Mar 12, 2017

D'var Torah: Tetzaveh

I must admit, when reading this week's parsha I was extremely distracted. The details of the design of the priestly garments and rituals of priesthood were not sinking in, and to be honest, I kind of didn’t care.

I was reading with my TV volume on low (just a habit I have) while it was tuned in to a popular cable news channel. It seemed that every 15 minutes or so a fresh news item would “break” and I’d be forced to look up from the text or my notes. When I tried to put my nose back to the grindstone, I had forgotten where I had left off. Worse yet, when I did pick it back up, I felt slightly “irresponsible” that I was busied with instructions on the application of bells to the base of an ancient robe rather than with the matters currently facing our Nation.

How could I read about the number of stones required for a breastplate when I could hear in the background estimates of the number of people who stand to lose health insurance if certain partisans get their way?

I was getting nowhere.

So, I put down my notes for the night and figured I’d start again, from the beginning, the following evening.

As you all know, at the start of the Tetzaveh, God commands Moses to procure from the Israelites clear olive oil to be used by Aaron to fuel the eternal flame of the menorah. Some interpretations state it was not acceptable that the oil simply be purified or strained before use. The oil must have never been clouded with sediment or pulp.

As for the lighting of the menorah, Rashi commented that the wicks of the menorah were not just to be kindled, but were to be lit and watched over by Aaron until each flame would have the ability to rise up and stand by itself.

The symbolism of light in Torah – especially light among darkness – is ubiquitous. Light often represents God, the capital “T” Truth, wisdom, and even the Torah itself. But, outside of Hanukkah, we don’t often focus on what fuels that light.

This was starting to click.

So, I lowered the volume on the TV some more...

And now I present to you what may very well be the first d’var Torah to equate Tetzaveh with journalism!

If you have been following current events at all, you may have heard the terms “fake news” or “alternative facts” a few times. Or a few hundred times. You may have heard – whether through friends, family, or the media – that we live in a “post-truth” world: an alternate universe where innuendo or unfounded accusations can unleash a fire bigger than any menorah could ever handle.

To draw a parallel to the parsha: consider these current flames of political controversy the by-product of burning impure oil. The confusion and chaos contained in the information coming from all sides has acted as a sort of sediment that is making our “fuel for thought” cloudy and murky.

God commanded his eternal flame to be borne of transparency. Products of our democracy – whether they be laws, opinions, or values – should be formed in a similar environment.

How can we expect anything but an unstable flame that casts all kinds of scary or, at the very least, distracting shadows when we rely on the impure fuel that is misinformation, secrecy, or outright lies? To have a flame – or a Truth – that can rise up and stand by itself, we need to be sure that it is being fed with unadulterated substance and that it is properly tended to. We can’t expect to have a clean-burning, strong and steady beacon rise from anything less.

Without an independent flame, we not only lose a symbol of truth, knowledge and wisdom. We lose our ability to find those things as we are left fumbling without light. This sentiment is echoed in the Washington Post’s recently-adopted motto which ominously states “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

Which brings us back to Tetzaveh and my TV.

Sure, the media can attempt to act as a gatekeeper or sifter: presenting us with some basic level of clarity on which we can form our own opinions. But remember: filtered oil was not good enough for Aaron’s flame. And filtered news is not good enough for our democracy.

Feb 27, 2016

D'var Torah: Nitzavim

(Better late than never!)

In this week’s parsha, Nitzavim, which translates into “you are standing,” Moses continues his final address to the Israelites. As his life concludes, the 120 year-old profoundly tells all who have assembled that they are to follow the rules set forth by the covenant and, should they stray, Israel would face severe consequences. Moses also addresses the practicality of Torah by saying that the mitzvah commanded that day is not out of reach of the people. Though, if they did stumble, God would not forsake them if they returned to His teachings. Moses concludes by putting before the Israelites the choices of life and death–a blessing and curse–and implores them to choose life.

This Erev Shabbat falls on a day that will forever be etched in the minds of Americans –of people from all over the globe. Nine eleven. Fourteen years ago, most of us in this room watched with horror as the twin towers were struck and then crumbled to the ground. We watched, as an outside force came into our midst and destroyed a symbol of commerce, of trade, of the American Dream, of a people who value freedom and free-will. It was a modern-day slaughter not unlike the kinds our ancestors faced in the desert. Not unlike the kinds Moses recounts in his final address to the Israelites.

