Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Different Kind Of IQ

(You may print this out to take or use a separate sheet of paper)

1. Read everything before doing anything.

2. Put your name in the upper right hand corner.

3. Circle the word “name” in sentence 12.

4. Write the date in all capital letters in the upper left corner of this page.

5. Draw five small squares under your name.

6. Put an X in each square you drew.

7. Put a circle around each square.

8. Put a circle around all of sentence 7.

9. Put an X under your last name.

10. On the back of this paper multiply 733 by 419.

11. Draw a rectangle around the larger of the two numbers in sentence 10.

12. Loudly call out your first name when you read this so your teacher can see who got this far.

13. If you think you have followed directions carefully up to this point, call out, “I have!”

14. On the back of this page, add 109.34, 1984 and 8965.

15. Put a circle around your answer, then a square.

16. Count from one to ten backward in a normal speaking voice.

17. Punch three small holes in the top of this page with your pencil point.

18. If you are the first person to get this far, call out, “I am number one!”

19. Write the numbers from 1 to 10 on the line. Underline all even numbers.

20. Say aloud, “I am almost finished.”

21. Now that you have finished reading carefully, do only sentences 1 and 2.


...If you have failed this test, I highly recommend you try paying more attention to directions. :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Three Whole Hands

Not only is it Rosh Chodesh Adar, but it is also my little brother Mavis's English birthday. These two are inherently related because Mavis has always been a rather Adar/Purimish sort of person. In fact, his Hebrew birthday is Purim. He's always been very happy, a bit of a troublemaker, and certainly in the business of making people laugh. One of my mother's favorite stories about him was when my parents took him to meet the principal of his new school for kindergarten. The principal, who already knew Straight Man as, well, a yashar sort of kid, smiled over his desk at little Mavis and said, "how old are you? Five?"
Mavis shook his head.
"No?" The principal asked. "How old are you then?"
Mavis looked up at the rabbi before him, raised up his palm - fingers spread out - and said, "I'm a whole hand."
The principal looked at my mother and said, "He's not like Straight Man, is he."
It wasn't a question.

Mavis is certainly his own breed, but we all love him for it.

He's the only sibling I really remember visiting in the hospital as a baby. I remember visiting my sister Trademark vaguely, but I remember the white powdered doughnuts Straight Man and I got to eat more than I remember actually seeing my baby sister (I actually don't remember her at all - only the doughnuts). What I remember most about visiting Mavis as a baby was how much he looked like a bobblehead doll. Straight Man, who was nearly five at the time, then proceeded to go to school and tell everyone that he had a new baby brother named Achashverosh.

It was a strange purim that year. My brother, sister, and I woke up to a house with no parents (at least, the way I remember it). Somehow we knew what had happened before we were told. I remember Straight Man and I stumbling down the stairs to our babysitter and asking in rushed, excited voices, "did they go to the hospital? Huh? Did they?" I remember exactly the blue of the stairs and the emptiness in the house that wasn't quite emptiness. It was more like hugeness. The sun was shining brightly through the window and there was snow. Lots and lots of snow. Then we got hoisted off to friends and stood around awkwardly unsure what to do with ourselves in all the excitement. At some point our father came back and someone read megillah to him in a bedroom.

(By the way Ima, I'm sorry if I got any of that badly wrong. That's how my mind tells me it went)

Two years ago, it was my brother's bar mitzvah and instead of doing the parsha on shabbos, he lained megillah on the day of his actual birthday. Then we had a costume party and it was exceedingly cool. For this year, my brother has already started practicing to lain again (he did it last year, too), so when you start hearing that in my house, you know Purim's only 'round the corner.

Anyway, happy birthday Mavis (who is now three whole hands!) and chodesh tov to all my readers! :D

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nothing To Say

When I was in high school, I kept a journal that I wrote in basically every single day. I wrote in it differently that I write here. It was more of a log - with commentary - of what I did each day. I would include thoughts and opinions and philosophizings about things, but it was a lot of, "today this happened, and can you believe what this person said, and blah blah blah."

When I made this blog, I realized quickly that I had entered a world more grown-up and sophisticated. I couldn't expect anyone to be interested in my day to day life, so instead I tried to be careful to write about things that were interesting to read.

But I've also learned, over time, that day to day life can be interesting if you write it in an interesting way. Like a story. But I still don't think people would really want to read that.

