Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Perseverance

I love this monologue by Sam Gamgee in The Two Towers movie:

Sam: It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo—the ones that really mattered… full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? but in the end, it’s only a passing thing. Even darkness will pass—a new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine all the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you and meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think I do understand—I know now. The folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back. Only they didn’t—they kept going, because they were holding onto something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

And you can watch it here:



This monologue really wields a sort of power which human beings through the ages have brought forth in order to persevere. This talk of courage, of finding good in the midst of evil, of really having hope that there will be a way to succeed, even if it is not clear today and even if it is not clear tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after. We have to keep fighting, because if we give up, if we give in, then we lose not only in the struggle but in our own faith, our own strength. People sometimes forget, this world can have a bright future. We just have to bring it about. And this applies not only to world struggles but also to our own, personal ones. It applies to everything we have to work for, everything that's a fight, a struggle. We just have to believe that the end is there, it's there somewhere in the future, and every small battle we overcome, every bit of writer's block or sleepless night or bureaucracy that we get past is yet one more step closer toward our goal, toward the end, toward the prize.

But...but I have a problem with this. I like this idea, but in those stories Sam refers to - even in his own story - there's always a way to take away the power of evil. Whether it is melting a witch or killing a pirate or breaking a spell or destroying a magic ring. But today, in real life, there is never just one thing that will fix everything else. There is no ring of power to destroy, there are no horcruxes to demolish, there is no spell to break or witch to melt or magic object to find. The world is so much more complex than that. The problems of the world don't have such easy, black and white answers. So how can we fix them? They are like weeds, you start to cut them down from one side and they spring up in new places that you cannot get to. So what is there to do? Why can we not just have a ring of power and be done with it? Why does it always have to be so complex...and how can Sam's speech apply when we don't have the key to destroying evil the way he and Frodo do?

If I seem to be contradictory here, this is because I like to be rather contrary - or maybe it's because I see both sides and don't know which one to take.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon, Ron, doesn't mean we all have."

Chana wrote in her post, "In other news, I have recently been termed a Litvak, someone's hero and informed that I am a lower junior. Today's been peculiar."

So yesterday, I was called an English Major and I was told I was acting like Hermione. This made me happy because I do love Hermione, except I ALSO love Ron and I ALSO love Ginny and, man, I'd LOVE to be a Weasley! But I supposed Hermione's good, too.

In other random news, I went to Duane Reade to get medicine and this was the bill:

Puffs tissues - $2.59
Vicks 44 cough syrup - $6.49
Nyquil - $7.99
A little tiny bottle of eyedrops - $10.99!?!?!?!?!?!?!

What? Is this country having a shortage of eyedrops or something? THERE IS NO WAY THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE MOST EXPENSIVE THING I BOUGHT TODAY. AND THERE IS NO WAY EYEDROPS SHOULD COST ELEVEN DOLLARS.

End rant.

Before the break of day

It is 6:40 in the morning. Why am I awake now, you ask, when my first class of the day is at 10:30? For the past two nights I have hardly gotten any sleep at all due to a very annoying cough, which last night turned into a full blown cold. I got into bed at around midnight, read some Virginia Woolf until around 12:30, and then tried to go to sleep. I say tried because, well, I did sleep from the hours of 1 to 3. That was about it. I was up the rest of the night coughing and headachy and blowing my nose and generally feeling miserable. And yes, I did take advil for my headache - no, it did not help as nicely as I would have liked it to. Today my number one project is to buy cough medicine, preferably Nyquil so I can actually sleep at night.

But why am I writing this post.

For the first time in a very long time, I am awake in that odd time of day when it is technically morning but the sun has not yet risen. I am fully washed and dressed and ready for the day and I have my window shade open. Outside, it is dark, but it is interesting to watch the apartment building outside my window (at least, I think it's an apartment building) and see how many other people are awake now. How many windows have light seeping through. Most of the windows have a dim light - people could be awake or it could have been that way all night long. Who knows? But it is a strange feeling being the only one awake on my floor. I always wonder, when I am up at strange hours, who else is awake? Who else shares my sleeplessness?

Virginia Woolf has a gorgeous passage about night settling in from her book To the Lighthouse which I would like to share with you.