But just as the first word of this week’s parsha prompts us to remember, “Nitzavim": you are standing.

You are standing.

You are standing not just because of dumb luck, because you happened to be blocks, miles, or continents away from the towers on 9/11. But because it was God’s plan for you to stand here today this Shabbat remembering those who fell that day. And to think about the approaching New Year and what God’s plan may be for you.

So stand firmly, and think deeply.

Moses’ concluding speech to the Israelites is filled with warnings of temptations and pitfalls that lie ahead for the new generation about to enter the Promised Land. During the 40 years in the wilderness, he had seen them fall prey to lapses in faith, disobedience, and outright rebellion. At this point, a dying man, he literally puts his faith in their faith. He stresses the importance of the unity of Israel and does not hold back on the repercussions that will befall the people should they choose to worship other gods. In essence, he warns them to “never forget.”

The stakes are high; Moses knows the people are going to have free-will in the new land. And that brings us back to that pivotal passage I mentioned earlier in Nitzavim where Moses tells the people to “choose life.”

Life, in this ancient perspective was a life with God: bringing Torah, Jewish values, Jewish customs, laws and commandments to the Land. It was the blessing of being part of a people who entered the covenant and now stand poised to enter Promised Land. After exile and 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, to choose otherwise was–in the eyes of God and Moses–death: a curse.

But what does that mean today? We are sitting here in temple, so we ostensibly have chosen Torah, etc. And, as Reconstructionists, we are all Jews by choice. So, should we consider ourselves blessed and call it a day?


The exact choices the Israelites faced were quite different from the ones we face day to day, but the over-arching themes are very much the same. At the core, they were facing a decision: to continue a tradition–one that was only a generation old at this point–or forge their own way. They were being asked to accept a way of being and acting without knowing what the future had in store. This is a tall order, indeed. But I think what Moses was trying to say was that by choosing God, studying the law and keeping the commandments, they would have the tools to make it in the new land no matter what adversity or temptation they faced.

In the context of 9/11 those tools were, and continue to be quite useful. That pivotal day ushered in a whole new world for many Americans. Fourteen years later we stand, like the Israelites, with the memory of slaughter still fresh in our minds and the uncertainty of what’s to come staring us in the eyes.

There is another similarity: the unspeakable tragedy we witnessed that day has not hardened our hearts. It would have been tempting to give in to fear, hatred, racism, and despair as a result of the attacks. Many have, and many continue to do so. But to do so is to cower.

And you are standing.

Because– just like our ancestors– you have faith. No. We have faith; we have our Jewish values. We have Torah. And we have our own wisdom, failures, and successes to guide us. Let’s “never forget” that.

Buildings crumble. Even the tallest and soundest of structures has its limits. We know this now. But we are not bricks and mortar; we are the embodiment of those who stood at the banks of the Promised Land. United in propose, united in spirit.

And tonight, united, we are standing.

Jan 26, 2014

D'var Torah: Mishpatim

Mishpatim is one of those law-laden parshiyot that we have the tendency to gloss over. It follows the Ten Commandments as a “second set” of rules given at Sinai and sets forth no less than 53 mitzvot, for those of you keeping track at home.

The Ten Commandments are a set of laws between God and the Israelites. While they cover stealing and murder, etc., as does much of this week’s reading, they do not address punishment or restitution.

That’s where this week’s parsha comes in.

The numerous mitzvot of Mishpatim define a social code among Israelites and lay out civil ordinances, establishing a society based on law and order. In fact, this is where we see the often quoted “eye for an eye” – the go-to phrase meaning “let the punishment fit the crime.” The formulation of the laws you’ll read here is historically typical of Near Eastern legal codes of the time: “If ABC happens, then XYZ shall happen.” But there is no doubt these laws exhibit Israelite ethics, especially when it comes to murder, property crimes, treatment of strangers, and ritual.

So, why separate the Ten Commandments from the laws of Mishpatim? Perhaps it’s because as Jews we have two distinct, but inseparable, responsibilities. We must accept our responsibility to God and to humanity. We can’t be good Jews without also being good people. While the Ten Commandments lay things out in broad strokes, Mishpatim begins to fill in some of the fine print.

Being Jewish is more than keeping mitzvot. It means being part of one people who take responsibility for each other in the context of a larger society. And that requires us to obey societal laws as well as practice ethics that are in line with our Jewish values.

