Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Invasion of the Borrowers

The Borrowers are real. I know they're real because I'm missing quite a number of small items and important pieces of paper that I know I packed from my dorm room before I came home and I remember taking special note that they were there. And my dorm room was completely empty when I left it. It was as small as a closet (think Harry Potter and his cupboard under the stairs - yep, that was my dorm room) so it's not like there were many places these things could have disappeared to. No, the disappearing definitely happened once I got home. And so the Borrowers must be real. They have to be. There's no other explanation.

In other news, I saw an incredible movie last night called Freedom Writers. It's based on a true story after the LA riots where high school kids from an interracial school in Long Beach, California learn to cope with their lives and the struggles of gangs, broken homes, and racial wars through keeping journals. The project was started by their English teacher, Erin Gruwell, who joined the school in order to make a difference in the interracial community. She reached out and helped these kids realize their potential through exposing them to others who had similar struggles. She had her students read The Diary of Anne Frank and taught them about the Holocaust. The kids eventually referred to themselves as the Freedom Writers, a take-off of the previous segregation fighers, the Freedom Riders. They compiled their journals together and it was eventually published.

Freedom Writers is an extremely moving film and definitely a must see. I found it extremely interesting that there was so much focus on the Holocaust, as well. I even almost cried at certain points and I hate crying during movies (even though it, er, isn't that difficult to do. For me, I mean. So embarassing). I really, really want to read the book now.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Paintball: Just A Game

As most of you probably noticed, I haven't written any entries in the past four days. This is because I went to Camp Morasha with my family for Memorial Day weekend.

My family and a couple of other families from my community have developed the tradition of going camping every year on the sunday and monday of memorial day weekend. It started about nine years ago, I'd say, or around then, maybe ten. The very first year it was fathers and sons only at a place called Uncle Pete's and, of course, me being the girly tomboy that I was (I say girly tomboy because I was a tomboy, but I was never a jock, I never cut my hair short, I still liked looking like a girl...though a girl in denim overalls, muddy sneakers, and a ponytail) found that arrangement to be terribly unfair. So the next year daughters were allowed, too. The group grew until it got quite large, and sometimes we would do other things besides camping, especially after Uncle Pete died and we had to move to other camping sights, like we once hiked this big mountain called Mohonk, which was fun. And we would always have a rest stop on the way up at a place called Sloatsburg. One boy even made up a song about it that goes (tune: 'you are my sunshine'):

You are my Sloatsburg,
Our faithful rest stop
You're a gas station
And a pit stop
You are my Sloatsburg,
My only Sloatsburg,
Oh please get a
Kosher
Restaurant.

Anyway, this year we did something completely different since Memorial Day weekend was in conjunction with Shavuot. Cousins of one of the original camping families (actually, of two of the original camping families. This family is part owner of the camp, which is what made this whole thing possible in the first place) organized this trip to Morasha for Shavuot, extending the program to include Memorial Day weekend. My mom decided that six days up at camp was too long, so we went up on Friday (a bunch of other families did, too, so it was all good). The trip was fun, for the most part, though it was a bit difficult for me because the only other girls near my age didn't really have an interest in socializing with me, so I ended up hanging out with my sister and her friend, or my mom. But that was alright, because on Friday and all other non-Shabbat days I hung out with the guys, mostly. We played an awesome baseball game, and I didn't even realize I was such a good batter. I haven't played in ages but I hit the ball every time I was up, which was amazing, since I was fully expecting to strike out, and though my ball was caught every time except one, they were good hits. There was once where I hit a really nice line drive but they threw it to first before I made it there, mostly because I wasted precious seconds staring at my hit in surprise before remembering to run.

Sunday was the best day, though. In the morning, whoever wanted to played paintball. For those who don't know, paintball is a war game. It is. People may say it isn't, but I'm going to be blunt about it. There are a few different games to play, but the most common is capture the flag. There are two teams, each with a flag, and everyone has guns which shoot these little pellets filled with paint. If you get hit by a pellet and it splatters on you, you're out for that game. Each game lasts approximately ten minutes (though I guess it depends on who's running it). Paintball is a game of strategy, speed, and courage. There is the opinion, however, that it is also a game of violence and that it is inappropriate for children to play, or even adults. I understand this argument very much, I do, but I would like to suggest that perhaps this argument is a bit unfair.

Paintball is a game just like freeze tag is a game, just like having a water fight is a game, just like dodgeball is a game. Each of those games has the objective of tagging another person, whether it be using your hands, water (often through water guns or water balloons), a ball, or paint pellets. Having done paintball twice in my life (each time playing more than one game, this time we played six games in a row, it was awesome), I can say from experience that it doesn't feel any more violent than playing tag or regular capture the flag, and it actually feels less violent than playing dodgeball, where the objective is to throw the ball as hard as you can at the other team so you can hit someone without that person catching the ball. It is certainly less violent than many action movies and video games out there. There is no blood, there are no real guns, no actual violence. You do get to wear these really cool camouflage jumpsuit things. They're huge and baggy and I didn't want to get my skirt full of paint, so I just wore them, even though I don't wear pants anymore. The other women were doing the same thing. I figured a skirt was inappropriate for paintball, anyway.

The one thing I will say about paintball is that it hurts. Not terribly, but when you get hit it stings and you may end up with some welts. It's not too bad, though. I have only one welt on my leg, though I got hit all over, and I have a bruised finger. It was all blown up and purple yesterday but it's much better now. And anyway, all the fun afterwards is showing off your welts and telling the stories about how you got them (I had the flag, really! But then this guy shot me right here and I had to drop it - we were about to win). There was this one really awesome time, during the last game of the day, when I was hiding behind a huge rock near my team's base. The object of that game was to get the flag from the middle of the area where we were playing in the woods and bring it to the enemy base. I saw a guy from the other team running with the flag right towards me so I starting shooting at him. I finally hit him in the upper arm, but when I did he was closer than twenty feet away and the rule was that if you hit someone closer than twenty feet away, you're out, as well. It was worth it, though. He had to drop the flag right there and another person from my team picked it up and ran to the other side. It was the end of the game at this point and most people were out so he had an easy time hanging the flag on the enemy base and winning the game for us.

I think one of the best things about this paintball experience was the fact that we made a tremendous kiddush Hashem. The men running it were completely impressed with the fact that we had to be teamed up by family, so that no child would end up shooting his or her parent. They also commented that we were the nicest, most cooperative and pleasant group they've worked with in a long time (in addition to providing some excellent entertainment for them. Apparently we're all very good paintball players - good enough to provide some fun action, which they said a lot of groups don't do. Most of it, they said, had to do with the great communication we had with each other, which is probably also a kiddush Hashem - we showed how well we work together as a cohesive group, being mentches even during a very competitive game).

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mark The World

Does it ever feel like no one ever really knows you? Like you exist physically, but that you don't seem to be making a mark anywhere in the world? You go through the motions of the day, but do people actually know who you are? Do you know who you are? And not just what your label is, but who you really are, what your essence is.

There's so much I feel I don't know about myself. But more than that, or maybe because of that, I feel that people don't really know me. They think they do. They assume things, they decide things for me, "oh, Erachet, you're afraid of everything" "oh, Erachet, I know you, you're funny and cute and amusing" "oh, Erachet, you always slack off your schoolwork."

I guess there's an element of truth in all of those, but it always makes me annoyed when people say things like that. When people think they know me, and so they make statements, but really they only know a small part of me. Yes, I'm afraid of many things, but do you have any idea how many fears I've conquered? How brave I really am? How many times I force myself to do things because I know my fears are just holding me back? Is that being afraid of everything? I'm so much stronger than that, I just know I am. I'm no coward.

Yes, I can say funny things, sometimes even stupidly funny things, and yes, I'm small and some people may find that cute, but I feel so patronized at times. I can be serious. I feel serious quite often. I'm not just some child who happens to be in college. I have grown up. Sometimes people who've known me for a long time think I haven't changed at all since high school. But just look at me! I have changed! My whole perception of the world, of who I am, of who I can see myself with in the future, of what my ideals are - they've all changed to an extent. They've all matured. I've matured.

I've matured in my schoolwork, too. Yes, I'm lazy, yes, I procrastinate all the time, but I actually care about my grades now. It's sort of icky for me since I'm a procrastinator and then get upset over grades lower than what I know I can get, and not that I didn't care in high school, because I did, but I value my efforts so much more now. I'm more organized, I actually use a planner, I actually study for my tests. Old habits die hard, I'm not the most studious that I could be, but I wish I was.

