Saturday, October 22, 2011

gelosia ,קנאה

It is a strange sensation to feel torn between two countries, languages, cultures, as between two men, two lovers.  I sit in an Israeli restaurant, Hebrew spoken all around me and Israeli musicians on the radio, songs I know well, singers I've even met.  The smells of warm pita, shakshuka, frying schnitzel, these surround me and I bask in them as in the embrace of an old friend, but feel all the while that I am cheating on my new love, that the Italian textbook in the bag at my feet is watching jealously with dark eyes, listening in to see if I will go so far as to speak Hebrew with the waitress, when I have already stooped so low as to enter this place, to accept the comfortable squeeze of the familiar sounds and smells and tastes here.  I am one block and thirty minutes away from Italian class, and perhaps later I'll watch a Roman movie with subtitles, trying to catch and match what words I can... but for the moment my heart is torn, I'm reading a book translated from the Portuguese and half-wishing I were still reading last week's novel, the David Grossman meditation on war and life in the Jewish homeland.  Torn, between countries, as between lovers, cheating on a language by thinking in another.  A strange sensation.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jotsam... notes down for me.

Oh, it's been so long since we had a good egg salad up in here! I've been cleaning out my office the last week or so, and finding all kinds of interesting things (anyone want a combo TV and VCR? Or a DVD player? Or a Sony Handycam? Someone bought my old printer, yay!). I'm down to going through some very small piles of very small papers, the little notes I leave myself all over, the flotsam and jetsam of my pockets, only they are notes on which I jot things down so I want to call it: jotsam.
Anyway, on one of these small papers is a reference to something I heard on the news, apparently a few years ago:
Wind Erosion Lab Blown Away
Oh, how very lovely is that?
(I mean, sorry for the researchers and all. You know what I mean.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

L'educazione, Seconda parte

Tonight's Italian movie was Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di ferragosto). Terrible.

Obsessed with this song:

Started Italian class the other day, and started listening to the very cute "Drive & Learn Italian" cds in my car last week. I remember having this Berlitz Hebrew tape when I was a kid and I thought it was such a good cultural lesson, in addition to language instruction, because the English speaker would say some polite thing in an upbeat-but-polite manner, "thank you very much!" and the Israeli would say, "ehh, toda raba, toda raba" like he'd rather be anywhere else, doing anything else, than saying thank you. So I'm having that experience again, but reversed: these Italian speakers are So. Happy. To. Speak. Italian. Every word is a jubilant song. Adorable.

Hey, today is 9/10/11. Cute, no?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Leggi.Danza.Beatitudine? Or; the Italian education of RDB, parte uno.

Two weeks ago, it was "The Tiger and the Snow" (La tigre e la neve). Last week, the sad sad "The Son's Room" (La stanza del figlio). Tonight, "Cinema Paradiso", which I immediately realized I had already seen but of course I couldn't remember a thing about it. Amazing how quickly movies leave my memory... books too, to be honest.

Listening to Italian music in the background pretty much all the time. So far, lots of Fabrizio De André - something about him feels comfortable, accessible. Is it a Shlomo-Artzi-ness?

Italian class starts next week. I can't wait. And as soon as I finish what I'm reading (The Rebbe's Army, oddly enough) I can read something Italian, or at least some good heart-breaking plot-driven fiction that takes place in Italy. Any recommendations?

Sunday, August 28, 2011


So, I just bought a Mac. A 15" MacBook Pro, to be exact. It took me two days to work up the nerve to take it out of the box, not because I'm actually so scared of new technology or of switching or whatever, but because I have so much WORK to do and so many THINGS to get done and this transition, however fabulous and worthwhile, is going to take more WORK and TIME than I have right now.

‹end whitewhine/firstworldproblems/whatever›

Anyway, I really am overwhelmed with work right now, in four directions:

0) I live at camp for 9 weeks over the summer, so the paperwork/filing/bills etc just piles up. It takes me forever to get all that shit sorted out again when I get home. How many hours did I spend with Quicken today?

1) I have a new job, a largely administrative position, at the (fabulous) school where I also teach Israeli dance. I'm helping coordinate the program in which the majority of our 10th grade travels to Israel for either a short or long period of time, and in which in turn the majority of our 10th graders host a visiting Israeli for the same period of time. The long-program Israelis arrive on Monday. SO MUCH TO DO!

2) I had to miss a lot of my Monday night dance sessions recently because of traveling and holidays, and it's around the 3-year anniversary of my running this session, so I'm having a big anniversary party this coming Monday night, with all kinds of surprises for everyone (free CD to the first 95 dancers!, for example). I kind of feel like I need to build the session back up after the summer, so I'm trying to make this party a really big deal. OMG SO MUCH TO DO.

3) My stint teaching at Stockton Folkdance Camp really did seem to jumpstart my international career, just like I claimed it would (go figure!). So now I have tons of scheduling/planning/networking/following-up to do and I am wayyyyyyy behind on this. Also... a new love in a faraway land?