So with the lamps all put out, the moon sunk, and a thin rain drumming on the roof a downpouring of immense darkness began. Nothing, it seemed, could survive the flood, the profusion of darkness which, creeping in at keyholes and crevices, stole round window blinds, came into bedrooms, swallowed up here a jug and basin, there a bowl of red and yellow dahlias, there the sharp edges and firm bulk of a chest of drawers. Not only was furniture confounded; there was scarcely anything left of body or mind by which one could say, "This is he" or "This is she." Sometimes a hand was raised as if to clutch something or ward off something, or somebody groaned, or somebody laughed aloud as if sharing a joke with nothingness.

Nothing stirred in the drawing-room or in the dining-room or on the staircase. Only through the rusty hinges and swollen sea-moistened woodwork certain airs, detached from the body of the wind (the house was ramshackle after all) crept round corners and ventured indoors. Almost one might imagine them, as they entered the drawing-room questioning and wondering, toying with the flap of hanging wall-paper, asking, would it hang much longer? Would it fall? Then smoothly brushing the walls, they passed on musingly as if asking the red and yellow roses on the wall-paper whether they would fade, and questioning (gently, for there was time at their disposal) the torn letters in the wastepaper basket, the flowers, the books, all of which were now open to them and asking, Were they allies? Were they enemies? How long would they endure?

So some random light directing them with its pale footfall upon stair and mat, from some uncovered star, or wandering ship, or the Lighthouse even, the little airs mounted the staircase and nosed round bedroom doors. But here surely, they must cease. Whatever else may perish and disappear, what lies here is steadfast. Here one might say to those sliding lights, those fumbling airs that breathe and bend over the bed itself, here you can neither touch nor destroy. Upon which, wearily, ghostily, as if they had feather-light fingers and the light persistency of feathers, they would look, once, on the shut eyes, and the loosely clasping fingers, and fold their garments wearily and disappear. And so, nosing, rubbing, they went to the window on the staircase, to the servants' bedrooms, to the boxes in the attics; descending, blanched the apples on the dining-room table, fumbled the petals of roses, tried the picture on the easel, brushed the mat and blew a little sand along the floor. At length, desisting, all ceased together, gathered together, all sighed together; all together gave off an aimless gust of lamentation to which some door in the kitchen replied; swung wide; admitted nothing; and slammed to.
[Here Mr. Carmichael, who was reading Virgil, blew out his candle. It was midnight.]

But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a faint green quickens, like a turning leaf, in the hollow of the wave.


And here, too, the sky has begun to turn from black to blue and soon it shall be day. It is 7:00 am.

Have a wonderful day, everyone! I think I shall spend mine sleeping, though, after my morning class (and after I buy some Nyquil).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pride and Prejudice is life

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

This is the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The irony is, of course, that this is not true, but rather it is a prejudice. The other irony is that while the book opens up with a statement of a universal truth that is not, in fact, true, the rest of the novel is all about a different sort of universal truth - the truth stated in the title. Every person - every single person - has both pride and prejudice to some degree or another.

For me, further irony lies in the fact that I was prejudice against romance stories in high school. Extraordinarily prejudice, I might even say. And I was proud. I stood my ground. I knew what books I liked to read and what books I didn't and there was no way anyone was going to tell me differently. Therefore, when Pride and Prejudice was listed as a choice for summer reading in ninth grade, I chose a different book. And when my friends finally convinced me to read it, I did so begrudgingly, blinding myself by my prejudices to Austen's brilliance. I couldn't make it through even a quarter of the book.

It was only in twelfth grade - perhaps because I had matured a little - that I finally gave the book a real chance. And you know what? I loved it.

That's pride and prejudice for you, right there.

I think everything we do, every person we meet, every new thing we're introduced to, we see with a shades of prejudice. We have ideas about things we don't even really know about. We create labels in our heads for people who we've never even met. We judge before we know the thing we're actually judging.

Realizing all this is when I finally learned - Pride and Prejudice is not merely a story of romance. It is a story about life. About something that every single person in the entire world, without exception, can relate to. Because I refuse to believe that there is a single person out there without any prejudices at all.

But then again, perhaps that's just another prejudice.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

To face your fear

Facing fears is probably one of the most difficult tasks a person has. It so easy to say, "oh, yes, I shall be brave and always stand up to what I'm afraid of" but it's quite another thing to do it. Fear comes on many different scales, too. There are more every day sort of fears, like will I get that internship, will I make it into the play, will I do well on my English paper? And then there are much more frightening fears: will I be healthy at my next doctor visit? Will I have enough money to live comfortably? Will I get into an accident while driving today?

