Sunday, January 30, 2011

It is said that physical books are quickly becoming obsolete.

Many people still love the feel of curling up with a cup of coffee (or whatever!) and book in hand.  They love the feel and even smell of a physical book.  Cracking the cover for the first time of a book that arrives in your post is almost a spiritual experience for some people.  Me included!

(An aside: I remember how no one in the house was able to open the newspaper and take anything from it until my father was done with it, or until HE distributed sections to family members.  I always waited for the Comics section.)

Many book lovers adore visiting brick-and-mortar stores like Borders where they can sit in an atmosphere of  book bliss with other book lovers.  Kind of like the atmosphere in a library but only better because no one insists that you be quiet :)

Book lovers insist they will never buy Kindles or other e-readers.

But I wonder if the publishing industry will force people to re-consider their position by making physical books less and less available for purchase. 

Some of you can remember what it was like when music formats changed.  Vinyl record collections and the equipment to play them on became harder and harder to obtain to the point that many record lovers were forced to abandon them for tapes or CDs.  Try to buy a new car with a tape player in it!  Now, most people have digital music collections.

It is predicted that physical books will go the way of the vinyl record in the future.  We will all have a digital book shelf.  I already have one with Kindle and iBooks.  It's so cool to look at your digital book shelf, click on a book cover, and voila, there's your book!  I like that digital books are searchable.  This is especially cool for Qur'an and ahadith collections.  You can even highlight sentences (Gasp!  What will happen to the highlighter pen market?) or bookmark sections (no more dog earred books) so you can go right to them when you need them.  Makes reference and research a whole lot easier.  So, e-books and e-readers do have some benefit.  But I don't want to read literature or poetry in e-format.

Part of the pressure for society to move toward the e-book format comes from the publishing companies who are making it more prohibitive for authors to publish their work in physical book form and still make a profit.  Everyone profits from an author's work except the author.  Print-on-demand publishing can also be financially prohibitive.

As a writer, I know all this and don't have the patience or finances for it.  That's why I do the majority of my writing right here on my own website.  I also ordered the book pictured in the beginning of this piece.  I may try my hand at making books.  I do collage occasionally and have a lot of cool papers and other materials.

For me, writing is not a commercial venture.  But for those writers who write books and want to make money, too, I can understand.  Some writers don't mind having their book published in e-format, but many would rather have their book come out in one or more other formats so that there is choice for the consumer.

Choice is becoming obsolete for readers, too.

Let me give you an example.

I bought the e-book, The Seventh Telling: The Kabbalah of Moshe Katan for a class at the Spiritual Care Center of our local hospital.  The author is Mitchell Chefitz.  This work, is the first in a trilogy by Chefitz.  In it, he uses fiction to teach kabbalistic themes.  I initially purchased the book as an e-book because I am always a little wary of buying "textbooks" and then being stuck with them.  Between my husband and me, we have zillions of books, Masha Allaah, so book shelf space in our house is at a premium.

But I loved The Seventh Telling and learned so much from it.  I wanted the physical book, so I purchased a hardback.  I was then eager for the second work in the trilogy. 

I was able to purchase a hardback copy of the second work in the trilogy is The Thirty-Third Hour which uses fiction to teach Torah themes.  Read it.  Loved it!

Since The Thirty-Third Hour was published in 2002, I thought that surely the third and final book in the trilogy would be out.  But alas, I searched and searched and couldn't find anything online about it.

So, I had the brilliant idea to search for the author on Facebook and Alhamdulillah I found him!

I sent him a private message, asking about the final book in the trilogy.

He responded and told me that the third book would be out soon, BUT it would only be available as an e-book.  Oh wow!  Was I bummed!

How can I put an e-book on my library shelf along side of The Seventh Telling and The Thirty-Third Hour?!I can guarantee you that it will do something to my spirit to see the space on my shelf that this e-book will create.

I wrote Mr. Chefitz and told him this.  He responded that if the e-book does well, physical publication may be a possibility in the future.  (St. Martin's Press published the first two books in the trilogy, not sure why they won't/can't publish the third one unless it is Chefitz' decision.)

But *whaaaaa*  I want the hardback copy!  What upsets me is that I won't have a choice.

I don't like not having choices.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Big, Bad, Blonde Shiksa - Part 2

Continued ...

So, I returned to Judaism.  I started to take classes and establish relationships at the local reform temple.  Oddly, my mother didn't try to stop me.  I remember my Jewish grandfather calling my rabbi to explain the details of my situation so the rabbi could understand it all better.  The rabbi later told me that my grandfather pleaded with him to take care of me and look out for me.  (I am crying as I write this!)  I was grandpa's little girl.  I was the first Jewish grandchild in the family.  You can imagine ...

Well, getting back to my mother.

I used to hate my mother.  I had NUMEROUS issues with her.  Only waaay later in life did I forgive her and come to understand and feel compassion for her, her life, and her choices.

