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German Raver Cyborg Mohawks

Background: I interviewed Professor Nye to talk about his raving experiences. He discovered electronic music as an exchange student in 1995-96 in Germany. Clubs at this time in Germany were playing a lot of techno pop music, and he heard from friends about “underground” or unsanctioned dance events. He attended events like this his senior year of high school in the Bay area of California.

Context: This interview took place the Thornton School of Music faculty building at the University of Southern California during his office hours on a Tuesday afternoon. There was a flute playing in the background throughout the whole interview. As Professor Nye is describing the styles he saw in European dance events, he remembered a specific hairstyle he saw in Germany. 

“My favorite was probably in Germany these kind of very cyberpunk outfits with just full you know like everything plastic, full plastic cyborg dress. There was this style that ravers had back in the day, especially in Germany, was like shaved on all the side, neon hair, and then like cyberpunk spikes going down the side like this. Does that make sense? That was kind of more sci-fi imagery.”

 

As he is speaking he is gesturing to the center of his head where you would typically expect to see a mohawk and then gestured to both sides of the mohawk in a straight line to describe where the “spikes” would be.

 

 

Customs
general
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Persian Wedding Custom

Background: Lauren was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Her parents are both Persian Jews, and Lauren considers herself Persian as well. She has lots of extended family in the area that she grew up in, so her family often has family events that she attends, including bar and bat mitzvahs as well as weddings.

Context: Lauren was telling me about a pre-wedding party that she recently attended for her first cousin. I called Lauren on the phone since she attends university in Florida and recorded our conversation. I have transcribed what she said over the phone below.

“So there’s two names for this wedding tradition. Goleh baleh* or shironim khanom**. Goleh means flower and baleh means yes. Shironim means sweet. It’s a party it’s one of the first parties that happens when a couple gets engaged. It’s thrown by the bride’s family. At this party there’s a table full of sweets, sterling silver, flowers and a crystal that’s called leelac. That chrystal is supposed to be very expensive. It’s basically bringing in the sweetness of course of a marriage and the combining of two families and it’s usually a very big party. It’s the first time the couple is there together. I learned this tradition from  my family because last April my cousin Natalie got exchanged and her parents threw a shironim khanom. I just remember the entire party there was just fresh pastries, crepes, flowers… people send hundreds of flowers. My aunt’s house, everywhere there was flowers it was just beautiful. Everywhere there were silver plates…just gorgeous. Since I’m so close to her I didn’t really get to enjoy the food because I was dancing the whole night. One thing that we do that I really love that we do at most of the parties is we get fresh flowers and there’s a song that is sung and during that song, during the chorus everyone throws the flowers up at the bride and the groom, and the bride and groom are supposed to kiss at that time. It was my first time really seeing all that happen and it was really pretty and magical. I don’t know the song of the song… I know the melody but I’m gonna botch the words. The flowers are normally light colored flowers, typically white roses. Always light colors, never a dark color. White or light pink. At my cousin’s shironim, there was some jewelry given to her like close family came early and jeweled her up I guess? She wore no jewelry at the beginning and before the party started each of the grandmas gave her a piece of jewelry and then her parent, and then the grooms side of the family. They put the jewelry on her and then she wears it for the party and the rest of the night. Usually it’s not during the party, it’s before, just for close family and friends because… I don’t know my dad doesn’t really like it, it’s not very humble. Usually it’s just close family and friends. She wears the jewelry for the rest of the night though. Jewelry is given to the bride and the groom, usually the parents of the bride and groom, the grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and if there’s even more jewelry then cousins, first cousins. No specific type of jewelry, usually just anything. Persians have this thing where you give married people emeralds, and older women will wear emeralds to the party if they are close to the bride. My mom wore emeralds to this party and the wedding, like emerald necklaces, earrings, rings. The groom’s mom wore emeralds. Something that has emeralds in it- once you’re married you’re given a lot of emeralds for some reason.”

 

*goleh baleh

How it’s pronounced: goh-leh bah-leh

**shironim khanom

How it’s pronounced: sheer-oo-neem khah-nohm

Folk speech
general

Farsi Curse #3

Background: Lauren was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Her parents are both Persian Jews, and Lauren considers herself Persian as well. Lauren does not know how to write the curse in the original Farsi. The pronunciation is based on how Lauren said the phrase during our interview, keeping in mind that she is not a native Farsi speaker. Her first language was English and she also learned Hebrew growing up, and while she understands Farsi her speaking capabilities are, in her own words, limited.