So, that’s Mishpatim in a nutshell.

Ah, but nothing is that cut and dried. Here comes the deep dive.

The parsha begins with intricate and somewhat bizarre set of laws regarding Hebrew slaves. We went over the issue and irony of our ancestors keeping slaves in a study session not too long ago, so if you missed it, come to study more often.

Yup, the Israelites kept Hebrew slaves.

Troubling as that is, from all accounts, they were treated reasonably well. Housed, clothed, and fed. Got Shabbat off. There was even conjugal…stuff happening.


These bondsmen were hard luck sorts. They were a mixture of poor folks who indentured themselves for basic support, convicted thieves “working off” their restitution sentences, and debtors trying to get out from under.

The first set of laws (and the only one we will talk about, don’t worry) is perhaps the strangest. It starts out nicely; slaves are to be let go, scot-free, after six years of service. Then it goes on: “But, if the bondsman declares, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children - I shall not go free,’ his master shall take him before God. He shall be brought to the door or doorpost, and his master shall bore through his ear with the awl, and he shall serve him forever. (21:5,6)


So, I’ve read a lot of commentary about this passage. It seems “forever” might not really mean “forever,” because all slaves go free at the jubilee year. Maybe. And there is some debate: Was it the left ear or the right ear? Was it the door or the door POST (there are pages on this)? Was it a literal piercing or a ceremonial thing?

Does it matter? Kind of.

We just went through Ten Commandments and an exhaustive list of ordinances that were supposed to hone us into a righteous, ethical people and there are still men who would rather have one of their ears either literally or figuratively pierced against either a door or a doorpost than live free among our ancestors?

Oh, this is getting troubling again, and my collective memory is all hazy on this period so I’m going to jump to some modern day applications. Objections?

After a quick Google search, I saw that plenty of Rabbis use this parsha as an opportunity to deliver half-baked pep talks on the dangers of being a “slave” to material things or why one should not be afraid to leave the so-called “easy” life of servitude. That’s nonsense. No one can judge or make choices for other people. Not when so many of us are a paycheck away from disaster. And, let me tell you, sometimes a life of service is one of the most noble there is.

Back to the commentary.

Midrash says it’s the ear, specifically, that should be bored because it failed to listen at Sinai. Instead of serving God, the slave chose to listen to and obey a human master instead.

With this explanation, these verses reveal a small but very significant detail: Sometimes the very thing we need to be taking in – through our ears, into our hearts – is exactly what we choose to tune out.
And I think that should be our takeaway for this evening.

Yes, it’s difficult and even uncomfortable to quiet your mind enough to listen to yourself, that God within you. And this is especially true if we are down on our luck like the bondsmen. Problems are real, pain is real. We close ourselves off just like they did and fill the void or the silence with something, anything. Our master becomes noise, distraction, and negativity. Perhaps even false comfort. All of that keeps us from truly listening. From letting what matters – from what can help us improve our situation and lift us up – get in.

We are Reconstructionists. And our God has many names, many forms, and many voices.

In fact, that voice that spoke to our ancestors at Sinai – whom the Hebrew slaves didn’t hear– is it at all possible that it’s the same one that sounds a bit like mine, or yours, and keeps us awake with inspiration at 2 AM? Or the one that sounds like the encouraging words of a friend over a cup of coffee? Or like absolute silence in a snowstorm?

I don’t know.

But if we don’t listen...if we don't listen, we’ll never be free to find out.

*Written & delivered me at an actual shul this past shabbat.

Jul 14, 2013

A Column I Wrote Last Summer...Enjoy

Tucker Takes Manhattan

For many New Yorkers, the love affair with the Tucker began with an article that ran in The New York Times on October 3, 1946. The piece, headlined “The ‘Torpedo’ Car Expected to Make Debut Next Year,” grabbed the attention of Big Apple motorists with a three-column wide photo of an ultramodern sedan.

Much of the national coverage the “Torpedo” received that year, such as the well-known Science Illustrated feature, emphasized the mechanics of the car. However, the NYT piece devoted the majority of its copy to information regarding the stock offering and Tucker’s corporate assets. This was undoubtedly intended to resonate with New York readers whose pulse was known to grow rapid more readily over the rhythm of ticker tape than the rumble of an auto’s engine.

