Wednesday, December 28, 2005

I Wandered Lonely as an Ant

The Wedding

Religious Judaism prescribes certain virtues for all people, but specifically for women: a certain modesty about clothes and actions, a certain kindness and generosity, a certain piousness, and an adherence to the rituals of keeping kosher, keeping shabbat, and taharat mishpacha (for another discussion).

Haredi women take some of these to a deeper level. Regarding modesty, not only will they only wear clothes down to their ankles, lower arms, and collar, they will also hide every hair on their head with a covering of some sort if they are married (your basic religious law allows an inch of a married woman's hair to show in public), they are scrupulous about not being alone behind closed doors with men, they won't sing around men, and so on. Things that your modern religious person might be aware of, but somewhat more lenient about, according to their understanding of the reality of the situation and the actual law. From the outside perspective, it seems that public sexual awareness by haredim is so feared that it becomes all they ever think about. As one of my friends put it, the books written for the haredi public about modesty are so comprehensive and so specific that they border on the pornographic.

From my limited experience, and while admitting that everyone is different, there are roughly two types of haredi women who have been my co-workers. One type tends to be very straight and serious. They are scrupulously honest, often extremely talented, and dedicated workers; they don't fraternize beyond what is required for work and have no sense of humor around men. The other type is more interesting and companionable. While they are just as honest and talented, they don't seem to mind fraternizing with co-workers and can be quite spunky. One of my secret and twisted amusements is working next to a modestly dressed haredi woman as she lets loose with a string of old-world curses in a decidedly immodest manner. Of course, she will apologize for it with a wry smile.

As I mentioned previously, I came unprepared for the work-wedding I was supposed to attend after work. So I went home, lit my menorah, sang to myself, shaved, changed, and headed off to the wedding.

The wedding hall was a hall specifically designed for haredi purposes. The "least" haredi wedding will have separate seating for men and women throughout the evening and tall barriers between the men's side and women's side for all but the actual ceremony. The "most" haredi will have two separate halls altogether. And during the ceremony, the bride wears an opaque veil that covers every inch of her. (Perhaps the best solution is to just have men marry men and women marry women; that way the sexes won't have to mix at all.)

The co-worker who got married is a haredi woman, of course. I don't know her that well, since, while polite and friendly, she is of the non-fraternizing variety. It probably made no difference to her whether I came or not, but I thought I could at least contribute to pleasing her by being part of a group of co-workers. I forgot that I wasn't going to see her and she wasn't going to see me. Oh well, at least I will have an evening sitting with some people I know from work, I thought.

A group of other co-workers came. They poked their noses around the wall, said mazal tov to the bride, and then decided to go. What? Well, they said, they only came to say mazal tov and go. They didn't even wait for the ceremony. That meant that if I decided to stay, I would be basically alone on the men's side surrounded by walls of dark coats and no one to speak to. Feeling betrayed, I decided to go, as well.

So much for the wedding. I hope it was nice and I wish her the best. And for this I turned down going to a special game evening that Binyamin, who has recently been coming to the game group, planned for his friends and neighbors in Beit El. OK, to be honest, I really didn't want to go to Beit El, anyway, especially at night; it is in the wrong part of the West Bank. I did that for five years when I lived in Tekoa, and that was enough.

The Mall

So I now found myself alone, again, and without dinner. I remembered that of my four children, the only one who said they wanted anything in particular for Hanukkah said that they would be happy with a gift certificate from a certain music store in the mall. I decided to treat myself to a rare expenditure and eat out at the mall while buying the certificate. Eating out means spending $12 or so at a restaurant.

I quickly found the store. That done, I remembered that there is a movie theater in the mall and that there are a number of movies that I would love to see, only I never go out to movies. Well, a movie is about $8, and if I recall correctly, after you buy the movie ticket they give you a coupon to eat at some local fast food place for $4.50 . I could do that instead of eating at a fancier place.

The choice was basically between King Kong and Harry Potter 4. I called one of my kids and, after determining that he would be free, I decided to take the three other kids to see HP4 on Thursday as their Hanukkah gift. That left me to see the Kong. I bought the ticket and went to eat at Sbarro.

Sbarro has a kosher joint in Jerusalem. It used to be at one of the main corners in the center of town, but it kept getting blown up by baby-killers, so they moved to the mall. When something non-kosher becomes kosher, they have to choose whether to eliminate the meat or milk from their menu. Seeing as Sbarro makes pizza and pasta, they decided to eliminate the meat.

As I'm intolerant to milk, my only choice was the pasta and tomato sauce with a salad. And salad dressing packets.

