Sunday, May 28, 2006

On Blog-anymity

My blog has always functioned behind a very thin veil of anonymity. If you wanted to, you could most definitely figure out who I am from my blog. And I've always been incredibly aware of that. I have never put anything on my blog that I wouldn't want people to see. Granted, there are a few posts that I probably would not be thrilled if a few specific people saw. But in general, I've been incredibly careful about what I put here.

But the anonymity allows me to post with a little more freedom than I could otherwise. A little less restraint. It's a lot easier to be intellectually honest if you don't know who is reading your deepest thoughts, convictions, and feelings. It's a lot easier, then, to write things that you might not say, to try to figure out who you are and what you believe.

I'm not sure how much my blog has allowed me to do those things--I think to varying degrees at different times--but I do know that that's what I'd like my blog to be about. True, sometimes I post snarky comments, links to articles I find somehow relevant, various forms of Columbia obsession. And all those things are very mucha part of who I am. But all in all, this blog has been a place where I could write what I felt. Where I could figure out what that was.

Not without restraint, but with less restraint than I would have if I knew who was reading. And that is liberating.

A few different instances lately (more than one incident from more than one person, so don't get a guilty look on your face) have led me to believe that people who at least nominally know me--or know who I am--are reading this. People who have drawn the connection between my blog to me to my family (which is slightly more surprising). And, I won't lie, it freaks me out a lil.

I have a friend who stopped blogging when this happened to her. And I could stop. Or I could start a new blog somewhere else and hold out until I was found again. But I don't want to do either of those things.

I've put a lot of time and effort into this blog--from the time this computer-illiterate person spent trying to use HTML to change the colors to the thought I've spent on some of these posts at ridiculous times of morning and night. I love this blog.

So, I'm going to keep on blogging just as I have because, well, because I enjoy it and because it gives me an outlet I haven't found in other things (even in journal-writing). I'm not going to post my name on my blog because I'd still like to pretend that it's at least a little anonymous (and I don't want it google-able). But I've made a conscious decision not to care who's reading this.

Because I'm doing this for me.

My Name Is Eli7 and I'm a Coffee-aholic

"Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation."

Since I've been home from school, I've been trying to detox on the coffee. Partially because, well, it's bad for you (though, I think my growth was stunted long ago), but really because my coffeemaker is not going to fit in my luggage to DC for the summer and they don't pay interns enough to pay for coffee every morning.

So, I hadn't had coffee for approximately two weeks. Two whole weeks. I endured the caffeine headaches--and only took Excedrin to fix them once. (Fine, that was probably cheating since Excedrin has caffeine, but I only did it once. Honest.)

The headaches have pretty much stopped, so I figure I'm totally cured. So it would be totally safe to get a coffee today, right? I mean, two weeks is like an eternity.

Well, let's just say I think I'm gonna hafta figure out how to pack that coffemaker because there is no way I'm going eight weeks without coffee. There is no way I'm going another day without coffee.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Dorky Quote of the Day

OK, so clearly I'm a huge, huge dork, but I've been reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which if you don't know, is a book about grammar and punctuation. But it's funny. Really. Stop giving me strange looks. It is.

Anyhow, quote of the day comes from there:

"In the family of punctuation, where the ... [period] is daddy and the comma is mummy, and the semicolon quietly practises the piano with crossed hands, the exclamation mark is the big attention-defecit brother who gets over-excited and breaks things and laughs too loudly."

Come on, you know it's funny. In a dorky way, perhaps, but funny. At least I think it is.

Department Stores Don't Care About the Little People

And by that I mean short people. Or so says the New York Times.

Though, honestly, I fall into the category who "would rather wear the more youthful ... clothing in the contemporary departments, even if it does not fit them as well" than shop in the petite department.

But even so, I agree that the "petite department was not about indulgence or convenience, but about parity." Short people deserve a department at department stores! Equality for the little people!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Summer Job Advice: Get Fired

This article suggests that in at least a "few, highly publicized cases," the "underling tell-all" has succeeded in making the "public airing of workplace shenanigans" by said underling and subsequent firing of said underling a lucrative career move.

So, advice for the wide-eyed summer gopher, I mean, intern? Blog all about it, get fired, write a best-selling novel, sell the movie rights, and retire--without ever holding a real job.

Hey, it's that or do a really, really good job photocopying and buying coffee. And personally, the former option sounds much more appealing...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Why I Love the Five Towns

Sign outside a clothing store on Central Avenue:

"Terry cloth skirts have arrived!! They cover the knee!!"