But I was going to say, about work...
that you should read this great article in Harper's, "The Language of Work", by Mark Kingwell. Here's a bit:
No matter what the inevitabilists say, resistance
to work is not futile. It may not overthrow
capitalism, but it does highlight essential things
about our predicament—philosophy’s job always.
In his 1932 essay “In Praise of Idleness,” Bertrand
Russell usefully defines work this way:
Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of
matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to
other such matter; second, telling other people to
do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid;
the second is pleasant and highly paid.

Well, back to work.

Friday, August 26, 2011

"You assist an evil system most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees."


Oh hey there, post I wrote in April upon returning from Israel, and never posted...

There are some things that Israel does so incredibly much better than the US does. I'm not talking about politics or education or child-rearing or any of that socially-relevant blah blah, I'm talking about what really matters: for example, many public bathrooms have foot-pedal flushers. Here in the states, in public bathrooms most of the toilet flushers are still manual and you got lots of people who don't want to touch the handle so they either waste a bunch of paper wrapping their hands in it and then drop that paper on the floor, or they don't flush at all (gross) or they just go ahead and flush with their foot anyway, making the handle way dirtier than it was and way grosser for the next person who didn't have a thing about not touching it with their hand before, but now that you put the bottom of your damn shoe on it... Anyway, foot-pedal flushers would just solve all that. Is that really so hard to do?

Since we started with flushing mechanisms already, let's keep on: for years and years I've wondered why the Israeli-style toilet with two settings of flush hasn't taken hold here in the US, at least among the environmentally conscious. Two levers, one for small flush and one for big flush. Choose as necessary. Not hard, and they've really been doing that forever. Here? Never seen it, except in the home of Israelis who live here, and one or two Jewish institutions. (Update: they have these at some of the public restrooms at the University of the Pacific, in Stockton, CA.)

Ok: on the street. Parking in the cities is painful and terrible in Israel, but they're eons ahead of us when it comes to paying for parking. Here we've made the giant leap from per-car meters to numbered spots and every-half-block parking machines. I don't know who benefits from that change; I find it infinitely more annoying to have to remember the spot number and find the machine, never mind that the guy behind me now usually doesn't benefit when I put in an hour's worth of quarters and then leave after 15 minutes. Anyway, there's a whole new system in Israel that never requires you to have cash on hand, really lets you pay per-time-used and not estimate-in-advance-and-then-get-screwed-style (don't tell me you've never gotten a ticket after being about 49 seconds late), and lets you pay from your cellphone. I don't know all the details of how it works, I just know it's awesome. Only drawback I see is that if you are just visiting a city or renting a car, you might be a little screwed, but I'm not sure.

But, but, the truth will out: never mind how technologically advanced Israel is in general, how many innovations come from the software and hardware companies there (hello, cellphones) and how they're piloting a huge new electric-car initiative next year... never mind even the flushing mechanisms and the parking system. SERIOUSLY, ISRAEL, WHY DO I HAVE TO SHOWER ON THE FLOOR? HOW HARD IS IT TO MAKE A LITTLE LIP AROUND THE SHOWER SO THAT THE BATHROOM DOESN'T HAVE TO FLOOD EVERY SINGLE TIME AND SO THAT I DON'T HAVE TO WORK WITH A MOP OR SQUEEGEE TO CLEAN THE FLOORS IMMEDIATELY AFTER I'VE JUST CLEANED MYSELF??? Get with the program, man.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Do something pretty while you can

First session done, second session begun.

Back from a whirlwind weekend of performances and dance camp in Toronto, straight into the insanity of 500+ campers and 100+ temperatures. A crazy day, a quiet hour. Post-shower, sitting and sweating on a plastic chair on the porch of my summer room, catching up on my Harper's Magazine. This, from a sad and self-condemning article from May:
Walking home, I look at the screen of my cellphone for guidance. In the dark it functions like a little flashlight, I am thinking. Maybe it will knit me a tiny sweater to keep me warm.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Summah summah summah time

Deep breath in... here we go.

I'm back at camp, for summer #8. Historically I blog a lot over the summer than the rest of the year, so perhaps that will be the case again this year. I have four posts drafted from the last few months too, so maybe I'll finish those up and post 'em, finally.

I had been really freaking out about coming back this year, feeling overwhelmed with life and my other jobs and all kinds of things, and just kind of depressed about it being this time of year when it's so easy to compare it to this time of year last year and the one before and the one before and... sigh. But once I got here today and breathed in that Alo air and saw all my friends and had a few big hugs from my favorite staff members, I chilled out a lot... feeling pretty good. Still crazed with all my extra-curricular activities this summer, starting with an altogether-too-brief trip to Albany this weekend for a wedding, but still feeling a lot better than I did for the last few days and weeks.