In any case, I find that it is Tuesday and I still have nothing to say since Friday, which is fine, seeing as my friends who blog don't update for weeks at a time. But I was never like that. I usually think a lot and like to share those thoughts on here. I suppose I just haven't been thinking very much lately. I'm not one of those people who only writes down very profound posts, but I don't have anything ordinary I'd like to share either, and yet I do wish I had something to write about. But all I have to write about is day to day life stuff which is really very boring.

So I suppose this post is about nothing, really, except how it's Tuesday and I don't have anything to say.

So...

Happy Tuesday?

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Problem With Math

The problem with math begins as soon as you decide you are an English person. All of a sudden, you find yourself aligned with the English/History/Humanities group and anything number-related, by default, has now become your arch-nemesis.

"I hate math!" I remember declaring to myself and to anyone who would listen. At one point, I had read a book in which the main character, upon starting middle school, hated both math and her math teacher. I figured that was what one was supposed to do when starting middle school, so my entrance to seventh grade was also the beginning of my real math aversion. I don't remember having real difficulties with math before, but suddenly math was most definitely not my thing. I would argue every little point with my teacher, trying to prove how it just didn't make sense. The truth was, some of this was genuine math/english friction. It wasn't that I couldn't do math, it was that I didn't like not understanding what I was doing. I didn't like meaningless formulas. And my teacher never sufficiently explained what things meant. I kept asking her how it was possible to multiply something by a negative number - especially multiplying two negative numbers and coming out with a positive. It didn't make sense to me to have negative five and then multiply that not ten times and come out with fifty! Huh?!*

In eighth grade, the girl who sat behind me asked if she could cheat off of me during a test. I remember being incredibly baffled. Cheat off of me? But I hate math! Math is not my thing. Do I have to make it any clearer? You will not get the right answers if you cheat off of me. Aside from the fact that I'm vehemently against cheating, the idea of cheating off of me in math seemed like sheer idiocy!**

I have no idea how well I actually did in math. I just know that I hated it.

...Except I didn't really hate it. I didn't have any particular issues with it. In tenth grade, I even allowed myself to like logic proofs. I loved logic. It was my favorite part of math.

In eleventh grade, I actually did hate math. For real this time. We were doing trig and for those of you who suffered through trig as I did, you'll probably know what I mean when I say that it frustrated me to not be able to understand what a sine, cosine, or tangent was. And when I asked, I didn't want some equation thrown at me. I wanted a real answer. I did not like having to use some button on a calculator I did not at all understand in order to figure out things I didn't even care about. Who cared about any of that stuff anyway? Certainly not me. When would I ever need to figure out the sine of something in real life? What the heck does a sine even mean?

That is why I loathed trig.

This past summer, I went to visit D2 in the city and we got into a whole long discussion about infinity. I found it all fascinating. I even remember saying it would make such a great blog post. To that, D2 replied, "it's all calculus."

...What?!

That confused me. Here was an English major who hated math her whole life (with the exception of logic proofs, of course) and now she was involved in an extremely fascinating discussion about calculus. How?!?!

You know, I think a lot of things we think we don't like are things that we possibly just don't understand. Either we had a bad teacher or we weren't ready to learn something yet or we went in with a prejudice that we weren't supposed to like something. You ever have that? You go into a class where most people don't like the teacher and you find yourself kind of liking her but you keep it to yourself because, I mean, no one likes her, why on earth do you? Or how about, for the English people out there, if you've ever read a book when you were younger, hated it, read it again in college and loved it? I know that's happened to me more than once. Just because you have the capabilities to read more mature books at a young age doesn't mean you have the maturity to properly approach the issues it deals with. That's why it's good sometimes to shed your prejudices from when you were younger and come at something old with new eyes. You'll be surprised how your understanding and opinions might change.

I'm not saying I all of a sudden like math. I'm just saying that teachers, circumstance, and maturity have a lot to do with what we like and don't like as a kid. And sometimes that can change when we're older. Sometimes we think we don't like something because we've convinced ourselves we don't, but we haven't really given it a chance, in truth. As our understandings of the world change, I think it's good to give old things a new try. In general. (No, I don't want to start doing math. I'm just using it to make a point.)

*Actually, now I think I get it. If you owe five dollars, that's -5, so if you don't owe five dollars ten times, you end up with fifty dollars more than if you had owed five dollars ten times. Yeah?

