Wednesday, December 29, 2004

When the Brain Fails

Since the age of fifteen, I have repeatedly been told that I “think too much”. It’s true. I use, and probably misuse, my brain a great deal. But in the past few days, I find that I can’t get my brain to really work. I just can’t wrap my brain around the reality of the SE Asian tsunami disaster.

I know that it’s tragic. I read the articles and the heart-breaking testimonials and I look at the pictures. I watch the death toll climb ever higher and I read the predictions of how much higher it is expected to climb. I read the words, but am having an extraordinarily difficult time comprehending the true meaning behind them. The numbers are so large that it’s very hard to feel the impact of a tragedy like this, especially since it’s taking place on the other side of the world. Somehow it’s easier to feel the tragedy of a terrorist attack in Israel or even the sensationalist stories that often pass for local news than it is to feel the catastrophe of a natural disaster like this.

Maybe there is no way to truly understand this. Maybe all I can say, whether its appropriate in a situation like this or no, baruch dayan ha’emet.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Deconstructing Knishmas

After a most lovely shabbos, spent in the excellent company of one of the cutest couples I know, I got all dolled up to go to Knishmas. I went primarily because I have friends in 2 of the bands, and because another friend was a major mover-and-shaker in putting together this whole event. I got all dolled up because I hadn't gone out in a very long time, and needed the emotional pick-me-up that comes with knowing I look fantastic. Next time, however, I think I'm going in a ratty denim skirt and a sweatshirt.

No one told me that 'Knishmas' translates to 'Attack of the Strange Men' in some African dialects.

It started out just fine. I got there around 9:30pm, and schmoozed with my friends. At 11:00pm, my volunteer shift began. And so did the insanity.

First there was the guy who I'd gone on a pretty dismal date with a while back, who approaches me to ask if he could introduce me to his single older brother. This is slightly odd to me, but actually pretty sweet. It’s nice to know that he doesn't hold any grudge because I don't want to go out with him a second time. But then he stands and flirts with me for a full five minutes, after I'd consented to meeting his brother.

Next we have the nebbishy guy who's introduced himself to me on at least two other occasions. So when he comes up to me this time, saying "Hi, I'm [insert name here]," I try to put him more at ease by saying something to the effect of "Yes, I remember you. We've met before." Not that I have any interest in this man whatsoever, but I hate seeing anyone that nervous. His response? He literally runs away. So much for being gentle.

Then we encounter a guy at the bar, though the credit for this goes entirely to my very cute and less-than-sober married friend. After taking my clipboard away from me, insisting that she would get people to sign up on the mailing list, she starts talking to these two guys at the bar, chatting up the bands and the Kfar Jewish Arts Center. When she mentions that her husband is friends with some of the musicians, one of the Bar Guys looks right at me and asks, "And you? Is your husband friends with the band?" To which my dear friend says, "Oh, she doesn't have a husband! She's single. But isn't she cute?" But the fun doesn't stop there. It keeps going until I'm blushing so much that it's visible in the dim lighting of the bar, and one of the Bar Guys even comments on it. And then my married friend leaves me alone with these guys.

While still stuck talking to Bar Guy #2 (#1 having walked off, which probably means that #2 flashed some subtle signal calling dibs on me), another man approached and starting making absolutely incomprehensible comments to me. For example: I'm wearing a Kfar button, like a good little volunteer. The man looks at the button and says, “What’s Kfar?” I explain that Kfar is a Jewish Arts Center, which brings different Jewish artists and musicians to Chicago. His response, “So I guess I can really express myself now, huh?” Not having any clue what he means by that, I reply, ‘Umm…if that’s what floats your boat, go for it.” Bizarre Man then says, in a very explanatory tone of voice, “Well, you said it was a Jewish arts center.” Still not understanding what the devil he’s talking about, I answer, “Yes. ‘Kfar’ means ‘village’.” He then says, “Right, like a community,” and looks at me expectantly, as though all should now be clear to me. I nod very slowly, since I really have no idea what he’s getting at. Bizarre Man gets frustrated, harrumphs, mutters “Whatever” and stalks off. I still haven’t the foggiest clue what he was talking about.

