Monday, December 17, 2007

Strike! Do the right thing

The writers strike is still going on. BY the way, this is a Jewish issue. Not just because many of the writers are Jewish - and are being ripped off by co-religionists on the other side of the table - there's always been Jews who are managers negotiating against Jewish workers who are getting bupkes - that's significant chunks of history of the labor movement in the US, nothing new. Justice is a principle of employer-employee relations throughout the talmud. We are obligated to pay a just wage, to pay it promptly and by the way, collective bargaining has precedents in the talmud. Hoggishness is not kosher!

The update: the Companies agreed to meet and negotiate, then tried to pawn off a completely ridiculous resolution to the strike - how ridiculous?
They figured that now that the strike has been going on a while, the writers would be desperate to settle, so they came to the table with the same old proposals. I kid you not. They still categorically refused to consider payments to writers for profit-making material posted on the internet.
Since the writers weren't sufficiently softened up to be bowled over by this (sarcasm on) extremely generous offer(sarcasm off), the companies walked.

Please don't quit pressuring! Everyone, please continue (or start)to write to keep the heat on. Hey it's cold out there, don't let those greedy hogs win.

Sites like Fans4Writers, through UnitedHollywood's Pencils 2 Media Moguls campaign, can help you keep up the good work.

Writers deserve a fair share of the profits that companies make from their work.Where would these gargantuan companies be without their writers? Well, Writer (of novels, I don't know that she's ever written for TV) Emma Bull notes that during the last strike, "the Companies came up with reality TV. Do you want to reward behavior like that?"
Just imagine a world where people who come up with that crapola are writing everything available. DOn't you want the writers back?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Still thinking about the schechita...

One only kid; one.
In the beginning is the rush
of blood, and in the end.
My father bought for two zuzim
from the shepherd at the dairy.
Then came the shochet who slaughtered
in his bare arms and fur hat.
In his beard and his silence.
Only one.
The shepherd kneels
Lifts the goat in his arms
and carries him offstage.
Only one, and one, and one.
Then comes the malach hamavet
who killed the Shochet who slaughtered.
Only one. Only one. Only one.
The water quenched the fire that
tempered the steel.
Then came the Holy One, blessed be He,
and slew the malach hamavet
that killed the Shochet who slaughtered
the one only kid.
What was the Holy One waiting for?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

The ghost of Adam Sandler

OK, so he's not dead yet, but it's clear that the one thing that he will be remembered for forever is the Chanukah Song. I have heard that song, however enough times already.

Still, I can't help but recommend this version. Possibly the only one I'll be able to still listen to by the 25th of this month. The lyrics are better too.

Yidcore - Punk Rock Chanukah Song

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I'm glad there are people out there writing more and better Chanukah songs though.

Flying Spaghetti Monster

It's a very funny post on BoingBoing, but you have to be familiar with the FSM phenomenon.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

a nice chanukah story

For those of us who live in the diaspora and have to suffer through endless atmospheric muzak Christmas carols, wishes of merry Christmas and questions of "What do you mean you don't celebrate Christmas?" Lemony Snicket - the, er, children's writer, has written a story just for us.

It is about a latke who could not stop screaming - in fact, the latke feels more or less as all of us have at one winter season or another. The story features, in addition, a pine tree, a string of lights, a candy cane and an axe, but really, it's about Chanukah and hey, it does a pretty good job. You might consider getting it for non-Jewish friends, but I'd advise reading the book to make sure first.

Chad Gadya

Liveblogging from the Hazon Food Conference (for more see Jewschool's posts from YehuditBrachah).

We all have a huge amount to say about the goats. I'm not sure that this was planned, but in some ways, this topic has nearly taken over the Hazon Food Conference. And I do not think that this is necessarily a bad thing. The questions that have arisen throughout the past years, regarding the ethics of eating meat - especially kosher meat produced in factory farms, slaughtered in places like Agriprocessors, where the heart of kashrut seems to have bled right out are questions which are just right for the people of this new Jewish sustainable food movement to address.

And while there is a lot going on at this conference, your intrepid livebloggers (YehuditBrachah, KungFu Jew and KRG) have set aside an entire post to talk about the shchita and the conversations surrounding it.

Thursday night, the first night of the conference, Nigel Savage of Hazon started out by explaining how it came about that it was decided to shecht a goat this year at the food conference. Last year during the conference, Nigel asked meat eaters if they would still eat meat if they had to participate in the death of the animal: some said yes, others: no; he then asked the veggies if they would eat meat if they were part of its slaughtering: again, some said no, but others, yes. From this arose the idea to try to humanely schecht a goat at the Hazon Food conference.
That is how Nigel introduced the first panel of the conference: a panel including a shochet, Rabbi Yehuda ben Chemhoun, Rabbi Seth Mandel of the Orthodox Union, who oversees all American slaughterhouses, the shepherd who raised the goats Aitan Mizrahi, the woman who continued to shepherd them when the shepherd separated them from their dams (he is a dairy farmer, and this is how female goats are kept giving milk) Rachel Gall, Dr. Shamu Sadeh of Adamah and Simon Feil.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Chanukah for bad girls and boys

I love a man with a motorcycle menorah. Vroom vroom!
I'll take a real one, though, for myself.

Miss Brown to you

It seems to me that every time I go into a store and pull out a credit card to pay for something, the person looks at the name on the card and addresses me by my first name - or a variant of it. I am sure that they think that they are being friendly. Maybe it's even a store policy for its employees, but I have one thing to say about this: stop!