**Also, if a person was going to cheat off of me, I would not want to know about it. I hate cheating, and what's more, there's nothing in it for me to move my paper on a desk so the girl behind me can see it except the possibility of getting caught. But I think cheating is absolutely vile and I don't understand how a person could live with herself if she hasn't really achieved by her own merit the grades and accomplishments people judge her by. It's good for your self-worth not to cheat, not to think you have to use someone else as a crutch in order to achieve. You can do it on your own if you put in the effort. Really.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ducks Fly Together

Also - don't forget to be yourself. :)

Reflections On A Visit To The YU Sefarim Sale

There is a strange phenomenon that spurts up after not having been around large amounts of guys since I was thirteen. The last time I was in a building filled with guys around my own age, I was in eighth grade and the boys were all still little. At the sefarim sale, I was suddenly hyper conscious of every single guy in the room. It was like having a sixth sense for all people of the male gender. I tried to focus on looking at books, but half the time I was glancing up to see what the boys were looking at.

No, stop, no, look at the sefarim. Look - there's one on hilchos muktzah.

I have to say that hilchos muktzah was the farthest thing from my mind at that moment and I only picked it up to give myself something to do. I glanced at the back without even reading it before returning the book to its pile. And here - a boy putting something on the table right next to me! I turned to look and it took me a moment - The Art Of The Date...? That's a book? (Alright, if it wasn't exactly that title, it was something very much like it). I glanced at the surrounding piles. They were all about dating. There was an entire table devoted to books about dating!

I hurried away from that section. Okay, okay, focus. Over there - The Rav! Those are good books to look at!

Eventually I managed to forget (mostly) that there were many males in the room. But it was hard. It was new. I wasn't used to it at all.

After the sefarim sale, D2, M.R., and I went to the C-Store on the guys' campus. That was even worse. It was filled with guys. And this was really actually on their territory - as opposed to the sefarim sale which isn't as much. I felt claustrophobic. They were guys scuffling and joking and - and - not much room for a shy Stern girl and her friends to look around and be awed by the fact that the guys have an actual store on their campus.

I'm not this nervous on dates. I'm really not. But it was rather interesting to notice the effect not being around guys has on a girl. I think when you primarily only see guys in the capacity of "is he someone I can marry?" then you don't know what to do with yourself, or them, when there are many of them at once, most of whom are not people you would conceivably marry. And it's not like I live in an all-girls cocoon either. I'm just not used to large quantities of eligible guys at once.

I suppose it was just strange to suddenly feel like I was in a co-ed school.

Ya know...after this post, I suddenly don't really feel so shtark anymore for having gone to the sefarim sale. It sounds like I was more aware of the guys than I was of the sefarim.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Taboo

Dating.

There, I said it.

You see - there's this idea that you shouldn't write about dating because then you'll just be "another one of those shidduch blogs" or "another dating obsessed girl" or some other such thing. But the truth is, dating is a major part of the stage of life I'm in right now and it's just as silly to say "don't write about college" as it is to make the entire topic of dating - unless it's a joke of some sort - taboo.

I think I've had a somewhat strange dating experience, which some would say makes for good stories on future dates (although doesn't one not really talk about past dates while on a date with someone else?), but it's also rather frustrating in that I'm still waiting for a good date (or rather, series of dates) to come along.

What's difficult about dating is that you have to try extra hard not to look at what other people are doing. For instance, it doesn't matter if many of your close friends are dating and you're not, because you only need one, right? And you realize how different you are from your friends, how you find different things important in a person, and how that's actually a good thing. By figuring out what's important to you in a guy, it also helps you learn more about yourself. I've become extremely self-aware throughout this whole process (or "process").

I'm not going to go into all the issues about dating because they've been discussed a billion times already and don't need to be rehashed just to orchestrate a venting session in the comments. I think, though, that one of the hardest, most important things when it comes to dating is to be happy with yourself. Not to take things too personally, whether it's getting rejected, or that you hardly ever get set up, or any one of a million reasons why a person might feel dejected. Even if you're a really terrific girl. It's good, though very difficult, not to get caught in the trap of wondering if there is something wrong with you.