I'm well aware of the very many good reasons to dislike the Five Towns, but there is something nice about living in a place where even the clothing stores cater to the needs of the frum community.

So, say what you want. I'm going to buy a terry cloth skirt. It covers the knee!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Outside the Ivy Walls

Say what you will about college life, but it is an incredibly open, tolerant, and enlightened place. I know some of you reading this will say just the opposite, will argue that college is a dark, dark, awful place. But there is something nice about the fact that students in college are constantly thinking, that college is a place where students are inherently examining the world.

College is a place where people are open to new ideas. And sometimes that's a bad thing. As always, I'm reminded of the advice, "don't be so open-minded that your brains fall out." But every now and then, outside the ivy walls, I hear a statement that strikes me as so outlandish and intolerant and ridiculous and I realize the difference between college and the "real world."

Someone who shall remain nameless said to me recently something to the effect of "suicide is just stupidity." This was in relation to specific cases of suicide and it floored me. How grossly insensitive, how intolerant, how completely lacking in understanding and sympathy.

Now, you might say, not such a big deal, right? But it is a big deal. College may have its ups and downs, it may have more bad than good, but it's a place where people are willing to be understanding, where they're willing to walk a mile in someone else's shoes, where they're willing to accept someone else's decisions as valid or at the very least sensical.

It's an understanding you don't necessarily get outside the ivy walls.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Hair-Covering Explained by New York Magazine

There's an article in this week's New York magazine which is getting all the attention. But that's not the article I want to talk about. I found this article on their Web site. (I found it intriguing. It is titled "The Porn Myth." Note the title and decide on your own if you want to read it.)

The article has many discussion points on the topic of First Amendment values and Andrea Dworkin, specifically, but those are for another time.

I found this vignette really interesting:

I will never forget a visit I made to Ilana, an old friend who had become an Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. When I saw her again, she had abandoned her jeans and T-shirts for long skirts and a head scarf. I could not get over it. Ilana has waist-length, wild and curly golden-blonde hair. "Can't I even see your hair?" I asked, trying to find my old friend in there. "No," she demurred quietly. "Only my husband," she said with a calm sexual confidence, "ever gets to see my hair."

... And I thought: Our husbands see naked women all day--in Times Square if not on the Net. Her husband never even sees another woman's hair.

She must feel, I thought, so hot.

The article in a nutshell is about how men have become so desensitized to the female body and how women know they can never measure up to the pictures of the idealized woman that are everywhere. But, the author posits, Orthodox men don't have that. Orthodox men are forced to acknowledge that the female body is beautiful, that their individual wives' bodies are sacred.

I don't know if this plays out the way the author thinks it does. But there was something beautiful even in the description, something that made hair-covering special in a way that you don't hear about it in all the talk of expensive/uncomfortable/customized sheitels.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Free Speech Doesn't Mean You Should Say It All

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

I recently had a debate with someone over Naomi Ragen's books. I maintained that they are essentially a chillul Hashem. He maintained that they have value.

Now, I'm all for free speech and I believe people have the right to write whatever they so desire. I also abhor cover-ups or any sort of denial of problems within the Orthodox Jewish world. The first step to fixing problems is admitting they exist and I firmly believe that if there are problems within the Orthodox Jewish world that need fixing (and a quick perusal of the J-blogosphere indicates that there most certainly are), then we should be talking about them and dealing with them and trying to fix them, not hiding them between the couch cushions so that the outside world won't find out they exist.

And maybe, the first thing that needs to happen is that Orthodox Jews need to admit that they are not immune to the problems that plague the rest of the world, that just because as a community we try to live within the dictates of Torah does not mean that we live in a utopia.

But I still don't like Naomi Ragen's books. And partially I don't like them because they are so vitriolic. The anti-Charedi agenda is so strong that you have to wonder why she's doing what she's doing. But more than that, her books are novels, NY Times best-selling novels. They are made-up stories that give an altogether negative portrayal of the Charedi community. If I wrote novels like that about Conservative Judaism, I would probably get lots of hate mail.

I don't affiliate myself with the Charedi community (see posts below on how I don't fit into any box) and I don't think it's perfect. But I know that there is a lot of beauty in that world, a lot of total and complete dedication to Torah that is hard to find elsewhere. And some of Ragen's problems with the Charedi world are 100% valid and any attempt to fix them would be a noble effort.

