Wednesday (wherein the post is sort of longish)

“American Idol” – is it me, or is it getting more annoying with each season? (and they’re now in the phase where they’re not focusing on the lousy singers)…

Thanks to the handy dandy VCR, I watched UPN’s “Veronica Mars” and it is a watchable fun show. The detective work is clever – it’s the mind of Nancy Drew meeting the sexy shiny style of Magnum, P.I. (I think it’s a strange combo for me to come up with, but that’s what I’ll come up with), and the cast is attractive. (although, for a cast in high school, they sure look too old).

But, I sure do still dig “House, M.D.” on Fox: crazy Dr. House finally admits that he is addicted to Vicodin, but he still says it’s not a problem. Nope, Dr. House says the pain in his stroke-afflicted leg is the problem and the painkiller would let him do his job. Oh, and he swears the only thing in his life is his job (that of being the gifted diagnostician with the seriously sucky bedside manner). Well, clearly Dr. House is an addict who won’t take the first step of rehab (’cause you really ought to admit that you have a problem). Gripping tv, even if the plots get over the top.

A NY Times profile of an Asian-American Orthodox Jewish performing artist, Rachel Factor in “True to Her Orthodox Beliefs, if Not to Her Roots” by Sarah Bronson:

In many ways, Rachel Factor’s show is typical of one-woman performances: there’s the microphone, the bar stool, the empty stage; several original songs; autobiographical monologues full of humor, pathos, bittersweet memories.

And if the title, “J.A.P.,” might be offensive to Asians or to Jews, who may recognize the shorthand for “Jewish American Princess,” then that is not so unusual either. Performers often lampoon their own heritage, and that is precisely what Ms. Factor, a Japanese-American and unreligious Christian who converted to Orthodox Judaism, is doing.

“If you break down the words of the title, it represents where I’ve come in my life, in terms of my self-image,” she explained in a telephone interview recently. “The meaning of the words are very beautiful. I’m Japanese. And Jewish. And American, just as American as anyone else who was born here. I don’t consider myself a princess, but I consider myself worthy for the first time in my life.”

In the show, Ms. Factor, who was born Christine Horii in Hawaii, relates her journey from a high-kicking Rockette at Radio City Music Hall to Israel, where she now lives with her husband and two children. She is currently on a 41-city American tour, performing to sold-out auditoriums at synagogues, community centers and Jewish high schools, all the audiences filled exclusively with women, as her strict faith demands. [….]

Growing up in Honolulu, Ms. Factor had all the advantages of a prestigious prep-school education, she says in the production, but felt ashamed of her Asian looks. She opens her show by re-enacting her childhood efforts to create creases in her eyelids with tape and eyelash glue.

At 18, she left for Los Angeles to pursue a dance career and quickly found professional gigs, including work as a backup dancer for Jody Watley and Belinda Carlisle, a stint as a Rockette, and jobs in the choruses of the Broadway productions of “Shogun” and “Miss Saigon.” Highlights of her show are the moments she demonstrates, in a long skirt, the moves from her music videos and concert tours.

Despite the ignorant comments she often encountered, like “What country are you from? No, where are you really from?,” she embraced her culture and set out to date Asian men. But she met and fell in love with Todd Factor, a television commercial producer, who told her it was important that his wife be Jewish. Her reaction, as she recalls in her show: “Well, it makes a lot of sense then that you would be dating me!” [….]

“It was a difficult choice,” she said about abandoning public performances in favor of Orthodoxy. “Not only was it my career and my livelihood, it was my artistic outlet and my identity. I thought I couldn’t reconcile Orthodox Judaism with my desire to express myself in the manner I had been doing.” Soon after her conversion, the family moved to Israel, where Mr. Factor could study at a yeshiva for the newly Orthodox.

In Jerusalem, Ms. Factor performed the show, which she had initially written before her second conversion, for a friend, who urged her to repeat it for neighbors. She added a monologue about her Orthodox conversion, and soon women and girls were coming in groups of 40 to hear her speak and sing. Living rooms gave way to local theaters, and tickets sold quickly, particularly to American expatriate Orthodox women who felt validated by the story of a glamorous dancer who had chosen to join their community.

Hmm. So, she felt weird about being Asian in the white man’s world. And, she finds spirituality vitality in Orthodox Judaism and now lives in Israel. Hmm. I wonder what it must be like to be Asian in Israel. Do people there still ask the stupid question of “Where are you really from?”

R.W. Apple, Jr., of the NY Times discusses the savoriness of Puerto Rican cuisine in the early 21st Century, in “Puerto Rico, Flavored with Contradictions.” Just reading the article made me feel full:

Far from the cobbled streets of Old San Juan, in the shimmering new Museum of Art of Puerto Rico, Wilo Benet has developed a menu at once sophisticated, innovative and (with few exceptions) grounded in indigenous traditions and ingredients. After stints in the vaunted kitchens of the Water Club and Le Bernardin in New York, Mr. Benet came home to Puerto Rico and continued to soak up influences from chefs as diverse as Paul Prudhomme in New Orleans and Jean Vigato of Apicius in Paris.

Now he presides over Pikayo, off the museum’s lobby, a restaurant filled with modern Puerto Rican art, divided by frosted glass partitions and gauzy screens, furnished with ample chairs (with a pillow at the base of the diner’s back) and washed by changing, soft-hued lights. This is a big-time room, frequented by the city’s elite.

Betsey [ak.a. Mrs. Apple] and I and our chum Susana Torruella Leval, San Juan-born but long resident in Manhattan, were impressed by the kitchen’s artistry: not only the way the food was cooked but the way it looked on the plates. All of us loved a buttery dish of tender Japanese squid, flavored with roasted garlic and cilantro, and tuna tartare with spicy peanut sauce, a ribbon of balsamic vinegar and pine nuts. I was completely hooked by fat, flavorful grilled shrimp topped with smoky, finely shredded chorizo, nestled on a beurre blanc infused with soursop, a lushly sweet-and-tart tropical fruit. Orange shrimp, deep-red chorizo and off-white sauce: it made an edible color study.


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