But while the hearts of Wall Street wizards and auto aficionados alike were indeed captured, all that glittered wasn’t what it appeared to be in the most popular newspaper of the city whose streets were said to be paved with gold.

In fact, the photo —  a three-quarter rear view of a car on a tree-lined street — was not a “Torpedo” at all. It was actually a one-quarter size clay model of the avant-garde George Lawson design. It was a stunner, forgery notwithstanding: meticulously detailed, photographed against a bucolic background, and so skillfully airbrushed that not even the savviest of the “Old Gray Lady’s” readers could have been the wiser. Positioned on the printed page, the handsome, white-walled, futuristic auto looked quite at home on the “streets” of suburbia. And concerning the news of the impending IPO, production models being ready for testing and demonstration by January 1 of 1947, and the details of the plant lease agreement? Well, history would prove those paragraphs to be dubious as well.

Ad-ing It Up

The firm of New York ad legend Roy S. Durstine was hired by the Tucker Corporation in February 1947 to head their advertising and media relations efforts. Durstine and company made quick work to both counteract the negative press Tucker had recently received regarding the SEC’s Stop Order and to reignite the interest of the car-buying public. The March 2nd Sunday editions of both The New York Times and The New York Herald featured splashy, full-page ads with illustrations of the Alex Tremulis-designed “Tucker ’48.” New Yorkers were rapt once again.

Soon after the ads ran, Durstine’s hands would be tied by the SEC’s rules against conventional advertising during stock registration and sale periods. But if anyone could dream up novel ways to showcase the Tucker, it was seasoned auto-industry publicity guru Ellis Travers who was now a VP at Durstine in charge of the account out of the firm’s newly established Chicago branch.

The much-delayed stock sale was finally approved on July 15, 1947, and pressure was on to push shares. Based on the wild success of the world premiere of the prototype nearly a month prior, the Tucker publicity machine — directed largely by Durstine and Travers — decided to execute a full-scale tour for the Tin Goose. This series of demonstrations and personal appearances by Preston Tucker had the power to generate stock sales, public excitement, and media coverage that traditional advertising alone did not.

 It was with some irony that the prototype was not driven over the pavement during this whirlwind “roadshow,” but was transported by means of a Conestoga freight plane. A plane that eventually met a “victim of circumstances” fate completely befitting the Tucker saga: a crash in the mud due to a botched emergency landing during a storm.

During the summer of 1947, the demonstrations brought thousands of curious onlookers and prospective buyers of cars, accessories, and dealerships to exhibition halls in cities all across the country (and, with the help of the Conestoga, trips to Canada and Cuba). However, public interest in the stock was not as robust as Tucker executives had hoped due, in part, by regulatory stymieing. One of the best-attended showings occurred at Los Angeles’ Pan-Pacific Auditorium, where again circumstances proved unfortunate for Tucker as the sale of his corporation’s stock was indeed banned in California.

But New York offered Tucker Corp the perfect storm for success: a population keen on contemporary style and big on brokerage accounts as well as a major media market. As such, New York —  the financial and news capital of the world —  was the location of the greatest exhibitions of the Tin Goose where and when stock could be bought.

The Tin Goose Goes to Gotham

Two days after the approval of the stock sale, the Tin Goose made a brief showing in the Big Apple. It was displayed in the grand ballroom of the Commodore Hotel (now the Grand Hyatt), a luxury hotel connected to the bustling Grand Central Terminal. The New York Times reported on July 18 that “crowds of motor enthusiasts” attended the event, though exact numbers were not given. It also stated that Preston Tucker was presented with a “certificate of merit” at the reception by the New York Museum of Science and Industry for his achievement in the automotive field. (Sidenote:  The Commodore Hotel was named for one of history’s most successful transportation entrepreneurs “Commodore” Cornelius Vanderbuilt.)

Consequently, The New York Museum of Science and Industry invited Mr. Tucker and the Tin Goose for an extended exhibition at the Museum the following month. The now-defunct tourist attraction was located at the alluring Art Deco skyscraper at 30 Rockefeller Plaza from the time Nelson A. Rockefeller became a Museum Trustee in 1935 to its closing in 1949.

The ad for August’s Tucker appearance at The Museum of Science and Industry promised the public a chance to view the technology they had read and heard about in the press, along with a few Tucker Corp marketing tricks not usually associated with science or industry: models from NYC’s famed Conover Agency (owner Harry Conover coined the phrase “Cover Girl”) and a revolving stage.

