Spooky style

October 31st, 2011

If you aren’t the costume type, it’s easy to dress “up” for Halloween without dressing “as.” One way to do this is to start with a black base and add accessories in appropriately Halloween-y colors. On Friday I did a segment for NECN on tips for appropriate Halloween style, wearing a little black dress, orange tights, and an orange ruffle scarf:

Poison-green tights would also work beautifully with a black dress or skirt, particularly if you have pointy black shoes to go with them. (A similar look can work for men: a dark suit with green or orange socks and tie. Modified, the style can work year-round: check out this sharp dresser caught on camera by PeaceBang.)

Color-blocking on a black base also works. NECN morning host Bridget Blythe’s gold jacket is festively autumnal. Orange isn’t your only option: fall colors, like Bridget’s, work, as do “evil” colors like dark or vivid green, red, or purple. Mrs. Obama wore glowing fall colors to dress up-but-not-as for White House trick-or-treaters:


Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Images

Another option is to add a touch of punk or goth to your usual look. I scored a grey cashmere hoodie at Found in Davis Square last week. It’s got a rhinestone skull on the back. I plan to wear it tonight with a long-sleeved lace t-shirt, leather skirt, fishnets and short boots.

I do love gothic and spooky jewelry, from antique cameos to steampunk inventions to more directly evocative pieces. This necklace is called “Scar” and was designed by my friend Yleana Martinez:

Happy Halloween! Be spookyfabulous!

Exile, fandom, acne, hair, dance

April 25th, 2011

And I’m back, everyone! The break was nice, although I never had any sort of great Passover-y moment of revelation. One thing I found myself thinking of a lot was the people who were born and died during those 40 years in the wilderness, who had no memory of Egypt and didn’t live long enough to see the Promised Land. I’ve never greatly identified with Moses — the Lord is always sayething unto him, for one thing, and the Lord doesn’t sayeth unto me very often, if at all. But those cynical Gen-Xers of Exodus, tired of the Greatest Generation’s war stories, wondering if they’re anything to hope for, really … them, I get.

Some good reading from last week: this article in the Globe about fandom. It focuses on sports fans, but many of the dynamics are true of fans of anything else (a celebrity, a television show, a band) as well. Are you a “fan” of anything, to the point of buying a t-shirt, following someone on Twitter, or joining a group (online or off) for the purposes of discussing that thing? I’ve become a fairly avid fan of several television shows, most notably “Deadwood,” to the point of writing fan fiction and buying a “Star & Bullock Hardware” shirt.

A piece in Slate on why humans are the only animals to have acne, and also the only ones that would be psychologically bothered by it. (Evolution is a cruel trickster.) New treatments have made acne rarer among teens, but that very fact might increase the suffering of those who can’t afford treatment, or for whom nothing has been successful.

I was fascinated to read that blogger S.E. Smith recently cut her long hair very short, and found that she was darned near considered antisocial for wanting to keep it her business what she did with the ponytail. Specifically, she faced a lot of pressure to donate her hair, a practice which has gone from being a nifty option for people suddenly in possession of a braid no longer attached to their head, to becoming near-mandatory, the default option. The thing you have to explain if you don’t do it.

This bothers me. A great deal. Two years ago, I wrote about a New Yorker article on people who donate kidneys to strangers. My reaction to it then was strong and visceral, and has since become more focused. This notion of one’s body as a resource that may be owed to strangers is deeply problematic. As I wrote two years ago:

I would not donate a kidney to a stranger, nor do I feel any sense of a moral call to do so merely on the grounds that I could. My body and its functions are not some form of wealth that I am hoarding like Scrooge McDuck: they are constitutive of my identity. They are ME. And no one has an a priori right to my blood, my organs, my womb. I may choose to share, but that is my choice. Having two kidneys when others have none is not the same has having two loaves of bread when others have none. The body is different. I do not owe anyone access to my body.

As an etiquette matter, let’s all take note that “Did you donate your hair?” is a question better left unasked.

Finally, on a less existential note, let this hilarious pantomime/interpretive dance by David Armand brighten your Monday. I love this guy’s work! Am I the only one who finds brilliantly talented physical comedians way sexy? (See also: Danny Pudi.)

Taking a break

April 18th, 2011

Happy Passover to my fellow Jews, and may you have a meaningful Holy Week and a blessed Easter to my Christian readers! I love it when Passover and Easter coincide. This happened a few years ago, and I blogged about how multiculturally adorable it was to take Milo out on trash day and see matzoh boxes in one family’s recycling bin, and discarded palms in their neighbor’s. I didn’t realize at the time that you are not supposed to throw the palms away. And there I was getting a big warm fuzzy out of it.