The first sort of fears are so much easier to face. The consequences could be grim, but not that grim, if you look at it in the scheme of things. More like unsatisfactory as opposed to grim, really. But the second sort - those are so much more difficult to look in the face. They're matters of life and death, of comfort or poverty, of how you live your life. The stakes are much higher. How do you face a fear like that?

On a completely separate note, I am now the proud owner of The Goonies DVD. This makes me VERY happy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

And we're back!

Internet is back and ready for action! Yay! When you don't have internet for a while, it makes you realize just how much you depend on it. It's a little scary, actually.

The other thing is, have you ever been worried about something, but you don't want to actually talk about it because doing that would make it actually real, and it may not really be anything at all anyway?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Oh boy

So first of all, the bad luck sort of continues...so besides for internet still not working anywhere besides for this particular computer (which is not the one with my assignments on it, I think I'm going to have to bring my laptop down and retype the various assignments I need to send in this weekend or something), about an hour before shabbat we found a HUGE leak in the basement. So now my parents are working on that.

The other "oh boy" thing is that I saw this on aol.com (this is only a segment):

J.K. Rowling Outs Hogwarts Character

By HILLEL ITALIE,
AP
Posted: 2007-10-20 18:50:28
NEW YORK (Oct. 20) - Harry Potter fans, the rumors are true: Albus Dumbledore, master wizard and Headmaster of Hogwarts, is gay. J.K. Rowling, author of the mega-selling fantasy series that ended last summer, outed the beloved character Friday night while appearing before a full house at Carnegie Hall.

After reading briefly from the final book, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," she took questions from audience members.

She was asked by one young fan whether Dumbledore finds "true love."

"Dumbledore is gay," the author responded to gasps and applause.

She then explained that Dumbledore was smitten with rival Gellert Grindelwald, whom he defeated long ago in a battle between good and bad wizards. "Falling in love can blind us to an extent," Rowling said of Dumbledore's feelings, adding that Dumbledore was "horribly, terribly let down."

Dumbledore's love, she observed, was his "great tragedy."

"Oh, my god," Rowling concluded with a laugh, "the fan fiction."
Wow...I just...I don't think that's necessary in a series of books meant for children, or even young adults. It makes me sort of sad to think that this issue has entered the safe world of Harry Potter. And yeah, I do think Harry Potter is a safe place. Sure it deals with good and evil and that whole epic battle, and it deals with some shades of gray in between, but...somehow, this seems a bit...odd. I almost thought this was a scam article when I first read it, but it doesn't seem like it's a scam, does it?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Things begin to look up

Wow. This week was a tough one. It started off amazingly - Sunday was the day I went to the children's book read at Columbia. That was incredible. But Wednesday was the day where I got unjustly berated on behalf of a number of different students for talking in class. That put me in a sour mood for the rest of the evening, as can probably be seen by the post just below this one. Thursday was alright, except for the fact that I missed my train home and had to take the next one, which I thought meant I would be late for this thing at my library my dad and I were going to together. You see, my community had a really, really, really, really, really crummy library. And I mean - really. The YA "section" was one bookcase. The children's room was teeny. Even the adult books had a really small selection. Basically, it was like a toy library. Not a real one. So finally, finally we got a real library built. It's been a bit frustrating this past month when they were moving all the books because we couldn't take anything out so we didn't really have use of a library at all. But soon the new one will open. Last night was their... I guess you could call it an induction ceremony of sorts. But what my dad pushed me to go for (because I wasn't originally going to go at all) was the fact that there were 12 authors invited, as well. Most of them weren't the sort of authors I was interested in. Some wrote cookbooks, some wrote books like "52 ways to stay happy," some wrote other sorts of things I just wasn't interested in. But there were two children's book authors. Well, three, really. One set of twins who wrote a series called "The teacher who wouldn't retire." It looked really cute (agh! not "cute!" Um...?). The other wrote another story about bunnies. So I got to talk to them and ask them about how they published their books, etc. It was very interesting. And someone else from the neighborhood said she has a contact at Simon and Schuster, just for the future if I ever needed one. So that was awesome. So basically, it was very, very helpful and good.

Anyway, I have to go finish getting ready for shabbat but we haven't had internet for the past two days (actually, my whole community doesn't have wireless internet right now) but we discovered that, for some reason, we get it on this computer. I'm not sure why. So I just felt like I should write something positive before Shabbat so that my negative post below this wouldn't be sitting there at the top for too long.

Shabbat shalom everyone! And may we all have brighter weeks next week (for those of us who weren't too pleased with our weeks until now)!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Unjustified

So many people are so stressed out about so many different things. My stress does not come from schoolwork. It does not come from too much on my plate. No, it comes solely and completely from myself and my inability to give up on the things that I love. I wish I had too much on my plate. I wish I was stressed about something that I had to do and work really hard on but at the end of the day was really, really proud of. But I'm not. Because, you see, aside from writing, anything else I like I never get to work on.

Okay, enough skirting around the point. I wasn't going to write about this. It's self-created drama with myself (okay, that was redundant) and the whole world doesn't need to hear about it. But then again, it's been bothering me all night. I mean, I'm not doing my schoolwork, I'm just kind of hanging out in my room not doing particularly anything at all. I even went down to the C-Store thinking that maybe I was hungry, spent about fifteen minutes meandering around in there, and then left without getting something because I suddenly realized I wasn't hungry, after all.

This is going to sound stupid. It's going to sound completely absurd and like I'm turning something trivial into a big deal. It's just, well.

I don't know how to write about this without coming off like a complete prat. But it just makes me so sad...so very, very sad that I, well, I don't make any appearance in the school play. I mean, none. I have a tiny part as it is, but not only is it small - it's said from backstage. As in - I do not actually step foot on the actual stage.

Well, not technically true. We're doing Little Shop of Horrors. I get to be inside the plant making it move around and stuff. I know, I know, it sounds really cool. And, to be honest, I'm excited about doing it. But I'm not, you know, the voice of the plant. I mean, my mother's going to come to this show and not even see me. I don't have to do any acting at all. Even my speaking part has very little acting. I'm a radio interviewer, for crying out loud. I have about five lines that don't say very much and they're said from backstage. Anyone could do it.

I don't want to whine, I don't want to complain, I'm not fighting this. I don't know why I'm not just quitting, but maybe it's because I really do want to work inside the plant. Maybe it's because I can't turn my back on theater, I love it so much. But I just feel...I don't know. Jipped. I mean, I always feel this way. I always get the really, really, really cruddy parts in plays. Maybe I think I'm a better actress than I actually am. I don't know. But it bothers me. I mean, why would God give me such passion for acting and for the theater, if He then doesn't let me actually do anything with it? Does anyone understand how incredibly frustrating it is to watch everyone else work so hard on their parts and complain and stress and complain and stress and then be really, really happy at the end and do a wonderful job and get congratulated...and you can't? And you're not a part of that?

Oh, yes, sure. Everyone is crucial to the play, etc. etc. etc. But I can't help but believe that most of that speech is pity talk. Even if they need someone to do the plant, even if they need someone to be the radio announcer, they don't need me to do it. Anyone could. Who am I in this production? Who am I in any production I've ever been in?

Nobody.

When it comes to plays, I just feel like I'm such a nobody. I keep trying to tell myself it's not important, it's not what matters, it's just a stupid play, but it's not. I love it, I have such passion for it. In every play I've been in, I always know everyone's lines by heart, even before they do! I act it out in front of my mirror, wishing, just wishing I could play a real character, someone with personality, someone who has something to say, something real to say.

I just wish someone would give me that chance - even just once.

And what's harder - when you have a tiny part, you're never justified for anything. There's no reason you shouldn't know your lines perfectly, there's no reason you should feel stressed out, there's no reason anyone should cater anything to your schedule because, come on, how much are you really being asked to do?

And people can snap at you because they're so stressed with their big parts, their important roles, their roles where their parents can actually be proud of them for accomplishing something and where people can be impressed by them and where they can feel proud of themselves. And where they can actually have fun. And where they're at every practice and get every single private joke. And you get so overlooked. You don't even know whether you're really included when people talk about "the cast." And people are rude to you when it gets close to the show - the other actors, I mean - and they don't notice it, nor do they mean it, but they're just so stressed and there's such high tension - but for you there's not. For you, you feel it when you get snapped at, when other's take out their high stress level on you, but you're expected to excuse it. And you do excuse it, of course. But it still hurts you. And these people are your friends, normally.

And all this, I know this is all going to happen. It happens every time. That's just the way theater is. I guess all I'm saying is, it's hard to be the small guy. And nothing about it is ever justified.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thirty Seconds

Thirty seconds.

You have thirty seconds to convey to someone you truly admire just how much she has touched your life. You have thirty seconds to make an impression on a celebrity who doesn't even know who you are and who will most probably forget about you soon enough.

What do you say?

How do you spend those thirty seconds?

These were the thoughts going through my head as I waited on line to meet Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted. I had the book in my hand, all ready to be signed, and could not figure out just how I was supposed to behave. Would I be doomed to be just another gushing fan?

My turn came. I took a deep breath and stepped up to the tent where Gail Carson Levine was sitting at a small table, a black marker in her hand. She looked at the sticky note on my book which had my name written on it, took the book from me, and said, "Erachet, did you like the answer I gave you before?" You see, I had asked her a question during her reading and open forum about what she does when she feels discouraged with her writing.

"Yes!" I replied eagerly. "Yes! I loved it! Thank you!"

And there I went. The words kept gushing out. They didn't even make sense.

"It really helped me! I am a writer, I want to be a writer, I love writing so it really, really--! Thank you! I love Ella Enchanted! I read it when I was little! Thank you!"

I was rambling - blathering on like a complete idiot. I could hear myself doing it but I was unable to stop. Any second now and I'd have to step aside for the next avid fan to gush all over her. I had to make an impression! I had to say something worthwhile! Something she hadn't heard before! Something she'd speak about when she gave future readings! "One girl once said to me" etc., etc., etc.! (I'm sorry, speaking about writing, I don't even know the correct punctuation for the end of that sentence).

I think I failed. That was the only downer of the day. I was incredibly disappointed in myself and in my inability not to act so stupid.

But.

BUT.

I did end up getting Ella Enchanted signed by Gail Carson Levine.

And.

AND.

I SAW JULIE ANDREWS.

It was incredible. I can't even begin to describe the way it felt to see her, to hear her, to watch her, and she was only about ten feet away! Too bad the only people she was calling on to ask questions were about age six and under - BUT STILL.

I loved today. I really, really did.

I just wish I had used those precious thirty seconds a bit wiser.

Monday, October 8, 2007

In which Cicero needs an ego check

Some of you may remember my previous post about Cicero, my brother's goldfish. Well, all the new, little fish that we got to keep Cicero company died within a day. It was really very depressing. After that, we decided to clean the tank - but this was no easy affair. First of all, there is this suction tube thing that we have to use to suction out a lot of the dirty water from the tank (this way, we don't have to take the fish out). What you do is you put one end in the tank, one end in a buckey, and, voila, bye bye dirty water! Easy, right? Nope! In order for the tube to start getting the water out, you have to start the suction by using your mouth and sucking on it like a straw. Now, it's a very long tube and there shouldn't be any problems - but, well, this is me we're talking about. There always seem to be problems. The very first time I did it, my mom was in there with me and I kept sucking on the tube but not hard enough because I kept getting scared that I was going to suck up the actual water. Well, finally, I sucked really hard - and got a mouthful of dirty fish water! I quickly spat it out and ran to wash out my mouth. It was so gross!

After we got the water out, I started to put clean water in but, since there was still some dirty water in there, and since the gravel was still dirty, it just clouded up all the clean water. So finally Trademark decided we should take out the fish and redo the whole tank. And this was after I had, by this point, gotten two mouthfuls of fish water. Nasty.

So, fine. We took out the fish, poured out the dirty gravel, scrubbed the tank until it was spotless, and then realized we didn't have enough new gravel to cover the whole bottom of the tank. So we had to go to the pet store and get new gravel. There, we decided to look for some bigger fish to put in the tank with Cicero, since he was probably very lonely all by himself all day (so we figured). The guy in the pet store said it probably wasn't a good idea to put another fish in the tank with Cicero because he was probably very territorial by this point. But we all thought, a goldfish? How nasty could a goldfish get? I mean, it's just a goldfish.

Little did we know, let me tell you.

We didn't end up getting new fish then, but today, my parents and siblings went out to do various errands and came back with a new goldfish, but this one wasn't teeny tiny like the other one had been (who had died along with the itty bitty swordfish and two other fish from my previous post). It was pretty normal sized, a bit smaller than Cicero is now.

Well, as soon as my mom put the new fish into the tank, Cicero went nuts! He started darting around, all agitated, and then began chasing the new fish. I actually took video of it on my camera. It was insane!

Oh Cicero, Cicero. What are we going to do with you?