Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Consent Is Sexy: A Haiku

When I was younger, an overpriced local photo studio used to sponsor a "Readers of the Week" corner in the New Jersey Jewish Standard. The photographer would choose a family she had recently worked with and publish their photo and a brief blurb about their life. Without purporting to draw comparisons between this blog and North Jersey's preeminent Jewish weekly, I hereby bestow upperwestlaw's "Readers of the Week" honor to the Ripps-Kogen family.

The reasons for this honor are manifold. Firstly, it is in gratitude for Linda's readership and comment -- quite arguably the highlight of my week. Secondly, it recognizes Navah's multifaceted inspiration -- in format, in content, and in the theme of today's post. At this point, I'd like to direct your attention to Navah's particularly saucy comment in reference to my most recent post. In said comment, she invites me to "violate [her] honor code anytime." While I appreciate the latitude, she better hope that her former colleagues at the Rape Crisis Center are not reading this. They may find her flaunting of the seriousness of their cause more offensive than my labeling it as a certain poly-syllabic poetic device. Well played. I am no longer the only offender.

Speaking of offenders, one of my pet peeves has resurfaced this week with a vengeance. Honestly people, if you do not know your friend's fiancee's name, one of two things must be true. (1) The couple has not been dating long enough to get engaged. (2) You are not close enough friends with this person to be posting them on OnlySimchas. There are few things as irksome as the "Shaindy Rosenbaum and Chosson" posting. If you don't know the names of both parties, just wait it out. Someone who does will get there.

As many of you know, this is not the only issue coloring my love/hate relationship with OnlySimchas. As such, I am posting the quasi-notorious OnlySimchas article below. This is the short piece. If anyone wants to read my longer research paper on the subject, I'd be happy to forward it along.

Re-reading the opinions that my twenty year old self felt so passionately about, I find that little has changed. While I no longer care enough about OnlySimchas to damn it as fervently as I did then, I still carry reservations about the ideals that it espouses. (Haha, "espouses" - I love a good pun.)

Let me know what you think and, as always, comment away. I live for validation.
Let's go Yankees,

