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It’s 10:15 PM, do you know where my brain is?

Yeah, that’s basically my entire thought process right now, and over the past three days.

I have spent a good portion of my waking hours on this mind-numbingly impossible political science paper. 8000-10000 words, my…whatever, man. I went to bed at 4:00 this morning with about 5200 words (not an all-nighter), and belying my fears of not getting the word count, I sit here with an hour and a half left until midnight with 9000 words down and several sources to go. What is my paper about again? Puppets? South Africa? Something like that? Why am I subjecting myself to this torture? Why?

And there were sporadic thunderstorms following me around all day as I went from Espresso Royale to Noodles to the Steepery over the past ten hours.

Oh, and welcome to my newest flag, Bulgaria. As they say in Bulgaria, finish your paper and no one gets hurt.

And then, I WILL finish my review of Ubu.

After all, I already have a several thousand word headstart.

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Six More Things I Learned from Friends

So – total irony – I spent last night actually doing work instead of fretting over a post, and I actually had some good ideas for things to post, but I told myself I was going to focus on my work and I did. WILLPOWER.

However, after six pretty solid hours of class, I am ready to write something that isn’t school-related. That, and ready to stare at YouTube/TV/the wall for awhile.

Behold…

Six More Things I Learned from Friends

6. Fire safety.

Candlelight dinner in the park = starting an open fire in a wooded area, PHOEBE.

5. Martial arts.

…or, freshwater eel. And on that note…

4. Japanese cuisine

I know what you mean, Rachel Green.

3. Team sports.

Specifically, how to pick teams; just bunny up. (What’s bunny u-) “BUNNY!”

2. Holidays.

The only thing that’s wrong here is that it was Passover, not Chanukah…but yes, there were superheroes and flying involved. Smile on, Joey.

1. Military time.

Just subtract twelve. Thank you, Monica.

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Masterpiece Youtube: The State of the Union…of Fashion

Like millions of Americans, I put aside what I was doing to watch Obama’s State of the Union address. Then, like millions of Americans, I picked things up where I left off and wondered why it was now several hours later and I hadn’t eaten dinner. The SOTU was as it usually is, a collection of platitudes mostly about creating jobs, the military, health care, without addressing criticism, saying anything substantial, or giving the American public some payoff at the end.

Let’s watch something that is exciting and educational.

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Masterpiece Youtube

Episode 10: “100 Years of Fashion in 100 Seconds,” Westfield Gateway Mall (2011)

This video is a few years old, but got some buzz recently on Forbes.com and elsewhere. I myself discovered it via the scourge that is StumbleUpon, and haven’t been able to stop watching it since. Seriously, I think I know all the outfits now.

Basically, it’s the same very attractive young couple doing a dance routine while seamlessly transitioning between years of fashion. Yes, it’s British, but I feel like if you made a few costume substitutions, it could encompass American fashion too. For example, it kinda gives short shrift to the 1990s, but then again they only had 100 seconds. There is something to be said for men’s fashion; even though it really doesn’t change that much (just add/remove a jacket, tie, hat, or suspenders; everything else is basically the same) the video does a good job of providing some much-needed and oft-forgotten color and distinction to the man’s outfits. Of course, the girl’s outfits are very different from one another and in essence, serve as the markers of the decades with their styles, colors, fabrics, and cuts. Personally, I think that the costume designer could have gone even further and been more dramatic with the outfit changes, with some bolder colors and things that are a bit more shocking to the eye. However, it serves the purpose of the ad, and all the items seen could conceivably be purchased at a mall.

I just got the point.

This is some BRILLIANT advertising.

Now I just want to fly to London and go shopping.

Follow that redhead!

This episode of Masterpiece Youtube was brought to you by the fact that it’s still -13 degrees outside. Oh, and…thanks, Obama? I never really understood that.

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Six Things I Learned About History From Friends

As I was sitting in my Irish drama class, something happened that made me think about Friends. It was something about something from history that I learned from Friends that I’ll never forget. And of course, I forgot it. So, I spent an inordinate amount of time looking for quotes from the show to trigger my memory. But I did realize that Friends taught me a lot of things that if I hadn’t watched it, I wouldn’t know. It sounded like a good blog post, but then I went on the Internets and found a bunch of other people beat me to that idea.

One of the topics we discussed today was historiography, and the interstices/lacunae between previous scholars’ work, so to that effect, here are the top six things that I learned about history from Friends.

(oh, and bem-vindo to my first guests from Brazil, and tere tulemast to my first guests from ESTONIA!!! 🙂 happy dance)

6. World War I was also known as The Great War.

And we fought against Mexico…wait…that can’t be right.