Even if some part of you is really pushing the idea that there is something wrong with you.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Misrepresented

I was having a conversation with a friend yesterday about geneivas daas. We got to talking about the rather dishonest feeling you can have as a student when you know you didn't complete all the work for a class and yet you still get an A. Now, granted, you don't always know what you're getting an A for - maybe the teacher was grading you more on your paper writing skills than on whether or not you actually completed all the reading for class. Either way, though, it still feels wrong to get a grade you don't think you deserve (although, of course, most students wouldn't go up to a teacher and say, "Um, I actually didn't complete all the work for the class so can you please lower my grade?) - though is that on the student or on the teacher? Teachers claim they aren't stupid - that they're aware of everything that goes on in the classroom.

So what we talked about next was - what if a teacher is a very easy grader? I've gotten A's on essays before where I felt it wasn't deserved. Does that mean I'm a harsher grader than my own teachers? What if I would not have given myself an A? The grade seems cheap, unearned, misrepresentative of my capabilities. It makes me feel like either the teacher has very low expectations or she doesn't think I can do any better but is too nice and wants me to do well in the class. Or perhaps I just have extremely high expectations of myself?

But then that affects my GPA. So now I have A's in classes where I would not necessarily have given myself an A. Sure, I was able to play the system and do the minimal amount of work possible while still doing well. But, deep down, I don't feel I deserved such grades. (By the way, I'm not talking about every class - I'm not that bad a student! Just a few here and there.) So if I apply somewhere and they see a transcript that I don't feel is a fair representation of me...is that geneivas daas on the teacher's part? To raise my overall GPA by giving out easy A's? Some teacher do that for the whole class - they can't bear to give anyone too low of a grade.

I will say this, to all the many teachers out there reading my blog (...joke), you're only hurting your students by giving away A's so freely. In the classes where I know I can get away with doing almost nothing and still do well, I'm not motivated to do very much. It's the tough classes, the ones that really push me, that I actually learn in. Though I suppose that's a different point.

My point is - it's geneivas daas on the student to pretend she did the work when she didn't. But is it geneivas daas on the teacher to give out A's so easily? Isn't that how grade inflation came about, anyway?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

How Does My Vote Count?

In light of the Israeli elections, I began thinking about the American ones. And I wondered - how Democratic are American elections, really?

For instance, I'm from New York, right? New York is a liberal state. So if I wanted to vote for McCain this past election, my vote would have hardly counted at all. There would have been no point in it, you see? Because no matter who I voted for, New York as a whole was going to vote for Obama and that was that. Sure, they need my vote to know who one the popular election - but why is the popular vote not the one that counts? Surely that is more representative of what majority of the country wants? Why is the electoral college the system of choice? I'm asking because I'm actually curious. What benefits does it have? How is it really democratic? Why not just count everyone's votes and go with the majority there?

Friday, February 13, 2009

A Preface To Nowhere, A Chapter Of Nothing

Preface

There's this strange dialectic that happens on Fridays, usually right after candle lighting. You suddenly think of something you'd really like to do but can't on Shabbos. This then proceeds to torment you the entire Shabbos until immediately after Havdalah where you rush to whatever it was.

For a writer, this is extremely difficult. The best ideas always come on Shabbos. This makes perfect sense, of course; on Shabbos, the regular distractions from the week are gone and you actually have time and space to think (what a concept). This sort of time and space is not physical. You can't tell me - well, during the random hours of free time you have during the week, you could get the same ideas!

...No. It has to be coupled with a mental relaxation that only comes with the sweeping peace of Shabbos. I suppose that is what I meant a few posts ago when I said I write better when I don't think. It's not that I'm not thinking. It's that I'm mentally relaxed.

Some might say that I can achieve this state of mental (and emotional) relaxation even during the week if I lived out of town. And perhaps that's true - I wouldn't know. But that is beside the point entirely.

The point is - when it comes to creativity, you've got to grab onto it when it comes to you. So how can you do that on Shabbos when you can't write anything down? How can you make sure you don't lose your inspiration without also overfocusing on it on Shabbos?

Chapter One

I was particularly early for the train home today - so early, in fact, that the track had not even been posted yet. Instead of waiting around in the middle of Penn Station, staring up at the information board in perfect unison with everyone else (they all look like a herd of penguins, don't they? Standing in a miscellanious group looking up with the same tilt of the head - same to very angle degree - and the same harried expression on their faces, each one occasionally looking down at a watch and then back up again like they're in a game of wac-a-mole), I decided to hang around in the station book store.

