Showing posts from November, 2007

Pakistan, explained

One of my favorite vlogs, Brotherhood 2.0, had a great episode in which the Pakistani situation is cogently explained. For those of you who have trouble grasping this subject, here it is. I'm also posting pictures of the players in this drama so you can put a face with a name.

Clockwise we see Sharif, Bhutto, and Musharraf.

Enchanted Love: Is it Hassidic?

The day after I saw the Disney movie, Enchanted, one of my students commented about dating and marriage. "We don't believe in dating. It's immoral. We get to know someone for the purpose of choosing someone for marriage."

Her comment struck me as quintessentially Disney. While I know that Mr. Disney was a staunch anti-Semite, it's quite a kick to think of his company's portrayal of love to be quite Hassidic!

The Disney formula of star-crossed lovers who "know" of their destiny at first sight and struggle against evil to be together and race, giddy to the alter resonates with most people on a very basic level. Are we wired this way? Has Disney tapped into part of our basic human design?

If this is the case. If the fairytale model is the human ideal, why do we live the way we do? Why do adults treat one another as disposable? Why are they callus and self-seeking? If it's antithetical to our true nature, why is this so prevalent? Did our Cr…

Lessons from Eleanor Roosevelt

The day after Thanksgiving my parents and I went to the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, NY. In this season of gratitude I am so blessed to be newly thankful for this great American President. The most pleasant surprise was to have a proper introduction to Eleanor Roosevelt, "The First Lady to the World". I've always been drawn to great women who succeeded in love though they were not blessed with beauty. Mrs. Roosevelt was goaded by her family for her "ugly" looks, the blackest stain on a young lady who wished to marry well.

I watched my mother's heart change toward Mrs. Roosevelt as we listened to her say "I was the black sheep of the family. The most important thing for a young lady was to be beautiful. I came from a family of beautiful women, and I was the only one who was plain. I tried to make up for it by being very polite and learning all I could."

All women struggle with feelings of ugliness. Even supermodels have their we…


I had the girls write a journal entry on Shabbat, and they were lovely pieces. Since so many of them said that they would visit my blog, I thought I'd write a piece on the subject too. Here goes.

Researching my novel, I have had to learn about the daily life of Jews. Many of my main characters are partly Jewish with very strong mothers. As I fleshed out these characters I found myself asking: How would their Jewish traditions inform the development of the household?

Some characters maintained faith and tradition, others tradition and little faith, but they all feel the pull to include their "Jewishness" in their daily lives. As I research dietary laws, sabbath customs, gender roles, and other aspects of traditional Jewish life, I learn about my fictional characters. It's a rather odd way to experience Judaism, but, there you are!

Studying Medieval life, I am realizing what an amazing gift the sabbath is. The drudgery of cooking, cleaning, milling, farming, etc. …

Oy, a Goy in the Yeshiva!

I took a part-time job substituting for a High School teacher in an Orthodox Jewish School. My classes are 100% girls with all the giggling and chatting that entails. I began my work with them today and it was a lot of fun.

On my way home I found myself crying. The essence of these young women is quintessentially Jewish: their faces, their laughter, their humor, their indomitable spirit. I remembered my summer in Germany and how I had the terrible feeling that something was missing, like salt in a stew or the orange peel in baklava. This feeling gnawed at me until I finally realized that the thing that was missing were the Jews (along with all the other people who were "different"). I remember sitting by the lake of the castle (my summer home that year) and weeping. I had just realized the magnitude of the Holocaust. As I met my new students today, I was reminded that young women just like them were systematically eliminated by a culture which wished itself bland. …

The Lighter Side

Book Club Suggestion!

Beethoven's Hair: This book is mesmerizing! A quick read under 300 pages, it is a CSI: Vienna. The book follows a lock of Beethoven's hair from his deathbed in Vienna to a doctor harboring jews in Nazi-occupied Denmark to Sotheby's auction house and the American men who bought it in the 1990s.

Science teachers would love the book as an example of the scientific process in the exploration of history. The care with which the sample is treated is discussed in a detailed manner without being too technical. The results help us to empathize with a human being who suffered greatly in life. The book also would be a good starting point for a discussion of scientific ethics; is it ethical for an employer or teacher to demand some of your hair for drug testing?, who actually owns genetic material?, and the like.

As a lesson in history we learn how the lock of hair was kept safe from the Nazis, how the music of Beethoven was tauted as the supreme Aryan achiev…

Listening with your whole being

How do we listen?

If your answer is "not very well," I'll agree with you. It's so ironic that in this age of communications, we listen less and less to one another. This is the story of people who are learning to listen, not with their ears, but with their whole beings.

Example #1: Evelyn Glennie, Solo Percussionist, Motivational Speaker, Profoundly deaf

Evelyn's life's work is to "teach the world to listen". If you have 35 minutes, make yourself a cup of tea and watch the embedded video. She has perfect pitch, a rare (1 in 10,000) gift for being able to name the exact frequency of a sound. Such people are their own tuning fork! Dame Evelyn's tuning is her body. She feels specific pitches in different parts of her legs, arms, face, and torso. You can feel these pitches too, you just don't because you haven't noticed. Take the time to hear the following noises with your body. Let me know how it feels.
thundera snoring spousea fir…

ESL and Music

I've begun work on the lesson plans for the Boston Symphony project and got an interesting google alert for a posting. A man in Columbia uses music to help students learn English as a foreign language. This immediately made me think of my experiences with Latin and German. I learned poems and music in these languages and these songs stayed with me for the rest of my life. When I forget how the rhythm of the grammar goes, I remember the music.

Let's learn some Latin together!
Gaius est Agricola Gaius est agricola. E-I-E-I-O
In agris eius equi sunt. E-I-E-I-O
Hic hinniunt. Ibi hinniunt.
Hi-hi-hinniunt ubique!

Gaius est agricola. E-I-E-I-O
In agris eius boves sunt. E-I-E-I-O
Hic mugiunt. Ibi mugiunt.
Mu-mu-mugiunt ubique!

Gaius est agricola. E-I-E-I-O
In agris eius oves sunt. E-I-E-I-O
Hic balant. Ibi balant.
Ba-ba-balant ubique!

Gaius est agricola. E-I-E-I-O
In agris eius porci sunt. E-I-E-I-O
Hic grunniunt. Ibi grunniunt.
Gru-gru-grunniunt ubique!

Gaius est agricola. E-I-E-I-O
In agr…

The Power of Touch

In most states it is illegal to touch a student in any way and for any reason. This is short-sighted, fear-based thinking that disregards a basic human need and means of communication. The scandals in the Roman Catholic Church have fueled this mania. It is a tragedy.

Touch is a primary way that human beings communicate, bond, and learn. Parents model what loving touch is. Teachers model what cooperative and communal touch is. Peers use touch in their social groups to show status, acceptance, and rejection.

This past weekend, I had my first ever massage, manicure, and pedicure. My life outlook (normally good anyway), was even sweeter, more optimistic, and loving than it was before. Money, prestige, politics, and other mundane worries took a back seat to friendship and family, even though the person who massaged me was neither a friend or family member.

Have I given a little dose of this to children who hug me as they pass in the hall?
Is this what a child seeks when they fall into …