Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Tzipi has chosen a meaningful, relevant theme, expressed it through a very original content choice, and written it in a style both original and pleasing. Add that to the humor in realism we have come to expect from her, and we have a real winner on our hands.
I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't yet managed to get their hands on a copy (well, what other excuse would you have for not reading it yet?) so I'll just touch on a couple of points:
While the format (not your typical narrative!) took some getting used to and seemed potentially annoying at first, I ended up applauding that choice. Besides for lending an original character to the book, it keeps the reader moving along at a smooth clip. Between the dialogue, writings, and narrative, you never get that feeling of dragging through the print.
Telling a story through the thoughts of a person with selective mutism is an extremely original and quite ingenious way to examine greater themes of communication and relationships. Very, very clever. However, I'm a trifle concerned that it may be too clever. Not because Tzipi didn't weave her themes well enough, but because I don't trust the majority of the intended audience to appreciate the subtle messages. And although Tzipi has been very careful in her portrayal of selective mutism, the case in point is rather unusual, so I wonder if it mightn't inadvertently deepen misperceptions of the condition. Hopefully I'm just underestimating the depth of the average reader...
Of course, you can't really judge a book until you've reached the end; the entire journey hangs on the point of arrival. Fear not -- the final pages of Invisible Me are both satisfying and definitely un-cliché! The only problem is that it is liable to leave readers shouting "Encore!" So, Tzipi, thanks for the read but I hope your pen is still moving merrily along!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
10. Practice signing with chosson's last name
8. Introduce self to mirror as Mrs. Chosson
7. Examine engagement ring from every lighting angle (note: for those who do not wear rings until after the wedding, other jewelry items may be substituted)
6. Doodle monogram designs for wedding invitations
5. Cross off one day on calendar. Calculate how many hours left until chuppah. (computerized aids available for those BoSes too unfocused to perform these operations)
4. Update anyone who will listen (alt: anyone you see) on the nicest thing your chosson did today.
3. Post saccharine messages of love on chosson's facebook page, if applicable (thanks, Babysitter, never would have thought of that on my own ;-) ) For those without facebook, I suppose you will just have to compose sweet, handwritten love letters on flower-scented stationery?
2. Find out chosson's preferences in food, dish patterns, etc. Hire FBI agent if necessary.
1. For the teacher kallahs, life must go on, so don't forget to prepare your kallah classes! See next post for details.
Posted by Bas~Melech at 6:32 PM
Friday, September 4, 2009
As I read, I started off making mental notes of powerful lines to quote in this review. But I may as well have just re-typed the book. There is profundity on every page.
The diary entries are presented with the 6 writers in a predictable rotation, which helps the reader keep track of who's writing. The workshop consisted of monthly meetings with writing assignments in between, so the chapters are organized by month. With the exception of a brief introduction to each chapter, we don't really hear the group leader's voice, although her notes to the members are included in the appendix. I would have liked to see them included sequentially with the students' writings; it would improve the flow and help the reader to make the connection between what was going on in the group and the individual diary entries. It would also be nice to have just a bit more detail in the session notes of each meeting; although I understand that the focus of the book is the students' voices, I was left wondering what prompted the changes in their thoughts (brainwashing?!) Perhaps to the same end, future editions might include an appendix or companion booklet of inspirational/informational materials for those readers who might want to step further into the experience but might not know how or where to start.
One more cautionary note: Although the book is thin and easy to read straight through, I don't recommend it. It needs time to be digested. Due to intervening circumstances, I had to read it one half at a time, and I definitely enjoyed it more after the break. The changes in the writers' attitudes did not occur overnight and it's difficult to believe when reading them overnight.
Overall, this book is an excellent addition to the Jewish library and I hope it becomes something of a classic. I think many can gain from reading it, adults and youth alike. Whether or not the reader makes any immediate or lasting changes to their observance, I believe the strongest, most important message is bound to penetrate: Everyone struggles. And it's OK to grow anyway.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Regret and envy. The feelings that come forth now, looking back. Regret that there were moments I squandered when maybe I could have given more. Regret that there were still so many special people I hadn't gotten to know better. Envy of the youngsters just about to embark on their first Simcha experience with all the moments still theirs to grab. Envy of those who truly live up to their special reputation.
Next time I walk those hallowed grounds, iy"H, will be as an outsider. Someone else will have taken over my job, my bed, my rotation shift. I won't recognize three quarters of the staff and they will never know that I spent n years doing their job. It'll hit hard.
Don't know why I'm getting so maudlin about this. After all, I disinvited myself. See, they have this policy, "Ein me'arvin Simcha b'simcha." Which is what this whole post was going to be about. I guess the fact that my thoughts are still in camp is part of my answer to SD's dare (bet, whatever.) Though I wouldn't turn down any iced coffee, anyhow...
