Columns - 2001

    Festival of Lights shopping

    by Doug Brook
    Deep South Jewish Voice Columnist

    As a recent repeat of a Friends episode reminded me, Hanukkah is also known as "The Festival of Lights" (tm) in some circles (specifically, those with radii between twelve and thirty-seven cubits, whatever a cubit is).

    With the proliferation of this alternate name for the holiday, plus many people's understanding that Chanukah is also known as "The Festival for Giving Presents to Jews Since Everyone Else is Doing it This Month", this column presents to you, with apologies to the Holiday Armadillo, in living black and white, a shopping guide appropriate for the Festival of Lights.

    • Light beer. It doesn't exist. The dubious chemical substance they call light beer weighs the same as regular beer. And it still has about two thirds of the record-and-belt-breaking calories as real beer, with two-thirds less flavor. We suggest you stick to the real thing, Bud.
    • Light music. It does exist. Is this a good thing? The Rabbis dispute it. Surprise. There are some fine light music examples out there (compact discs), and some bad examples (78 RPM records). In all seriousness, light music is fine, a welcome addition to any household, especially one looking for a substitute for ritalin for their kids. Just as long as you avoid Barry Manilow. Bring that into your house and I can only say that you've been warned.
    • Light fixtures. They're everywhere. In fact, it's amazing that Christmas hasn't overtaken Harmonica as the Festival of Lights when you look at all the lawn and house decorations that start to bloom in late November. If you're in a rush, you can borrow some lights from your neighbor's lawn (he has enough of them, he won't miss them... unless you steal Rudolph's nose). Otherwise, buy a lamp, a chandelier, or a maglite.
    • Light fantastic. Paul McCartney apparently tripped on this about ten years ago, live on two CDs. Good album. Some would say it qualifies as light music (see above).
    • Lightning. This is a thoughtless gift. It can short out computers, knock down trees, or leave a mark on the forehead of very young children (see Harry Potter, in almost every theatre, everywhere). Associated items such as lightning rods and lightning bolts are equally lethal. Make sure to only get such a gift for someone you don't like.
    • Light motif. An especially thoughtful gift for any classical music composers in your midst who have writer's block.
    • Lightness of being. They say it's unbearable. Sounds like a bad gift to me.
    • Lighters. Always a good small gift. Useful for such things as lighting other lights, especially (but not limited to) non-electric lights. Ironically, giving someone a Zippo is not directly indicative of how much you believe to be that person's worth.
    • Light in August. William Faulkner. It's the only book I was supposed to read in all of high school that I ever actually finished. Must be something to it. (Of course, it was also one of my worst grades. Must be something to that, too. Good thing I didn't pursue a career in writing...)
    • Light bulb. Useful for people who have received light fixtures as gifts from their friends who are obviously richer than you. (Splurge. At least get them a four-pack.) Also, these are especially appropriate and caring gifts for comic friends or loved ones who could use a bright idea.
    • Light My Fire. Give this to your baby, and it will definitely open new doors for him or her (or both).
    • Ray of Light. This is the Madonna song being used to proliferate the infiltration of Windows XP into the world. Avoid it at all costs. Otherwise, the cost will go from your pocket straight to Microsoft and their minions for years to come.
    • Light speed. Not to be confused with Speed Light, which is a low calorie alternative of a popular illegal substance (except in California, where everything's okay for medicinal purposes, including speeding, smoking, and listening to Barry Manilow in small doses). Give the gift of light speed to some scientist friends of yours, and they'll appreciate you for the rest of their lives until they forget to mention you in their Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
    • Light house. This is good for people who live on the coast, unless they're on a cliff at risk from mudslides. Of course, this is not so thoughtful a gift for someone who lives in tornado country.
    • Light on your feet. For the ballet dancer in your midst, or the person who is STILL going through those Thanksgiving leftovers.
    • Light of the silvery moon. This is the easiest, and cheapest, gift. If it's a clear night. But, since Charmonica is eight days (and eight nights) long, the odds (like the Force) will be with you.

    Those are this year's recommended gift ideas for the Festival of Lights. In light of the blighted economy, we take no delight in enlightening you to the fact that the preceding buying advice should not, even slightly, be taken lightly.

    Incidentally, in case you've forgotten from past years, the original traditional Jewish holiday for giving presents is Purim (which is also the holiday on which you get so drunk you can't tell the difference between the good wine and Manischewitz). Chanukka was originally for giving money. To avoid confusion, especially if you know me personally (and even if you don't), to make sure you get it right you should feel free to give both on each holiday.

    Incidentallier, in case you are unaware of the biblical origins of the cubit, a cubit is the base measure of currency on the legendary epic television series Battlestar Galactica.

    (We can mention that show in this column, because Lorne Greene played Commander Adama which is Hebrew for "ground" or "earth" or "Commander of the Battlestar Galactica". And I'm sure some of the producers must have been Jewish. Or at least a bunch of Jews watched the show. If all else fails, I know that a bunch of students at the Jewish Day School played Battlestar Galactica in the playground in second grade. Therefore, it's relevant!)

    Cubits are also mentioned in Genesis to define the dimensions of the ark. But this makes little sense since you can't build a boat to hold two of every animal for forty days out of gold coins. And the show didn't premiere until way after the flood.

    Incidentalliest, in case you've forgotten from past years, there is no single correct way to spell (C)Hannukkah. Not even in Hebrew. Anyone who says different is selling something.

    Doug Brook is a technical writer in Silicon Valley, who usually got to play Starbuck. His play Retrograde is in the 8 Tens @ 8 Festival anthology, available everywhere. For more information, online ordering, an archive of past columns and other writings, visit his website at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.