So I wish people would just stop judging me based on who I was some years ago. See me for who I am now.

I wish I could open up and let people see me, really see me. I wish people could really know the true me, all of me. But at the same time, maybe it'd be frightening. I don't even know the true me. I only know bits and pieces of myself. And of those bits and pieces, even smaller bits and pieces actually get shown to the world.

It makes me feel so removed from people sometimes, to only have them know certain tiny fragments of who I really am. It makes me feel like I'm not really making an impression on anyone, let alone in the world in general. I know, I'm young, I have time to actually make my mark on the world. But still. I wish I knew how to open up more and just let myself get closer to other people. I wish I wasn't so afraid of what they'd think of me if they really saw me, the real me, or all that I know of the real me, in any case.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Serendipity

Someone once told me when I was younger that the word 'serendipity' means finding something you used to like by accident. Well, cleaning my room this afternoon, I found plenty of things I used to like by accident. One of these is a memory game which used to be popular in camp and in youth groups like NCSY. Basically, one person starts off by saying, "one hen." The person who is sort of like a contestant then has to repeat, "one hen." Then the one leading the game says, "one hen, two ducks" and the contestant has to repeat. It goes all the way until ten. This is the list (some things might be spelled wrong, this list is from a number of years ago, not that my spelling is amazing now, but anyway):
One hen
Two ducks
Three squawking geese
Four limerick oysters
Five corpulent porpoises
Six pairs of Don Elverso's tweezers (I have no clue who Don Elverso is)
Seven thousand Macedonian soldiers dressed in full battle array
Eight brass monkeys from the ancient, sacred crypts of Egypt
Nine apathetic, sympathetic, diabetic old men on roller skates with a marked propensity towards procrastination and sloth
Ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the sea who haul and stall around the corner of the quo, the quay, and the quiver all at the same time.
Whew.

Anyway, one of the other items I found buried away in my desk drawers are six little figurines, bigger than Polly Pocket - about the size of Lego people, I guess, maybe a touch bigger. They came from a toy I had when I was younger, maybe six or seven years old, called Jenny's Tree House. It was a tree house and came with five of the little figurines, an orange-haired girl with painted on pink clothes, a brown-haired girl with painted on blue clothes, an orange-haired boy with painted on red clothes, a brown-haired boy with painted on blue clothes, and a blonde-haired girl in pigtails with painted on yellow clothes. At some point, I thought I lost some of them and my mom got me another set, but then I really did lose some, so I'm left now with the girl in pink clothes, two girls in yellow, two boys in red, and a boy in blue. I used to have, besides the boys, two yellow girls, two blue girls, and the pink girl, and I remember I named them after the quints in the Baker's Dozen books (whose names I can't really remember now - Rivka, Zahava, Tikva...that's all I remember). I used to play with them all the time, especially while doing homework. I remember I used to arrange them on my desk like students in a classroom and I would pretend to have them answer the homework questions, or do the readings out loud, taking turns of course (I would do a different kind of voice for each, and sometimes they'd be British, too) like we did in school.

That was aaaages ago. I mean, I was literally six and seven when I used to do that, maybe even until I was eight. So I was very pleasantly surprised to find them still tucked away in a corner of my desk drawer. They're the sort of toy I just can't bring myself to throw away - I have too many nice memories of playing with them.

I have to say, I love cleaning my room (well, sometimes). It's like going on a treasure hunt. You just never know what you're going to dig up!

If You Call A Tail A Leg...Would It Still Smell As Sweet?

Well, would it?

Sometime yesterday, when I was distracted and doing my own thing, my sister started wondering about names.

"Isn't it weird," she mused. "How everyone has a name? What's a name, anyway? Why can't people just say, 'Hey! Brown-Eyes!.'"

I distractedly replied as I stared at my computer screen, probably reading blogs, "I don't know, but wouldn't it be awful confusing if we called each other by our eye color? You know how many Brown-Eyes there'd be?"

But now that I think about it, that is kind of how names originated. People called each other by attributes, like Light Foot or Swift Deer or Sitting Bear or Running Horse. Then there were job names; Miller, Hunter, Miner, Locksmith. Sitting Bear the Butcher. Things like that. Well, no, it probably would have been more like John the Butcher. But still. Our surnames today still reflect that whole profession-as-your-last-name thing.

It's funny, though, how all cultures knew instinctively that they had to name people. People were individuals from the start. It's sort of a Jungian way of thinking - the collective unconscious. Sort of like how many cultures had very similar folk tales, even though they had no contact with each other until much later on.

My sister was also befuddled by the fact that, "Erachet, you only answer to 'Erachet.' If I called you 'Aliza,' you wouldn't turn around." I guess that's because we're all used to our names. We wouldn't recognize it if someone called us by something else. But also, there is an element of, this is your name, you are [insert name here.] Don't they say that parents get an element of ruach hakodesh when naming their children? Names have always been of the utmost importance. We add on names when people are sick. Names give us attributes - or maybe names highlight our attributes. Would you be the same person if you had a different name?

Would a rose by any other name still smell as sweet?

Of course, the joke about "if you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a sheep have?" completely ruins this idea, that names have any significance. But actually, if you analyze the joke, does it mean how many legs in essence or how many body parts called 'leg?' Because if it's the former, as the joke assumes, then, of course, the sheep still only has four, because calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one (...or does it? haha). But if the latter...then the sheep actually has five. If you call a tail a leg and then ask how many legs a sheep has, you have to include ALL the legs.

Then again, the name of a thing without sentience might not mean as much as a thing with. People, for instance, like I was just talking about. I think it is definitely true, a person behaves based on what they are called. Sometimes, at least. For instance, if you call someone stupid, he might behave stupidly. If you call someone brave, he might overcome his fears and prove you right. If you tell someone he's talented, he might gain the confidence to try new things and excel at them. So what you call someone really does matter.

It sort of reminds me of the Stern play, which was about a girl, Nattie, who a group of people thought was the Messiah. There was one line that Nattie's helper-person, Melanie, said that kind of stuck in my memory. It was something like, "does a child distinguish between what she is and what she is called?" And I think the answer to that would be, to an extent, yes. If you call a child by something she is not, she won't respond. She is her given name, so the analogy doesn't work. With Nattie, she is Nattie, and her identity up until that point has been Nattie the make-up artist. To give her a new identity all of a sudden, especially one she is pushing away, will change who she has been for so long. Sitting Bear, John the Butcher, Nattie the Make-Up Artist. And I think the whole point of that scene was, even though Nattie's actual job wouldn't change, whether she was called 'leader' or 'Messiah,' to give her the name 'Messiah' would be saying she is the Messiah. Because names matter, they have meaning.

The more I write this entry, the deeper I'm thinking about this. In any case, I already edited and added twice, so I'm going to make myself stop here. But answer me this name question:

What's the deal with steel wool? Is it steel or is it wool? Are there iron sheep jumping around Scotland? (quoted from the Janitor in Scrubs)

Monday, May 21, 2007

Laitnetop ta ergru oyt ube risedru oyt on wohsi

Instead of being productive this morning and unpacking from Stern, I decided to idly read some blogs that I don't normally read. You know, to broaden my JBlogosphere horizen. Somehow, through a series of links, I ended up on a blog called HarryPotterTorah. This excited me very greatly because, of course, I love Harry Potter, and I love Torah, so therefore...I just know I'll love Harry Potter Torah! It excited me so much that I am actually devoting an entire post to it! How did I not come across this blog before? This I do not know. But, seeing as Shavuot is tomorrow night, I decided to link to the Harry Potter Torah entry on Shavuot and the mirror of LAITNETOP.

Now, if only I actually liked cheesecake, I'd be all set. Think I can learn to like it by tomorrow night?

....Nah. Oh well. There's always ice cream! Yum!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dream Diary Entry #1

I have very vivid dreams. Not only that, but I have these very vivid dreams quite often. When I was in Israel for the year, the first thing I used to say when I woke up, nearly every morning, was, "Whoa, I had such a weird dream last night." I wouldn't always recount the dream, but sometimes I would. Eventually, one of my roommates told me I should keep a dream diary so I could keep a record of everything I dreamed and so I could better relieve the stress, anxieties, or happy moments of my dreams. I never took her advice then, but now I think I'll give it a go. Especially since I had a particularly frightening dream last night.

