Category: - Clips and Phrases A Personal-ish Sometimes Blog by Miriam Jayne
 
 
TODAY IS THE OFFICIAL WORLDWIDE RELEASE OF OUR HIGHLY ANTICIPATED DEBUT DOUBLE ALBUM!! 
We're pretty excited about it. :)

But you, dear Thumpers have until the END of CHANUKAH to order your copies of "Biblegum Pop" and "The Revelation Will Not Be Televised" at the PRE-ORDER PRICE (2 for $25), so...

Click Here to Pre-Order Now (They make a great last-minute gift!)

In the NYC area? Then we hope to see you at our super coolALBUM RELEASE PARTY at The Hester TOMORROW NIGHT (Dec. 22nd)!  Music, drinks, food, fun, and special guest artist Doris Cellar of Freelance Whales - what could be better? More info here! 

Is "The Revelation Will Not Be Televised Tour" coming to your town? Shoot us a message and bring the coolest biblegum pop on the planet to your community.

Wishing a marvelous, joyous, musical festival of lights to you and all our dear Thumpers! 

Grab Your Free Download of "Who Can" ("Mi Yimalel") Here!

(With thanks to the good folks at MyJewishLearning.com)

The header art (entitled "Stereo Syborg") is brought to you by the great Todd Jelken of Chicago - way to go, Todd! Want to display your creativity to Thumpers the world over? Send us your re-imaginings of a picture, our Tablets logo, or anything else you can dream up and you could be featured in next month's email!

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Other exciting Stereo Sinai events coming up:

NYCers - Saturday night, Dec. 24th, we'll be performing at Leviticus Studio in Williamsburg! Check out the eventand join us for a Saturday jam with cool folks amidst some amazing artwork.

We're thrilled to announce that we'll be performing and presenting at Limmud New York 2012! It's an amazing gathering in which everyone is a teacher, everyone is a student, and everyone has an awesome experience. Planning on going? Email usand we'll tell you how to get $50 off your registration!

Chicagoans - Join us at Schuba's on Jan. 22nd for a local release party with special guest, human beatboxYuri LaneGet more info and buy tix through Kfar Jewish Arts Center.

Phew! And there is much more to come... Until next time, have a joyful holiday full of light and warmth and wonderful things.

Peace,

Miriam and Alan 

Stereo Sinai

p.s. Got questions?  Looking to book Stereo Sinai in your community?  Just want to shmooze?  Talk to us!

EmailTwitterFacebook, or phone (262-6SINAI6). 
 
My parents came to visit Alan and me this summer, and we spent some time wandering around the beautiful Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.  After wandering through the cherry tree lane, we sat down and watched a small group of kids who had clearly broken off from their class as they goofed around and inspected a plaque near a small, dark, twisty tree.

"No, it was in 2005!"

"No, it says right here, 2001."

"Yeah, it was on 9/11.  That's why you dial 9-1-1."

Their teacher came by a moment later and scooped them up, hauling them along to the next patch of flora.

I gaped at Alan for a moment, taking in what we'd heard.  These kids couldn't have been more than nine - so they were born after the attacks on 9/11.  They live in a world in which America has always been embroiled in several wars against terrorism.  The dark irony of their misunderstanding left me with all kinds of questions. 

How will 9/11 be taught, especially to those who aren't old enough to remember?  What other misconceptions, mixed metaphors, and faulty analogies will we have to confront, and will we have the courage to confront them?   

I remember first seeing the buildings fall on TV.  I remember how scared we were, and how confused.  I grieve for the needless loss of so many lives - I can't imagine how those families must be feeling.  I am proud of those who showed so much courage on behalf of their friends, loved ones, strangers, during those horrifying hours and the difficult days that followed.  And ultimately, I am hopeful, because I do believe that people are really good at heart and that, as time moves forward, we're getting better.

But there's a lot that I find unsettling about this 10-year anniversary of 9/11.  The fact that we are still at war, that it took us so long to find the main culprit behind the attacks, that it's taken ten years for a proper memorial to be erected, that the rescue workers who were so valiant after the attacks weren't invited to the ceremonies today... and even as we remember, I wonder how we will remember.
 
