Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Bibi and Charlie

On Monday Charlie Rose interviewed Bibi Netanyahu. I highly recommend it as a must-see.

Dip the Apple into . . . Sweetener of Choice

Since childhood, I have been cursed with an abnormal and to some, heretical dislike. 

I don't like honey.
This made things complicated in grade school, as classmates would gasp and morahs would swoon as I politely declined to partake of bee vomit (technically, that's what honey is). I spend my High Holy Days a lonely outsider, watching others ritualistically dip and chuckle and lick fingertips. 

But this year, it came to me; an alternate to honey, a way to reclaim my reputation as a participant of timeless Jewish tradition. 

I shall dip my apple . . . in maple syrup.
Not the Aunt Jemimah watered-down stuff; Grade A, Costco issue, pristine maple syrup. 

Whatever sweetener you enjoy, whether it be honey, evaporated cane juice, agave, or blackstrap molasses, I wish to all and sundry, A Sweet Year.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Love Thy Chicken

The Alliance to End Chicken as Kapparos has my backing! Check out their website for fun facts how chickens are tortured during kapparos.
To truly invoke God's compassion, we must be compassionate to His creations. Giving tzedakah instead will be of more benefit to the poor and will definitely score points with the Man upstairs.

Red Soles . . . For Men?

The other Shabbos a young feller trotted by. His retreating figure was bestowing tantalizing flashes of red - I do not know if his shoes were authentic Louboutin or not, but his soles were the right color. Looked new, too.
Louboutin recently lost in court for sole (no pun intended) rights to the red sole, so he may have been wearing another brand. 

But, in any case, are there any females out there who feel zealously protective of the red sole?

Monday, September 26, 2011

I'm Pathetic . . . By Gentile Standards

There was an assumed understanding between myself and my non-Jewish or irreligious associates: obviously, observant Jews are insane to get married while still in their 20s. 

However, I am noticing a shift in mentality. 

"How can you tell if a Jewish guy is married?"

"Um, well, some wear a ring, but many don't, so you can't tell."

"Oh. I saw a guy on the train who looked nice and I thought of him for you." 


"Why don't you go to this . . . synagogue, it's called? Meet a nice boy?"


"I'm interviewing one of your people today. Should I ask if he's single?" 


"I work by this family and they have a very nice boy." (Translated from Czech; she's my sister's cleaning woman). 

Followed by: 

"My boyfriend isn't religious" (she's a magnificent Irish blonde) "but there's this rabbi-in-training friend of his that's very nice."

I am well aware what my neighbors and relatives think of me ("Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Nebach.") But I expected better from my out-of-the-loop non-Jewish buddies, who would equate marriage with bondage and should be avoided until 39 when the biological clock is ticking.

There's one fantasy shot to hell.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let's Get Real. Really.

Politicians are fighting over whose the most "authentic." And we're supposed to take them seriously. 

In Stephanie Rosenbloom's article, they wouldn't seem to be the only ones.

How many of us insist that we are being "true to ourselves"? I know Disney made a big thing about this, but who are we kidding? Who enters society without any constraints at all about their internal selves, except b'kiso, b'kaaso, b'koso?
“The best way to sell yourself is to not appear to be selling yourself,” Professor Pooley said. Politicians do it. Celebrities do it. And you, reader, do it every time you tap out a status update on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.
Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. After all, scholars say people have always maintained multiple selves: there’s the version that you present to your family, the you that you are with your colleagues, the you that you are with members of your poker club. They are all, in some way, “you.” It’s what the sociologist Erving Goffman was referring to in the late 1950s when he likened all human interaction to theatrical performance. 
Life online is no different. As one of Professor Baron’s students told her: Facebook is “me on my best day.”
I like this end point: 
Take Nicki Minaj, the hip-hop singer who has purposefully adopted theatrical alter egos with names like Roman Zolanski and Nicki Teresa.
“I’m definitely playing a role,” Ms. Minaj explained in BlackBook magazine. “They don’t pay to see me roll out of bed with crust in my eyes, and say, ‘Hey guys, this is me, authentic.’ They pay for a show.”
Just because I put on a show doesn't mean that's not "me." By "show," in my case, I mean those times I pretend to be in a good mood, say, when going through a particularly painful date. The fact that I can act like that is also part of who I am. 

So if we are all authentic, that means no one is authentic. Sort of like how if everybody is special, nobody is special.   

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'm Steaming

When Dr. Phil first got his own show, enough people were gasping  at his wife's, Robin's, skin, to the point that she was given a segment to detail her skin regimen.

She advocating using a facial sauna as the way to keep her skin looking young, but it is also beneficial to all skin types. The steam opens up pores, allowing treatment to penetrate deeper, cleaning out gook (yes, "gook" is a technical term.) 

The Conair Facial Sauna Systems with Timer comes with another cone for steaming the sinuses, and also a rotating brush for facial cleansing, which is similar to the one I spent a fortune on. The timer feature is also convenient, forcing one to keep the face in there. 

Once a week I make time and give my pores a good steam. If my skin is not behaving I set the timer for longer.

If there are blemishes lurking under the skin, the steam helps to bring them to the surface, speeding up the healing process. I have blackheads on my nose, and with the use of a blemish extractor I can press out excess sebum, making the nose pores look smaller. This should be done immediately after steaming - the pores start to close up pretty fast.

Don't get too violent or there will be scarring. The smaller circle is best for clogged pores, the larger loop for blemishes. Press and hope for the best, but don't hurt the skin.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Addictive Personalities

"Cocaine reconnected my mind to my body, and I felt tremendously alive, hypersexual and hopeful once again," he wrote. "At least I had a new God to believe in, even if I knew all along this was a false God, a deceitful God, one who always promised misery and defeat. So, I choose this God of intense extremes over the monotony of everyday life." - A Failure of Happiness by Charles Lyons
I like monotony. It's safe, boring, and uneventful. I don't mind spending a day pottering about the house if there is nothing else to do. I never crave vacations for "a change of scene." I have the same lunch every day and consume it happily. I live my life by predictable routine, and I am content to do so.

I always wondered about addictive personalities. Why does one keep drinking or keep getting high or keep gambling if they know that crash is going to come, if they know they'll hit rock bottom? 

I hypothesized that for these individuals, they don't care what the consequences of the "rush" will be. They just want to feel that boost, even though it will bring them crashing right back down. 

For someone like me—the last time I had a milkshake I was three and had thrown up—I can't fathom it. Negative reinforcement can work its magic on me in no time at all.

One can, of course, make comparisons to the yetzer hara, but in these cases the retribution comes much swifter, meaning one can see what went wrong and how to avoid it. But they don't. 

The story cited above details a brilliant student's fall from reachable brilliance to an early, wasted death. It is a shame how so many, full of glittering potential and intellect, are sucked into the Dark. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Get Thee A Wife

I will admit, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers may not be the most dazzling musical out there. However, that is not the film's fault; apparently, MGM would not give the director a large enough budget, deciding to focus their finances on Brigadoon (I find Brides to be much more appealing than Brigadoon. So much for budgets).
Stanley Donen, the director, managed to stretch every possible dollar and fashioned a film that got an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. He assembled a highly-talented cast of acrobats and dancers; one of the "brothers" is a ballet dancer. 

The songs are not the catchiest, especially the ones sung by the women (I still fast-forward through those) but the premise is entertaining, along with my fan-tendencies for Howard Keel.
The Barn Raising is one of the most captivating dance sequences in musical history. 

Even if MGM had coughed up more budget, I don't think it could have been any more show-stopping.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Be Still

I remember as a kid in elementary school how everyone would try to "out-shuckle" the other. The simple frontwards rock? Amateur stuff. To prove true devoutness, the side to side method is preferred, twirling the toes of the front foot from side to side on the lean back, while rotating the rear ankle on the lean forward.

Of course, the concentration into getting these moves right rendered prayer pretty much worthless.
A valid alternative to shuckling is to stand completely still, like a soldier standing at attention in front of the king.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zatzal, one of the foremost halachic authorities of our generation, was known to stand stock still during the silent prayer. He explained that, while living in Russia, he was once arrested for teaching Torah. One form of torture he experienced during his imprisonment was being forced to stand completely still facing a wall. The threat was that if he were to move he would be shot. It was on one of these occasions that Rabbi Feinstein was struck with the realization that if he could stand with such intense concentration for the sake of his captors, then he should afford at least the same respect when standing in front of Hashem.
Deciding whether to 'shuckle' or stand still depends on which one helps you concentrate better. In any case, a person shouldn't move his body or contort his face in any way that will make him look weird., "Shakesprayer"
The beefeaters manage to do it, and in that hat too.
"How is he to say it? R. Hisda said: Standing still"Talmud Bavli, Brachos 30a (in reference to Tefilas HaDerech)
A certain Rav (name cannot be recalled) visited my shul for a Shabbos. My father came home in awe, that throughout the entire davening, this man stood perfectly still, ramrod straight. 