In my dream, I was in some sort of school, though not a building I recognize from my real life. In my dream life I knew exactly where I was, though. Outside, there was a sort of Holocaust going on, only instead of the Nazis, the enemy was the Arabs. They were searching all homes and dormitories for Jews, so the teachers at the school I was in (I don't know who the teachers were either) told us we had to take a few of our belongings and go to this basement, which was like a sealed room/bomb shelter. We also had to be really quiet. I grabbed a notebook, a pencil, my phone, and my laptop, and ran down.

Meanwhile, there were two girls with us who had gone to high school with me and they were known spies of the Arabs, but we couldn't let them know we knew, except that everyone knew. So they were hiding with us and we all had to pretend to be really friendly to them.

Once we were in the basement, I went into this side room with another girl and she was on her laptop and I was just sitting there on this old, worn couch, and then we heard people coming down the hall, so I told the girl to be quiet but her laptop was making a lot of noise. I got scared and ran to go hide behind this cupboard thing but then I panicked since I realized it was a very obvious hiding spot, so I quickly pulled this laundry basket next to me so I wouldn't be seen from that side either (this part was a bit confusing) but then the door opened and the girl on the laptop froze and sort of blended into the wall, so two Arabs came in and they didn't see her, but they came over to where I was hiding and one of them grabbed my wrist and then I woke up.

It was really, really unnerving but I had that feeling of absolute relief when I woke up. You know what I'm talking about? When it takes you a moment or two before you breath out and realize that it was all just a dream and you're safe in your bed and daylight is streaming in through the window shades and it's going to be a good, bright, sunny, not scary day.

The Return to Adventure

Today, it being one of those damp, dreary, slightly rainy Shabbat afternoons, I spent the day curled up in my favorite chair in the living room reading. It was wonderful. It was in this state that I finished Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, a sort of dark and dreary book itself, though in a wonderful, fantastic kind of way. Imagine Alice in Wonderland and the Wizard of Oz meeting the dankest of the London sewers, the hero entering a world which reveres rats and beasts that lurk underneath cities, where nearly no one is trustworthy and where your world is considered Below. This is Neverwhere, the place where those who fall through the cracks end up.

Aside from being an incredible read, Neverwhere made me realize something. I learned this year in my Myth and Folklore class about Campbell's theory of the monomyth. There is basically a cycle of events that usually occurs in the monomyth. There is katabasis, which is the call to adventure, the threshold guardian which the hero must defeat before entering the adventure, the helpers and trials and tests along the way, the threshold guardian for the return, the return - where the hero comes home, usually with a boon of some sort -, at one-ment with the Mother Goddess/female figure, reconciliation/reunification with the father/father figure.

This theory works wonderfully in those tales which end at the very close of the adventure, leaving the reader with the famous, "and they lived happily ever after. The end." But did you ever find yourself wondering if they really lived happily ever after? How can that be the true end? Has the life of the protagonist been complete? No. So what happens after that?

Neil Gaiman in his book adds two more elements to Campbell's theory; elements which I feel are extremely important and which add so much depth to the character and to the story. These are 1. a dissatisfaction with the world the hero returns to/realization the hero has changed and no longer belongs in his original world and 2. the return to adventure.

The hero in Neverwhere, a London dwelling Scotsman named Richard Mayhew, returns to London Above after having spent many trials and tribulations in London Below. The trials and tribulations, however, have actually just been growing pains for Richard, who comes out of London Below a new person. He has newfound confidence and maturity. If the analogy to The Wizard of Oz were to be made, he returns as the Cowardly Lion Who Has Now Got His Courage. He has learned that there is so much more to life than the everyday getting up, going to work, coming home, going to sleep, getting up, going to work, coming home, going to sleep routine. Unable to find meaning in his old, comfortable life, Richard chooses to return to the land which forced him to grow up and become a true man, regardless of the fact that he was technically a full-grown man from the start. He chooses to return to hardship, to trials, to tests of his courage and stamina, to the place where everything dark and foul lives, because it is there where he finds excitement, surprise, adventure, meaning. In London Below, things actually matter, choices matter, who you associate with matters. And because of this, this land in the sewers of London, this land between the cracks, is the true happily ever after for Richard Mayhew.

It is this sort of happily ever after that I feel really rounds out a story. Because if you think about it, it's true in real life as well. Whenever a person goes through an experience which greatly changes him, he finds it difficult to find meaning in his old way of life. He cannot go backwards, only forwards. You can never really return. I guess that's my point. You may be able to physically go back to where you came from, but you can never really go back to the way things were. Not if you live life linearly. There is no going back. Only forward. And this is why the adventure story, the hero story, cannot always end with the return home. That is not the true ending of the story. It is being cut off before it reaches its finish. The true end is the realization that life cannot go on backwards. Only forward. The hero cannot return home mentally and emotionally, for he has changed. He is a different person than he was when he started out, when he had his katabasis, when he first met that initial threshold guardian.

Look at Beowulf. He had his adventure. He defeated Grendel. He defeated Grendel's mother. And then he went home, yes, and eventually was made king. But did he stop? Did he say, "And then I lived happily ever after. The end." No! He didn't! He went and fought a dragon. Because he was a hero and heroes can only go forward, not back. He couldn't return home and be regular Beowulf like before. He couldn't even go home and be King Beowulf. No, he had to be King Beowulf the dragon slayer right 'til the end. He had to return to adventure.

And this is my point. The return home is not enough. To end a story there is cheating the hero. There is more, the hero now must lead the life of a hero. He must return to adventure.

And then he is truly living happily ever after. For can a hero truly be happy when he is not being a hero?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hurry! Say Something Funny!

Gah, many posts today. Well, only three. That's alright then.

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @ Explosm.net


This particular comic strip really sums up what I feel like sometimes. It's sort of like when you're at a social event, or just a bus ride with people you know you ought to make friends with, and you really want to make friends with them, but you just can't think of anything of interest to say. That's happened to me on many occasions, though I'm thinking of one in particular. But even, say, a good friend of yours has a good friend and you all hang out together in a group, but suddenly your mutual friend leaves the room and it's just you and your friend's friend, and all of a sudden, it goes quiet, neither of you saying anything, both fidgeting with your phones or the string at the end of your sleeve that's coming unraveled, thinking you really should cut it off eventually. And in that short span of time, you fail to make an impression. You fail to engage your friend's friend, or the people on the bus who you want to be friends with, or those at the social event, in a conversation that will secure your friendship, or at least make yourself seem at all interesting and fun to be around. Isn't that just the worst feeling?

Harry Potter and the Last Hurrah

This summer, the seventh and final Harry Potter book is coming out (for a countdown to both the book and the fifth movie, see the side of my blog). I have been a Harry Potter fan ever since I was twelve, I think the first three books were already out, or the third one was just coming out then. Something like that. In any case, it has been eight years since then - eight years where I have been so invested in this series. I used to write fanfiction, I used to play Harry Potter roleplaying games. In eighth grade, I wrote an essay at a high school interview about Ron. I still get into debates over what's going to happen in the future of the books. But in about two months, there will be no more wondering, no more supposing, no more debates. It will be over. The Harry Potter saga will be at an end.

I have toyed with how I feel about that. On the one hand, it's sad. It will be time to move on from Harry Potter (well, except for the movies, of course). But as sad as it is, I think I'm ready for Harry Potter to be over. It's been a good run but it's also been a very long time. Harry Potter, luckily, is still hot. For something to be that popular for the amount of time it takes to put out seven novels is quite an accomplishment. However, as the saying goes, it's always good to quit while you're ahead. I have in mind a particular series of books called The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. I heard they were amazing so I borrowed the first few books from a friend. Even though the first book starts off in a very similar fashion to Lord of the Rings, I gave the series a chance and I got as far as the middle of the fifth book. Then I had to stop. It had gotten to the point where I was gaining nothing new from reading further in the series. I had stopped liking the protagonist, which is never a good thing, and all the women had the same personality (stubborn as a mule, they sniff, tug on their hair, and have low necklines). I was investing so much time in a series that didn't end. The tenth book had come out by then and Robert Jordan still hadn't wrapped things up. Not to mention, mind you, that each book was around a thousand pages. I just didn't have the energy nor did I care about the characters enough to keep up.

That is why it is amazing that J.K. Rowling managed to write a stellar series which kept readers hooked in during the entire ride. That is also why I feel the series needs to at last come to a close. Something as great as Harry Potter - and as much as Rowling borrowed from various other authors, who doesn't? I still believe Harry Potter is great - needs to end on a high, so that people remember it only for the good that it was. If it went on for much longer, if there was even an eighth book, I feel the public would have gotten sick of all the hype. There may not have been as much interest. Harry Potter may have slunk out of style instead of going out with a bang.