5. Where Dutch people come from.

Well, the Pennsylvania Dutch come from Pennsylvania, and on that note…

4. The Netherlands? Real country.

Not to be confused with Never-Never Land. Thank you Amsterdam, good night.

3. When the dinosaurs died.

2. Joseph Stalin is not a good stage name.

Turns out he’s a real person.

1. This.

The more you know!

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Masterpiece Youtube: Secret Jewish Guilty Pleasure Christmas Video Song Countdown

Well, I guess the secret’s out now.

I am beginning this entry at 4:37 PM EST, Christmas Eve, from the road in someplace called Newton Falls, Ohio, where families are putting the final touches on their Christmas decorations, wrapping last-minute gifts, and setting out cookies and milk for a man who breaks and enters their houses every year to leave a mess on their living room floors. And that’s not including the reindeer poop that undeniably on the bottom of Kris Kringle’s boots.

But this story does not take place in Newton Falls, Ohio. In fact, I barely even knew there was a town called Newton Falls, Ohio, until I checked my location on my phone a few minutes ago. In fact, this story doesn’t have a specific location at all.

Growing up near Pikesville, Maryland (okay, I lied, there just so happens to be a location), we didn’t have Christmas. As in Christmas didn’t exist. Everyone I knew was Jewish. Nobody put up Christmas lights on their home or business. No one went a-wassailing door-to-door; the only Christmas music came from the car radio. In general, it was just another day. Back then, I didn’t even really know what Christmas was, why people celebrated it, or what day of the year it was; since it was a religious holiday, I thought that it changed every year, like Hanukkah or Rosh Hashanah or Passover.

Christmas was especially verboten in my household. My dad hated Christmas and anything to do with it, and still does to this day, refusing to acknowledge its existence except to complain that things are not open. This meant no Christmas books, no Christmas songs, and no Christmas movies. Exceptions were made for movies where Christmas appeared but was not a central theme, like Home Alone, or Christmas episodes of cartoons and sitcoms . I don’t really know the reason, other than the fact that we are Jewish and proud of it. My mother always said that it was because my dad’s father didn’t like Christmas or allow him to participate in any Christmas events at his public school when he was a kid. But thanks to my dad’s abhorrence of the holiday, I always associated it with Hitler or the Holocaust, which were the other things that he could not tolerate. That and the New York Yankees.

As I left the fold and entered college, I became acutely more aware of Christmas (except for the year I spent Christmas in Israel, where, ironically, it all started) and found myself enjoying some Christmas classics, like Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” or Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

So, in today’s Masterpiece Youtube, we look at the great Christmas moments in television, film, and music, as determined by me.

10. The Hanukkah episode of Rugrats

Even though the Passover episode came first and is far superior, in the mid 1990s Klasky-Csupo Productions gifted all the Jewish children of the world with a holiday special of their very own, with as few Christmas references as possible, exceptions being, of course, the unmissable Cynthia Saves Christmas special and Stu referring to the synagogue as a church. Highlights of the episode include the presence of Grandpa Boris and Grandma Minka, Didi’s hilarious old-country parents who are probably both dead now; Stu’s epic menorah invention fail; and the scene where Angelica thinks she’s getting pancakes for dinner, only to discover that they are latkes, “Tapato pancakes? Who would make pancakes out of topatos?” Your Jewish cousin’s mom, that’s who. The cherry on top is that unlike all the rest of the cartoons of the world, Rugrats came out with episodes for both Passover and Hanukkah years before it aired a Christmas special, probably due to appearances/popularity/external pressures. To this day, I believe that except for a few mentions in Family Guy and the bizarre As Told By Ginger “Even Steven Holiday Special,” no other cartoons have expressed their love for the Festival of Lights. Even though Spongebob has outlived its usefulness (a topic for another time), they’ve had at least two Christmas episodes and the world continues to wait for Bikini Bottom’s Hanukkah festivities – which should occur, obviously, at their local Jewfish Community Center.

9. “Last Christmas,” Wham!

Unlike Band Aid’s lame attempt to bring Christmas cheer to the world in the wildly inappropriate “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, this masterpiece by Wham! truly launched the spirit of Christmas across the world, even in places where Christianity is not the dominant religion or even a state-approved tradition. I’m pretty sure I heard it in the airport in Zurich, Switzerland, when I flew there on New Year’s Day, and friends of mine who have been to China say that they play it all year long, which is surprising considering China’s historical relationship with Western religions. Even one of my non-English-speaking friends posted it on his Facebook on Christmas Day last year despite not having a clue as to what the lyrics referred. The first truly international Christmas song. Take that, “Jingle Bells.”