Context: I called Lauren on the phone since she attends university in Florida and recorded our conversation. I have transcribed what she said over the phone below. She was sharing with me her favorite Persian curse words and phrases. She had just shared her favorite, which is published under the title “Farsi Curse #1” as well as a more offensive curse that is published as “Farsi Curse #2”.

The phrase: khag tu sar

How it is pronounced: kh-oh-g too sahr

“Our final curse word is khag tu sar. It basically means throw dirt on your head. I don’t know the correct grammatical terms for it but I’m pretty sure you can use it universally, not sure if its a gender related term. I learned this word from my parents when I was very young but I never used it until I was a sophomore in high school. Now its just a part of my language. People use it in many ways, but I use it almost like “kill me now” or “oh no”. I think its supposed to be said to put people down if they’re being annoying. Most people use it in the sense of “kill me” or “oh god”, like khag tu sar!”

 

Folk speech
general

Farsi Curse #2

Background: Lauren was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Her parents are both Persian Jews, and Lauren considers herself Persian as well. Lauren does not know how to write the curse in the original Farsi. The pronunciation is based on how Lauren said the phrase during our interview, keeping in mind that she is not a native Farsi speaker. Her first language was English and she also learned Hebrew growing up, and while she understands Farsi her speaking capabilities are, in her own words, limited.

Context: I called Lauren on the phone since she attends university in Florida and recorded our conversation. I have transcribed what she said over the phone below. She was sharing with me her favorite Persian curse words and phrases. She had just shared her favorite, which is published under the title “Farsi Curse #1”.

The phrase: modar genda

How it is pronounced: moh-dar jen-deh

“Another word is modar genda which means your mom is a whore or prostitute if you want to be polite. I learned this word in elementary school and I never really knew what it meant until elementary school when I asked my parents and they gave me a full definition of it. This is definitely more offensive than pedar sag (Farsi Curse #1). People use it for fun, but mostly as an insult to someone if they are bothering you. It’s not really used like just as an expletive that people might say “oh fuck” but more directed at a specific person as an insult.”

 

Folk speech
general

Farsi Curse #1

Background: Lauren was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Her parents are both Persian Jews, and Lauren considers herself Persian as well.

Context: I called Lauren on the phone since she attends university in Florida and recorded our conversation. I have transcribed what she said over the phone below. She was sharing with me her favorite Persian curse words and phrases.

Lauren does not know how to write the curse in the original Farsi. The pronunciation is based on how Lauren said the phrase during our interview, keeping in mind that she is not a native Farsi speaker. Her first language was English and she also learned Hebrew growing up, and while she understands Farsi her speaking capabilities are, in her own words, limited.

The phrase: “pedar sag”

How to pronounce it: ped-ah-r sag

“It means your dad is a dog. My friend’s mother used to just blurt out this word all the time when I was at their house. Matin is from Iran, and she knows this word because its a common word that Persians use when they want to cuss, but it was never really used in my house because my parents did not really say cuss words. Matin had no problem. You would say this word towards someone when they’re being annoying. She would use this word towards her dog, which is more appropriate, but normally people would say it to someone who’s bothering them.”

 

Folk speech
general

Shayna Punim

Background: Lila is Jewish. Her father is a Rabbi in the Reform Movement and is the head rabbi of a temple in Los Angeles. Lila’s grandmother is also Jewish, and grew up hearing Yiddish phrases from her parents that she now uses with her grandchildren.

Context: Lila was brainstorming things that her parents say to her and was very excited to share what her grandma calls her.

“My grandma always this thing to me in Yiddish, that I’m her Shayna Punem and that means that I’m a pretty face, but it means more than that, it means that I’m her pretty face, I’m the light of her life. She always says “my shayna punim” this, this and that. My grandma is very American, like she was born in America, but spoke Yiddish all the time because her parents because they were from Poland, they spoke Yiddish all the time. That’s one of those phrases that stuck with her and she’ll use when she’s talking to me or her other grandchildren, “you’re my shayna punim” like you’re my pretty face.”

