Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monkey Shines

In re this clip of the opening from Monkey Shines: an paper I once wrote analyzing the show from a sociological perspective. I'm reprinting it in full below.

We Have Met the Monkey and He is Us:


Who among us doesn’t remember Monkey Shines, that classic sitcom that, despite its truncated tenure on television, managed to win itself a place in the canon of childhood staples? Who among can't still hum its catchy opening theme Monkey Business? Who hasn't caught himself using the catchphrases that it made a part of our language: 'Monkey Attack!', 'What was the baby using?', and, of course,'How many monkeys does it take?'

Yet from a sober, academic perspective, Monkey Shines is notable not for the entertainment that it provided, but what it taught us about ourselves, both in its messages and in its ultimate cancellation. Monkey Shines was a daring ideological experiment, ahead of the monkey-related conceptions of its time and even of our own; it dared to confront The Man with The Monkey. At the same time, the limitations of society's mindset, unconsciously existing even within the writers, subtly blunted, subverted, and eventually silenced this cutting edge message.

As I discussed in my earlier article Monkey Tropes in Popular Culture: From Gilligan's Island to the Justice League, humanity necessarily fears the message of the monkey. In him, we see too much of ourselves, and yet a version of ourselves that we are not ready- or able- to accept. As a result, portrayals of the monkey in popular culture necessarily transform the monkey into the 'other', and marginalizes his message via a variety of tactics. Monkey Shines sought to change this; its very premise was that Man could and should learn from Monkey. Nevertheless, the classic marginalization tactics can be seen within the show itself. Beyond that, the show's untimely cancellation proves how unready society was to hear even the muted version of the voice of the Monkey that Monkey Shines was willing to provide.

In this paper, I will briefly illustrate the use of these marginalization tactics and discuss how the fate of the show and its protagonist reflect the failings of our society in terms of acceptance of the monkey psyche.

A. Vilification

The easiest way for Man to escape the message of the Monkey is to convince himself that the Monkey is evil. By doing so, he avoids having to confront and assess the truth of the monkey. Although Monkey Shines seemingly avoided this pratfall by casting the monkey as a hero instead of a villain, nevertheless, the monkey is subtly cast as a dangerously chaotic character.

Take, for example, the very first episode, in which the monkey steals from rich Jonathan Crouton, and is therefore ordered to serve as his butler. How can we not be disturbed by this blatant portrayal of the monkey character as a criminal? Such a portrayal, furthermore, is strengthened by the recurring motif of the "Monkey Attack", in which the monkey was shown leaping at one of the human characters' heads without warning. Cute, no doubt. Charming. But what sort of implicit messages about monkeys was it drilling into our subconscious? That they are dangerous, erratic, and unpredictable.

And these same messages were reinforced by the 'comedic' rants put in the mouth of the irascible drunken writer played by Neil Gaiman. Frequently, and most notably following his failed attempt to use the monkey to write him a novel by chaining him to a computer (a glaring case of exploitation, which warrants further examination beyond the scope of this paper), he would launch into anti-monkey invective. Granted, the show put such vitriol in the mouth of Gaiman, by no means the hero of the show, and it can be argued that the viewer was supposed to side with the monkey in such circumstances. Nevertheless, in view of the show's premise and the 'Monkey Attack', it is difficult not to notice a trend of vilification of the monkey, even in this show intended to counteract such stereotype.

B. Infantilization

When it is impossible to view Monkey as evil, he is often reduced to an infantile position, allowing us to subconsciously denigrate his message and thus, once again, escape it. This trope is startlingly clear in Monkey Shines, perhaps because its more subtle impact made it more difficult for the writers to identify.

Throughout the show (a simple viewing of the title sequence will support this assertion), the monkey was shown being held and/or cuddled by other characters. Crouton's character went so far as to carry the monkey around on his back, in a manner reminiscent of similar backpacks for children. This, despite the fact that the monkey was, in fact, 44 in monkey years, making him older than any of the other characters on the show. In the episode A Very Special Monkey Shines, this child-like image was further reinforced by deliberately paralleling the monkey with a young child learning about appropriate touching. This attitude was reinforced by the fact that he was never allowed even a passing love interest, unlike all the other roommates. The sole exception would be the scene in A Threesome, a Monkey and a Whole Lot of Ripple, in which his crush on a pretty girl led the roommates to invade a hotel dressed as sheikhs. Nevertheless, viewers will recall that the love interest quickly paired up with the rich Crouton; the monkey's status as the adorable child character thus remained unchallenged.

C. Anthropomorphism

Lastly, to deal with the reality of the Monkey which our society and our minds are not yet willing to accept, we eliminate the unique monkey point of view by recreating him in our image. Monkey Shines did not escape this failing. Beyond the smaller examples of the monkey's modern dance obsession and his Christmas sweater, can we not see the entire premise of the show as an example of this theme? The monkey- the paradigmatic free spirit- is transformed into a butler, forced not only into the human construct of employment, but into the role of a servant. This is, perhaps, the most poignant expression of the failure of the show's ambition.

D. Where are they now?

Such tactics, however, were not sufficient to save the show from Man's opposition to any positive portrayal of Monkey. From our perspective, perhaps, Monkey Shines did not go far enough; from the perspective of its era, it went much too far. Can the show's cancellation and 'disappearance' be regarded as mere coincidence, in light of the messages that it forced society to confront? The opinion of this author is unequivocally 'No'.

Equally troubling is an analysis of the eventual fates of the show's stars. All four of the human protagonists went on to semi-successful careers in their chosen fields; where is the monkey now?


In the end, Monkey Shines must be viewed as a brave, but ultimately failed attempt to confront Man with the message of Monkey. Its primary message, that a man could and should learn from a monkey, was too bold, too daring for its time and perhaps even for our own. The pressures of society and the limitations of our minds muted the message, subverted it, and at last silenced it. But by remembering both its message and its failings, we can remind ourselves of one basic truth: the monkey is a part of ourselves that we must confront, no matter how frightening or how difficult. Monkey Shines, in the end, forced us all, like Crouton in the opening titles, to look into the mirror and see, to our horror, the monkey looking back at us.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Jezebel's Letter

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and also how he has slain all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time."
-I Kings 19:1-2
You know I'll win.
You knew it even on your hill,
even as you stood there in your rainstorm,
clutching your fiery truth.
You knew.