But Ragen isn't trying to fix those problems--or even expose them to the people that could fix them--with her books. Instead, she is exposing (and exaggerating) all the negative aspects of the Charedi world to people who have no contact with it, to people who will take her word for it and assume that Charedim are awful, repressive, and oppressive people.

I think it's Ragen's right to write such things, but I can't understand for the life of me why she would. She may subscribe to a different brand of Orthodoxy than Charedim, and that's totally legitimate, but I don't understand why she would use her voice to vilify another branch of Orthodoxy--not to fix it but just to make other people hate it.

I think the same is true of all the problems being exposed in all realms of the Jewish world right now. I was just horrified by some of the issues and problems I read about on the blogosphere that are being dealt with (or not dealt with) within the Jewish world. There are problems--large and horrifying and awful problems--that must be dealt with. But let's not use blogging as yet another forum to throw unmasked criticism with no hopes of solution. Let's remember that problems or no problems, all Jews are our brothers not our enemies.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Baruch Dayan Emet for a Columbia Student

A Columbia student was confirmed to be dead today.

His body was found yesterday in the East River. He had been reported missing for about a week. He had looked up directions to the Brooklyn Bridge on his laptop before he last left his dorm room, so suicide was suspected. He was supposed to graduate today.

I didn't know the student at all, but there is something inherently scary, sad, and tragic about any suicide--but specifically about one that hits so close to home.

The Bwog, a blog hosted by a Columbia undergraduate publication the Blue and White, posted on this and has quite a debate underway in the comments. A debate over whether the university should be held responsible for his death in any way. About how much the university should care about its students, should reach out to its students.

I have plenty to say about all of the debate and about what I think the university should and should not do. But I think it's soon to have this conversation. His body was just found and emotions are running high and now is the time to remember his life and what was lost. I think this will necessarily spur campus debate and I think it should, but maybe it's a little too soon to discuss.

Right now I would just like to take a step back and say what I couldn't say to the non-Jewish friend who conclusively confirmed all this for me earlier today:

Baruch dayan emet.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

On Chick Lit, Good Literature, and Why I Read Both

I read almost two entire books this Shabbos (which is more a testament to the fact that my house is boring than anything else). The two books? The Kite Runner (for the second time) and Shopaholic Ties the Knot.

Those two books are probably as diametrically opposed as two books written for adults can get. The Kite Runner is sad and moving and amazing. Shopaholic is classic chick lit--witty, light, ridiculous. I found myself depressed at parts of Kite Runner, laughing at parts of Shopaholic, pondering how I could enjoy them both.

A paradox? Perhaps, but I don't think all literature has to be good literature. I think people can--and should--write whatever they feel a need to write whenever they feel a need to write it. I think writing is an outlet like no other and sometimes what comes out may be Pulitzer Prize-winning genius, but even if it's not, it still has value--to the writer and maybe even to others.

Writing, to me, is a deep expression of what one is feeling, something that is beautiful in the fact that we can do it, be it in a novel or or a poem, or a blog, classic literature or chick lit.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Copy Editor: Bastard Child of Journalism

At least somebody recognizes the necessity of copy editing (while doing an excellent job making fun of it). Granted that somebody is the Onion, which ignores the fact that copy editing is two whole words. And granted that recognition comes in the form of a satire--it is the Onion. But heck, sometimes you have to take it from whence it comes.

Disclaimer: This post has not been copy edited. Sometimes I write things which are not perfect even when making fun of other people's less perfect work. This is the liberty of a copy editor.

Looks Just Like Shul on Shabbos...

Apparently, it was some fundraiser, but I tell ya, it could be any shul in the Five Towns on any Shabbos.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Nonexistent Middle Ground?

I grew up Modern Orthodox, but would certainly not use that label for myself anymore. There is something superficial about the way Modern Orthodoxy functions, about the circles it runs around halacha. Torah matters most of the time, but every once in a while when it gets in your way, you can ignore it.

And yet, I would not, could not call myself Charedi or Ultra Orthodox either. Black hats still scare me a little, the centrality Torah plays in the yeshivish world is something oh-so-beautiful, but something I have a hard time identifying with. There is a closed-mindedness to different ideas that I cannot accept.

I went to Michlala, but I go to Columbia. I cover my knees, elbows, collarbone, but not my toes. I enjoy discussing the Rambam and Kant. I respect women who choose to be stay-at-home moms, but I am going to be a lawyer. There is something inherently beautiful about men choosing to learn as opposed to work, and yet there is something that bothers me about how widespread the practice is. I believe that halacha is the absolute basis of Judaism but also that inspiration and passion are necessary elements to religious practice. I believe in secular education and good literature and philosophy and interaction with the secular world but also on the centrality of Torah to Orthodox Judaism--indeed, to life.

