy to draw, and anyway I have a Jewish home, I don't especially need Jewy-themed jars to remind me of it.

Which begs the interesting question: do these count as Judaica? I only have them because I'm Jewish, because no-one else accumulates yahrzeit candle jars - on the other hand, the decoration doesn't scream JEW JEW JEW, and they don't any longer have any ritual function, so perhaps they don't count. Discuss.

painted glass jar

hatam_soferet: (Default)
( Jan. 16th, 2009 11:33 am)

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 11:00 AM Update on Limmud NY Conference Status
Date: Fri, 16 Jan 2009 11:20:22 -0500 (EST)

Amy Ozols at the New Yorker wins the internets with nine easy steps to successful new year's dieting.

Step 1: Avoid what psychologists refer to as "emotional eating." This is hard, because many people have a tendency to experience emotions. To solve this problem, consume increasing dosages of psychotropic medications until you cease to feel emotions of any kind.

Read the rest here.