Whether you heard it whispered
in your holy-haunted dreams,
or glimpsed it in their ovine eyes,
you and I have seen their naked hearts
and know your Truth is nowhere in them

And don't you wish that you were wicked
and could savor it like hot revenge?

Well, go run to your cave and warm your hands
on your little truth and your mighty rage.
Go enjoy your righteous misery
as I enjoy my wickedness.

And they'll go on, self-delighted,
their fingers in their ears so hard
they gouge their brains out.
And they'll enjoy that too.

Monday, December 01, 2008

How Romantic Comedies Train Women to be Abused Wives

Today, I had a lecture basically about the Battered Wives' Syndrome (in the technical context of self-defense as a defense for criminal responsibility in cases of murder). As the professor lectured about the typical behavior patterns of the abusive husband before and after the marriage, I realized that a lot of them sounded quite familiar. And that is because I have consumed my fair share of chick flicks in my life.

What do I mean? Well, firstly, I don't mean that chick flick heroines, immediately following the ending credits, would become abused wives (even if they were bereft of the protection offered by fictionality). The movies are written with certain implicit assumptions about time compression and such like that make it impossible to judge the actual relationship. But a lot of the behaviors exhibited by abusive husbands, even long before they become physically abusive, are the very behaviors that chick flicks laud, expressly and implicitly, as healthy and/or romantic. Examples*:

1) The Big Romantic Gesture: Abuse generally works in escalating cycles, typified by extremes on both ends of the spectrum. Immediately after the abuse (and particularly in the earlier stages of the abuse, which usually starts just after the wedding), the husband is effusively apologetic, romantic, sweet. He buys jewelry, presents, new furniture to replace anything that he destroyed. (One police officer says that every time a woman came to report abuse, he could tell how often she hadn't reported it by counting her rings, necklaces, and bracelets.) Every good romantic comedy has a scene in which the hero engages in some over the top romantic gesture to atone for something that he has done to the heroine; the gesture proves that he is a good guy, that he truly loves her, that he will never hurt her again. Obviously, this is never physical abuse, but the core idea of "Gestures atone for misdeeds" is well-established.

2) They're all Just Jealous: Abusers typically seperate the wife from family and friends who attempt to stand in the way of a relationship that they see as problematic. They have never really understood her; they are just jealous that her relationship is succeeding; they want to keep her for themselves; they don't understand how happy she is; they are over-protective; will they never be happy for her? This serves both to silence any voices of protest and to cut the woman off from other people who might be able to help her get out of the situation later. In the romantic comedy form, there is usually only one over-protective parent or jealous friend/sibling and in the end they always acknowledge their flaws and the beauty of the relationship. Nevertheless, the idea that you should listen to your heart and boyfriend over your family is pretty well-rooted.

3) The Stalking of Love: Abusers typically slowly take over every aspect of their partner's life. They want to be with them at every moment, they pop up at unexpected times, because they always just want to be with them. Romantic comedies are full of this stuff, and it's hard not to notice the creepiness even without the abuser stuff going on. Nonetheless, even if the behaviors are exaggerated, the idea that there is something romantic about them wanting to spend every moment with you, and popping up in every aspect of your life, is reinforced. To make matters worse, romantic comedies often have an aspect of fixing your life as you find your man, who is often the one to point out that character flaw that you need to fix to make yourself happy and healthy. Of course, in the romantic comedy, he is generally absolutely right. This does not change the controllingness of the situation, or weaken the message that the man should be introducing major changes into your life.

The list continues, my time does not. In summation: Chick flicks are more than innocent cotton candy for the mind- they reflect some seriously twisted conceptions of love, and not just those of the "love conquers all variety".

*Based on one 1.5 hour lecture on a slightly different subject

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The following story will not be funny to you, because you, dear lucky reader, have no idea how psychotic my landlady is, which would make its own hilarious post, but one that would make me feel a little too mean.

Anyhoo, conversation with my landlady, who lives in the apartment above us and comes to nag at least once a week:

LL: (in the middle of a rant about how we are destroying her apartment)...and why don't you just keep the apartment nice, Tomie?
Me: (sick of having her get it wrong for the last month or so) Tobie
LL: What?
Me: Tobie. Not Tomie. With a B.
LL: Tobie, Tomie, there are so many names...
Me: (stares at her dispassionate, trying not to say anything sarcastic)
LL: Tobie...why don't you change it to a nice Israeli name?
Me: (shrug, meant to express 'I don't know, maybe I'm sort of partial to, you know, my name')
LL: Tobie....there are dogs named Tobie.
Me: (blinks at her, waiting to see if at any point she will realize why this might not be an okay train of thought)
LL: (taking the look as disbelief, which it is, in a way) No really, my daughter, she has a dog...
Me: (trying not to make any thought connections between dogs and the landlady, especially the obvious ones) Can I go back to my work now?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Robots Overlords

(did I say Overlords? I meant 'protectors')

It has been pointed out to me that the large spike that I see in hits after posting is mainly due to blogger and something complicated involving sending updates to feed sites to tell them to scan myself for searching...or something to that effect. I kind of zoned out, but fortunately, the gist of the computer talk was boiled down for me by my sister into the following useful info bite: My main readership is computers. I should direct more posts to this key demographic.

Unfortunately, I have nothing to say to my loyal computer readers. My techno talk is weak, our shared points of interest are few. I suppose I could chat about electricity, but frankly, that's kind of talking to humans about blood*. Not really where the interest is at.

I could compile a playlist of computer-centric songs, but none really come to mind. There are a bunch about robots. Is that the same thing? Most of the songs seem to assume vaguely humanoid robots. My readers are not humanoid, at this point, and probably a lot less sophisticated than the world-taking-over sort of robots. Is it like talking to humans about angels? Is it like talking to monkeys about humans? Would monkeys enjoy that?

So many questions. And yet, none of them matter. Because, unlike all of you fickle human punks out there, my computerized readers will continue to read my blog as long as I publish any sort of random junk whatsoever. Which means that, on the most fundamental level, this post is mostly definitely tailored for just that demographic.**

*Actually, it might be like talking to humans about electricity. It makes stuff in our body do stuff as well, no? Heart and all that jazz.

