Wednesday, April 29, 2009

כחל ולבן

My relationship with Israel is complicated. (As evidenced by a previous post and its drama.) The first time I was in Israel was the year I spent there in seminary. So, while I think of the Kotel and tiyulim and beautiful land when I think of Israel, the country is really associated for me with learning and growing and coming into my beliefs and the amazing people I met that year. Of course, I recognize that Torah learning takes place in all sorts of places that are not Israel and that some of my experience had more to do with being away from home and being able to re-evaluate my beliefs than with being in Israel, per se. But I also think Israel is a special place—that is a pretty basic tenet of Judaism.
When I say Israel, I mean the Biblical space, not the political state. Which is not to say that I do not support the state of Israel or recognize it as an amazing opportunity and of tremendous import. I am a Zionist. I am not, though, Rav Kook-ian in that I am not convinced the fact that we have the state of Israel is part and parcel of geulah. If I lived in Israel, I would certainly declare citizenship and send my sons to do hesder and my daughters to do sheirut le'umi. I think Yom Ha'Atzmaut is an important day, and I say Hallel without a bracha after davening, but I don't listen to live music or otherwise suspend sefirah because I have seen no compelling halachic reason to do so. 
I support the existence of the state of Israel but not all of its actions—much the same way I feel about the United States. I think Israel does far, far more good than bad, but I don't think we have to—or even should—accept everything Israel does as morally or religiously correct. I am endlessly frustrated with people who tell me they think the media are horribly biased toward Israel when what they mean is that sometimes Israel comes off poorly—or not like the superhero—in the media. Israel sometimes does things that deserve criticism. The intolerance Jews have for anyone who is not them in the Middle East is abhorrent. But at the same time, how can you think differently when your friends and family have been killed by this conflict. (Of course, the Palestinians could say the same thing.)
I want to live in Israel in the way that I believe Jews should all want to live in the holy land. What use is it to have Israel, to fly our blue-and-white flags and march in the Israeli Day Parade and eat cupcakes with white frosting and blue sprinkles on Yom Ha'Atzmaut if we don't live there? What does it mean to be a Zionist who lives in America? How can we have the opportunity to live in the holiest land and ignore it? I don't want to forever be a tourist in my homeland. And yet, America is comfortable. America feels like home. I don't know what my life would look like in Israel. I don't know what I would do professionally there. I'm only fooling myself if I say I'm ready to pick up and move there tomorrow. Mostly, I want to want to live in Israel more.
In seminary, I took a class with a lot of Shana Bet-ers who were leaving midway through the year. The teacher gave out this essay, "Goodbye Wall" by Meir Kahane, right before they went back. A cruel move perhaps, and certainly Kahane was an extremist, but I remember being moved by the essay, which included this:
I suppose that it is all this that finds most people leaving Israel without saying goodbye to [the Kotel]. I suppose that especially the ones whose heart and conscience are not as stone, cannot say to the Wall whose stones are as hearts: Goodbye, I am violating a basic tenet of Judaism; I betray my land; I go back to the fleshpots and materialism of the Exile and thus forsake you.

Because I Haven't Glorified Copy Editors Lately

"It's the editor's lot, alas, to subsist on reflected glory."
Here's a conversation with former Times Copy Chief Merrill Perlman. Her take on the characteristics of the "typical copy editor":
I'm not sure there is a typical copy editor. I think they share some common traits. They all share that love of language. They all share that desire to get it right. ...

They don't so much care about the public recognition, but they like to bitch about not having the public recognition, so they're a complaining bunch.

[Sorry for the profanity, but I'm not a follower of the New York Times/Washington Post "family newspaper" policies that have them excising all mildly offensive words, even at the expense of a story.]

Monday, April 27, 2009

יום הזכרון

על כל אלה
שמור נא לי אלי הטוב
על הדבש ועל העוקץ
על המר והמתוק
אל נא תעקור נטוע
אל תשכח את התקוה
השיבני ואשובה
אל הארץ הטובה

"It is true we have won all our wars, but we have paid for them. We don't want victories anymore."

