Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I was going to write about confidence, but I discovered that all I had to say was wrapped up really well in this song from The Sound of Music:

What will this day be like? I wonder.
What will my future be? I wonder.
It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free
My heart should be wildly rejoicing
Oh, what's the matter with me?

I've always longed for adventure
To do the things I've never dared
And here I'm facing adventure
Then why am I so scared

A captain with seven children
What's so fearsome about that?

Oh, I must stop these doubts, all these worries
If I don't I just know I'll turn back
I must dream of the things I am seeking
I am seeking the courage I lack

The courage to serve them with reliance
Face my mistakes without defiance
Show them I'm worthy
And while I show them
I'll show me

So, let them bring on all their problems
I'll do better than my best
I have confidence they'll put me to the test
But I'll make them see I have confidence in me

Somehow I will impress them
I will be firm but kind
And all those children (Heaven bless them!)
They will look up to me

And mind me with each step I am more certain
Everything will turn out fine
I have confidence the world can all be mine
They'll have to agree I have confidence in me

I have confidence in sunshine
I have confidence in rain
I have confidence that spring will come again
Besides which you see I have confidence in me

Strength doesn't lie in numbers
Strength doesn't lie in wealth
Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers
When you wake up -- Wake Up!

It tells me all I trust I lead my heart to
All I trust becomes my own
I have confidence in confidence alone
(Oh help!)

I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have confidence in me!

It's so difficult to truly feel confident in yourself, especially if the only thing pushing you towards confidence is your own conviction of your self-worth without anyone else's good word or support, but it's still worthwhile to attempt confidence, at any rate. And maybe putting on a bit of confidence will soon turn it into genuine confidence - ma she'lo lishma, ba lishma, right?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Question on the Four Questions

As we were plodding our way through the Haggadah (well, I suppose this is before most of the plodding, really), I noticed something rather puzzling about the Ma Nishtana - the 'four' questions. It starts off, "ma nishtana halayla hazeh mikol haleilot?" which most people translate into, "why is this night different from all other nights?" But if you look at the actual language, what it really seems to be asking is, "what is changed on this night from all other nights?" The passage then goes into a list of the different things, "shebichol haleilot, that on all other nights..." etc. So this list seems like an answer to the question of what is different. But those four things are not the ONLY things that are different! On all other nights, we don't normally drink four cups of wine. We don't normally invite people in to eat with us. Etc. etc. etc.

Also, if the question is "why is this night different from all other nights?" we don't really get an answer in the Haggadah. "Avadim hayinu l'Paroh b'Mitzraim - We were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt" is not really an answer to the Ma nishtana. True, each of the things spoken about in the Ma Nishtana can represent our journey from bondage into freedom, but that's only inferred. The Haggadah never specifically answers it. Later on in the Haggadah, when we talk about Pesach, Matzah, and Marror, it goes into why we have each of those things, but what about the dipping? And the leaning while we eat? Where is that answered?

This is not a dvar Torah, this is a question. What is up with the Ma Nishtana? What is it really asking and where are the answers?

Also, I appreciate the idea that the children are supposed to ask questions at the Seder, but does anyone else feel like it's a cop out every time in the Haggadah where there is a commentator's question about why something is done a certain way, why wine is poured at a specific point, etc. and the answer is merely, "to get the children to ask?"

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bedikat Chametz meets Lewis Carroll

Chametz Hockey
(from Through the Egypt-Land and What the Jews Baked There)

'Twas brillig, and the yeasty loaves
Did higher and higher make their way:
All risen were the cookie cloves
And the cake crumbs did stay.

"Beware the Chametz hock, my son!
The toasted bread, the pies that crunch!
Beware the pasta strands, and shun
All of these things for lunch!"

He took his light and spoon in hand:
Long time the crumbly foe he sought --
So rested he by the den TV,
And shteiged a while in thought.

And, as in Jewish thought he slouched,
The Chametz hock, with floury dress,
Came peeking out from 'neath the couch
And validated his bless!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The light and spoon went seek-'n-scoop!
He caught it dead, and with the bread
He went galumphing back.