And for this reason, I also hope the seventh book lives up to the expectations of the fans. I hope I'm not disappointed because of all the hype. Rowling usually pulls through for her readers, but for this last book, this last hurrah, she'll need to pull through double the amount.

Wouldn't it be so awful if the book ended with Harry killing Voldemort but losing his powers because he was really a squib and only had powers in the first place because Voldemort's rebounded into him?

Pleasedon'tendlikethatPleasedon'tendlikethatPleasedon'tendlikethatPleasedon'tendlikethat

The Delivery Boy

He is a delivery boy. At least, that's how everyone sees him. No one thinks of him as a delivery man because that just doesn't have the same ring to it. No, delivery boy it is. And as a delivery boy, one of his duties is to take packages from the store and bring them to the houses of those who ordered them. This he does by mounting his bicycle and pedaling off down the busy Manhattan streets, the wind blowing in his face. He is young, for a man, and carefree. These rides down Lexington avenue remind him of his dreams, his aspirations, the life that awaits him when he can scrape together enough money to go to back to college and finish his business degree.

Better than the ride to make the deliveries, though, is the ride back. The package is gone from his bike. He is light, he can do anything, he could fly. He really could, if he wanted, like in E.T. when the boys and the alien fly on their own bicycles across the moon. The delivery boy casts a glance up at the sky, his mind already there, when there is a sharp screech and then BAM.

Something has hit his bicycle. He vaguely notices that it is a dirty yellow car - a taxi? It doesn't seem to matter as he flips and tumbles on the street, tangled in his bike, and comes to a stop just before hitting the sidewalk. There he lies, dazed, as the pedestrians on the sidewalk freeze in their tracks and stare at him. Won't one of them come to help? Finally a woman does, hesitantly at first, clutching her pocket book tightly, and then more sure of herself, going swiftly to him and bending down, lifting the bicycle from atop the delivery boy. He sits up, leaning on an arm, the other one seeming a bit useless - is it broken? He can't tell. He just stares, in shock, in a daze, his mind slowly returning to him from the skies.

This is what I saw walking back from the school building just half an hour ago. It was possibly one of the more frightening things I've seen in my life, though I can't say I've seen very many frightening things, especially if you don't count the week I was in Poland two years ago. I, of course, made up the history of the delivery boy, but the scenario was the same. One moment, there was a man on a bicycle, the next he was hit by a taxi and lying next to the curb with his bicycle on top of him. The woman went to help him (there were a bunch of other people there, too) and I finally got hold of myself and ran back to my dorm, all shaken up. I actually saw him get hit, I saw him tumbling on the street with his bike, I saw his dazed, vacant expression as he sat up. There was no blood and he was conscious, that's all I know.

Needless to say, I am now quite freaked out.

"You Keep On Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means"

This post has nothing to do with words. I just want to make that clear, since the title has everything to do with words. But really I just like the title. And if I could write a post right now about words, I would.

Oh, what the heck. I'll write about words.

Words fascinate me. This is the alphabet: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ. That's it. That's the whole thing. And out of those twenty-six letters, words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, stories, novels, whole tomes are written! Out of just twenty-six letters! Amazing. We can take twenty-six little symbols and use them to express ourselves for the rest of our lives, to make up our whole extensive vocabulary. To write science books, philosophy books, historical novels, fantasy, action, adventure, spy novels, biology textbooks, psychology books, movie scripts, plays, poetry, letters, essays, arguments, articles, pamphlets, laws, governmental documents, birthday cards...you name it. Incredible.

And now, for the subject I intended to write about when I started this post. Movies. I was thinking about the sort of movies I like and the sort I don't like. I used to not be very picky, just so long as it was appropriate and not gory or too violent. Now, though, I've become almost afraid of drama. I can't watch it. Sap makes me squirm, too much drama makes me squirm, everything that is serious and not light and funny makes me squirm. Why is that? I don't know, am I so insensitive? Am I too sensitive? It's weird. I recently realized that I don't like watching movies that make me feel sad, depressed, or serious afterwards. It isn't like I don't enjoy being in a contemplative mood, because believe me, I do (would I keep a blog if I didn't?), but when it comes to entertainment - I like to be entertained. To me, being entertained means being put in a good mood, it means feeling happy, enjoying life, that sort of thing. I just don't get that from serious movies. And as amazing as some serious movies are, I can't bring myself to want to watch them.

But then I ask myself, am I so shallow that I only like movies that are funny? It got to the point where, I used to hate chick flicks because I thought they were stupid, now I kind of like them (if they're not too dumb) because at least they're light and fun and don't make me feel serious afterwards. I don't know why I shy so much away from feeling serious. Maybe it's because I'm afraid to let my guard down and actually feel because I might be vulnerable like that - but that's odd. I don't strike myself as a hard, guarded person. Maybe I just think that, if I have the choice, I choose to feel happy rather than depressed or serious.

But I'm not a shallow person. I'm really not! And I do think there's a time to be serious, just like there is a time for everything else. I guess I just think that, if life can't always be that way, at least in the fictional world, people should live happily ever after, with a bunch of sarcastic, cynical, and goofy jokes on the side (so it's not too sappy).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Yerushalayim Oroh Shel Olam


(Picture from two years ago, rikud dgalim)


I have a final in twenty five minutes and, oddly, instead of cramming in every last morsel of information in these last few minutes I have before going to school, I went on youtube and looked up movies on Yom Yerushalayim. I really wanted to find one of the rikud dgalim that goes on in town. For whoever doesn't know, every year on Yom Yerushalayim in the center of town in Jerusalem, tons and tons of Jews get together, each one holding an Israeli flag, and march while singing and dancing towards the old city, where they stream in through all the various gates - even the ones we don't normally go through - to have a concert at the Kotel plaza.

I know that Yom Yerushalayim is a very meaningful day and the first few videos I found were serious, inspiring, but, well, I found them more in the nature of Yom Hazikaron than Yom Yerushalayim. So even though they're really short, I wanted to post on my blog two movies I found of quick snippets from rikud dgalim, which really was one of the highlights of my year in Israel two years ago.

When I titled this blog, I originally wrote 'Yom Yerushalayim' but at second thought, that seemed so dull to me. So in the two seconds I had to think of a better name, I decided on 'Yerushalayim Oroh Shel Olam.' Why? I think it might have something to with the fact that I'm stressing about a final I have in twenty minutes, I'm running on about three and a half hours of sleep, and yet ten minutes I go I decided to look at happy, festive videos of Yerushalayim. And you know what? It actually made my morning so much brighter. Because I know that when I'm in that classroom struggling over an essay about the Sans-Coulotte, in Israel, and especially in Yerushalayim, they're having festivities, parades, carnivals, you name it. And it made me smile, to think of that. It made me happy and excited for today, no matter how stressful this morning is for me. And that is why Yerushalayim Oroh Shel Olam. Yerushalayim is the light of the world. It is the light of the world as a whole, but it is also the light of my own, personal world. And I'm sure that's true for plenty of people reading this. So instead of sharing one of the more serious youtube movies, I'm going to share two happy ones.



Also, even though Ezzie already has this in his blog, I'd like to post a link to it again because I read/listened to it last night and it moved me almost to tears. It's a link to another blog which has the transcript and recording of the day the old city and the temple mount were recaptured in the 1967 war.

Everyone have an awesome Yom Yerushalayim, filled with much happiness and fun! Chag Sameach (and for those of you in YU/Stern, it's a chag for finishing finals, too)!!!

Poemization

To Neologize: To make up a new word or a new definition for an already existing word. It is one of my goals in life to neologize at least one word and have it be in the dictionary. That would be awesome. Anyway, that totally has nothing to do with anything, except that I'm fairly sure that 'poemization' is not a real word. In any case, I have a huge French Revolution final tomorrow morning but I ALSO have to hand in my Latin final tomorrow morning and I just spent THREE HOURS translating part of Cicero's In Catilinam, which is basically a speech about how Catiline is a traitor to Rome and is therefore a very bad person and should get out of Cicero's sight. Basically. There's still a poem I have to translate but, see, since I wasted all day today doing...I'm not even sure what, I ALSO have to study for my French Revolution final tomorrow. So I decided to do that now. See, blogging is part of studying. Uh-huh. Yep. It...erm...it is.

And now, a poem, made up on the spot by, well, me.