The August 8 edition of The New York Times offered a rousing review of the previous day’s opening festivities at the Museum, reporting a daily attendance at 15,000. For perspective, historical records state the Museum averaged just over 9,500 visitors per week at its peak. And the crowds never let up. According to the book The Indomitable Tin Goose, the Museum of Science and Industry enjoyed 100,000 total paid admissions for the 10-day run of the Tucker exhibit which meant attendance and receipts surpassed even the most popular Broadway shows over the same time stretch.

Among the novel highlights of the exhibit mentioned in the NYT was a “talking chassis where features of the car were explained through electrical sound devices.” Additionally, visitors were treated to motion pictures of the Tucker being driven around the Chicago factory. The latter was, no doubt, a clever attempt to showcase The ad for August’s Tucker appearance at The Museum of Science and Industry promised the public a chance to view the technology they had read and heard about in the press, along with a few Tucker Corp marketing tricks not usually associated with science or industry: models from NYC’s famed Conover Agency (owner Harry Conover coined the phrase “Cover Girl”) and a revolving stage.

The August 8 edition of The New York Times offered a rousing review of the previous day’s opening festivities at the Museum, reporting a daily attendance at 15,000. For perspective, historical records state the Museum averaged just over 9,500 visitors per week at its peak. And the crowds never let up. According to the book The Indomitable Tin Goose, the Museum of Science and Industry enjoyed 100,000 total paid admissions for the 10-day run of the Tucker exhibit which meant attendance and receipts surpassed even the most popular Broadway shows over the same time stretch.

Among the novel highlights of the exhibit mentioned in the NYT was a “talking chassis where features of the car were explained through electrical sound devices.” Additionally, visitors were treated to motion pictures of the Tucker being driven around the Chicago factory. The latter was, no doubt, a clever attempt to showcase both the car and the impressive enormity of the plant.

Steering (Gossip) Columns

The Museum exhibit and the resulting press coverage weren’t all about the “Car of Tomorrow.” In NY’s glossy magazines, style often trumps substance. And the Tucker demonstration packed style in spades. Nothing proved that more than the two-column recap of the exhibition that ran in the August 16, 1947 issue of The New Yorker magazine. As part of its “Talk of the Town” feature, a society column, attention was placed firmly on the more fabulous aspects of the premiere.

Despite the fact that the event was held at one of the country’s most popular venues for the showcasing of modern marvels of science, the column eschewed physics for physiques, specifically those of the models: how they looked while “affectionately patting” the luggage and “uncomprehendingly” viewing the engine. Also mentioned, at length, was Mr. Tucker’s choice of wardrobe, his blasting of the Golden State (“…I’ve taken a writ of mandamus against California.”), and the unintentionally humorous misspellings and malapropisms contained in the “164,000 Unsolicited Letters from Two Newspaper Ads in 26 Cities” (this claim was according to the Tucker Corp’s placard on a mail bin that accompanied the exhibit). But that kind of biting is par for the course in New York social journalism, even today.

While it wasn’t always the case for Tucker, the buzz around the prototype in NY was all GOOD publicity. The Museum of Science and Industry exhibit was a victory for Durstine, Travers and the other demonstration organizers. The people and the press of New York were atwitter with all things Tucker.

But, reminiscent of the NYT story of 1946, New Yorkers had once again fallen for a bit smoke-and-mirrors courtesy of Tucker Corp. Although Preston Tucker himself made it very clear during his visit to New York that production had not yet begun on the Tucker sedan, it didn’t seem to matter to the thousands who clamored for a glimpse of the Tin Goose. The public filled the halls from opening until close. The chassis “talked,” and nobody walked.

It was August of 1947. Exactly 65 years ago this month. And New Yorkers spun, just like a revolving stage, head over heels for the Tucker.

Jul 13, 2013

Cutting a Rug

Oh, how I love to dance. It's one of the few activities in life where I can pretty much let my soul be free and feel honest to goodness joy.

A bit of dance partner is Lori, who is mentioned in the previous post.

May 25, 2013

Washed Up

Laundry. My friend Lori calls it the “bane of my existence.” She has a family of five. I’m just me, but I feel the same way.

