5

Three Women, One Pillory

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, a picture that a friend of mine posted popped out at me. I clicked on it, and it led to an article in Slovak. I can speak Slovak fairly well (at least I hope that I remember it well) but other than a few mostly Anglicized words, I had no clue what the article was about. But the picture at the top was kinda weird, so I’ll share it with you here, now, and maybe I can make heads or tails (or just heads) about it before going over to Google Translate.

heh

 

This lovely sepia-toned image appears to be three women sharing one pillory. They seem to be of varying ethnicities: the left one, who we’ll call Barbara, seems to be white; the one in the middle (let’s call her Mimi) is of Asian descent, and Edith, the one on the left, could be black, East/Central Asian, Polynesian, or even Roma, since this is Slovakia. They don’t look like they are particularly close friends, as they are keeping their hands to themselves and staring in different directions in a bored manner. They are all wearing headscarves and modest dresses; perhaps they’re housewives or maids? Also, they appear to be wearing shoes that could be dance shoes, so maybe they’re some sort of Vaudeville act. You never know with Vaudeville. They are standing on a street corner, waiting for something. Maybe it’s their tour bus, or horse and carriage? Or maybe they’re wondering what the hell could be taking their husbands so long in the sporting goods store nearby.

Oh yeah – and then there’s the fact that they’re pilloried together. Why, I wonder? The Vaudeville scenario is still on the table, but there’s something sinister about this whole deal. Maybe they are witches, going on trial. Maybe they committed adultery. Maybe they’re just being silly, without the faces to match. The person who took this picture must have seen this, and done so for a reason. Why?

Now that I’ve asked the questions, let’s get the real answers.

When I left-click the photo, the alt caption that comes up reads “Chinese women in pillory small.” Okay, so they are Chinese. I could buy that for Mimi and perhaps Edith, but Barbara, not so much. She looks like she could be in the chorus of Fiddler on the Roof. 

And now, for the translation.

The headline?

KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

Okay, not bad advice. But why?

Even though Google Translate did a poor job, as usual, I get that the gist of the article is that it’s an op-ed piece about Slovak voters in today’s Europe. The author, Michal Havran (translated as Michael Raven, which is actually a relatively awesome-sounding name), is arguing that politicians are dumbing things down and aiming to get back to “simple roots,” when, in fact, the world of politics is a complex place and has always been that way. Havran is in favor of overhauling the system and get rid of all the falsehoods.

But then, there’s the issue of the image.

What’s it doing up there?

The only explanation I can find (thank you, Carpenters) is that maybe Slovakia’s political parties and the European Union are welded together on a much stronger and closer level than what most Slovaks think. Another thought I just had is that maybe the women yoked together symbolizes the masses being strung along by Slovak/EU politics.

Or maybe Havran just saw the picture somewhere and liked it.

Who knows.

Works Cited

Havran, Michal. “V Jednoduchosti Je Hlupost.”  Editorial. JeToTak.com. 27 May 2014. http://www.jetotak.sk/editorial/v-jednoduchosti-je-hlupost?fb_action_ids=641362855932707&fb_action_types=og.likes

20

Thumb and Thumber

51qm0m31jyl_The concept of a “helpful tips column” has been around for awhile. From Ann Landers to Emily Post, Dear Abby to Heloise, “hints” and “tips” have been at our fingertips, literally, since my grandmother could clip them out of the newspaper and store them in a fancy box in the kitchen. With the decline of the print newspaper (you can argue that it’s not dying, but I’d ask you to read the front page advertisements in The New York Times before you stated your case), the advice column is probably what’s taken the biggest beating, along with weather (which is even in cars now), stocks (already outdated by the time the issue hits your hands), and sports scores (24/7 sports television takes care of that). Plus, society has changed; people care less about how to clean the insoles of your shoes than about how to set up a video game console. Certain things matter less to people, like having a squeaky-clean kitchen, reusing flour sacks as diapers, and the proper way to show up to a cotillion. They’ve been replaced by antibacterials, recycling, and…well, who goes to cotillions anymore? Certainly, the advice column as we know it was about to go.

Then, along came Pinterest.

And Buzzfeed.

And Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

And Cake Boss.

