Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"Holiday Season"

People on the radio are ranting about the un-Christianification of Christmas, as typified by the trend of saying happy holidays instead of Merry Christmas in stores, etc. This, of course, is rank PC-ness, blahdeeblahblah. But the silliness of the whole thing is that the Christmas season, viewed from non-Christian eyes, is plenty Christian still. It's not Chanuka lights strung from all of the trees throughout the city and campus. It's not Chanuka music that you hear playing as Muzak 24/7. And, as you walk down the streets, the happy holidays messages on the store windows are made slightly more specific by pictures of candy canes and tree ornaments. My dorm had a Christmas carol singing party in the lounge one night this week. For all the hand-wringing and whining, Christmas is plenty alive and well.
And more power to it. I'm all in favor of a more religious country, even if the constant Christmasness is somewhat grating after a while (but no doubt it's annoying for everyone else as well. A month of Christmas music...), and does serve to remind me of the degree to which I am not really part of the general country, as if I needed more reminding. That's why all this PC stuff amuses me as much as the right-wing hand-wringing- both sides are so totally off my reality. I don't celebrate Christmas, I'm not offended by its existance, and I see no signs of its stopping to sweep the nation. It's out there, alive and kicking, and I don't really care. But I do have to say, I'm looking forward to visiting Israel, where the stores are already selling sufganiot, dreydls, and chocolate coins, the taxi drivers will wish me a chag sameach, and for eight days, every street in Jerusalem is a string of lights. It feels...almost like what Christmas season must feel like the Christians.

Bomb Scare?

Just heard about this man getting shot by air-marshalls. Of course, it is far too soon for me to make any intelligent comments on the subject, which is just why I have a blog. First, I couldn't help laughing at the report offered by the person in charge of air-marshalls or something like that, which include the phrase "The air marshalls fired shots...and, in fact, he is now deceased." As if it was a sudden and coincidental heart attack or something.
Then there are all the actual implications of this, which just boggle the mind. A success of security? A failure that he got it on the plane in the first place? Look, terrorism is alive and well? See what happens when we annoy the terrorists in Iraq? What foolishness of patriotic craziness that got an innocent nut-bag killed? Well done alertedness, all? It's a fascinating feeling standing on the cusp of a story that's about to go in a billion crazy directions, before anything has happened, when we are free to say what we will and later feel really really stupid for being wrong. By tomorrow, the story will be swept into the stream of news, but so far the talk show hosts, who actually broadcast hours before I hear them, haven't talked about it, which means that it has a surreal, up-to-the-minute feel to it. And the best part is that it doesn't even have an attendant tragic edge to it, really, unless you feel bad for the poor kook/evil terrorist, depending how it turns out. But since I don't, there is really nothing to mar the joy of watching this story about to unfold.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Michael Savage Quote

And now, a quote from the most insane of radio hosts:
"Just remember, the Romans fed the Christians to the lions, but it didn't happen overnight."

Always remember that, my son.

Random Thought

Appropos to nothing- saw a sign for some movie mentioning that it was nominated for the Best Actress Emmy or something like that, and wondered, what the heck is up with that?
In that, I can see having seperate contests between men and women in sports. Women have, as Mike will be pleased to point out, less strength than men, and a competition between the two would not be fair. But why for acting? It's not like there's a seperate Nobel Prize for best female literature or economics or some junk of that sort. To me, this smacks of the ludicrous "Equal Opportunity" drivel that feminists think is so darn special but is actually patronizing, crippling, and ludicrous. (I have recently been informed that I am a post-feminist because I hate feminism. So be it.) Why can't they just have an Emmy for Best Acting?
But of course, on further consideration, I realized that I had been launched into rant for nothing. The Emmy's are, essentially, a joke, a shared delusion in the heads of those who watch, a suspension of disbelief conspiring to make you think they matter. Rather like so-and-so's Top Ten Most Exciting People- it matters because they think it matters and they think it matters because they continually choose to do so. And so, of course, the more of these stupid things you make up the better- the more hype, the more excitement, the more close races. If they could get away with best Actor over 6 feet, they would do so.
Which still leaves the question why they can get away with this and not with Best Black Actor.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday Radio

Listening to Sunday radio is one of the saddest experiences in the world. It's all of these health or real estate shows that are just long commercials, couched in talk radio style. It's not just that they are dull and unconvincing, it's that I start to really think about the people who host them. Not the advertisers who are "interviewed"- that's fine, everyone has to do some PR- but the people who interview them.
Imagine that life- always pretending that you are doing real radio- constantly smarmy yes-manning without the dignity of an actual commercial. Do you think that they go to the bar after every show and try to drink themselves into forgetting what they do, forgetting the dreams they once had in broadcast school of being the next Cronkite or something, trying to convince themselves that it's just a job? Do you think they tell people what they do for a living, or try to keep it vague? "Oh yes, I'm in radio. Advertising, that sort of thing."
Or perhaps they go home to their wives and 2.4 children, proud of another day of work? Perhaps they tell themselves that they are helping people keep healthy or get a house? Perhaps they believe it, or perhaps their wives wonder why they are depressed and sullen when they have such a wonderful job.
Listening to it- the way that they ask the "tough" interview questions, their little jokes that the interviewees ignore, the times when the scripts don't quite seem to match and they have to keep trying to feed the right question, the constant dull enthusiasm painted in the garish colors of sincerity- it's listening to someone turn in his dignity, day after day after, dying by degrees. Plus it's extremely dull.
I don't listen to talk radio on Sundays anymore.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Possibly my new Candidate for Worst Song Ever

Now that I actually sit around doing homework, I've developed a need for background music beyond talk radio, as hours on end of talk radio tends to reduce me to homicidal annoyance. They all have the same blinking voice- and the same ideas and the same tactics- and they all think that they are special. The only distinguishable is Michael Savage and that is because he is regrettably not in possession of his sanity. But I digress
So I've taken to listening to shmais radio "Jewish streaming music". Most of it annoys me, but at least it can fade into white noise and sometimes there are really good songs. But not this one. It was entitled "Me and My Daughters Five" by Shweble, Shwarf, and Levine (Is that the name of a band or a law firm? Honestly, I should have seen the awfulness coming)
The song was about...the singer. And his daughters. He had five of them. And it went like this (I paraphrase) We were going to have a baby. Then we did. It was a girl. She was nice. But we wished we had a boy. Then we had another girl. She was nice too. But we needed a boy "to keep his sisters in their place" (We will not go into the grammar or the misogyny that could be read into that line. We will charitably assume that he needed a rhyme). Then we had another girl. Then two more. My girls are nice. I am "the happiest man alive, me and my daughters five". It was the sort of song that could be sung at someone's Bat Mitzvah. With everyone wearing those pained "oh, how cute" expressions. I mean, he complimented his daughters by name. Are they going to have to live through the Christopher Robin trauma in addition to having the world know that their father really wanted a boy.
And the rhymes! We will not discuss the rhymes. Suffice it to say that they did little to mitigate the ridiculousness of the subject. It really was the sort of thing that you would sing at Bat Mitzvahs. Not at weddings. The bride would put her foot down.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Geek Humor

When I was in tenth grade, I would write stories on my calculator. (Being a graphing calculator, it had an alpha pad. Once you do this enough, and trust me, there were enough boring classes to become quite proficient, you can type 15, 20 words a minute.) Anyway, most of the stories were about my calculator himself (His name was Fred. He had a bunch of little friends. He cried a lot), but one of the more odd ones was a romance-ish short story with chemistry facts. The last sentence, and heaven only knows why I still remember it, was "He remember the way she had looked at him, as she stood there in the doorway with tears on her cheeks like water molecules condensing on a vial of liquid nitrogen, and how she had said to him, in a voice caustic as hydrochloric acid, 'All you think about is chemistry.' But he knew that wasn't true." Granted, it was not Shakespeare, but it passed the boring classes.
Anyways, the reason I bring this up is that I have been accumulating, from my physics and calculus classes, phrases that were actually uttered that would make excellent book titles. Here goes:
Great Moments of Inertia- Sort of like all the kids' books Great Moments in Science or Sports or something, this book would feature the stories of various times when interesting things failed to happen. An exerpt "One day in 1565, while writing an essay on political theory, Jacques Pierreson came up with the idea that would change to course of French History for all time. Or at least, it would have, except that it sounded like a lot of effort, so he threw out the essay and went to sleep."
Lifetime of a Dampened Oscillation- this one could go a couple of ways. It could be another one of those kids' science books- tracing the life-cycle of an ordinary oscillation from its spawning point in a quiet spring to the point when it finally dies of air pressure. Or else it could be a brooding novel, Day in the Life of Ivan Illych style, where a slowly dying oscillation considers the impact of its life thus far.
Sizes of Infinity- probably the least entertaining of these purloined quotes. Something science fiction, and very typically so
Moebius Transformation- Not sure. Either a Frankenstein-like story or a touching tale of a child growing up in the wilds of the mathematical jungle
There were quite a few others that came up in class, but I either didn't note them in my notes or they aren't legible enough. Stay tuned for updates.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Chinese Temple

By the way- just figured out how to delete the heathen ruins in the corner of my blog. As Talia so sweetly pointed out, it did look like I was claiming that my words were not random, but pearls of wisdom dripped down upon me by some higher source through the means of some Zen-like meditation. Now that I have defeated it, all I need is a new picture to fill up that blank space in the corner. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?

Palestinian Awareness Week

That's right, it's that happy time again- Palestinian Awareness Week on the U of C campus. I had never been aware that there was such a week, but why not? It also happens to be a "love your body" week, being pushed by the Hillel, so apparently there is no cause too silly to get a week of its own.
I'm not entirely sure how to relate to this week. Obviously, the tendancy is to simply ignore it, but careful Israel Advocacy training sessions (yes, our seminary actually had those) scream at me to do something. Not that it would do any good- in fact, it would just seem petty, vicious, and counter-productive. But still.
One of the events for the week is a speech, on the topic "Will the "Gaza disengagement" really lead to peace?" Now, this could go either way. In my fantasies, I suppose it would focus on the impossibility of peace in a country run and dominated by crazy terrorists. In my more bitter expectations, it focuses on Israel's continued this or that. (For some reason, I don't think the answer is simply yes. That tends to make for a short speech. Funny how that sort of thing always works out. Someday I should advertise a speech with a topic like "Can the disengagement really bring about peace", walk into the room, say "yup" and then wander back out. Not that I think that it can, or at least, is at all likely to. But I digress.) I must confess, I wonder about the quotation marks. What, is the term "Gaza disengagement" really a controversial one? In my somewhat limited experience, the people who weren't calling it that were calling it the transfer or the evacuation or the racial cleansing...
There are also various cultural shows, movies, etc, planned. One of them, a movie called Amo's children, is about some woman whose theater group "engaged children from Jenin, helping them to express their everyday frustrations, anger, bitterness and fear. Arna’s son Juliano, director of this film, was also one of the directors of Jenin’s theatre. He filmed the children during rehearsal periods from 1989 to 1996. Now, hegoes back to see what happened to them."
Again, it could be fascinating. It could be saccharine. It could be a lot of things. But it probably is going to be blaming all of that "frustration, anger, bitterness, and fear" on a certain someone, and I don't think that it's going to be Mr. Arafat, either.
Suddenly noticed tonight that in the background of the posters scattered around campus and the dorm is a map of Israel. The entire Israel, from sea to sea. Interesting, no? I'm not sure whether the week is to be aware of Palestinians, in which case I can see portraying them as living in the entire Israel, or of Palestine, in which case that really, really worries and frightens me. Not that there is anything I would do about it, per se.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Eternal Question

Well, not quite eternal- around three weeks now, but how knows? It might turn out to be eternal.
Why is it that people applaud for birthdays? Congrats, you survived another year? Well done, we didn't think that you could do it? I mean, applause implies approval- what are we approving here? On the other hand, what are we supposed to do at an announcement of a birthday? Shout happy birthday? surely not sing it? Or simply give a nod of acknowledgement?
Which leads to the bigger question surrounding birthdays- what exactly are we celebrating? It's nice for everyone to have a day in the sunshine, but why the day they are born specifically? It wasn't like they had anything to do with the process.

Secret Confessions

I have a sad and shameful confession to make about the whole Miers debacle. I was very disappointed with her appointment, but not for any lofty, cool political reasons. To be frank, and I don't know what came over me, but I didn't think about judicial policy, or what it would do the president, or even Roe V. Wade (Btw- stupid to pick people for immediate issues. 20 years from now, that's now going to be the issue. Heavens only know what is) Anyway- I was disappointed because she was boring. Roberts had been so clever, so fun, that I was spoiled. I had been hoping for somebody crazy and fun, maybe sparking a fillibuster, and Miers was simply a boring, nice, old lady who nobody could object to.
Even attacking her wasn't fun, because who thought that it would make any difference. Her being pulled- now that was fun. Sam Alito- maybe he'll be fun too. I mean yes, poor woman, political consequences, blah blah, but it was fun. And I'm afraid that I have been reduced to looking at the whole thing from that perspective alone. I know it's wrong, I know the supreme court is massively important, but I can't bring myself to care. There you go. What can I do? Does anyone else out there (she appeals to her huge audience) feel the same, or I am uniquely crazy here?

Friday, October 21, 2005

World Can't Wait to Drive out the Bush Regime

Just when I was starting to think that I would have nothing ridiculous to post about this week, I came across a fabulous flier an a table in the Physics building. Now, as a prologue, U of C, while not the festering cess-pit of liberality that I had been led to fear, is still a bit left of center in its leanings. Not entirely, but enough to be entertaining. On the way home Thursday, I was offered a revolutionary newspaper by an earnest looking guy with a cigarette- unfortunately, I turned him down automatically or else we could have had a lot of fun about that as well.
But back to the flier- it reflects a theme that has been around campus a lot- the same organization has messages on the sidewalk (a favorite means of advertising), posters, etc.
The flier depicts a sylized globe, a hand with a line through it and an exclamation mark, either symbolize the phrase "The World Can't Wait"-to drive out the Bush Regime, that is- or else indicate the evil Bush regime is cutting off people's hands. Not that I would put it past "people who steal elections and think they're on a mission from God". But more about that later.
I have the text of the flier from their website and have decided that it's too good not to mock specifically. Let's begin:

The World Can't Wait!
Drive Out the Bush Regime!
Mobilize for November 2, 2005!

Why exactly the world can't wait isn't made clear. Nor is the reason that it can hang in there until November 2. A better motto would have been The World Can't Wait Long, but I guess it's hard to find a little symbol for "Long"

Your government, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights. Your government is openly torturing people, and justifying it. Your government puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.

Would it be better if the government openly tortured people without justifying it?
Grammatical point- other countries in
its sights. And I'm not quite sure about the last sentance either.

Your government is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.

Your government suppresses the science that doesn't fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.

Your government is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.

How exactly is the government doing anything about international abortion? Except that, I suppose, that the woman in Iraq are now more likely to have access to both. Darn it, I hate it when those tricky religious agendas conflict.

Your government enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.

Is a culture of greed capitalism? And how does one enforce a culture? Did they mean encourage? Or perhaps is linguistic precision not the emphasis of the piece?

People look at all this and think of Hitler — and they are right to do so. They know that people think this, because they took several surveys. And they know that they are right to do so,, it is. Because Hitler was really big on Christian fundamentalism, deportations, and a culture of greed. The Bush regime is setting out to radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come. We must act now; the future is in the balance.

Millions and millions are deeply disturbed and outraged by this. They recognize the need for a vehicle to express this outrage, yet they cannot find it; politics as usual cannot meet the enormity of the challenge, and people sense this. Um, why not? Therein lies the crux of this whole argument, but I don't think it's ever fully explained. Watch for it carefully.

There is not going to be some magical "pendulum swing." People who steal elections and believe they're on a "mission from God" will not go without a fight.

There is not going to be some savior from the Democratic Party. This whole idea of putting our hopes and energies into "leaders" who tell us to seek common ground with fascists and religious fanatics is proving every day to be a disaster, and actually serves to demobilize people.

There- right there! Did you see it? Somewhere in those two paragraphs was the proof that you shouldn't just sit around and wait for an election like this was a democracy or something. Read it again- see the bit where moderation is a disaster? Mmm-hmm.

But silence and paralysis are NOT acceptable. That which you will not resist and mobilize to stop, you will learn — or be forced — to accept. There is no escaping it: the whole disastrous course of this Bush regime must be STOPPED. And we must take the responsibility to do it.

And there is a way. We are talking about something on a scale that can really make a huge change in this country and in the world. We need more than fighting Bush's outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We must, and can, aim to create a political situation where the Bush regime's program is repudiated, where Bush himself is driven from office, and where the whole direction he has been taking society is reversed. We, in our millions, must and can take responsibility to change the course of history.

This is a beautiful bit right here. YOU must resist. And how? By repudiating the Bush regime as a whole. Which will naturally lead to Bush stepping down, presumably followed by Cheney and every other successor down the line until the entire regime has crumbled! And then we will take over the world!!!!!
Sorry, I get carried away.

To that end, on November 2, the first anniversary of Bush's "re-election", we will take the first major step in this by organizing a truly massive day of resistance all over this country. People everywhere will walk out of school, they will take off work, they will come to the downtowns and town squares and set out from there, going through the streets and calling on many more to JOIN US. They will repudiate this criminal regime, making a powerful statement: "NO! THIS REGIME DOES NOT REPRESENT US! AND WE WILL DRIVE IT OUT!"
Um, yeah, it does represent you, people. It's the whole democracy thi- oh never mind.

November 2 must be a massive and public proclamation that WE REFUSE TO BE RULED IN THIS WAY. November 2 must call out to the tens of millions more who are now agonizing and disgusted. November 2 will be the beginning — a giant first step in forcing Bush to step down, and a powerful announcement that we will not stop until he does so and it will join with and give support and heart to people all over the globe who so urgently need and want this regime to be stopped.
This scares me just a bit. Who exactly are we supporting all over the world who wants this regime to be overthrown? Because unless they're terrorists, I really don't see how they are going to be joining in on the American struggle. And what exactly won't they stop until he steps down? Having rallies and missing work? Cuz that's really going to scare him.

This will not be easy. If we speak the truth, they will try to silence us. If we act, they will to try to stop us. But we speak for the majority, here and around the world, and as we get this going we are going to reach out to the people who have been so badly fooled by Bush and we are NOT going to stop.

One more time- if you're the MAJORITY, why can't you just wait for an election? And why the heck do I care about the people around the world? The whole globalistic flavor is starting to get on my nerves here.

The point is this: history is full of examples where people who had right on their side fought against tremendous odds and were victorious. And it is also full of examples of people passively hoping to wait it out, only to get swallowed up by a horror beyond what they ever imagined. The future is unwritten. WHICH ONE WE GET IS UP TO US.

If they're the majority, why are they fighting overwhelming odds? Also, this "people with right on their side"- doesn't it sound a little bit like a "mission from God"? Atheistic fundamentalists?
Not to be grammatically picky- which one of what? You need to have two things- if the antecedent is future, then it ought to be "what kind".

These next days are crucial. The call you are reading has to get out to millions right away — on the internet, passed out as flyers in communities, published as ads in newspapers. DO NOT WAIT!! GET ORGANIZED!! If you agree with this statement, add your name to it!!!

As a book once pointed out, triple exclamation marks is the sign of a diseased mind.

And do more than that: send it to friends, get them to sign it, organize a meeting, take it to your church, your school, your union, (of course) your health club, your barber shop, to concerts and libraries and family gatherings (and that always is the most fun at family gatherings. Here, Aunt Milly, have a flier!), everywhere you go. Raise money, lots of money. (I'm not quite sure what you are supposed to do with it, but it can never hurt to raise money.) Get people together, make plans to be there on November 2, and to build for it.

The world can't wait! Drive out the Bush Regime! Mobilize for November 2!

Ah, the joys of a collegiate life. Is anyone else tempted to go just to watch it?

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Aah! I owe this thing a post so badly- it sits here sneering at me, waiting for me to post and everyday the pressure gets worse and worse, so that I need a better and better post to excuse myself and I have less and less clever to say and less and less time to say it in (or rather, in which to say it...)...and so the result is this post, which is entirely and unabashedly awful, but at leasts it's words for the hungry monster of the blog. And speaking of hungry monsters, massive amounts of homework are my real excuse for not posting. I will spare you the gory details. (I have little notes in the margins of some of my notebooks reminding myself not to panic. I hope that one day I will find that funny.) So anyway, nothing actually to say, but at least there has been a post. I'll try to squeeze one in tomorrow as well.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Interesting Experience

Like so many blogs, this one is degenerating into the story of my life, as if anyone cares about that. But then again, I am the only subject that seems to give me enough energy to write a whole post, so there you go. On to the story.
Today, I was sitting on a bench on campus, reading The Last Days of a Condemned Man outside instead of in my dorm room so that I would not turn into a hideous, sun-bereft vampire, which is what I'll probably do if I stay always in my room eating instant soups with the blinds pulled down. But I digress.
As I was sitting there, a twenty-something-looking girl came over to me and asked me if I would be interested in joining a Bible discussion group. I declined, not being overly interested in discussing the New Testament, or even the Old Testament, with a group of Christians, not to be un-multidenominational or something.
Then she asked me if I were Jewish. Darn it, that skirt always gives me away. We spent about five, ten minutes sitting there talking about Genesis and Ecclesiastes (who can pronounce that, let alone spell it?) which she was currently studying. It was a bit of a weird conversation, as I'm not used to discussing Scriptures with Christians, and I think vice versa was equally true. She asked me if I ever read the New Testament (I said that it would be like her reading the Koran, which she seemed to agree with) and why I liked reading the Old Testament (um...?) and tried to convince me to join her discussion group (I pleaded busyness and pointed out the difference in the way we'd be approaching the texts and got away with just giving her my e-mail address.)
It was a very interesting cultural discussion, just the sort of thing that I suppose one is supposed to broaden one's mind with in college, and I think I got through it well enough, although there was an uncomfortable moment or so when we discussed the Jew's part in the Crucifixion (sp?) (less exciting than it sounds- she just said that she didn't blame the Jews and I agreed.) I suppose now it's just a question of waiting for the e-mails to begin.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Pavlovian Reactions

I don't think I ever fully realized how conditioned I've been by my school experience until this week. During orientation, we've had all sorts of speeches and sessions, and everytime a Dean or Professor gets up to speak, I have to fight the treacherous impulse in my knees to rise for them. In elementary school, we rose for teachers, and actually all adults as a sign of respect (I think my one and only call in to talk radio involved that fact. Another story.) In high school, one stood for the more important teachers (Rabbis, principals, etc.) and I never broke the habit of rising for everyone. Which wasn't regarded as so weird because so did a lot of other people. But here, people clap for professors and I'll look like a moron if I rise. So I always end up doing this embaressing little half bounce thing and hope that nobody notices.
I suppose it could have been worse. Imagine if they trained me to bow.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Nerds of the World Unite

So there I was, as I would say if I was beginning a comedy routine, so there I was sitting in a big impressive room of the University of Chicago, with portraits of former someone or others decorating the high-ceilinged walls, waiting for the lecture on the Collegiate Division of Humanities to begin, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the grandeur and the amounts of other students. A girl comes and sits beside me and we kind of half ignore one another, half smile in that uncomfortable complete strangers trying to be polite sort of way. Until...she mentions something about Harry Potter and we (and a third girl sitting in the row in front of us that neither of us knew) have a twenty minute, heated, intellectual discussion about what we thought of the sixth book (lousy), whether Snape is really bad (like anyone believes that), whether Dumbledore is coming back (disagreement on the subject- possibly as a portrait), similarities to Lord of the Rings (Frodo saying he's going to fight Sauron alone and then Sam coming with him- I'm taking her word for it, I can't stand the books), how dead Sirius currently is (only somewhat), who R.A.B. is (Regulus A. Black), the symbolism of Snape's actions (some sort of sacrificing his place in the community for something or other), whether Harry is now a Horcrux (possibly), and on and on, ending with the two of us exchanging e-mail adresses, by far the closest relationship that I formed with a random seat-mate.
Nor is this the only case of Harry Potter's unifying and discussion-stimulating abilities. I recall several years ago, at a meal at our shul, someone had brought her nine year old niece from Israel with her. The poor girl sat quietly as everyone gossiped, not knowing anyone and looking awkward...Until my sister asked her if she was into Harry Potter.
Maybe this is just the first time I've even marginally been into a trend, or maybe it's the fact that the books really have a lot of fun plot and discussion, but there's something special about a book that provides hours of fun and bonding for complete strangers. Especially when it's geared specifically for the under-represented group of scifi nerds.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Constitutional Interpretation

What with all the fun of Roberts' nominations going on, there has been a lot of discussion about different judicial methods- namely, the debate between strict constructionalists, who base their rulings on the text of the Constitution and more free interpreters (the official name escapes me), who are willing to read the Constitution according to what they feel is the most moral decision. While I personally am a fan of the former, I can see the point of view of those who cannot resist but try to make the world as they wish it was, as opposed to what it is- if I had the power to do so, I would probably be pretty tempted to remake the law, too.
But what I cannot understand is the theoretical opinion of the Originalists. I know that this is really often a code name for the practice I do support, but the idea still bothers me. As my father pointed out, a strict originalist should never have required desegregation under the fourteenth amendment, because obviously the people who wrote it had no problem with their own segregated societies. One can dance away from this by saying that Originalism is not an absolute, but a sliding scale, modified for the situation, blah blah blah, but the way I look at it, I don't really care what exactly everyone who wrote the Constitution was thinking at the time. I care about what they wrote. My ideal form of reading the Constitution is rather like an approach to Talmud study- read the passage, see what it could be saying, pick the reading that fits the best with the text without creating massive glitches in reality. Sometimes, a knowledge of historical context helps us understand a confusing text or language, but this is less of an issue with a Constitution written only two hundred years ago, from which time the culture and language have not shifted enough to make things actually difficult to understand.
Everyone who wrote the Constitution and its amendment undoubtably knew that their text would be re-read throughout history (certainly this is true of later amendments, whose framers had already seen it happen). Therefore, anything they wanted in, they should have written, and our business is to read their words and not their minds.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Fatal Flaws

While re-reading the latest Harry Potter (I'm so ashamed of how hooked I am on that series, especially considering how disappointing this latest offering was), I was spurred into one of my favorite rants about literature. Here goes. WHY is it that every villian, every evil plan must always have one fatal flaw? Sometimes it seems to be simply overlooked, which strikes me as silly when you've painted your villian as cunning and all-brilliant as you have. Take for example, the fourth (I think) Star Wars. Why, exactly, couldn't the Evil, almost Omnipotent Empire or Emperor think of running his own computer stimulation of the Death Star to see if maybe, just maybe, it had only one, ever so slight means of attack. I mean, why build long twisting tunnels just wide enough for a couple of planes leading to your one crucial weakness? Stupidity is the only reasonable explanation, and making your villians stupid makes your heroes a lot less impressive.
But even more annoying is when the one possible means of success seems to have been carefully planned by the creators of the system. Take, for example, Voldemort's defense of his Horcrux. It was in a cave that could be opened only by the offering of blood, then across a lake with a boat big enough for only one person (or at least, only one powerful wizard), and in a basin full of liquid that had to be drunk, but made the drinker unable to drain it. A brilliant defense! No, actually it was a stupid defense, as is evidenced by the fact that it failed not once, but twice. (To our knowledge. Who knows how many people were hopping in and out over the years). Because, of course, it had the fatal flaw that the wizard could bring a child or perhaps some other sentient creature along with him.
My question- Why the whole blinking system??! If we will go with the assumption that Voldemort wants to know if anyone is trying to get the Horcrux (not that he ever seemed to show up at the scene), why not have an alarm go off as soon as the blood is spilled, and the rock not open? Why have any sort of boat at all? Why not have a potion that knocks the drinker instantly unconscious, if you don't want him dead? Why put the stupid thing in the middle of the big basin in the middle of the island instead of hiding it or something? Why have the inferi set to go off after the Horcrux is already secured (and besides, won't they kill the person you seem so eager to keep alive)? So much foolishness.
Nor does it seem limited to the villians. Take, for example, the first book in the same series. Now it seems perfectly logical, but in the hindsight, the whole maze towards the Sorceror's Stone is ludicrous. If the point is to simply defend the blinking thing, why make it so that there is one key to the locked door? Why make there be any potion to get you through the walls of fire at all? (That actually seems like a good place to have the alarms go off and the authorities come get the bad guys as they sit trapped between the two walls of fire.) For that matter, if we can expect Rowling to use spells invented for later books, why not use a secret keeper and leave it in another place entirely? In short, why make it accessible at all?
And sadly enough, the answer always seems to be "Because the author needed it that way." I am sure that I would run into the same problems if I was ever constructing a complicated plot (a friend and I have a joke about letting the facts interfere with our plots), but nonetheless, it is very cheap. If a prize is found only at the end of a maze, there should be a darn good reason that it is there instead of being entirely inaccessible. The reason can be anything- your villian is a sadist, the whole thing is a test, the villian really didn't think of that idea, etc- but the reason ought not to be that it jsut fit your plot better that way.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Bad Graphics

Maybe it's a personal oddity, but I've found that the first thing I look for in a computer game, on the infrequent occasions that I'm looking for a computer game, is bad graphics. Any game that works in three dimensions, boasts of anything lifelike, or can make its circles much more than octagons automatically loses points in my book and needs other really bad graphics or cool features to make up for it. (For example, I put up with some Star Wars 3-D game because a) they did it so very badly and b) they had little video cut scenes after each level)
I suppose I must be in the minority here, becuase otherwise there would be no motive for anyone to make good graphics, but I think that my opinion has strands of validity because: 1) games with bad graphics usually devote their attention to other aspects of the game that matter to me more, like action, difficulty, witty or cute touches, anything like that. 2)I'm not watching the game for attempts at reality. What I am playing is manifestly a computer game and there's no need to go around trying to make me feel like it's happening, especially because the games are often violent and the realer they get, the more disgusted and put off I am by the carnage. Shooting a Mario fireball is not morally disturbing; gunning down pedestrians with real authentics guts is. 3) Games with bad graphics are usually older games and older games are usually better games. I find this is also true by movies and books and at first I attributed it to the failing nature of modern society, blah blah blah, but now I realize that it's simple logic. The only old things that are still around now are the very best of the crop, so naturally they're going to be better than the average new thing, which has not been pruned by the fussiness of time. Mario, for example, survived because it was the best, so naturally it's better than the run-of-the-mill, good graphic games that plague us today.
Once this opinion won me the scorn of my little brother, but I think I've managed to work him over to my side by now. The last game he was seen playing was Super Mario. The original version.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


When I was young, I used to collect the book from all of the people at the end of the services every Saturday. It was cute and it was useful, as the bookshelf was in the front of the room and the door was in the back, so my quick action saved everyone the trouble of going to the front of the room and then back, not to mention the traffic jam. The problem is, now I am eighteen and the bookshelf is right next to the door, and I can' t think of any way to get out of the whole silly arrangement. My collecting books has become such a staple in the synagauge, one of those traditions (It's been going on for over ten years, and almost as long as the synagauge has been in its current location) that everybody knows and loves. After a year a way in Israel, I know that it gave everyone a warm feeling to see me back at work collecting and I hate to disappoint all the old ladies who have come to rely on me. Really, quite annoying, since I know that I am basically useful, but dare not pull out lest I have to discuss it for weeks on end at the Kiddush after prayers. The only escape I have is that I'm going off to college next week and probably won't be collecting the books there, but I know that everytime I come home to visit, I'll have to collect everyone's books or terribly disappoint the old ladies.
It seems like a metaphor for something, but I can't quite think what.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Quick Quote

I know- not enough to count as this round of post, but still priceless
Heard on the radio, an advertisement boasted that "our magazine is reliably conservative- none of that bias that you find in other magazines."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Suffering Artists

There is a perception out there that all truly great artists must suffer in order to acheive greatness. To quote my aunt "You must plumb the depths in order to reach the heights" (she said at the time it was a quotable quote and I've been itching to quote it ever since.) While it is possible to find various exceptions (Did Shakespeare ever suffer? Did Bach?), the rule does seem to be true, that the overwhelming majority of artists did have hard lives and/or early and tragic deaths.
I have a few main thoughts about this. 1) Are their lives more tragic, stastically speaking, than the average person. One large tragedy in someone's life may make it tragic on paper, but perhaps every given person has about the same, over a lifetime. And if you count early death after a happy life seperately, then you're upping the average.
2) A lot of the suffering is self-afflicted. Meaning to say that it may not be suffering that spawns art, it may be that the artistic temperment spawns suffering, which is not to say that it's not reciprocal. A tragic love affair, suicide, drinking problems- all of these are nobody's fault except for the author's, and these seem to comprise the majority of the artistic suffering that we find.
3) The rule, so far as it exists, seems to exist only for the truly great artists. Good art, the sort of stuff that people enjoy, even if it is not classic, seems to be created frequently by normal, functional people. Which seems to argue that the suffering imparts not the artfulness, but the message of the art- that those who suffer have more to say about life, or- more likely in my mind- those who think deeply about life and so on- often bring suffering on themselves.
Based on which, I would say that suffering is not inherent to art. Some people who think about life, one must assume, do not come to depressing or self-destructive conclusions along the way. Many of them do. And possibly that experience adds to what they have to say about life. But art is possible about suffering- even great art, so long as the artist is a student of life who has come to happy, functional conclusions.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Walmart and MoneyBall

There is absolutely no reason that the giant chain store and the book about bringing sabermetics into baseball should be at all connnected in my mind, but to me they seem to be the same thing- empires built on logic and economics and cold hard numbers and a lot of capitalism.
It always gives me a warm feeling to walk into Walmart. Not just because they sell everything I could ever need and are very cheap, but because I feel like I am being expertly handled. Any sign or plan has been tested somewhere and proven to work. If they choose to offer bathrooms to the clients, this was not somebody's random notion, it was the result of a scientific and focus-group tested something or other. Other people might feel manipulated about this, but I feel secure that my shopping experience is in the hands of an expert, which, I suppose, is just how the A's fans should feel after reading moneyball.
Perfect example (not of Moneyball, I try to ignore baseball as much as is possible in a home that contains my brother). Walmart's checkout bags. While not adopting the Israeli system of "Bag it yourself. What, you want me to bag it or something? You have hands. Come on, Chabibi, keep moving, we've got a line here," nonetheless Walmart has decided that it must do this process just a little bit more efficiently than everyone else, because this is Walmart. So they have these bag carousel thingees shaped like triangles, so that the bagger can just spin the wheel to get new, empty bags, while the shopper can remove the old ones at his leisure. Brilliant.
It's like when I read Cheaper by the Dozen or watched an assembly line in action- it is simply a pleasure to watch something being done right, with intelligence and efficiency. Long live the Walmart mentality!

Sunday, September 04, 2005


I know actually very little about Rehnquist and nothing about him as a person, and so it is hard for me to truly mourn his death and therefore this is not a eulogy or a tribute as I'm sure he deserves. I suppose it's more of a continuation from the last post, although a bit more reflective.
When I heard of Rehnquist's death this morning, I reacted the same way that I'm sure a lot of other people did- a short, reverential silence that death merits, and then on to discussing who will replace him, how this will affect Roberts, how long this was expected, what this will do to the nature of the bench, and then some tangents about the nature of Chief Justice-hood as opposed to being a regular Justice. Afterwards, I felt... not quite guilty, but a bit cheap, because I had somehow lapsed into viewing this person as a Justice and not a person. He had family, and a life, and a personality in a manner that is hard to remember when you view a public figure as...a figure, a hieroglyph, symbol, or perhaps just an animated character that runs across the screen.
So this post is not about the person Rehnquist- I know absolutely nothing about him- but it is a tribute to the fact that Rehnquist too was a person, who must not only be replaced, but also mourned.

Katrina Coverage

Since several members of my family, (including, I'm afraid, myself) are somewhat addicted to talk radio and many of them are addicted to political blogs blgos, Ivarious pundits' opionions about Katrina. It's pathetic. The fact is, there isn't all that much political to say about Katrina and now is not the time to say it. One of the peculiarities of our society is that everyone can comment on everything, as it happens and continually. Gone are the days when people had to be only Monday morning quarterbacks, reacting long after the crisis was over, when they could be nothing worse than annoying; now we are blessed with ten thousand Sunday afternoon quarterbacks, peeking over the players' shoulders during the huddle and loudly asking what's going on and why it's taking so long. Piece of personal advice- Shut up. There will be plenty of time to analyze what we did wrong later, when we are sincerely interested in trying to prevent such a calamity from happening again. Now is the time to help, to pull together and to shut up, not only about political attacks but also about the constant stream of analysis and re-analysis and the analysis of everyone else's analysis. Just shut up. Now is not the time for commentary, it is the time for action and if you can't act, then just shut up.
Unfortunately, this isn't really an option for anyone, is it? Because the news media, by definition, is not there to say what has to be said or to inform you of what you ought to know- it is there to fill up or fill in a certain amount of time a day. A reporter, radio host, and unfortunately, even a blogger, can't just get on the air at the beginning of their two-hour (or two page) slot and say "Well, Katrina's bad, but no good discussing it. Moving on..." It would seem callous and heartless and indeed it would be, besides the fact that there wouldn't be much else left to discuss.
This flaw is inherent in the medium and there's really nothing that the annoying people involved can do about it, although people are on the right track when the avoid recriminations and stick to facts. And it's a flaw that exists in, I suppose, the coverage of everything- I mean, the world rarely is a better place because people have discussed Senate confirmation hearings for two hours. But here the fault is all the more glaring, because people are dead, dying, in trouble at the same moment that self-satisfied pundits analysis the heck out of their suffering.
So, I suppose that my message can and will not be followed, but to the degree that pundits and certainly bloggers, who can set their own schedules, are able to follow it: Help what you can, pray all you are able, but just this once- shut up.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Excellent editorial in Wall Street Journal today (no, I won't be publishing a link here because I read it in good old fashioned hard copy). Actually, the best part was just the transcript of a conversation between Judge Janis something Jack and some unfortunate lawyer as she grilled him about his silcosis clients' previous claims of asbestosis (I hope that sentenance made a little sense there) I enjoyed not only because I'm generally pro-big business and think that all of these claims are usually bogus, as the lawyer was forced to admit about all the previous claims, but also because I have often thought that being a judge would be a great hobby. I wouldn't want to do it for a living, and I wouldn't want to have to be a lawyer all the years it takes to be one, but on and off, I would love to do it. 'It' being just the fun parts- the ones that involve brow-beating witnesses or lawyers, being all ironical and dryly clever and there's nothing they can do about it, because "There is nothing so much like G-d in Heaven as a judge in his courtroom" (Ten points for anyone who gets the quote adapted there). Of course, in my more rational mind, I know that this is not entirely true and judges do have rules of procedure and can get overturned for breaking them and dull things like that, but I still cherish the image of the Israeli Supreme Court. Unlike America, that Court is the court of first appeal for a lot of things and anyone can appeal up to it on demand, so they have a lot more cases. But best of all, they apparently (not that I am surprised, given that it is Israel) have the liberty to attack, be sarcastic at, brow-beat, yell at, etc. the lawyer, all at once if they like, interrupting him before he can answer their collegue's attack. It was awesome, especially since I was viewing it all with the special added bonus entertainment of trying to follow the rapid Hebrew.
So that remains in my mind as the model of the fun that one can have as a judge, especially if you ignore all the really boring bits, not to mention the homework of reading briefs and so on. Which is why it would be a great hobby and why I read the editorial not only cheering Judge Jack, but also envying her just a little.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Work Ethic

Between my summer learning program and college, I find myself with around a month free, during which no one is willing to give me a job and I don't really have anything to do with my time. Now, once upon a time, I could spend whole summers lazing about reading and playing on the computer and have no guilt about it at all. Even getting dressed was considered something of an accomplishment for the day. But now, alas, something has changed. I can still manage to waste an entire day, but something, I do not know what, has inserted an element of guilt and now I feel bad that I wasted an entire day. I have taken to reading classics and non-fiction just to justify myself, and constantly debate starting big projects. It's all very puzzling.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Favorite Books

I realized that a lot of this blog, and a lot of blogs out there are devoted to mocking various things, with varying degrees of cleverness. Which is all very well and fun, but I think that I ought to post something positive about literature, just to make sure that I really can and don't just indiscriminately rip everything about. It lends the mockery that I do indulge in a lot more validity. So I compiled an extremely non-exhaustive list of my favorite books and why I like them, hopefully giving a vague cross-section of different genres.
1) Killer Angels- became obsessed with the book in seventh grade, discovered it again several years later and was pleasantly surprised to see that my obsession had not been misplaced. Spent most of high-school nagging other girls to read it, without success. As with most books I like, the characterization is what wins me over- Shaara manages to actually create and flesh out historical figures, making them human and understandable. Also impressive, he is able to step into the mouths of several different people on opposing sides of a battle, making the Civil War human, tragic, and beautiful. (yes, darn it, I know I gush, I honestly don't know how to be positive without it)
2) Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy- Not all due to the characters here- the plot, the dialogue, and the premise are all so crazy that the book is simply fun to read. One problem- the life philosophy that rings throughout is fun to read, but as I did I thought how unbelievably depressing it would be to believe. Reading the intro about Adams, I discovered he did believe it, which made it a bit harder just to view it as another crazy side point. Still, it has crazy dialogue, fun writing that kind of randomly wanders into a point, and fun minor characters, all of which I am a pushover for. (Nothing gets me like fun, well-created minor characters, no matter what kind of writing) Btw- never ever see the movie. No one who isn't obsessed with the book would get it and anyone who is would loathe it for turning their Bible into some ridiculous love story (With Trillian!! What the heebeejeebees is that all about? Trillian!?!?!)
3) Little house on the Prairie Series- the writing style is so simple and so pure that it wins you over, really letting you into Laura's head. Although I have since learned that a lot of her facts are somewhat fudged, the air of the whole thing is of simple honesty that lets you imagine that life back then was uncomplicated, pure, and all that good stuff. A bit of a Utopia, I suppose, but very sweet.
4) Star of the Guardian Series (by Margaret Weiss)- Head and shoulders above absolutely anything else in the science fiction/fantasy genre. Obviously based on someone watching Star Wars and thinking how cool the whole thing would be with better characters and plot. Especially fun because it has nice, complex villians, heroes who are almost equally messed up, a protaganist (Dion) that you really just want to slap, and absolutely no happy sweet endings for its romances. Brilliant, with a twisted and complicated enough plot to carry it all off.
5) Ender's Game- I know, another science fiction, but again, one that is primarily a character study. I read it a long time ago, so I can't really provide details, but Ender was painted very very well. I like Card's style, at least for the first book in each series and before he caves to sentimentality, so this book is a good psychological one, with a phenomenal grasp of his parables. 6) Anything by Terry Pratchett- Although some of the more recent books are pretty disappointing, in general his books are just fun to read, with a solid cast and enogh deepness lurking in the back-ground to keep him honest. The best aspects, other than the great narrative voice, is the fact that he built an astonishing and fun set of people and then just released them to have them bounce off one another. Especially in the Watch, where every character's personal disfunctional-ness complement everyone else's. And I adore Vetinari, my vote for best evil ruler ever (if he's really evil, which is always an interesting point to debate).

Other books I'm too lazy to really comment about- Seperate Peace (recently read, so it might not survive re-reading much), Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird.

I'm probably forgetting tons and tons, but my own gushing voice is starting to irk me, which is probably why I normally stick to bitter mockery instead.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cannibalizing Poetry

As it seems that my hits are significantly better when I actually post, but I have nothing new to comment about the world just at present, I decided to fall back on the tried and true method of cannibalizing old poems written during the more prolific day, even ones of which I am not particularly fond, such as the following. Notes so that it will be more understandable- our day was until 5:20, if you're trying to do the math, and division was the school's code name for recess, for reasons that escape me. With apologies to both Edgar Allen Poe (I had just memorized the Raven, so the beat stuck), and to my high school, against which this really is not a personal attack (It was really just something to say, not an attack piece):

Once upon a school-day boring, while about me, girls were snoring
Over many a dull and odious text-book of ill-written bore
While we nodded, nearly sleeping, gradually sad thoughts came creeping,
Cynacism slowly seeping, seeping through my every pore.
Thoughts of malice and of boredom seeped into my every pore.
Slowly seeped and nothing more.

Ah! Distinctly I remember, it was halfway through November
And each seperate day would find us no way further than before.
Eagerly we wished division, timed its coming with precision,
And to our sums would make revisions as we passed a moment more.
Passed a slow and tedious moment and survived a little more.
Wished and sat and nothing more

And the sodden, slow, on-going voices that were softly flowing,
Brought behind them awful boredom never felt before.
So that now, amid the droning of these sounds, I took to moaning,
Silently, inside bemoaning all these classes I abhor,
All the lectures and the homework and the boredom I abhor
Silent moans and nothing more.

Presently, my thought grew lighter and my passing fancy brighter,
As I glanced around the classroom, saw the clock above the door.
And though school at times was trying, now I laughed, sad thoughts defying,
For the minute hand was flying, and the time was half past four.
For the day, however horrid, still had crept to half past four.
Only fifty minutes more.

And today, what I have learnt, is that however good things weren't,
Still the day will finally finish, as it always has before.
And no matter how I suffer, as my day gets slowly tougher,
'Twixt it a me, a silent buffer, is that clock above the door.
A silent monument to courage is that clock above the door.
This I learnt, and nothing more.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A travesty of Statistics

Although rants about statistics are more rightly the province of my sister Rachel or possibly Mike, I could not help but have an apopletic fit over a radio broadcast I heard yesterday.
Dennis Prager, a well known radio host, decided that he would not discuss the news today. (Apparently, he does this sometimes) Instead, he wished to share with the audience a scientific observation that he had recently made- that well-behaved children may be worse off psychologically when they grow up because they never had a chance to vent all that naughtiness. This was not just an idle theory- it was evolved based on his "thinking about him and his children and people he knows". I do not presume to comment on the theory, although I suspect it was evolved based on there being a couple of people who turned out worse or better as adults, without regard to all the people who grew up perfectly predictably, as the latter don't stand out so much. But that is neither here nor there.
Mr. Prager, being a man of science, was not satisfied with his own narrow sample of evidence. No, he decided to strenuously test his theory by having his listeners who had experiences that fit with his idea call up and talk to him about it. And sure enough, a man called up and said that he had been a naughtier child than his wife and now he was more psychologically stable.
I could not stomach much more of the show and anyway I had places to go, but I am pretty sure he continued to discuss this issue for over an hour.
Even if he had picked a random sampling among the callers, and even had the callers called not only because their experiences supported him, and even had they not been totally oblivious to cases that would contradict them because those are too obvious to notice, and even were they capable of truly evaluating people's psychological stability accurately, and even had there been enough callers to be statistically significant, this would have been a stupid system that at best could have established a correlation between obedience as a child and later psychological problems, failing to notice any outside causations (I bet abused children are obedient and later psychologically scarred- so Mr Prager's little theory has at least one strand of truth.)
The more disgusting part of all of this was how Mr. Prager, no doubt an intelligent man, did not notice the stupidity of his own system (Unless he was just doing it to fill up air time), nor did a single one of his imbecil callers. It makes you wonder, it truly does. What is wrong with the mathematics education in this country?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Pop-up ads

Despite the theoretically excellent pop-up controls on this computer, every so often there will be a short burst of ads that I have to stop and close. Sometimes the computer gets so het up trying to run them that it has no memory to spare for what I'm actually doing and will sit for a minute or two straining desperately to open the pop-up that I immediately close when it appears, feeling a little guilty for wasting all of the computer's hard work.
But what really puzzles me is the efficacy of these silly pop-ups anyway. How many people rush to get their free two coupons to Appleby's or try to catch a fly that will lower their mortgage rates. I myself have opened a pop-up once, by accident, because apparently the close button on it was actually a clever lure, but I escaped it moments after the unfortunate link occurs.
And another thing- why don't they read my profile or something? As an 18 year old female, I don't need to be offered mortgages or wrinkle cream or baldness lotions or anything like that. Gosh. At least offer me cars or music or whatever teenagers of my age bracket are stereotyped to want, or better still actually check out my personal interests that I had to fill out in that annoying juno profile back when I got my identity.
Back when we had free juno internet, it made sense to be given pop-ups and the loss of time seemed only fair considering they were paying for our access. But now that we got real internet, a recent breakthrough at my home, one feels that the pop-ups are like mosquitos or something who have entered your home and I'm starting to hate any company that inflicts them upon me and deciding never to buy anything from them, not that I have any urge to use any of those companies anyway. It makes me wonder if these pop-up ads actually work as effectual advertising or if they are secretly created by the company's rivals to turn the public against them, unaware that the first company is doing the same against them, accomplishing nothing in their sinister plots except annoying the heck out of innocent internet users around the world.

Musings on Blogs

As a recently initiated member of the greater blog community, I had some sort of notion to study other blogs to see if there was some style I could emulate, thus being provided with what to write each day. I'm currently already part of a family blog, whose content is basically whatever is on the family's mind, usually politics, with "witty banter" comments at each other.
A private blog sort of arrangement, and not theoretically one that I should follow if this is my shout-out to the world.
And it is, isn't it? That's what these blog things are meant to be. Me standing on a platform pontificating and really expecting that the world out there cares. So there are tons and tons of political, sport, who knows what blogs, all spouting expertness at top speed. It's a fascinating trend. And people read these blogs. Often to supply fuel for their own blogs, making them sort of super-blogs, which I never understood (don't they have anything of their own to say?), but also sometimes just to become knowledgable, so that you can discuss every subject at some higher level of consciousness. Not that this helps you make any better decisions- it's never anything over which you have any control- but for some sort of satisfactory informed feeling. Again, I don't quite get this. Beyond a certain level of basic awareness, why is the world a better place if I know 75 different people's brilliant takes on the newest judge issues or the political schemings of Mr. X? I suppose I will never make it into intelligensia with this attitude. But anyway, this was not to be the format for my blog either.
Then there are the just plain weird ones detailing the events of the blogger's life. Who the heck cares about the events of my life? (I woke up. I blogged. I read a book. Then I ate...)
So somehow I have lashed together a mix of random thoughts, scathing criticism of literary works, and general weirdness, leaving me to wonder if perhaps there isn't a better niche out there. But honestly, I don't think that I have the mentality that drives this new movement of bloggers, and so this blog will remain random and atypical. (Funny how blogs, the symbol of non-conformity, have so quickly lapsed into patterns and types. Perhaps I am the true blogger, a maverick among mavericks. But probably not.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Musings on Air Travel

While waiting to disembark from my flight to Chicago from Boston, being somewhat impatient because the flight had been delayed from a couple of hours, I got a subtle but persistant feeling that there was something wrong with the unloading process. The way it usually works, when the passengers are released to get their overhead carry-ons, only a few people can get their luggage at a time. Everyone behind them must wait for them to finish and move on before they can get their baggage, while everyone behind them waits, etc. So that everyone has to spend twenty, thirty minutes waiting while every row in front of them one by one retrieves their luggage, resulting in a lot of useless down time. During this long and annoyed wait (I didn't even have any luggage overhead to get- I just had to wait for the people in front of me to slowly retrieve theirs), I came up with a better solution: Why don't they just have all the even numbered rows get their stuff and leave (or if that's too many people in the aisle at one, everyone divisible by three or four), so that they could all retrieve at once and then simultaneously move on and out, and then the odd rows do the same. There may be something mathematically wrong with my theory (it makes my head hurt to think about it too long and it's rather late), but I suspect that the real problem is that it doesn't give as much advantage to the passengers in the front seats, giving perhaps slightly less incentive to fly that way. But that's not all that much incentive, so maybe that's false too. If someone more mathematically inclined can point out the problem with the argument, it would be much appreciated.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

When Geeks Rally

Perhaps too filipant a post for just after Tisha B'Av, but it's too good to resist.

This week, an acquaintance was telling me about the crazy rally he held during his college days. These were not Vietnam rallies or anything like that, they had to do with a certain issue specific to the college (he swore never to publish anything about this, so I'm trying to keep it vague), so that the rally ended up being lead solely by the intellectuals and the goody-goodies.
The results were hilarious. The night before the big rally, they realized that they had no idea how to run a rally and ended up calling a more controversially minded friend for instructions, then spending the night making up slogans that they could shout (What do we want...When do we want it? NOW!), drawing up posters for people to wave, etc. The next day they decided they needed a musical instrument, so they rounded up a giant drum that none of them knew how to play and dragged a card table across town (he didn't have his driver's license at this point) for a speaker to stand on. While their speaker failed to inspire the crowd, someone wandered over and began to pound the drum. He had no idea what he was doing of course, but the noise attracted a lot of people who wandered over to see who was the idiot pounding the drum. At which point one of his friends revealed an unsuspected talent for rabble-rousing and whipped the 150-ish people crowd into a frenzy. Since they had promised to finish the rally in time for class (this was all during club hour, I kid you not), they brought the whole group to the Dean's Office to present their petition, filling the office and flowing onto the couches, but removing their shoes before the steps on any furniture. They then presented the petition the Dean's secretary, he not being present, put their shoes back on and went to class.
Being myself a geek, I often wondered how I would handle a situation like that. And now I know- Politely, studiously, and hilariously. But in the end, the geeks won.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Serious Post

Yes, this is actually the one serious thing I have to say about the world currently, so I suppose that my blog is the appropriate place to put it.

'Yehudi Lo Soneh Yehudi- A Jew doesn't Hate a Jew'

A couple of days ago, I tried to write a personal kinah for Tisha B'Av. I'm not really good enough at either Hebrew or poetry to have been able to carry it off, but this is what I wanted to say:

I'm scared. It's almost Tisha B'Av and I'm terrifed, because for perhaps the first time in my life, I can clearly see the hand of G-d in history, and I don't know what to do about it.
It's almost Tisha B'Av. Anyone with a Jewish education can tell you what the Sages say was the reason for the destruction of the Second Temple. 'Sinat Chinam, baseless hatred,' they'll say, and everyone can tell the story of Bar Kamtza insulted at the party.
And so every Tisha B'Av, we go to speeches on slander, and try to be kinder to our friends, and a whole lot of other very nice things, and feel ourselves bringing Redemption one smile at a time.
How can we be so blind? Read Josephus. Read any decent history of the destruction era and wee what they have to say about defining Sinat Chinam- about political factions fighting other factions, about civil wars, about Zealots refusing to let Moderates compromise away their holy land to a foreign oppressor, about Moderates willing to surrender everything in painful treaties for a chance of peace, about infighting and hating, about religious and irreligious, doves and hawks, rebels and loyalists...about hurting one another so much that we were easy prey to the destroyers. About how Sinat Chinam was more a literal cause than a theological one.
So I read about Sinat Chinam and I'm scared. Because Rav Kook tells us that we won't get the Third Temple until we acheive baseless love. Because the Rambam tells us that true repentance is when you are faced with the same test and able to succeed where before you failed.
And so I'm scared. Because for the first time in 2000 years, G-d has orchestrated history (the last fifty years leading up to this? 100 years? 2000?) to give us a country, and ancient dilemnas, and an opportunity to really repent a 2000 year old failure. And once again, despite 2000 Tisha B'Avs, I see us going for each other's throats again, fighting other Jews, hating other Jews, seeing other Jews as Them and not as Us.
And so I'm scared. I don't know who's wrong or if anyone is, and I don't know who should stop doing what or how or when. And I don't know when disagreement turns to war or how much or how little one must protest what they feel is wrong, and I don't have any answers or any wisdom, or anything much to share except for my fear. And my tears.
And also my hope. The hope I feel when I hear about Army officers joining settlers for Mincha, right-wing synagauges still saying the prayer for the state, passionate discussions with friends ending with jokes. Because this is also our opportunity to pass. Because G-d has finally given us a genuine second chance, and with that chance comes the hope for true repentance. Because we don't have to fail.
Yeshaya has a powerful parable, in which he writes the name of the Kingdom of Israel on one stick, and the name of the Kingdom of Judah on another and he brings the sticks together until they merge into a singel stick in his hands.
Our dream can never be to be two sticks, however close to one another, saying 'I am a stick, and you are a stick, and sometimes I can love the other stick.' Our goal- our hope, our chance- is to say 'I am a stick and you are the same stick and so I love you as part of myself' - love that is inherent and therefore can ignore any disagreements or sins- love that is baseless and senseless.
G-d has given us an opportunity for success greater than anything in 2000 years, and with it comes the danger of failing once again. Please see His hand or at least His message- bring the sticks together into one- make this Tisha B'Av the last one forever.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I've come up with a fun new idea for a blog post, especially exciting because it involves minimal effort for maximum entertainment, which gives me free time to do things like sleep and come up with exciting, politically charged posts that people will actually look at.
Here goes: I'm going to begin a story like in the game of Authors. Anyone who wants can post a continuation, with the next comments continuing from where the last left off and so on. Please keep it crazy, clean, and succinct, and remember that I have the right to delete any post I don't like, although I plan to use the veto power sparingly.

Johnny was a most average little pencil- skinny, yellow, and just a bit chewed down by the eraser. But Johnny had a dream and that dream gave him the courage to bear the tedium of daily usage and being chewed on; he dreamed that one day he would be able to throw off the shackles of helpless school supply-ism and...

Friday, July 29, 2005

Hello Again! [Do you like my hat?...]

Hello there, once loyal fans, although of course, who the heck can get any loyal fans when they write four posts and then disappear for a month at a time and also I don't think that I have really found a niche here, so probably any fans are going to be my own personal relatives, but hello anyway!
There actually is a good excuse for my not having written for weeks on end and that is that I was trapped in a place without internet access. The story of what I was doing there is crazy and entertaining enough to make a really fun post, but having already summarized it for my friends, I'm going to be lazy and re-print the e-mail that I sent to them. Assume that anything you don't get is an inside joke, and I hope that my friends did the same, because it's quite likely that the whole thing is just incoherent:

As some of you may have found out at the wedding (which was, of course, awesome. Or in seminary-ish 'A-maaaaazing'), I somehow, and heaven only knows how, got hooked into the summer program that Meechal was pushing me into at the end of the year. The main pros of the program was that it would be learning all day, and the main cons were that I knew absolutely nothing about its legitimacy, it was far from my family, it didn't pay, and it was almost exclusively male. So course, I ended up doing it. So far, I am not sorry that I did, but it has certainly been a learning experience. The other eight or so (well, there were nine of us, but we have lost three along the way) members of the program, aside from being male, which I will get to later, are all insanely smart. I kid you not, I am convinced that I am by far the least knowledgable and probably about average to low intelligent-wise in the group. I try to convince myself that this is because most are post-college (i'm the second youngest), but frankly I'm not certain. They have, after all, all had the advantage of doing real learning their whole lives, while I have been stuck (not to sound bitter) learning a lot of mussar and hashkafa and soft thought and mushy chumash (I have no objection to real chumash, but I got precious little of that in high school), so I can comfort myself by that being their head-start. When it gets down to straight learning, I can more or less keep up, although I discovered early on that I have no real knowledge of how to learn b'iyun alone really in depth, so I am trying to teach myself in the afternoon. Our schedule for the past three weeks (we spend three weeks in one community and then three in a second one) was as follows: Shachrit at 7:00, after which breakfast/learning/free time until seder at nine, spent learning sources in chavruta with Meechal for the shiur, which is about the general topic of Lifnei Ivair. At 12:15, lunch until around 1, when we have shiur for two hours or a little more on sources learnt that morning. Then free/learning time on own while Meechal writes her thesis until Ma'ariv around eight, with an hour or so break when we all eat dinner. Stumble back to the empty apartment we're being put up in (actually part of a two-flat house and belonging to an almost always absent mother-in-law), and relax/read/independent learn and to sleep. Fridays and Sundays off, except for a communal shiur that we help people learn for Sunday mornings. There is another shiur Wednesday nights. In this new community, the situation is basically the same, except Shachrit is at eight and the house is occupied by really really nice people who are giving us rooms in their home. As I said, the program has been a learning experience, other than of course the actually learning which is incredible and intensive and intellectual and a lot of other 'in-' words. I have learnt, among other things:1) I am not a seminary type of person. Seminary was lovely, I was happy, but actually, I am the kind of person who is meant to be in a yeshiva, shtieging all day on one's own, never sleeping or having classes or decent accomodations, instead of all those classes and machshava and I don't know what. Someone should someday invent a non-ideological yeshiva for post-high-school girls, because I would totally go (or have gone, rather) (No offense intended to the wonderful year at Sha'alvot).2) I am a geek, not an intellectual. I have now met a lot of intellectuals, and a lot what interests them bores me. Many of the people in my program are into philosophy and deep stuff- very stereotypically Harvard, and I do not think that is my cup of tea. I like intellectual, deep discussions, but I do not read Dante or Levinat (some philosopher from France, I have discovered) just for the fun of it. They are boring.3) Although the male thing has not been as much of a problem as I feared, as I am currently somewhat comfortable with the other fellows (yes, that's what everyone in the program is called. It makes me want to burst out into he's a jolly good fellow) and I don't just sit about and cringe as I did the first day, but nonetheless, it's hard being the gender minority. Especially if the other members are guys and therefore stupid (nasty, but not entirely untrue). I do not refer only to their random wrestling at meals and so on, but also to the fact that they had no problem, in the first blinking week, loudly talking about how much better they think the program was without the recent addition of girls (I quote 'not because they bring the learning down, but because they make it not all one group'. Possibly a valid point, but not one that has to be made in my presence, and anyway, where does he want us to go instead?) Now that would not bother me so much since I know them and would just laugh and shake my head, but still no one can call it tactful. Lately it has gotten better and I can laugh or listen or participate in discussions of womens' learning without a problem, but it is always a tad awkward. But actually, they're nice people, so it's really fine. -ish. Ah well.
And the list goes on, but it's late and I'm tired and so I think that I'd better stop here.

Having, Actually and surprisingly, a blast,


Thursday, June 30, 2005

Harry Potter political structure

Last night, I stayed up far too late re-reading the fifth Harry Potter (in Hebrew, actually) and I found that the biggest problem in the wizard world is neither Voldemort nor the Dark Arts, but their own political structure. Unless I am very much mistaken, the Minister of Magic has almost absolute power. He controls the judicial (Harry's trial), legislative (all of Umbridge's new laws), and executive (controlling the Dementors and the executioner in book 3) branches of government. He also seems to control the one real newspaper in the entire wizarding world and can do whatever he wants with the one real school. And, most disturbing of all, there is never any talk of elections, impeachments, or any political opposition. The book mentions the post being 'offered' to Dumbledore, which implies that this absolute dictatorship is awarded by some shadowy counsel to anyone who catches their fancy. Nor do there seem to be any civil liberties, political action committees, or lobbyists. There is no one to prevent the rampant child abuse taking place in Hogwarts, nor does it seem that there's any to complain to. And this ministry seems to be a complicated, sprawling beaurocracy (almost all adult characters are employed by the ministry in some capacity) that legislates almost every aspect of wizarding life.
The only thing that confuses me is why Voldemort needed his reign of terror; it would have been simpler and more effective to have himself appointed Minister of Magic, and then he could rule the world without any opposition at all.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Star Wars III

I had a column in my high school newspaper one year devoted to 'critiquing' (read insulting) a variety of classics, but never once was there a work of literature or cinema that I have hated as much as the new Star Wars. Sad, but true. Including, by the way, the Lord of the Rings books, which is a whole separate rant and one that will probably get me lynched some day.
Anyway, I went to Star Wars with my brother Mike expecting it to be awful (I had seen the two previous ones), but hoping that it would at least be entertainingly awful. I was disappointed. Not that it didn't have its laughs (never intended by the scriptwriters), but such moments were drowned by the flood of unmitigated awfulness.
I will try to list my objections in some sort of orderly fashion:
1) The scene cuts. Apparently whoever wrote the accursed script thought that anyone viewing it had an attention span of about ten seconds, so it refused to focus on any battle, conversation, or inner musing for more than that. Any dialogue was limited to about three back and forth lines, and that's counting the 'clever' or 'drawing' one that they always had to end with and of course the cut-away shot. The light-saber battles would always be spliced with one another because somehow that would bore the short-attentioned watcher less. And any quiet dialogue had to be frequented alleviated with loud action shots involved light-sabers or space-ships. I was more than once tempted to scream out that I was not a moron, but the fact that I was watching the movie seemed to belay that.
2) The dialogue. Oh, that dialogue. A classic example is the Anakin/Padme conversation about exactly why she is so beautiful. I quote (as best as I can recall): 'You're so beautiful.' long pause. 'That's because I'm so in love.' Pause. 'No, that's because I'm so in love with you.' Pause. 'Are you saying that your love blinds you?' Very long pause where nobody cracks a blinking smile. 'That's...not exactly what I meant.' Cut-away camera shot to some more exciting action scene that would engage my quickly-fading brain cells. HELLO? Is that dialogue? Is that normal? Or what exactly is with the word 'youngling'? 'He kills younglings?' Of all the times not to add an exotic flavor to your pathetic script, the sentences discussing exactly how evil the hero has become and trying for some shock value are NOT the ones to call children younglings as if they were...puppies or something like that. And of course, the words that will echo in my nightmares for a long, long time- "I have been waiting for this moment a long, long time, my" I'd quote more examples but A) Almost every line was awful and B) They tried to avoid dialogue in favor of action scenes, which started all to look the same.
3)Acting. Little Orphan Ani's tranformation makes no sense unless he's insanely emotional (even then it takes believing). The fact that the actor had no talent and no emotions did not help my straining suspension of disbelief. The emperor was moderately better; at least his Cookie-Monsterlike "Gooooooooood" made me laugh (at, not with). Padme was simply annoying, Yoda was typical Yoda, though stilted, and no one else really mattered enough to be painful. Obiwan was actually a decent actor and got my only genuine moment of empathy for the film with his 'You were like my brother' line.
4)Plot. Talk about suspension of disbelief. Why exactly does the secretly married couple have public romance scenes, an unexplained pregnancy, and a shared apartment? And how does she go from invisibly pregnant to nine-months in what seems to be a few weeks? Why do the newborn babies look that way?(I've seen a newborn within minutes of a birth, and trust me, those babies are not it) Why kill the children- they might make good Sithlings? Why does Obiwan leave Anakin almost dead, but not quite? Mercy, if not intelligence, would have gotten me to finish him off instead of letting him be eaten alive by lava. Why does nobody on the council notice the whole going-evil thing and have just a bit of tact? I mean, flatter the stupid boy, call him master if he wants, who's it going to hurt? But of course, the most glaring and disappointing problem was the story of Anakin's reasons for going evil. I personally had been hoping for something very deep, very Machiavellian, about his having strength and that being all that matters, a bit of might-makes-right, a bit of why-evil-is-funner-than-self-control, etc. Instead, there was some convoluted mixture of worry about his ridiculous wife and the treason charges, ricocheting randomly back from one to the other whenever they got sick of one idea. But even worse, if possible, was the end of this sequence, where Anakin went from painfully deciding to save the chancellor to slaughtering little children and choking his wife with no further moral struggles in between. If I were going down to the Dark Side, I'd have a lot more issues murdering children (younglings, I should say) than preventing a pre-mature execution. But maybe that's just me.
5)Messages. Yoda told Anakin to release all feelings for all people; he didn't and went to the Dark Side. Is then the message of the film that Yoda is right and we should stop loving everyone? Or is that just for Jedis? Had I been Yoda or anyone trying to give a young lad some advice, it would have been: Shut up about your stupid feelings. Forget your blinking feelings, nobody cares about your stupid feelings. Use your blinking brain, and if you're worried about your wife, go. to. a. doctor. But Yoda advised differently, and he's 900 of something, so perhaps he's right. Although his strategy didn't work all that well.
6) Subtleties. Learn to write them, my friends. When Anakin was refused the rank of master and was inexplicably enraged, he threw a temper tantrum on the Council floor, probably not the best way to prove his maturity. The scene would have lost nothing in terms of foreshadows of evil, and gained so, so much in terms of not causing pain had he said, simply and expressionlessly (and expressionlessness is his specialty, whether or not you want it) 'Of course,' nodded once and sat down. I think that the scriptwriters should have had enough faith in the viewers' intelligence to believe that they would have noticed the reaction without the tantrum. And how about the line 'This is how liberty dies- in thunderous applause.' Thank you, Padme, we had noticed that liberty was dying- you've got a political body here where only one person speaks and he is allowed to vote himself absolute dictatorship- we didn't need you to point out where this meeting was going.
And, to be fair, 7) The good things. Obiwan was adequately acted, with the one genuine line of the movie (see above). And Anakin had a good evil face. And lastly, and so very thankfully, there was no Jar Jar Binks. Had he actually been present, I might have been forced to charge the screen, screaming incoherently and attempting to remove him from the universe for the good of humanity.
I'm sure there are a myriad of other problems, but I think this post is quite long enough.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Lorax Parody

I wrote this a little over a year ago, but decided it was just the thing to cannibalize for my blog. It was composed after reading and discussing with my economist sister the Lorax, one of Suess's more annoyingly preachy poems. In Suess's poem, the Once-lar's discovery of the Truffala trees and the possibility of making them into Thneeds (a highly sellable clothing) leads to totally ecological destruction of the forests, despite the admonishments of a wise old Lorax, who looks a bit like a furry yellow tree stump. Enough introduction. My poem picks up just as the Once-Lar cuts down the first tree and the Lorax appears and is described:

'Mister,' he said, or rather he barked it,
'I am the Lorax, I speak for the market.
I speak for the market, for it has no voice,
I speak for the market and popular choice.
And Mister, I tell you, you're crazy with greed.
There's no one on earth who would purchase that Thneed.
Mister, I'll tell you, you poor stupid guy,
You'll need something special to make people buy.
I speak for the market and I'm telling you plain,
To make people buy, you need a big ad campaign.
With billboards and slogans and jingles and chants-
"Buy a Thneed- what you need for your dresses and pants!
What you need- Now! Today! It's the latest sensation!
Join the brand new Thneed movement that's sweeping the nation!"'
I knew he was right, so I followed his hints,
And soon I became a textile prince.
Business is business, and business must grow,
So I appointed the Lorax my new CFO.
And baby, oh baby! How business did grow!
Now chopping one tree at a time was too slow.
So I quickly invented my Super-Ax Hacker
Which whacked off four Truffala trees at a smacker.
We were making Thneeds four times as fast as before.
And the Lorax?...Pretty soon he was back at my door.
"You fool!" he berated. "Can't you just understand?
Your supply is too high, it exceeds your demand.
It makes no fiscal sense to deforest this land!
My boy, what you need is a good fiscal plan.
If the market you glut, then you lower the price.
Four times as fast may sound awfully nice,
But you'd do a lot better if you heeded some facts,
And started using your brain, instead of an ax.
You've got a monopoly making these Thneeds
A larger supply is the last thing you need.
You don't need more Thneeds, they're fine as they are
What you need, my boy, is some brand new PR!
We'll spread the word of your Thneeds to near and to far!
'Ecological genius!' 'Friend of the Trees!
He never cuts more Truffalas than he needs!'
Take, for example, the brown Bar-ba-loots
Who are thinking of pressing some class action suits.
'Cuz you've taken their land and they're all getting crummies
Because they have gas and no food in their tummies.
And boy, I can tell you, we don't need class actions
So give them some land- as a tourist attraction!
They loved living here, so here they shall stay,
On their own piece of land that's not far away.
All day they can frolic, those brown Bar-ba-loots,
They can play in the shade, eating Truffala fruits,
And go frisking about in their Bar-ba-loot suits,
And people will pay just to watch them all do it!
Bar-ba-loot Land with restaurants and piers!
And, of course, lots of stores selling Thneeds souvenirs!
I took his advice and Thneeds, Inc. grew still more,
With the big Bar-ba-loot Land booming next door.
And I kept right on biggering, biggering, BIGGERING
With the Lorax beside me to do all my figgering.
And now, said the Once-lar, and he puffed his cigar,
And now, said the Once-lar, that's the way that things are.
I own a big business, I drive a big car.
The fame of my Thneeds has spread near and far.
And now I am wealthy, from my toes to my thorax,
All due to the fiscal advice of that Lorax.

Why blog

I don't think that I really need to have a blog. Nobody does, of course, it's supposed to be some kind of a hobby, but I'm already part of a blog for my family, so I don't really need a new forum to rant on, so the blame for this blog can only be placed on my sister.
A couple of days ago, we were discussing what on earth I'm going to major in during college. One of the possibilities that came up (actually, she was bringing up possibilities and I was explaining why I could never go into them) was English, but I pointed out the fact that this is the kind of thing that it's easy to major in, but very very hard to earn money in unless one has actual talent, which I'm not sure I do. So she said that I should create a blog as a writing forum to see if A) I enjoy writing something semi-daily and B) if anyone else finds it interesting enough to actually read. So far I can handle A) (Well, it's only been one post) and I have serious doubts as to B), but at least I tried.