3

Sticker Suck

So, yesterday, I was out running errands, and I parked my car in the parking lot of a nearby building. I come back, and there’s a GIANT yellow sticker on the windshield, saying something like “WARNING, you have parked in a private area, your license plate has been recorded, and next time you will be ticketed and/or booted at your expense.”

W. T. F.???

First of all, I was parked next to the visitor parking sign. NEXT to it.

Second, I was only there for an hour.

Third, who does that? Put a card under my windshield or something. What purpose does it serve you to put a giant sticker on my driver’s side window, out of which I have to see in order to operate my car, which I can’t do because of this opaque yellow rectangle obstructing my vision? Why? Why do you have to be that heartless?

I ended up driving around for the next few hours with it on, trying to peer around it while driving because this thing was not coming off with my fingernails. Eventually, I had to stop at a mechanic, who offered me a razorblade. Thank goodness that worked without ruining the glass. I still have an unsightly square of residue on my window, but…enough. People, why you gotta be so awful?

3

What Fresh Hell Can This Be: Stars

I haven’t been this inspired to write a blog post in a while, but here I am, and surprise, a rant. Well, more like a curiosity. Or a facepalm. You be the judge.

Last night, I was searching for some activities to use with my class today to teach the lesson of the day, humility. So, I do some Googling. Usually when I search for Thursday activities with ethical themes (truth, integrity, patience) I get homeschooling websites and blogs, almost always Christian. Sometimes, the activities are adaptable for a Jewish school, but if they include something from the New Testament, I click away. I came across this interesting website.

At first glance, it didn’t seem so bad. Then I scrolled down to read some of the details of the activity, and here’s an…interesting one.

Wear Humility: Cut a large star out of yellow or gold posterboard and tie yarn on it so it can be placed around a child’s neck. Explain that wearing the yellow star represents being prideful and place it around the child’s neck. Then, take off the yellow star and give the child a small star sticker to wear and explain that the smaller star represents being humble.

Image result for fran drescher

Ummmmmmmmmmm…yeah. About that.

Obviously, Stacy Zeiger, the author of this article, has either never taken a history course or has not spent enough time around Jews. For those of you who are unaware as to why this is a problem (and Ms. Zeiger, if you’re reading this), allow me to explain.

So, one time, there was this thing called World War II. During this time, the Holocaust occurred, and six million European Jews were killed. But before they were sent off to concentration camps, while they were still allowed to live in cities and towns, they were forced to wear identification in the form of a yellow star, usually saying Jude or Juif inside it, depending on the country and its language. They looked like this:

So, fast forward to now, where Stacy Zeiger is living in New Jersey and putting large yellow stars on children, as a negative symbol. If there ever was a time to clap back, it’s now.

Image result for oh no you didn't jewish

This ::clap:: does ::clap:: not ::clap:: fly ::clap::

Especially not in a Jewish school. I can only imagine this lesson being done in the classroom, and then Grandma coming to pick up little Sarah for a dentist appointment, only to see a room full of children wearing yellow stars symbolizing “excessive pride.” I think you’d need a paramedic before a dentist for that reaction.

I’m not saying that gold stars are bad. I have star stickers, some are yellow, and I use them sometimes. On papers, though. Not on humans. A yellow star on an essay says one thing; a yellow star on a person says quite another. I mean, seriously? Really? You thought this was a good idea to publish? On a website? For anyone to read?

I decided to look up a little more on this Stacy character, and I have to say, everything I’ve found is just. so. awful. Not in an evil way, but…she just sounds terrible. She lives in Bridgeton, New Jersey, even though she is originally from Ohio with degrees from Miami University and Ohio State. She’s a Christian, which goes without saying. According to her Twitter, she’s “Mother of the Year.” Her Amazon.com page is full of self-published books with crappily-designed covers.

Humility is an important lesson, but yeah, this is probably one of the dumbest ways anyone’s thought to go about it.

A gold star for you, Stacy.