Originally published on the Darim Online Blog, JewPoint0.
This year’s Social Media for Nonprofits conference in New York wasn’t actually about social media.*  It was about values and personality.  Two ideas in particular stood out – uncomfortable transparency and practical optimism.  Here’s how they came through…

Uncomfortable Transparency:

On charity:water’s fourth birthday, the young nonprofit celebrated by live-streaming an ambitious new drilling project…and failed.

When Paull Young, charity:water’s Director of Digital Engagement, told this story at the conference, it was with genuine disappointment, but also gratitude.  Charity:water’s followers and fans posted on Facebook comments like, “We appreciate your transparency,” and “I think this is perhaps even more important than sharing your successes.”  Donations  flooded in, and the next day charity:water got more hits on its website than ever before.

Young called this “uncomfortable transparency.”  He urged us to be honest about our failures as well as our successes, and to “fail fast and learn.”  Ultimately, he reminded us, people want to hear the truth.  (Several months later, charity:water returned to the drill site, this time striking water.)

Practical Optimism:

Seeing Alexis Ohanian on stage showing a picture of a grinning kitten and declaring that this shot embodied his feelings about the Internet, the audience couldn’t help but be charmed.  We were surprised and delighted by his joyfulness.

Ohanian, a co-founder of RedditHipmunkBreadPig, and other do-gooder projects with goofy titles and terminally cute mascots, is a firm believer in the “benevolent web.”  At the beginning of his presentation, he asked for a show of hands, “How many of you believe that most people are fundamentally good?”  The vast majority of attendees smiled, lifting their hands high.  “If you believe that, then most of the people online are good, too…”  He went on to talk about a Reddit community devoted exclusively to sending pizzas to one another, and a save-the-whales naming contest that resulted in both the cancellation of a whale-hunting expedition and a several ton sea creature being dubbed “Mr. Splashypants.”

Ohanian’s enthusiasm was contagious.  I walked away from his presentation feeling like I did after seeing “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” – really believing in the eventual triumph of love over hate, of light over darkness, and knowing that I could be a part of that.  His optimism wasn’t blind hopefulness, either; it was authentic, even strategic.  Essentially, he reminded me that you can’t work in the nonprofit world without believing that things can be better, and that people want to be good, and do good.  That fundamental assumption, that practical optimism, should be reflected in the way we work online.

There were many other outstanding presentations, and I encourage you to check out the hashtag (#sm4np) and Slideshare for some great resources.

*(Ok, you got me – #sm4np was about social media, too.  The conference provided a solid overview of some important themes in effective social media use: listening, storytelling, branding, analysis and reflection; all kinds of good stuff.  Farra Trompeter of Big Duck, who also spoke at the conference, wrote an excellent overview of the complete line-up of sessions, which you can see here.  Gatherings like #sm4np provide excellent opportunities for getting introduced to new tools and concepts, as well as prime networking time.  I highly encourage representatives from Jewish organizations to attend these events when possible, hear about what’s happening in social media and the nonprofit world, and share what they’ve learned!)

Do the concepts of “uncomfortable transparency” and “practical optimism” resonate with you?  Share your thoughts in the comments!
 
Last weekend Alan and I shlepped ourselves and everything we own (well, it kinda seemed like it) to Goshen, NY, the site of the up-and-coming Yiddish Farm.  Stereo Sinai had been invited to play on Sunday afternoon of their Golus Festival (there's a nice write-up about the festival with some pics here), and we decided to give it a shot for the whole weekend.  
"Golus" (or galut in Hebrew) means exile or, in some cases, Diaspora.  It's the term used for the state of being into which the Jews were thrown after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE.  It's usually kind of a nasty word, implying lowliness and loss.  Forward-thinking Israelis don't typically use the word "galut" to describe Diaspora Jewry, favoring instead the word "t'futzot," or those of us who are spread out all over the place.  (That's the technical definition, I swear.) 
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And yes, we were in golus.  Especially to a city-minded, non-camper such as myself.  I was in golus from many, many things.  Internet, for instance.  Mattresses.  Air conditioning.  English.