**For content-reading humans: This is above-averagely weird. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Adultery and Apathy

Chana's latest post, a very well-written short story entitled The Adulteress about, well, an adulteress, has dovetailed nicely into one of the rants that have been festering in my mind recently. It has been so long since I have had a good, serious full-throttle rant, so I am planning to enjoy this. I realized after writing this that it was, in many ways, merely an extension of this rant, but I don't really care, so there you go.

Now then. The protagonist of the story (and I know this will surprise you) infuriated me. (I should note that it is possible that Chana intended to make her infuriating. I'm not really sure.) Not so much the moral weakness of the main character, because even my judgmental mind knows that people are weak. Including me, obviously. Not even the self-pity that took the place of the deserved self-recrimination.

No, it was the perverse insistence that somehow the character's love for the 'other man' justified her weakness. This general concept that one's emotions are somehow a more moral basis of action than one's hormones- that this story of star-crossed lovers is different than drunk, hormonal people jumping into bed with each other in respects other than the magnitude of the temptation faced. I know that I am speaking from the insupportably lofty viewpoint of one who has never had to act on their principles, but love does not justify anything. Not butterflies in the stomach love, and not real, true storybook love.

Because really, in the purest moral sense, a marriage is not about love. I mean, don't get me wrong, it is an institution greatly facilitated by love, and I personally am darn sure planning on the two being closely associated, but at its core, marriage is not about love. It's about being motivated- for whatever reason, starting from love and spanning all the way to financial convenience- to accept upon yourself a certain set of duties. Chief among such duties is to be faithful.

And that's really all there is to it. Because the thing about duties- and this is cool, if you think about it right- is that they don't care about your emotions or how you felt when you got up that morning or whether true love is hovering just around the corner. Lack of love may constitute a reason to end the contract, depending on how it relates to the reasons that it was formed in the first place, but it does not constitute an excuse or even a mitigating factor for breach of that contract.

For me, the rant-festering actually started around a week ago, sitting around a Yom Tov table with an assortment of people whose religious affiliation spanned from formerly-religious to ba'alat teshuva. The conversation turned, naturally, to the subject of religion. And what with everybody fumbling to come to some common ground, the general topic was the uselessness of empty symbols, the foolishness of mouthing prayers, etc etc. The newly religious talked about how they connected to the mitzvot, the formerly about how they never could connect to them, everybody else about how they struggled with the connecting thing and what they did and didn't connect to.

The word connect was used a lot. The words 'truth' and 'duty' were not mentioned once. And that is because duty is out of fashion these days. Why on earth would anybody in this enlightened day and age hang about doing things they don't connect to, don't enjoy, don't love, when they can be out discovering themselves and all of the lovely things that they can be connecting to?

And again, I think that emotion and spiritual connection are key elements in one's religion. A religious experience that is lacking them is, well, a loveless marriage, and should definitely be avoided. I will admit that I am, at the moment, having some trouble mustering up emotional attachments to my observance. This bothers and disturbs me and is probably the main thing that I would like to work on in the coming year.

However, that in no way affects the marriage itself. I have chosen, and continue to choose, to accept upon myself a set of commitments for a variety of reasons, many of them intellectual in nature. My feelings don't affect those commitments and duties. The fact that lack of emotional attachment often leads to diminished observance is wholly rational, wholly natural, but not really morally justified.

I'm going to end with a pretty bowdlerized version of a story that I read once a long time ago about some Rebbe, who told his students about his own teacher. The teacher had been so holy, he explained, that every day when he davened, he was overcome by spiritual energy and could feel God's presence around him. What, said the Rebbe, could be more holy than that? And one of the students stood up and said, "I have never felt that. And yet I still daven every day."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Slichot Thoughts

I once heard what I have since nicknamed the 'Groundhog's Day Theory of Reincarnation', according to which each soul is brought back into the world again and again until it gets everything just right. I don't really think that I believe this on any metaphysical level (of course, I avoid having any beliefs about metaphysics until I am certain that such beliefs make absolutely any difference to my actual life), but there's something about it that just… chills me. Some poor hapless soul- my soul, to be exact- trying again and again over the course of millennia to finally make it count. And to be honest, this life- I can't see it being the one that does the trick.

I did the traditional evaluating my existence thing last night before slichot. I'm generally honest to myself about myself, so I wasn't able to come up with any deep, wrenching guilt. I don't think that I'm a particularly bad person, or that I've been bad this year. In fact, the whole thing can probably be summed up as "Not bad, but not stellar."

Which, in a way, is worse. Because that's hardly what I want on my tombstone. I am coming to terms with getting B's in my classes, because frankly, they don't matter all that much. I don't want to get a B in life.

But the problem with a B, as opposed to an F, is that I can't put my finger on something solid to fix it. I'm not saying that I don't know what areas of my morality I should be working on; I'm reasonably clear on that. I'm just not sure that addressing them solves the basic problem of kicking things up a notch. Mediocrity is hard to cope with, especially because it doesn't leave you with guilt or anguish or disgust. Just a lingering anxiety, a vague sense that this is not all that it should be.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is Beaurocracy Evil? Is Evil Beaurocratic?

I just finished reading the first two books in Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. They're quite well-written, although of course the blatant ideology coming seeping through infuriates me. But that is another rant.*

I have heard that the books were written to be the anti-Narnia series, and I guess I see that. What interested me more was one fundamental similarity to That Hideous Strength, the third book in C. S. Lewis' science fiction trilogy. In both of the books, Evil (whether it be the Church or the anti-Church) is organized into a brutal beaurocracy, while Good is a less organized group of comrades under a charismatic leader.

In his introduction to the Screwtape Letters, Lewis explains why he thinks hell must work that way. Since devils, according to basic Christian theology, cannot love, one must imagine a form that would enable them to be organized enough among themselves to make mischief, without relying on any bonds of love to do so. A beaurocratic authority structure does so, creating mutual dependencies based on ambition, fear, and obedience to protocol (another form of fear). That Hideous Strength clearly depicts such an organization. Since the players are human, the desire to be accepted/admired comes in too, with people desperately wanting to be part of the 'in-crowd', without being very clear on what that means or entails, and thus doing just about everything they are told.

Such a structure differs from the normal 'beaurocracy breeds evil' theme, which plays more with the idea of de-personalization and diffusion of responsibility allowing atrocities beyond what most normal people would do. Lewis is claiming not that beaurocracy breeds evil (A-->B) but that true evil can only be efficient if it arranges itself in the form of a beaurocracy (B-->A).