8. Elmo Saves Christmas

This Muppet-ized take on It’s A Wonderful Life put the furry red monster in the position of control of Christmas, which is a very scary thing indeed. By making it Christmas every day, Elmo thought it would bring eternal joy to the denizens of the Street. It did not, doing the exact opposite: making everyone depressed that it was Christmas every day because it meant no work could get done and everyone had to shop for presents all the time (couldn’t they have just been like, screw you, Christmas, Sesame Street is open today?) making Elmo realize he made a horrible mistake. The best part of the movie is when my mom starts to cry, which occurs towards the end, every single time it comes on TV.

7. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” Darlene Love

It’s weird but there is something about this song that just works for me. Maybe it’s the fact that it doesn’t include any religious references except for the chorus singing the word “Christmas” every now and then. There was a remake of it done recently by either Beyonce or Mariah Carey, and even though it’s far superior, there’s just something about Darlene Love’s voice that makes it so classic. Maybe it’s because when Darlene Love recorded it, we didn’t have Skype or Facebook to connect us like we do today.

6. Phoebe’s Christmas songs from Friends

Even though Friends, unlike Monica’s Mocklate, made Thanksgiving its holiday, with classics ranging from “More turkey Mister Chandler?” to Joey sticking his whole head inside a turkey to scare Chandler to Monica and Ross’s epic football rivalry, it didn’t skip Christmas. In one episode, Phoebe tries to create a Christmas song for all the friends with their names in it, and it goes through many transformations before becoming the definitive version that plays over the ending credits. How can you not love a Christmas song with the word “crap” in its first line? Honorable mention for Friends Christmas song is “My Mother’s Ashes,” from another episode, although I’m not entirely sure that it was a Christmas-specific episode or just a winter one.

5. “Santa, Teach Me To Dance,” Debbie and the Darnells

I discovered this obscure Christmas novelty song through a BuzzFeed article last year, and it’s stuck with me ever since, for the sheer oddity and hilarity of it. This song, which makes absolutely no sense, was written and performed in the 1960s, I believe, around the time dance movies were popular. Dancing lessons for Christmas seems like a strange request coming from the teenage girls who were singing this song. The only thing stranger than this song’s existence are the group that performed it. When I imagine Debbie and the Darnells, I imagine a group of four white girls with embarrassing 1960s Motown hairdos, possibly with reindeer hairbands or Christmas tree barrettes, and most definitely wearing smart sweater sets and staring off into the distance, much like pictures of the Shirelles or the Supremes. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll ever know who Debbie and her Darnells were, much less looked like, because when I searched for a Wikipedia entry or any other songs performed by these girls, this song came up and nothing else.

4. White Christmas and its dance sequences

Okay, so they really don’t have that much to do with the holiday itself, but they are in a Christmas-themed movie. My personal favorite is the “Abraham” number performed by a young and good-looking Vera-Ellen and John Brascia. Vera-Ellen, known for her tiny waist, incredible talent, and sad life story, is particularly on point here. I’ll elaborate more on her in a future post. John Brascia, on the other hand, didn’t become a star, or least not a major one by any means; I looked him up a few years ago and he was ancient, but still alive in California, having only made a few films. A recent Wikipedia search shows that he died between then and now. It’s such a shame; he could dance like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and in my opinion, is way better looking…wait a minute…where was I? Oh yeah, Christmas…

3. “I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas,” Gayla Peavey

This delightful song is not only adorable; it has an equally adorable story behind it. Though it sounds similar to Shirley Temple and is often mistaken to be her, it was sung by a young girl named Gayla Peavey in Oklahoma, who was known for absolutely nothing else, it’s pretty easy to understand: a girl wants a hippopotamus for Christmas. The lyrics are silly, fun, and bouncy. I wonder who came up with it – “hey, can you give me the name of an animal with five syllables, stress on the fourth, for a Christmas song?” All kidding aside, apparently there was a real hippopotamus like the one described in the song – it had been in an Oklahoma zoo, and then removed for some reason. Eventually, it was returned to Oklahoma, but after hearing this entreaty, I’d just give the girl her damn hippopotamus for Christmas.

2. “Up On the Housetop,” Gene Autry

Ho, ho, ho…w inappropriate is this song? Before I heard this song, I had no idea how much innuendo was in Christmas; I thought it ended with “Santa Baby.” I mean, Santa comes down the chimney, bringing a “doll” for little Nell, and a “whip” for little Bill. Seriously, “fill it well?” This song is just so hilarious in its hidden message. If anyone was going “click click click” on my housetop, I’d go “bow chicka wow wow,” and then call the police. Except if it was on the rooftop of my apartment building, in which case they’d freeze to death before they got caught.

But the number one Masterpiece YouTube? Well, you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow for that one.

God bless us every one.