Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cumberbatch, Nuns, Peas and Yom Kippur

 For some reason I never published this article. It was probably to much a rehash of the past, but the point still applies, even though it is not Yom Kippur.

"Providing charity for poor and hungry people weighs as heavily as all the other commandments of the Torah combined." (Baba Batra 9a).

 I like being with people, and get my energy from being with people. Maybe that's why I like community rituals and look forward to gathering for Yom Kippur. As a performer, I also like the participatory, sometimes dramatic, and even symbolic nature of this holy day. At Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco  we even had the option of bowing completely down to the floor for prayer. It's a humbling but also comforting position - one of accepting your humanity but also forgiveness for being human.

  I've thought muchabout rituals lately, partially because it's my job to do so. I write about ritual and performance. When I get bored with writing,  take breaks by checking on some fun websites including "Sherlockolgy"- a site dedicated to covering news on the Masterpiece Theatre's  Sherlock.  It's a well-done show and the writers include entertainment, humor, and some thoughtful point into the scripts.

One of the more recent posts on Sherlockology was a link to an article about Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch. Apparently, he was in a testy mood or stardom is getting to him, as he constantly used the "f" word and made not so nice comments about fans. Specifically he said that
"’s a bit weird when people see you in the frozen pea section and start flipping out."  He also commented about requests for signatures, stating:

... what the f*ck is this need for proof we all have? Why do people need me to ruin the front page of a book with my terrible signature so that they can prove that they’ve met me? Will no one believe them otherwise? It’s f*cking weird, and you don’t question it until it happens to you

  Yes Benedict, it is weird to have someone ask you for a signature. It was amazingly weird to sign a copy at the book party for the book I wrote and published. In fact, I never  understood the need to get an actor's autograph, because usually they don't write a book. But I thought about this some, and the above comments. I have the following suggestions:

1.  Get back to Yoga - I've heard you did yoga in preparation for your role as Sherlock. Your rather surly comments indicate a need to center and ground yourself. You usually appear to have an amazing about of both qualities in interviews, so sorry if you were having a bad day. But think about it. Those people in the frozen veg section may be barely able to afford the frozen peas, and here they see someone who is making a fantastic amount of money doing exactly what he loves to do. Most of us don't get that chance, and many of us must settle at being happy to be able to afford peas and broccoli. Perhaps you could do the child's pose, which is a position Jews may do for prayer on Yom Kippur- a day of At-one-ment and humility. In fact, those of us who are lucky to receive a pay check and buy food might benefit from also taking on this practice.

2. You should meet the Nuns of the Bus (  The Nuns work for all of us, promoting community concern for the welfare of the entire community. They will recruit you to join in the cause to stand on the side of the poor, homeless, and hungry. You might be able to buy some people some frozen peas by donating the the nuns or some of the shelters they visit on their tour of the U.S. Maybe Brad Pitt would also recruit you to work on Habitat for Humanity, (but you'd need to clean up your language if you were around his kids.)

3. Ritual -  Ritual is so much like acting in many ways. It doesn't always make sense why people do either one, but there is something of play, entertainment, and soul speak going on in both. Asking a film star or even an author for a signature may very well be a ritual behavior used to honor success. I suspect it is also requested in hopes that some of the success will be transferred to the person receiving the signature.I'm sure it's annoying being successful and earning good money, with all the fans and paparazzi.  Perhaps you can join the Jewish community in a counter-ritual on Yom Kippur. with ritual fasting, making us all remember what it is like to be hungry, weak, and vulnerable. We learn at the end of the day of fasting that this is not enough and that we should "share" our "bread with the hungry"(Isaiah 58-6-7). That is, we should share our wealth and success with those in need. 

I know that we all have bad days and are annoyed by how we are treated by others. But a little meditation and ritual can do much to remember compassion. This is for your own benefit, as well as the welfare of others.

P.S. Please do check out assisting Nuns on the Bus, Habitat for Humanity, and other fine organization in the U.S. and U.K. that are working to aid those in need.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Smart men, not so bright choices: Why Benedict Cumberbatch can't get a date, part 2

  In my current writing resistance, I decided it was time to complete this post - a little writing exercise before slogging through quotations on sacred and secular in early modern drama ( which I'd rather be performing, but that is another story).

 So, given that "Smart Man" in a former post is inexplicably not finding a Smart Woman that can keep up with him, I wondered about local smart men. (Yes, post on B.C. - it does get you reading my blogs) I called a dating service to research the type of clients they have. I was told that they have a lot of many well-educated, creative men. The woman I talked with then went on to describe a new client, a physician who likes the outdoors.

I guess I was suppose to go ga-ga about a doctor, but I am not the camper-girl type and lately I've had to stay inside because of allergies. I wasn't impressed. I was even less impressed when the woman at the dating agency told me the cost of - over $2000 for 6 months! 

Given that I know so, so many smart women, I was shocked. I'd arrange a meeting with the doctor and some of my very bright, beautiful, well-educated single friends for free. All the guy needs to do is SHOW UP! GET OUT OF THE HOUSE! PUT IN SOME EFFORT! If you want a relationship that is worthwhile and lasting, you need to put the effort into it now. Besides, think of all the Smart Girls out there. You need to come to one of our meetings.

Guys - go to MEET UP groups. There are so many of us smart, creative women that joined these group in order to meet men. I've met a lot of women there, and too many men with little education or social skills. If you do have these assets you will quickly have dates.

Guys - go to a yoga class. Stay afterward and talk to the women. You'll find a single, bright woman easily. 

Guys - go to creative spirituality groups. Not the dull church or synagogue service but the fun small communities where people talk to one another. You'll meet good and kind women, who are often bright and smart.WARNING - Some communities do have dreary unfriendly meditation groups (such as those found in Minneapolis. Try another one. ). Again, yoga is your better option, especially for music events nights.

Guys - Don't spend $2000+ dollars for a dating service that doesn't understand relationships. The women I talked to couldn't even understand the difference between spirituality and religion. If someone doesn't care about who you are on the inside, they aren't going to find you a good partner.

I care, so contact me. Contact one of the women I know. But, understand if you want a relationship you need to start relating!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Another amusing search term day

   I am glad to see I'm getting readers for the Nuns of the Bus post. The wonderful Nuns deserve ample attention. However.....

 Once again, I found that while the majority of readers are reading about the Nuns, the major search terms people are using to get to the blog are: 

benedict cumberbatch misogyny comm  

 This is just a good guess, but I don't think Cumberbatch has anything against the Nun's or thinks about them in any misogynistic manner.         

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nuns on the Bus

  I usually write of the "spiritual" or ethical in popular culture. Too many of us think of spirituality and religion as stuff of "the church" or loony New Agers.

If you read my post, you know that the purpose of my blog is about revealing how our values play a part in all of life - and yes, how this is portrayed in disturbing or helpful ways in films and television stories. Sherlock does have a play with the spiritual development of a genius, or in one case, a gross forgetting of the underlying important values in the original stories.

What you value most is very much about what perspective you tie yourself to. In the best and basic view of organized religion, we have long-standing spiritual traditions that offer ritual, meditative, and service practices that aid us in creating a better world. Catholic Nuns aren't always thought of as models of these methods. Especially among older people I've heard too many stories of angry, repressed Nuns beating them up at school. They weren't the very cool Benedictine Sisters I met. They taught meditation, danced, and generously gave service to the homeless.  Some were young and beautiful, and some old and deeply beautiful.

Recently, I saw Bill Moyer's show about Nuns of the Bus, who in there own word are:
"Catholic Sisters" who "are missioned to stand with people in need and to be witnesses for economic justice."  On their website, they explain that:

As Catholic Sisters, we must speak out against the current House Republican budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). We do so because it harms people who are already suffering....

 Beyond issues of big or small government, or assumptions that aid to those in need is developing dependency on hand-outs, they deal with the bigger picture of setting policies that aid everyone.
They oppose trickle-down theory as a hierarchical discrimination against the poor and needy. The reason they do so is the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer.   This is an exerpt about them from the Washington Post, also found on their website:

Catholic nuns’ bus tour concludes in nation’s capital

(Washington PostA group of Catholic nuns ended its nine-state bus tour here Monday (July 2), speaking out against a Republican federal budget proposal they say favors wealthy Americans at the expense of poor families.

Led by Sister Simone Campbell, the “Nuns on the Bus” rejected the budget proposal of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., which it called “immoral” and “unpatriotic.”
Ryan’s budget “rejects church teaching about solidarity, inequality, the choice for the poor, and the common good. That’s wrong,” said Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobby.Nuns on the Bus claims that the Ryan budget would raise taxes on low-income families while cutting taxes for millionaires and corporations, push families into poverty, and kick 8 million people off of food stamps.
 What ever your political view, the point the Nuns bring out is such an important value - we are all in this together.  If the poor get more, it doesn't mean the rest of us get less. In fact, Sister Simone Campbell pointed out that when the minimum wage was raised in California, it injected more money into the economy, and it improved !