It's 'The Newspaper Stresses Me Out' Day

I'm a big believer in newspapers and reading them and all, but this morning's viewing left me doubting the wisdom of doing so. This is what I learned upon perusal of today's press:
"Graduate education is the Detroit of higher learning." Which is, obviously, not particularly complimentary about my next life step. All I can say is, at least I'm not moving to Detroit.
In an article urging young women to marry now, "[W]omen's 'market value' declines steadily as they age." And I didn't even know I had a market value. Do you think my parents can get two goats and some sheep for me?
PortfolioConde Nast's business magazine—dies.
And, finally, soda is even worse for you than I thought. That's right, it is so potent that jewelers use it to separate gold from teeth. I can just get my caffeine exclusively from coffee. 
I'm reminded of the quote: "I always turn to the sports section first. The sports section records people's accomplishments; the front page nothing but man's failures." Maybe I should start reading the sports section. It would probably not stress me out as much.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

'Maidens Remain Faithful to Their Coffee'

This is what I learned from Trivial Pursuit today (after I did some Bananagrams/Anagrams drubbing and tragically spilled strawberry soup all over my roommate's Apples to Apples): Bach wrote something called the Coffee Cantata, which is about a girl whose father is making her give up coffee so she can get married. My sister says I cannot let my grandmother know about this or all my coffee will be confiscated.

If I can't drink
my bowl of coffee three times daily,
then in my torment I will shrivel up
like a piece of roast goat.
Mm! how sweet the coffee tastes,
more delicious than a thousand kisses,
mellower than muscatel wine.
Coffee, coffee I must have,

And to continue the theme, a gchat conversation with a friend:

Friend: also, i need to cut my toenails
me: that should be on your to-do list
i believe in eclectic to-do lists
Friend: to-do: clean floors. cut toenails. buy butter
me: fabulous
i normally put something big picture/existential also
like figure out my life
Friend: that one gets a permanent slot
but it's underneath "don't run out of coffee"

Friday, April 24, 2009

I Will Not Buy Ikea Furniture and Other Resolutions

"Forget regret
Or life is yours to miss
No other road
No other way
No day but today"
First in a maybe series of summer resolutions as I prepare to leave THE City for other pastures.
  • I will not buy Ikea furniture because without my posse of fabulous, patient, handy roommates, I will not be able to put it together, and I will end up piling my books on the slabs of wood that could be a bookcase to someone more genius than I. Because Ivy League institutions do not have Ikea building classes (for shame!). And though I am sure my future roommates will also be awesome, I probably don't want to introduce myself to them by getting all irritated and worked up and teary over furniture, and while my sister will hopefully be there to help, she is pretty much as unhandy as I am, and two very caffeinated, very unhandy sisters getting cranky while holding hammers seems like an infinitely bad idea. Also, I don't know if my health insurance will have kicked in yet, and putting together Ikea furniture is a ridiculous thing to do without health insurance.
  • I will walk the Brooklyn Bridge, read in Central Park, visit MoMA and the Met, organize a NYC scavenger hunt, and take full advantage of New York this summer. I will not don a fanny pack and morph into a tourist, but I will see what there is to see and enjoy this grimy, awesome city—while glaring at anyone who is wearing a fanny pack or carrying around a map.
  • I will learn how to park so that I am less afraid of driving so that I will not hate my life when I spend much of it driving.
  • I will invest in lots and lots of flip-flops because I can. And I will not feel guilty about it because I will get more use out of them than I have in the past and because they are cheaper than real shoes. Also, I will wear flip-flops always in my new city. (Though this does require dispensing of my beloved flip-flop rule—that after you stop wearing flip-flops for the winter, the first time you wear them again, you have declared the beginning of flip-flop season and there's no going back. A moment of thoughtlessness during an Indian summer in November could leave you totally stuck for the entire winter. This rule will be of little use, though, in a place where there is no winter.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Their/There/They're and Other Grammar Adventures

Or, the "I can't get anything done today but I discovered this cool Web site" post.

song chart memes

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Deep Thoughts: The 8-Hour Workday Is Too Long and Thin Mints Are Not Lunch Edition

  • Public service announcement: Even sports teams need copy editors. Also, even copy editors need copy editors, as I discovered yesterday after being called out to, oh, half my workplace for a typo.
  • Words of wisdom from Kurt Vonnegut: "Maybe you'll graduate, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll contribute to society, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll be hooded, maybe you'll drop out and get a life. Whatever you do, don't work too hard. Your thesis topic is half made up. So is everybody else's." 
  • Dear NY Times, a slide show with the tag line "Unusual touches for the home need not be expensive" should not include objects that range in price from $55 to $2,970. An almost-$3,000 lamp is expensive. Recession, what?
  • I need to do better on the brown-bagging front. Thin mints, crackers, and string cheese just aren't doing it for me. Shockingly, after eight hours (eight hours is a long time to have to work, just sayin') at work, I am hungry.
  • A friend recently described the Heights—or at least its dating scene—as "incestuous." I tend to agree. Also, this quote from an article by ex-Gawker Editor Emily Gould struck me when I read the article a year ago and still does: "Henry, seemingly alone among our generation, went out of his way to keep his online presence minimal. Now that we've broken up, I appreciate this about him — it's pretty much impossible to torture myself by Google-stalking him."