Studying is so much fun
It should be done by everyone
Although it takes some energy
At night up keeps it all long me
That word order was out of place
But that's something you'll have to face
I feel like I'm running a race
Writing this at such a fast pace
I cannot come in at last place
For if I do I'll go to space
How many other words have 'ace?'
How long can I keep this thing up?
I think I'm wasting plates and cup
I'm not sure why, but it just rhymed
Why do I feel like this is timed?
This work has gotten very silly
But I'll still do it willy-nilly
Since once I stop I'll have to study
And I don't have a study-buddy
I guess I'll stop this nonsense now
And revolution, pow pow pow
Will have to enter my brain. Ow.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Give A Little Tzedaka

In a recent post by Moshe, there was discussion of the mindset of those who feel the right way of life is to learn all day and that those who work and learn some of the day, or only an hour a day, are "sub-par." In the comments section, there were a few comments made about giving tzedaka to those who are in need because they don't work for a living vs. those who are in need because they're really in need. It got me thinking. So often in the mail, we get requests for tzedaka for various Chareidi Yeshivot. Understandably, schools need help. But if those yeshivot depend on the money of working Jews, isn't that a Yisachar/Zevulun relationship? How can they say that the very working Jews who they depend on are sub-par? Isn't that chutzpah? Why should I give tzedaka to support a fellow Jew who thinks the fact that I have money because I worked for it instead of sitting in the beit midrash learning is something to be looked down upon? And yet he dares to then ask for monetary help?

But then I have to think of my dad. You see, there are these older ladies, who in our house are called "Abba's Ladies" because my dad's the only one who really deals with them, who come to our door frequently looking for tzedaka. And every single time they come, my dad takes out his wallet and gives them some money. Why? How do we know if they're legitimate? What if it's a fraud? We don't know who these ladies are. They keep coming back because my dad keeps giving them. But every time we question my dad, he always says that it doesn't matter if they're fraud or not. We can't always know who is or isn't really needy or why they're needy or even what they're going to then spend their tzedaka money on. The point is, Jews came to ask for help and we gave it. That is a mitzvah. Instead of the ladies thanking us, we should be thanking them for giving us an opportunity to do the mitzvah of giving tzedaka.

On the other hand, a Jewish family only has so much tzedaka to give. What if one person's a fraud and the next is only needy because he brought it upon himself by not getting a job but the third is truly a poor, needy Jew? What then? And how do you know who's who?

Tzedaka has always been a hard thing for me. I don't know why. I'm a very giving person by nature. I let other people use my caf card (though not now, since I'm trying to make 14 dollars last between today and tomorrow), I give birthday presents, I do anything I can to help people, I love helping people and making them feel better, but when it comes to walking down the street and giving to a homeless person, I don't. I rarely give to the people at the Kotel when I'm there. I just...I'm bad at truly giving tzedaka. Not even that, I seem not to do well with chessed in general. I don't enjoy going to Yachad shabbatons, I'm too afraid to get involved in organizations that help kids with cancer and other diseases, and I want to be able to do these things. I really, really do! But I just don't have it in me. The diseases thing, maybe. If I get over my fear. But the disabled? I don't know why, I just can't bring myself to enjoy doing those things. I know it's some sort of defect in my personality. It doesn't make sense with my overall giving nature, that I can't give tzedaka to a homeless person I see, even if my friend is doing it, I can't get involved in Yachad or Beis Ezra or Kulanu or anything like that. I never enjoyed those trips to nursing homes either. I guess I shouldn't say I 'can't.' That's such a strong statement. It's more like I won't, or I don't want to, or I'm too lazy, or I don't feel strongly enough about it, or I'm shying away from it because it makes me uncomfortable. There could be a thousand reasons but I know none of them justify the fact that I'm not doing it. I guess this is something I just really need to work on.

Back to the original point of this post, I'm not sure how I got on that tangent about myself, very self-centered of me. It's so hard to decide who to give to and who not to give to. It's so hard to give to people who you know feel scorn for your way of life, for the fact that you're even able to give to them in the first place. And I just don't understand how a yeshiva that probably teaches that way of life is wrong can dare to ask money from a working Jew. A Jew who they think is sub-par.

We just always have to remember that tzedaka is a mitzvah. Whether it's to someone who uses the money wrongly, who doesn't really need the money, or who needs it out of his own doings, for the giver it is still a mitzvah and, for that reason alone, we should, I should, try to push aside any negative feelings about who we're giving to and realize that if it weren't for them asking, we might not be getting the mitzvah at that moment.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Two Worlds, One Family

I've actually been thinking about this for a while now but if I had the right pictures, I would totally make a slide show video using the Phil Collins song "Two Worlds, One Family" from Disney's Tarzan about Jews in Europe pre-WWII and during WWII and Jews in Israel at that time. It would go something like this:

(Pictures of Jews in the shtetl in Europe)
Put your faith in what you most believe in
Two worlds, one family
Trust your heart
Let fate decide
To guide these lives we see

(Pictures of chalutzim in Israel)

A paradise untouched by man
Within this world blessed with love
A simple life, they live in peace

Softly tread the sand below your feet now
Two worlds, one family
Trust your heart
Let fate decide
To guide these lives we see

(Pictures of Jews in the shtetl in Europe)
Beneath the shelter of the trees
Only love can enter here
A simple life, they live in peace

(Pictures of Jews building up the land of Israel)

Raise your head up
Lift high the load
Take strength from those that need you
Build high the walls
Build strong the beams
A new life is waiting
But danger's no stranger here

(Pictures of Jews during antisemitism in Europe)
No words describe a mother's tears
No words can heal a broken heart
A dream is gone, but where there's hope

(Pictures of European Jews going in boats to Israel, pictures of Israel all built up)
Somewhere something is calling for you
Two worlds, one family
Trust your heart
Let fate decide
To guide these lives we see

Doesn't it fit so well?

Passion For A Talent And Actually Having That Talent: The Same Or Not?

Frustration. It consumes me all over. I just wish, wish, wish that I could succeed at everything I love to do. Whether it be writing, acting, playing hockey...anything! Whenever I try, I seem to come so close and then it's whisked away, out of my reach.

Hockey:
I love hockey. I love playing it, I love watching it, I love ice skating, I love running, I love everything about it. But do I ever get to play? No. Of course not. I'm a Jewish girl. If my school doesn't have a hockey team, I'm out of luck. I can't play in a secular league like my brothers can. In high school, I started hockey intramural teams with a couple of people since we tried starting a league - and the league actually got started! But then my school wouldn't join - yes, the school who helped pioneer this league - because some of the coaches would be men. Admittedly, I wouldn't have felt comfortable playing hockey in front of a male coach even if we had joined, but still. It's the concept. The fact that a Jewish girls high school hockey league was started partly due to my high school inquiring about it and then we didn't even get to join. So now I get to watch my brothers play and they all totally forgot that I enjoy it too. At games they ask, "do you know what that penalty was? It's called crosschecking." They think I don't know how to play. They think, because I'm a girl, that I don't really care about it, either. Well, true, I'm not all obsessed with the stats of the season, but I do enjoy watching and I wish I could play.

Acting:
My God, I've loved acting ever since I knew how to play pretend. I mean, people may not think of that as acting, but that is what it is, really. Kids getting together and pretending to be people they aren't and acting out scenarios. House. That's acting. All imagination games are a form of acting. I think my love of acting and my love of stories go hand in hand. I love stories, I love telling stories, I love writing stories, I love acting out stories. So in day camp when some people put on Beauty and the Beast, I was entranced. Then in school we started putting on class plays. There was the siddur play and the chumash play which I remember having to say lines in Hebrew that I didn't even understand. I think that happens to all kids. But then in third grade, we put on a real play. Well, not really a real, real one, but a made up one suitable for third graders. It was actually really, really, really corny, about a girl who is a new student and the kids aren't nice to her, so she stays home from school and these people, like, Mrs. Tzeddaka, Mr. Chessed, and Mrs. Middot or something come and teach them how to be nice, then the new girl comes back the next day and everyone's friends. Yay! I wanted so badly to have an actual character, but no. I got to be narrator. Well, fine. I was eight years old at the time. All the parts were really small anyway, even the real ones, except the new girl, probably.

In fifth grade, we put on this mix of Broadway scenes and songs. Luckily, I had a small part in that. I almost didn't, until the play lady (who no one really liked) remembered she forgot to cast a duet part (oddly, since it was really just one character, but they decided they wanted it to be a duet). So I got to be Liat from South Pacific (which I've still never seen) along with an Israeli girl and we sang "Happy Talk" while doing these really weird hand motions. I also got to be a kid from The King And I because I was short and little.

