Friday, December 13, 2013
When young Jewish people come of age, we’re traditionally called to the torah for the first time. And so, at his bar-mitzvah, my nephew would be reading the portion known as Lehk Lekha.
I made my niece sister a painting for her bat-mitzvah. So of course I would be doing the same for my nephew. I don’t paint much these days, but making a gift of a painting for a major life event has become a bit of a tradition for me. It’s not the cheapest present–oil paints are expensive–but it gives me a project. I always feel good when I’m working on a canvas.
A few years ago, figuring out what, exactly to paint for my niece wasn’t easy; her torah portion was all about laws and rituals, without much of a plot or anything visual. But this time I was luckier. My nephew would be reading a bit of the Hebrew bible with a good story, from near the beginning of Genesis. (Most of the good stories are in Genesis.) This portion’s name is sometimes translated as “go forth” or “leave”. “And YHWH said to Abram, ‘go from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house to the land that I’ll show you.’” This is the bit where Amrab/Abraham is told his descendants will be many, that they will be a “great nation”. God speaks to our hero thus: read more »
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 film Drive was a fairly major sensation. Mixing the sensibilities of an art film with the qualities of a big-budget action flick, Drive became a critical darling with its stylistic violence and pulsing synth-laden soundtrack. Its lead actor, Ryan Gosling who was more known from schmalzy romance films, became a poster-boy for cool, and Gosling’s stylish Scorpion jacket became a must-have prop for movie buffs. read more »
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Sweaty. Hot. Disgusting. Welcome to summer in Australia.
One of my fondest memories of summer is the ice-cream man. He would come round with his blue and white truck plastered with the name “Home Ice-Cream”. If you ran along behind the truck, there were mouth watering pictures of all the different ice-blocks he had for sale.
It began with the faint ringing of a bell that could be heard from streets away, but I wouldn’t drop what I was doing quite yet–there was still time before his truck would reach our street. There would be a few minutes of silence as the truck stopped on other streets to deliver its boxes of happiness to other eagerly awaiting children. Then it would start up again, closer this time. That was when I’d rush to my parents and beg them for money. I’d wait impatiently, hopping from foot to foot as they ambled leisurely into their bedroom at the other end of the house to get their wallets. Meanwhile, the bell would increase in volume as the truck got ever closer to our little cul-de-sac. read more »
Monday, December 9, 2013
My beloved asked me this week if I had seen the photos going viral of the contestants in the Miss Korea 2013 pageant. Of course he wasn’t actually aware that the photos were contestants until I pointed it out. Being Korean himself, he gets his share of Asian pinup girl photos in his inbox and YouTube feeds. So, he just thought it was some sort of Facebook spam at first. He also thought the photos were all of the same girl. That of course was the common perception among a great many folks who saw the images, thus the viral reaction. He was very surprised that women would go to such lengths to achieve such an eerily similar look, completely obliterating any shred of diversity in their appearances.Then I made his face nearly hit the floor. I pointed out to him that women are now also opting for a very different kind of plastic surgery. They are having their lady-parts recrafted into someone’s (goodness knows I cannot imagine whose) idea of ideal. Plastic surgery on your face? This I can sort of wrap my head around. Sort of being the key phrase in the sentence. I can get some vague perspective on why someone would want to present whatever they think is their best visage to the world. I can even understand the boob job, at least in part. I particularly feel for those so well endowed that their voluminous girls cause them back trouble, or for those struck by breast cancer. I have less sympathy for those wanting merely to create more distracting cleavage, but whatever floats your boat. read more »
Friday, December 6, 2013
“Why do Filipinos send Christmas cards to the dead?” I asked my mother. She was doing the daily crossword puzzle in my kitchen, just before Thanksgiving.
“What?” She drew her brows together, kept her eyes on the crossword. “We don’t.”