I've tried to take that behavior to heart.  It took concentration the first few times, but I've halted my shuckeling. I only do so during chazaras hashatz, when I am not davening. 

I practice standing perfectly still while waiting for the train or a light at a crosswalk. Still = Disciplined. That is an image I want to convey.

I am loath to quote Oprah, but this one is a keeper: 
Stand still and listen to the whispers.  
I think her point was that when one is still, one is focused, one is thinking clearly, and then the answers just come.  

Although I end up shuckling like mad on Yomim Noraim. Standing all that time is murder on my feet, and shuckling redistributes the weight. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lubavitch Fashion Gets Two Thumbs Up

Attending a Lubavitch wedding in 770 is like flipping through an issue of Bazaar.

Clothing: I will admit, being able to pull off colorful evening gear is not easy. There are all sorts of criteria - weight (satin, organza, and so forth), flattering cut, hue complimentary to skin tone, availability. But the women were a vivid display of color without having to sacrifice the cut of the garment. They were rainbow-esque and still looked good.

Another amazing thing was that most had dresses or tops with actual sleeves rather than wearing a bodysuit with a jumper. There was only a tunic or two on display; everyone was pretty much in sleeved dresses or suits.

It wasn't as though the dresses were expensive. Sure, I picked out some designer garments, but many of the wow-bang dresses were distinctly not pricey but were flattering. 

For one thing, everyone's waists were defined,255,255&wid=327&qlt=90,0&layer=comp&op_sharpen=0&resMode=bicub&op_usm=0.7,1.0,0.5,0&fmt=jpeg
Ellen Tracy Shirtdress
Hair, specifically wigs: Short hair suits everyone. The older one gets, the higher yet shorter hair should be. And magnificently bouffant wigs reigned the evening, making all women of various ages shine.
I love Jane Fonda's hair.
Makeup: I was practically weeping with joy. PINK lips everywhere! Vivid, flattering, divine lips! 
Oh, how beautiful all the women were! If anyone needs any fashion tips, I highly encourage them to crash a 770 chuppah.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wicked Beat Box

With Matisyahu's most recent album, Light, I have become a serious fan. I initially bought the songs individually, then I realized I should have just bought the whole album already.

He does some awesome beat box in this video. 

Keep up the good PR for us Yidden, man!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Opposites Attracting

By a wedding, I was chatting to a newly wedded girl. She was incredibly earnest, humorless, and a tad naive ("I'm going to become a shadchan!") but very sweet. Her husband came by and sat at the table. 

He was the complete opposite to everything she was - a casual attitude (meaning "nothing is sacred"), hysterically funny, and quite jaded. I certainly wouldn't call him sweet. Decent, but not sweet.

The two met at singles event. Despite the fact it was the means to their union, he didn't stop mocking how those events function. I was laughing quite loudly, I'm not proud to say, as he mimicked the other participants and the organizers. 

The two sat with their hands intertwined in what seemed to me the most uncomfortable position (he had to snake his arm through the back of the chair in order to grasp hers), gazing into each other's eyes. 

Not only would I have "not seen them together" before the wedding, I couldn't fathom it after. No wonder why these two met at a shidduch event - who would set them up? 

There was something that bound these two together beyond the obviousness of their natures. I have no idea what it could be, but that's why I'm a mere mortal. 

"I don't see it"? I don't buy it. To the well-meaning matchmakers out there, you aren't God. Your job is to set people up. They'll decide, not you, if it should be "seen" or not.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Check the Link

Every week, the NY Times Magazine has a segment called "What They Were Thinking," a photo of people doing something or other, and their thoughts beneath the photo. 

This week, was this couple. Mazel Tov to them!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Shabbos Face: Eye Shadow to Last

Eye shadow sometimes has problems anchoring on. Often I would go to a wedding all dolled up in shadow to have it quietly disappear over the course of the evening. But, as I hope I have proved, there is a primer for everything, and there are a great many options for shadow primer. 

My current shadow primer is Tarte Lifted Natural Eye Primer with Firmitol. I like Tarte due to the "natural" ingredients, and it does a good job of anchoring shadow on. It also claims to keep skin tight, which is all I need to hear.