  Gross national economies are tricky things, for sure. But some of the fans of the Nuns greet their bus as it travels the country, holding up signs saying "Question Austerity."  It's a good point - you can't just starve people of income and food. It's not just and it doesn't improve matters. We do need to pay attention to legitimate economists on how to improve the economy, for sure. But in all cases, policies based on fear are wrong. Policy that aims to improve the lot of us all isn't big government verses small government, Republican or Democrat, but a valuing of all people. Such policy is not based on fear or simple political jingoism, but historical economic realities. 

 I think the Nuns on the Bus are providing us with a great lesson - use reason, consider the whole. Think of the welfare of all. Do you have these values?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Steven Moffatt is a what? On a difficult week in Minnesota for a Smart Girl

  This had been a difficult, horrible, almost hopeless week for me. Almost no one is returning calls, email, facebook prompts, etc. Given that I already feel so isolated in Minnesota, it's extremely difficult for me to be in this situation. Being hopeless isn't a great value, so I try to get out of it. but the high allergen count isn't helping.

   I did have a day-brightener that made me laugh though, when I checked the statistics on this blog. Readership is up, and the search terms are wild and crazy.

The top terms were:
  • Irene Adler Lesbian (so much for her being Jewish)
  • Benedict Cumberbatch - my unintentional numbers booster
  • Violet Hunter - I'm glad people are ready the wonderful little story of Sherlock's "sister" in The Copper Beaches. Here we find that Sherlock likes art and adventurous teachers.
And the one that is totally amusing.........Steven Moffat Jewish!

Even I wouldn't have thought of that one.

Good words to remember for the day, and not as silly: The one who acts out of love cannot be compared to the one who acts out of fear.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Smart Girls Don't get Dates, but Smart Men? Or, you've got to be kidding

  I admit it. When I'm bored with the writing a need to do, I take an internet break. It was a while ago, back when I say the "non-misogynist" comment by Benedict Cumberbatch - the guy who plays Sherlock for all the uninformed.  This article caught my attention, because I simply don't believe it. The story dated from January 2012, but I didn't read it until probably after presenting my "Smart Girls are Beautiful" story.

This is the headline:

"BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH is just a bit too similar to Sherlock Holmes — he is so brainy that he puts off girls. " 
  The article continues by saying that "Tracy Peacock, the actor’s half-sister, has revealed that the star of BBC1’s mega-hit detective series is single again and says those whirring grey cells are to blame."  

Of course, this comes from the same journal that declared the actor the "sexiest man" in Britain. (".  I don't really think he has a problem getting a date! And, since smart girls do have problems finding eligible men, I simply do not think it accurate to say that he or any smart men would have difficulty finding an attractive women who would be able to keep up with them intellectually. There are too many of us smart women out here who are single, and looking for men who can converse with us! 

I think the problem is perhaps not that smart men are idiots at finding smart women, or vice versa. I don't think it simply an issue of self-esteem, men having too much of an ego and women not enough, though that had often been the social norm. From my own experience, I do think the issue is: 

1) Communities that are Isolating.
2) Disdain for thought and intellectual pursuits. 
3) Friends that are unwilling to provide assistance, fearing they might become "matchmakers." 

 Communities    I will say that I've had less of a problem finding work and friends in bigger cities with a more highly educated populace. For this reason, I love London and the San Francisco Bay area.  I find it incredibly difficult to exist in Minneapolis/St. Paul, finding it a place for people that fit into nice, neat little boxes. Even with that, I know of far too many smart women who can't get a date. It's not a matter of maintaining a relationship, but of even finding a man who can think.  Apparently that is too outside the box for Minnesota. 

 I had one friend tell me that the smart, sophisticated man doesn't exist here, and she may be right. It may be easier to meet people in a bigger city because you are living in more of a fishbowl, and more likely meet new people. But what then the trust level?  To combat this problem, some have suggested churches, synagogues, and the like for meeting decent people. They obviously haven't been one of them lately. At least where I live, the conservative, old, or married with family attend religious institutions. It's not the place to find a single man, but you do meet a lot of single women, even in the more creative, progressive places. Then there are the yoga centers that try, but don't have a clue. I attended one Friday night yoga "happy hour" that was suppose to be more of chance to meet one another.  Apparently no one told them you have to do more than put a bottle of wine on the reception desk, hoping that people stay and talk. I also tried a Sunday morning class, and while the teacher was so warm and friendly, no one in class talked, and seemed even reluctant to have a new comer in class. 