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Through the maze of life
if only we could see
What waits around the corner
an unknown mystery
"Mommy!" cries the child,
teary and alarmed
While just around the corner
she waits with open arms
Life is filled with fear
of what might lie ahead
But what's around the corner
might not warrant dread
Check your watch again
still no bus in sight
But just around the corner
it's waiting at a light
The path on which you walk
seems so grim and bleak
But just around the corner
lie answers that you seek
I wish that I could show you
what the future holds
But turning 'round the corner
is the only way to know
It may yet be a journey
or perhaps it's very near
But I'll walk you to that corner
to where the coast is clear!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I haven't posted about tznius in a while, but being a Bas~Melech, it's always close to my heart. In fact, it's an issue that weighs heavily in the lives of Jewish girls and women everywhere, yet much of the literature on the subject is preachy, patronizing, or just irrelevant. Today I'm holding a book that promises to be different.
6 Diaries is based on the journals kept by a group of actual Jewish teenage girls as they participated in what seems to have been a kind of tzniyus support group. Its aim appears to be simply to express and share what tzniyus means to real people.
The paperback weighs in at a respectable yet manageable 200 pages. Cover design is quite clean and contemporary, though a little crowded on the spine and back. Nothing a teen should be embarrassed to be seen with (Oz vehadar, anyone?) though that doesn't guarantee anything ;-). The six teen narrators are denoted by little icons -- I wouldn't have minded a change in font as well, but I can appreciate the uniformity too. Nothing particularly distinctive about the font choices overall, but very readable and enough white space all around. Not something I take for granted in frum publications. Though the diary entries vary in length, all are rather brief, so I anticipate a smooth, easy read (like a blog! One of the many things I love about Miracle Ride, too). Overall a very nice-looking book.
What's that? You don't judge a book by its cover? You just don't have any appreciation for the graphic designers in this world, do you. Oh well, then, give me a couple of days to read and then come back for the full review. Stay tuned!
Friday, August 7, 2009
When I tried to lean on you
you let me fall
When I tried to follow you
you led me wrong
When I tried to talk to you
you closed your ears
When I tried to be with you
Now you wonder where I've gone
Why don't you understand
that you've taught me that I have to
hold my own hand
Maybe when I finish learning
to stand on my own feet
I'll come back to you and try again
And you can lean on me
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
So I was learning a little in preparation for Shavuos, and of course the classical question arose about why "naaseh" (doing) comes before "nishma" (hearing).
My first thought was, "Hey! My kids do that!" You know, all the little guys with ADHD: Take action before listening to the instructions. Leap before you look. Naaseh before nishma. Gotta give those kids some credit.
I was going to inject some deeper meaning here, but I got busy, so I'm just posting this to get it out of drafts. Good for a grin, if not much else. Sorry. For deeper meaning on naaseh v'nishma, I think one of the Naaleh.com shiurim discussed it. Maybe this one. Speaking of which, I highly recommend Naaleh.com -- lots of free downloadable shiurim on all different topics, pretty well organized with tags and all.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Habitat: While shadchan-sightings have been reported in such diverse locations as wedding halls and supermarkets, you are most likely to find them in their natural settings such as homes or offices. These tend to cluster around breeding grounds for singles such as large institutions of learning, which keep the P. Shadchantus supplied with materials vital for their survival in the wild.
Technique: Those wishing to observe P. Shadchantus relatively unnoticed should attempt to blend in with the surroundings as much as possible. This can be achieved by a straightening of the hair and purchase of a post-Bais-Yaakov uniform, combined with a standard schooling history and a career as a preschool assistant. However, in order to obtain personal benefit from taming the specimen, it is necessary to approach one's quarry at close range and attract its attention. While specific techniques may vary according to the subspecies and region, which will be noted later, certain measures of preparation are always wise before beginning a field maneuver: One should equip with copious quantities of green-tinged presidential portraits, slip gracefully into a size 2 skirt, acquire a letter of acceptance to a kiruv or special ed camp, and identify all scholarly and saintly ancestry.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Ok, ok, I confess. Last post's survey was merely an excuse to share this with you. Only the pictures didn't come out good enough to post, so this is basically from memory.
University restrooms seem to garner a classier grade of graffiti; the very walls can serve as one large, anonymous network. Where else can you get such food for thought in a less appropriate setting?
Take this sighting, which I tried to photograph for y'all but my phone just didn't do justice:
What would it take for you to see your dream as a reality?
Endurance & $$$
Psychosis ~or~ drugs
Posted by Bas~Melech at 4:12 PM
Sunday, June 7, 2009
I've had the next post typed for a while already, but I think it would be more meaningful if I posed this question to you first:
What would it take for you to see a dream as a reality?*
Or, for the more visual among you:
P.S. Sorry about sporadic absences, for those of you actually following here. Blogger has not been kind to me lately. Also experiencing lapses of inspiration...
* Pardon the poor wording and bear with me, please.
Posted by Bas~Melech at 4:27 AM
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I think I'll stay
"How old are you, Mommy?"
asked my little niece.
said my sister
as my mother had said
to her and me
and my grandmother had said
Because you don't need years or numbers
to measure time
when you're a mother.
Instead your days pass
with upsherins and bar mitzvas
with the baby eating table food
and the little one's first day of school.
I think I'll just stay
So I don't need to count
the days of waiting
the months of hoping
the years of getting older
and nothing else.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
So, did you plant a tree today? Take a shorter shower? Recycle?
My workplace spent a portion of the day in relative darkness, conserving electricity. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day so those of us endowed with good windows pulled up the shades and carried on as usual while the rest conducted lessons and other... er, educational activities in the yard. I then spent the remainder of the afternoon fumigating the world while all but parked on the highway. Sigh.
As Earth Day 2009 draws to a close, I leave you with a fitting passage that I stumbled upon right in time. A green thumbs up to the first comment to name the author; two thumbs for the context as well:
The trouble with most forms of transport [he thought,] is basically that not one of them is worth all the bother. ...the problem [had been] with cars. The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm's way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with, and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly (and even this is questionable -- B~M) from one place to another -- particularly when the place you arrived at had probably become, as a result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e., covered with tar, full of smoke, and short of fish.
Posted by Bas~Melech at 11:45 PM
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
One soft voice hails from a man for whom this is perhaps his third blessing of the sun.
"I waited 28 years for this, I'll wait another 28 minutes if I have to."
And that settles it.
Chag kasher vesameach, everyone. Keep things in perspective!
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Dearest Aoc Gold,
It is with a heavy heart and a leaden keyboard that I write this post. I am so sorry it has come to this after our long and faithful relationship. I feel especially bad doing this to you, my most faithful commentator, which is why I'm bothering to write this at all even though no one else cares. In fact, that's part of the problem. I haven't posted in half a month, but does anyone notice? Do they comment? Do they even read?
I've noticed that bloggers destined for success gain their followings in no time at all. NMF#7, for instance, has been nominated for a Blogger's Choice barely half a year into her career. Little Sheep is even newer but she already appears to be building an empire. Bad4Shidduchim has been around the block by now but had her own club within the first few months, too. Four-month-old BoSD isn't doing too badly herself with 21 followers. The fact that I even know all this is just further proof that I need to spend less time in blogland. But the point is that it's been two and a half years for me, a quarter of a decade, so I'm well past my prime. It's time to start looking forward to... are there any blogger retirement homes?
Anyway, having had little to say for weeks now, I realize that I'm disappointing even you, my lone yet loyal commentator. To disappoint one's entire readership is the ultimate blogging failure. I didn't escape from real life only to meet my downfall in blogland. It's time to end the travesty.
I will miss you dearly but I'm sure you will keep on posting your insightful comments on my older posts, as they occur to you. I will leave those past posts up as a memorial testament to a bygone era and we can visit them together when we long for companionship.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
... if it's really a good thing that they punish Holocaust deniers.
You may be thinking I'm a creep right now. But when reading in the news about recent Holocaust denial sentences, it occurred to me that there are pretty serious punishments being handed down for denying something that the government thinks you should believe.
Don't get me wrong; I think it's terrible that people deny the Holocaust and I think these people are dangerous. But the thought of otherwise-democratic governments punishing people for promoting their beliefs also seems dangerous. It seems like the kind of thing the legal system should stay away from if you ask me.
Granted, the situation is different if the person is doing it in a deliberately agitating way, threatening people, or whatever. But my issue is with the simple fact that someone can be considered criminal based on what they choose to believe or not to believe. As a member of a nation that has often throughout history been persecuted for our beliefs, this seems like a worrisome breach of personal boundaries.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Less than one week after reading this post by Scraps, I found myself in Brooklyn. And hungry. So I strolled into the nearest familiar food purveyor and found the store empty (one of the advantages of keeping odd hours) but for two individuals embroiled in a heated conversation across the takeout counter. This was definitely a good time to mind one's own business, so I patiently skimmed the menu, mentally debating the relative appeal of various entrees, until the fellow behind the counter paused to ask what I wanted.
When I had successfully completed my transaction without becoming entangled in anyone else's affairs, I thanked the cashier and was about to beat a hasty retreat when the woman on my side of the counter pointed right at me and said, "See? She has manners, and I bet she's from In Town!" At which point, of course, I became inescapably involved in the skirmish, which at least I now understood.
"Oh yeah?" the cashier retorted, turning towards me. "Where are you from?"
"Uh, actually I'm from Near Town," I offered, inching towards the exit.
"SEE?!" exclaimed both combatants simultaneously, launching phase two of the battle to determine whether Near Town qualified as In or Out-of Town.
Patting myself on the back for successfully saving the face of Near Town, I ducked out of the line of fire once more.
And if you are still wondering who has better manners and where, in fact, Near Town falls, I leave you with the following maxims to guide your ruminations:
Town is in the eyes of the beholder.
Out-of-Town is as Out-of-Town does.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
My number one reccommended book of the semester is Reclaiming Youth at Risk (pictured at left) by Brendtro, Brokenleg, and Van Bockern (who graciously help uphold my tradition of reading works by people who belong in the performing arts.) This small, slim volume gets right to the point, completely bypassing current mainstream behavior management practices and presenting a strength-based model that actually makes sense. It's largely based on a Native American "Circle of Courage" which outlines four basic elements that a person needs in order to be well-adjusted (belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity). The idealized waxing about Native American society has to be taken with a grain of salt, but a little common sense will reveal that there is a lot of wisdom between these lines. The CoC model may seem impractical at first just because of its differentness, but I suggest reading it a second time with some specific individuals in mind -- you may be surprised to find how simple it is to create positive, respectful interventions for kids who have been failed by the system. Whether you're a teacher, parent, or just a friend -- Read it. (I'm done with my copy for now...)
Stay tuned for more reviews... but first, I need to do some more reading...
Monday, March 2, 2009
like a mismatched sock
forgotten at the bottom of the heap.
like the salty tear
that slips out as I fall asleep.
like the burning scorch
as I blow-dry my uncovered hair.
like the ringing phone
when I call to remind you I'm here.
like the jagged edge
of another friend's broken plate.
I take on the world
with only G-d as my mate.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Today was a rare holiday in Shidduchville as Bad4S discussed one of the merits of dating; namely, meeting people with varied perspectives and knowledge bases. Being that dates are often hard to come by, I've had to come up with alternate methods of mind-broadening. Here I present a cost-benefit comparison of two popular techniques, applied in various scenarios:
1. Potential mind-broadener turns out to be a jerk
Dating: Attempt to restrain tongue until jerk departs, then explain to shadchan why you don't want to go out again even though you're really not "picky."
Blogging: Close window. Alternatively, leave anonymous snarky comment and then close window. Go on with life immediately.
2. Balanced view of perspectives desired
Dating: Find datee, screen for dateworthiness, wait for mutual approval. Clear evening, dress up, do hair and makeup. Hear one perspective. Repeat until desired breadth of mind is attained.
Blogging: Post controvertial bait regarding the prospective perspectives. Wait for perspectators to comment. Alternatively, search blogs for desired topic and read fifty perspectives in one sitting.
3. Perspective needed is held by persons of differing religious affiliation
Dating: Market self to shadchan outside of known community (if applicable). Convince someone completely different than you to spare an evening entertaining you with their perspectives. Risk damage or destruction of your chances of ever again being introduced to someone actually compatible for marriage.
Blogging: See scenario #2; adapt as needed.
I'm starting to see why most of us spend more evenings blogging than dating...
And while you're out there getting broadened, do remember not to be so open-minded that your brains fall out, a severe yet oddly prevalent side-effect of many mind-broadening techniques.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Bad4 and I are blogging jointly about the Team Lifeline experience at serandez.blogspot.com -- find us there! The timing is a bit off as per our internet access, but this is about as live as it gets. Now I'm going to rest up because the run starts in just 7 hours!!!
Posted by Bas~Melech at 11:04 PM
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Today I witnessed history.
Today I sat among a wide sample of Americans as they prepared to welcome their new president.
Today I held my hand over my heart and felt its steady beat as children of all nationalities pledged allegiance to one flag.
Today I saw Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream come true as little black boys and little black girls held hands with little white boys and little white girls, and it wasn't a performance; they were just playing.
Today I got choked up when an older, white woman said to her African-American, Latino, and Asian-American students, "You don't remember segregation... I wish I could make you understand how important today is!"
No, Obama is not my icon and I know that racism is not dead. However, one cannot deny that our society has made a lot of progress in the recent past. Despite the prejudices that do exist, and we all know they do, we as a whole have managed to put aside our differences enough to work together respectfully. The recent election shed light on the fact that minorities compose the majority, and that the United States of America is and always has been in essence a diverse nation.
Yes, today was definitely an historical landmark, which means, as always, that it is a time for us to reflect on what it means to us. To us, the light unto the nations. Have we lived up to that name?
Can we, too, put aside our differences and unite to achieve our common goal?
Can we see past the externals and realize that we are essentially the same in everything that matters?
Can we reach out to embrace instead of pushing away?
Can we overcome past hurts to build a brighter future?
You have my answer.
(Which, for some reason, still reminds me more of Bob the Builder than Barack Obama... this is what having kids will do to you. Not that I have any, just sayin'...)
Posted by Bas~Melech at 11:06 PM