Nobody like Nora, a new tradition

 ‘They’re Over Here’ by Frank Roth is included in the upcoming TRADITION! (as uttered by Zero Mostel in “Fiddler on the Roof”)exhibition at the Regional Arts Commission. The event features four Jewish artists and is curated by Buzz Spector, a Jewish artist, writer and curator.  The exhibition runs from Friday, July 13 through August 18.

By Ellen Futterman, Editor

Of the many things I admired about the late Nora Ephron, it was her candor, even if it meant some people were not going to like her (though it seemed most everyone did). Ephron wrote a lot about what she liked and what she didn’t like, sometimes about herself, ranging from the smallness of her breasts to the skin around her neck. She had this uncanny ability to spew sage wisdom through her words, then walked her talk in the plucky, honest way in which she embraced life. Perhaps the best Ephronism I took to heart: “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” That and another vintage morsel of her greatness: “I don’t think any day is worth living without thinking about what you’re going to eat next at all times.”

Ephron died last week in New York at the age of 71 from complications brought on by acute myeloid leukemia. In the week or so following her death, a slew of journalists, most of them women and far better writers than me, have weighed in with tributes to her. That’s because the loss of one of our country’s greatest female humorists resonated with — and saddened — so many of us. Ephron was one of the few writers able to transcend age, race and religion with her dead-on observations (what Jewish daughter of a certain age didn’t give her mother of a certain age Ephron’s next book?). Her pain was our pain. Her worries were our worries. Her successes… well, she worked so damn hard, we could revel in them, too, and hope, like Ephron, we could learn to be less punishing of ourselves.

Combing the Internet, reading what had been written about Ephron after her death on June 26, I came across some great stuff. Still, it paled in comparison to what Ephron herself had written, including about death. I loved that she made a list of what she would miss and wouldn’t miss after she died. The “wouldn’t miss list” included dry skin, emails (twice, for emphasis), technology in general, bras, Clarence Thomas, Joe Lieberman, mammograms, the sound of the vacuum cleaner and taking off make-up every night. On the “would miss list”: her sons, her husband, waffles, the concept of waffles, reading in bed, fireworks, laughs, Thanksgiving dinner, taking a bath, pie. In other words, the simple things in life that bring us joy.

Like so many, I, too, am going to miss the heck out of Ephron, a woman I never met but consider a friend. Sure, we can watch her films and see her plays and read her books and essays, and feel connected to her. Still, I can’t but wonder if she’s looking down on all this outpouring of love and wanting to shout as loud as she can, “Yes, it’s true, the secret upside of death is not having to worry about your hair anymore!!!!!” 

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Rest in peace Nora Ephron. And for what it’s worth, I think your hair always looked great.

A new tradition

An upcoming art show featuring four Jewish artists asks audiences to consider what birds have to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For Lauren Pressler, one of the four artists in the exhibition TRADITION! (as uttered by Zero Mostel in “Fiddler on the Roof”) at the Regional Arts Commission (RAC), it makes perfect sense.  “There is a pulsating tradition of both war and peace in ancient and modern Judaism,” she explains.  “Today, those in favor of a militarized Israeli state can be seen as hawks, and those who advocate passivity can be seen as doves.”  In her piece “Spears into Pruning Shears,” Pressler created hybrid physical forms of hawks and doves to comment on the above contradictory tradition.

The exhibition is curated by Buzz Spector, a Jewish artist, writer and curator, and Dean of the College and Graduate School of Art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University.  He selected artists Pressler, Sandy Kaplan, Frank Roth, and Barbara Umbogy because of their “acutely observed attitudes about life, identity, and commu nity; and how these attitudes come through in their work.” Spector believes that there is something uniquely Jewish about their outlook.  “I made a consciously ironic choice to name the show ‘TRADITION!,’” he says, “because much of the work in the show is not what people would think of as traditional Jewish art.”

All of the artists display a wide range of media and styles. Kaplan works in terra cotta. Roth’s photographs capture everyday events, and encourage viewers to ask if there’s more to see and to consider any unanswered questions. And the subjects of Umbogy’s paintings include Jewish themes, still lifes and portraits.  

TRADITION! (as uttered by Zero Mostel in “Fiddler on the Roof”) opens with a free reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at RAC on Friday, July 13.  A free gallery talk takes place on Thursday, July 19 and features the curator and artists. The exhibition runs through August 18.

Law school primer

Kudos to St. Louis native and Washington U law school graduate Ben Weiss who published a humorous new guide for first-year law students called “Malice in Wonderland: What Every Law Student Should Have for the Trip” (Fine Print Press, 128 pages).

Written under the pen name Thaddeus Hatter (i.e. Mad Hatter) “Malice in Wonderland” is written for incoming law students hungry for a punchy, pithy take on their new experience. Taking its cue from “Alice in Wonderland,” the reader is led on a journey into law school (i.e. Wonderland) by tour guide Uncle Malice (the other of Weiss’ alter-egos). Drawing upon his own mistakes and shenanigans, Uncle Malice entertains with his brash, colorful insights and antics.

Weiss attended John Burroughs School and is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and Washington University School of Law. He garnered numerous honors in law school, and practiced corporate and securities law for Thompson Coburn. He now lives in New York City. This is his first book. It is available for download on Kindle and Nook and can be ordered on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.