   Part of my experience is, again, life in Minnesota; people here tend to the cold, conservative and unfriendly as far as friendships and spirituality. There have been exceptions, and I'm very grateful for them, but these exceptions more times than not have been people coming from elsewhere, or like me were rather forced to move back. How many others communities are like this though?  I remember when living in Berkeley, the San Francisco Public radio station did a program on loneliness, and they had an overwhelming number of calls. I will also add that despite the number of men I did meet, I still found it difficult to find a date. So this lead me to the next issue. 

Disdain for Intellect   Well, there were smart men who liked to talk to me. But I think a lot of men there and everywhere have walked away from me when I started to talk.  

Men, what is your problem with smart women? Do you feel inferior? Or are you simply looking for a cheerleader rather than a life partner? 

 I once was making a joke before a yoga class, and a man in class yelled at me. I was in tears by the time he finished his little tirade. His problem was that he found the joke too intellectual. Those of you who know me understand that I'm very right brained, and definitely the creative, artsy type. I'm also very tender-hearted and aware of my feelings. I also like to think. It's been almost a survival thing for me in the left-brained world. But so what?  People who like to think are still people worthy of respect, so why the dissing?  

Friends who run away  Everything I've read about dating states that the best way to find someone is through friends. My response is always "you've got to be kidding."  Given the above, no one seems to know where the single, smart men are. They also can't seem to be bothered, and say something ridiculous like "dating site on web."  Please, those are for shoppers, and I think the stats on those sites show that the most popular person is the young secretary with hardly an education.  
  I do know of two wonderful women who are trying to establish a happy hour mingle for single women, inviting appropriate eligible men. But they may be having problems finding men. It should be all networking, and I've always told my friends I'd help them think it through, and try and connect them with at least a good group to attend. Most are reluctant or simply have given up. Sorry, but I do blame this one on men, and especially smart men.  

Smart women are beautiful; they think through relationships, and work through difficulties. Smart men? Maybe Ms. Peacock does have something to say after all - find a smart women. It shouldn't be that difficult; there are too many of us who are very unhappily single.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Two Writing Projects- Theatre and Yoga, well separately mainly

I have finally returned to my academic writing, and have been working on my yoga book in my practice.

The first project is on Performing Religion, and my explorations on this blog have aided me.
 *The first chapter is on Performance and Religion, and mentions many plays and dance, but a lot of Jewish and Christian tied to theatre and dance.(Yes, a lot!). Eastern Religions get too much play in most books, so I offer what doesn't get play.

*The second chapter is on ethical choice, but mainly based on seeing Dr. Faustus at the Globe last Summer.

*Chapter three is on choice and responsibility, and all the work I did for my performance on Smart Girls are Beautiful will be part of the discussion, as it is based on All's Well That Ends Well plus the Elijah tale that was similar to this play. Oh, of course in contrast I will include my discussion on the portrayal of Irene Adler. HOW a smart and beautiful woman is portrayed is always about ethics! Anti-feminism and sexist scripting is a choice, but I find it unethical. And, yes Benedict Cumberbatch's comment on misogyny and Moffat will be included.

As for my Yoga book, I will start with a re-write on my article on Yoga and Kabbalah, then have chapters on
1) Principles of Jewish yoga- Kavvanah, the sephirot, and chakras
2) Ruach and Pranayama
3) Simchas and Bhakti.

I personally need to write the yoga book, as most of the instruction I receive at studios is backwards. One yoga master teacher told us at a workshop to press the inner ankle-bone out. When I do this my feet curl under and my hips collapse!  I need to do exactly the opposite to engage my inner thight and abs.  Okay, so I'm flexible. I wonder what is says about my spirituality though?

There does need to be room for the ecstatic who works from the outside to the inside. I read a Tanya passage about this the other day, with the comment from the rabbi being that this is Jewish spirituality. We don't escape the world, we embrace it and find that it is a spiritual place.

My hips are definitely amiss from too much ballet and too many accidents, yet I wonder about the blanket approaches to yoga and spirituality taken by many. Yoga philosophy is many faceted. Jewish approaches to yoga might elevate some important points that are washed under in the standardized teacher trainings. In any case, I need to write this book.