One of the most commonly discussed primers is Urban Decay Primer Potion, which they have recently switched from a wand dispenser to a tube. I would recommend, of the four options available, to stick to either the Original or Eden. Greed is gold, which doesn't belong on the face, and Sin is shimmery, and I think I've made my feelings regarding sparkly makeup clear. 

Too Faced Shadow Insurance is highly rated and also made without potentially questionable ingredients. I think I'm going to try that next.

The first one I ever tried was Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer, and it also did a very good job.

Shadow primer, while also keeping the shadow on, prevents the shadow from creasing unappealingly. 

When blending in the primer, use standard eye-product applying etiquette; using the ring finger, lightly tap, not shmear or rub, tap the product about.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Laurie and Adams

NY Times featured a story this week about Hugh Laurie

Since I adore House, although I can barely tolerate his meanness, I earnestly read the article. I also have a thing for Robert Sean Leonard from a tween fascination with Much Ado About Nothing, but I'll get to that another time.
Is Laurie happy playing House? “I don’t know,” he said. “That’s not a question I ask myself very often. I equate happiness with contentment, and contentment with complacency, and complacency with impending disaster.” Laurie doesn’t make pronouncements like this in the morose tones of Marvin the Paranoid Android; he remains affable, as if he were describing somebody else.
Marvin-mention? Giggle.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Kid Reporter and His Trusty Sidekick

From my childhood library there was sometimes available various books of Tintin. Tintin is like catnip to children, since it is an entire book of illustrations. That's all that kids want; more pictures, less talking. Parents are happy because it can't be read out loud, and the subject matter usually goes over little ones' heads.
When I was finally old enough to understand and read Tintin fluently, it was a happy day. 

When I was still under the age of 10, I scoured the shelves of Barnes & Noble, unable to locate my precious ("Where's the comic section?") Apparently, Tintin is not so low-brow to be called a comic; it belongs to the elevated class of graphic novel (as a kindly B&N employee directed me). 

I introduced to my cousins Tintin, who now revere me along the level of a celebrity. ("It was her," they whisper, "it was her who gave us Tintin.")  Ah, to be loved. 

I saw a documentary about Georges Remi, who wrote under the name of Herge. He was an interesting, multi-faceted individual. 

However, there are undercurrents (if not blatant depictions) of racism (and at times, possible anti-Semitism).  But the books are so gripping and educational to the young of the greater world and other cultures, that they should always remain a staple. I've bought them all, and the older kinfauna (a term stolen from Bad4, with permission) will quietly pore over them over the course of a long Shabbos afternoon. 

I took one of the younger kids for a walk, leaving the Messiah (he's the good nephew) with a Tintin and a banana. When I returned two hours later, he was in the same spot with a pile of banana skins at his elbow. I decided to overlook the fact he touched my book with sticky fingers. 

I always found Cigars of the Pharaoh to be the weirdest. Understandably it was always the one available in the library. 

Spielberg has made Secret of the Unicorn into a motion-capture film. Keep in mind there is a sequel, Red Rackham's Treasure. After seeing the trailer, however, it is obvious other books were worked into the film, specifically Crab with the Golden Claws. Secret of the Unicorn did not involve ending up in the Sahara, as they never even left Belgium. I'm wondering if this mish-mash will be satisfying. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Not Homey, Haimish

My family got a big kick out of David Brooks' Op-Ed piece regarding the appeals of haimish. 

If dating websites had a sub-category for "heimish," maybe I would go on them. The only way my people categorize themselves is as "heimish." 

Being heimish myself (at least, I think I am) I would just like to request that if one says "haimish," it is properly pronounced as "hi-mish," not "hay-mish." 

Whenever I hear "hay-mish" my teeth are set on edge. Because saying "hay-mish" is obviously not "hi-mish." 

But I digress. As Brooks says:
Often, as we spend more on something, what we gain in privacy and elegance we lose in spontaneous sociability.
I once visited a university that had a large, lavishly financed Hillel House to serve as a Jewish center on campus. But the students told me they preferred the Chabad House nearby, which was run by the orthodox Lubavitchers. At the Chabad house, the sofas were tattered and the rooms cramped, but, the students said, it was more haimish.
He continues that more expensive surroundings remove human contact. Money = privacy. Privacy = no camaraderie.  He recommends to spend less on traveling accommodations to ensure meeting new people. 

