Viva Las Vegas

December 31, 2007 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Outings | Leave a comment

If I told you that I did not gamble in Vegas, most people would not believe me. After all, isn’t that what people do in Vegas? I would have tried my luck at the blackjack tables but I was too busy looking at the aquarium at Mandalay Bay, going to The Beatles Cirque Du Soleil show at the Mirage, hiking in Red Rock Canyon, and touring Hoover Dam.

Everyone should take a family vacation at one point in life. Due to busy schedules, it’s a rare occasion when everyone in my family is in the same place and we were together for 3-4 days. These experiences are more special to me now, g-d only knows when our next family vacation will be. Everyone had a wonderful time, there was hardly any complaining (except when we were all waiting for my dad to finish reading about every exhibit in the Hoover Dam museum). I’ll fill you in on a little something: we went to vegas to celebrate my dad’s birthday, which was actually yesterday. Since I don’t think he would like me to reveal his age, I will say that it was a very special birthday : )

My little nephews love Las Vegas; while I still don’t think Las Vegas is the first place that comes to mind when I think of vacation spots for kids, LV is not a bad place at all. Other than the aquarium at Mandalay Bay, our hotel has a lion habitat that’s very popular with the kiddies and Circus Circus has some great stuff for kids too.

Time to get back to work : ) I will write a more detailed post of the Cirque Du Soleil show later this week.

Vacation: My Most Favorite Word

December 23, 2007 at 11:02 pm | Posted in Outings | Leave a comment

Tomorrow starts my vacation in Sin City aka Las Vegas. Mentally, I started my vacation the minute I left work on Friday. I had a lovely young woman stay with me for Shabbos; it was her first time in my neighborhood for Shabbos and hopefully not the last : )

Saturday night was Bill’s birthday party. He plans a party every year with his friend, E. and this year it was at another bar in my neighborhood. We had the downstairs room to ourselves and it was a rockin’ party. There was great music and even better company. The party was very laid back and non-pretentious, just like Bill.  There was karaoke upstairs and a bunch of people stayed afterwards to watch two people butcher “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

So what will I do in Vegas? A little bit of gambling, watching some shows, eating, and maybe see some of the other sites in Vegas. You will probably not hear from me until Friday; until then, happy holidays to my loyal readers : )

Life Without Television: Is Such a Thing Possible?

December 19, 2007 at 10:09 pm | Posted in Random Stuff | Leave a comment
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It is pretty obvious that the writers strike will not be ending anytime soon. Most of the shows currently running have run out of new episodes. There will be some midseason replacements coming up and a whole bunch of reality shows too. Anyone looking forward to Scott Baio is 46 and whatever or Celebrity Fit Club? Don’t raise your hands all at once. What are we going to do without new TV shows?

Bill has decided to not watch TV for a month; he feels that he wastes too much time watching TV and he can accomplish more if he stops watching TV. If I ask nicely he might offer some insights so stay tuned…

Update: Bill has decided to start the TV fast after X-mas.

Not Your Typical Bridal Shower

December 19, 2007 at 4:33 pm | Posted in Outings | Leave a comment
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When you think of a bridal shower, what is the first image that pops in your head? If I told you that I played a rousing game of basketball at a bridal shower, you probably wouldn’t believe me. But that is exactly what happened last night at my chavrusa’s bridal shower. For more background, read this post .

The bridal shower took place in Brooklyn. I forgot to mention that it was a surprise bridal shower. I got subway directions from hopstop, and didn’t realize that in addition to a long subway ride involving 2 trains, there would also be a fair bit of walking involved after I left the station (try 15-20 minutes!).

There were about 7-10 women there when I arrived, and the bride-to-be had not arrived yet. About 15-20 minutes after my arrival, the bride showed up and yes, she was in shock. As much as I kvetched inwardly about the long subway ride and walk afterwards, I loved seeing the look on my friend’s face as she walked in and saw all of our smiling faces. I almost wanted to ask her to go back out and walk inside again.