Image result for fran drescher shade

11

On Giving Others a Reality Check When They Deserve It (or Why It’s Hard For Me to Help Myself)

Today, I had a 10 AM appointment with University Health Services, so I bundled myself up with all my supplies for the day – books, papers, notebooks, laptop, projector (that didn’t work), coffee cup (which I forgot to fill with coffee), and lunch (which I forgot to include utensils) – and headed out in the freezing cold. I got there a few minutes late, mostly because of the slow elevator ride to the 7th floor because it’s Madison and elevators are slow here.

I walked in to see a younger, Asian-looking man, and a slightly older redheaded lady at the desk. The man waves me over to check me in. I give him my name and ID number, and he types it in and then has a funny look on his face. So then this happens:

ME (to the guy): You look confused.

REDHEADED LADY (to me): You look late.

ME (to Redhead): You look like you’re about to get a bad performance evaluation in patient care quality.

Ouch, a little harsh, but that was the best I could come up with. Either that or “mind’ya business, okay honey?”

Anyway.

I have a seat, and a few minutes later, the lady I’m coming to see comes out to get me and walks me back to her office. When I get back to her office and we sit down, the lady goes, “Yeah, so she [Redhead] just came back here and told me that she screwed up and she’s really sorry she said that. I told her that we all make mistakes but need to keep our personalities in check and out of the office.”

That’s just about the first time in my whole entire life that I’ve ever been told that someone was sorry for how they acted towards me.

Oddly enough, depression is one of the things that I struggle with, but I felt great. Life’s like that, I guess.

I’ve been getting better about getting to places on time, especially stricter things like meetings, appointments, and classes, but in my opposite-side-of-the-table life, I really don’t care that much if people come late to my classes (don’t tell my students that though please, thank you!). People’s lives are people’s lives, and if they’re human, they probably either a) have a reason, and feel bad about it, or b) don’t have a reason, and feel bad about it, so adding a wisecrack or a criticism doesn’t really add anything. .I don’t see it as an issue of respect or whatever; if you’re late, you’re late, and it’s on you, and whatever-the-hell because we’re all on this earth and doing the best we can and experiencing the passing of time in the same damn way every single day.

So, whatever side of the table you’re on, just don’t be a dick about it. Things happen and they don’t always involve you…and yes, I’m talking to you too, redheaded receptionist lady. You’ve got a case of the Wednesdays.

10

Thursday Night Sociopaths

My night was just ruined thanks to two separate complete sociopaths who did the same thing to me. 

1. Waiting in line, grabbed me by the waist to get around me.

2. Drunkenly walked up to where I was seated and put her drunk head on my back.

Never again am I going to out for a late night slice of pizza again. At the very least, carry out. 

God. 

My back is still tingling. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep tonight. 

12

Go See A Play, Damn You

I’ve been saying “no, no, no, God, God, God, no, no, no,” a lot these days. No, it’s not a new form of morse code or something, but it’s a reaction to the asinine nature of some people. And by some, I mean most, and by most, I mean people I’ve been in contact with.

So there’s this play that I’ve been working on that’s coming up soon. As in, we open on Friday. I’m really proud of everyone, it’s a great show; great script, great cast, everything. So I’ve been recommending it. While I haven’t been ambushing people with tickets, I haven’t shied away from asking if/when people are coming.

And from so many people, I just get the same insipid remarks.

“Will it be on tape?”

“Can I watch it online?”

“Is somebody going to tape it?”

No, no, no, and NO. The answer is NO, damn you. Get out of your house and go see a play. Any goddamn play, it doesn’t have to be mine, just go see any play at all, and then ask me that question again. This is why I love theatre, damn it. It’s live, it’s exciting, and you can’t fast forward through it, you have to be in the moment, there’s that group bonding thing and that whole being social thing and getting out of your comfort zone and into a comfortable seats (and these seats are really plushy and nice and all that). The world does not cater to you, and if it was on tape, it would not be theatre, it would be television, which it is not.

Go see the damn play. Have a fucking amazing time. You’ll thank me later.

Oh, and by the way, who uses tape anymore?

Thanks for reading this rant. I’ve had several five-continent days over the last few, so I’m going to post who visited today in hopes that Africa shows up tomorrow. So, welcome to North America (Canada, USA, and Jamaica), South America (Chile), Europe (UK, Serbia and Ukraine), Asia (Israel, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan) and Oceania (Australia and Papua New Guinea).