It's not entirely clear which one of these Pullman is trying to argue. He uses interplay of committes and politics within the Church as a means by which the Church condones and benefits from evil that might otherwise be bad P.R. But it doesn't really seem that the Church, qua organized Church, is contributing to the evilness of anything or anybody. It is a means for some to gain power, but this doesn't result from its structure, but from its size. Everything the Church does, naturally, is evil, and therefore the more it does the more evil it creates (by simple math). However, it is left unclear whether God would be equally evil if His servants were less efficient or organized in different ways. Nor are there any examples of evil stemming from the beaurocratic structure- good people or qualms quieted by the structure itself.

This may well tie into my more general rant that Pullman does not seem interested in exploring the nature of the evil that he condemns. He creates a giant shadowy body, but he never really enters it or explores the thoughts of those within it. The sole exception to this is Mrs. Coulter, whose motives are (as of book 2) painfully unclear, other than her being firmly anti-original sin. But what is going on in the minds and/or hearts of the Church itself- seems to be beyond Pullman's interest, for all that he is willing to condemn everything about it. Lewis is no less decisive about the nature of his beaurocracy, but he spends chapters within its walls, explaining how it functions, why the people within act as they do, and how Evil operates in the world.

*This one, to be exact: Okay, fine, you want to kill God. It's a cool premise and for whatever reason, Pullman hates religion. Fine. He should live and be well, or whatever. But the reasoning being that because evil things are done in the name of religion, hence religion must be evil? Huh? Especially since the characters fighting on the side of good (that is, anti-God) are just as busy being just as repulsive. I mean, if you're going to use intercision as a measure of evil, you got a decent bit on each team, alright? So chill with the moral justification until you manage to come up with something better than this constant assertion: We all know, of course, that God is evil, without any convincing arguments. Maybe the third book will clear things up. It had better.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

To the Hyper-Englightened Aliens of a Certain Class of Science Fiction*

i have wandered your pristine wonderlands
and i have marveled at your innocence.
and i have stood with my various protagonists,
shuffling our feet like underpaid public defendants,
and tried to tell you why our kind
has created sticks that throw death
and explain the mystical properties
of those little green bits of paper.

but pardon me if i seem underawed,
but i have walked the gossamer bridges
of conscience and of law.
and i have bent my shoulders
and done my daily duty, day by day.
and i have whistled in the dark-
miracles that your heavenly utopia
will never glimpse nor guess.

*C'mon, you know the kind. Stranger In a Strange Land. Out of a Silent Planet. Heck, the horse-people of Gulliver's Travels.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

International "Law"

After a course this semester in International Law (well, technically "The Israel-Arab Conflict", but from the perspective of an international law analysis) and another in Jurisprudence, I have more or less come to the following conclusion: Public International Law is the most utter load of malarky that I have yet encountered. Or, to put it in a slightly less incendiary way, it is all very well and good and bears absolutely no resemblance to "law" in its official senses.

Obviously, the question of what is law is a complicated and hotly debated one, which I would prefer not to get into for two reasons: 1)It would involve a lot of typing and 2)I haven't actually finished studying for the test that we have to know all that for. But if you look at some of the most basic modern thinkers on the subject, it's hard to see how exactly international law fits in.

Austin, for example, defines law as norms accompanied by sanctions. That which will be punished, is a law. International law, in contrast, is backed by no official group with any power. The UN, which might theoretically be viewed as the sovereign enforcing these rules, fails to do so under almost all circumstances. Furthermore, the UN Security Counsel, the only body with the authorization to employ force, may do so whenever it identifies a likely breach of international peace or some such, which means that it is not predicated on any violation of international law per se.

H.L.A Hart modified Austin's claim to define law as anything that is recognized as legitimate, legally, from the perspective of those subject to it; law that is not enforced may still manage to be law, as long as all or most of those to whom it is addressed regard is as binding. Just about no state of which I am aware has ever avoided doing something that they otherwise would prefer to do based simply on the logic that it is against international law. They may not want the sanctions that other countries may or may not impose, but again, such sanctions may and are applied without regard to whether the actions officially violate international law or are simply dangerous/annoying/immoral. International law, in and of itself, is not really regarded as authoritative by those to whom it applies.

My personal favorite definition of law is that of Holmes (and not just because the man rocks): Law is simply what the bad man would care to know- how likely is action x to lead to a negative consequence in the form of the state's wielding its power against me if I do it? I think that it is pretty clear from the reality that the bad men of international law- and there are plenty- are pretty relaxed about the legal consequences of their actions. International law does little to nothing to deter them and therefore, does not actually exist.

The above is perhaps a little harsh. It would be more fair to say that international law does not exist according to any modern definitions of law. In fact, it seems quite similar to more classic definitions, which failed to make the sharp distinction between morality and law. International law, as a vague systems of norms that are neither enforced nor defined by any authoritative body, but which are intended to reflect basic universal standards of morality, really fit well with Natural Law theorists. However, in that case, international law is nothing more than one attempt to define morality, as it relates to the actions of nations towards one another, and has no more (or less) force or authority than any other of a hundred attempts to define morality, including religion, philosophy, and just about any ism. (Nor is public international law necessarily incompatible with the very new schools of thought, which tend to believe that all law is simply an arbitrary collection of guidelines aimed at preserving status quo, crushing the lower classes, and so forth. To the degree that you accept such views, international law is no less "real" than any other form of law, except perhaps, in that nobody is real effectively crushed by it. But I kind of hate those particular theories, which is why they are left in smaller-fonted parentheses.)

If that is the way that international law wants to be- and it has every right to be like that- my only real objection is that it should stop calling itself 'law' and thus prancing about in the mask of objectivity, enforcability, authority, and certainty that the title denotes in modern parlance. If we only called it "Public International Morality", I think that it would annoy me a whole lot less.

Link to slightly fuller convention write-up

by Miri

Also: Oh, yes, there's controversy all right, over this article. My dreams of the J-Blogger convention are coming closer and closer to being realized. Life, sometimes, is just plain, fun.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Just got back from the J-Blogger convention, which contained, if not all of the beautiful silliness that could be imagined, certainly enough of it to make me fervently hope, pray, and plead that it will transform into an annual tradition. Miri has promised to do all the work of a full write-up, so I will link to her in the proper time.

What I found interesting (among other things) was the generally focused nature of most of the featured bloggers. They all had agendas, perspectives, or at the very least motifs to their blogs. It made me think that I ought to get me one of those and then I looked at myself and I said, 'Really, Tobie? Is that really going to happen?" and I replied that no, of course not, that's just crazy talk.

But I so enjoyed being part of the community/demographic that I have vaguely resolved to ramp up the blog posting again- yes, to more than once a month. Which leads me to the point of this post, insofar as it has one: I'm kinda sick of my blog url (tobiesrandomrants is somewhere between cutesy and blah- alliteration is not a tool for the inexperienced) and not particularly crazy about the title line either (voices in my head is just cliche. and a little mean to schizophrenics.) And apparently blogger allows you to give your blog a new whatnot and have the old one transition directly, which would be nice. So if people have suggestions for more exciting and/or clever titles, they would be most welcome.

Peace out.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The J-Blogger Convention

On Wednesday, Miri and I will be attending the First International NBN J-Blogger Convention. I am so psyched about it that it's simply ridiculous. I am so psyched that I have been randomly bursting into giggles thinking about the silliness that it might contain. I'm so psyched that I was actually moved to post, and I think we all know that how much that says.

I'm sure it won't actually be all that exciting. The topic is how to improve your blog traffic and whatnot, a subject that interests me very little, particularly because I think it's pretty clear that one principle way of increasing my traffic would be to post anything ever. But in my head, it has a beauty that words can only struggle to capture, complete with levels of meta that make even my head hurt a little.

The pre-conference mingling (over cold-cuts. I know. Cold-cuts!), for example, plays out in my mind thusly: A room, mostly empty. Along all the walls are arrayed j-bloggers, each a discrete unit, each hunched over the keyboard of his or her own laptop, furiously typing clever and snide things about everybody else, glancing up only to look at everybody else to think of more clever and snide things to be able to say about them. The camera zooms in on one computer. The text reads "This guy next to me keeps looking up and then turning back to his computer to write more clever and snide things about me. It's pretty funny." The camera shifts down the line of computers, just slowly enough to give you time to note that the same line appears on each computer.

Or perhaps- equally beautiful- the clumsy cocktails party chitchat enlivened by everybody pretending that of course they have read the blog of the person with whom they are talking- not only read, but are absolute fans- lurkers, one might even say, unless they have the guts and the brains to claim credit for an anonymous or two here and there.

Do you think they'll fight? Really get into the way that they do on the blogs themselves? Will they know how to handle conversations when you get the reply right away and can even- and this is crazy- talk that the same time? Will there be trolls? Will people talk in caps lock? Will random people make crazy and unsupportable statements and then duck away under the beverages table, never to enter the argument again? Will there be anybody there with a bucket full of opinions?

Do you think that groups and cliques will start to form- the photobloggers, perhaps, pulling out first, to stand in their own corner and discuss... composition or something? Will there be rivalry between the religious bloggers and the political ones? Ooooh, will somebody question the hechsher of the deli selection? Will there be blog-level drama and melodrama? Will it all be covered exhaustively via live-blogging on both sides of the issue? Will there be aggregate posts and round-ups collecting all of the posts regarding the big blogger convention fight? Will there be awards for the best live coverage? Could I possibly be a witness to the most analyzed, attacked, defended, recorded, re-recorded argument in the history of mankind?*

I'm so psyched!!

*No. Probably not. In fact, almost certainly not. But still.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Revolutionary Concept

You know how annoying it is when your phone hangs up on someone and you try to call them and they try to call you and you both get busy signals and then you both decide to wait for the other person to call and then five minutes pass and by the time the conversation is back on track, you have lost momentum, not to mention a lot of time and energy? The problem could be solved forever if people would just, as a whole, adopt a uniform standard on the issue.

It is for this reason that I propose the general stipulation that whoever made the phone call in the first place should be responsible for the subsequent redialing. There is little to support this system over the alternative one; the important thing is simply that we unite behind a single standard and eliminate the confusion forever. Callers of the world, unite! and all that.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Psalm by Saul

The door opens and it is David
always David

laughing, careless,
white and red


But the women sing his myriads
and shower him with unearned love
and the spirit of the Lord
whispers on his shoulder.

Once it was I who heard that Voice,
thin and certain,
my madness most divine.

But the L-rd of course

prefers the perfect.

And David? Where is my David?

Let him come and fill
my head

with psalms instead of ravings,

beautiful rose-red David

with the crystal eyes.

But he ducks away and then is gone.

Turn away. And tear away my mantle-scrap

like the promise of redemption.

Let me forget what is to come.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Song Fu

Hey, go check this out. And by check out, I mean 'vote for Cloakie' because it would be a crime if the practically plagaristic Eileen person were to advance and Cloakie did not.

Mike and I decided that it looked like so much fun that we each came up with a sitcom of our own. Mine is 'Suburban Ninja': An ordinary housewife who, for reasons mysterious, dresses as a ninja and likes to make the crazy hands. Watch as otherwise banal, but simple, tasks become ridiculously complicated and humiliating when they are done with attempts at ninjary! His is the story of an old businessman who, upon retirement, decides to join a wolf-pack (entitled, of course, 'Julian of the Wolves'). To add conflict, we gave him a bunch of inheritance-hungry relations. The theme song for that one would go something like this, set to wolf howls and harmonica by somebody with actual musical talent, over a scene of wolves howling and Julian playing his harmonica:

Why grow old in Florida,
Golfing all day long,
When you can find a family
And join their happy song?
Yes, you can spend your golden years
With all your lupine friends.
You'll live and love and laugh and learn-
The adventure never ends.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

How Normal People Think

So I was hanging out with a group of friends last night, discussing, inter alia, my theories about mashiach, the wisdom of cutting one's own hair, and how one should cope with the fact that women are basically second-class citizens in Judaism.

[The last discussion was interesting enough to merit its own post, but I have no patience at the moment for chick stuff. B'Kitzur, my friend came up with 4 basic options: 1)Make up and/or believe fluff about it being about how women different and special and spiritual; 2) throw out the whole thing; 3)start picking and choosing within the system based on what appeals to you; 3) work within the system to make it less problematic. We basically chose 4, with a dash of 5) suck it up.

Did you know the etymology of suck it up? Fascinating.]

But what struck me was how similarly we were able to approach the issue. I mean, we were all able to pretty frankly admit the facts of the case, reject the fluff, discuss the historic reasons for such practices, debate the pros and cons of each option, and try to define the boundaries of legitimate action within the system. And, more impressively, we were able to joke about the limits of our own intellectual honesty (just enough to stay frum, to be exact).

And then I asked them all- do normal people think like this? I mean, I'm pretty sure that they don't, certainly not within the Orthodox community. But how not? I mean, how can one be moderately intelligent and not come to these sorts of conclusions? I mean, obviously not my personal conclusions, because they are frankly quite odd, but conclusions of the same general order of magnitude, if the term makes any sense. I understand if one rejects thinking about certain things, but how exactly do intelligent Modern Orthodox people seriously think about Judaism without reaching some opinions- any opinions- majorly outside of the mainstream way of thinking?

This is one of my less coherent posts, and I would delete it, but I really do want to know, and also I have not posted for ages, so I'm just going to let it go, and hopefully some sense managed to emerge.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Before-Sleep Thoughts

So there was this study that I once heard about that said that people who are told that the placebo they are taking has a side-effect of causing insomnia sleep better than people told that the drug has a side-effect of drowsiness. Apparently the former attribute all of their inability to the sleep to the drug, and stop stressing over it, while the latter figure 'If I can't sleep despite this drug, I must be really, really keyed up about something.'

My question: If you know about this study, and decide to believe that your cough medicine must be keeping you up, so that it won't, and then decide to believe what's keeping you up is your belief that you should be going to sleep faster because you believe that your cough medicine is keeping you up, and then decide to believe that what's keeping you up is your belief that your belief in your belief in your cough medicine's keeping you up is keeping you up..... at what point does the whole thing become ridiculous and serve in and of itself to keep you up?

(This whole thing is remarkably similar to the 'that was my most recent thought' game, that used to drive me crazy when I did it.)

Thursday, May 01, 2008


If poetry is self-expression,
Each confession cedes possession,
And I don't think I'm enough to go around.
I'll spill my guts and spill my ink,
I'll mix my soul for you to drink,
But what if you don't want a second round?

So prose is safe and wit is shield,
And every shrug's a sword I wield,
Against the creeping front of dull cliche.
And I'm not saying it's not real,
But if I flaunt Achilles' heels,
Maybe you won't see my feet of clay.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


A million blogs and facebook notes
full of pith and finger quotes.
And every one sneers just the same
and dreams of fifteen words of fame,
and every horse we beat is dead
and everything we say's been said
and God's been killed a thousand-fold,
then brought back with tactics just as old.
And I know that boredom's done to death
and meta's just a waste of breath.
But if you're in a fractal House of Fun,
the least you can do is look and run.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Guest Post by Talia

I don't usually write these kind of emails; foreign correspondant reporting from the field. Firstly, I'm aware that my experiences pale in comparison to other people who live here. Secondly, I don't want my identity to be defiined an Israeli in proximity to newsworthy events. After a difficult week, however, I could no longer contain this letter.

I was supposed to go to Jordan next week. An all expense paid trip, thanks to a student grant, to participate in the American Association of Cancer Research conference and present an abstract. It was going to be the first real conference that I participated in. Preparing my abstract, I put in 18 hour days to meet the deadline. When other group members voiced concerns about traveling to an Arab country, I shrugged them off. Going to Jordan was part of the charm of this conference. It would give me an opportunity to see this new country from the neutral ground of a Sheraton hotel and an international science conference.

I began to realize that this might not be possible when the military operation in Gaza started. I pushed this thought to the side. In three weeks a lot could change, I told myself. That's the beauty of the volatile Middle East. The wind changes direction and all of a sudden we're drinking bottled water and eating pretzels around the negotiating table.

Last Friday I went to Sderot for the day. Sderot is a development town in the South of Israel about three miles away from the Gaza Strip. Over the past few years thousands of rockets known as kassamim have been fired on it from Gaza, however there has been a significant increase in the frequency over the last few months. Because the town is located so close these relatively primitive rockets can hit it, as well as several neighboring kibbutzim in the area. The town has a population of 20,000 but thousands have deserted the city recently.When you hear of the constant rocket attacks on the news, you wonder why anyone would stay. Although there are some who stay for idealogical reasons, a visit to Sderot reveals the truth. Those who stay are those who have no place to go, not enough resources to start again. To combat this notion a campaign has started in the past month "kniot neged kassamim" (shopping against rockets). Every Friday Israelis from all over the country drive to Sderot to do their shopping and bolster the local economy.

When we arrived a volunteer organization briefed us on the "local customs". When you hear the warning siren, a calm lady's voice repeating "tzeva adom, tzeva adom" (color red, color red), you have fifteen seconds to reach a secure location. If there is a cheder mugan (reinforced room, required in all new apartments constructed) you should go in there. Otherwise seek protection in the innermost room, away from windows and preferably a lower floor. Rockets will be coming from the southwest, so try to go to the northeast room. When driving a car do not wear a seatbelt so that you can get out quickly in case of an alarm. After one minute you can come out. Rocket hits can be traced by the sound, loud for a direct hit nearby, and the plumes of smoke. Resume routine until the next warning.

I only experienced three tzeva adoms in my three hour visit there. First one, walking down the street towards the pizza shop with my friend, Shana. Ran into the nearby restaraunt, where everyone was rushing into the kitchen, the inner most room. Most of the patrons were visiting from the center of Israel to support the economy and had never experienced a tzeva adom before. The cook joked around that anyone who wanted to help with the dishes was welcome to stay. When we left the kitchen the waitresses showed us the plume of smoke to identify where the rocket had landed. Around one kilometer away in an open field.'"Bshetach patuach, ein nifgaim v'lo nigram nezek". ("In an open area, no injured and no damage was caused", the phrase used to describe such incidents on the hourly news.) The next two I was in a building. We all gathered silently in the stairwell. Tobie, my sister, got separated from me and I turned around panicked to find her sitting five stairs up.

It was in the middle of this trip that I realized the absurdity of visiting Jordan. As if the security situation was a factor in planning a trip, like making sure there wouldn't be a cold spell for the beach holiday. I remembered that line from Catch-22, where Yossarian exclaims "they're trying to kill me!". It's not just a political situation or struggle for power. The third rocket landed half a kilometer away, a direct hit on a house. One woman was lightly wounded. They're trying to kill me.

After that third rocket it was more difficult to be in Sderot. As we drove in the car looking for a grocery store all I could do was evaluate the surroundings for a good place to jump out and seek shelter, trying to orient myself so we could hide on the northeast side.

You forget and you don't forget. The week after home in Rehovot, a safe fourty minute drive away from Gaza, the everyday sounds of the city sounded like rockets exploding in the distance. The fear that they've brought in better rockets that can do the extra 50km and soon my life will be like the life of those people in Sderot.

I wrote a polite letter to the AACR explaining that I would like to withdraw my abstract due to the difficult security situation. I included a link to the Israeli National Security Council website instructing Israelis not to travel to Jordan.

There was another email I wanted to send instead. I wanted to to yell at them for living in their fantasy world where Middle East peace is only an international conference away, where dialogue and coming to understand the other side is the only solution. For some reason the AACR conference symbolized for me the United Nations, Europe. All those groups who are so quick to condemn but don't give a damn that they're trying to kill me. I know it's obscene to be a Western state and to have a more developed military with modern technology and to believe you have a right to exist despite the European origins of most of your citzens. The world should have thought of that sixty years ago when they decided to give the Jewish people its own state. I'm sorry, I really am. I don't know if this was the best way for history to have been written. When Palestinians tell me how they feel torn away from their land and locked into villages, I wish there was another option. I want to tell the AACR, the UN, those people in conservative suits and coordinated ties who believe the world has evolved past warfare and dialogue is the only solution, they're trying to kill me. Look me in the eye and tell me that you really understand that.

We all are angry at someone. Some turn their anger to Hamas, others to the Israeli government, others at God. I'm angry at the World. And if we are angry long enough and loud enough, we hope to drown out the pain.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Play

In honor of the Purim season in general and Rosh Chodesh in specific, I have decided to post a couple of my favorite scenes from the much-described play. I actually wanted to post the whole thing, but Miri very properly pointed out that it is rather long and might have potential theoretical copyright issues if anybody is ever interested in doing anything with it. So I picked a couple of the most fun ones and will post them over the next couple weeks. For good, clean fun, play spot the allusions. Extra points if you spot some we didn't intend. If people are entertained and interested in reading more and promise that they won't steal the whole thing and sell it to their pseudo-Bais Yaakov high school first, they can e-mail me and it could possibly be arranged.

Scene 5

Night time. Bigsan enters, strolling thoughtfully. A few seconds later, Seresh runs up and then nonchalantly falls into step beside him. Quite possibly on the pocket.

S: What are we doing tonight, Bigsan?
B: Same thing we do every night, Seresh...waiting on the king.
S: Well, the waiting, I don't mind. It's the running to get him things-
B: -and then running to put them back-
S: -and then running to get them again-
B: -because now that he thinks about it, he really does think that maybe he wants a drink over water after all-
S: (all in one breath and getting so carried away that he forgets where they were going with this)-but actually maybe not, because it's true that he's thirsty, but does he really want to drink in bed, and actually Bigsan, I think he's really better off if he doesn't, because every time I try drinking in bed I get it all over my chin and usually down my neck too and then sometimes it goes down the wrong pipe and you start choking and then it's really just not worth it, but then again, if you'd just sit up to drink, you know, it wouldn't happen, but then of course, you get all woken up and then there was this one time when I-
B: (hurriedly) Precisely. (insinuatingly)...gets pretty annoying, doesn't it?
S: Well, yeah, because then you're all wet and your shirt-
B: I mean about the king.
S: Oh. Right. Yeah. That too.
B: are you pondering what I'm pondering, Seresh?
S: Um....I think so, Bigsan, but won't uniforms made entirely out of cotton candy get sort of sticky in the summertime?
B: (sort of stunned for a second or two, opens his mouth to say something, then shakes his head and moves on in an “Anyway...” sort of way) Um, no....I was pondering the idea that it's about time that we (lowers voice dramatically) did something about the king.
S: You mean like ignore him?
B: (still more dramatically) I mean like...kill him
T: Kill the king?
B: Precisely.
T: What, our sovereign king?
B: Indeed.
T: For making us run errands?
B: Exactly.
T: Yeah, sure. I'm in.
B: Well, as it just so happens, I've got a cunning plan...
Exeunt, Bigsan's arm over Teresh's shoulder and whispering conspiratorially. Mordechai either emerges from some nook or cranny or the spotlight highlights where he has been hiding in shadows.
Throne room. King on throne. Bigsan and Teresh are lead in by Charvonah and Guard 1.
Ach: (trying to look stern and cunning and stuff)
Gentlemen- if I may call you that-
The time has come we had a chat.
Tell me, how do you enjoy your work?
Are the hours long? Do you like the perks?
Teresh: Well, actually, I was just saying to Bigsan the other day that the dental plan was a bit-
Bigsan: (speaking over him) By which he means to say that we are completely satisfied with our jobs, your most excellency.
Ach: And against myself- you've no complaints?
No qualms, no wrath, however faint?
Bigsan: (groveling really quite pathetically at this point) Oh, no, sire, your most wise and unfailingly pleasant highness. Who could dare to have any hint of thought of inclination of lack of complete satisfaction in your greatness's employ?
Ach: Such thoughts are sweet, if they are meant...
Now. You two claim that you're content
But I put this to you instead:
You hate my guts and want me dead!
Bigsan: My lord! The very notion! I assure you, the idea is the furthest thing from my mind. In fact the very mention fills me with such sorrow and horror that-
Ach: Indeed? A reliable source has told the Queen
Some Marduke? More-duck? Meredach I mean-
Or was it- bother, never mind-
Now, is it true that you are so inclined?
Bigsan: Oh most gracious source of all wisdom, if I could be so daring as to suggest that you could possibly be in error-
Ach: We've heard enough from you today-
Let's hear what your sidekick has to say.
Teresh: (quite probably not faking his forgetfulness) What, me? Well, you's hard to say, know how things are....I'm sorry, but I've forgotten the question... was it something about mushrooms?
Ach: Just one tiny piece of information:
Are you plotting my assassination?
Teresh: (nervous glance at Bigsan) Oh, sire, please. What a ridiculous idea! I can tell you, your majesty, sire, sir, with really complete confidence, that my friend here is not planning to kill you even just a little and that the only reason that he might possibly maybe just happen to have a vial of poison in his pocket is for some entirely legitimate reason, like he's planning to build up a resistance over the course of years, so that someday, if he is ever is challenged to a battle of wits-
By this time the guards, who are quite a bit sharper than Achashveirosh (who is just standing there sort of stunned by the flow of words) have gone through Bigsan's pockets and found the vial.
Ach: Good gracious! Jeepers! Oh my! And wow!

I'll punish you villains- by hanging, I vow
And the story- including the name of that guy-
Shall be writ in the records of Paras and Madai.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Self Sacrifice

In my heart, I shall build a temple
To the splendor of His honor.
And in the temple, I shall build an altar
To the radiance of His glory.
And for an eternal flame,
I will take the fire of the Akeidah.
And for a sacrifice,
I shall bring up my only soul.
(בלבבי משכן אבנה by Rav Hutner (?) )

I just finished reading Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. As I often find to be the case with Lewis, it was literarily a bit dull and theologically complex and fascinating. The story is a retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid, so its heavy-handed allegory is to be expected. One of the main themes of the book, as I understood it, was the question of love and selfishness. Love, according to Lewis, is often only a mask for selfishness- a lust to devour the other person, to co-opt their personality. True love means to give, to meld, to relinquish your selfish interests in owning the other person.

So far, so good. But the extension and corrollary of this is that to love God, we must utterly submit to His will. As Lewis expressed it in Screwtape Letters, we must yield even our individuality to Him and then He may choose to regift it to us, according to His will. In the book, the primary metaphor for this was Psyche's required unquestioning obedience to her god/husband and the horror caused by Orual's attempts to fight the gods or question their will.

Reading the book, I found that this bothered me. At first, I tried to attribute it to the medium. Since I am morally opposed to feeling any need to worship my theoretical husband, the metaphor of spousal obedience as our duty to God rubbed me a bit the wrong way. (Although I don't think that the decision was purely incidental on Lewis's part. But that gets in to larger and even more confusing questions of how I feel about his take on gender in this book and in general, so I'm going to leave that to the side for the moment.)

But that's not really it. Because even if you grant that no reverence is due a regular husband, surely nobody can doubt that Psyche must and ought worship her husband who happens to be a god. The problem is that I think that I do doubt that. And I'm not sure how I feel about that fact.
To elaborate: upon realizing that the gender issue was not the main thing at stake here, I found myself attributing such views of total self abnegation to Lewis's Christianity. And it is true that there is something very Christian about the concept of man's nothingness in comparison to the infinitude of G-d. (Or perhaps more exactly, there is something very that idea about Christianity.) To the best of my very limited knowledge, that's why they invented Grace and did away with good acts, for the most part.

Be that as it may, reverence and submission towards God are hardly foreign to Jewish theology. The phrase "Negate your will before His will" is a pretty succinct description of the basic command and I think that it's a sentiment that one can found repeated pretty regularly throughout the sources.

But nevertheless, I find myself unable to accept the premise that God is somehow greater than my soul. And so I have a convenient set of beliefs which include a God who enjoys humans giving Him a run for his money; a soul that is fundamentally composed of the same material as God Himself, just in difference concentrations; a morality that is created through the struggles and the choices of the human soul; an emphasis on the human-crafted halacha; and a few very creative interpretations of the akeida story. I am perfectly willing, on an intellectual level (which is the easy level to be perfectly willing on), to die for God. I am equally okay with the idea of killing myself or others for Him, provided that it seemed a moral thing to do. But I will not destroy my self for Him.

And I am very fond of this theology. It is, after all, mine. However, I wonder- I can't help but wonder- if I created it as a very long and roundabout way of getting around the basic statement that there's really no getting around: God is greater than me.

I know, I know. It's pretty fundamental. And intellectually, I almost, almost believe it. Except that when you translate 'me' to 'my soul', I just can't find myself buying it. And I can't decide whether that is a theological victory- the inherent divinity of the soul standing up for itself- or a triumph of my baser pride refusing to bow even to God. Since I currently believe in my belief system, it's hard for me to see that it might be having negative implications on my entire religious practice, but I nevertheless have some sense that accepting the premise that I should and must sacrifice even my self to God is a pretty major theological point, that ought to be impacting almost all of my daily life, once I've figured out how I feel on the subject.

Here's why I'm worried: I can't seem to work up a proper awe of God. I can blame it, perhaps, on my non-royalistic background and the general culture of equality, which means that I don't have a default setting of humbled submission to apply to the situation. But sometimes I find myself yearning for some visceral, emotional, paganistic reverence laced with terror that I simply cannot find myself capable of feeling. Somewhere along the way, I have dialed up my conception of my self and dialed down my conception of God so that I can't really, really fear Him.

And even worse- as a cause or effect or side-effect or parallel phenomenom- I think I have managed to deanthromorphize Him to a degree that I'm having a hard time loving Him either. It's not good. And I try to explain it away by saying that emotions are not critical and that I'm not a particularly emotional person, but I felt more once and I'm pretty sure I should be feeling more now.

But to throw my current beliefs about God out the window for the sake of some visceral emotionalism that I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to acheive hardly seems to be the answer. Especially since I'm still pretty convinced of their accuracy. And not at all sure that they contradict the emotions that I'm trying for. Which leaves me.... nowhere really. Confused, mostly.

I'm going to close with a poem that I wrote a bit ago, ostensibly on behalf of a character (right. Okay. So here's the deal. I know that people ought to write what they know, but what I know is largely typical hackneyed teenaged angst and I'm not interested in reading it, let alone writing it. So when I am bored and in the mood to versify, I often create a character who is writing a poem about a situation which he is in, which allows me to borrow not only his circumstances, but often his voice, which I find to be less self-conscious and more talented than my own. I know it doesn't make sense. Go along with it), but with a pretty clear realization of its allegorical accuracy:

Our lips spell out the love songs
that so many sang before us.
We add our thin falsettos
to their ever-soaring chorus.

And only fools, we whisper,
wear their hearts upon their sleeve.
And if we have lost nothing,
then there's nothing we can grieve.

So let us ask no questions
and we'll have to tell no lies.
For we can kiss like lovers
if we only close our eyes.