Tzniut? Hardly.  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , ,

One of the things that annoy me is when mitzvot become simply for show -- when people do not understand or appreciate the mitzva, but make a big show out of keeping it, as if that makes them holier.

When you are not in touch with the spirit of the law, of Torah, how can you honestly say that you are a frum Jew? When you do things just because everyone else does and your school or your parents expect it of you, how can you appreciate Judaism and feel convinced that what you are doing is right? What happens when you graduate, when you move out of your parents' house, and it is time for you to make your own rules and decide how you want to live your life? Will all the things you learned and implemented over the years be discarded because you never actually believed in them and only did them to satisfy others? Or will they be such an important part of who you are that you will not want to leave them behind?

As I was taking another walk to the library (only because a book I had put on hold was waiting for me), I saw a Jewish girl walking in front of me by herself and looking back over her shoulder.

Now, I know this girl. She is a few years younger than me, and she comes from a family I would call ultra-Orthodox. At any rate, they are more to the right than me. That is why I was shocked when I saw what she was wearing. The fact that her skirt was not covering her knees was not really what bothered me. I mean, you don't want to cover your knees? Fine, why should I care? It is none of my business what you want to do and what you don't, since it does not involve me. What did bother me was that part of her outfit were warm-looking black knee-socks -- the kind that you often see ultra-Orthodox girls wearing even in the unbearable heat of the summer. That in itself should not have bothered me much either; it was the combination of the short skirt and the knee-socks that irked me.

Is that not a bit hypocritical? To be wearing knee-socks in order to be tzniut, when your knees are anyway revealed? Would it not be better to wear a longer skirt, cover your knees, and ditch the knee-socks? After all, it is not as important to cover the leg below the knee as it is to cover the knee itself.

I am not the tzniut police. I do not care whether you are tzniut or not. What I do care about is that people have almost no common sense nowadays. As Voltaire said, "Common sense is not so common."

I hate the hypocrisy of people who think they are oh-so-frum just because they put on a pair of knee-socks. Please, girls. A pair of knee-socks does not make you a religious Jew any more than a wizard hat makes you a wizard. If you think tzniut is only about putting on a pair of knee-socks and pulling your hair up into a ponytail, you need to educate yourself a bit more.

Make Judaism real for yourself. Make it your reality. Don't make it into just a show, a masquerade.

A Few of My Favorite Things  

Posted by inkstainedhands in

This is my first meme (seven things I love), so thanks to Jewish Side of Babysitter for tagging me!

Writing out seven things I love is difficult.... I love so many different things and people, and I have so much in my life that I am grateful for, so it is hard to limit it to seven. Since I'm not including people though, let's see how I can pull this off.

  1. I love Judaism, and when I read how people converted into it, I feel so fortunate that I had it so easy. I was born Jewish and did not have to work for it as hard as they did. But what I am trying to work on is becoming a better Jew, learning more about my religion, understanding it better, and growing through it.
  2. This should come as no surprise: I love writing. (Looks like this is one of the things Babysitter and I share.) People sometimes ask me how old I was when I first started writing, but I can never confidently answer that question. I've been writing for as long as I can remember, and at each stage of life, my obsession with it has only intensified. When I was in first grade, I took a few sheets of printing paper, folded them together, stapled them down the middle, and announced to everyone that I was writing a book. I made a cover for it, proudly wrote my name on the front, and felt so accomplished. (Then, seven years later, I had the unforgettable experience of completing an actual book, self-publishing it, and seeing the beautiful result.) Writing is one of the things I am most passionate about. It is an outlet, a release, a means of expression, an art, a lifestyle. It is always in my thoughts as I live life. As I experience something, I create sentences in my head that would adequately express it.
  3. Besides for appreciating the ability to express myself, I love seeing others express themselves, whether it is through art, writing, music, or acting. It is no wonder then that I love literature, I love Broadway, I love music (and was miserable without it). For me, it is a way of connecting to other people through ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
  4. I love animals, and especially my precious dog and turtles. (I will soon be adding two rats to that list!) One of the things I love about animals is that they will never hurt you emotionally. Sure, they might bite or scratch, but you know it's not malicious. They don't have the same tendencies that humans do to viciously stab you in the back and leave emotional scars. All they want is that you should take care of them, give them your time and your love, and they will be grateful. And who doesn't appreciate unconditional love?
  5. I love learning, acquiring more knowledge, and getting a more thorough understanding of the world I live in and of its history.
  6. I love sitting in a Barnes & Noble or a Starbucks and watching people walk by. It's one of the things that inspires me as a writer. You can observe so many different types of people and create characters out of them. It's especially fun when the person is sitting down too and you can observe their behavior over an extended period of time.
  7. The seventh and final thing! I love taking and collecting photographs. (This became easier after my father got our first digital camera and I got the impression that I could take as many pictures as I want without being told I'm wasting film and money. Since then, you have no idea by how much the amount of pictures I took increased.) I love looking through photos, printing them, and making albums. (This might also be one of the things I love about animals -- you have so many opportunities to take pictures! They never say to you, "Oh, no, I don't look good! Don't take pictures of me!")