That was the end of my real acting experience. In sleep away camp, the oldest main campus division always put on a play in August. When I was in the youngest division, they put on Annie and I got really antsy and couldn't wait until four years later when I'd get to be in the play. Every summer I'd look forward to it, until the year I was going to be in the oldest division. I can't even really complain about this. My parents decided to take us all to Israel in August, so I was there for the first month, but not for the play month. So after years of anticipation and waiting, I didn't get to be in it after all.

In high school in ninth grade, I tried out for Drama in the school production. Okay, you have to understand, everyone makes the school production. Everyone. Well, everyone, that is, except me. I must be wearing a sign on my forehead that says, "don't let me in your play" because it's still unfathomable to me why I didn't make it. Am I that awful of an actress?

In eleventh grade, the juniors and seniors actually put on a real play. We did "Witness for the Prosecution" by Agatha Christie. I made the play, somehow, but I had the smallest part. Oh, I had a ton of stage time. Probably the most stage time out of everyone. Except my entire part was to just sit on a stool and occasionally announce a witness or something. I was the court officer. That's not even a real character! It involved no acting whatsoever. Just sitting there with no expression and trying desperately not to laugh when the audience did. I couldn't even involve myself in acting so that I wouldn't laugh. I mean, I was just sitting there for two hours!

Then of course, there was this year, where I wasn't really in the play except for a line or two from the audience.

Writing:
I remember the day I decided I wanted to be an author. I was in the younger grades of elementary school and I was thinking about how I loved making up stories but that I couldn't grow up and be a storyteller because that's not a real job. I also wanted to be the person who made up movies (which is a real job, but at that young age, I didn't know that. I thought the actors just did it themselves, like when I played imagination games with my friends). So then I realized, if I couldn't tell stories, I could at least write them and make books. So I resolved to be an author when I grew up. From then on, I wrote all these random stories. Some are actually embarrassing, but hey, I was young.

Everyone came to accept the fact that I was a writer. It became part of my identity. The problem was that as I got older, it was sort of expected that I would do well in English class. And I did. I definitely did. But when I took AP English Comp., well, let's just say I did embarrassingly poorly on the AP. So much so that I would avoid the teacher the next year whenever I saw her in the halls. In twelfth grade AP English Lit., however, I did very well in class and decently on the AP. So I figured the year before was just a fluke.

My first semester at Stern, I took English Comp. (of course, since I did so atrociously on the AP and didn't get credit for it). I got all A's. The teacher really liked my writing and it boosted my confidence a lot. I thought, "I can do this! Piece of cake!" Of course, I also didn't really feel like I was learning anything. I'm not so sure that class was for me. In any case, I thought I was a good writer and was quite content with that.

Last semester, I took an English class where I didn't do so hotly on the paper. The teacher told me it sounded like I was writing to a hostile audience. The only explanations I can give for why that might be is because A. I had just had a fight with someone right beforehand about, of all things, Beowulf (Grendel, to be specific) and I think I was extremely protective of my own ideas and thoughts after that, and just very defensive in general. B. I had been told at least once or twice before that my writing sounded too wishy-washy, like I wasn't confident with what I was saying. I guess I, er, took it too far to the other extreme. Apparently. But anyway, even that was okay because afterwards, a lot of people told me that particular teacher is a hard grader, so that was alright then. I wasn't the only one in that boat.

Today I got back two papers from a teacher who really likes me a lot and who I like a lot and in whose classes I have been doing extremely well. But on the papers, though I didn't do horrendously, I didn't do as well as I'd have liked and, what hit me more than the grade was the fact that she didn't think my writing was good. She said it was weak and not developed. She asked me who I had for comp. and when I told her, she said, "well, you got something out of that class but not enough." But I wanted to insist, No, darn it, I didn't get anything out of that class and I was getting all A's! So how could I get this grade now and be told my writing is weak and my arguments undeveloped? Why is my writing not consistent? Or, more importantly, why can I not do excellently the majority of the time on English papers? Why, why, why??? I love to write, it is my passion, it is what I'm identified with. It's what I thought I was good at. Sure, creative writing and paper writing are two different things. But I always thought I was good at writing papers, too.

Why is it that whenever I fall in love with a talent or an activity, I can do average, I can do okay, but I can't do well? I can't enjoy it, sometimes I can't even get the chance to properly do it, and I can't feel pride in it.

It makes me wonder just what I am good at at all. I know this post is sort of whiny, but bear with me. It's written out of pure frustration. I almost wanted to cry when I got back to my room after getting back my papers today. No one has ever told me my writing was weak before. That I need better choice of diction. What is wrong with me?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Ok, Crush. I Need To Get To The East Australian Current. EAC?

"Good afternoon. We're gonna have a great jump today. Okay, first crank a hard cutback as you hit the wall. There's a screaming bottom curve, so watch out. Remember: rip it, roll it, and punch it."

That's right. Today I drove on the highway for the very first time. I know, it's probably not such a big deal to most of you out there, but I had a terrible fear of driving for the longest time and only got my license right after this past Pesach, before I went back to school (and if any of you thought you had to take the road test too many times before you passed, just be glad that number of times probably wasn't as many as it was for me). So today my dad took me on the highway and, I have to say, it was FUN. I was really nervous before getting on, and while I was merging on, but once I was on it, it really wasn't so bad. It was sort of exhilerating. And it DID feel like I was riding on a current, like the EAC (ten points if you know what movie that's from, even though it's waaaay too easy. Great movie, though). It hardly felt like driving. More like going along with the waves, you know? The current sort of just pushing you forward. Yeah, you have to watch out for cars switching lanes and all, but going that fast, and straight, and just everything. It was, well, awesome. I don't know how comfortable I'd feel doing it on my own just yet, but a few more times with my dad and it'll probably be no problem.

Now I just need to get over my fear of driving across bridges. I mean, what if a huge truck comes along in the lane next to you, doesn't see you, switches lanes, and pushes you off???

Friday, May 11, 2007

Hey Diddle Diddle, The Cat And The Fiddle

Today I would like to tell a story. This is something that happened to me two years ago, but it is still fresh in my mind today and I still cringe about it.

Somewhere near the endish of my year in Israel, we came back from a tiyul and I saw a couple of my friends and a madricha crowded around a certain part of the Rova. Curious, I made my way over to see what the commotion was.

It was a kitten. But not just any kitten. It was a little baby kitten, not much bigger than both my fists put together (and I have small fists. Well, comparatively, anyway, since I have small hands). It was pure, pure white with a little pink nose and little pink eyelids that clearly had just recently opened for the first time to reveal bright black eyes.

"Are you sure we should be touching it?" I asked my friends who were petting it and smoothing its fur.

"Oh, yes, it's fine," I was told. "This kitty's too young to be diseased yet. It's probably only just opened its eyes!"

Finally, I got my turn to pet it. I lifted it up and it nestled against my shirt. As I stroked it, it purred with contentment and I knew then that I just had to keep this baby kitten. How could I leave it out in the wild, to brave the streets of the Rova, to survive among all the bigger, scarier, meaner Rova strays? It was precious. It was pure. And, God, it was only a baby! Where was its mother? I asked if anyone had seen her but no one had. I asked if we could save it and bring it to a vet, but the madricha who was with us said we can't. We would have to leave it.

Sadly, I started to put the kitten back down, but when it realized what I was about to do, it dug its little claws into my shirt and started mewing desperately. It looked terrified. I panicked a little, because its claws were surprisingly long for a baby kitten and I suddenly got this image of it climbing up my face (since it was progressively climbing up my shirt towards my shoulder) and clawing my eyes out. Of course, that was ridiculous, but I suddenly didn't want it in my shirt anymore. Not if we couldn't keep it. I finally got it off me and placed it gently back down. There was an adult cat nearby, so my friends and I decided to try and have that cat adopt our kitten. The poor kitten would follow our every move carefully with its eyes, so we used this to our advantage and when we slowly started walking towards the adult cat, it followed. But the adult cat backed away from the kitten. We had tainted it. We had touched it, so now it had our smell. Human smell. We had, in a way, doomed the kitten to a lonely existence. That's when it really became clear to me that it probably wouldn't survive.

The madricha with us finally said it was time to go. We started walking back to the dorms with saddened hearts. Each of us felt bad for the kitten. As we walked, I could hear it mewing with fear behind us. It wanted us back. It wanted me back. Me, who had separated its claws from my shirt, who had put it down to be left, abandoned. I took a deep breath and made myself put one foot in front of the other. One foot, then the other, then the first again. Walk. Just walk. Don't look back.

