early Jewish Christmas
Saturday, December 24 2005
Since "tomorrow is a travel day," we decided to move our usual Christmas rituals (Jewish and otherwise) up by one day. This morning Gretchen gave me socks packed with things like candy, nuts, and brandy. In the past she's just put things in socks taken from my drawers, but then I told her how, as a child, Christmas was always a time when I would get a new pair of socks as part of the ritual. So this year she gave me two pairs of wool socks, both stuffed with the aforementioned things, as well as errata such as a pocket kaleidescope, some paint brushes, colored pencils, and a metal-and-magnet sculptural puzzle that can be made to look vaguely like a cat. (I have a feeling I'll be using its parts for more practical purposes.)
This evening before beginning our Jewish Christmas festivities, we acted as though it was the first day of Chanukah and lit the household menorah (which happens to be the very first copper pipe menorah I ever made). Then we exchanged gifts; for Gretchen it was a kerosene lamp (so she can still do her crossword puzzles through the next power outage) and for me it was a copy of Al Franken's book The Truth (With Jokes).
The Chinese restaurant we went to was the Chinese Gourmet on Ulster Avenue, a place we'd never gone before. This part of town is known mostly for its auto parts retailers, Salvation Army outlet, and Mansard roofs, so it was a bit of a surprise to see the robust and rustic construction used inside the Chinese Gourmet, where exposed hardwood roof trusses tower above the main dining area. The food there is actually a little overpriced but it perfectly adequate, particularly for the annual festival known as Jewish Christmas. JUdging by superficial appearances, we looked as though we were the only people in the restaurant celebrating JC a day early.
The Asian theme of a proper Jewish Christmas dinner doesn't have to carry over to the inevitable movie that follows, though today it did. We snuck into the cinema at the Mall to see Memoirs of a Geisha, a film adaptation of the book by the same name. (Gretchen interned at a small publishing house when the manuscript for that book first surfaced, but they rejected it.)
We both found the movie terribly flawed. In the end it just left me with questions: What is a Geisha? (And why is it impossible to stop being one?) How big of a role does sex really play? ("None" is obviously the wrong answer.) What was it like to be Japanese in Japan during World War II? (Other than "You stop being a Geisha if you happen to be one.") What is it like to be poor in Japan? (I'm sure "you wash lots of banners in streams" isn't the full story.) Did the Americans have any difficulty occupying Japan? ("It was just like Iraq is now" is probably the wrong answer.) The only things going for this movie are its gorgeous sets and scenes. In that one scene where the pre-pubescent Sayuri is on the roof making an escape, I found myself wishing the roof of my house looked like that.
This evening I received my first-ever spam from someone on Friendster. It was from someone called "Lucy" and directed me to a site that looked like this. It's been awhile since I looked at a web page advertising a get-rich-quick scheme but I'm sure they've been refined since I last did. This one takes a classic route, reminding the dopey scam prospect of the things that can be done with, well, money. We're shown the purported scammer's cars and house, along with a bank statement featuring a week of large deposits. The nature of Friendster makes spamming an involved activity. First you have to create an identity and introduce yourself to people and convince them that you are their friend. Then, once you've built a big enough network, you sacrifice the whole thing to what you've been planning all along: your act of spam. I looked at "Lucy"'s profile to see who "she" was and sure enough "she" was about as generic as an internet pseudoperson can be. There was no picture and the "interests" were all boilerplate. Obviously, though, to develop a network "she" had had to give something, so "she" had volunteered such interests as "swimming, working out, hanging with friends, movies, the internet" and said that, when it comes to movies, "she" likes "anything funny." Lovely.
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