Friday, January 22, 2010

Hamsa 101: The "Bird" Of Peace (And Friends)

Breaking News! Breaking News! Judaicrap Can Keep Planes Running On Time!

As this blog is developing, we are realizing that it can also serve as a tool for providing Jewish education to the world. For instance, as pointed out by an already loyal blog reader today (thanks Melissa), if Judaicrap was simply required reading for flight crew everywhere, yesterday's U.S. Air LaGuardia to Lexington flight might not have needed to make its unscheduled Philadelphia pit stop. The article is right: What schmucks! What were they thinking by not reading Judaicrap and following the helpful link regarding laying tefillin before boarding that airplane?

Judaicrap: Insensitively Educating Goyim Everywhere.

So in a spirit of education meant to thwart in-flight religious misunderstandings, today's blog will be about hamsas. A hamsa, which looks like a highly stylized hand, is a Middle Eastern symbol or amulet intended to ward off the "evil eye." Jews and Muslims alike use the hamsa (a/k/a, according to Lord Google, the Hand of Miriam, or Chamesh hand) for art work, wall decorations, key chains, or jewelry. Yes, key chains. Weird, huh?

I tend to like hamsas, superstition and all, and I used to regularly wear a Hamsa necklace a friend bought for me in Israel (IT IS FROM ISRAEL. THEREFORE IT IS LOVELY. AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT?).

But some hamsas simply should not exist. I call these Hamsas That Should Not Exist. Ok, I never called them that before about ten seconds ago, but I do now.

For instance, the Hamsa-Dove-Rainbow-Flower wall hanging below simply should not exist.

Is it a field guide for identifying wildflowers or Jewish art? I can't tell!

But I will say this: the extra long middle finger really makes this one heck of a bird.

Fuck you!

Peace man!

No, what the fuck? You are flipping me the bird!

What are you talking about? I am a dove, you idiot. We doves symbolize peace and love and rainbows and flowers! Chill.

Fuck you, man, I see through that hippy bullshit. You are flipping me off. Go fuck yourself.

I'm outta here. Peace, dude.

But sadly, there are even more egregious examples of Hamsas That Should Not Exist. For instance, "Angel Art" is horrifying enough. Angel Art + Hamsa is simply terrifying. Please, give me Chucky or Pennywise any day.

FYI: "This Hanging Angel Child Hamsa is made of crushed marble, decorated with inlaid Swarovski crystals, Preciosa crystals and gold color accents. The prints used are hand painted and are treated to form the unique antique look. The Hanging Angel Hamsa is a unique hamsa for protecting children and babies."

What are they talking about? This hamsa cannot ward off the evil eye or protect children and babies! In fact, it is the epitome of evil (or Staten Island).

But wait, that's not all! Never fear -- more evil anti-evil eye amulets exist! (Say that five times fast!) For instance, in our next installment of Hamsas That Should Not Exist, Terrifying Teddy Bears have invaded Hamsa Land. Run, Angels, Run! But never fear... at least your crystals (and your lovely golden bows) are safe!

Nothing could top the Terrifying Teddy Bear Invaders of Hamsa Land? Right? Yes, I think that is right.

However, if you want a far more utilitarian hamsa, check out the one below. Yes, fellow Judaicrappers, below we have a lucite hamsa paperweight for your desk. It slices, it dices, it protects you from the evil eye, and it keeps your papers from blowing away, but wait, that's not all. . .

This unique lucite hamsa paper weight can also function as a virtually infallible murder weapon.

So... the next time your boss gives you a crappy project at 4:30 pm on a Friday, don't claim a religious exemption... simply hit him over the head with an evil eye! Voila! Problem solved!

Please note: Body disposal and blood spatter clean up kits not included. This offer not valid in Florida.

Here concludes our public service announcement regarding hamsas.

Now, go forth! Do a mitzvah today! Forward this link to all flight crew members (and other airline personnel) you know. Act now! There's no time to waste! You might thwart an international hamsa incident!
-- Judaicrapette

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Ten Commandments Of My Ribs

Okay, okay, I know laying tefillin is about physically attaching prayers to body parts, but this is ridiculous! It's a very skinny person! With ribs! Why does this scary shirtless person have the Ten Commandments tattooed onto his ribs? I am afraid!

Plus, high school was a long time ago, but this "art" is giving me flashbacks to Rocky Horror. I keep looking at this and shouting "That man has entirely too much neck!" Maybe I should pin this one to my wall and throw some toast at it.

Okay, and it is bad enough that the name of G-d is breaking apart and falling away into what looks like a technicolor fire, but why does it say "NO" immediately above it? Is that "No G-d?" Or is it "No G-d breaking apart and falling away into fire from my tattooed ribs?"

More generally, what is with the dots? I am impressed when my five year old adds dots all over her paintings because you know... she is five. But for grown up artists.... dots to make it busier will not cure your Tattooed Giraffaman of Ribs and make me want to buy him.

This is a fine example of the "Hokey Pokey" approach to Jewish art. The Jewish artists out there who suck but want to make a buck seem to have top ten lists of random elements to add to their schlock to make it marketable to (American) Jewish suckers:

You put some random Hebrew letters in
You take the good taste out
You put some random Hebrew letters in
And you shake them all about
You do the "But it's FROM ISRAEL" dance
And you turn yourself around
And that's what Jewish Art's about!

Today's offering, by the way, comes from You know, because it's from Israel. Say it with me now: Ooooo! Aaaaaaah! Israel! Therefore, it must be good, right?

Because, you know.... IT IS FROM ISRAEL. The fact that it is dreck is completely irrelevant. BECAUSE. IT IS. FROM. ISRAEL. When I used to make telephone calls home during the year I spent in Israel, they were better too. Because they were FROM ISRAEL. Even my farts smelled like milk and honey because I farted them... in Israel.

But the most intriguing link on the site is labeled:

"TO SEE MORE ISRAELI ART VISIT OUR EBAY STORE." Now that would be a heck of an online presence: Because seriously... you give me this crap, and I'm opening an Ebay account.

-- Judaicrapette

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dr. T. J. Eckleburg's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

True Confession:

In my previous life as a high school English teacher, I inflicted Gatsby on my students. And like all high school English teachers, I forced my students to discuss the infamous billboard eyes ofDr. T. J. Eckleberg).

Did you click on the link to the appallingly crappy essay about Dr. T. J. Eckleberg?

True Confession:

In my second year at a largely Jewish (although officially non-sectarian) sleep away camp, I was forced to be in the chorus for my group's production of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. But the year after that, the theater counselors at the camp apparently realized that even the chorus couldn't hide my complete inability to carry a tune, and I was demoted to spotlight operator for our production of Oliver.

AND NOW BEHOLD, fellow Judaicrappers, the Visual Love Child of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg & Andrew Lloyd Webber (with more than a smattering of Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies thrown in for good measure):

Unfortunately, I am not sure that this artist was intentionally mashing up a literary masterpiece with campy former-Broadway shlock a la Grahame-Smith.

Way, way back many decades ago
Not long after the Great War ended
Gatsby lived in the land of West Egg
A fine example of a new money man

(It could be worse... I could have recorded myself singing that and posted it.)

But I still can't explain the zombie hands! ZOMG ZOMBIES!!! But watch out, Zombie Hands... you cannot escape the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleberg!

-- Judaicrappette

Unmitigated Cha-gall

Thanks for coming to Judaicrap. I hope you enjoy yourselves and laugh a lot. And stuff.

So I'm going to confess from the get-go that I have a few emotional reservations about this. I'm reminded of the time that my sister and I went to see Muriel's Wedding at the Baederwood movie theater in Jenkintown, which tends to cater (or at least did back then) to the older members of Our People. My sister went to the bathroom after the movie and came out laughing hysterically. It seems that one of Our People asked another, "What did you think of the movie?" The other woman sighed deeply and replied, "You know, I don't want to say anything bad about it because someone obviously put a lot of hard work into that movie."

I totally am with the second woman. I know how much effort goes into art, even unbelievably bad art, and I'm a little nervous about hurting people's feelings. So yeah, a few reservations. I don't want to hurt people's feelings.

At the same time, most of the art I expect we'll comment on is awful, awful. It doesn't mean that the person who made it is necessarily worthy of mockery, but they're really not helping themselves with some of this shlock.

I also want to acknowledge that I make these statements with almost no artistic training whatsoever. Back in college, I signed up for an art history course, but it was at 10 a.m., the room was warm and dark, and the seats were comfy. I fell asleep both times I went, so I thought it best to drop the course. On top of this, I have no eye for color and no sense of style or fashion. And I'm horribly near-sighted (although I wear corrective lenses). So there we go.

In spite of these limitations, I grew up in a Conservative synagogue in the 1980's. You know. Unnecessarily humongous bimah chairs. Grotesteque needlepoint sefer Torah covers. Hauntingly abstract Israeli lithographs (being from Israel made them special treasures.) I don't know that there's a better credential for spotting and commenting on bad Jewish art than that.

The bottom line: take this all with a grain of salt. And please feel free to add your own commentary.

So in coming up with this first posting, I turn where I always turn when I need help: Google. When I type "bad Jewish art" into Google, I get a whole slew of webpages, none of which center on bad Jewish art. But more significantly, I get some "Sponsored Links" on the right side of the page. I love Sponsored Links. They bring me joy, even (or maybe especially) if they're totally unconnected to what I'm looking for. Like the time when a friend and I were having a Google email exchange about white privilege, everyone's favorite subject, and one of the "Sponsored Links" suggested that we go white-water rafting. Almost there, Sponsored Links, almost there.

In any case, I browsed through some of the Sponsored Links and, relying on my extensive expertise in bad synagogue art, found this beauty:

Just as an initial matter, I really like the zoom function (you have to click through to see that.) It allows me to move gently over Mordy (I've named him Mordy), the airborne Bride of Frankenstein goat at the bottom of the page, and (a) figure out what exactly he's drinking in that kiddush cup (hard to say, even with the zooming) and (b) be more exact and precise as I use the white arrow to pet him and scratch his nose. He's so soft and furry. I'm feeling a little dizzy now from the zoom, but this special feature gives me a more intimate familiarity with the art.

This chuppah looks like someone voraciously devoured several expensive Chagall masterpieces, upchucked them onto a piece of cloth and decided to use it as a chuppah. I'm counting chunks from at least five different Chagall or Chagallesque works. The martian fiddler (who seems to have graduated to the double bass). The head-butting couple in the upper left (are they lesbians in this version? I don't want to be all gender-bound or anything, but they're both wearing white, I think.) The all-too-excited bridesmaid affectionately rubbing cheeks with The Pet Goat. The king is doing something untoward between the legless ghost-queen's legs. And who scattered flowers everywhere? And who's going to clean them up when this is all over?

For these reasons, I am appalled.

Craptastically yours,

Rabbi Judaicrap

Monday, January 18, 2010


Welcome to Judaicrap!

So much bad Jewish art, so few forums for mocking it. My fellow Judaicrapper and I plan to provide a forum for collecting and mocking the best (or the worst) of simply awful Judaica.

It all started with a simple request for help. Mutual friends of ours are getting married. As you may know, part of the Jewish wedding ritual involves signing a Jewish wedding contract (Ketubah), which states the couple's obligations to each other. So my fellow Judaicrapper asked me if I could recall where my Ketubah came from. I know I ordered it online. That is all I can remember now.

But I decided to be helpful and see if a quick Google search could yield some leads (I plead the Fifth on whether I found my Ketubah on one of these sites). Almost immediately, I came across this, which can be yours for only $305 (price includes "personalization fee"):

Help, there is a giant yellow squid eating the happy couple! And scary technicolor bubbles. And squid! Apparently this Klimtastrophe of a Ketubah is appropriate for calamari loving Jewish cannibals with incredibly bad taste (and a penchant for ripping off over-commercialized art). Perhaps the ketubah should have been titled "Calamari's Revenge?"

And, dear readers, we cannot deny you the accompanying copy:

Your First Kiss is special, a treasure to be remembered. The Kiss under the Chuppah is sweet with the wine you have drunk and salty with your tears. The Kiss at your first dance is shy. Who is this stranger smiling at me? Who is this old soul I have known forever? The Kiss after you finally find yourselves alone is pure passion. But do not be mistaken. They are all one Kiss. Your souls, your hearts, your eyes, your thoughts, your bodies and your words have been kissing each other ever since the moment you met. The rest of you surrendered to the Endless Kiss a long time ago. When your lips come together, they are sealing the envelope of a beautiful love letter that you are constantly writing to each other.


For shame, Nishima Kaplan, for shame (but thank you so much for the laugh that inspired a blog). Tomorrow, my fellow Judaicrapper partner in crime will share the story of his long-standing love-mock relationship with Bad Jewish Art.

- Judaicrappette