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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Pearls Before A Swine

photo: Tablet Magazine

I was reading Tablet, and in particular an article about how attendance-poor synagogues could learn from Best Buy, and how it had turned around it fortunes by concentrating on the reality - not the virtual reality - of having a customer come in to experience a sensory, haptic, audio and visual experience of the items it provided.

... Rather than abandon the traditional mantle for other, lighter ones that feel more colorful and cool and contemporary, synagogues should reiterate that their predominant commitment is, as it has always been, to the collective practice of religious ritual. Instead of expecting their staff to look and sound like that cool RA you secretly crushed on in college, they should invest in training members of the clergy to speak confidently and knowledgeably about the words we recite when we pray and the intricate theology these prayers form and the subtle but meaningful ways in which this theology differs from other belief systems. Instead, the closest you’re likely to get to theology in shul these days is some well-meaning muttering about tikkun olam, as if professing our commitment to repairing the world was something more than spiritual smooth jazz, all feelgood and no real depth. These prayers our ancestors have been reciting since they’ve dwelled in sun-stricken tents have meaning, and it’s that meaning, that ancient and primordial connection, we seek when we plop down in the pew.

Let’s have more of that, then. There are many other places we can go to be cool, and many other ways for us to be Jewish, but we still want to go to a place where we can forget about the cheaper and quicker thrills of the world outside. It’s the High Holiday season, and it’s time for another miraculous turnaround...

I went to Best Buy two days ago; I was getting two new front tires for the car, and while I waited, I walked to City Bakery to buy freshly baked pita, which I ate while walking up and across Rochester Road to the Best Buy.
I needed 2 or 3 loaves pita, since Rochester Road was not actually designed with pedestrians in mind. At the intersection where I crossed, there was only one crosswalk from west to east, and it was sort of Cabinet-of-Doctor-Caligari-ish expressionistic, modernistic, Norman Bel Geddes seeing into the future-istic at the 1939 New York World's Fair only to have his budget slashed by Robert Moses, and ending up with half a perisphere and a walkway to a briarpatch.

I made it to Best Buy and entered.
It was indeed a temple. I asked where the cellphones were, and the gatekeeper pointed me in the right direction, muttering "Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate... senza oro!"  (Leave behind all hope, ye who enter without gold!)

It was a "if you have to ask how much it costs, you cannot afford it" experience.

It is one thing to throw around hundreds and hundreds for new tech gadgets; everybody does that; it is the style. I can throw around money with the best of them.
However, it is that devilish monthly service fee that grinds me. $500 per year for a device which will beep incessantly at all hours of the day and night, keeping me close to my emails from commercial establishments that want to suck me into their virtual reality is a lot of simoleons.

I heard J.P. Morgan is buying mortgages and phone plan paper from various institutions......

Actually, the worst program I saw so far was something associated with AARP... Consumers something-or-other... and it had all its prices as monthly payment amounts for phone and monthly payments for plan.
The gizmo that was listed at $25 per month ended up costing $400 to $700, and it seems as if this whole approach was predicated on the fact that I would go along and blithely pay $25 for month M and then short term memory ghastliness would render me senseless to the treadmill-in-the-poorhouse nature of the affair... namely that month M+1 was only 28 days (or so) away, and so on for the balance of my dismal life.

I left. I felt they breathed a sigh of relief. I was not "the right kind".


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