My mother loved my father until the day she died.  She wouldn't admit it, but she did.  Sometimes I would wake up in the middle of the night and hear her crying while she was drunk, talking to one of her friends long-distance, talking about my dad.  She kept pictures of him (which I now have) and maintained a relationship with my grandparents until they passed away. 

Did she change herself much or her identity in order to be married to a Jewish man? 

I do remember how her speech was peppered with Yiddish words until the day she died.

And she could cook a Jewish pot roast that was right up there with that of both my Jewish grandmother and Jewish great grandmother. 

In the beginning, she tried to keep a kosher kitchen, but as I mentioned in Part 1, it didn't work out too well :)

She agreed to raise her children Jewish, which is HUGE for a believing Catholic woman.

She kept the name "Levine" until she married my step father.  And despite making us Catholics, she didn't attempt to change our names.

All this in a post World War II America.  And after all that, she ended up divorced anyway. 

Hmmm ...

Well, time for some photos:

Here's a Valentine's Day card my father sent to my mother.  After she died, I found it in her drawer where she kept all her treasured memories.  The middle is made of satin cushion:

Here's a picture of my dad and a few of his service buddies.  My dad is the one kneeling down in the foreground. 
My dad's aunt, uncle, and grandparents.  Aunt Julia is in the back.  My great grandparents Jake and Fanny are in the middle, and Uncle Sammy is in the foreground, sometime in the 1940s.
My father and stepmom when they got married.

Another image of my dad.

My parents on one of their trips to Pennsylvania:

My mom holding my brother, and my dad and me:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Big, Bad, Blonde Shiksa - Part 1

There's a great conversation going on over at Lucky Fatima's blog, inspired by another one at the Big, Bad, Blonde Bahu Blog, having to do with mixed religious, cultural, and racial marriages, and the phenomenon of the wife (usually, not the husband) taking on aspects of her husband's religion, culture, and race.  In many cases, the wife ends up being a wanna-be fill in the blank (Arab, Pakistani, etc.)

She often starts to dress like the people of her husband's culture, learns his language, cooks the food of his country, and may even convert to his religion.  The people of her husband's culture may find this a curious thing.  Often, despite all her efforts, the wife never becomes fully accepted by her husband's side.  And worse yet for some women, she may lose herself and her own culture completely. 

Unfortunately, many wives experience this transition with identity issues.  If you read through the two posts mentioned above, you'll get a better idea of what I'm talking about.

Since I was born into a mixed religious and cultural family, I thought I'd throw one of my hijabs into the ring and write about the "shiksa."  (Thanks Fatima!)

The word "shiksa" has Yiddish and Polish origins.  It is derived from the Hebrew word, "sheketz," which loosely translated is the flesh of an animal deemed taboo by the Torah.  Most Jewish people in America understand the "shiksa" to be a non Jewish woman.  It can also refer to a non Jewish woman who has attracted the attention of a Jewish man.  Sometimes, Jewish women refer to their non Jewish household help as "shiksa."  The Urban Dictionary has a great description of the "shiksa" here.  (Warning: some readers may find the language offensive.)

Most of the time, "shiksa" is used in the derogatory sense.  It is an insulting and offensive word.  The "shiksa" is not a woman of valor.  She is despised, especially by other Jewish women, because somehow she has managed to snare an otherwise-good-Jewish boy.  Especially nowadays.  Many unmarried Jewish women claim it is difficult to find a nice Jewish husband.  So it adds insult to injury when Jewish men marry "shiksas."  Even if the "shiksa" converts to Judaism, it is still a sore spot for many Jewish people.

My mother was a "shiksa."  She was a tall, big-boned, blue-eyed, Polish, Catholic, blond woman.  A "big, bad, blonde shiksa."  My father in turn was an olive-skinned, black hair, dark brown eyed, Russian/Austrian Jew.  Looking at pictures of him when he was a young man, I can see how my mom would have found him tall, dark, handsome, and exotic.

They met after the end of World War II in New York City where they had both been serving in the US Military.

The story goes that my mom and some of her Army girlfriends were partying in a bar when they saw a bunch of handsome Navy guys.  The two groups got together and my parents were immediately attracted to each other.  After a bunch of drinks, issues like religion and culture were the last things on their minds. 

My parents were madly in love.  At the time, my father's people, Eastern European immigrants, were also living in New York City.  Since my dad loved my mom so much, his family worked real hard at accepting the new "shiksa" addition to the family.  They tried real hard to teach my mom about Jewish traditions.  For example, my great-grandmother Fanny explained to my mom all the ins and outs of the kosher kitchen. But my mom had problems getting it straight, and often mixed up the dishes and pots. Grandma Fanny finally gave up and solved the problem by finding excuses to keep my mom out of her kitchen.