More updates from 11B to come, I hope... Click the camp label for past summertime missives, some of my favorite posts.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nobody? Nobody?

You all texted or emailed to complain either about prescriptivism or "to a lesser degree" lonely but no one, no one noticed that pesky subject/verb agreement thing?


Thursday, March 31, 2011

I can't get any satisfaction.

You know that song, that goes, "Now there's two less lonely people, two less lonely people in the world, tooooniiiiight"?

It should really be "two fewer lonely people."

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Next weekend: Santa Barbra. Streisand.

I had an amazing weekend. I had a gig in Santa Barbara on Saturday night, so I spent the whole weekend there. Beautifullllllllll! Over the couple of days I was there, I managed to: see three movies. play tennis twice. read one book. play Guitar Hero. eat delicious meals, spend time with lovely people, go for a gorgeous walk, play with a cute dog, hold a lizard in my hand, enjoy a tour of SB that included the whale skeleton! And you know, do my gig.

More like that, please.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


"...the language of design, architecture, and urbanism in Los Angeles is the language of movement. Mobility outweighs monumentality there to a unique degree... and the city will never be fully understood by those who cannot move fluently through its diffuse urban texture, cannot go with the flow of its unprecedented life. So, like earlier generations of English intellectuals who taught themselves Italian in order to read Dante in the original, I learned to drive in order to read Los Angeles in the original.”

- Reyner Banham, Los Angeles: The Four Ecologies

If I had a tumblr, I'd have reblogged this from Hillel Aron. But I don't.

What I love best about this is... ok, there are a million things I love about this, but one of those many things is that it's true: Reyner Banham had never driven before he moved here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Punksatauni? Punxatawnee? Punxsutawney?

My dear friend Aloni is spending a semester in Hungary. Today is his birthday, so why don't you mosey over to Aloni's Blogna and wish him a good one?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Services available; great rates. Inquire within.

From the "waste books" of Georg Christoph Lichtenberg:
The detection of small errors has always been the property of minds elevated little or not at all above the mediocre; notably elevated minds remain silent or say something only in criticism of the whole, while the great spirits refrain from censuring and only create.

Mark Twin, in 1893:
In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proof-readers.

On the other hand, Rabbi Akiba (Talmud: Pesahim, 112a) said:
When you teach your son, use a carefully edited text.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

You do it by doing it?

I'm trying to will myself into writing again. There's lots I want to say, but lately I've been unable to say it. We'll start with a summary of 2011. Perhaps after that we'll have a short summary of 2010.

So far in 2011 I have:

-had a short run-in with Restless Legs Syndrome. It was cured by a couple of sleeping pills and my First Migraine Ever.

-gone to Ramah Rikkudiah, a dance camp I've attended every year since I moved to CA. I had a GREAT time, in fact one of the best times I've had at a dance camp in many years. (For an alternate (and more theatrical) take on that camp, see Aloni's Blogna.)

-read (or finished reading) a few books, including Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, the Bhagavad-Gita, finally, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer. If you're going to buy anything at all on, would you do me a favor and use one of those links to get there? If you do, I get some small monetary reward and I looooove small monetary rewards. Especially when they are book-related.

-led dancing at the birthday party of the cutest sweetest four-year-old boy ever.

-went to "Gospel Shabbat" at a temple in the Valley. Fun, but didn't feel the least bit Jewish to me.

-saw Diavolo Dance Theater in Santa Monica. Incredible, breath-taking, awe-inspiring works.

-went to an international folkdance, and had my usual yes-I-teach-dance-but-I-used-to-do-other-things stance turned back on me. When someone asks what I do for a living, I usually rush to mention my years in software before becoming a dance teacher, because of that part of me that seems to feel teaching dance isn't "enough", whatever that means. At this dance last night, however, we were all dancers and dance teachers, and when someone asked me what I do to pay the bills, I was the object of all envy when I said I "just" teach folkdance. A good reminder. I get paid to do something I love. That's altogether too rare, I'd say, and I should remember how fabulous that is, even if I happen to also be missing some other things I love. That doesn't need to detract from the joy I get from my job.

-got trained to be a reading tutor for Koreh LA. I've apparently been placed with a first-grader and we can start meeting as soon as my personal references are in. This should be a pretty interesting experience, no?

It's been a decent 23 days. Lots going on in the next few months, possibly including a trip to Israel. I reallllly want to go... and am not at all sure it'd be a good idea for me to go.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

It was evening all afternoon.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens


Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.


I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.


The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.


A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.


I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after.


Icicles filled the long window
With barbaric glass.
The shadow of the blackbird
Crossed it, to and fro.
The mood
Traced in the shadow
An indecipherable cause.


O thin men of Haddam,
Why do you imagine golden birds?
Do you not see how the blackbird
Walks around the feet
Of the women about you?


I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.


When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.


At the sight of blackbirds
Flying in a green light,
Even the bawds of euphony
Would cry out sharply.


He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.


The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.


It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.