Eventually, we were back in the dorms. The kitten was left. It was over. We all talked about how sad it was, how bad we felt for the poor motherless kitten. I don't know how many of them still think about it occasionally, but I know I do. I was just thinking about it the other day, I'm not sure why, but I can still hear it mewing pitifully after us. I still cringe about how we abandoned it there. I should have stood up for it. I shouldn't have listened to authority. Authority told us to leave it, to sentence it to a horrible life, maybe even death out there. Who knows how long it survived after that?

So I decided that when I finally get a place of my own, I want to get a little kitten just like that one from a shelter, so that at least I can save one kitten, even if I couldn't save that one.

Of course, I also really want a dog, but that's another story.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

I Just Don't Understand

I stumbled across this post a short while ago about a children's program on Palestinian television and how they are preaching the fight against Israel and the West - in a kid's show. I mean, come on, people. I just cannot understand how so many people think the Palestinians are innocent. I can't understand how people feel bad for them, I can't understand why people aren't more afraid of the slow but steady spread of radical Islam throughout the Western world, specifically in Europe. Israel does so much to try and make peace but the Arabs do nothing. Oh, sure, they say they want peace, but they don't really! If they wanted peace, why would they be sending rockets into Israel from Gaza, the place Israel vacated so the Palestinians could friggin' get the country they've been whining about? If they wanted peace, then why were two Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah on Israeli soil this summer and, not only that! The Red Cross is supposed to be allowed to see captured soldiers and prisoners of war and the like. But are the Israeli captured soldiers allowed to be seen by the Red Cross, to make sure they're still alive and being treated humanely? No! Why does the world not cry out about this? What if Israel stopped the Red Cross from seeing Arab prisoners? Oh, sure, then it would be headline news.

It just disgusts me, the whole thing. I'm sorry if this was rather ranty, but now I've gotten myself all worked up. I just feel like there's nothing I can even do about it. Oh, sure, I can sign petitions for the release of Israeli MIAs, I can send emails to senators, I can do all of that. But it doesn't feel like it actually does anything. Sometimes I wish I could just march up to...I don't even know anymore, I don't know who the right person would be to march up to, but whoever it is, march up to him (or her) and set things right!

A David Copperfield Dream Come True

I was so lucky this morning. Somehow, I managed to write half my paper last night before I went to bed (at three in the morning, oy!) and still woke up at 8:25 this morning, finishing it with enough time to still make it to my final at 9:30! Yes! I'm not positive how coherent it was, but it was on David Copperfield and when I handed in my final, the teacher started talking to me about Great Expectations (which is clearly not as good as David Copperfield, its only redeeming quality being Miss Havisham, who is made of quirky win) as though she really delighted in the fact I enjoy Dickens. So perhaps that's a good sign.

What was fun about this paper (that I, er, had forgotten about until the last minute) was that I had been waiting since I was in tenth grade to write a paper on David Copperfield. You see, as a tenth grader, I went to a friend for shabbat, we shall call her Friend A, and she invited along Friend B, as well. On Friday afternoon, Friend B mentioned the fact that she would read anything and that she was going to even read Don Quixote. Well, I was not going to let her outdo me, so I picked up a rather fat book from a shelf at Friend A's house and said, "Oh yeah? Well, I'm going to read this!" 'This,' I discovered, as I belatedly glanced down at the title to see what exactly I had just promised to read, turned out to be David Copperfield. At that time, I had never read anything by Dickens, nor had I heard much about this David Copperfield character. I knew Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, and I'd heard of Great Expectations, but that was about it. And I had read none of those. But I was determined. I sat down to read that Friday night and I did not stop for about two or three months. No joke. I would read during lunch at school, during free periods, anytime, anywhere. Friend A had given me the book gladly, claiming that no one in her family read it anyway.

At some point later, I was finished. FINISHED. I couldn't believe it. I almost wanted to cry. I had worked so hard, looked up all the hard words, read for so long, gotten to know the characters on a real personal level, and now it was over? But I had a real sense of accomplishment, too, as I closed the book for the final time. I had read an entire nearly a thousand page Dickens book and I had survived to tell the tale. I was so proud of myself that I even told my English teacher as we were going up the stairs to class. I'm sort of embarrassed for having done that, now. I mean, who on earth goes bragging to her English teacher over having read a book? She sort of just nodded and smiled and told me that was very good. But I wasn't satisfied. I was squirming to show off. More than that, though. I wanted to tell everyone about all these characters I had come to know so intimately, the way someone else likes to talk about her best camp friends that live in Texas or wherever. But I knew no one would really like to hear about Mr. Micawber, or Aunt Betsy Trotwood, or anyone else I had met in my literary journey. So I waited. I waited until the perfect opportunity came. And then, to my delight, for my Film and Fiction class, I did my paper on David Copperfield.

There is a Masterpiece Theater production with Daniel Radcliffe as young David and Maggie Smith as Aunt Betsy that I really wanted to see, but my teacher wouldn't let us use Masterpiece Theater because she says they're not real films. I'm not film-obsessed the way I am book obsessed so I don't really know the difference, but I did as she suggested and saw the 1935 black and white version. I hated it. I hated basically everything about it, except for the woman who played Aunt Betsy. She was very good. So I emailed my teacher asking her if I could use the Masterpiece Theater production instead. This was her response:

Erachet, the classic won an Academy Award, and the Masterpiece Theater version isn't exactly a film, still you can use it, but be very precise about matters of adaptation.
Right. So the 1935 version it was. Still, I got to spend two pages talking about the book and gushing over the eccentric characters, which is what I really wanted to write about.

And as for Friend B, last I heard, she never had gotten around to reading Don Quixote.



Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Drowning In Schoolwork

Do you ever get the feeling that you're simply drowning in schoolwork? That the more you do, suddenly the more you have to do?

Today was the school day from hell. I woke up at 9:30 with a huge final at 1:00 on the philosophy of the Rambam. I had studied so much last night but I still felt like I knew nothing so I crammed in some more studying in the few hours I had this morning. Then I took the test which was two hours of nonstop scrawling in one and a half blue books (well, actually, they were white). By the time I was done, I was so drained I wanted to just fall into bed and take a long, long nap. But I couldn't. No, I had to come back to my dorm, send in some IDs for my French Revolution final (since my class is compiling a collection of them to study from), do my Latin homework (which took ages - it always does, and this was after having done half of it already yesterday) and then, all of a sudden, at 10:00 at night, remembering that I have a paper due tomorrow! So I haven't done the paper, I'm too wiped. I have a final which I haven't studied for, either. I don't know what I'm going to do. The one thing I do know is that I ought to go to sleep right now. But I can't. If I do, I'll wake up at 8:00, have a test at 9:30 that I didn't study for...and what about my paper?

Erg.

Midnight Madness

Although I don't really have the time to spare writing a blog entry this afternoon, I also just finished taking a very draining final and need to chill for a moment or two, so I figured blogging might be a good release.

Last night was the annual Midnight Madness at Schottenstien dorm. What is this madness, you ask? Well, the Student Council decided that since we're all in the middle of finals, we might like to have some ice cream and pancakes in the middle of the night to help us get through studying! Great idea. The problem is, for someone like me who does not particularly enjoy crowds, it became very overwhelming. I really, really, really wanted pancakes. I did. But I just couldn't go down there. You see, large crowds tend to frighten me, especially large noisy crowds all stuffed into one lounge. So I hesitated, I reconsidered, I tried to assess whether I really wanted that pancake or could go without, and then I stood up and told myself, "No. No, you do want that pancake. You really do! And you are going to march straight down there, barge in, and get your pancake!"

Yes! I will get my just desert! I know, I know, that didn't make much sense, but I just had to say it.

Anyway, that's what I did. Of course, all of a sudden, as I was waiting for my pancake to finish cooking, I realized that I was still wearing my slippers. Ah well, I decided. It was so crowded in that room, no one would even notice. And the crowd was rather overwhelming. I couldn't wait to get out of there. It made me feel so small, so...insignificant. Here I was, little me, in the midst of a huge, noisy crowd of girls all pushing and shoving to get their pancakes and ice cream. I did not belong there. No, no. I belonged in the safety of my quiet room studying the philosophy of the Rambam.