Anyway, I’m going to take a few days off to get my head straightened out. I am not connecting a whole lot with my religion these days. Like any relationship, it has its ups and downs. Sometimes you feel it, sometimes you go through the motions and wait for grace.

Wish me luck!

St. Patrick’s Day

March 17th, 2011

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, readers. If you are of Irish descent, how do you feel about St. Patrick’s Day? I ask because I got this truncated letter last week–

I read with interest the recent letter from a “true blond” who resented all the dumb blond jokes. I am of Irish descent and I resent the mockery that is made of St. Patrick’s Day. Americans seem to feel that they can drink and party with wild abandon on that day. They make blatant fun of the Irish as a people who get drunk and uneducated. This is far from true. As St Patrick’s day rolls around again, I want to crawl into

Sadly, we’ll never know what our Irish friend wants to crawl into. I think we can safely assume it’s either shame-based or regressive.

What are your thoughts St.P.D.? I’m not a fan of amateur-drunkenness holidays, although I no more blame the actual Irish for this any more than I blame Pope Gregory for New Year’s. I expect I’d hate it a good deal more if it were based on some Ukrainian saint, and people were vomiting cheap vodka on their blue and yellow sweatshirts. Then again, maybe I’d see it in good spirit and think, “Hey, everyone wants to be Ukrainian for a day! Lighten up!”

What about you?

UPDATE: St. Patrick’s Day, boo, from an Irish-American Bostonian. St. Patrick’s Day, yay, Guinness-braised corned beef from Melissa at NuVal.

Shabbat Shalom & Merry Christmas

December 24th, 2010

It’s Christmastime for the Jews tonight:

Regardless of your religion, not everyone can crank it up to “merry” this Christmas. If Merry Christmas is out of reach, let me wish you shalom — peace, wholeness, a sense of completion to the year.

Posts from the Illuminati

December 24th, 2010

When I told my friends on Facebook that I’d gone on the Illuminations Tour, one of them responded, “The Illuminations Tour is great. My favorite comments from the guide who narrated ours was: 1.) ‘There’s Roger’s Rubber Foam Factory – best fire of my childhood!’ and, 2.) he singled out a display for ‘Best use of a lobster trap as a manger.’”

The second comment inspired my friend Molly — yes, that Molly, she who wrote “The Pirate’s Prayer” and “Bitchin’ Menorah,” to come up with this:

Away in a manger, down on the sea bed
The little crustacean lay down its wee head
Blissfully unknowing what fate was in store
Perhaps dipped in butter, perhaps Thermidor.

Be near me, wee lobster, stay here with us Jews
For our Christmas dinner, we’ll have Chinese food
You will not be eaten, of that I am sure
Because, although tasty, you are not kosher.

Pictures from the tour

December 21st, 2010

My friend Katherine and her husband went back over the Somerville Illuminations Tour route the next night, and took some pictures. This will give you an idea:

More below the fold:

Click to continue reading "Pictures from the tour"

Mondaygreens

December 20th, 2010

Happy Monday! Posting may be slow this week due to many, many Friday deadlines. If you’re a Christmas celebrator, what’s your favorite day of the week for Christmas to be on? I rather like this Saturday Christmas thing, myself.

This past Saturday, I had one of the nicest pre-holiday days a person could have. Went to the Harvard Square Craft Fair in the afternoon, and found exactly what I wanted for the ConductMom. In the evening, Mr. Improbable and I went with some friends on the Somerville Illuminations Tour, a civic activity that felt straight out of “Parks & Recreation.” The tour left from City Hall, where free hot drinks and cookies were provided. Directly over the bank of industrial-sized containers of coffee, hot cider, and hot water for tea or cocoa were the mug shots and identification information for all the sex offenders in the city. This got the evening off on the right start, I felt.

The trolley took us past all the glorious and gaudily decorated homes of Somerville, accompanied by narration from a young guide who informed us of the rich history of Somerville whenever we didn’t have lights to look at. (Apparently, Somerville was originally going to be named Walford after a distinguished general, but the city fathers chose to name it “Somerville” instead, on the grounds that “it sounded better.”) Our fellow passengers were, for the most part, jovially drunk.