1

I Had One More

Today, I came across this list of 7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook.

It reminded me that about a year ago, I wrote this post and then this one a month later, on the exact same topic.

However, in that time span, people and their Facebook status updates have become no less annoying, in fact, quite the opposite. But just for kicks, I wanted to see how much this person’s list of 7 and my list of 8 align.

Mine were:

  1. The Facebook Guru
  2. The Prayer Warrior
  3. “My Life is Awesome”
  4. The Serial Liker
  5. The Social Commentator
  6. The Jehovah’s Gamer
  7. The Activist
  8. The False Sense of Intimacy Person.

Theirs:

  1. The Brag (and various forms thereof)
  2. The Cryptic Cliffhanger
  3. The Literal Status Update
  4. The Inexplicably Public-Private Message
  5. The Out-Of-Nowhere Oscar Acceptance Speech
  6. The Incredibly Obvious Opinion
  7. The Step Towards Enlightenment.

Okay, so we have a lot in common. My #1 is his #7, and my #2 is his #6. My #3 is his #1 and #5; just for the record, mine are in no particular order but I’d put that as the top annoyance any day. My #4-7 don’t really match up with any of his, but my #8 has elements in his #2, #3, and #4.

So, now that we agree on four out of his seven, there are three left. And honestly, I don’t really care about #2 and #3.

For The Cryptic Cliffhanger, if it’s someone I don’t care about, I just ignore it. If it’s someone whom I’ve seen recently or about whom I deeply care, I’ll comment, but usually I’ll text or call that person. I’ve actually done it a few times in the recent past, and it’s yielded good results; sometimes those people just want someone to care. The Literal Status Update? Not even on my radar screen. It’s like…good for you? And for The Inexplicably Public-Private Message, two thoughts. One: people do make mistakes like that, whatever. Two: if you have to check yourself and your Facebook friends in somewhere and brag about it, how much time are you really spending with them?

So there you have it, a complete comparison.

But mine came first and you have one less, one less, problem than me.

 

2

On Colorblindness in the Theatre

Today, one of my friends posted this as his status on Facebook:

You know what really grinds my gears? When all white high schools put on black shows like Aida and The Wiz.

I’m not usually that person who goes there with someone’s Facebook status, but I found this to be somewhat offensive and felt the urge to say something.

So I did a little research, and responded, saying something along the lines of:

I don’t think that this is a fair statement. MTI, the company that holds the rights to Aida and is very strict about their rules, suggests that ethnic actors would be good for the show, but does not say that the director must cast actors of color; that would be discriminatory. Plus, if it’s high school, it’s for educational purposes, and some rules may not apply.

By the time I pressed the comment button, several other of his friends, black and white, commented similarly, saying that The Wiz was based on The Wizard of Oz, Quvenzhane Wallis is going to be the next Annie, Broadway had an all-black Hello, Dolly!, that not all schools have black students (or enough interested in the arts to cast the show), etc. I was not alone.

His response to me?

Jacob, when did I say MUST? You’re the only one talking about licensing; I’m just saying that they shouldn’t be putting on shows about my people. White people telling the stories of colored people is wack.

My response?

Maybe directors at these schools choose those shows because they like the beauty of the story, not to mention the music and the message. Aida and The Wiz are just as much part of the American musical theatre canon as My Fair LadySouth Pacific, et cetera. They have all the rights in the world to put on whatever show they like; you don’t have any control over that.

His response?

Seriously?

Over that?

A little background: this friend, whom I’ll call Kevin, is an African-American guy I met at the 2006 APO nationals, and again at the 2008 nationals. When I met him, I thought he was funny and nice. I haven’t seen him for a long time, but we’ve remained friends on Facebook. His posts are, one could say, inconsistent. One day, he’ll post something about how black stereotypes are wrong, and the next day, he’ll post something that is a complete stereotype (one of the hard things about Facebook: detecting sarcasm), something like “Oh honeychile’ there is some fake weaves in this here bar.” I always thought that if you’re a person who hates stereotypes, don’t go slinging them around, and then get offended when someone calls you out on it.