And suddenly, “tips” got hot again, whether for going green in the kitchen, saving bathroom space, or artsy-craftsy things like making baby shower invitations or making a bookshelf out of an old oven range. What came back in full force, though, were the cooking tips. Gluten free, vegan, and of course, all those mini-mini-cupcakes and cake that looks like a Mondrian painting when you cut into it.

Ever going along with the trends, Reader’s Digest presses on with their columns, but sometimes the advice isn’t that well-thought-out, like this past March’s column on page 46 entitled, “The Clever Cook: Be A Spotless Gourmet.”

Tip #1: Place ingredients on an empty baking sheet prior to prepping them.

Okay, so it’s just basically saying, get your shit together before you make a mess.

Tip #2: Broken glass? Pick it up with white bread!

I really wonder who thought of that idea, and who had to test that.

Tip #3: As you cook, toss scraps into a large bowl to contain messes if a trash can isn’t around.

When I cook, I don’t tell my trash cans to go out on a date and “come back before midnight”…most kitchens have trash cans for this purpose, or even sinks with garbage disposals to eliminate this problem entirely. Moving on…

Tip#4: To protect a recipe card, put it under a glass lid.

Okay, so kitchen snow globe. Not a horrible idea, but who uses recipe cards anymore? For me, it’s my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook or the Internet.

Tip #5: Secure a paper towel around the neck of an olive oil bottle to prevent drips.

This one is actually smart. I hadn’t thought of that. However, I usually just wipe the bottle after I use it, problem solved.

Tip #6: “Keep your thumbs squeaky clean by using a wine cork to make an indent in thumbprint cookies.”

…um, what?

Seriously?

wine cork?

If you’re making thumbprint cookies and are too lazy to do the thumbprint thing, maybe you should’ve thought this activity through a little more, and made cupcakes, or flan, or jello…or even a fruit salad, for that matter. Unless you intend to make a watermelon basket with your thumbs. Also, if you’re that anal about keeping your thumbs clean, then maybe baking is not the activity for you. Baking is fun, but it’s inevitable that you’re going to get something messy, whether it’s your hair, hands, clothes. Usually, it’s all three.

Try knitting, or playing piano, or watching TV.

Unless you’re also so lazy that you need to use wine corks to press the buttons on your remote control.

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.

0

Hold On To Your Hats, It’s Time for Saint Pat’s

One thing I’ve been seeing a lot of lately is pictures of people wearing green and getting progressively drunker. Not surprisingly, they are in albums with labels like “St. Patrick’s Day 2014.” Yes, it’s that time of year….but it’s only March 9th. Last time I checked, St. Patrick’s Day was March 17. Every year.

I don’t know much about St. Patrick’s Day, but I think I know the rules (or what passes for them, anyway) that everyone’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and that everyone gets green and wears drunk – I mean, gets drunk and wears green. And that it’s always, always on March 17.

Growing up as I did, there was no such thing as St. Patrick’s Day. It just didn’t exist. I think I first heard about it sometime in high school, at the earliest. One of the first things I learned was that it’s one of those holidays with a fixed date, like July 4th or New Year’s Day. In the Jewish calendar, holidays never have the same day due to the lunar dates corresponding with different solar dates every year. Thus, Passover could be in early April one year, in early May the next, and in late April the year after that.

But what confused me the most?

Not all non-Jewish holidays are on the same day every year.

It took me forever to nail down the fact that like St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas and Halloween do not change, but Easter, Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday do. Which brings me back to my original point; St. Patrick’s Day is, and yes, I did check again, not this week but NEXT week. Why are you having St. Patrick’s Day parties now? Why can’t you people wait a week and THEN deluge the Internet with your drinking pics? Why does the world insist on confusing me? Why do holidays do this? Why? Why?? Why???

At least I can fall back on the comfort of Judaism, where we never know the date our holidays will be on, but rest assured, they’re always too early or too late.

0

Tongue-Tied

One of the things I love most about going to class is participating in discussions. Since I live alone, there are only so many times I can rehash the same conversations over and over in my head, like why I should or should not sweep the floor today, or if I made the right decision about this or that in my life. So, going to class and participating in discussions is one way to hear other currents of information and contribute words of my own, words that may mean something to someone, or not. I’ve never been called out for lack of participation, and I do my best to keep my thoughts limited and on topic.