"And hast though caught the Chametz hock?
Come to my arms, my shtarkish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He schepped lots in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the yeasty loaves
Did higher and higher make their way:
All risen were the cookie cloves
And the cake crumbs did stay.

And, advice from Trademark (my sister): (wisely) Erachet, you need to learn the Ways of the Garage. I wonder what these so-called Ways could be?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Storyteller

Ever since I was very young, I knew I wanted to be a writer of stories. The term 'author' was not one I thought about. It was 'writer of stories.' I was not always fascinated with words, with rhythm, with grammar...(nor did I ever use the hated ellipses. I HATE ellipses), no. I didn't really much care about how a thing was written. The point was that it was written. What I loved as a little kid were stories.

Last semester in the Writing Kiddie Lit. class (not to be confused with just plain Kiddie Lit, which I also took), the teacher brought in a speaker and he asked us to raise our hands if our parents read to us a lot as kids. Mostly everyone raised her hand. Then he asked us to raise our hands if our parents told us stories more than they read to us.

I was the only one.

This shocked me completely. I couldn't understand how other people's parents did not tell them stories. Those were my favorite kinds of stories as a kid. Granted, I liked it when I was read to, as well, especially since I would memorize the books and I'm convinced that's what taught me to read, but being told a story is what I loved most of all. You never knew what you were going to get, and my dad (who was the designated storyteller in the house) would put my siblings and I into his stories and also the friends of our choice and our favorite book or TV characters (batman made frequent appearances, as did my favorite stuffed animal, Yellow Doggie) and those stories would go on forever. My dad usually fell asleep while telling them and we'd have to wake him up (my siblings and I), and sometimes it would be hours before my mom would call up, "what's going on in there? You went to put them to bed two hours ago."

The thing about being told stories is that it allows so much room for imagining the details and what places and people look like, and anticipation for what will come next. It was my first experience with stories without pictures. And I liked stories without pictures. They allowed me to imagine whatever pictures I wanted to be there.

I truly do believe that being told stories is what created that imaginative spark inside me to want to come up with my own stories. After all, if my dad could do it, why couldn't I?

I remember thinking this way one day as I was in my room, looking at all my books. I think I might have been organizing them. I remember thinking that I wanted to be a storyteller when I grew up and just make up stories all day long. But I soon realized that that's not a very practical thing to be doing and I didn't want to spend my life entertaining little kids at birthday parties or something (even though, at the time that I was thinking this, I was a little kid. I think I was about seven or eight). So then I thought, maybe I'll be an actress. Then I could play my imagination games (of which I had many) forever. But no, I checked myself on that, too, and realized that as a Religious Jewish girl, aspirations for being an actress would not really go anywhere past school plays. So that's when, glancing at all my books, it came to me.

Of course! I would write stories! After all, all these authors did it, and as far as I was concerned, my dad was just as good as any of those authors and all he had to do was write down what he told us at night and then he could be on a bookshelf, too! So why not me? I was good at coming up with my own stories. I sometimes imagined my books having different details or I would create back-stories for the characters because I decided I wanted things to happen precisely that way and it was my imagination, after all, and my book (I was very possessive over these things. It didn't occur to me much that zillions of other people were enjoying the same books as me. I always felt that they were mine and only mine). And so it was settled. I was going to write stories. The end.

I'm not sure why I'm thinking about all this now. It might be because recently in one of my classes, we were talking about books on tape, and also recently, a friend gave me Wuthering Heights on CD to listen to. I think it's important for kids to be told stories, as well as read them. They both serve their purposes, but I just remember my shock at being the only one to raise my hand about having my parents tell me stories more than they read to me. Telling stories is also so much more interactive for the kids listening. I've told my siblings stories when I was older, and I've told kids in summer camp stories, and seriously, it's the most fun thing you can do during a rest-ish time and it's a great way to connect. And basically, it's the best exercise for the imagination you can have.

So, yes, everyone should tell stories!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

In the middle of the night

So really I'm procrastinating by writing this post because I'm supposed to be writing a paper now. But I felt the need to share this with you (mostly because it's something to do other than writing a paper).