“Sure you do. You always sent Lola a Christmas card and a birthday card. Delia too.” Lola is the Tagalog word for Grandma; mine had passed away in 1975. Delia was my sister, who we’d lost in 1991. I confess, having left home over twenty years ago, that I am no longer familiar with my mother’s postal habits, but I do remember the greeting cards, sent to the Philippines from home, or brought in-person to the cemetery and displayed for the season. read more »
Thursday, December 5, 2013
When I was a child, there was one celebration I looked forward to more than Christmas. “Blasphemy!” I hear some of you say. Let me put it this way. During Christmas, you get presents in nice gift-wrapped packages, and what you get tends to be pot luck. During Chinese New Year, however, you get cold, hard cash in small red envelopes.
There’s really no comparison.
As I’ve grown older, however, I’ve learned to appreciate it for what it is: a time when the family comes together. Doesn’t matter how far or how long you need to travel, you get yourself home for it. If you’ve ever seen photos of the New Year crowds in China that fill the train stations and airports from wall-to-wall, or the cars backed up for hundreds of kilometres along the highways, you’ll understand the strength of that compulsion. Asian culture tends to be more focused around the family unit and the Chinese New Year holiday period is certainly one of the main examples. read more »
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month when you gather the land’s produce, you shall celebrate YHWH’s holiday seven days. [...] And on the first day you shall take fruit of appealing trees, branches of palms, boughs of thick trees, and willows of a wadi, and you shall be happy in front of YHWH, your God, seven days. [...] Every citizen in Israel shall live in booths, so your generations will know that I had the children of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am YHWH, your God.”
–Leviticus 23:39–43, Translated by Richard Elliot Friedman
Those of you who celebrate Christmas may not give a lot of thought to those who don’t. Sure, you may say “happy holidays” and support having a menorah next to the Christmas tree downtown. But the mere existence of Christmas affects people who don’t celebrate it. read more »
Monday, December 2, 2013
I went AWOL last week. (I crumbled at the first strains of holiday music, fantastic Assistant Editor that I am.) I didn’t give in to Black Friday. I never left the house on Small Business Saturday. Now it’s Cyber Monday and I really couldn’t give a flying… fluffernutter. (It’s my daughter’s word. Very handy.) It was combination of cleaning, winterizing–yes, even at this late date–food shopping, food prepping, frantically trying to meet a deadline that was utterly hopeless, desperate job searching, and the obligatory nasty cold that swept through the household. All of this finally did me in. read more »
Friday, November 29, 2013
Christmas was the ultimate childhood experience. You spent weekends perusing Sears catalogs as thick as phone books. There were nighttime gingerbread making sessions. The very calendar days were made of chocolate.
And in the 1970s, the Monday before any holiday at 8pm on CBS was reserved for Charlie Brown.
It was a threshold. When you saw a Charlie Brown special, some kind of special occasion was almost here: one week away at most. And you didn’t just watch it; you prepared for it. read more »
Thursday, November 28, 2013
The holidays are the perfect time of year to join friends and family in enjoying holiday themed music, books, and, of course, film. It explains why TBS can get away with a twenty-four hour marathon of A Christmas Story or Home Alone. Christmas puts people in a good mood, and they want that reflected in the media they consume. While I could write about obvious choices such as The Nightmare Before Christmas or the live-action comedy Elf, it’s much more fun to pop in more alternative choices such as Die Hard or Lethal Weapon. I guess I’m a funny sort of guy since I find extreme violence contrasted with the joyous feelings of the holidays to be darkly humorous.
And nowhere is this theme more prevalent than in the works of film director Shane Black, who has made Christmas his own cinematic playground for his bombastic action films; the aforementioned Lethal Weapon, The Long Kiss Goodbye, and even the recent Iron Man 3 have all featured the holiday as a backdrop. But a film that certainly puts me into the Christmas Spirit is Black’s first directed film, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2006), a comedy-noir hybrid that takes place around the Christmas holidays. read more »