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Overheard at the Seder

Family sedarim—and the rest of Pesach—are, well, always interesting with my family...
me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
4-year-old brother: Three things: a fireman, policeman, and plumber.
me: A plumber? What do you want to do as a plumber?
4-year-old brother: Plumb things.
[Later, after much incredulity at his career of choice ensued.]
me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
4-year-old brother: Nothing.
me: Well, what are you going to do when you grow up?
4-year-old brother: Sleep all day.

me: [After hearing the charoset song one too many times] Did you learn any other Pesach songs?
4-year-old brother: Yeah!
me: Can I hear them?
4-year-old brother: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Light up the night! The candles burning bright on this festival of lights ...


me: Well, duh.
8-year-old sister: You sound like Michelle.
13-year-old brother: Michelle Obama?
8-year-old sister: No. Michelle from Full House.
16-year-old sister: [In a discussion about how hungry we were at the start of the seder] I just want to get up to the sandwich part because once you start eating sandwiches you can just eat more sandwiches.

me: [To my wide-awake-at-the-end-of-the-seder 4-year-old brother] When your morah tells you it's nap time, you should tell her that you'll sleep when you're dead.

21-year-old sister: If Eema kills me, I'm just letting you know it was her so that you can testify to that.
me: What did you do?
21-year-old sister: They [our siblings] may have missed their doctor's appointments because the DMV took a really really really long time. So when i am dead, it was her.
me: [right after yom tov to my 21- and 16-year-old sisters] I'm making coffee. Do you guys want?
8-year-old sister: Can you make for me, too?
4-year-old brother: And me!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

חג כשר ושמח

Orangutans eat matza at the Ramat Gan Safari, near Tel Aviv April 7, 2009. Matza is a cracker-like bread eaten during the upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover.

Yes, those are monkeys eating matzoh.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

An Artscroll Haggadah in Afghanistan?

There's this interesting video of a man who calls himself "the last Jew in Afghanistan" on the NYT Web site. At one point, he is showing his audience the shul, and there on the table is ... an Artscroll Family Haggadah. Weird.

'Grad School: It Seemed Better Than Getting a Real Job'

Doctor Mug

Some links for your pre-Pesach de-stressing or somesuch (was going to say pre-Pesach procrastinating pleasure, but the alliteration made me sort of gag):
  • This article on college rejections, which asks the fantastic question, "[W]hy do they call them 'admissions' departments when they're really more in the 'rejections' business?" Also, this from the article:

Dear Admissions Committee:

Having reviewed the many rejection letters I have received in the last few weeks, it is with great regret that I must inform you I am unable to accept your rejection at this time.

This year, after applying to a great many colleges and universities, I received an especially fine crop of rejection letters. Unfortunately, the number of rejections that I can accept is limited.

  • And this article on the pros and cons of Ph.D. study.
The standard polemic in favor of grad school— Ph.D programs in particular—typically revolves around the probably true statement that graduate students "get to be alone with their thoughts all day" and the probably false statement that "it's great to know you're giving back to society." (Notice the parallels between arguments for going to grad school and arguments for going to prison.)
  • Also, this comic strip is my new favorite thing. At least until I realize that it's actually my life.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Reading/Judging on the Subway

A friend sent me this speech by New York Times Magazine Editor Gerald Marzorati. It is either poorly transcribed or the editor of said fantastic magazine cannot speak English properly (perhaps only when he gets upset about people reading his magazine on their BlackBerrys?), but it's worth the read. I especially liked the beginning, because I, too, judge people by what they're reading on the subway. Also, since canceling my N.Y. Times subscription, I get jealous of people's newspapers.
I watch what people read. Everywhere I go. Obsessively. Furtively. Seeing what they are reading, I pass judgments quickly and with confidence. I establish imaginary relationships: I used to get crushes on women who were reading Proust, or Baudelaire, or a recent issue of French Vogue. I am not impressed by men who carry big Lincoln biographies onto planes. I'm afraid of people who spend too long with a page of Dostoevsky. A young person immersed in a volume of poetry give[s] me hope. I would trust leaving my children with anyone who can fold a broadsheet newspaper properly.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Why I Shouldn't Be Allowed to Talk to Kids

6-year-old Brother: I had such a bad day.
Me: What happened?
6-year-old Brother: Well, I was hungry and had bad snack and my English teacher gave us homework.
Me: Dude, you're in first grade. That means you have 12 years until you graduate high school, then a year in Israel, then four years in college at least. That means you're going to be getting homework for a really long time. I think you just need to get used to it so it doesn't make your day bad.
6-year-old Brother: I think I'll just skip college.