My mom had no intention of giving up her religion.  And my father didn't expect her to, nor did he ask her to convert to Judaism.  As most newlyweds do, my parents thought that their love could see them through anything.  They mutually decided to celebrate the religious holidays of both of their faiths.  So.  They had Christmas and Hanukkah.  Easter and Passover.  You get the idea.  However, once my brother and I came along, it was decided that we were to be raised as Jewish children.  I'm not sure who did the deciding.  Was it my father?  Did my mom agree in order to keep family peace?  Was it okay to have a "shiksa" in the family as long as her children were Jewish?  And how did that work since religion passes through the mother in Judaism?  Did my mother secretly convert?  Anyhow, we always identified ourselves as Jewish.  I remember going to the synagogue with my father and grandfather, but my mom never went.  My brother and I knew our mother was not Jewish.  Somehow, it was no big deal.

My maternal grandmother, my mom's mother, on the other hand HATED my father.  She used to spit on the floor every time his name was mentioned.  We used to travel to Pennsylvania from New York City once a year to see my mother's family (also immigrants).  No one else in the family had a problem with my dad except my grandmother.  For that reason, she tolerated him while they visited, but she made it real clear that she did not like him or accept him.  My father tolerated it all with his classic humor.  After all, Grandma hated her son Tony's wife, too, because she was an Italian.  In those days, Poles and Italians did not intermarry either.  So Uncle Tony and my dad became great pals until the day I told my dad that my Uncle Tony had been sexually molesting me.

In my dad's family, he was the first one to marry outside of Judaism.  He wouldn't be the last though.

Looking back, I can now understand how difficult it was for my parents.  We're talking about the early 1950s.  At that time, Jews were not accepted in America like they are today.

In the end, the differences played a role in destroying their marriage.  What really devastated my mother was the discovery that my father was cheating on her.  With a Jewish woman.  After the divorce from his "shiksa," my father married his Jewish girlfriend.  He then had a 100% Jewish family.  He might have been able to chalk off the whole memory of his "shiksa," except for two small details:  my brother and me.

My mother never forgave me for not telling her that my dad had a girlfriend.  WTF!  I was about 11 years old.  My dad used to take us on weekends to visit our grandparents, and a lot of times, she was there.  I thought she was an aunt or cousin or someone like that.  What did I know?  Well, for sure, I knew she was nice and loving to me.  By this time, my mother's alcoholism was in full swing and you can imagine everything that went along with that.

My stepmother and father also eventually divorced.  But to this day, and I am almost 62 years old, my stepmother and I are very close.  I call her "mom" (my mother is deceased; used to call her "ma") and cannot imagine my life without her.  She has always been there for me, and she introduces me to everyone as "my daughter." 

As soon as my mother returned to her family in Pennsylvania, she stuck my brother and me in a Catholic school.  I was about 12 years old at the time and my brother was about 8.  We had no choice in it.  Anyone who is familiar with my blogging knows how I suffered until I was old enough to make my own decision to return to Judaism.  On one hand, I found comfort in the physical presence of the Catholic church:  the candlelight, stained glass windows, smell of incense, Latin chanting, etc.  But I had a solid Jewish education:  I could not reconcile Isa (Jesus), peace on him, with being the Almighty G-d.  Nor could the church convince me that G-d was part of a Trinity or that He had a son.

(I'm writing this in two parts because I hit "Publish Post" before I was done with it.  Oi vey.  Part 2 to come tonight or tomorrow Insha Allaah.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King: "The Montgomery Story" Comic

The original comic book, The Montgomery Story, has been translated into Farsi and Arabic.  Many people in the Middle East have now read it and learned the wonderful story of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights struggle.

You can read it online here in the original English and/or download the comic in all three languages to your computer.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, Chapel

I'm starting to go through old pictures from various film cameras I've owned during the last 40 years.  Wow!  I've been into photography that long!?

I've started to scan them because, in many cases, I've lost the negatives.  I have boxes and boxes of pictures. 

So, I should have fun over the next few months (or years, lol). 

If anyone knows the name of this chapel, please let me know.  It's in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, near the waterfront.  I don't think it's the Capillo del Christo, but I remember it was somewhere near the Parque de las Palomas. 

Makes me want to return now that I have a nice DSLR camera.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Cat Toys for the iPad

 Alhamdulillah, I found this wonderful toy in the App Store for cats called Cat Toys.

My cats absolutely love it.  It's even a lot of fun for me to watch them play with it.  They wack and bat the heck out of the iPad screen, so be sure that you have one of the screen sheet protectors over your iPad, and cut your cat's nails often (which you should do anyway). 

Now if only I could get my iPad back.  Everytime I pull it out to use, my cats are right on top of it. 

Here are a few shots of my oldest male cat using "his" iPad!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

"Birdie Cupcakes"

Copyright © 2011 S. E. Jihad Levine, All Rights Reserved

Been fooling around with food photography. Not as easy as you'd think!

Anyhow, my neighbor brought these over. I am blessed to have neighbors who love gardening, gardens, and all who visit them.

Recipe for these birdie cakes is here.
Make some for your backyard friends and receive ajr at the same time.