It's a very narrow store, but deep, so I dragged my imbalanced wheelie suitcase (I can't ever let go of it or it tilts forward like it's just been kicked in the back) past the sci-fi, romance, and self-help sections until I reached the set of shelves labeled "Young Readers." I scanned the books, looking for any familiar, nostalgic titles, when I reached a somewhat messy stack at the very bottom. There, the title Johnny Tremain caught my eye. Johnny Tremain! I leaned my suitcase against the shelf and eagerly reached for the book. It was sandwiched tightly in the middle of the stack and I had to squeeze my fingers around the binding so I'd be able to pull it out. That was when I felt the most peculiar sensation.

"Is the cover made of velvet?" I wondered to myself (not out loud - just in my head). I frowned, unsure how that made sense, and gave a final tug, the book finally pulling free.

No. It was not made of velvet. But then why was it so soft?

Slowly, I lifted a hand from the binding and looked at the tips of my fingers. They were covered in layers of thick black dust. I held the book a moment longer, wondering mournfully how long the book had been wedged in that pile, unread, unlooked at, untouched. The idea made me sad. I hurriedly returned the book to the shelf and dragged my suitcase out of the store.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Thirst Unquenched

Have you ever had it happen to you that you just wished you knew more? That you felt it was futile to express opinions about something because you were so acutely aware of how little you knew and you just weren't in the mood to be shot down by those who knew more than you?

I've always had this insurmountable desire to know everything. I would walk into a library and be overcome by all the books I still haven't read. How could I possibly read anything twice? How was there time when there were so many things I hadn't yet read once? And what about Torah? There is so much I never formally learned in school. There is so much more to know. How can I ever learn it all? How can I ever prioritize what I want to know? I can step inside the Beit Midrash at Stern and feel the weight of all that I don't yet know and ought to know pressing down - so much so that I just don't learn any of it. And Torah, more than literature, is something I feel I must know, and I am so self-conscious of all that I don't.

There was a point in time during my early semesters at Stern where I thought I was going to minor in History. I've always found History fascinating and I immensely enjoy listening to a professor teach it. The problem is that I also never did well in history. I was bad at memorizing all the names and dates, especially so many at once. I'm quite good at remembering history in the context of literature, when you get to really learn and understand a time period, its politics, and the people involved through the telling of a story.* I'm not good at memorizing lists of facts, or events, or people who I don't really get a sense of more than just their names and a resume of their accomplishments.

So after sitting through (and loving but not doing particularly well in) APUS History in 12th grade, and then Western Civ., French Revolution, and some others (I think) at Stern, I ended up smack against a brick wall. I was taking a class on the Middle East. Though I've never felt the same sort of romanticism in Arabic history that I've felt in American or European, I was drawn to the class because of its rather timely subject. I wanted to truly understand the issues in the Middle East. I wanted to be one of those people who could defend Israel properly and intelligently, being well-versed in everything going on in connection with the Arab-Israeli conflict. The same way that I always wanted to be able to participate in a discussion about American politics and actually sound like I know what I'm talking about. But that semester I was taking a bunch of English classes and another History and the work became too much. I couldn't handle two classed that I both loved but couldn't do well in at once, so on the day of our first test, when I'd had way too much other work to properly study, I dropped the class, and along with it, my History minor.

So I did not end up spending a semester studying the history behind the issues in the Middle East. And I do not know enough about American politics to speak in the presence of anyone who knows more than just a little about it. And I have not read some of the major classic works of literature that are out there. And I have not learned many practical halachos inside in order to really understand what I'm doing and why, or to even know what I really should be doing in certain circumstances. And I do not know many random obscure bekius in Tanach. And I do not know about a lot of major Rabbis that people talk about - even ones at YU.

And...there is so much that I don't know. How can I ever learn it all? And when? How can I consider myself an intelligent person when there is so much I feel I don't know? When I am ashamed of what I don't know? When I don't feel comfortable asking sometimes because that means admitting to someone that I just don't know? And, more overarchingly, how can I ever quench this thirst for knowledge? I want to know and understand so much. I just can't imagine how I'll ever be able to.

*I've read a little bit of Historical Fiction, but not a lot of it, but I'm pretty sure I'd love it, so if anyone would like to recommend anything good, please do!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An Innocent Question

Today, of all people, the professor of my King Arthur class opened up with, "so, what do you think of the Israeli elections?"

