Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Restoring honor

One of my pet peeves is when people who are supposed to be reporting the news decide to make their own news. This phenomenon -- which is happening more and more these days -- drives me CRAZY. It goes against all the principles of good journalism.

So this whole Glenn Beck thing -- "Restoring Honor," I believe the rally was called -- is driving me crazy. Glenn Beck is a conservative commentator. He makes money by stirring people up. He is also rich. According to a piece in the New York Daily News,
Between his gig at Fox News, authoring best-selling books, and hosting a radio show and GlennBeck.com, Beck pulls in $35 million a year, according to Forbes, which puts him 43rd on its Celebrity 100 power ranking list.
See, the thing is, I think that, with the election of Obama, we already restored honor to America. We now have a president who is intelligent and thoughtful. The world community respects us more. He is working, slowly, surely, at solving all the problems we having in this country. It takes time to solve problems. Beck and those of his ilk are into stirring people up and making them angry. This is not useful! Also, we certainly don't need more religion mixing into politics, as Beck is proposing.

I feel that politics these days have become very confusing. Even if you are trying to do something good, someone on the other side just talks about it and disparages it and makes it bad. Everyone's memory is short. No one wants to remember that much of the trouble we are in right now (economic, etc.) is due to policies of the Republicans. Somehow, everyone wants to blame Obama.

The whole thing just makes me feel sad, and discouraged. We started out with so much hope. And now...

P.S. Maureen Dowd from the NYTimes also wrote (very eloquently) on this theme. Take a look.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rosh Hashanah in video

The first, an interesting take on the story of "the binding of Isaac":


The second, just for fun:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eleven!

Happy Birthday, J-Man! (this is not our dog, by the way)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

High Holiday Wandering

My earliest high holiday memory involves big white tents. No, I wasn't actually wandering in the desert during the Exodus. It was the '60s, and Temple Reyim in Newton was under construction, so services took place outside the synagogue, in tents.

The next high holiday memory I have is on the steps at Temple Emanuel in Newton. Emanuel's community was so large during the '70s that there were two sets of services: an early morning service in both the sanctuary and the social hall, and then a late-morning-early-afternoon service in both locations. But what was most fun was when the early-morning service let out and the late-morning people were arriving, and the two sets of people would crowd onto Ward Street and meet on the steps of the synagogue. This was a great place to meet friends, eye cute boys, and generally see what the community was up to.

My family then moved to Florida, and I remember several high holidays spent in giant theaters. The rabbi was very very very far away. I guess we were in the nose-bleed seats.

Then came the wandering years. In college, I went to services at various Hillels in Boston, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. The service that impressed me the most was a creative service at Brandeis University that featured a cello playing Kol Nidre. It was extremely powerful and moving.

When I moved back to Boston after grad school, I still wandered for a while. I remember going to a family member's shul where I was horrified to discover that I was supposed to bring my own machzor. I'd never heard of such a thing! How was I supposed to pray without a machzor?

Next came Boston's Young Adult High Holiday services. This was the first time I encountered anything that could be considered "creative" in a religious service. The services were developed by young(ish) rabbis and young adults from the community, so they tended to include meditations, guided visualizations, discussion, etc. This is also around the time I met my husband, so I have fond memories of the Young Adult High Holiday scene.

After our son was born, our high holiday wandering took on a new question: what do we do with a baby during those long, long services? We continued to attend the Young Adult High Holiday services for a few years, and I remember nursing my son in the women's room during his first high holiday season. When he was two (or possibly three), we signed him up for babysitting and he surprised us by allowing us to leave him for a few hours to join the adult service. By the time he was four, we had joined our current temple, and over the years we've attended a variety of babysitting groups, pre-schooler services, and school-age services there with him.

Which brings us to today.