For nearly ten years, my estranged husband did the laundry. When we lived in a rental apartment, he hauled the hampers to the communal washers or the town laundromat. It was a bit of a Sunday ritual for him. In between the wash and the dry, he’d bring home breakfast sandwiches and coffee.

When we bought the co-op where I still live, he rolled our laundry carts through the hallway and took them down the elevator to the coin-op washers and dryers.

Tonight, while doing my laundry, I realized I take a lot of things for granted. I now do the laundry on Friday or Saturday nights. Sometime around midnight. There’s no toasted bagel or fresh coffee waiting when I return. Just cold Chinese food and cheap red wine or bitter light beer.

I practice a lot more gratitude these days. John, if you are reading, please accept my thanks for a decade of toiling over soiled clothes.

The act of doing laundry is, theoretically, not all that horrible. Put the clothes in the machine, pay a small fee, pour the soap, and press a button. The pain in the ass part has everything to do with time. And rules.

See, I live in a building with upwards of 130 apartments and only eight washing machines. I live a frantic, wheel-spinning life. To set aside two fucking hours where I have to remain both contentious of time and fully clothed (I have a personal “no pants” in the apartment policy) is torture. I’ve tried throwing in a load and bolting to the store while it’s on, but I always run late and some “neighbor” ends up removing my wet clothes and putting them in a cart. That really pisses me off. Hence, my practice of midnight laundry.

I didn’t always hate it. Recently, another friend had got me thinking about my childhood: specifically, where I grew up. My family lived in the upstairs apartment of a two-family house in Wallington, NJ. A Polish town. My childhood smelled of boiled cabbage and smoked kielbasa. Smells that were weird and borderline repulsive at the time but, strangely, now make my mouth water.

Our family of six was allowed to use the single washer and dryer in the basement. We were also able to store a few items – bicycles, inflatable kiddie pools, etc. – down there. But, the area was mainly storage for our landlord, Ed.

For some inexplicable reason, I took to wanting to do the laundry at some point in my youth. My younger sister and I would sit on lawn furniture that we set up in the basement for the duration of the wash and dry cycles. I was a few years ahead of her in school, and would tell her stories that I had memorized from my reading lessons. At that time, I was ahead of the other kids in reading class and would either have private sessions from Sister Roberta, the principal, or go to the grade ahead of me for classes. I think it was all some weird act of favoritism since I declared in kindergarten that I had the vocation to be a nun. But I’m not in Catholic school anymore. In fact, Sister Roberta would have a fit if she knew what I was up to tonight.

Anyway, MB and I would sit in the undoubtedly asbestos-filled darkness until the cycles were complete. In addition to the story telling, we’d “explore” the landlord’s section of the room. There was the usual “basement stuff” – lawnmowers, garden hoses, housewares – but also fucked up shit like rusted machetes and personal items that we felt a bit guilty peeking into. But as curious kids, we did it anyway. We were adventurous/creepy (still are) and that was exciting.

I remembered of all of this tonight. And I thought: “Why shouldn’t laundry be weird and fun? Why should I let the constraints of time turn this into a chore?"

Taking a cue from the Buddhists, I decided to practice mindful clothing washing. Upon entering the laundry room, I noticed the “Van Gogh in Arles” print. I had recently made a crack about how all mental health practitioners seem to have a print from that period in their waiting rooms. It’s a symbol of madness to be had.

Then I noticed this odd painting over the top-loader that I had inadvertently caused to, um, go up in flames last November.

WTF? It’s hideous.

I tried to read the signature and date, but it was completely illegible. You figure someone who was capable of such a masterpiece would be able to write their own name and a date with a steady hand.

I poured my detergent, relinquished my modest fee, and went back to my apartment for 35 minutes. Chinese food. Beer.

Upon my return, I saw the one machine was done. The other still had 6 minutes on it.

I sat down.

The machine made a kind of rhythm and, as I was a bit drunk, kind of dug it. Two Filipino chicks with plastic red cups filled with rancid wine entered to pull their thongs and Daisy Dukes from the dryers. They were giggling incessantly and were over the moon about how the guy at the 7-11 proofed them for cigarettes. They must have thought I'm an old lady. They left and “my” machine STILL had 6 minutes on it. What the hell?

I’d been thinking a lot about the concept of time due to the influence of those same emails which made me think about my childhood. But fuck philosophy. I wanted to take my pants off.

Uggh. I had no choice but to wait.

The rhythm of the machine got me again. I silently started to recite A Tribe Called Quest lyrics to its thumps.