Let me tell you about my fascination with salad dressing packets.

I got three salad dressing packets with my salad: Thousand Island, Vinaigrette, and Garlic. All three packets contained 10 grams of dressing, yet they were all different sizes. The garlic is about 2 mm shorter than the vinaigrette, and the vinaigrette is about 3 mm shorter than the thousand island. I'm telling you this because it's important that you know. You may be blind, or you may walk into a Sbarro when the lights are out, and then where would you be without this knowledge?

Furthermore, the ingredient list for these dressings is also of utmost significance. Let's have a looksee:

Garlic/Vinaigrette/Thousand Island
Veg Oil/Water/Veg Oil
Water/Veg Oil/Water
Garlic/Spices/Tomato Sauce
Colors/Flavor/Red Wine

What do we learn from this:

1) The primary ingredient in a vinaigrette is water. That's also the second ingredient in all other dressings.
2) Salt is not a spice.
3) There is a difference between "Sugar" and "Sugars".
4) All dressings have: water, veg oil, flavor, sugar(s), spices, salt, colors, and two types of preservatives.
5) 10 grams of dressing is enough to cover one lettuce leaf.

Number 4 is the most important piece of knowledge, here; it leads to the creation of the Food Ingredients Game, a game for 2-5 players:

1. All players go to a supermarket and buy ten different items that each include at least two of the following ingredients: water, veg oil, flavor, sugar, spice, salt, color, or preservative. Each player keeps their items secret in a bag.

2. Around a table the starting player chooses an item to take out of his bag. He places it on the table and names one of the eight ingredients. His item must contain that ingredient. Each player chooses an item to place on the table in turn, clockwise. If they have an item that contains that ingredient, they must play one; otherwise they may play any item. The person whose item had the ingredient numerically highest in the list of ingredients collects all of the items. If there is a tie, the last played item wins. If an item doesn't have the ingredient listed at all, it can't win the trick.

3. Play passes to the right, and continues until all ten items have been played.

4. For each item you have won, count minus four points if one of the eight ingredients listed is numerically first in the ingredient list, minus two points for second place, minus one point for third place, and no points otherwise. Each item may score multiple times. However, if three or more items all have the same ingredient at the same level you score those points as positive, instead of negative.

5. The person with the highest score wins.

The Game Store

I still had about a half hour until the movie started, so I did my usual checking out the local game stores. I have found surprises in the past, like TransAmerica, Take 6 and so on. This time I was hit with a wallop of a surprise: Ingenious on the shelf for $36. In Hebrew it is called "Hiburim". Unbelievable. I was sorely tempted, but I'm out of game spending cash.

They had TransAmerica ($26), Blokus ($30), and Travel Blokus ($22), as well as Gobblet, Kid's Gobblet (only three sizes of pieces with colors instead of wood), Quarto, Batik (alternate dropping wooden shaped into a frame until someone can't without his piece sticking out), Sputnik, Pylos, DisX, Abalone, and Talisman (1st edition). Pretty good for a typical trashy toy store.

The Movie

Peter Jackson is back with King Kong, a movie that opens with a condensed version of Shakespeare in Love (before the boat), and then follows with Titanic (on the boat), Lord of the Rings (before Kong comes), Jurassic Park (while searching for Kong), and finally Superman II (back in New York).

It is a fun movie, but it is a bit disjointed, and it is hard to really get into any of the characters other than the big guy, himself. Naomi Watts does a fabulous impression of Nicole Kidman. Unfortunately, she is given virtually no lines in the movie. Instead the movie draws out a number of long wordless shots of her that would have been better with more dialog.

The other "flaw" is that there are way too many serious characters delivering serious pronouncements. Over and over. Jack Black as the film-maker takes his role so seriously that I wanted to slap him a few times. And his last utterance, the last line of the film, was so seriously delivered that I burst out laughing. I think this may have been done deliberately to match the overbearing acting style of old movies, but why? If we can update the effects, why not update the quality of the actors' deliveries?

The remainder of the film is lovely. Aside from aforementioned long wordless shots, it moves along quickly. In fact, the characters get into so many scrapes in scene after scene that you may be exhausted by the time it ends. The effects are amazing, of course. Unlike every other fantastic movie, bullets actually work against the critters, which was a big surprise. The best part is Kong, who steals the show as a thoughtful, considerate, yet manly-man loner type who just wants to rest, but has to keep asserting his right to be King of the Jungle.

The movie ended late, so I'm now groggy. Game night tonight.


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