But we were also in golus in other ways.  From denominations, for instance.  The battles among Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and other streams of Judaism are ongoing, bitter, and destructive (a friend wrote an interesting post about the end of this era that I recommend checking out).  Here there was no such thing.  Everyone from the most secular, strictly cultural Jew to a small crew of Satmar Hasidim gathered in our mutual love of all things Yiddish.  Men and women, young and old...it was surprising and beautiful.  

We were in golus from a sense of hierarchy as well.  I have to admit, I was skeptical as to how the festival would run.  But everyone pitched in and made it happen.  Leadership rotated, fluctuated, and rarely settled in one person.

There were some really incredible moments throughout the weekend.  Dancing with the Torah from one end of a field to the other.  Marveling at the great masses of hay that descended from the sky, refuse from the farm next door which we all interpreted as manna from heaven.  The moment we found out we were going to be in golus even from Golus because our camp site wasn't up to code for the number of people there (on Sunday morning we moved to another site for the music).  Dancing with new friends.  All these things and more.

Don't get me wrong, I will not miss the mosquitoes and eating mostly the same thing every day and the oppressive day-heat and the bewildering night-cold.  But I have walked away with a renewed appreciation for, and a new vision of, exile.  

 
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Last night no less than four - count them, four - utility (manhole) covers blew up on my new street in Crown Heights.  It caused quite the stir. The entire neighborhood came out and wandered around, chatting and laughing, basking in the glow of our respective mobile devices.  

It turned into a big party.  Alan and I finished off all the ice cream in the freezer, just in case.

While Alan and I were hunkered down outside the park that divides our street, I was busily checking Twitter and came across this tweet:
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"For financial reasons."  It was at least as big a shock as my street exploding.  But then again, manhole covers blow up all the time.  And Jewish organizations are prone to closing when there's no money anywhere in sight for creative, forward-thinking projects that don't have anything (directly) to do with advocating for Israel or ending the "plague" of intermarriage.

But manholes covers don't need to explode.  It's a problem of maintenance.  If we are more attentive to our streets and the magical grids below them that make our freezers keep ice cream cold and delicious, they won't cause the sparks that ignite the gases that make the manhole covers shoot into the sky.  We need to invest in regular maintenance, not just emergency measures.

The same is true of the Jewish world.  JDub, and other innovative projects, needed maintenance (there's a great article on eJewish Philanthropy that illustrates this much better than I ever could - minus the flimsy manhole comparison).  Jewish arts and culture are the magical wiring beneath the surface.  They keep us whole, inspired.  They simultaneously reflect and create our society, and they deserve our investment.  

I'm sure I will write on this again.  In the wake of this boom, it will be interesting to see who from the neighborhood steps up, and how the landscape - the road - changes.
 
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Last night I went out with a college friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in way too long (entirely my fault, but that's another story).  She's currently working in a Teach-for-America-style program, stationed in a class of emotionally troubled kids in Harlem.  It's challenging, she admits, but rewarding, and it has taught her a lot about empathy...and about authenticity.  These kids live in the moment, and if in that moment you're not being real, they'll see right through it and tear you to shreds.

It got me thinking.  Really, what does it mean to be authentic?

Social media is the same way.  The first rule of online interactions is that you've got to be real.  The minute you become nothing more than a brand, or a mouthpiece, or spam, you turn people off.  

How, then, do you negotiate the space between revealing nothing and revealing too much?

With Stereo Sinai, I often wear these funky colored wigs in concert.  On the one hand, it's my little twist on the already somewhat bizarre tradition of Orthodox women wearing sheitels to cover one's hair.  On the other hand, it's kind of a commentary on real vs. fake.  Stereo Sinai performs pop - the most synthetic music around.  We sing in biblical Hebrew, a language rich with meaning.  Putting them together, I think, pushes the boundaries and forces questions and to what's really real, what's authentic.

Being real, being true to ourselves and others, is something we all are (or should be) struggling with.  It's an ongoing process, and not one with a definable product.  