I finally manage to extricate myself from Bar Guy #2, and seek refuge with my friend Sara. As we're chatting, a man who, judging by the amount of grey in his beard, is easily 20 years older than we are approaches and starts conversation by asking, "So, are you guys single?" Red flag #1. When Sara says that she’s seeing someone, he keeps looking at her and talking to her. Red Flag #2. Finally, he asks our names. The fact that our names rhyme strikes me as very amusing. Picture it: Grey Beard approaches two young, trendily garbed 20-something girls in a bar, and starts hitting on them. When asked their names, they answer “I’m Sara.” “I’m Cara.” It was something out of a bad sitcom. He should have known to just walk away then. For some reason, though, he decided to stay there and try to carry on a conversation. He, too, says something utterly incomprehensible, which contains the words “rhapsody” and “orgy” . When Sara and I don’t really respond, he says, “Come on, that was funny. Right?” (Note: If you have to point out that something is funny, it probably isn’t) Having long since lost the desire to be polite, I simply say, “Well, it was different.” After a few more moments of Grey Beard trying to pull a conversation out of two women who are blatantly not interested, I seek refuge at the volunteer table, knowing that Sara can now escape to her boyfriend.

At 1:00am, my shift ended, and I was free to ensconce myself safely among my friends for the rest of the evening. Again, I find myself in the dilemma of choosing between being honest and being polite. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I don’t want to lead anyone on. By Sunday morning, I found myself wondering what the best answer is, when someone you’re not interested in asks if you’re single. So far, I’ve come up with:
· I’m a robot, and prohibited from mating with humans.
· I’ve taken a vow of celibacy.
· Are you the Keymaster?
· With all the voices in my head, I’m never actually single.

Any suggestions?

Happy Happy! Joy Joy! #13

And the simchas keep on coming...

Mazel tov to Hillel Morris and Rachel Goode on their engagement!

I realize that the people who read my blog fall into two categories, with respect to announcements like this one: 1) They know Hillie and Rachel, and therefore already know of their engagement, or 2)They have no idea who these fine people are, and therefore aren't really affected by this announcement. So my posting it doesn't really serve any purpose.

Except for the fact that it makes me very happy. And this is my world, so I make the rules.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Ani Mevina!

If I were a student at George Washington University, and I wanted to take Hebrew courses, I'd place out of Beginning Hebrew. I'd be in the Intermediate course.

Turns out that you can download a PDF of their placement exam, including the key to scoring your answers. Part One was pretty easy. Part Two was much harder, but I did manage to understand a half-page essay (no vowels!) and answer all the comprehension questions correctly.

I have no idea what any of this really means, but it still feels pretty cool.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

It's Not About XMas Anymore

There are many people in the blogosphere commenting on the alleged "Death to Christmas" campaign, a.k.a. Anti-Christmas/Jews Run the World/We Hate Anyone Who's Not Circumcised movement, so it seems like this week is the perfect time to toss in my 2 shekels. I wasn't going to say anything...until a certain event took place this evening, which simply crossed the line.

As background, let me just say that I don't really care too much that the entire city of Chicago turns red and green this time of year (much like Santa's brain in that old carolling classic "I Found the Brains of Santa Claus"). Truth be told, I rather like the little white lights that magically appear on the trees in the week following Thanksgiving. They're pretty. I don't care if people wish me a Merry Christmas or a Happy Kwanzaa or even a Felicitious Festivus (not that anyone ever has. Those ill-mannered fiends!). I take advantage of the after-Xmas sales just like everyone else. Now, I can't say I actually enjoy the deluge of Christmas commericals, posters, and men on street corners dressed as Kris Kringle, but it certainly doesn't offend me. After all, I live in a city, state, and country that is predominantly Christian. What else would I expect?

There is, however, one aspect of the Christmas Craze that drives me up the wall: uber-shmaltzy Christmas music being pumped through the speakers of every coffee shop and retail store imaginable. It's not the fact that it's Christmas-related that really gets to me. It's the fact that it's just plain bad music. Even the radio station that I sometimes listen to at work has started interspersing bad renditions of Christmas songs into their shows. Normally, though, I forget the bad song as soon as it ends.

Tonight, that all changed. Tonight, Starbucks did the unthinkable. They not only played absurdly bad Christmas music, but also absurdly bad music that should never be played in a business that is trying to encourage return patronage. The squeaky soprano singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" was bad enough. And then it just got worse. The strains of "I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly" soon assaulted my ears.

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly?! Have they already run out of gimmicky Xmas tunes, that they have to resort to this? And what kind of self-respecting artist records it? If it has been musically-inclined children singing it, it might have been cute enough to be tolerable. But no. This was a grown man, accompanied by a piano, singing with apparent seriousness the words, "I don't know why she swallowed the fly,/ perhaps she'll die."

I don't care about Christmas songs in public schools or mailmen wearing Santa caps. It's dreck like this that should really be illegal. The ACLU is fighting the wrong fight.

Happy Happy! Joy Joy! #12

Mazel tov to Uri and Deb on their engagement!

Normally, when people get engaged, their friends and families wish them every happiness that life has to offer. With some couples, however, you don't have to wish them anything. When two people are as perfect for each other as these two are, you already know their lives together will be filled with every happiness.

Moose, I give you two enthusiastic thumbs up. One for the adorable manner of proposing (though you always did have a knack for saying cute things at the perfect times), and one for having the good sense to propose.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Catch 22?

These past few days, I've been thinking a great deal about the difficulty that sometimes arises when you're faced with the choice of being honest or being kind. If honesty is going to hurt someone else's feelings, is honesty the best route? But what if, by being kind, you put yourself in a bad situation? Normally, I choose to be honest, although it has sometimes felt cruel. Yet now I find myself facing a situation that I thought had been resolved by my past honesty. So what do you do if you've tried being honest in the past, and the other person simply chooses not to believe you?

In the particular case I'm thinking of, being brutally honest leaves me feeling like a b*tch. Yet being kind makes me ultimately feel like a phony. So I can be honest, hurt someone else's feelings (though it's for their own good), and end up feeling horrible about myself. Or I can be kind, let the other person believe what they want to believe, and end up feeling horrible about myself.

I love having choices.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Anyone Ever Been To Arad?

I may have found a quality, and affordable, alternative Israel program, in the event that I do not get accepted to the Fellowship program. By 'alternative' I mean 'acceptable option', as opposed to 'outside of traditional or established institutions'. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The only problem I can find with this alternative program (aside from not being a Dorot fellowship) is that I'd be living in Arad for three months.

I was in Arad, albeit briefly, during my birthright trip. We spent one night in Arad, but only so that we were near enough to Masada to do the sunrise climb. My impression of Arad has been negatively impacted by two circumstances:
1) Those fiends made me wake up at 4:30am.
2) Two girls in my group left the hotel late at night, and made friends with some shady guys on the street. They then brought their new friends back to their hotel room. Here's where the stories began to diverge. In version A, the girls decided it was time for the Shady Dudes to leave. In version B, a nice guy in our group decided it was inappropriate for the Shady Dudes to be there. Either way, the Shady Dudes refused to go away. When Nice Guy tried to make them leave, one of the Shady Dudes pulled out a knife and stabbed him. Nice Guy was rushed to the hospital with a punctured lung, and was never seen by Bus #2 ever again.

So does anyone have any positive stories about Arad? Some kind of testimonial that people there don't wake up obscenely early and get stabbed on a routine basis?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

My First Shiur

I've been to many, many shiurim in my short life. I like shiurim. I may even go to one tonight. Last night, however, marked a very special occasion.

I gave a shiur.

Yep, that's right. Last night was my debut as a shiur-giver, an imparter of Jewish wisdom, a teacher of text. And I was horribly nervous. After all, I'd never done anything like this before. I give a 3 minute d'var every shabbos, but how was I going to fill 57 other minutes? More importantly, who am I to be teaching others in this kind of setting?

Turned out not to matter so much. There weren't really 'others' there. My shiur had a total attendance of 3: yours truly, the rabbi of the shul, and one shul member. Maybe my topic didn't sound very appealing (Religious Struggle: The Macabees and the Knesset). Maybe no one wanted to go out into the cold. Maybe no one else thought I was a very qualified imparter of Jewish knowledge. Maybe there was a really good episode of Law & Order on television.

At first, I was pretty embarrassed. I never thought that there would be a large crowd to begin with, but I thought more than 2 people would show up. But after I began, I realized that the tiny audience was actually a good thing. It gave us a chance to actually discuss the text in front of us. I went through the text, and watched the rabbi underline words and make notes in the margins of his copy. Talk about role reversal.

In the end, I think the shiur actually went very well. At least my two attendees seemed to go home happy. The rabbi even mentioned wanting to do a class on the Book of the Macabees again next year. We may do a shiur comparing Purim and Chanukah. So I wasn't a total failure. But I may just stick to my 3 minute d'var for a while.

A Day in the Life of Me

8:00-8:20am: Wait in the bitter cold winter weather as 3 full buses go by, while trying to ignore the pitying looks from the warm and toasty people on said buses.
8:50am: Despite being 20 minutes late to work, there is no coffee already made. Unwilling to wait for the pot to brew, I drink tea. Now I'm warm, but not awake yet.
9:30-11:00am: Staff meeting.
11:00am-1:00pm: Conference call. Since one of the participants is on a cell phone, I can't really hear if I put the phone on speaker. After 2 hours, the phone has become one with my ear.
1:00-2:00pm: Freedom! Fresh air! Caffeine! Over all too quickly.
2:00-4:00pm: I have no idea where these hours went. I know I sat in front of my computer. I ate. I devoted some attention to my split ends.
4:00-5:30pm: Conference call #2. At least I could put it on speaker. This allows me to multi-task: I can listen, examine more split ends, edit a few documents, send some emails, and blog at the same time.

Later tonight: Stay in and do laundry or schmooze with Jews? Only time will tell...

Service Announcement

She makes you laugh. She makes you think. She's an amazingly descriptive writer. She's Jewish. She makes Harry Potter references.

No, she's not me.

She's Chayyei Sarah, and the latest addition to my blogroll.

Welcome to my world, Sarah. Your passport is in the mail.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Random Question of the Week

"Hey it true you once dated a Canadian?"

(By the way, Moose, I'm assuming you've fled back to your mother country or have been kidnapped by Peruvian midgets. Those are the only reasons I can think of for why you have yet to return my belated b-day phone call.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Sun Has Set...

...and that means it's Chanukkah!

To all of you who have ever ventured into my life and my world, I wish you a joyous chag. As a very wise friend of mine told me not too long ago, this time of year is one of miracles, light and happiness.

Chag Sameach!

Word of the Week


Go look it up, and then use it in a sentence.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Application Update

Essay #1: First Draft- Done!
Essay #2: Third Draft- In Progress
Essay #3: Second Draft- Done!
Essay #4: First Draft- Done!
Resume: First Draft- Done!

I'm on a roll, baby! I may even make my self-imposed December 17th deadline.

To my darling friend and editor...THANK YOU! I could not do this without you.

Weekend Report

It was a very quiet kind of weekend here in Cara's World.

I had a nice family Shabbat dinner with my parental units and Big Brother (plus Allie's uber-cute puppy), and a nice family Shabbat lunch with Joe, Gila and Adin. I babysat for an extremely cute 15-month old motzei Shabbat. The only problem is that he went to sleep 25 minutes after his parents left, so we didn't have that much time to play.

Yesterday, I pretended to be a housekeeper in Big Brother's Trial Advocacy assignment/fake trial thingy. It was fun. The best part, though, was watching Big Brother be lawyerly. Move over, Jack McCoy!

Last night, I took a bubble bath and just had some me-time.

All relaxed and happy.

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Cult of the Apocrypha

The intern saw a copy of the Apocrypha on my desk this morning, and decided to make fun of me. In the course of our extremely silly conversation, we decided that "Apocrypha" actually sounds like great name for something cult-related, particularly since your average American probably has no idea what the Apocrypha really is. A new cult needs a leadership structure, however, so we decided on a few more details.

I am now the High Priestess of the Inner Sanctum of the Apocrypha. I will wear long flowy robes (I'm thinking a nice midnight blue or a deep wine red. Possibly with silver or gold embroidery), and induce people to become my minions, though we'll call them 'disciples' because it sounds better. I haven't quite decided what this cult is striving for, but it will probably be something akin to world domination. After all, there are enough peace-loving hippies out there already, so I should probably try to restore some kind of cosmic balance.

Right now I'm looking for attractive men to bring me goblets of wine and plait my hair. And to keep me entertained and cater to my every whim, of course.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Clever People Needed

I'm leading a class/discussion thingy at my shul in a week an a half. It's the second in a three-part series on Israel. Since my class falls on the last night of Chanukkah, I decided to do something Chanukkah related. I know, revoluntionary of me.

We're going to be looking at the Book of the Maccabees and applying it to modern-day Israel. Assimilation versus halacha, war, the few against the many, etc.

Here's the problem: I need a catchy title. So put on your shiny aluminum-foil thinking caps, and help me out here.