Original phrase in Yiddish: Shayna punim

Reflection: I come from a Sephardic Jewish background since my family is Moroccan so I did not grow up hearing Yiddish from any members of my family. Yiddish is used mainly by Ashkenazi Jews.

 

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Erin Express

“How appropriate do I have to be?” was the first thing Lila asked me about describing this tradition.

Background: Lila attends Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. When she arrived at school she called my friends to ask us if we had ever heard of Erin Express. When we all assured her that we had never heard of that she began to describe this Philly-wide tradition called Erin Express that related to St. Patrick’s Day.

Context: I had this conversation with Lila over the phone. I recorded our conversation and transcribed it below.

“I go to Drexel University in Philadelphia. When I first got here I started hearing about this event. Actually I don’t even want to call it an event, it’s not an event. Its something the city… it’s like the 3 weekends leading up to Saint Patrick’s day, a bunch of bars and clubs in the area will have a kind of bar crawl? If you go to college in Philadelphia you will have pregames* starting in the morning and then go to those bar crawls. So basically the three weekends leading up to St. Patrick’s day and then on St. Patrick’s day you will get dressed up, you’ll wake up early, wear all St. Patrick’s day apparel and basically day drink the whole day and go to different bars. And it’s not just something college kids do, it’s something that older people do too. It’s not a college thing, I guess if you’re in college you’ll start at frats but end up at bars. It was something interesting about the culture here that I had never heard and something cool that Philly does. Yeah.”

When I asked her to elaborate on what people typically wear, this is what she said;

“You dress up like it’s St. Patrick’s Day, even if it is multiple weeks before. The whole theme of it is Irish? A lot of time friend groups or sororities will make a t-shirt for it that people will buy that have puns about Erin Express since that’s the name of it or puns about St. Patrick’s Day or different cute designs. It’s almost like tailgate t-shirt culture** but in a different kind of setting.”

*Pregame- a pre-party where people get together to drink alcohol before going out to a bar, typically as a way to save money on drinks once you’re at the bar. It is also a way to meet up with your friends to “get the party started”.

** Many sororities and fraternities at various schools will make t-shirts that have jokes on them about the school that they are playing often in football that people will wear to tailgates. Some examples for USC would be t-shirts that say “Tri Delta Tailgates” or “FUCLA” (as a way of insulting a rival).

Foodways
general
Holidays

Hanish Family Gefilte Fish Tradition

Background: Lila is my best friend from high school. She has a tradition with her dad, Jon, and her younger sister, Sydney, to hand make apple pies for Thanksgiving together. They also have a tradition of making gefilte fish together for Passover in the springtime.

 

Context: I called Lila over FaceTime because she attends Drexel University in Philadelphia. I recorded our conversation and transcribed it below. She described this gefilte fish tradition in succession to her family’s pie tradition, published under the title “Hanish Family Pie Tradition”.

 

“So I feel like it’s pretty similar to our apple pie thing for our family. Every year my family hosts the Passover seder. We do all the cooking. It’s been a tradition for as long as I can remember that we make the gefilte fish with my dad. I feel like my dad really values having these little traditions with us that he can count on even as we get older. The apple pies and the gefilte fish. It’s honestly super disgusting and I hate it, but it’s just something we do every year so I’ve learned to deal with it. This one we have friends over for less, because friends don’t often want to rub their different fishes together with their bare hands, you know? There is something satisfying about it in a certain way.. that makes me sound so weird and creepy wow.”

 

I then asked Lila if she could elaborate on what gefilte fish is. This was her response.


“It’s like a traditional Passover, Jewish food. It’s Ashkenazi, I think. It looks like a matzah ball but it tastes like fishy fish. When we first started I think my dad got the different types of fish. But now he goes to a butcher that gives him the combination of the fish. We only make it for passover. We would NEVER make it any other time of year. That’s just gross and weird. My mom will do most of the other cooking for the seder, but this is the thing that the three of us take care of. It’s always on the first night, never second night, always first night. This tradition originated with my dad, I know he didn’t do this with his family growing up.”