L’Chaim! To “Pseudo”-Life - March 8, 2007

Have you ever walked into a restaurant convinced you know a fellow diner but unsure of where you recognize him from? It happens to my friends and I more and more these days and I’m pretty sure I can pinpoint the culprit – a little website called OnlySimchas.com. OnlySimchas is an online version of the society pages catering to the American Orthodox Jewish community. It is a site announcing engagements, weddings, births, bar-mitzvahs, et al, but in the five plus years since its founding it has become so much more. With its online guest books and photo galleries, OnlySimchas, like Facebook and MySpace, has become a venue for voyeurism of the highest degree. While the site features sections highlighting all sorts of celebrations, the Engagements and Weddings pages are by far the most frequently visited. OnlySimchas has found a way to objectify and commodify relationships in a way that places marriage on a pedestal and forces the site’s users to forget what relationships are really about.
Upon its inception, OnlySimchas was meant as a way of publicizing good news throughout the small but geographically and ideologically diverse Orthodox Jewish community. It was envisioned as a venue where one could find out that their one-time bunkmate from summer camp had found true love and provide a forum through which to wish them well. Truthfully, the public that is being catered to does not require this kind of service. In a community where everyone knows everyone else’s business, it is infrequent that one does not receive this kind of news through the grapevine, many times even before an engagement becomes official. The news that OnlySimchas provides is redundant. So what purpose does the site truly serve?
In a rapidly growing image obsessed world where seeing is believing, OnlySimchas serves as a venue to help its users grasp the lofty notion of a successful relationship. In recent years, even Modern Orthodox Jews have backpedaled into a situation in which young women are only as valuable as the husbands they procure. It is a sad but true reality that many educated young women care more, or equally, about getting married young than about completing an advanced degree.
Engaged couples are revered by the OnlySimchas set as individuals who have attained the Holy Grail of human relationships and have thus procured a higher level of being. OnlySimchas turns these couples into celebrities. Rather than leafing through People magazine, young Orthodox girls scroll the pages of OnlySimchas critiquing wedding dresses and bridesmaids’ gowns the way that Mr. Blackwell analyzes Hollywood stars. This cannot be the effect that the creators of OnlySimchas intended.
The site and its unfortunate influence are prime examples of Walter Lippman’s notion of the “pseudo-environment” that consumers of modern mass media find themselves living in. According to Lippman, human beings are incapable of accurately processing certain events that are beyond their intellectual grasp. In his damning critique of American democracy, “Public Opinion”, Lippman writes, “The only feeling that anyone can have about an event he does not experience is the feeling aroused by his mental image of that event.” OnlySimchas provides a forum in which the not-yet engageds can get a fix of what it feels like to actually attain that state of higher being. They use the mental images of happy couples and white silk gowns to try to understand what it takes to create a successful relationship. It is an unquestionable high. Like a drug, the site is addictive and tough to quit. And like drug users, many OnlySimchas surfers get high in secret. Many do not admit to their addiction to the site, scrolling through it furtively, only in the comfort of their own homes.
The repercussions of this addiction are clear. It provides an unhealthy and inaccurate view of what it means to share a life with another. Lavish receptions and exotic flowers do not a happy marriage make. As Lippman explained, OnlySimchas users, unable to understand the admittedly complicated world of interpersonal relationships, oversimplify the world and trust the mental images in their minds in order to create a functional life as an unmarried individual. By visiting OnlySimchas, they are biding their time as single, waiting for Prince Charming to sweep them away to the Glatt Kosher wedding hall of their dreams.
In the years since OnlySimchas hit the web, the average marriage age of Modern Orthodox Jewish women in the Diaspora has dropped significantly. The moment that they graduate high school, many young women enter a race to the chuppah. Not surprisingly, the numbers of young couples divorcing has skyrocketed as many come to realize that marriage is not all about the photo gallery icon on their OnlySimchas page. Many lives are irrevocably ruined and self-esteems crushed. The environment that has been created is not only “pseudo”, but undoubtedly destructive.
Like most things in Judaism, OnlySimchas is a terrible misnomer – there is no denying the trouble it has wrought.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Violating the Honor Code

As imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I have decided to take a page from the Navah Kogen playbook and list seven awesome things about this weekend. Here goes:

1) Guacamole.
Whenever my parents collaborate on guacamole, there is inevitably an argument about whether to mush the avocado with a fork or a spoon and just how much lime juice is too much. And yet, it always tastes just right. So yummy.
And, to those to whom this means something, I didn't pass out from a "guac" overdose this time. Thank God.

2) "White Collar".
USA's newest series is not quite "Burn Notice" -- yet. But, sexy criminal Neal Caffrey has the potential to reach Michael Westen's level of sleek. Thanks to the miracles of DVR, I was able to watch this Friday night show just moments after Shabbat was over. Best Melave Malka I've had in some time...

3) Jared and Ivanka's Sunday Styles wedding announcement.
I keep imagining The Donald with a little beard and Rabbi Lookstein with The Donald's hair. It's opportunities like this that make me wish I knew how to use Photoshop.

4) Zaidie's Onion Rolls.
If I'm gonna cheat on the diet, it's gonna be with something gooooood...

5) Not so discreetly watching people on shidduch dates in Starbucks.
I can't help it if your "love" life is more interesting than my Civ Pro outline, can I?

6) The mad proliferation of the word "Gleek".
Because dork misery loves company.

7) The overlap of baseball and football.
The months of September and October are generally my most unproductive, but they sure do rock!

Much Love, Y

Thursday, October 22, 2009


As Sue Sylvester could tell you, it's tough being a local celebrity. Aside from getting hounded for autographs at the local Donut Hole, all eyes are on you at all times -- expecting greatness, scrutinizing failure. Fame can be a demanding mistress. Once you are recognized, the pressure is on. You better not screw it up.

The above concerns are among the reasons that I kept this blog secret for awhile. While I am far from a celebrity, I have spoken with a number of you about what this blog could or should be. And now that I know/hope you're reading, I don't want to disappoint. As we've all discovered this week, many of you have your own blogs and I find them inspiring and interesting. I don't know that this blog will be either of those things. But I will certainly try. In Torts, we talk a lot about shifting blame. When we shift blame, we don't have to suffer the consequences of our actions. It sounds like a good deal until you realize that you don't get to take credit for the good stuff either. I'm hoping that this experiment in blogging will be both funny and fun. Funny for you to read and fun for me to write. If that happens, I'll be the first one to seek the credit. If it sucks and I've wasted your time, I'll find a good and lawyer-ly way to shift the blame.

Now that I've gotten my disclaimer out of the way...on to the show. So many funny things happened this week. I've wasted enough of your time talking about not wasting your time that I'm going to jump right in.

Two words: BALLOON BOY.

There is a scene in Ocean's Eleven in which Scott Caan calls Casey Affleck a "balloon boy." Ian and I used to act it out all the time. Yes, we're just that cool. Anyway, I will now forever blame Falcon Heene for ruining that memory for me.
First off, I could have told you that these people wanted to be celebrities the day that they named their child Falcon. When you think about it, it is a really good celebrity baby name. Surpassing Apple, it ranks right up there with Jason Lee's choice to name his son Pilot Inspektor.
Secondly, the Heenes really are terrible parents. They could convince their kid to hide in an attic for a few hours, but they forgot to tell him not to lie on Larry King? Talk about dropping the follow through. Any good pediatrician will tell you that if there's one thing that kids need, it's consistency.

Speaking of consistency, I can always count on the New York Jets to suck. Yes, I spent six hours in the freezing October drizzle watching them fumble around the football field pretending to have a clue and all I got was a lousy Fan Appreciation Day travel mug. (Catchy, I know. I'm thinking of getting it printed on a t-shirt.) Come to think of it, that's not all I got. I got a nasty cold, too. Typical. After looking semi-talented in his first three NFL starts, Mark Sanchez has finally acclimated to life as a Jet. This means that he has learned to become incompetent and infuriating. Quite the accomplishment.

In other football news, Finn convinced Ken to let him both play quarterback and sing lead vocals in the Glee Club. Has anyone else noticed that his character is an exact replica of Oz from American Pie? He even has Chris Klein's dopey smile -- and questionable acting chops. Now that Quinn's been de-Cheerio-ed, does that mean she'll get to wear normal clothes to school? I know Ramaz gave up cheerleading in the early 80s, but even I'm fairly certain that cheerleaders don't wear their uniforms all day, every day. The producers might want to look into that. Also, I have to give major props to my friend Sam for pointing out that there is no way in hell that Rachel would not have made a pass at Mr. Schu yet. He's a teacher who is young, hot, talented, and "still miraculously" straight? What is she waiting for? Probably February Sweeps.

I really never intended for this to become a Glee blog, but I promised Becky I'd update tonight and I've got Glee on the brain. If you're ever lucky enough to catch me on a Tuesday, I'll be happy to rave about the fact that the writers of House have FINALLY given Chase an actual storyline. I love his adorable Aussie accent -- and the ethical implications of his actions in the "Tyrant" episode would get Randy Cohen all hot and bothered.

So, now that you've bothered to spend some of your time with me, what did you think? The Comments section isn't just for (a) show, people. Falcon Heene is.

xoxo Glee-sip Girl

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Water, water everywhere...

The more I think about it, the more I realize just how appropriate it is that the scales of justice have come to represent law. Because, if anything is about the endless search for balance, it's law school.
This is not only true for the law student, seeking a life that is both intellectually fruitful and socially vibrant -- but within the curriculum as well.
I am finding this to be particularly true within the study of Civil Procedure. Many of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure concern themselves with balancing justice and judicial efficiency. How can we make a plaintiff whole without overburdening the court system and the taxpayers who subsidize it? Will joinder of parties increase or decrease the chance that an additional law suit will eventually be filed? These questions are relatively benign, but indicative of a greater trend. Our justice system is less of a "justice" system and more of a "let's try to prevent injustice in the cheapest way possible" system. And, maybe that is the best thing that it could possibly be. Maybe the world would end up more unjust if the justice system failed to take economics into account. The writers of the Federal Rules tried to create guidelines that would foster the proper balance. Were they successful? The verdict is still out.
As for law students, I can only say that this particular law student is finding the balancing act a tough one to manage- despite having mastered Warrior Three at Columbia Law's Yoga Club meeting on Monday. Tonight, I found myself feeling guilty for not reading while eating my dinner. Have I been reduced to someone who doesn't even have time to eat? It seems that I have. This is uncharted territory for me and it is too soon to tell what kind of response I will have to the altitude. I'm loving the classes and I'm (mostly) caught up on my reading. But, I really do not have much time for anything unrelated to the study of law. The scales of justice are leaning pretty heavily one way. Maybe the weekend will help balance things out a bit...
If anyone out there has thoughts or ruminations on how to maintain balance, please join the conversation.
Contractually yours, Y

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Gleefully Yours...

Today's question: Does tweeting make you a twit?

This is something I've begun to contemplate lately as I've realized that law school is much more conducive to micro-blogging than logging hours coming up with the witty paragraphs I had intended on posting here. Besides, wouldn't Twitter be the perfect forum for my, now legendary, inappropriate non-sequiturs? Tell me you don't believe that "R--e is an onomatopoeia!" would have rattled the Twitosphere! So, to tweet or not to tweet? That remains the question, thus for now I leave the Shakespearean self-contemplation to Jude Law and seek equitable resolution by maintaining the status quo. (Wow, a pop culture nod and law school joke in one sentence. I am a tremendous dork.)

Speaking of Jude Law, the CUArts discount tickets to Hamlet are already gone. What a bummer. There is nothing I can imagine to be more exhilarating that watching a mediocre movie actor wax poetic in the greatest Danish tragedy of our or any other time. Was that too harsh? Listen, Ben Brantley called Law's performance "semaphore" and I don't even know what that means. So, who's the greater villain here? But to be honest, I would have liked to see Hamlet and I'm sure that tickets will be hard to come by. Why? 1) Sitting through Hamlet is intellectual snobbery in its purest form. 2) Talking about sitting through Hamlet is even better. 3) I'm a sucker for celebrities onstage. (Why else would I be tracking down a ticket for Bye Bye Birdie? John Stamos was Uncle Jesse for crying out loud!) Since I've gotten to law school and realized that I am significantly less accomplished than many of my classmates, opportunities for intellectual snobbery are few and far between. I'll have to get my kicks where I can.

Realization: I don't need Twitter. Writing that last paragraph alone makes me a twit.
But, lucky for you, I am leaving it here so that you, NK- my one and only reader, are able to get a glimpse at the sick and twisted machinations of my self-absorbed mind.

So, to get back to what I had originally intended on writing about -- Glee.
Has anyone else seen this dreadfully bad/sinfully good show? The plot points are awful but the singing (or lip-synching, who are we kidding?) is delightful. Mr. Schuester is adorably sweet and I can't wait for him to betray his good guy morality and get it on with OCD Emma. As for Emma, she refuses to be touched by Ken but would surely eschew her "shmirat negiah" for a rendezvous with the dreamy Will. Sound familiar? (Cough, Yavneh, cough.) Well, it's the only thing about Glee that rings true. Well, that and the drama. Drama, drama, drama. Can't people sing without it? In my own experience, I'm gonna go with no. Unless that whole Piz-cest thing was just a figment of my imagination...

Have a good night and a pleasant tomorrow.
xoxo Y