That leaves me someplace in the middle, I guess. Someplace not Modern Orthodox anymore but not yet Ultra Orthodox. Someplace that works for me. Someplace that involves secular college but occasional phone calls to Israel before making decisions. Someplace where I am happy with the decisions I've made but am none-too sure they're right for others. Someplace where I've found fulfillment both in the realm of academia and Torah.

And yet, I wonder if I'm making this all up, if one truly can straddle the fence, if I'm creating a place that does not exist. Perhaps the transition between Modern Orthodoxy and Ultra Orthodoxy is not so fluid, perhaps it is more like a high stone wall than a fence. Perhaps there is no middle ground. Perhaps the place where I think I'm standing does not truly exist. Perhaps it is an artificial production of a dream world and one day soon I will realize that I have been trying to stand on clouds that cannot hold me. Perhaps sooner or later, I am going to have to choose where I stand, and give up on the concept of a middle ground.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Slumber Party

sitting in pajamas
in different cities--
my orange and pink
striped dorm,
pastel splotched
room of your
giggling like
little girls
trying on
mom's high heels,
exchanging secrets
like boys trade
baseball cards,
that popcorn
will always be
a proper dinner,
that problems
will always be
solved by
4 a.m. phone calls,
that we
will always be
a 'we'

a slumber party
over the phone lines

Friday, May 05, 2006

Jeans (Skirt) & (Long-Sleeved) T-Shirt Kinda Gal

"Jeans are the perfect canvas for everything."

OK, so I just handed in my paper and am going on a NY Times/blogging spree. This article, from which I lifted the above quote, is about skinny jeans, which sound stupid to me, but the quote kinda resonatd with me. Now, how, you ask, would a quote about an article of clothing which I have not worn since kindegarten and which my mother swears I didn't even like then, resonate?

I have been wearing only skirts since I was in the first grade and probably have had no real desire (and by real, I mean, actually want to do it) to wear pants since like third grade or so. I don't know that I'd defend my parents' decision to make me stop wearing pants so young in a school where are all my peers still wore pants, but that's the way it was. And presumably, despite a hard time in first through third grades, they did a good job, since I haven't even really considered wearing pants since.

But at the same time that all that is true and that I would never actually wear pants (excluding pajama pants in the privacy of my bedroom), I have this sort of farfetched longing (not by any means a true desire) to wear jeans.

I don't know if it's just purely the fact that jeans are so ingrained in American culture or that jeans are so ingrained in college culture or that there's something verry appealing about the ease with which jeans can be casual or fancy or anything in between while remaining comfy (or so is my glorified impression of them).

I mean, the truth is this past summer Gap had an offer where if you tried on a pair of jeans, you could get a free iTune, and I did it and was wholly unimpressed with the pair of jeans I tried on.

I don't mind wearing skirts in general, but I can't tell you how many times I've looked around a college classroom and noticed that I was the single person in the room--including the professor--who wasn't in jeans. And it's not that I necessarily want to wear jeans, but it's that I notice that I'm different.

This past week I was shopping for a dress to wear to a college event, and was dissapointed with the fact that I couldn't find one. Let's just say it's hard to find tznius summer party dresses. And partially I was dissapointed because I went shopping and didn't find anything, but partially I was dissapointed because I wanted to look like everyone else and a Shabbos outfit just wan't going to cut it.

Honestly, there's something disturbing to me about the fact that I even nominally want to fit into this society. But there's also something sort of comforting about the fact that being tznius will by definition keep me very visibly different (especially as summer approaches) and also constantly remind me that I'm different.

Sappy, Sappy Fluff, Read at Your Own Risk

is the cutest article ever. Especially the audio video. OK, maybe not ever--my defenses are probably down being that I barely slept and just wrote a paper in two hours on a book I haven't read in a year. (The scary part is that as of now I'm convinced that it was a good paper too.) But really, the article almost made me cry. Ok, fine, I haven't actually read the whole article but I skimmed it and watched the slide show and THAT almost made me cry. Almost. For the record, I did not actually cry. And maybe I'm just a sucker for little 5-year-old ballerinas especially when it's a human interest story about doing the impossible and reaching for your wildest dreams, but well it's sappy and it made me happy. And that's a good thing, I think. You should read it, if y'know, you're a sucker for 5-year-old ballerinas too.