Immediately, a tumultuous uproar crescendoed as everyone began to speak at once.

"What a coherent, orderly discussion we're having," I remarked dryly.

A girl sitting near the front of the room tried to be more helpful. "If you want to know what it's like in Israel," she told our bewildered Professor. "It's kind of like this."

(And that is my contribution to such political matters.)

Genius?

Ezzie sent me this video. I think it's a must-see for anyone of the creative bend, or even not - it's good for anyone at all to watch. I'm not going to preface it by mentioning anything it talks about, but I'm also extremely interested in discussing it should anyone wish.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rather Spiritless

Sometimes I try so hard to think of something to write, that I completely block myself off from writing anything at all. It's weird - I find that writing takes as much not-thinking as it does thinking. You almost have to actively not think about what you're going to write. But when I feel pressure to write - when I'm writing because I ought to, it's harder to slip into that writing state of mind because I'm thinking too much. And then I just get frustrated and want to take a break from my not-writing. But I suppose, during moments like those, what I really wish to take a break from is thinking about writing.* Not the actual writing. I never want to not write.

I guess I just don't always want to think.**

*Perhaps this is why the things I write at the last minute tend to come out better than those that I work on for a while. At the last minute, there isn't time for thinking.
**The question, I suppose, is - how do I get back in the mood for writing?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Disapproval

Sometimes you're faced with a situation where you have two options, one not that great, and another not that great either, and you are forced to choose between the two. For either decision, you can predict the disapproval with which it will be received, but still, you must make a choice. And so you use your best judgment to pick the one that will be least disruptive to anyone else. You make an honest decision. And yet, once you've decided, you still feel that searing disapproval of those whose opinions you care about. But sometimes you really just mess up and there's nothing you can do except pick which unpleasant situation to put yourself in. And maybe you've picked the wrong thing. But it was an honest, sincere choice using what you thought was good judgment. And perhaps you still feel it was good judgment.

When you don't ask for advice and instead try to make the best decisions for yourself, if you choose wrong, how much disapproval from your peers does that warrant?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Problem With Advice

Advice, especially when actively sought after, can be extremely helpful. But when people give you advice, they are missing one crucial thing. They are not you.

Sometimes a thing may have a practical answer, but it is in your best interest to reject it anyway. Not always. Not even necessarily most of the time. But when it comes to certain things about yourself (that are not harmful), sometimes you know best.

For example:

When I was younger, I was in the middle of reading a certain YA book and decided to write to the author. I confided in her various difficulties I was having with my amateur writing abilities. Her response to me: Maybe you shouldn't be a writer.

I can't even begin to describe the pang those few words gave me. The sinking feeling that what I wanted to do most - even at that young age - was being snatched from my grasp all because I mustered the courage to ask for advice. And then, in anger, I decided this author knew nothing about me, that she was a horrible person for discouraging a young kid, and I boycotted her books. I marched straight to the library and returned the one I was in the middle of - and I have never read a single book by her since.

It's always good to listen to advice. You never know when someone's going to say something useful. But it's even more important to remember that you know yourself best, that advice comes with a choice, it's just an option, not something binding that you must follow.

Even more - it's crucial not to feel discouraged just because someone else thinks you're not good enough. What does that person know?

Sometimes you just have to listen to yourself.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Very Like A Whale

By Ogden Nash

One thing that literature would be greatly the better for
Would be a more restricted employment by authors of simile and metaphor.
Authors of all races, be they Greeks, Romans, Teutons or Celts,

Can't seem just to say that anything is the thing it is but have
to go out
of their way to say that it is like something else.
What does it mean when we are told
That the Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold?

In the first place, George Gordon Byron had had enough experience
To know that it probably wasn't just one Assyrian, it was a lot
of Assyrians.
However, as too many arguments are apt to induce apoplexy and thus

hinder longevity,
We'll let it pass as one Assyrian for the sake of brevity.
Now then, this particular Assyrian, the one whose cohorts were gleaming
in purple and gold,
Just what does the poet mean when he says he came down like a wolf

on
the fold?
In heaven and earth more than is dreamed of in our philosophy there
are
a great many things,
But i don't imagine that among then there is a wolf with purple
and gold
cohorts or purple and gold anythings.

