Wednesday, April 30, 2008

ובכל זאת שמך לא שכחתי

"Auschwitz, 1944. Not far from us, flames were leaping up from a ditch, gigantic flames. ... Around us, everyone weeping. Someone began to recite the Kaddish. I do not know if it has ever happened before, in the long history of the Jews, that people have ever recited the prayer for the dead for themselves."

It's Yom Hashoah and I just went through my album from my trip to Poland and the Ukraine.

I'm remembering my group trudging through the bitter, bitter cold wearing sweatshirts that said "ובכל זאת שמך לא שכחתי"--with all this, we have not forgotten Your name; carrying Israeli flags and singing "Hatikvah" (as if to say, "You wanted us dead, but we are very much alive--so much so that we have our own country); documenting it all with photos and journals.

I'm remembering the blue stains of the poisonous gas and the crematoria where we lit candles and the remnants of once-vibrant Jewish communities that do not exist anymore.

I'm remembering the cigarette butts on the floor of a shul that was used as a stable during the war. The many, many mass graves--some barely marked--that we stopped to sing at and the close proximity of towns to these graves.

I'm remembering so as not to forget.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Home for the Holidays

"The family.  We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together."
Me [to my 3-year-old brother. Unclear what spurred this]: Rafi, whose kid are you?
Rafi: I'm everybody's kid!
Aharon [5-year-old brother]: That means he's my kid, too.
Shoshana [7-year-old sister]: Aharon, you had sex?
Aharon [after just putting on pajamas with planets all over them]: Eli7, I have planets on my privates!
My dad: I just don't understand why someone would take care of something cosmetic before something that causes them pain.
Me: Umm, you're talking to someone who wears four-inch heels.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Consolation Shoes

"Red. Buy the red ones. Consolation shoes are red." --my sister

One for the Box of Broken Dreams

"אבן מאסו הבונים היתה לראש פנה"
"The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone"

At a memorial service for my teacher, one of her friends recalled that she had kept a box with the above pasuk on it. In the box she put all the disappointing or bad things that happened to her. The box--a box of broken dreams--intrigued me.

As I see it, it wasn't about finding the good in a bad experience or a disappointment. It wasn't just the "gam zu l'tovah" brush-off. It was about knowing that there was some good that eventually would come of it. Knowing that no matter how acute a disappointment it is, it becomes part of who you are in a way that has to be good because it forces you to rethink, to change, to grow, to strengthen your resolve.

"Listen to the seasons passing
Listen to the wind blow
Listen to the children laughing
Where do broken dreams go?"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Ranting Heyday About Editors ... Or Not

"In their hearts, writers think of editors as little as society ladies think of maitre d's: one tips them heavily and listens wide-eyed to their advice on the menu, but the point is to keep that table. (And, in their hearts, all editors think of writers as maitre d's do society ladies: spoiled, demanding children -- if only, sigh, you could run a restaurant without them.)"

My roommate left this article (titled "Writers Rule! Whtevr u say, Mike, but this hedlin didnt get editd and thts why it readz like this") on my desk with a note that said, "Go ahead, have a ranting heyday with this on your blog."

But I'm not going to.

Anyone who has ever read this blog knows how important I think editors are (though it should be noted the author isn't actually referring to copy editors, whom he calls "apprentice fiends, with intense views about semicolons," but rather regular editors), but I think the essay epitomized the relationship between editors and writers.

It is the relationship described by the quote above as well. It is tolerance and begrudged respect (in the best of cases) rather than love. And I think I'm OK with that.

Though a kind note from a reporter thanking me for making her article better literally made my day today.

In Which I Do Not Write a Hed to Avoid a News Pun

I went to the newly reopened Newseum--which The Washington Post called "an overpriced monument to journalistic self-glorification"--on Sunday. (Some have suggested it is an overpriced tombstone for journalism.)
At $450 million, "overpriced" is probably an understatement, though the group I went with (a bunch of journalism dorks like myself) was thoroughly impressed. (Souvenir favorites of the group were items with the phrase, "Not tonight dear ... I'm on deadline.")
Though, I would note that while there were computer games that enabled visitors to try their hand at being a reporter and a photographer (which my cohorts were unsurprisingly very good at), there was no corresponding game for copy editors. 
The only nod to copy, we discovered, and my favorite part of the museum (OK, not really, but...) was in the bathroom. There, on the walls were tiles with corrections and headline gaffes ("University Revokes Doctorate in Plagiarism" "Driveway Floods After Man Bursts").
When I worked at my school newspaper, I hung the corrections we published on a narrow strip of wall in the newsroom. It was my wall of shame. The Newseum bathrooms, though, had me wondering if I would have been better served by putting those corrections in the bathroom.
I think that Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post is right, though, that the museum "is actually a history museum disguised as a media retrospective." But, then again, if you believe Phil Graham (former publisher of that newspaper), "news is the first rough draft of history."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hit Men: The New Wait-List Solution

Ivy Gate has published the inductees and alternates/wait list for Yale secret society Skull & Bones. (Now, you might ask, how you can call the society "secret" if its members are posted on a Web site, but file that under the many mysteries of Ivy League colleges or something.)

On the three alternates, Ivy Gate said: "So, if the last three really want to be Boners, they now have a hitlist and estimation of how many of their peers they have to destroy to get in. Someone should make a reality tv show out of this."
Anyone know where, other than Craigslist, I can find a hit man? [Kidding...]

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Amtrak, Concerned Citizens, and Free Speech

Every once in a while, I take Amtrak from New York to Baltimore or Washington. I like Amtrak because, unlike Greyhound, it's comfortable and there are rarely crying babies and it doesn't smell like fried chicken and it's shorter and I can plug in my computer and watch a movie. All good things.
(The astronomical price is not so good, but that's a story for another day.)
But the last two times I took Amtrak I ended up on the quiet car. Now, I never wanted to be on the quiet car. I want to be able to talk--quietly and briefly--on my phone. I think quiet cars are a violation of free speech. Or something. But I was in the quiet car and so I tried to refrain. But when I did pick up my phone and spoke VERY quietly on it for just a few minutes, I got yelled at by a "concerned citizen." Puh-lease.
So, anyhow, I really enjoyed the fact that this guy was arrested and stood trial for being really annoying to LIRR riders in his pursuit of a quiet train ride. Take that, you silence lovers.
(Also, who loves the fact that, which is the Web site for the Long Island Rod & Reel Company, contains a link at the very top of its page for the LIRR? It's the best way to get to the LIRR Web site.)  

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Deep Thoughts: The Nutrition? Edition

  • Why, why would the dentist call me at 8:20 a.m. to confirm an appointment? 8:20 is the middle of the night for a copy editor. There are people who I would want to talk to at 8:20. The dentist is not one of them
  • How am I supposed to get my vitamins if Duane Reade is out of Diet Coke Plus? (Yeah, my caffeine boycott is totally over. It lasted a whole week and a half. That's something.)
  • If I don't go grocery shopping very soon, I am going to starve to death.