Rachel’s Top Fives

Top Five Holidays I Don’t Celebrate

Passover. Obviously. I bend over backwards every year trying to get invited to seders, because they are the best freaking time ever. I love gefilte fish. I love matzoh ball soup. I love Jews. I love singing. I love being free. I love getting to celebrate all these things by drinking while screaming two-year-olds run around me in circles. I understand that some Christians celebrate Passover as well – which makes sense, theologically – but let’s be real, guys. We cannot pull this off in the same way. They are called God’s Chosen People for a reason.

Las Posadas. Okay, so this one actually is Christian. But it’s Latin American Catholic, and I’m about as WASPy as it gets, so I have no real chance of experiencing this. A friend who is Mexican Catholic, though, makes this sound like the awesomest day ever. “Oh yeah, that’s when I get to dress up as the Virgin Mary and just swagger around town; a huge parade full of people follows me and we all hang out and sing and just have kind of a baller time.” That’s cool, I guess. I’ll just be over here watching claymation Christmas specials and eating the stale Hershey’s Kisses out of my advent calendar.

Holi. This is the holiday that prompted this post. I realize it was actually the 11th of March, but my school just had our own rinky-dink little Holi thing this weekend. In all honesty, I’m not sure if I could handle this holiday the way it’s actually supposed to be celebrated – it’s kind of raucous and intense in India, and based on previous experience I am hesitant of giving strange men any pretext for touching me. But the concept is so fun and awesome! It makes so much sense! Christian holidays that celebrate good things are all like “Oh cool, Jesus rose from the dead. Let’s do something special, like – go to church!” Holi is like “Guys, Prahlad survived the demoness’s attempt to burn him alive! Also, spring happened! Let’s have a huge color fight with powdered dyes!” That is the right way to respond to a serendipitous event. Go Hindus!

Rosh Hashanah. Score one more for the Jews. I have only actually participated in this holiday starting this year, and my Jewish friends who were with me were pretty underwhelmed. We were far away from home, and far away from any other Jews, and the best we could do was scrounge around for some apples and honey. But honestly, despite (or maybe because of) all that, I thought it turned out really nice. We sat around together at dusk and shared honey and apples and some little kaju sweets and now that I look back, this year has in fact been a sweet one.

Ramadan. This one doesn’t have quite as much immediate appeal – I understand that there are a lot of fun holidays out there that don’t involve fasting. But take a closer look at this one. There are some really great things going on in Islam, and Ramadan highlights a lot of them. I mean, ostensibly Christianity also emphasizes charity to the poor and occasionally abstaining from things to focus better on God. But how this actually plays out is that maybe once a year or so you’ll give up chocolate for forty days so you feel good about yourself. Way to go, champ. But Ramadan takes that shit seriously. And best of all, the fact that it’s about charity and repentance and meditating on poverty doesn’t make it a total downer holiday, like Lent is. Iftars are wonderful. There are a lot of things I would do to get to hang out with a whole group of awesome Muslim people and eat figs and lentils and drink falooda or something – not eating all day is totally doable.

*There are some runner-ups from our friends in the frozen Northland of Scandinavia. 1) The Feast of St. Lucy, which I read about in one of those cultures-from-around-the-world books when I was little and was totes jealous of. 2) and most important: the Swedish Christmas goat. I guess that is not a holiday in and of itself, more just a custom, but still. I think you set it on fire. Christmas in Sweden next year!

Top Five Blogs

This Girl Called Automatic Win. Probably my all-around favorite, if I had to choose. This woman is everything I want to be and do with my life: witty and gay and New York-based and ironic and a writer and prone to bad decisions but in kind of an attractive way. On election night she sliced her entire lower leg open while changing a window blind, and still had it in her to liveblog the entire thing and then go party in Harlem afterwards. She chronicled the buying of her couch on Craigslist, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. She drinks a lot of vodka tonics and is accompanied by a stuffed toy Chihuahua named Tinkerbell. Granted, she’s been posting less lately, but it’s only because she’s been busy creating an awesome and unprecedented site for “girl-on-girl culture” on the internet. Why yes, she does sell stickers and hotpants. Go check it out.

EDIT: for instance, here is where Riese does an interview with her best friend over AIM, and then gets to put it on the internet for her job. “What are you wearing? Tight yoga pants?” I want to be her when I grow up.

Mason-Dixon Knitting. Ok ok ok let’s get this out of the way now: I do read knitting blogs. Like, blogs whose express purpose is talking about stuff people are knitting. I realize this is not for everyone, or even for anyone who is not me. But let’s try to keep an open mind, ok? For people who don’t knit or care about knitting blogs, I still think this is an excellent place to go. There is so much going on here besides sweaters! They liveblogged the Oscars! They crashed the Obama’s tea with the Queen! They occasionally put on beehive wigs and sing Nashville country on YouTube! Also, they are hilarious. For real, guys, go look.

Smitten Kitchen. This is a food blog. I don’t know how much you know about those, or what preconceived notions you have about people who read them. But I’d like to put forward the idea that this is not a blog for people who like to cook; this is a blog for people who like to eat. There are beautiful, mouthwatering photos of food everywhere, and free recipes for them. What a great idea! There’s a range from the complicated and esoteric (parmesan-black pepper biscotti, butternut squash and caramelized onion galette, swiss buttercream wedding cake) to the dead simple (arroz con pollo, homemade pizza, and prizewinning chocolate chip cookies). This lady is exhaustive. I cannot think of a dish you could not find a fantastic recipe for here – and you see photos of how she made it step-by-step, how she thought it came out, and her own tips and recommendations from when she tried the recipe. Even if you don’t cook, find someone to make it for you.