So that was the "seven things I love" meme. Now I get to tag seven people.... I'm tagging Blob of Something Different, Baal Tshuva Slowly, Subjugated Wife, Frum Skeptic, Dina, Chana (The Curious Jew), and Shlomo.

Trip to the Vet  

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It seems as if I have been taking a lot of trips lately.... Well, the latest one was to the veterinarian with my dog, Coco, for his yearly checkup and scheduled immunizations.

Sitting with Coco in a car for fifteen minutes is no easy feat. You can expect to get trampled, scratched, drooled on, and so on. Perhaps the most inconvenient thing is noticing his hair all over you once you get out of the car; I think I ended up looking as much like a furry dog as the dog himself.

Although he is much better behaved once he is in the office (perhaps because the metal tables and sterile smells are intimidating), you can expect him to somehow leave a trace there too. After getting his ears washed, he made sure to shake them out, so the end result was that there were little dog hairs and liquid flying through the air and covering all those standing near him (namely, my dad and me).

There was a different vet in the office today than usual, and Coco decided to give him a friendly hello by pressing his wet, sticky tongue to the vet's face. The vet exhibited all the signs of an animal lover: he did not object.

The conclusion is that my dog has received all the necessary immunizations, got his ears cleaned, and does not have to show up at the vet's for another year; so that's good.

I was just reviewing my pictures of him from Monday, and in at least half of them, he is sticking his tongue out and licking his nose. Here is one of the rare normal ones.

And just because I think it's funny:

50th Post!  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , , ,

Since starting my blog in April, I have received quite a lot of enjoyment from posting, recording some of my thoughts and feelings where others could read them, and expressing myself. After spending a number of years writing regularly in a journal and keeping it all to myself, it was a pleasant contrast to be able to post something and get others' thoughts and opinions.

In fact, I liked it so much that I managed to make 50 posts in less than four months! :] (Let's see how quickly I can get to 100!)

Thank you to all my readers, my followers, and my lurkers. And an extra big thank you to those who commented on my blog!

But since I cannot allow myself to make a separate post just to announce my post count, I will write about my library trip today.

For those of you who live in Brooklyn, the Kings Highway branch of the Brooklyn Public Library has just been reopened this month after being closed for renovations for a few years.

When I was younger, I used to go there regularly with my mother. I remember wishing I could spend hours there and just get lost among all those bookshelves brimming with books. There was nothing I could have liked more at that point. When it closed down, I was obliged to find a different branch within reasonable proximity, but I did not feel as comfortable there, and my library visits became less frequent. And as a result of my yearning for good books to read, I took up the habit of going to actual bookstores or going online and buying what I wanted. (Needless to say, my own personal library has expanded quite considerably over the past few years. In fact, I have two full bookcases in the house, and I am still adding!)

Since today seemed like a nice day for a walk, the skies being gray and overcast, with a pleasant breeze blowing about, I decided to take the opportunity to walk to the library. (And I do not like walking when the alternative is to get a ride, but since that was not an option, walk I did.) I felt the occasional raindrop on my face, and although my mother made sure I took an umbrella with me, I did not bother to use it with so little provocation.