What was wrong with that machine? Something must wrong with that machine.

I unloaded my “done” clothes from the washer and threw them into an available dryer. Half-drunk, I tossed the lavender dryer sheets gaily into the dryer like rose petals before a bride and even did a few ballet moves. Shit. I’m glad there are no cameras in there.

But there is a ridiculous representation of roses in the room.

The washer was still on 6.

It was then that I became overwhelmed with the connection between my distant past, my recent past, my sort of present, and my now.

With one machine completing its cycle…and the other stuck on 6.

Apr 15, 2013

Measuring Up

There was an article on this month titled “The Final Word on Penis Size?”. Yes, it was phrased as a question.

The article explained the basics of an Australian (first problem) study in which researchers created 343 nekkid, computer-generated “men” who were comprised of various traits based on data of Italian men (second problem) associated with attractiveness and something called “reproductive success.” These included penis size, height, and shoulder to hip ratio. Women were shown a series of life-sized projections of these CPR-dummies with wangs, and asked to rate their attractiveness as potential lovers.

Just so you can play along at home, here is a sample of three of our CGI Casanovas:

As one might expect, the models who were more generously illustrated in the genital region fared better as a whole. But there were exceptions. As the author put it, “the penis doesn’t exist in a vacuum.” Apparently, he hasn’t been on Amazon lately.

Seriously, though. The vacuum comment was to make the point that gray drones with other traditionally attractive features, such as above-average height and v-shaped torsos, could get away with slightly smaller junk than those the article referred to as “shorter or potato-shaped” models.

This saddened me as I couldn’t help but feel sorry for all the conventionally unattractive mock men. Hey, gray spuds, I’ll take ya any day over a stud…as long as you only have “eyes” for me. As a small-fry myself, I understand there may be more to your a-peel, lil’ silvery tater-tots.

Oh, but this is, erm, hard science, after all. Can’t let compassion get in the way.

Alright, I know I made fun of the fact that this was Australian research, but the most surprising comment in the piece came from one Dr. Jones, an American biologist who studies sexual selection and mate choice at Texas A&M University. Though since he is from Texas and, like their own state Board of Tourism says “Texas: it’s like a whole other country,” I’m not sure if his opinion is worth much of anything either. But here it goes:
“Just because a woman prefers a man with a large penis doesn't mean that she's going to find one. Outside the lab, there's greater variation and more traits to consider, so penis size might not be as important. That's good, because hurdles like competition with other women and her own perceived attractiveness could place her with a man who comes up a little short.”
Say whaaaaat? Is this fella saying that all the bitches outside the lab better check themselves because the “hurdle” of competition from hotties (cue the Victoria’s Secret underwear dance party that devolves into a feather pillow fight...ugh) and having inflated self-esteem regarding our looks will keep us from attaining a man with a monstrous member? Well, I looked up the good doctor and it turns out he is indeed involved in the study of sexual selection and mate choice…of fucking fish!


Yep, he is a marine biologist focused on “sexual selection, mating patterns, and gamete competition in seahorses and pipefishes,” as well as “the evolution of male pregnancy and the brood pouch” – whatever the hell that is.

Baffled by why would consult a marine biologist in regard to this human-focused “Down Under” research, I did some poking around the Interwebs. It turns out it wasn’t so far-fetched after all. In fact, has published some shocking findings regarding male genitalia from the bustling undersea community of Bikini Bottom:

fig 1:
fig 2:

Ok, folks, this is just getting silly. So I’m gonna close with my usual advice that I’m not gonna take.

Size does matter, absolutely. But every person applies quantitative or qualitative measurement to something different, and that’s OK. For some sorry men and women, physical attributes are make-or-break. I try to avoid those types as their minds tend to be even narrower than the waists of those they chase. Others aren’t so much about the privates as they are about the Benjamins but, as we know, money can't buy intangibles. For me, it's certainly what’s behind the eyes – not between the thighs – that matters.

So, I guess the only thing we can do is be the best person we can be and hope that we find someone who uses a magic yardstick made to specifically measure that special something that we, personally, bring to this crazy world. And to hope that in those painful times when we feel that we don't or we can't measure up, we don't feel too beaten by a yardstick that wasn't made for us.

In the meantime, stay away from gray men, people who use the word "brood pouch," and that I think he may have ulterior motives.