Saturday, December 25, 2010

Deja Jew

Went for a brisk walk this morning to clear my head, and had an amazing realization:

Christmas is the one day of the year when America feels like Shabbat in Jerusalem.

Everything's closed. Nobody's driving. It's QUIET.

(Of course, on Shabbat you're probably not using the one day stores are closed to revel in unbridled commercialism at home with loved ones, but still...)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Workplace Grinch Hero

Given that she says stuff like "don't report sexual harrassment at work; it's bad for your career," I'm surprised that P. Trunk's (2006) post on not doing Christmas at work is considered controversial. But I love it. The kind of honest perspective that can come from someone with Asperger's:

Christmas at the office is bad for diversity

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Atheist with Blinders On

If you told me that an atheist gets his feathers ruffled in a Christian community less than a Jew, I'd normally be surprised. After all, the historical U.S. bias in favor of religion and religious practice (so long as it's monotheist) is pretty clear.

However, that assumption was just challenged by a post a friend of mine linked to (presumably, as representing his own view as well).

The author of An Open Letter To Christians: Merry Christmas From An Atheist apparently doesn't know anyone who's a religous minority. Otherwise, how could he say:

"But ultimately, everyone I know enjoys the holiday and if asked seriously, I doubt they would change a thing."

Then you must not know any Jews.

We're certainly not out to make a "War on Christmas," (your freedom is my freedom, etc.), but there are plenty of us who hate the holiday *as forced on all of us in every f-ing store display and musical selection for 6+weeks every year*.
As a practicing Jew, I really prefer that people say "Merry Christmas" if that's what they mean.

When someone says "Happy Holidays," I know for sure that they don't have any idea what holidays there are besides Christmas. Otherwise, why would they limit that greeting to the Christmas season? Why don't they say "Happy Holidays" in the spring or early fall, knowing that Jews are celebrating their truly significant holidays then (Purim, Passover, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, etc.). Why don't they say "Happy Holidays" in the late fall, when Hindus are celebrating Diwali? Or in late winter, for Chinese New Year?

I like Christmas lights. I like Christmas music. What I don't like is the assumption that everyone does or should celebrate Christmas.
Either it's truly a secular holiday, in which case get rid of the baby J talk and make it all about happy old fat men in red suits, or it's a religious holiday, in which case, recognize that there are plenty of other religions out there, this is NOT a universal holiday, and you shouldn't expect any special accommodation for it (National holiday anyone) any more than you'd expect to give for Eid, Mahashivaratri, Samhain, Lughnasa, Shavuot, Confucious' birthday, etc. etc. etc.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Can you trick yourself into happiness?

I try to keep up with Penelope Trunk's blog, partly because she has some good advice, partly because she's so freaking crazy it's entertaining, but mostly because she makes me think.

She says stuff that makes me instantly angry, and then I get to think about why I'm angry, and whether I'm angry because she's challenging my assumptions, or because her assumptions are so, so very wrong the only appropriate response is a verbal smack-upside-the-head. Sort of like the verbal indignation I could get into in the comment threads over at DovBear's, before all the good trolls left.

Her most recent posts have me rethinking whether I really want to be happy - given that I've set myself to be able to be happy OR right, but not both.

Do I want to be happy, by accepting the fact that Bad Cohen really is permanently disabled, and re-imagining what our future life will be like, given that he can't work for pay or at home at anything like even his former capacity (he's a lazy git, but then so am I, so that used to be ok), or do I want to keep feeling oppressed and indignant and confused that *everyone* around me seems to be more well-off, financially?

Penelope links to Ben Bernanke's commencement speech at some Southern college, where he mentions (of course) Easterlin's studies on happiness. Have you ever noticed that you can be perfectly happy living in cheap quarters, being poor (the Western definition of "poor" of course, in which you still have running water and heat), as well as with a good expensive Scotch and a nice house, etc? We adjust. So long as we're not worse off than the majority of the people we spend time with, we think we're doing pretty well.

I was happy being poor and struggling after college, because so were all my friends.

But what happens when you're 35, working all the time at a job that doesn't interest you, just so you can make enough to pay for daycare and medical bills (and maybe heat), when all your friends are doing fascinating jobs, living in beautiful and/or giant houses, taking vacations, etc.?

Maybe I need to make friends with some single moms who are struggling. Or find some other grad students with kids who are broke and stressed out.

But of course, I really love living somewhere quiet, somewhere with a garden, somewhere where I don't have to feel constantly bombarded by noise and other people. And that takes money (or a family house, like the one we're squatting in now--although I'd prefer one with up-to-code electricity and plumbing and insulation).

The more we focus on what we can't control, the more miserable we get. (there's science behind this, I'm just too lazy a git to go find a link)

SO, I figure I can jump-start happiness either by convincing myself I'm actually in control of what's happening, by getting involved in Bad Cohen's doctoral program search and choosing to embrace the next really sucky step in our lives, or by giving up on the idea of personal wealth and stability and focusing on very, very small things I CAN actually control, like what I eat, or repainting the kitchen, or trying not to smack The Kid when he drives me crazy for the fifth time in a single hour.

Clearly, reading Penelope Trunk is likely to make you just as crazy as she is.

Don't say you weren't warned.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Maybe it's just the latkes talking...

but I'm totally ready to watch The Star Wars Holiday Special.

picture via Cracked, which also offers 8 Questions Gentiles Love Asking About Hanukkah , with helpful suggested answers like this:

"Yes, and then the Easter Bunny and Santa used that burning oil to light their way as they traveled to the land of vaguely retarded Holiday stories you tell small children."

Chag Sameach, y'all.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Hanukah fun

Here at Casa Midiana, we're gearing up for the annual Hanukkah smorgasbord. (Hey, what's a Swedish Jew to do? Latkes, herring, Glögg, it's all good!) While I go back to convincing The Kid that no, he can't have all his presents on the same night, here are some fun and enlightening links for your enjoyment.

Caught this great interview on NPR with Dianne Ashton, professor of American Studies at Rowan University, the other day. (Listen to it here)

It was a way for the Jewish community to be a part of something that was happening in America.

"They didn't see Christmas as something they could do easily because it's Christian, but they did want to do something like that because it was American," Ashton says.

Hanukkah began to change again between 1880 and 1920, when more than 2 million Jewish immigrants came to the U.S. from Eastern Europe.

"It became an occasion for them to do activities in the U.S. that they really couldn't do freely," she says. "They had concerts in public halls, and restaurants had Hanukkah specials."

Stephen Colbert and John Stewart: Can I Interest You in Hanukah?

Fun Suprise
I can't wait to be there when Nefesh b'Nefesh does "The Kaparot Flash Mob".

Hag Sameach, y'all!

One more video, via Yo Yenta, because it was just too awesome not to share: