Bring Back the Whole Dick!

This is a paragraph from my paper, due Thursday, on Joseph Heller and realism. First, I hope the professor gives me some sort of recognition to be the first student to use the phrase “bring back the whole dick,” in a term paper, and second, do you think the two puns in the last sentence are too much?

In Heller’s King David epic God Knows the author again takes a lesser known course of storytelling. Instead of using the traditional manner this story could have been told in, a slope beginning with early triumphs against Goliath and the Philistines, the trials of Absalom’s revolt, and the sin with Batsheva, Heller focuses on smaller details, and through these details gives us the whole picture. Take the story of Michal’s dowry, for example. Saul sets Michal’s dowry at 100 Philistine foreskins. Heller spends pages (pages!) discussing David’s deliberations with Abner on how to go about this. First they figure on six men per Philistine; four to hold him, one to prop up the phallus, and one to perform the circumcism. Eventually they figure they can just kill each Philistine, and “bring back the whole dick.” This sort of attention to detail and method is (understandably) glossed over in the Bible and other Kind David accounts, but really provides for a much fleshier narrative, and keeps the work a cut above comparative biblical literature.

American Pacifists

I don’t get why people in America are still arguing over why they should or should not have invaded Iraq. First off, from an Israeli perspective, when you have a terrorist dictator hell-bent on the destruction of Israel armed with thousands of scud missiles aimed at your country, the sigh of relief that you breathe when he is finally taken out isn’t really affected by whether or not he had WMDs. He’s gone, we’re in a better place now, and that’s final.

But even the American position should be (while perhaps a little more nuanced) rejoice over the removal of a madman dictator with -if not actual possession, then at least- access to weapons of mass destruction. I simply don’t get this obsession on the part of the American left. Are they really claiming that the world is not a better place now that he’s gone?

This article in Salon is full of such pacifistic posturing. Its main point is that Bush had been planning on attacking Iraq for years previous to his actual declaration, and therefore the invasion was wrong.

For example:

Nov. 27, 2001, was a significant date. Gen. Tommy Franks in his memoirs reveals that he received an unexpected call from Rumsfeld. “General Franks, the president wants us to look at options for Iraq.” Franks knew exactly what the call portended. “Son of a bitch, I thought. No rest for the weary.” There would be another war. The die had already been cast.

How does “Look at options for Iraq” equal “The die had already been cast?” I think if Bush had invaded Iraq with no preparations whatsoever then there would be more legitimate complaints about his methods. But asking a general to prepare contingency plans seems to me more prudent than warmongering. Besides, the US probably has contingency plans for invading Canada or France (For the former I’d support an insurgency in Quebec, followed by dual advances along the coasts, and for the latter a simple channel crossing or Ardennes offensive); they’re simply being prepared. But honestly, what’s wrong with saying that Saddam Hussein supported terrorism (one, of many, proofs) and, in the war on terror, that makes him an enemy?

Lazy

I have two 10-page papers due next week, and I haven’t started either of them. I mean, I haven’t even started researching. Im just staring at a blank page, wondering where to begin. I haven’t even decided which one I’m going to do first. Either the effects of the Catholic Church on the Spanish Civil War, or Similar Trends in Literature and Art, as Expressed by the Paintings of Norman Rockwell and Joseph Heller. So since I’m so busy, I’m just going to do what everyone else seems to be doing, and post song lyrics, or something, because I don’t want to go more than a week without posting anything.

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre –
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

That was written by TS Elliot, during the German bombing of London in World War Two.

Yom Ha’atzmaut… Belated

This is something I wrote for the Bar Ilan newspaper, due to come out on Sunday. It’s a bit fluffier than the way I usually like to write, and I left out a whole segment I had wanted to put in, about how Natan Sharansky celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut in his KGB prison (he stuck his head in the toilet to communicate with the other Zionist political prisoners through the pipes, and told each other stories from the early days of the Yishuv.) that I think would have really added to the piece, but I had space restraints.

This is the last issue this year, and the editor gave me 500 words for an English column. Hopefully next year we’ll get a whole page, or a newspaper of our own. I’m not sure yet if i want to devote my energies to this, or that newspaper of my own that i spoke of earlier.

Without further ado:

“So, what are you doing for Yom Ha’atzmaut?”

It’s a question I’ve been asked more and more often the past few days, and find myself asking others the same. For Israelis, it seems to be a conversation point, but for Olim Chadashim like me, it seems to be more of a probe; a question of relevance masking the underlying true inquiry: How do you celebrate this thing?

Let me explain. Every immigrant has his or her unique and special path they took to get here. Whether it was an American coming to Israel for a year and deciding to stay, or somebody from the former Soviet Union escaping communism, or a child of yordim in Australia who decides that his place is the land that his parents abandoned, they all have one thing in common; they have little or no tradition in celebrating these early summer “Zionist Holidays” of Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, Yom Ha’atzmaut, and Yom Yerushalayim. Sure, they might have somehow celebrated on their own, but not in ways that Israelis are used to. Lighting fireworks on the fourth of July or burning effigies in England on Guy Fawkes Day pales in comparison.

Americans march in the Israel Day Parade (Incidentally, not on Yom Ha’atzmaut) in New York, some people light candles on Yom HaShoah, but there is nothing akin to the unique Israeli experience of these holidays, in Israel. A siren is blown on Yom HaShoah, and the country freezes to a standstill. The country similarly stops a week later on Yom Hazikaron. Then, suddenly, the atmosphere changes -instantaneously, as the sun sets- from somber recollection to rejoiced celebration, as the day changes into Yom Ha’atzmaut and we celebrate our independence. Then, a few weeks later, we celebrate the redemption of Jerusalem, and its return to Jewish control for the first time in two millennia. It’s all a very new and fresh experience for some of us.

Imagine stepping off the plane for your first time in Israel, kissing the ground (though of course with the new terminal this is impossible) and then hearing the siren. You’ve never heard the siren before, you’ve never even heard of the siren before. Is it an air raid? Is it a war? Why is everyone stopping?

Or looking out your window in Jerusalem on a summer night and seeing throngs of Hesder boys, numbering in the thousands, in white shirts and blue jeans, dancing and marching all through the night until finally converging at the Western Wall for break-of-dawn morning prayers. Again, Yom Yerushalayim is not something most Jews of the Diaspora experience. I don’t think anyone from my high school in Baltimore ever thought about dancing their way to the Kotel, let alone knew what day Yom Yerushalayim was.

Try to see it all for the first time! Pretend you didn’t grow up with it, picture yourself celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut while truly understanding what life outside Israel is like, and what it lacks. I feel like Israelis miss out on the incredibleness of these days; sometimes, you need to be a real oleh chadash to appreciate Israel.

Star Wars

The latest Star Wars premiers soon in America. I’m definitely going to see it here, and I’m trying to get people together to watch the original trilogy, and the first two of the prequel trilogy. Of course there were all the usual stories in the press about crazy people lining up dressed as Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker, and Aunt Beru (just kidding. Nobody ever dresses up as Aunt Beru) (Read them here, here, and here). That last link is the webpage of a group that has been standing in line in front of the Chinese theatre where all the Star Wars premiers have been until now… and they’re still standing there even though George Lucas has announced that the premier won’t be playing there.

This brings me to the point I wanted to make. I’m not the first guy to say that the new episodes suck, and can’t compare to the first ones, and blah blah blah. The truth is, I think the original Star Wars, episode four, kinda sucked, and is only worth watching to lay the groundwork for Empire Strikes Back. I also thought that Attack of the Clones was a good movie, and that Revenge of the Sith looks like it’s going to be great. The thing is, you know how you can talk to your parents, or older friends (I’m assuming that most of my readership here are in their teens or twenties), and they talk about the day they went to see Star Wars, or one of the others in the original trilogy. Do you remember fondly the day you went to see attack of the clones? Or any movie, for that matter. Our generation doesn’t have a movie that defines us, that we worshipped (unless of course you’re David Zacks, in which case your movie is Almost Famous). Those guys standing in line waiting for the movie to show are a relic from a time that no longer exists.

On a lighter note, apparently Darth Vader has started a blog.

Changes to the Blog

Cool things I have added to the blog:

First and foremost, blogrolling. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a blog. It’s one line of HTML, and it lists all your links. The cool thing is, that once you have blogroll code on your site, you can arrange it so that you can add links with only one click.

Second, I toned down the advertisements. They were getting in the way. I’m actually bound by contract not to discuss them or how much I get paid (very very little… this is just an experiment… still, feel free to click on the links). I replaced them with unobtrusive links, right on top of the blogroll.

Third, and I think the coolest thing, I signed up with Amazon Associates, so now I have a search box, and I can post links to amazon.comin my blogs. I get a (miniscule) cut from every sale.

I’m not planning on turning a profit off of this blog, but I’m looking at it as a sort of practice at running a website with all the tools I think I’ll need for later, when I eventually start an online newspaper (hopefully next year, if I can find enough other people willing to write for me).

(If anyone can figure out how to change the font color on my blogroll links, comment it or email me. Thanks. I feel like an idiot; this sort of thing ought to be easy, but I honestly can’t figure it out.)

Spark in Bar Ilan

You know, I always think of things during the day that I want to blog about, and then when I sit down at the computer I draw a blank. So I started trying to write down my thoughts, even just quick one liners to jog my memory. So now, sitting at my computer, looking at the stuff I have here to remind me of really sharp and interesting observations, or funny anecdotes from the last week, I realize it’s all crap. I’ll have to wing it.

Does anyone remember thespark.com back in its heyday? Before they realized that sparknotes was the more profitable section of their website and decided to go with that 100% and cram all the cool original spark material into a little corner renamed sparklife they had awesome science projects. Science projects, you ask? Yes. A brief rundown:

The Stinky Feet Diaries. For thirty days, the author lived with plastic bags over his feet, adhered to the skin with vaseline, and fastened with rubber bands to be absolutely airtight. He only removed the bags once a day to photograph the specimens, and to document how they felt. Absolutely fascinating. I liked his entry on the day he decided to go jogging.

The Fat Project. He offered a man and a woman a lot of money (I forget exactly how much) to try to put on 30 pounds in a month, and chronicle their journey. There were charts and graphs, and photos every day documenting their progress. All very scientific. The guy made it, just barely, and only by chugging two 1-gallon jugs of water. The girl came close, but only gained something like 25 pounds. They gave the girl the money anyways.

The Date My Sister project. This was a little creepy. His sister, a desparate late 20’s year old, came to visit him for a month, and, without her knowing it, he put hidden cameras all over the apt, and voice recorders. Then he tried setting her up with every guy he knew, and would disguise himself and take pictures of the dates. It was very weird, and she eventually found one of the cameras, figured the whole thing out, and called their mom to complain. Then the mom called the “scientist,” and everything went to hell. He posted it all, though.

There were a few others, too, that I don’t remember. The point is, they’re no longer available on spark, which is a shame. I want to do something like that in Bar-Ilan, though. Anyone have any ideas for a wacky science project? Something that would keep readers interested as it progressed.

Yom HaShoah

Sometimes situations or events compel me to blog about something I’m not really in the mood to blog about. So because today is Yom HaShoah, I have to talk about the holocaust.

Some people don’t understand why Yom HaShoah is celebrated at all. I am one of them, but I’ve been speaking to a few people, who’ve helped me shed some light on the matter.

First of all, the Holocaust can be looked at as one of the causes of the Jewish State. To a completely non-traditional Jew, with no religious attachment to Israel, the Holocaust is needed to justify the Jewish homeland. We need a day that can be celebrated by religious and non-religious Jew alike, to keep that belief alive, and that precludes Tish’a B’Av which would have been rejected by the secular. So that’s why we have Yom HaShoah.

Why specifically on this day? The date the secular Zionists wanted was the 15th of Nissan, the first day of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt. Unfortunately, this date somewhat with Pesach and all, so what we have now, like pretty much everything else in Israel, is a compromise where nobody is happy. The 27th of Pesach is a date that falls somewhere in the middle of the uprising, displeasing the secular Zionists, while still managing to piss off the chareidim by declaring a day of mourning during Nissan (Even though there’s already Sfirat HaOmer, but whatever.). Only the National Zionists were happy, because they’re always eager to compromise religious beliefs in favor of Zionism, lest the chilonim think chareidi of them.

The Warsaw Ghetto uprising is, I think, I good way to memorialize the Holocaust, rather than, say, the day the Final Solution was signed (Actually, the 9th of Av), because it singles out the Holocaust as not the only national tragedy in our past (there are plenty.) but as the only one where we effectively fought back at all. I think that that is the more significant aspect of the Holocaust, more than the sheer weight of numbers of victims.

In Leon Uris’s book on the ghetto uprising Mila 18, there’s an incredible offhand observation that he makes, but if you read too fast you might miss it. The Warsaw ghetto, for April and May of 1943, was the first autonomous Jewish state, with its own government, and with its own army! This, I think, entitles the day to be called Yom HaShoah VeHaGevurah.

California Wines

Fun thing to do at the duty free counter in the Paris airport: Go to the wine section and say to the guy “M’excusez-vous, prenez-vous des vins de la Californie?”

I got back to Israel yesterday. I went straight to Jerusalem, where I met Moshe and his family at Norman’s (Funny thing to tell a taxi driver you get att he airport after you load in all of your luggage. Take me to Normans! (What, you live there?)). I ate a 500gr hamburger (with the bread) in under 5 minutes, and then we ran (literally ran) to mincha. Through a muddy field.

I hate thinking of neat and interesting things to write about (at least I think they’re neat and interesting) all day, and then totally blank out when it comes time to sit and write. Usually it comes back to me, this time it just isn’t. Maybe I just need to get back into that Israel spirit.