Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
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Irving housing

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Like my brownhouse:
   Jewish Christmas, 2004
Saturday, December 25 2004
On Christmas day Gretchen and I have a ritual that is based on what I told her Christmas was like during my childhood. When I was a kid my mother would buy me a pair of wool socks and stuff them with small gifts; this was in addition to other gifts that I might or might not get, depending on my age and the relative prosperity of the family. Now when Christmas comes, my Jewish Santa Claus takes one of her big Guatemalan socks and stuffs it with similar loot (nuts, booze, chocolate, and goofy trinkets) and recovers her sock after I've extracted my stuff from it.
This morning the loot included a bag of cashews, another of unshelled pistachios, a small flask of Paul Masson brandy, the tiniest possible bottle of Black Label Scotch, two chocolates shaped like race cars, a larger one shaped like a rocket ship, a small glow-in-the-dark rubber duckie, and a rubbery brain with the ability to walk about on two feet if someone were to wind him up. In addition to the stocking, Gretchen gave me two books, the gorgeous Lone Pine Field Guide to Mushrooms of Northeast North America and Animals in Translation, a book by Temple Grandin, a functioning austistic woman who designs humane cattle slaughter houses. (Gretchen had read about her in Bark Magazine and thought she seemed interesting, though the Bark article hadn't mentioned Temple's work in the cattle industry.) I'll be adding Animals in Translation as segue on the bookshelf from the food industry section (featuring Fast Food Nation) to the mental health section (featuring a textbook entitled Abnormal Psychology).
After I'd eaten nearly all of my cashews, Gretchen and I set off on a two or three mile walk to the end of the Stick Trail and then back via the "secret ninja path" from the abandoned go cart track. I wasn't suitably dressed for the 20-something degree temperatures and at first it seemed my ears might freeze, but eventually they grew accustomed to the conditions.

This evening our Tillsonian friends (the former meatlocker residents) came over to our house to celebrate Jewish Christmas. We started out with snacks and a game of Scrabble wherein I emerged victorious (though Gretchen was only three points shy of my score). Then, for the Chinese food phase of the evening, we headed out to the Kingston Tea Garden (also known by the words written in the largest letters over its door, "CHOP SUEY"). There were two or three other tables occupied by Jewish Christmas celebrants, though later an obviously non-Jewish family came sat down for dinner. Their kid brought his most-cherished Christmas present with him, a one piece portable DVD player, complete with screen. Through the meal he was watching a movie, unwittingly combining the two major elements of a proper Jewish Christmas into one event. At the end of his meal I heard the kid asking his mother what he numbers on the back of his fortune meant and she explained that these were the ones "you're supposed to use when you play the lottery." She said this in the matter-of-fact manner of someone who plays the lottery routinely. And this wasn't the only thing that lead me to think that her Christmas was not a Jewish one.
The movie we saw after dinner was Ocean's Twelve playing at the mall, where it's possible to sneak in for free. Gretchen and I took off our coats in the car so, if we should be accosted by minimum-wage theatre employees, we could make the argument that we'd just gone out for a smoke. Our Tillsonian friends, on the other hand, wore their coats into the theatre and ended up having to pay.
Ocean's Twelve is the sort of movie that seems as if it was designed specifically for Jewish Christmas. It's a big-budget blockbuster, and it's completely, improbably escapist. We honestly didn't expect much, since it's a sequel to a good movie about a gang of super-cool safe crackers. But Ocean's Twelve managed to hold its own, and it did so using a different formula from the one that worked so well in Ocean's Eleven. It wasn't that it had a compelling or engaging story arc, because it didn't. If anything, the plot was a maddeningly hasty impressionistic sketch whose meat and connective sinews were largely left up to the imaginations of the audience members. What mattered were the gritty character studies and self-referential use of actors. This was the first movie I'd ever seen where an actress played a character impersonating herself. It was the least groan-inducing use of Julia Roberts to date. That alone was worth the free admission.

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