I don’t know why, but my favorite part of the tour was when the guide said that a particular part of town had once been a big dairy area, and we all let that sink in for a second and then repeated, slowly and in unison, “Dai … ree … ai … ree …. ah.”

I love being a Jew at Christmas. I don’t have to worry about having the Christmas spirit at all the proper moments, I can just have it when it actually happens. Like when an entire trolleyload of mostly-drunk people is momentarily made one by the miracle of assonance.

Merry dairy area to you and yours. How are holiday joys, woes, chores and delights shaping up for you and yours?

P.S. Yes, I know this post had nothing to do with mondegreens. But I didn’t have the Monday blues, so there it is. Here are some good Christmas mondegreens.

Greatest hits

December 6th, 2010

If your Hanukkah energy is starting to flag, remember this gem from last year — a parody of the Dead Milkmen’s “Bitchin’ Camero” by my friend Molly:

BITCHIN’ MENORAH

Bitchin’ Menorah, Bitchin’ Menorah!
Displayed to all the neighbors
Bitchin’ Menorah, Bitchin’ Menorah!
Each night, lightin’ more of the tapers

Got myself a bitchin’ menorah
With candles that light in a flash
I light it with a flamethrower so
I don’t need no freakin’ match

I set the curtains on fire
The first night of Chanukah
I didn’t get in trouble ’cause
I didn’t break halacha [or “Jewish law, depending on your audience]

Bitchin’ Menorah, Bitchin’ Menorah!
Polished to a high gloss
Bitchin’ Menorah, Bitchin’ Menorah!
Latkes with bourbon sauce

When I take it to shul
They kvetch about it all week
Cause I’ve got a bitchin’ menorah
And mad lighting technique

So you’d better get out of my way
Whether it’s night one or eight
Cause I’ve got a bitchin’ menorah
And a dreidl game that can’t wait

Bitchin’ Menorah, Bitchin’ Menorah!
Givin’ the Gentiles fits!
Bitchin’ Menorah, Bitchin’ Menorah!
I’m drunk on Maneschewitz!

Etiquette tip

December 6th, 2010

Eight crazy nights

December 1st, 2010

Tonight is the beginning of Hanukkah, and — dare I say? — I’m kind of feeling it this year. Hanukkah is a minor holiday, not one I observe, and one that is fairly problematic in a lot of ways.

Last year, Senator Orrin Hatch, of all people, got me into the Hanukkah spirit. But it’s not defiant Jewish pride I’m feeling this year. It’s peace. Shalom, which means not only peace, but wholeness. I’ve gone through quite a year, and now the days are getting short, and the nights are long, and I am ready to light a candle against the darkness, drink a cup of tea, and trust that I will have enough fuel to get me through tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. That as long as I am reconsecrating and blessing — my body, my mind, my community, my work, my home — my oil will last.

Happy Hanukkah.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

November 30th, 2010

… will be airing tonight in Boston! I might … just … have to watch it. Some things transcend the fact that I am Jewish, don’t believe in Santa Claus, and am not particularly fond of deer. Those trippy, trippy stop-motion Rankin-Bass Christmas specials left their indelible mark on my childhood, as they did most of my Generation X cohort. Would we have loved “The Breakfast Club” as much if we hadn’t had the Island of Misfit Toys to prepare us? I don’t think so.

As a child, I found “Year Without a Santa Claus” to be a revelation primarily for its awesomely funky “Snow Miser/Heat Miser” sequence. (I have the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy version of this song on my iPod workout tunes playlist.) As a baby geek, I appreciated the way “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” filled in the blank spots of Santa’s history — years later, of course, I was to become equally fascinated with such burning questions as “What was Sarek and Amanda’s courtship like?” and “Why did McCoy join Starfleet, anyway?” I didn’t yet know what fan fiction was, but I knew it when I saw it, and I liked it.

But Rudolph … ah, Rudolph.

“Here Comes Santa Claus” just fills in some details. “Rudolph” creates a whole new world. A world in which everyone is either a rigid conformist or an exiled, despised outsider. The North Pole in “Rudolph” isn’t some happy workers’ collective: if you’re an elf, you make toys, and if you’re a reindeer, you fly, and you damn well know your place and don’t get fancy about it. And it doesn’t matter whether you have different ideas (like wanting to be a dentist) or if you only look different (with a shiny red nose) — if you are different, you are The Other.

It’s no wonder that watching “Rudolph” doesn’t make me feel weird. It’s pretty much about the most Jewish Christmas special there is.