It’s rare that I have a moment like I did today.

So there I was, just sitting in class, listening in and taking notes on a discussion about societal values, symbolism, and political ideology. Even though I didn’t quite understand every word of every reading we had to do, hearing them spoken aloud helped me get a better perspective on things. This topic was one I had been unsure about, but a thought came to me as we discussed different levels of societies and the socially constructed methodology.

I raise my hand. (Even though since there are only seven students and one professor, most people just start talking, I still raise my hand, because I guess I like rules, or I’m bad at breaking old habits).

The professor calls on me, and all eyes turn toward me.

My brain says: Where did the carefully crafted thought I just had disappear to? I know it’s somewhere…and yes, it had to do with…

“The values of society can sometimes be as cut-and-dry as visual symbols, like…”

Like what?

“Like…Boy Scouts. And Girl Scouts.”

Okay, Jacob, good, keep going.

::silence::

Come on, you can do it.

“Whenever they complete a task that coalesces with a positive attribute of the fundamentals of their organization, they get a badge, and I guess that these badges are a way of exposing the values behind the organization and society of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America.”

Keep going, you’re almost there!

“So, my point is, it can be as simple as a merit badge that shows the values of a society that values ethics, and children.”

Okay, wrap it up.

“They promote their own cause by presenting boys and girls with badges, that they wear across their chest, on their, um, clothing, shirt, vest, that thing, wraps around your neck, shoulder, shirt, vest, thing, so that it can be easily seen and understood by outsiders…”

????

“…the core values of their organization, which causes a sense of pride, validating their sense of community-mindedness, to their community, and their importance within their own society, as well as to outsiders, with the badges they wear, across, their shirts, vest, chest, the thing that wraps around…”

…..

::silence::

What? Where am I? Who am I? What am I saying? What is…what? I should just stop talking, this is dumb…

“I should just stop talking, this is dumb…wait…oh my God, I’m sorry…” ::bites lip awkwardly::

At this point, the professor jumped in, and said something like “oh yes, no, yes, that’s a good example, that proves your point, you did a good job with that…” and we moved on, with me still kind of staring into nowhere.

I think I quietly said something to myself like “ugh, that was terrible, that made no sense…”

At which point the girl next to me overheard me, patted me on the shoulder, and said in a small voice, “No, you’re good, that was good, you’re okay.”

Oy vey. That’s all I have to say.

0

Foodies? What?

First of all, I’d like to dedicate today’s post to my friend Joann, a loyal reader of my blog, so happy birthday, Joann!

The rest of this post has absolutely nothing to do with you at all though.

Ranting is not a hobby of mine – I try not to let little things bother me too much anymore, but sometimes things frustrate me because I don’t quite understand them. So don’t take this as a complaint, but rather as something that I find puzzling, pretentious, and overall, just odd.

Foodie.

So I’ve heard this term being thrown around for awhile, and don’t quite know what it means, but it makes absolutely no sense to me. All of us are humans, and all of us need to eat food to survive. It doesn’t matter whether you have a lobster dinner or a cup of beans – food is food. Sustenance, nourishment, fuel for your brain and body. As far as I know, most people like eating at least one type of food. Even finicky four-year-olds will eventually break down and eat something. Unless you’re allergic to every food in the world, are on a feeding tube,or are on hunger strike, chances are, you’re consuming food at some point during your day. Lately I’ve been eating tiny bits and pieces of things when I get around to it, but yeah, I eat, hopefully at least a few times a day. Simply put, everyone likes food.

What I don’t get is, why people call themselves foodies. What is a foodie? What does it mean? Someone who likes to eat food? I eat food. You eat food. Former teen pop star Deborah Gibson eats food. So…doesn’t that make all of us foodies? Which destroys the purpose of the specialized term?

“But wait, Jacob, I have refined tastes in food.”