No, no, Lord Byron, before I'll believe that this Assyrian was actually
like a wolf I must have some kind of proof;
Did he run on all fours and did he have a hairy tail and a big red
mouth and
big white teeth and did he say Woof woof?

Frankly I think it very unlikely, and all you were entitled to say,
at the
very most,
Was that the Assyrian cohorts came down like a lot of Assyrian cohorts
about to destroy the Hebrew host.
But that wasn't fancy enough for Lord Byron, oh dear me no, he had

to
invent a lot of figures of speech and then interpolate
them,
With the result that whenever you mention Old Testament soldiers
to
people they say Oh yes, they're the ones that a lot
of wolves dressed

up in gold and purple ate them.
That's the kind of thing that's being done all the time by poets,
from Homer
to Tennyson;
They're always comparing ladies to lilies and veal to venison,
And they always say things like that the snow is a white blanket

after a
winter storm.
Oh it is, is it, all right then, you sleep under a six-inch blanket
of snow and
I'll sleep under a half-inch blanket of unpoetical
blanket material and
we'll see which one keeps warm,

And after that maybe you'll begin to comprehend dimly,
What I mean by too much metaphor and simile.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

Illustrated Milk

One Shabbos while at SerandEz, this conversation happened:

Erachet: It's calming. It looks like milk.
SJ: So when I need to calm you down I should just pour you a glass of milk to look at?
Erachet: No, only illustrated milk.


Now, on the surface, that seems to make no sense. What on earth is illustrated milk? What can I mean by it? Why do I find it so calming?

Here is a picture of illustrated milk:

Illustrated Milk

There is something about that cool blue and white image that I find extremely comforting. I'm going to let you all into the workings of my mind for a moment. From this sort of picture, I think about similar images from childhood. For example, my mind today jumped from the image of milk to this image from If You Give A Mouse A Cookie*:

Photobucket


Illustrated milk, for me, symbolizes childhood. A sort of cookies-and-milk childhood. And I find that childhood comforting. It's a safe place. It's a world where you feel like anything is possible. Don't you remember being a little kid and feeling the wide world out in front of you, sensing all the possibilities, all the adventure, feeling you could do whatever you wished when you were old enough? Remember when people used to tell you that you could be whatever you want when you grow up?

But then you grow up and realize it's not enough to just want to be something. You have to actually have the capabilities for it. You have to be qualified. And the world has to also want you. And so, too many dreams drift slowly away in the dirty city air, or get crushed by the multitude pairs of feet rushing, rushing, rushing to and from office buildings and banks and courts and banks and office buildings. That dreaming little voice in your head gets drowned out by the screeching subway cars as they storm by like a herd of charging elephants.

And then again, sometimes you're able to approach things from that childlike point of view, to see the world in its vastness and possibilities once more, and feel that you really could do anything if you wished to. If you can do that, the very narrow, trapped feeling of, "I am finishing college and must now follow the next step in this path set for me by some sort of authoritative figure and find a job doing something I know I'm capable of, probably starting at the way bottom filing and answering phones, etc. etc. etc." melts away, is overpowered by this new - or perhaps old - eye-opening mindset.

Who says I have to play by the rules? Who says I have to be obvious? Just because I always thought of myself as an English person doesn't mean I can't get a job doing something that has nothing to do with books. Maybe I'll find something to do that's entirely random and yet utterly enjoyable. Maybe I'll find something that's completely out of the blue and yet insanely interesting.

I'm not bound by my major or by my passions. I think sometimes passion can be stifling. It's very possessive. It doesn't let you even want to do anything else.

I don't want to shed my passions. I still want to write. My dream is still to write. But I also wish to enjoy my life. This is my life I'm living, here. Not some checklist someone created for me with elements I must tick off every couple of years. A life does not have to be lived according to a list. A life is not something linear where you go from one predetermined thing to the next predetermined thing to the next. A life is all over the place. It's spontaneous. It's surprising. It's the only one I've got - I want to make it worth living. I want to enjoy it. And why shouldn't I enjoy it?

In this life, I wish to follow the Torah and halacha properly, to one day raise a frum Jewish family, to fullfill all my goals and ambitions as a writer, and to be happy with my life in every aspect.

I think we should all strive to be happy with our lives. We aren't going to get another opportunity to enjoy where we are other than in this life we are now living. Make the most of it.

Be happy. :)

* If You Give A Mouse A Cookie is one of the best children's books EVER.