First of all, I am so proud of myself because I never made it this far in Dracula before. Last year when I had to read it, I sort of, um, skipped out at a certain point. I just couldn't find time to read it because it had to be either in the middle of the day with lots of people around or not at all, and certainly not before I went to sleep, like when I did the rest of my reading. But this year I have been reading it before I go to bed and, granted, it does not make for a good night's sleep, but I don't even care about that. I just care about the fact that I am not chickening out. Now, sure, I was already in a class that read Dracula so I know what happens. Nothing I'm reading is a surprise to me. But still, it's one thing to know and another to read all the details.

Anyway, I was listening to my itunes the other day and realized that a certain Billy Joel song is just perfect for everyone in Dracula. If it was made into a lighthearted musical, I mean.

In the Middle of the Night

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To the river so deep
I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it's too hard to cross

And even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and stand on the shore
I try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find what I've been looking for

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the valley of fear
To a river so deep
I'm a searcher for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I'd never lose
Something somebody stole

I don't know why I go walking at night
But now I'm tired and I don't wanna walk anymore
Hope it doesn't take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is I've been looking for

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To the river so deep
I know I'm searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind
In the middle of the night

I'm not sure about a life after this
God knows I've never been a spiritual man
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river
That is running to the promised land

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the desert of truth
To the river so deep
We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We're all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night
Okay! Now you can all go back to whatever it was you were doing before you decided to waste a precious minute or two that probably should have been spent doing other things reading my nonsense procrastination. :D

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Two Worlds, One Family...Am Echad B'lev Echad

Since Pesach is coming up, and after Pesach comes Yom Hazikaron, Yom Ha'atzmaut, etc., I thought I'd post about coming out of bondage into freedom. I talked about making a video of this sometime last year, if you remember, and, well, I actually made the video a while ago, and then forgot I made it. I'm not sure if it's very post-worthy, especially since I'm not the best movie-maker out there, but I just watched it and decided I'm going to share it with you anyway. So here goes:

Friday, April 4, 2008

Where are our standards?

It has come to my attention that in the desire to seem professional, student activities might forget that they are student activities. The outcry of, "but in the professional world, that's just how it's done" or "but that's so not professional!" brings out little sympathy from me, seeing as we are not in the professional world yet and to behave in accordance with the professional world does not always work with student run activities and publications. There are different morals and ethics involved, as well as different factors that go into making these things run.

For example, I totally and completely believe that the people who did sound and light and set and props and costume in the Stern play should have come out at curtain call. These people gave up a lot of their time and effort in order to make the actors and the show look good and to acknowledge them only in the playbill is an insult. "But it's not professional," you might claim. Perhaps not, but then again, this is a student production. As someone mentioned to me recently - in the professional world, those backstage people would be making a lot more money than the actors on stage, so they would certainly be compensated for all their time and hard work, not to mention the feeling of being snapped at or bossed around by overly stressed actors. But in a student production, are the backstage people being paid? No. They get their name in a playbill and that's it. A poor repayment. Their talents and efforts are being showcased as much as the actors' are and yet they don't get the same acknowledgment and applause. And the argument of, "but no one would know who they were!" doesn't phase me, either. Either an actor or the director or the stage manager should get on stage and introduce them. It just bothers me that people will give up their time and energy to something and then they don't get to shine as much as the actors. This is a student production. No one is getting paid, no one is even getting school credit! They should at least get the applause and recognition they deserve (and thanking them as an afterthought is just patronizing).

Another example - this post by Chana about the Commentator's Purim issue where they publicly humiliated a girl just because she wrote a rather over-the-top letter (but a serious letter from her part, nonetheless) to the Observer. I know that no one is making the argument that in the professional world, such behavior goes on all the time, but I am anticipating that argument because it is the only one anybody can have against Chana's point. Humiliation may be acceptable in the professional world, but it should not be acceptable in a student publication. As much as we would like to mimic "real" newspapers (I put 'real' in quotes because a student paper is still real), we have to remember that we are still a student paper and must behave as such. We have ethics that other papers may not have. We have to respect the students of our school. Humiliating someone goes against the principles of the Torah - where humiliating someone is like killing them - and therefore goes against the principles of YU. It is completely unacceptable, even in a Purim joke issue.

