Friday, December 31, 2004

Can't sleep, meme will eat me.

I dunno.

I just had the phrase stuck in my head. The '92 Simpsons episode (origin thread about how it came from one of the show's writer's childhood) clearly predates the 2000 release on a Alice Cooper Japanese bonus disc of the song "Clowns Will Eat Me".

Can't sleep...clown'll eat me...can't sleep...clown'll eat me...can't sleep...clown'll eat me...can't sleep...clown'll eat me...can't sleep...clown'll eat me...can't sleep...clown'll eat me...can't sleep...clown'll eat me...

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Review and Airing of grievances: The Hebrew Hammer

It's shlock, but it's not awful shlock.

I was fully prepared to hate The Hebrew Hammer, but it's not that bad. It's not that good, but it's not that bad, either. I was afraid they'd blow the import of Hanukkah out of proportion or throw in meaningless Yiddish words only because they sound funny. The movie does no such thing.

It does, however, four things that bother me. In increasing irksomeness:

  • In the movie they don't say shul or synagogue. I know, there are good, observant, non-Reform Jews who call it temple. I just don't personally know any. It bugs me. It sounds so polytheistic, having all these little "temples".
  • Why not say "HaShem" when you pretend that you're saying a brucha in the opening theme song? I never understood that. It's such a small thing. And then later your protagonist complains about taking the Lord's name in vain?
  • When he lists the stuff on the seder plate in alphabetical order, they should be in the Hebrew alphabet's order. If I'm using that question to test someone for Jewishness and they list zroa זרוע after karpas כרפס, that's instant disqualification.
  • A good Jewish girl going downtown with gusto. Maybe it's like the temple thing and it actually happens. I'm just saying I've never heard of it.

Wow. I regretted that last one before I even started typing it.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Atom Feed

Looks nicer, is all.

Blogger has had an automagic Atom feed for a while now. The hyperlinked content and paragraph breaks show up all nice in SharpReader, so I changed the links on this page to point to my Atom feed. The RSS feed isn't going anywhere, it just doesn't look as good. I don't feel like spending the time to invent an alternative when one already exists.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

You made them live happily ever after! You bastards!

The customized Romeo and Juliet sucks. First: once you start substituting in, most names are going to completely ruin the iambic pentameter. Also, if you're paying six times what the Folger Shakespeare Library edition sells for, you deserve a better happy ending on your Shakespearean tragedy than four dinky, tacked-on lines. The last two lines of the "classic" happy ending don't even rhyme, unlike every Shakespearian tragedy that comes to mind.

Some constructive criticism, then, to all would-be Romeos: buy a nice, unadulterated hardcover edition. If you can't think of a couplet you can sign the frontispiece with, take the five bucks you've saved and pay someone to think of one for you.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Review month pt 1: Reading Lolita in Tehran

For lack of nothing better to post about, here's the first of some short reviews.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Azar Nafisi was an English Lit university professor in Tehran before the Shah was deposed and for quite some time after. She was eventually kicked out of Iranian universities, and still kept teaching novels to a small group of female students.

The book founders the most when talking about her private coterie of students, especially in the beginning where I could only have kept names and personalites by making a crib sheet — until Nafisi hits her stride in the second of four sections, 'Gatsby', most her students feel quite flat. Once "Reading Lolita" starts with actual storytelling, it frames a very effective comparison of the Western world's concept of "the West", the Iranian concept of "the West", and Iranians' concepts of their own society during unrest, revolution, and aftermath.

I started reading "Reading Lolita in Tehran" and thought I might be better equipped to understand if I read "Lolita" itself. Nafisi clearly sees something wonderful in Nabokov's prose — his description of American middle-class houses, his subtleties of the unreliable narrator, Humbert Humbert. I got frustrated from not seeing what she does from the novel, and didn't finish. My suggestion: read "The Great Gatsby" instead. "Reading Lolita" spends more time, and much better time, on "Gatsby" or on Henry James novels than Nabakov. If you're not planning to read "Reading Lolita", read "Gatsby" anyway. I'll even give you a copy.

As Nafisi brings F. Scott Fitzgerald's take on American dreams and Henry James' versions of feminine courage side by side with her students hopes and actions, she gives a very real and very immediate sense to the importance of fiction and the Middle-East context it was read in.