Heimishe havara, anyone? 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Aunts and Well-Wishing

As a full-time aunt who takes way too much interest in toy purchases, I find that my kind are rather unappreciated. We know how to Ferberize, we know what the kids will like, and we take them off the parents' heads from time to time. 

This article in the Jewish Week was describing the phenomenon, although along a little more depressing lines as the aunts cited were in their 40s and childless, so these spawn of their siblings were their surrogate children. 

One quote jumped out at me: 
"In the Jewish community, there is a feeling that when a couple has a fertility challenge, there should be sensitivity around them," [Melanie Notkin] says. "For single women, there’s less of that. ‘Poo poo poo, oh just go on JDate, you’re too picky, you better hurry up,’ they say."
That is, in a nutshell, my objection to "iy'H by you." If one wouldn't say it to a childless couple, kindly don't say it to singles. Obviously, one can understand how saying such a "bracha" to a man or woman trying to have children is hurtful; why isn't it the same to a dater who currently has nothing on the horizon? 

I daven for the childless couples on my own time, without their knowledge. So why can't one give a shout out to God during Shacharis for a single as well, rather then iy'Hing her to her face?

And I certainly don't want to hear it at the vort of an 18-year-old, thank you very much. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tea Tree Rocks

My niece, Bigmouth (okay, maybe that's a bit harsh . . . how about Eewok? She is cute and cuddly and around the same height) had a breakout of mesculum on her arm. 

My sister-in-law (she's Luke's wife, so I'm not sure what to call her, as Jedi were celibate . . . can't call her Amidala because of the Oedipal connotations . . . how about Organa, Princess Leia's last name?) had a dermatologist laser them off, but when they came back, he recommended tea tree oil. 

"But it's not easy to find," he said hesitantly. 

"No worries," Organa said dryly. "My sister-in-law definitely has it."

And so I do.
Tea tree oil can be used for practically anything. Cuts, acne, arthritis, asthma, athlete's foot, blisters, chicken pox, bug bites, canker sores, cold sores, dandruff, oily hair, itchy scalp, ear infections, eczema, nail fungus, warts, plaque, ringworm, and chapped lips are but a few examples of conditions that can be treated with this stuff. 

In the buggy seasons, I always have Desert Essence Relief Spray in house. It nixes the itching practically immediately. My father uses it in the summer months for his feet, which tend to get red and inflamed in the heat. He is leery of any of the products I buy, so the fact that he has embraced this spray shows its effectiveness. If a non-liquid is preferred, there is Jason Tea Tree Soothing Gel.

Tea tree oil is great for acne. I like it because in my case, basic salicylic acid washes seems to lose their potency; my skin merely adapts. Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash has a lot of kick, so be sure to follow with a good moisturizer. Like Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Oil Control Lotion. It really moisturizes and leaves no oily residue - and contains tea tree oil.

Dandruff can be tackled with a product like J.R. Ligett's Old-Fashioned Bar Shampoo Tea Tree and Hemp Formula. The J.R. Liggett shampoos are awesome as they come in bar form, making them easy to transport (no need to check luggage), and they don't strip the hair of natural oils, so for some, conditioning isn't necessary. (The Jojoba and Peppermint also worked on my dandruff-y scalp). 

 If one prefers a liquid option, try Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Treat Shampoo, or Beauty Without Cruelty Rosemary Mint and Tea Tree Shampoo. The matching conditioners for these two are also highly rated.

As for tooth care, I've become attached to the Desert Essence Tea Tree Dental Floss, also available in tape

And these are just a few tea tree products available.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Are We a Sparkly People?

In your new movie, “The Debt,” you very convincingly play a retired Mossad agent. Before immigrating to England, your grandfather was a czarist colonel from a noble Russian family. What are the chances you’re a secret Jew, as Madeleine Albright discovered late in life?
I wouldn’t be surprised. But if I am, I doubt very much that it’s on my Russian side, which is quite defined. It would more likely be on my English side. My mum came from the working-class East End of London, where the Jewish immigrants began their journey in English society. I’ve always thought I might have either some Jewish or some Gypsy, one or the other.
Have there been any moments when you thought — Oh, I feel very Jewish.
My love of sparkle. I don’t think that’s particularly Jewish or Gypsy, but I do have a certain love of sparkle.
Does that mean bling or anything shiny? Wondering if such interests are characteristic of our race, I noticed that the only sparkly I like is real jewelry. 

Oh, dear.