It doesn't just happen in stores. I have had this happen in doctors' and dentists' offices, at ticket counters, at University - in fact, any place where people have access to some amount of my personal information - even if it's a very small piece.
Perhaps it is a reaction to some real or imagined problem with the "how do you address a woman" after the reintroduction of the perfectly reasonable title of Ms. which like, Mrs. and Miss, are all abbreviations of the the term "mistress" meaning the same thing as Ma'am, short, of course, for "madam." I'm telling, you, just go with "ms." Believe me, you'll be corrected, if that's not what Mrs. Vanderbilt-Smythe prefers, and she'll still be less offended than if you addressed her as Amelia.

All this is actually a mask for a non-etiquette, or at least a different sort of etiquette, problem: Why Americans can't be formal. Yes, we seem to have lost the ability to have any sense of formality. Those folks who know me in person are no doubt wondering if I was hit on the head shortly before writing this post, but the truth is, even though my preferred style of dress is jeans and a t-shirt, maybe with a sweater when it gets cold, and high-tops pretty much year round, I think that we as a nation have really lost something. Not because I think we should all be wearing suits and ties and dinner dresses if we go out to a restaurant, or dressing up to go traveling on a train, but because our much loved "informality" is a cover-up for a loss of the ability to be intimate.

We believe that if we just call each other by first names all the time, we must be buds. It's just not true. What we have lost is the opportunity to get to know one another over time, to be granted the permission to call each other by gradations of intimacy as we get to know one another, the reproval of moving too quickly in a friendship and saying, "that's Miss Brown to you."

And informality covers up other ills, too. If you call your boss by his first name, we must be friends right? So then he has the right to call on you day or night, invite you to parties that aren't really parties, and which you must attend, and go on retreats in which you spend your weekend with people whom you may or may not like, but in any case you haven't the opportunity to choose, since you're obligated to be there on time you could spend with your family or friends. And if we're friends, then we don't need to engage in quarrelsome discussions about parental leave - why would you need that in your contract, we're all friends here - we can work that out when the time comes -unless of course, I don't want to, because it's not in your contract - why don't you take two weeks vacation, or just settle for FMLA unpaid? See you when you run out of money. And of course, there are plenty of workplaces where the "intimacy" goes only one way; the boss is Mr. Winston-Franklin, but everyone who is supervised is Joe and Janet. Don't you resent that, Jan?

In fact, I think that a certain level of business formality at work, and personal formality in acquaintances might very well go far to solving some of the problems we have with people not knowing how to behave in a variety of social and work situations.

I want to throw in, in my own defense, an exchange I had with someone some time ago. I was working on a cover letter for a job, or something like that, and my very good friend was helping me. I think that he had said that I should put some sort of statement in the letter that someone had made about me to show the kind of person I was and my qualities as an employee. So I put in the statement that a secretary (not my own) had said, that I treat everyone exactly the same, whether they were a president or a secretary. My friend responded along the lines of, "That's the best thing anyone has ever said about you?" I was kind of embarrassed, and took it out. But in retrospect, I wish I hadn't. I think that, actually, it is the best thing anyone has ever said about me. I can't imagine a better thing to say about someone.
And it's not like I'm super-formal in my work relationships, either. But it seems to me that among those who are informal, that informality tends to run only one way.

I have noticed that among many of my colleagues, informality is a tool used to promote one's own authority. And, God knows, we could use a little more kavod haRav - I do not begrudge my colleagues one bit of it. I don't know any shuls (outside of ultra-Orthodoxy) where when the rabbi comes to a room to teach, those being taught rise out of respect. It seems to me that to rise for those we claim to respect might be a good thing. Why? I know it seems kind of arrogant to ask people to rise for a person. But let's say we are rising for the role, which is teacher (for that matter, I'd love to see students taught to rise for all their teachers when class begins, but I don't see that getting past the first day of school before the parents call in screaming), rather than for the person. But perhaps there might be some way to show that calling the rabbi by her title and last name are better for the role than Rabbi first name - especially since some rabbis end up called by one thing and some by another, and just in case you were wondering, there does seem to be a large gender component to who gets called what. But perhaps the person teaching your community, who was respected enough to be hired for that purpose, ought to be given a modicum of distance (Thankfully this does leave me out, since I don't work in that kind of arrangement. Please continue to not call me by my title unless you're asking me for a psak). Because as rabbis know, the distance is there, whether it is acknowledged or not.

I guess what I am saying is that when we confuse informality with intimacy, we all lose, because actual intimacy gets brushed aside for a cheap substitute. I would rather spend a few years getting to know someone, and then having them say, "Oh, please call me Fred," then call them Fred right off, and not know whether or not we're really friends. Not to mention the scads of in-laws who can now stop wondering what to call their partner's parents, and settle for "Um," and "Ah," since they can't bring themselves to call their in-laws either Mom and Pop, as if their own had abandoned them and they'd been adopted by some kindly strangers, or John and Mary (or since I'm Jewish, let's say, Jonah and Miriam) but just also can't bring themselves to be "too formal" and call them Mr and Ms. because then the spouse's parents will think that the bride doesn't like them. If we could just acknowledge that sometimes there are roles we play to smooth our way in life, and that if we want friendships and more, we have to wait for them, we could start using more formal terms without making it seem as if we were rejecting the people we are addressing. Let's just make it a rule. And it seems to me also, that especially in terms of work, I'd really much rather call the janitor Mr. Johnson, than "Joe," -why should he have to suffer from being addressed as if he were my buddy, rather than my colleague in the work of making a certain place function?

And by the way, you at the salescounter, with the badge that says, "Sarah," can I call you Miss Brown, please?