The topic of colorblindness in show selection and casting is something I’ve wanted to write my thoughts on for a long time, and I guess now is as good a time as ever.

Since Kevin started us off with high school, let’s rewind to the early 2000s, aka my high school days, where I was so involved in theatre that I actually got a little plaque about it. 100% of the students in my school were Jewish, and 98% of the school was, you could say, white. That didn’t stop us from putting on shows with nonwhite characters. I mean, what are we supposed to do…Fiddler on the Roof every year? Sure, we did some very white-bread shows (Hello, Dolly! and Bye Bye Birdie come to mind), but we also did West Side Story and South Pacific, despite having very few students of color in the school. We didn’t do Aida or The Wiz, but I don’t think anyone would have stopped us had we done them. The two shows Kevin chose, actually, are particularly bad examples…Dreamgirls and Hairspray would’ve been harder to pull off, owing to the racial nature of the plot, but apart from blackface, I don’t see a problem with a school that is entirely or predominantly white putting on Aida or The Wiz.

Kevin, you are a well-educated and well-spoken person, but this is not the 1990s and you’re not Lauryn Hill (who, by the way, apologized for her remarks about white people). If high school theatre went by your logic, does that mean that high schools that don’t have any Asian students shouldn’t put on Flower Drum Song or The King and I? Or that a predominantly black school shouldn’t do My Fair Lady or The Sound of Music?

Sheesh Louise.

Back to my high school days. In my freshman year, we did both West Side Story and South Pacific. Our West Side Story, in particular is a great example of exactly why casting should be talent based, and not looks-based. Two of the main characters, Maria and Anita, are quite clearly Hispanic. We only had one girl with a Hispanic background in the whole school, and even though she auditioned, she didn’t get either part. The part of Maria went to a white girl, who I think did a pretty good job of playing Maria. She was not wearing any sort of makeup other than stage makeup, and she didn’t speak with a Puerto Rican accent, but she got the job done. Anita, on the other hand, was played by one of the only other non-white girls in school; a girl of East Asian descent who happened to be a very talented dancer. Though the character of Anita does a lot of dancing, she also sings. The girl who got the part did not. In fact, she refused to sing, period. For “America,” another Shark girl took her role, and for “Tonight,” Anita sat onstage while the other Shark girls sang around her, as if she was getting ready for a party. I can’t remember what they did for “I Have A Love,” – that number might have been cut for time – but she didn’t sing a note. It was a shame; even though she is a very talented dancer and looked beautiful in the part, she was not cut out for Anita at all. Several of the other girls could have done that role even better, and would have loved to have Anita’s singing lines all to herself. For South Pacific, the girl who played Anita didn’t get Bloody Mary or Liat, roles she probably wouldn’t have liked anyway, instead, she danced in one number while other non-Asian girls played those parts. In contrast, when we did Bye Bye Birdie, the Hispanic girl I was talking about was a front-runner for the role of Kim McAfee, arguably one of the most white-bread roles in the American theatre, and when I’m talking front-runner, I mean that out of all the girls who auditioned, she got called back and was probably in the top four of the director’s choices for the role.

Moving right along, you also say that ever-so-problematic phrase “my people.” Okay, so you’re saying that these are the stories of “your ancestors,” like the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow? Let’s look at the facts. Part of the beauty of The Wiz is the inventive music, which makes it different from The Wizard of Oz but does not make it exclusively for one race. And funny you should bring up Aida, a story from Africa with music and lyrics by “your people”…Tim Rice and Elton John. The original Aida is about as black as a lightly toasted pizza crust; it was a story created in Italy. Furthermore, the story is about Ancient Egypt, and even though Aida was Ethiopian, the other characters may or may not have been dark-skinned. Traditionally, Cleopatra is thought of as “black” or “African,” but even though she was born in Africa and lived there, she had Macedonian and Greek ancestry through Ptolemy. She was most likely olive-skinned if not white, and possibly had green or blue eyes and blond hair. In all likelihood, she probably looked more like Jennifer Aniston than Cicely Tyson.

Now, I don’t know your actual ethnic background, but I do know that you were born in America, and that were you to go to Jamaica or Ghana or Kenya and proclaim them to be “your people,” they’d probably all either laugh at you, or think that you were weird without saying anything to your face about it. The Wiz is as much your story as The Wizard of Oz is my story; basically, not really. All the people in these shows are fictional characters who have been and will be portrayed by actors of many ethnicities, and even mixed ethnicities. I think that’s as far as I’m willing to go in this post about defining ethnicity/race, so let’s move on to another topic.

Before I left Houston, my friend Monica and I were having lunch and talking about musical theatre. Monica is a singer and actress, and I was working on Fiddler on the Roof in Baytown. She also happens to be African-American. When Fiddler entered the conversation, she said something along the lines of how she wouldn’t fit into that show; if you put her in villager clothes, she’d probably look like a slave, which might be true. I agreed with her, saying that even though she could sing and act Golde, it would be tough for her to pull it off. In hindsight, I think I was wrong. In fact, I think she’d make an awesome Golde, regardless of whether Tevye or anyone else in the cast was black. In fact, we did have a black girl in the chorus; granted, she was very tiny and hardly noticeable onstage, but she was there and dressed like a villager. Furthermore, when The Crucible was done at U of H, there were many black actors among the citizens of Salem, and not just Tituba; in fact, the girl who was initially cast as Elizabeth was not only black but of Caribbean descent, and race is very much an issue in that show. Had she stayed, she would have made a wonderful Elizabeth.

If an actor can do the part well, they should indeed, regardless of color. And if a mostly or all white high school wants to do The Wiz, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

Oh, and Kevin? Good job showing your true colors; defriending someone who disagrees with you on something in a very nice way without getting riled up about it is obviously a sign of maturity.

That was sarcasm.

And I probably didn’t want to be friends with you anyway.

0

Have Mercy

Occasionally, I like to read something easy, a “beach read” if you will, just for fun and pleasure. Call it chick-lit if you want, but if it’s a good, thick book with a rather neutral cover, no one has to know what’s inside it. Sometimes when I read I just want to get into a story, follow some characters around, and not really aim to learn anything. It’s kind of like a soap opera, but probably a better use of my time than watching an actual soap opera, and more satisfying since I can take the descriptions the author provides and imagine my own characters and scenes rather than watch some too-pretty people prance around for an hour and then hate myself for the next three. I almost never hate myself after reading a novel. However, I did have some emotions after reading Mercy by Jodi Picoult.

Mercy

In brief, Mercy is the story of love and the lengths people are willing to go for it. Cameron MacDonald, a police chief, and his wife Allie, a florist, live a normal, boring life in Wheelock, Massachusetts. One day, a guy shows up in town claiming that a) he’s Cam’s cousin Jamie, b) his wife, Maggie, is dead in the passenger seat, and c) he killed her. Well, that’s promising. On the same day, Allie hires a mysterious woman named Mia Townsend to be her assistant after she catches her breaking and entering her shop and playing with the flowers while she’s out dealing with the newfound-cousin mess in the street. Because when someone breaks into your shop, of course the thing to do is hire them.

Of course, now that there are two new, unattached young people in town (Jamie and Mia), Cam and Allie’s relationship as a married couple starts to unravel. Cam finds himself attracted to Mia, who was his waitress at a cafe in Italy awhile back and has somehow found him now, and bored housewife Allie is drawn to Jamie after learning that his wife Maggie had cancer and asked him to kill her when her quality of life got so bad that she didn’t have the will to live anymore. Due to Cam and Jamie’s familial connection, Cam hires his friend Graham to be Jamie’s lawyer, so that Jamie can win his case, and due to Jamie needing to stay within the city limits of Wheelock, Allie volunteers to go to Cummington to get testimonies from Jamie’s friends and neighbors, suddenly trusting Mia with running her shop and conveniently leaving her with not only her keys, but the ability to use them to enter her home and start a love affair with Cam, about which Allie remains completely oblivious for way too long.

There’s a bunch of crap about the MacDonald name, and Cam’s Uncle Angus, who takes Jamie in for the duration, and Mia, who’s a complete flake and keeps running away from town and then returning like nothing happened. And the trial, which is basically just a constant reiteration of the fact that Jamie’s a good guy, he was (and is) in love with his wife, he killed her out of love and at her request, and he’s extremely sad about it. This is information that we found out when we first meet Jamie in Chapter 2, and nothing changes. Jamie’s found innocent, Mia kind of fades off into the sunset, and as for Cam and Allie, despite each of them having affairs (well, really Cam; Allie and Jamie didn’t really go very far on a sexual level), and Allie selling all of his stuff, they stay together. The end.

The back cover tag for this book is What would you do for someone you love? Would you leave? Would you kill?

Well, um, okay. I have to admit that even though the story is slow and purple at times, it kind of touches the topic in a very kid-gloves way. Maggie MacDonald’s death is pretty much an assisted suicide, which has tons of legal, moral, and ethical ramifications, but if Maggie would’ve figured things out and truly made her husband’s life easier after her death, she should have written a living will or some sort of document quantifying her husband’s actions, which would nip the whole thing in the bud. Good going there, Mag. But Jamie exacerbates the whole thing by toting her over to Wheelock and making a big show of things and getting himself arrested when he could’ve just, like, called a coroner and said “Oh, she died all of a sudden, because she had cancer and sometimes people with cancer die because cancer is unpredictable like that,” and cut his losses there. The whole debate was really BS, and actually made me feel like Jamie was the smartest person in the book, although he clearly wasn’t supposed to be. Mia Townsend is just a hot mess, so I’m not even going there. Cameron MacDonald is just a police chief trying to do his job, and people and things sort of get in his way, and even though he’s pretty tactless he doesn’t do anything outwardly stupid, which is more than I can say for his wife.

Allie MacDonald should get a medal or something for possibly being one of the stupidest characters I’ve ever read. She leaves her business in the hands of a beautiful woman who could rob her blind and steal her husband (and almost does the latter). She suspects nothing about Cam and Mia, and even tells Cam to “take care of her” while she’s off playing detective. If you don’t think that’s a recipe for disaster, Allie, I’m never eating in your kitchen. Plus, she puts herself out there for a guy she barely knows and could be totally playing her. Then, she sells all of her husband’s things for no good reason other than that she’s mad at him for being a jerk, which does not justify doing that. She’s so weak and always gives in to Cam, despite all this inner monologue about her standing up for herself, which never really comes to a head because in the end she stays with him despite all the crap he’s done to her.

On the positive side, though, there is a decent story arc here, and the book does address an interesting topic – assisted suicide – and Picoult follows through with both. I could do with a few less scenes about the MacDonald family Scottish memories, and replace some of the drawn-out courtroom scenes with some more info/flashback to Jamie and Maggie’s relationship, because we really never learn that much about Maggie other than that she loves her husband, is terminally ill, and doesn’t want to become a vegetable.

What I learned from Mercy: Gents, if you marry a woman who gets cancer, get that shit in writing. Don’t kill her and then parade her around some random town where you have a cousin. And ladies, if a mysterious woman walks into your life, don’t roll over and give her your keys, your money, and your husband.

And since I would never forgive myself if I didn’t have Uncle Jesse in this post, here we go.

3

Lights On But Nobody’s Home

Walking home from Chabad earlier tonight, I saw a car parked outside my building with its lights on.

And the motor running.

And the keys in the ignition.

I don’t know why people think that this is a good idea; it wastes gas, and of course, it would be so easy for someone walking by to just break a window (or open the door, as it’s most likely unlocked) and drive away. I looked to my left and my right, and seeing no one. I just stood there and stared at the car, as if I expected the driver to be hiding on the floor to jump out and surprise me. I walked up to it, very close but not touching, and contemplated just getting in and driving away…serves you right, lazy bum who didn’t want to pay for parking because you were only going to be “just a minute” and your high beams are blinding everyone who is trying to walk down the steep hill. At night. When it’s cold. And there’s a frozen lake at the bottom. I should just move it up the street a little, to mess with you. You made it so easy.

Anyway. Decided to go inside instead, up to my nice warm apartment.

Oh, and as I walked in, a tall, friendly-looking Asian guy was walking out. After he left, I watched to see if it was indeed it his car, and it was, and he drove away. Eh, I wasn’t in the mood to fuck up your day anyways.