I eventually did manage to make my escape, and with not only two pancakes (instead of just the one I intended on getting, since the person making them flipped another onto my plate before I could so much as back out of my spot at the table) but also with a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream, which is my absolute favorite! So all in all, it was good. All's well that end's well, huh? I also managed to get myself a black Stern zip-up sweatshirt. I figured I might as well, seeing as I already gathered the courage to plunge into the monstrous crowd and I didn't own any Stern or YU apparel as of yet anyway.

So there you go. The experience did make me a bit disgusted with myself, though. I mean, I don't want to be so insecure, to have so little confidence as to be afraid of going into the back lounge just to get some pancakes! Something I'll have to work on for next year. I must be braver in these social situations.

I mean, I must have a record here. I'm a junior at Stern and I've never even been up to YU! Well, once, sort of, to pick up the guys on the debate team, but that doesn't count seeing as I didn't even get off the bus.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Blog Makeover!

As I was sitting, pondering ways to further procrastinate my studying and Latin homework (last Latin homework of the year! Besides for the final, of course, which is take-home), I decided to give my blog a makeover. I realized that it was a very boring looking blog and I really wanted to make it someplace I would feel happy posting to. So I found this awesome template called "harbor" which I really like a lot, especially since I love oceans and seas and pirates and ships and all that. So a harbor just sounds very nice.

Then, I decided I was going to change the name from simply "Nowhere" to "Up The Beanstalk To Nowhere." You see, I couldn't get rid of "Nowhere" completely, since it sort of just stuck and I like the concept behind it, but I also really like the name "Up The Beanstalk" because it implies all sorts of adventure and funness that one can find after planting some magic beans and climbing the plant that sprouts from them all the way up to the sky. But then I realized, the place Jack went to when he climbed the beanstalk MUST have been a sort of Nowhere! Inspiration! Yes!

Hence the new name, "Up The Beanstalk To Nowhere."

I hope you all like this new layout just as much as I do. I'm really very excited about it! I especially love the picture of Jack and the Beanstalk that I found. I wanted it big like that, because it is so very pretty, but because it's big, a chunk of the original picture doesn't show. However, the important chunk does, and that is, of course, the part with the beanstalk and Jack running down it carrying the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Hmm, my blog seems to be getting more and more of a fairy tale theme to it, since I've also got Little Red Riding Hood next to my username, but I suppose that's because I love fairy tales. So there you go!

You will also notice, under the part with my username on the side of this blog, I put a countdown to both Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie AND Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - the last Harry Potter book EVER. My thoughts, impressions, and possible predictions for the seventh book will probably appear in a later post, but I figured a count down would be fun! I got it from a site called Mugglenet.com, which is the place where you can find everything Harry Potter! Of course, I only suggest going there if you have a lot of time to spare (or waste instead of doing schoolwork) on your hands, as you will get sucked in and not reappear for air for quite a while later. So. Yes. But it's a fun place. Ooh, and they have a caption contest there where they post a picture from one of the Harry Potter movies (sometimes tampered with using Photoshop, sometimes not) and people submit funny captions for it, and a week later they post the winners, so one week someone won with the username TheChosenOne613. I found that delightfully amusing!

So anyway, welcome to the new and improved blog of Erachet! I hope you like!

And now, off to studying. *Mutter*

Get Lung Cancer By Yourself

Smoking. That horrible, horrible activity which endangers the lives of all those around you. Smoking should be illegal. I don't mean to be insensitive to those who are awfully addicted and just can't go a day without smoking. No, I'm just trying to be sensitive to people like myself; people who love life, who want to live a smoke-free existence, who don't want to get lung cancer just because someone else can't get over his smoking addiction.

I was walking back to my dorm today and in front of me was a lady smoking, so I was getting every bit of it in my face. I tried to hold my breath so as not to inhale it, but my lungs were screaming and my brain was panicking. No! it was saying. Get out of here! Don't go near that stuff! It's poison! As soon as I got an opportunity, I scooted around the lady so that I was in front of her, so that I wasn't getting all her smoke that was drifting downwind from where she was coolly engaging her cigarette. But I knew I had already second-hand smoked. I could taste it. It was awful. And no amount of coughing could get rid of it.

When I was on Mach Hach Ba'aretz, the summer after tenth grade, I did the army program and I remember a good friend and I made up a song parody to "One Day More" from Les Miz the day before the army program was over. One part of it went like this:

One more day of air pollution
Get lung cancer by yourself
I will leave these smoking soldiers
'Cause I care about my health!

Yes, I am aware that people are addicted, that people try to break the addiction but they can't, it's hard, it's painful, and I'm sorry. But instead of catering to those who are addicted and allowing smoking to go on, how about catering to those who don't want their lives put in danger because of other people's stupidity? Because to begin smoking is stupid. Stupid. And I'm sorry, I want to live a good, long, healthy life. I don't want it to be marred by anything related to second-hand smoking.

Smoking should be illegal. I'm going to be harsh, but it is rude, it's obnoxious, it's selfish, and it's murder.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Secular Education

So today at the shabbat table, we had a discussion about the chareidi world and secular education. There are a lot of chareidim which ban secular education from their schools because they don't want their children exposed to ANYTHING. They basically sit all day and learn and have no skills to support themselves in the outside world. What I want to know is, why? I mean, I understand that there is this concept that some of B'nei Yisrael learns and some work, and I also understand how people can say, "Hashem will provide" but then again, we aren't living in the desert, we aren't receiving man, we can't not put in any hishtadlut of our own! I just don't understand how people can completely cut themselves off from the world and then expect to raise large families with numerous children in a healthy environment. How can they afford to sit all day and learn when their children need to eat? Need stimulation of some sort? Learning can't be for everyone, either. What happens if there is a kid who just is not a learner? Is he forced to spend every hour learning anyway, so he can get a good shidduch and so he doesn't disgrace his family? And what about the women who have to support their entire family? Isn't it a strain?

I guess it's a world I just don't understand. I mean, they do manage, somehow.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A Tribute To Today

Today is such a beautiful day! I woke up late this morning and really, really regret it. Precious hours wasted sleeping! Not only did I wake up late, but I had to spend all afternoon preparing for a paper I still have yet to write (though it is due sometime today. Yes, welcome to my life, that of the world's biggest procrastinator). Today would be a perfect day to go for a walk outside. Something I've wanted to do for a while now is to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I have a friend who did it recently and it's such a good idea on a day like today! But, alas, I am cooped up in my room allegedly working on papers but really writing blog entries instead of said papers. But, oh the joy of today! It is sunny, I don't need a coat, the sky is clear! There are sounds of life outside my window - particularly loudly today due to construction nearby. I admit, I feel a bit plagued by the constant drones, rumbles, growls, and outright ferocious roars of the drill, but still! Tonight, when I am finished with my papers, I must do something to celebrate the beautifulness of a day like today!

I hope you are all having an AMAZING day!!! And if you are not, here is your opportunity to CHEER UP AND SMILE! =D

Memories...

Ah, memories. I thought some of you might enjoy a dip in the past with this! When I found it on youtube I was so excited!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Stream of Consciousness

It's weird, this frustrated feeling, like you're inferior, like you're not good enough. Like everything you ever wanted to do - you can't. Everything you try, everything you enjoy, you try to do it, and it just never works out. But you want to so badly. You want to be good enough, you want to be more than just good enough. You want people to see, to see your spirit striving toward accomplishment. You want them to really see, to really believe in you. To grab you and help you reach your potential. But instead, you feel overlooked. Others take the limelight. Others attract more notice than you. And so you fall into the shadows. Forgotten. Unimportant. A polite comment, perhaps, when you're suddenly remembered. And you try so hard. And maybe, just maybe, you can do it. Maybe you can, after all. But no one will ever know, because no one gives you the chance. No one lets you take that first step toward the goal you've always wanted. They shut the door in your face. They turn to someone else. You aren't what they want. And you--you aren't assertive enough, aren't brave enough, to do anything about it. So you just sigh and move on. Try again, maybe. Another time, another place, only to be turned away once more. And will anyone ever notice? Will anyone ever give you that chance? Your pent up desires, they feel trapped, claustrophobic inside of you, unable to be let out. But what can you do? Nothing, that's what. Because there is nothing to do. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again, right? When you fall off the horse, get back on? Is that it? Is that what you have to do? But what if your horse won't let you back on? What if there are no more chances? What do you do if you have to live with the fact that you tried, you really did, but no one ever gave you that chance, that one chance, to prove yourself. To do what you really wanted. And so you never got to do it. Opportunities gone, in an instant, and you never got to do it.