It’s no wonder two of my favorite gay friends call their annual Christmas Party “The Island of Misfit Toys,” either. “Rudolph” is, for all intents and purposes, a story about growing up gay in a military family. Rudolph’s father, who forces him to wear a cap over his nose, is basically the Great Santini with antlers. The only thing keeping him from bouncing a basketball off his son’s head is that he doesn’t have opposable thumbs. Rudolph’s mother is a stereotypical beaten-down military wife — she accepts her son, but doesn’t have the backbone to defend him against her tyrannical husband. You know she’s got a secret substance-abuse problem and runs off to the Valium lick as soon as Donner goes to work in the morning.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 23rd, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Good luck with that.

The ConductMom is in town for Thanksgiving, so posting may be light over the holiday weekend. But I’m always eager to hear from you. On the other blog, we’re talking holiday cards. What are your opinions?

And what are you grateful for this year? I think, in 2010 in particular, I’m very grateful that I’ve continued to get to know and deepen my relationship with my extended family, and also that Mr. Improbable and I seem to have survived the recession with our odd little careers more or less intact.

On Thanksgiving Day, we’re going to go see the Harry Potter movie. So … which Harry Potter character is your favorite, or whom would you play, if there were some community-theater version of the show? I think I’d be Minerva McGonnigle. I know she’s supposed to be in her early 70s, but I think that’s too old … I’ve always thought of the character as being in her 40s or 50s. (If they cast American actors, I’d put either Michelle Forbes or Katey Sagal in the role.)

Talk with me, talk amongst yourselves, talk with your mouth full — Happy Thanksgiving!

Halloween reviews

November 2nd, 2010

So how was your Halloween? Ours was good; I had a headache early in the evening so I didn’t go to W00Tstock, but I felt better after a while and took Milo on a longish walk to the house of friends whom I knew were doing it up well. (I knew this because one of them is Amazing Genius Science Girl, and she and I had raided the Davis Square Goodwill for costume material.* The day before Halloween is a fun day to be in a Goodwill, I tell you what.) There’s a street in our neighborhood that goes all out every year, and we went down that, too — it took 30 minutes to walk the block. Halloween is wonderfully scary and exciting and magical and inexplicable when you imagine it through the eyes and ears and nose of a dog.

And since we weren’t trick-or-treating, I didn’t run across anything like this, which a friend of mine posted on Facebook (quoted with permission):

ok-i get it. halloween-sugar treats-bad. yeah. yeah. yeah. but little mini packs of lemon flavored fish oil? Really? If you’re that devoted to your chiropractic practice for the town trick or treat…just give out stickers.

She later explained that the fish-oil packets “were gel packs–just to make it a bit more gross.”

Oh dear. Bad behavior on the part of treaters. On the part of trickers, there’s this. In a campaign to raise awareness of the horrific labor abuses in the chocolate industry (a worthy cause), kids are encouraged to visit houses to distribute fair-trade chocolate and tracts:

Along with tasty, guilt-free treats, the kids will be passing out cards with more information about why they’re the ones spilling the jelly beans on this holiday famous for its freebies.

I agree with commenter Andy Sauder who wrote, “That’s not trick-or-treating, that’s door to door witnessing.” Shaming people in the moment of their participation in a common social ritual is neither polite nor an effective way to get people to change their behavior. (Obviously I’m not blaming any kids who did this, as they may not realize this kind of social subtlety yet.)

* And, for me, a black dress that’s perfect for those occasions when you need to look dressy but dowdy, like a friend’s kid’s bar/bat miztvah or someone else’s book party, and a leopard button-down swing coat for spring. Boo yah, Jezebel, leopard is too an excellent look.

Non-gory Halloween movies

October 29th, 2010

Here’s a question to start off the weekend: What are some good movies in the spirit of Halloween — existentially disturbing, playfully gruesome, liminal, gothic, circus-like — that are not upsettingly bloody or gory? I don’t mind that sort of thing, myself, but it’s not the preferred flavor for many folks, no matter what time of year it is. I’m thinking of movies that can be enjoyed by adults, though they don’t necessarily have to be for adults.

A few that come to mind …
“Never Let Me Go,” which is currently in theaters and is not the vampire one, that’s “Let Me In,” not to be confused with “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and “The Rent Is Too Damn High.” “Never Let Me Go” is utterly harmless on the surface and devastating to think about.

“Nightmare Before Christmas”
“City of Lost Children”

… what else would you recommend, readers? Movies that horrify, enchant, disturb, without graphic violence?