Sociological Images. If you’ve ever taken a sociology or sociologically-inclined class – for instance, gender or race studies – you may remember the process of looking at some piece of pop culture – a magazine advertisement, a billboard, or in more recent years a Youtube video – and picking it apart in class. You know, having your professor point out how women in fashion advertisements are often posed as if they’re dead or unconscious, or in some kind of physical distress. Or noting that the only black women you see in commercials are light-skinned with straight hair. You will remember that this was probably the most fun part of the class; who doesn’t love watching Justin Timberlake videos and then talking about them? No one! That’s why a group of sociology professors made a whole blog for doing just that! Every day they post a series of images or artifacts from pop culture, and talk about their implications. It’s interesting, and it’s also eye-opening.

Racialicious/Feministing. Okay, so I couldn’t choose between the two of these. Which is okay with me, because I honestly believe you should be reading both. As you can maybe guess, one deals largely with race issues in the news and pop culture, and one deals largely with women’s issues. I’m serious, though, when I say both are important; I really think that their commentaries should be read in tandem. Partially because there’s a lot of overlap and intersection: obviously both have done a lot with the Rihanna/Chris Brown domestic violence story, for instance, which is talked about with a lot of both gendered and racial implications. But also because there’s rarely ever a gender issue that doesn’t also have a race factor, or a race-based incident that didn’t also involve gender. (See the link above about Justin Timberlake, which is actually from Racialicious.) For example, there’s a post right now on Feministing about the book G-Dog and the Homeboys, which focuses on one priest’s efforts to combat gang violence in LA. When talking about gangs, gang violence, and police intervention/brutality, there are huge things going on with masculinity, race identity, and the intersection of both. I think if you’re going to look at current events and cultural issues – like the media response to Michelle Obama – you’re missing half the story if you’re only reading (mostly white) feminist media or only looking at non-white news sources.

Top Five Country Songs

1. Dolly Parton’s Jolene. I’m not even going to get into how awesome Dolly Parton is in and of herself, but I will say that this is a great song. Oh man, I can’t help singing along every time I hear it.

2. Mindy Smith’s Jolene. If I’m going to be honest, I actually kind of prefer the cover. But! But! One of the coolest parts is that Dolly Parton is featured on the second half of the track. They sound great together. I hope they hang out in real life.

3. Carrie Underwood’s Before He Cheats. Do not front like you do not like this song. Everyone likes this song. Because it is a great song. I’ve never even been cheated on. But everytime I hear this I kinda sorta wish I had been, so I could key the motherfucker’s car.

4. Brad Paisley’s Alcohol. Okay, so unless you watch CMT or have a close family member who does you may not know this song. Admittedly it is not going to win any prizes for sophistication or musicality. But it is super fun! Seriously! Also I kind of like the video, and for a country music star Brad Paisley is not so unattractive; he looks like he showers!

5. Wilco’s I Am Trying To Break Your Heart. This is maybe not entirely fair. But iTunes categorizes them as country, for real, and they totally have another album with Billy Bragg that is down-home sweet-tea straw-in-your-hair country. Also this song is great, maybe I am weird but I think it is super romantic.

Top Five Tattoos

  1. This weekend, I saw a bookstore clerk in Harvard Square with a) a polo shirt one size too small b) skinny jeans c) bright green sneakers d) bangs and e) an argyle tattoo. Yes. It was a blue-and-green pattern, in a band across his bicep. I’m not a fan of argyle myself, but you have to admire how well that guy knows himself. I can’t think of anything that would have been more appropriate, you know?
  2. Also in Harvard Square: one of the (what are they? baristas?) employees at Tealuxe has a really sweet little cartoon rocket ship spiraling up his forearm. I have a deep and inexplicable love for cartoon rocket ships. If I wasn’t aware that I couldn’t pull it off nearly as well as that guy, I would probably just get one myself.
  3. Once while having a conversation on essentially this same topic, memorable tattoos, a friend brought up the best example I’ve heard of inane and irreverent body art: a tattoo of a stick-figure bear fighting a stick-figure dinosaur. I don’t know this guy, but I saw facebook photos, and am convinced it is real. I am not convinced it is a good idea. I mean, really? Really? (The best part of this story is that allegedly as the artist was finishing it up, two drunk frat boys showed up in the studio and were totally floored by the COOLEST TATTOO IDEA EVER. I guess there are now three college-age dudes wandering around Boston with identical bear-fighting-dinosaur tattoos?)
  4. This one isn’t technically real, but it is maybe the coolest: has anyone else seen the movie Blow Dry? No. No one ever has. It is a great movie, with Alan Rickman and lesbians and hair mousse and sheep. It concerns a hairstyling competition, and features two really superlative tattoos. Alan Rickman, hairstylist extraordinaire, has a pair of scissors crossed with a lightning bolt on the sole of his foot. His hair model, an incredibly endearing woman who is sleeping with his ex-wife, has this really epic and indescribable design tattooed on her scalp, the ultimate in making art out of your head. Even if you’re not into weird tattoos, this is a great movie. With great tattoos.
  5. Okay, so this one hasn’t happened yet, but I’m really psyched for when it does. After a lot of conferring and consultation, one of my coworkers has made the decision to get a stegosaurus tattooed on her inner thigh. What a wonderful surprise that will be! I’m very excited for her.
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