 

Customs
general
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Moroccan Wedding Tradition

Background: Leigh comes from a Moroccan Jewish family. Her experience with these pre-wedding traditions has predominantly been with her aunt and uncles’ weddings.

Context: I interviewed Leigh in person and recorded our conversation on my phone. Her comments below are what I transcribed out of our conversation. She described henna (pronounced “hee-nah”) parties in Israel before weddings.

“I’m not sure if this is Moroccan or Moroccan Jewish. In terms of the significance and all that I am the wrong person to ask. I always thought they were talking about tahini, which to those of you unfamiliar with it, its like sesame seed paste that is consumed by many in the middle east. I always thought that when I was going to my uncles wedding ceremonies, they were talking about “doing a tahini” which to me sounded like “doing a hummus” like making food, which I didn’t understand. It took me a while to understand that they meant henna. It actually makes sense now that I think about it, they come from the same kind of henna paste. But it’s referring to henna. It was interesting when I was little because I did not realize that my family owned all of these moroccan costumes, that was my first time really experiencing true Moroccan culture, because you would dress up the way that they would in Morocco. Mom would always dress me and my sister up in matching, elaborate, flashy costumes. They were pretty cool. For men there are tunics or kaftans and there’s a vest and a hat, called a tarboosh. Theirs are pretty boring to be honest, compared to the women’s costumes. They always looked like they were out of Arabian nights, either like a belly dancer look going on, or kind of like the coins, you know? They always had these really beautiful beaded costumes, I wouldn’t call them tunics I would say they were more like… it wasn’t a kaftan…the bride would always have something more open, which I think is a more modernized, Israeli-Moroccan take on the women’s costume. We didn’t have the most traditional ones I would say. We looked like genies. We looked like Christina Aguilera, “Genie in a Bottle” music video genies. I know my grandma still keeps them, she has a whole closet full of that stuff and the costumes. They’ll pull them out for random occasions, for Passover for example which is a pretty big deal in Moroccan Jewish heritage. Oh, and the henna itself, the tattoos that won’t leave your hand and smell horrible and stain everything. It’s kind of like…have you ever seen a horse take a shit? It looks like that and you rub it into your palm. I don’t remember much else about it because I was so concerned about getting out of the costume, I did not like being in the costume. It stains in a weird way, it’s not like a normal henna that you can get on the beach in Mexico these days. It’s more watery, it leaves a paler residue. I don’t know if it’s the exact same formula or anything like that. That’s all I got.”

general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Moroccan Jewish Passover Custom

Background: Leigh comes from a Moroccan Jewish family. Her experience with these Passover traditions have been with her mom and grandparents. 

Context: I interviewed Leigh in person and recorded our conversation on my phone. Her comments below are what I transcribed out of our conversation. She described the mimouna (pronounced mee-moo-nah) Passover ritual, which she had previously mentioned at the same time as the henna wedding ritual (published under the title “Moroccan Wedding Tradition”). 

 

“Basically the mimouna is when you break the Passover fast of not eating leavened bread with very decadent festivities. Very decadent sugary desserts, lots of marzipan. There’s something called a mufleta*, which is basically a Moroccan crepe that you fill with all sorts of things like honey, or nutella, you know..butter, bunch of other stuff, sugar. My favorite memory is actually when we were a lot younger and in my grandparents’ old apartment, I think right around the time of my aunt’s wedding, my grandma would prepare these very intricate handmade marzipan desserts that resembled exotic fruits and sugar cookies and all this stuff, which to be honest I don’t love the flavor of but they’re exquisite to look at. She has a whole Moroccan cookbook and I know she sent recipes to that same aunt that got married all those years ago. They’re very beautiful. I learned this tradition from my mom and my grandparents. The set-up is kind of different everywhere you go. My mom was more focused on getting us around the actual frying pan to see her make the mufleta, and also so we could just have them fresh off the press. At my grandparents house, where it was more of an ordeal they would stack up all of these like Moroccan crepes on a plate like a mountain, then you had your assortment of jams and butter and chocolate. In Israel they would serve this kosher chocolate spread called “Shachar” brand but in the States at our house we would eat Nutella. In Israel it was mostly honey and butter, jelly would be kind of apricot, orange marmalade.”

*mufleta- pronounced moof-leh-tah

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