What kinds of questions do you ask about authenticity?  How do you keep it real? 

 
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When I was five, my mom, in a concerted effort to drag me away from Saturday morning cartoons which were clearly eating away at my brain, signed me up for roller skating lessons.  After 12 years of countless competitions and an estimated $30k later, I'm a dedicated skater and I know nothing about cartoons.

It's absolutely essential that I roller skate now, for a couple reasons.
  1. Because I love it, it's in my blood, and when I don't skate I dream about skating.
  2. Because if I don't skate, I will sit on my bum and never, ever exercise.


So I have been hunting madly for a rink somewhere in New York, with limited success.  Rink skating is far superior to outdoor skating (no twigs, no wind, no hills, no cars...need I go on?), but rinks are not in vogue.  They struggle, like any other business in a crappy economy, and have struggled for a while.  My home rink, Skatetown, was the site of some disturbing gang activity in the nineties and had (for a while, at least) cut almost all public skate sessions from its schedule, relying more on church groups, school skates, and birthday parties to keep it going.  Whether there's a functioning rink in Brooklyn that I would go to without feeling I was risking life and limb remains to be seen.  

In the meantime, we skate outside.  It's fun and kinda charming.  Alan and  I spent this afternoon rolling through Prospect Park.  We passed bicyclists, tiny humans with their parental units, and a drum circle pounding away in the shade.  I did tricks and flippy things and twirls, and Alan didn't fall.  It's no rink, but it'll do.

 

So, in short, New York is amazing, I love my job and my colleagues, Brooklyn is treating us well, and Alan and I are really excited to get back and see our families for what is sure to be a pretty emotional couple of seders.  
But more on that later.
Below is a Passover greeting sent out by my new colleague at the Jewish Education Project, Rabbi Arnie Samlan.  You can see the original post on his blog.  It's clever and thoughtful in that I-have-to-share-this kind of way.

Happy Passover, y'all!

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When Mia, the famous Bronx Zoo Cobra, slithered her way to temporary freedom in a corner of the reptile house, the irony was simply amazing. After all, a cobra adorned the headdress of the ancient Pharaoh’s, including, in all likelihood, the Pharaoh of the exodus story we will tell in a few days.

Snakes show up in yet another way in the story of the exodus: When Moses and Aaron came before Pharaoh, they demonstrated a sign of their Godly mission: Aaron threw his staff to the ground and it became a snake. Not to be outclassed, Pharaoh had his magicians create snakes. But the snake of Aaron and Moses was on top of the game, and swallowed the snakes of the magicians.

So, the snake was first a symbol of slavery, appearing on Pharaoh’s head. But then became a powerful symbol of freedom -- exhibit A in the demonstration of the power that would become fully manifested in the exodus of the Israelites.

Our contemporary Cobra too, became a symbol of freedom. Within hours of the her escape, Mia had a fan base rivaling any rock star. People began using social media to represent her and her (mostly fictional) exploits. The Bronx Zoo Cobra captured our imagination in her dash for freedom. We cheered her on, hoping she would find fulfillment (just not in our home).

The drive towards freedom and fulfillment is powerful. Yet, in our world, there are those who are not fully free. Our world has human slavery, totalitarian rulers, and prejudicial laws and systems that prevent people from living full lives. And Pesach, along with the snakes, both ancient and modern, reminds us that we need to use our power to work for freedom in our world.

 
In case you hadn't heard, my husband Alan and I are moving to New York.  Like, next week.  Breathe, Miriam, breathe...

For all you Chicago folks, this means an extremely low-maintenance going-away shindig at Friar Tuck's this Thursday night starting at about 8pm.  Shmooze and drinks and good times to be had by all.  Talk to me if you need details.

For everyone who didn't know, here's a little snippet to help clear things up:
And here, for good measure, is Stereo Sinai's latest tune featuring the truly incomparable, brilliant, and all-around mensch-ette Alicia Jo Rabins of Girls in Trouble on sumptuous violin.  I think you'll enjoy it.
 
Alan made this really amazing video to announce our move, and you should totally watch it.