Um, doesn’t everyone? Just because you enjoy sushi, iced caramel macchiatos, and pigs-in-a-blanket does mean that someone else, somewhere else in the world (who doesn’t call themselves a foodie) doesn’t? I think that everyone appreciates well-cooked food. It’s not like you go to a restaurant and say, “yeah, I’ll have the uncooked meat, with the inedible slop sauce on the side, and something that’s so burnt that you can’t tell if it’s food or a decomposing animal? Oh, and a Mountain Dew.” People like eating food. Most people, when given the chance to eat exotic, expensive, or delicious food, wouldn’t be so picky or turn it down. They’d eat it. They’d either enjoy it, or not enjoy it, but either way, they’d shut up about it. Besides, not all foods are inherently better tasting than others – everyone possesses a different palate. I’ve eaten pizza and hamburgers that were out of this world, and had cute, tiny, and ultimately tasteless salads and fancy desserts that were beautiful but dry, or spongy, or if I was on that episode of Friends, filled with meat, but, that doesn’t make any sort of food more valuable than any other. Just because the food costs more or requires more effort to make, that doesn’t put you above or below anyone else. It all comes out of you the same way anyway.

“But what about professional food critics/wine critics?”

Okay…now that’s a profession, not a quality of a person. That person may be paid to write reviews of places like Olive Garden (if you haven’t read the review of the first Olive Garden in Grand Forks, North Dakota, you are missing out on one of the simplest joys of life, no joke), they aren’t necessarily always eating high-end haute-cuisine every night. Food critics probably eat some meals much like the rest of us – hurriedly and with our fingers – and some may even enjoy Burger King or Subway, any day of the week. And chances are, if you’re reading this and you call yourself a foodie, you’re probably not a food or wine critic in your daily life – you’re just a person with preferences for certain types of food.

So, I went to Professor Wikipedia, where I found this definition:

foodie is a gourmet, or a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out for convenience or hunger. While gourmet and epicure can be used as synonyms they have fallen out of favor and bring to mind a stodgy or snobbish attitude. (Wikipedia.org)

Hmmm. Sometimes I like to go out to new restaurants and try new foods. That’s how most people decide what they like and what they don’t like. It’s called using your right of choice to select what you put in your mouth. And that last sentence, about gourmet and epicure falling out of favor? Please. Those words actually sound like you know what you’re talking about when it comes to how you like your food. And the word foodie? Not a bit less “stodgy or snobbish.”

Also on the Wikipedia page, it had a link, under a section entitled “Criticism of the word.” So apparently, I’m not alone. This link led me to a blog post by James Norton on Salon.com called “Chow Down, Dude”. In it, Norton interviews a guy named Chris Onstad, who apparently writes a comic strip about food, and cute animals, which I will read one day and spend several hours ignoring all other responsibilities. In the interview, this exchange happened:

NORTON: Speaking personally as a blogger who once invoked the word “foodie” when writing about your strip, I’m now painfully aware that this is not a term you care for. What’s your distaste for the word “foodie”?

ONSTAD: The first time I ever heard a friend say it, the hair on the back of my neck stood up, my gut twisted, and I felt angry for some reason. Why do we need this fake new word? There are so many words that already describe the concept of people who like food, or enjoy cooking, or enjoy knowing about cooking. “Foodie”: It’s like the infantile diminutive — you put a “y” on the end of everything to make it childlike. We don’t need it. It’s embarrassing. “I’m a foodie.” Oh my God (Norton).

Chris Onstad, I don’t know you, but THANK YOU. “Oh my God” kind of says it all. I’m all for hipster-ness, but it is indeed embarrassing in its pretentiousness. It doesn’t make you sound smarter, it actually makes you sound like kind of a jerk, almost implying that you’re so special that you don’t eat normal-people food but instead you eat sparkly-unicorn-magic food that flies out of a giant kitchen in the sky staffed by angels and served to you by Jesus onto a tiny little snowflake-shaped seven-grain “artisan” cracker. No. That is not true. You eat food, and then you go on with your life. Simple as that. Get over yourself, people.

And if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat a hot, steaming plate of boiled inedibles, with an exquisite creme brulee for dessert.

Mmm, creme brulee.

Works Cited

Norton, James. “Chow Down, Dude.” Salon.com10 April 2007. <http://www.salon.com/2007/04/10/onstad_qa/>.