In addition to basketball, there was food (what would a jewish event be without food?!?). We had a nice meal of pizza, salad, and chips followed by a make your own ice cream sundae station. What about the game? As tempting as it was to sit and stuff my face for the whole night, I did play some ball.  All of the girls were playing in skirts, with exercise pants underneath.

It was my first (and last) time playing basketball in a skirt. How anyone does not trip over their own feet playing in a skirt is beyond me. I managed to stay upright most of the game. I forgot how much fun basketball can be; don’t ask me to actually shoot the ball because I can’t make a basket if my life depended on it but I can run up and down the court all night long. I couldn’t stay for the second half of the game. Thankfully, I had someone to travel back with for part of the way and we got a ride to the subway station : )

Sometimes you don’t feel like going to certain events and you can come up with a litany of excuses for why you don’t want to go (it’s too cold, i have to take 2 trains, it’s in brooklyn). When you decide to go anyway, sometimes you end up having a better time than expected and that is exactly what happened last night. Unfortunately, I cannot go to the wedding because I will be in Las Vegas with my family. Maybe I’ll win some extra money at the blackjack tables and give my winnings to the newlyweds. Stranger things have happened….

Project Runway Season 4 Episode 5: Jack Gets a Boo-Boo

December 18, 2007 at 4:04 pm | Posted in TV shows | Leave a comment
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We start off in the apartments, Sweet P is sad that Chris is out of the competition. Meanwhile,  Jack talks to Kevin about his boo-boo. I know that when Big Peanut gets a boo-boo, his mommy gives him either ‘kiss medicine’, ‘juice medicine’, or ‘ice medicine’. Jack was icing his face; initially he thought it was only a zit but his face is swelling up. Did the ice medicine help? We shall see….

Heidi starts to introduce the next challenge to the designer and we see a figure standing behind the screen. Sweet P is not sure what that means, she opines that the figure could be a drag queen or a transvestite. A woman walks onto the runway in a wedding dress several sizes too big for her and she is followed by 10 other women in clothing way too big for them. All of these women have lost alot of weight, ranging from 50 lbs. to 160 lbs. each.

The challenge is for the designers to make an outfit for each of these women that uses their old outfits as raw material and that can be used in their everyday lives. The outfits also need to reflect the designers’ point of view. Heidi randomly pairs up the designers with each of the women and Steve gets the woman in the wedding dress. The “Oh s*it” look on his face was priceless.

The designers start sketching and they meet with their ‘models’. We learn that Christian’s model does not wear dresses, skirts, and prints and wears black and jeans everyday. Steven’s model wishes him luck. Tim tells the designers that they have $10 to buy extra fabric at Mood. While at Mood, Jillian decides to discard her model’s original shirt and get her fabric in the exact same red color as the shirt. Her excuse is that there are too many darts and seaming in the original fabric. Steven decides to discard most of the wedding dress fabric and buys a bunch of black dress fabric. He will use part of the dress for the collar and the sleeves. Will these decisions backfire?

Back in the design room, Jack is in pain and talks with his doctor about the zit that is no longer a zit. Jack thinks he has a MRSA infection on his face. When Tim comes in, Jack asks to speak with him in private. Due to health reasons, Jack decides to leave the show. Christian and Kit, his teammates in the last challenge, are the first to hug him goodbye.

After Jack leaves, Tim Gunn tells the designers that someone else is coming back in the competition. Chris March, who was in my opinion unfairly kicked off last challenge, comes back into the competition. Chris gets to work through the night because he is getting a late start.

The 2nd day of the challenge is upon us and most of the designers are content with their work, except for Steven. He is in such bad shape that even Kevin and Victorya help him finish. Steve looks like he is walking the plank in one of those pirate movies.

Patrick Robinson, head designer at The Gap, is the guest judge. The top three designers are: Kevin, Christian, and Jillian. The bottom three designers are: Chris, Eliza, and Steven.

I was not happy that Jillian was in the top 3, she didn’t follow the rules of the challenge. What’s the point of rules when people will not be penalized for breaking them? Rami should have been in the top 3 instead. Christian was the right choice for winner, his outfit is something that would fit with his client’s everyday life and she was very happy with it. Steven’s defeatist attitude did him in. There was no reason why he couldn’t have made a bustier out of the top of the wedding dress and paired it with a nice A-line skirt.

The only issue I had with Ricky’s outfit was the fabric he chose for the top, if you’re going to wear a nude top, at least wear a camisole underneath. I’m not sure if it was his choice or his client’s choice to not wear a tank top underneath. I would have put Victorya’s outfit in the bottom 3 instead of Chris March’s, that outfit was boring and had no sense of fun whatsoever. I thought Kit and Sweet P did awesome jobs with the material they were given.

I enjoyed seeing Tim Gunn’s interactions with the designers this week, we learned that he makes very bad decisions at 3AM. Don’t we all? Ricky trying on his outfit was funny, he would not make a good drag queen. It was a little touching to see him tear up when he was talking about his model, it would have been even more touching if we did not see him crying in every episode prior to that moment.

Previews for the next episode are intriguing, it looks pretty similar to the challenge last season where they had to use recyclable materials. I do hope Chris March gets to stay awhile, and I wonder if Jack will be brought back on the show in some capacity. Remember last season when Vincent and Angela were brought back? I think something similar will happen, we’ll see if I’m right.

Writing Classes

December 17, 2007 at 3:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I am thinking of taking a writing class this winter, preferably a journalism class. There is a class on breaking into the womens magazine field that interests me. I know The New School, NYU, and Media Bistro have these classes. If anyone has taken a class at these places, what is the quality of these classes? Did it help your writing in any way?

Song of the Day

December 14, 2007 at 2:37 pm | Posted in Song of the Day | Leave a comment
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In general, I think the popular music of today is disposable. Most songs that are popular now you will most likely forget in a month or two, maybe a few weeks from now.

The latest song by Incubus, “Dig”, is not a song you will forget. The lyrics are among the most thought provoking in music today and might even make you shed a tear. The video might seem a bit odd to you at first but if you listen closely to the lyrics, the video does make sense, eventually.

Project Runway Season 4 Episode 4: Lighten Up, It’s Just Fashion

December 12, 2007 at 9:14 pm | Posted in TV shows | Leave a comment
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The challenge was for the designers to work with outdated fashion trends and make them current and relevant. Each designer had to choose a bad fashion trend. One more thing, they also had to work in teams of 3. The first name I put down for each team is the captain.

Christian, Kit, Jack: pleather, zoot suit, fringe

Jillian, Rami, Kevin: overalls, poodle skirt, 70s flare

Ricky, Victorya, Eliza: neon, underwear as outerwear, cutouts

Chris, Sweet P, Steven: shoulder pads, baggy sweater, dancewear

Some workroom drama included Jillian worrying over whether Kevin would finish making a pair of shorts, Ricky and Victorya’s total lack of communication, and Steven’s doubts about Chris March’s outfit, specifically the jacket.

Donna Karan joined the holy trinity as the guest judge this week.

Jillian won the challenge. You can see the winning designs here: Jillian, Rami, Kevin

Christian’s team did very well. You can see his team’s designs here: Christian, Kit, Jack

The bottom two teams were:

Ricky, Victorya, Elisa and Chris, Sweet P, and Steven.

Ricky and Chris were the bottom two, Chris was auf’ed.

I agreed with the judges choice for winner, but I could not be more unhappy with their decision to keep Ricky on. He reminds me of Ann from America’s Next Top Model Season 3. It seemed like Ann was in the bottom 2 like every other week and she stayed until the final 4. I  hope Ricky will leave before that point. Maybe he is a talented designer but so far, he is known more for being very emotional rather than for his designs.

Favorite Moments:

Christian calling his team “Team Star”

Steven doing a Tim Gunn imitation, not as good as Santino’s but his fellow designers seemed to like it

Judaism and Ice Cream

December 10, 2007 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Judaism, Opinion piece | 1 Comment

What do Judaism and ice cream have in common? Ice cream comes in almost any flavor you can think of and as this article in the New York Times demonstrates, services also come in different flavors, especially if you are lucky enough to live in a large city. Reading this article made me think back to when I first started going to services regularly in New York City. First, a little background: The only times I went to shul when I was a kid were during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Imagine being in a building where you are one of the youngest people there and reciting prayers that have little, if any, meaning to you. You might think that I would have an intense dislike of  synagogue and at one point, I really did. Moving to a new city gave me the opportunity to go to Jewish events and see what I had been missing out on.

I started going to the beginner/intermediate services at Aish Hatorah 5 years ago. There was separate seating for men and women and most of the service was conducted in Hebrew; asking questions was encouraged, particularly in the part of the service where the Torah portion is read. I also started learning at Aish during the week and made some very good friends that I still keep in touch with today. It was the first time that I saw Judaism as having meaning in my everyday life and not just something I acknowledge only during holidays.

I also went to services at Reform and Conservative shuls; one time it was for a bat mitzvah; other times I went with friends or on my own. When I went to the Reform shuls, I felt like I was in church with all the organ music. It was very disorienting. I also tried services at a popular West side synagogue known for their music; while their services did not appeal to me, I have gone back a couple times for concerts.

I identify and connect the most with Orthodox services. I like the separate seating, it just reinforces that you come to synagogue to connect with G-d. Afterwards, it’s time to socialize : ). However, I understand that not everyone feels the same way. For those who are uncomfortable with Orthodox services, I feel that it’s better to go to a non-Orthodox service and truly connect with Judaism rather than go to Orthodox services and resent the whole thing or worse yet, not having any connection with Judaism.

What kind of services do I go to? I go to intermediate services at my shul, there is a nice crowd of 30-40 people that show up, sometimes more if there is a bar mitzvah/bat mitzvah going on. They are very similar to the Aish services I started going to. When I am visiting my parents on the weekend, I do go to the shul I mentioned in the first paragraph. I still am one of the youngest people there, 3 rabbis have moved to the area in the past 3-4 years and they have brought new life to the shul. I am very friendly with one of the rabbis in particular and have shared many Shabbas and holiday meals with him and his family.

I can’t get ice cream out of my head now. Here are my attempts at analogies:

Traditional Orthodox services: vanilla ice cream

Carlebach services: Ben & Jerry’s Phish Phood

Anyone want to try?

The Mist

December 10, 2007 at 3:30 pm | Posted in Movies | Leave a comment
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WARNING: IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM, DO NOT READ THIS POST.

On Saturday night, Bill and I saw a late night showing of The Mist. I was expecting a scary film but the messages and implications of the movie left a deeper impression on me than any of the locusts and tentacles ever did.

The character that scared me the most was Mrs. Carmody, played by Marcia Gay Harden. In the beginning of the crisis, she was a crazy lady spouting out Bible verses, not one to be paid attention to. But as the crisis progressed, her views started gaining attention and she attracted all but a handful of the people in the grocery store. The things she got them to do within a day or two was frightful, they beat up and stabbed one of the military guys when they found out about the Arrowhead project and his involvement in that, even though it was minimal; they were going to hurt Mr. Drayton’s boy and Amanda before Ollie, the store manager, shot her. I was thinking about the Milgram experiments and how people blindly follow the herd, even though what they’re doing is the wrong thing. It was complete anarchy in the store and Mrs. Carmody appeared to be a leader, even though she was absolutely nuts.

There were a handful of people that were able to keep their cool; Mr. Drayton, his little boy, Amanda, Irene, Ollie, and an older gentleman whose name I can’t recall. They managed to escape from the grocery store and drive south. All they saw around them was the mist and not a sign of human life. Mr. Drayton realizes that there are only 4 bullets and with the silent approval of everyone in the car, he kills them all. A few minutes later, Mr. Drayton sees army tanks full of people and is heartbroken to realize that if he waited a few minutes longer, they all would have been saved.

The ending was absolutely heartbreaking; I am familiar with Stephen King’s work and understand that there are no happy endings in his novels. Intellectually I understood that the ending was the right one for this kind of movie but I was very upset anyway. If you are squeamish at the sight of blood or extreme violence, do not see this movie. After this emotional roller coaster of a movie, I’m seeing a comedy next time.

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