I guess you could say that we've stopped our physical wandering, but I feel that spiritually, I am still looking for my high holiday home. I find high holiday services to be kind of nerve-wracking. From the insane parking, to the crowds of people, to making sure my son gets to his service on time, to finding a seat in the crowded sanctuary, and then trying to stop and relax and pray and connect...it's all really quite too much. But maybe this year will be different. I can always hope.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's just not right

I often take a walk around the block at work to clear my head. It takes about 10 or 15 minutes, maybe a bit longer. I listen to my iPod, stretch my legs, get a little exercise. It's all good.

Yesterday, I noticed a snazzy little logo that I hadn't seen before on a building that I passed. Health Talker. It sounded kind of interesting, so I decided to look it up when I got back to my desk.

So it turns out that Health Talker is part of something called "word of mouth marketing." Basically, working for the pharmaceutical industry, they encourage patients who use a particular medication to tell others about this medication, using social media networks. The goal of this is for the pharmaceutical industry to sell more drugs. From what I can see on the website, Health Talker does not appear to pay the patients for providing this service. So the drug companies are getting free advertising.

Here's what they do in their own words:
Our innovative word of mouth (WOM) marketing programs mobilize patients and caregivers to spread the word. We help you build greater brand loyalty and grow your market share, one conversation at a time.
Am I naive to be horrified by this? I'm all for social media. I love it. I use it. I've found wonderful support on the discussion boards of a great website called Breastcancer.org. But the thought that drug companies are somehow using the information that people are discussing online in order to better market their products...ugh.

There's even an organization, WOMMA, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, that supposedly has "ethical standards" for this type of work. Unbelievable.

Any thoughts out there on this topic? Any marketing or advertising folks care to chime in? I remain stunned. I'll just sit here quietly.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tomatoes + Summer = Love



It's tomato time in the garden and on the farm, and I've been making some amazing things with these tasty little red orbs.

Here are some of my recent favorites:

Moosewood Gazpacho (still, and always, my favorite)

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad) - this isn't the exact recipe that I'm using, but it's close enough

Bruschetta

and my new favorite, Pan Bagnat (a yummy, spicy, drippy sandwich - great with a side of gazpacho)

The only downside to all this tomato-y goodness is that soon all the fresh tomatoes will be gone, and we'll be back to the yucky, tasteless store-bought ones for another year... so sad...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pokemon!

We are way beyond the Pokemon phase, but J's group at day camp did a fantastic rendition of the Pokemon Theme Song in the all-important lip sync contest, so I'm going to post it here for everyone to see...



If that doesn't work for you, click here for the link.

Gotta catch 'em all!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ready or not...Rosh Hashanah is coming!

Today is not only Rosh Chodesh Elul (the celebration of the new month of Elul), the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah and the rest of the High Holidays. It is also the first day of Ramadan, a month of daytime fasting, prayer, and reflection in the Islamic tradition. I wonder how often these two holy periods align?

I've heard that the Hebrew letters of Elul (aleph, lamed, vav, lamed) can be thought of as representing the words "ani l'dodi v'dodi li" - I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine - standing for the relationship between G-d and Israel.

Whether you buy that or not, Elul is a time for reflection and "warming up" to the High Holidays. It is difficult here in the U.S., where summer (for many) is still in full swing, and there are only hints of fall and school days to come. But like it or not, Rosh Hashanah is coming very early this year, and on Wednesday night September 8th, Rosh Hashanah will be here.

I just found something to help me get into the mood, if you will, for the High Holidays, and I'm going to share it with you. It's called Jewels of Elul, and it's something new to think about each day for the 29 days of Elul.

The creator of this idea, Craig Taubman (who is also a musician), says:
"There is a great Jewish tradition to dedicate the 29 days in the month of Elul to study and prepare for the coming high holy days. The time is supposed to challenge us to use each day as an opportunity for growth and discovery.

While conceptually the notion is noble, it was clear that acting on it was a bit more challenging. Enter . . . Jewels of Elul. For the past six years I have collected short stories, anecdotes and introspections from some fascinating people."

To sign up, click here, and a Jewel will be sent to your e-mail in-box each day. I think it's a great idea!