Where are our standards, you guys?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Things I learned (or relearned, or was reminded of) today

1. I make more of an effort to get to the classes that I actually like (as opposed to 'find interesting but not particularly enjoyable').
2. Ummm, Dracula reminds me a heck of a lot of Heathcliff.
3. There is nothing to eat in the caf on Thursdays for lunch.
4. Amy Adams is a good actress, but she seems to get type-cast as the more air-headed sort.
5. The ringing of your cell phone while you are reading scary/intense passages from Dracula can make you jump.
6. RaggedyMom is extremely cool (especially with the crashing of a certain school's G.O. elections - I still need to hear the story about this)
7. Apparently...there isn't really anyone from Gattaca who is named Eugene? Why on earth did I think there was?
8. Dark chocolate is still dairy.
9. There is a Wedding Barbie who has a ring that sparkles when you hold her hand. I think every Stern girl should own one. You know, for moral support.
10. Everyone is QUACKED.

That will be all.

P.S. "Go back whence you came!" IS PROPER ENGLISH.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


It is that time of year again. The time when I sleep with my desk light on and don't like to close my eyes at night (which consequently means I'm not sleeping) and don't look in mirrors for too long.

What time of year is this, you may ask?


The same thing happened last spring! You might recall I had to read Dracula for my film and fiction class (OMG CREEPY. IT'S EXACTLY THE SAME TIME OF YEAR).

Now, the book itself is not too frightening, but when you've got images in your head of the Coppola movie (with Gary Oldman as Dracula - that's right, go ahead and ruin my image of Sirius Black!), well, it's pretty scary (except for when he's wearing those sunglasses. Those just make him look ridiculous). There's one scene in particular which freaked me out when I read it, freaked me out even more when I saw it in the movie, and is freaking me out again - the scene with the mirror. Here's what happens:

Jonathan Harker is looking in a mirror, shaving. Dracula comes up behind him. Jonathan Harker does not see anything in his mirror. Suddenly, Dracula reaches out and touches his shoulder.


I love my gothic novel class very much (it's probably one of my favorites this semester) and I AM glad we're reading Dracula because, gosh darn it, I HAVE to overcome these ridiculous fears. But but but--!

It's this weird thing. I can't explain it. On the one hand, I'm afraid. On the other hand, I enjoy being so afraid. It makes me feel stronger, in a way, because I'm forcing myself to face things I'm scared of facing (I do have limits about this, though. There's scary, and then there's gross. I don't go for gross. Just scary). Plus, if you live your life never in fear of anything, well, that's got to be pretty boring, you know? It keeps you on your toes! And it makes you a stronger person and allows you to grow.

As scared as I am of vampires, you should also know that when I was a little kid in sleep away camp, a friend and I used to pretend to be vampire slayers and we would creep around the outside of our bunk at night slaying imaginary vampires (and no, I never watched Buffy).

In any case. I just needed to get all this out. Scariness.

To make Dracula far less frightening, I'm going to retell it...the PT style:

Nuthing lik a vampir

by erasha

(grat buk!)

In the morning, I luk in a mirror.

Drakyula dusn't lik to not vare.

AAAAA where my clothing is? (where is my clothing?)

Over thar, that is war it is. [image of count scaling down castle in harker's suit]

(what's going on in the cage?)

(that's the vampire cage)

(you have a cage for vampires?)

(yeah! the vampires like to be up there!)

AAAAA! Don't wure, we don't needa suc all the blud today.


Wuat cind of vampir is this!?

Grad F!


You didn't get a gud grad on this.

Ho boy. Are you gonna leave the cassle? Do you wanna have wafers wen we get home?

Uh, no, I'm gonna stay at the cassle.


Dreeeeaaaaming.... (doo doo doo doo)

(what are you dreaming of?)


The ledder F is so good. It stand for your last name...Frangin.

Ugh, why do I cep getting F's?

Because your last name is Frangin.

Hmmm, maybe your grads are good. F for frendly vampir. A for attack.

Vaaaampirs are mor importint evre uther day!

The end.

(other versions can be found here and here)

Are there any books you guys find particularly frightening? Or am I the only weirdo out there?

Also, I thought this was apropos: