Wednesday, June 28, 2006

My Anniversary

I began this blog one year ago, inspired by my eldest sister and with an entirely unreasonable set of expectations. For those of you too lazy to click on the link, this was my first post:

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.
Fascinating stuff. On one hand, we already see many elements that will later rise to the fore: the style that is a curious cross of pompous and awkwardly chatty; the paranthesis that go nowhere and do nothing but interrupt the flow of the sentence (like this one, for example); the long, confusing sentences; the wry, self-denigating tone that you can tell is just waiting to hear a chorus of voices to shout contradicting praises; the inability to find a good way to end. On the other hand (to coin a cliche), we have all of the elements that I can now, from the lofty vantage point of my superior age, look back upon and smile fondly but wryly about the naivete: the struggle to figure out what I want to be when I grow up; the charming notion that I would actually post on a semi-daily basis; and, somewhat latent, the idealistic, unrealistic idea that I would start posting and suddenly, hundreds of people would come flocking to hear the brilliance of my words.

And, of course, the content has radically shifted as well. At the very beginning, my posts were cuttingly witty (I hope you can hear the sardonicness there. There should be some universal text symbol for dry sarcasm, the way that italics give emphasis and smileys joy). The topics ranged from a parody on the Lorax (by far, my most popular post) to critiques of books and movies. I still rather favor that genre, but find that I can't keep up the necessary levels of annoyance or think of sufficient suitable sources.

Already by July, we can see how my true blog nature will arise- apologizing for not posting for months and summarizing uninteresting aspects of my daily life for general consumption. Things only got more so from there. Soon enough, we faded into vague reflections on random subjects, mixed with banal anecdotes from my life from which those reflections might be spawned. And then came the sappiness.

I must admit, I was totally unprepared for the sappiness. I am not, in my daily life, anything like a sappy person. I have probably told this blog more of my personal feelings than I have told most of friends and family. I blame the diary/confessional feel of the whole thing, although it may also be a sampling error- philosophic or sappy things are easier to write, and easier to keep interested in until you post.

Well, this is a longer than average blogversary (what is with that anyway? What, you add blog to a word and now it's all cool? And anyway, the 'anni' bit means year, so 'blogversary' is absolutely meaningless, in an anneversarial sense) post, but I've neglected things for so long and have a clear run of the computer for a bit. Will the blog survive another year? It's an interesting question. At times, I doubt it, as my interest in the blog wanes and seems to die. But then again, if the blog died all the times that I assumed that it would, it would have to be a cat to still be here. (That was such a messed up sentence. Piece of advice- never, ever trap yourself in a phrase that you're not sure how to end, and then be too lazy to go back and try to revamp it into something that doesn't paint you into a corner.) But here it still is, and I, for one, am still enjoying it.

My Disapproval

(This 'My' Stuff is getting harder and harder every time)

Just a short incident from today's visit to Kiddieland: A woman tries to board a mini-roller coaster with a daughter and two little kids. The woman running the place says that the kids both need to sit with the mother, since she's the only adult. The mother turns to her and says, in a falsely casual voice, "Oh, you know that my daughter is 16?" "Really?" replies the woman, "because she went on a ride earlier and she told me that she was 11." (The girl, quite clearly, is 11.) The mother is thrown off-balance only for a moment. She snaps at her children to get on the ride and then turns to the woman and hisses in an undertone, "She's fibbing. I don't know why she said that."

Perhaps I'm just a self-righteous busybody, but I was majorly offended. Even if one is going to lie for convenience, how dare they blame their children for not doing the same? How dare she call her daughter a "fibber" for having the moral decency not to lie? To be fair, she didn't seem really angry at her daugher afterwards and she was probably just shocked at being caught in a lie (and such a very obvious lie, too), but nonetheless. Nonetheless.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

My Book List

In lieu of a real true post about anything useful, which would require effort that I, frankly, do not really care to invest, I have decided to post a list and synopsis of all the various books that I am reading currently or have just finished reading. And there is a reason for this decision. It so happens that my method of selecting books- picking up things around the house that look interesting- has gotten me a range of books that are a) eclectic and b) make me look all smart and studious and so forth.

1) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius- Well. It actually is. Heartbreaking and Staggeringly Genius that is. And so many levels of meta and self-consciousness that it could make your head spin. It's all about being aware of yourself as a member of the intellectual youth, and it's quite interesting. At times, it gets a little annoying, but the thing is, you know that the author knows that too, and so it's nice.

2) The Truth and Pyramids (Terry Pratchett books) Of course, I'm re-reading these, since I've read all of Pratchett's books, but they are just so much fun. I adore Pratchett characters, and both of these are not part of his regular series so there's no chance of having already gotten tired of the protagonists. Pyramids, especially, I have not read for a while and I had forgotten just how wonderful it is.

3) Rachel and Leah Part of Orson Scott Card's Bible Stories. A little weird. I mean, the concept, of trying to write novels around the Biblical stories is interesting, but unfortunately Card is crippled by a) the Mormon readings that he must include and b) his inability to write romance that is not painful. And the romance in this book was the most painful of all, since he decided not only to make Rachel and Leah madly in love with Jacob, but to make the handmaidens pretty much swooning as well. Which he accomplished by making Jacob an action-figure, perfect hero character. Card had, I must admit, some interesting insights, but he ended up convoluting the whole story in an effort to make Laban a wonderful guy. Now, considering the whole switch and so forth, it's tricky, but he manages. Sort of. Not a bad read, but I think the book made me grimace and go "icky, icky" a bit too much for a proper Biblical rendition.

4) First Circle- I'm only in the middle of this one. It's the story of prisoners in the very upper levels of the Gulag, the bits reserved for the intellectuals and so forth who can produce better if not mistreated. It's a great story- the characters are all fun and the characterization of Stalin is cuttingly clever. The only real problem is that the author introduces a new character every chapter- and I'm already on page 200- and they all have Russian names and keeping switching names and patronyms and nicknames and so forth so that you can't hardly keep track of any of them. I mean, I'll be halfway through a conversation before realizing that there are only two participants, not the three or four that I had assumed.

5) Burn Rate- Somebody's story of his time as an internet entrepaneur. I got most of the way through this and then got a little bored. His life is just such a constant whirl of disasters and betrayals and deals and desperation and no real income. You pity him, but you also want to hit him over the head and ask him how he got into this mess.
There are a couple others here and there- SciFi anthologies, history books that my father pushes on me, and so forth, but these are the ones that I have finished or at least made a decent attempt at in the past week.

And just for the record, my brother was, in fact, hovering over my shoulder for a large portion of this post. Which is why I can't be expected to do anything more inspired than a book list.

Friday, June 23, 2006

My Excuses

To quote another long absent blogger, "I'm not dead yet" (Unfortunately, he has not posted in the months and months since then. Let us hope it is not an omen.) The reason for this absurdly long haitus is the computer situation back at home. See, the deal is this: The only computer with internet access is in my brother's room. Which makes a certain amount of sense, since he's usually the only one to use it. But now that I am home, I have to force my way into his room and manually pry him away from the computer every time that I want to check my email. I shudder to think what I would have to do to make him give me the leisure to post.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Probably, if I said that I had an awesome idea for a blogpost, he would move off the computer to let me post it. And stand by my side watching me type it. And pointing out my typos....

But, alas, blogging- or at least my blogging- doesn't happen quite like that. I can only post when inspiration strikes, and the inspiration, or even the inclination to go to the trouble of posting lasts for such a very short time. One bolt of lightening, vague interest, and then pfizzle. All gone. So the actual creation of blog posts relies on the precise coincidence of inspiration and access to a computer. Such coincidence, is, of course, helped when one spends most of one's day in front of the computer, but it is rendered nearly impossible when any access is curtailed by one's brother. That's all there is to that.

Also, sometimes I worry that I am sick and tired of blogging. I mean, there is so much of everything out there. Do I really have anything particularly interesting to say? Do I really have the need to say it? It is, I will grant, occasionally terribly amusing, but it's a lot of effort to go to (to which to go? Ugh) without any sort of inspiration. And so the days and weeks go by. And the guilt builds and builds.

But now that I am posting, I might as well give the world a twelve-second update on my life (No, I don't know if it's precisely twelve seconds to read. It's certainly a bit more to type. But it sounds so much more precise than "ten seconds" or even "a minute"). I am currently hanging around my house, spending time with family, friends, and an assortment of books, trying vaguely to find a summer job that's going to want someone for only a month. My main vocation, such as it is, is getting my aliya paperwork together. Did I mention that I'm making aliya? Well, I am. And so I'm scurrying around, here and there, getting my forms filled out and so forth. The plan as it currently stands involves my going to Israel around August and entering the Hebrew University Summer Ulpan program. Rather entertaining, really, since two of my friends are going to be going there as well. Friends with whom I went to seminary and with whom I am going to be going to Bar Ilan. It's sort of sad- I had this one year where I pretended to have my own life and now zoop! I get sucked back into this Three Musketeers-ship. Maybe I'll post more about that later, should inclination and access collide. Anyways, the ulpan runs through the end of September, after which are chagim, after which I begin the law program at Bar Ilan. That is, assuming that I really have been accepted, since I haven't gotten any papers from them and have only the assurance of my sister in Israel, who spoke to some people in charge there.

There. That's all. It's not, I admit, terribly exciting, but it probably will be a lot more interesting in August. Of course, then I may not have access to computers, so y'all may not get to hear about that craziness either. Ha ha.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My Random Thought

Alright, this has nothing to do with anything, but while I'm posting....

If I were writing a short story, I would totally have it that Lakewood Yid and reasonablynuts of the comment thread to this post turn out to be married, both of them unaware that the other has ever blogged. Just saying.

My Stalkers

(Okay, it's still fun. But then, it's all of seven minutes later.)

So it has come to my attention (through comparing stats and comments, and that sort of thing) that there are a lot of people out there who are reading this blog, unbeknownst to me. Not, of course, that I mind. Obviously. Quite the opposite. Having readers, and especially commenting readers, makes me feel warm all over. But I am just a little bit curious about all of those people who may be reading this. Some of you, I think I may even know in real life. Others, probably not. But...if you exist and you are reading these words, I would really appreciate it if you would post just a one word comment or something, saying "Hi. I exist." Just to satisfy that insatiable curiousity. And yes, friends and family, I would like you to comment as well. Even if I know about you.

My Orthodoxy

(Due to having just watched a spat of Scrubs episodes on, I think I'm going to take to naming all of my posts "My Something". Until the novelty wears off. Which will probably be after this post.)

Search-for-Emes brought up something interesting in the comment thread on his latest post. In response to a comment I made, he saw me as "a fairly Un-orthodox Orthodox." It got me thinking.

I've always known that my Orthodoxy is somewhat atypical. I disagree with almost everyone I know about at least half my positions. (The key is to know enough different people that it's always different halves.) I have friends questioning their Orthodoxy and friends who have just converted. I have friends who think that I am a total shtarked-out religious fanatic and friends who probably pray for my soul daily. I have friends who can't believe I went to a Beis Yaakov high school and friends who can't believe I'd go to a secular college. Friends who thought I was crazy for coming back to America after seminary and friends who think I'm absolutely insane to be transfering to Bar Ilan.

So, which group of these should define what's "Orthodox"? And how should I feel about the fact that I'm different from almost all of them?

Well, to be frank, it doesn't really bother me so much. So I'm different. Nu, I think I be more annoyed if I were just the same.

I think that one crucial advantage that I have had in my life is that I attended a high school whose philosophy was radically different from my own. (I sound fixated on high school. I'm really not. But you have to remember, it was only two years ago. I am young. I have an excuse. she whimpered) (I can never remember- different from or different than?) Not that it was fun at the time. I have a note book with pages filled with unvocalized screams. Of course, I knew that I was going to be reading them later and it was probably at least 50% pretention, but still. It wasn't easy. I disagreed with nearly all of my teachers, administrators, and classmates. In ninth grade, I spent an hour (with Miri, actually) arguing with my principle over whether non-Jews got Hashgacha Pratis. In tenth grade, I (and Miri again, actually) took over the school newspaper and went on a crusade trying to get the school to schedule davening time on gym days for a time that actually conformed with z'man tefilla. I spent eleventh grade in awe of the fact that I had a chumash teacher who actually stimulated my mind to some degree- a Michlala graduate who introduced us to such novel ideas as dissecting p'rakim for themes, contrasting meforshim, and so forth. (Not with Miri, this time. She tended to sleep through these classes. She never got enough sleep). And in twelfth grade, I spent the year trying to apply to seminaries that the school would not allow into the school and colleges that the school would prefer that I did not even know existed.

But the point is, I think it was awesome for me. Putting aside the awesome legal training, it does a lot for your intelligence and hashkafa to daily have to justify them, argue them, analyze them, question them, and fight for them. I wasn't able to get by without thinking. And that, if anything, is what's unorthodox about me.

Not that I claim complete intellectual honesty, nor can I necessary defend all of my opinions in a free and open debate. But the point is that I have thought. Nine times out of ten, I have already struggled with the issues that people tend to raise. I have something vaguely intelligent to say to people who wonder what Orthodoxy is all about, and to those who want to know the basic reasons for basic things. And I generally know why I do the shtarked-out things and why I do the crazy secular ones. I have found a place for Beis Yaakov and University of Chicago, for America and for aliya.

And I don't think that this makes me all special or anything like that. And it certainly doesn't give me any of the answers. But it probably does make me just a little bit Un-orthodox. I think I can handle that.