I walked into the library and wandered around for a few minutes, trying to figure out the new layout. The assignment shelves used to be along the wall all the way to the right, but they were no longer anywhere near there. I finally located them -- as you walk into the library, you walk to your left and forward.

There, I proceeded to stand and behold the books with an expression of pure glee, as I noticed that they had all of those books I could not find in the Homecrest branch. I was absolutely delighted by the selection, and kept taking one book after another. At that point, my best friend called me. I shifted my handbag, my umbrella, and about ten books to my left hand in order to hold my phone, which, as you can imagine, was extremely uncomfortable and even somewhat painful. If I had a bit more common sense, I would have sat on one of the cute little wave benches (imagine this, only red and soft) and put my books down on a table, as my best friend suggested, but I continued browsing the shelves, adding even more books to my arms.

At last, after we concluded our conversation and I finished choosing my books, I did take advantage of the benches and the table. At that point, I probably had almost fifteen books. I layed them out on the table and, realizing that it would be impossible to read all of them in the next few weeks, decided I would pick out the ones I could not wait to read and leave the rest for my next visit to the library. I was finally able to narrow it down to nine books. (I don't think my parents want to know how many books I am taking with me.... It might border on insanity -- I don't know. But when your flight to Israel and your flight back to New York add up to nearly twenty-four hours, it is good to be equipped, especially for someone who has no interest in sleeping on a plane.)

Probably the funniest thing that happened in the library was when I was standing by the philosophy shelves. The space between the shelves in front of me and the shelves behind me was pretty narrow. While two people can squeeze past each other, when one person is busy browsing, it's impossible to get through. So I was standing there, looking at titles, and the young girl standing next to me turned her back to me, bent her head to look at the lower shelves, and started backing up... into my space. I don't think she even noticed me, because she seemed pretty preoccupied. Deciding not to say anything to her, I simply moved a few inches away from her so my feet would not be stepped on (especially since she did not exactly have the body of a model, if you know what I mean). And she continued backing up. I moved, and she backed up more, and I got out of her way again, and she backed up, until I was finally pushed out of the aisle altogether. If she had turned around and seen my face at that point, she would probably apologize profusely. But she only noticed me when I tried walking past her to return to where I had been looking at books before she had forced me to back out of the aisle. (She did, indeed, apologize then.)

So that was my library adventure. I also got a new library card, since my old one was apparently outdated, and I discovered the convenience of checking out your books yourself.

There was an older woman standing in front of me, and she asked me if I know how to do it. "This is my first time actually, so I'm not really sure," I replied. The young Jewish man wearing a kippah who was standing near us volunteered to demonstrate, checking out her books for her. She thanked him and left, while I then had the benefit of knowing the basics. So whoever you are, thank you!

I can't wait to go through these books!

And if any of you have something to say in reply to my previous post (on my Israel plans), please do! It would be much appreciated.


Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

So, I've been putting together a list of things and places to do or see in Israel, and it is becoming quite long. The internet is a wonderful resource, and I have found many interesting things. I would also like to thank Shlomo for his suggestions.

Here is what I have so far. Obviously, we will not be able to cover all of these things, and I will be constantly adding and removing items from the list based on how much time we have.

Please, please, please, leave some input. Are some of these places not worth visiting? Did I miss other interesting places that I should go to? Have you been to any of these places and have something to say about them? I need all the feedback I can get at this point, because I have never been to Israel before and I am not very good with planning.

Here's the list, most of which is categorized by region (except the first few things):

Masada + archaeological museum
The Dead Sea
Ein Gedi
Ashdod - visiting relatives
Kfar Kedem (Biblical Village)
Pioneer Museum (Kibbutz Yifat) (northern Israel)
Atlit detainee camp (Haifa)

The Antiquities of Hamat Geder
The Golan Archaeological Museum
Um el Kanatir + Rehavam Arcs
Nimrod Fortress
Katzrin Ancient Village

The Artists’ Bazaar
Kever of Rav Yehoshua ben Chananya
Kever of the Arizal

The Sea of Galilee (Kineret)
Kever of the Rambam (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon)
Kever of Rabbi Akiva
Kever of the Ramchal (Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato)
Kever of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNeis

Kever of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai
Kever of Hillel HaZaken
Kever of Shammai

Evening walks around Maalot Dafna :]
Kabbalat Shabbat at the Kotel
The Old City
Mini Israel
Jerusalem City Tour – bus 99
Time Elevator Jerusalem
The Temple Institute (Machon HaMikdash)
Tower of David Museum
The Western Wall Kotel Tunnels (Minharot HaKotel)
Bible Lands Museum
The Israel Museum – Dead Sea scrolls (+ Tanach Museum?)
The City of David (Ir David) – archaeological park
Genesis Land:
Mount of Olives (Har HaZeitim) + camel rides
Yad Vashem
Beit Shemesh

Old Jaffa tour
Eretz Israel Museum

Mearat HaMachpela
Kever Rachel

So, what do you all think? What are your suggestions?

A Discovery  

Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

I was just looking through the files on my computer, searching for an essay I once wrote and saved there, when I came across this old poem. To say I had completely forgotten about it would be an understatement; as I read it over, it felt as if I were reading it for the first time. It must have been one of those things I wrote hurriedly without really caring where it would end up. And it ended up on my screen today.

I thought I would share..


Hannah Rozenblat

You do not see a thing as you look at me.
All that your eyes can perceive is a body
chest slowly rising and falling as I breathe
and my eyes looking steadily back at you.

All you see is a body, an empty shell
Sitting perfectly still right in front of you.
But you do not see me for I am not there
And am far away where I cannot be found.

“So,” you triumphantly observe, “You are here.”
Briefly looking up from your papers at me
And I stare back at you, my eyes two windows
Only you are too blind and cannot see through.

I was never there before in any sense
But now that you have forced me to be present
You must be satisfied that my body’s there
For my soul is not, nor will it ever be.

My soul is meanwhile traveling through the world
Too far for you to ever find and pin down
Too fast for you to be able to tame it
And too strong to ever be coerced by you.

You measure success as a naive child would
Lightly, with no idea of its measure
And seeing the motionless body before you
You think that you have captured and tamed the soul.

Yes, I sit without protest day after day
My eyes meeting yours as you look straight at me
And nod approvingly because I am there…
Only I am not and you just cannot see.

Public Eye  

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I was standing in the checkout line at Stop & Shop today, which happened to be quite long, and as I waited, I glanced over at the racks containing magazines. All it took was one minute for me to know who is divorcing, who is splitting up, who is saying what, and who is going where. In that one minute, I was filled in on all the things going on in the celebrity world -- all of their personal matters, all of the details of their daily lives, and all of the things I am sure they would rather not have the public know.

In one of my recent posts, "It's Personal," I started writing about how we tend to intrude a lot on other people's privacy. Things that should remain personal end up being public, and the details of an individual's life become a topic of interest for everyone else.

Not one of us experiences this to the same degree that celebrities and other public figures do. The media loves to analyze their every move, their every choice, their every word. Although their job is to act, to sing, to dance, to perform, or do whatever else it is they have a talent for, the media and the public assume that it is perfectly fine to invade their privacy when they are trying to live their lives. There should be a separation between a person's career and talent and the person's private life. Paparazzi hanging out in bushes and on front lawns is just wrong on so many levels, and yet the public appreciates it. A celebrity goes out in the morning to buy a coffee or goes to the gym in sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and all of a sudden, there is a full-page picture of it in a magazine, just in case anyone was wondering what he or she was doing. Their families can barely go outside without being swarmed by paparazzi and reporters too. Some of their children are unable to live normal lives because the media does not know its boundaries and does not know how to respect people's privacy.

And then there is the speculation.... If there is anything worse than paparazzi shots and personal details glaring out at you from the cover of a magazine, it is the tabloid magazines everywhere.

Here is what one website said about tabloids:

Traditionally, certain tabloids are distinguished by sensationalism of approach and content rather than by straightforward reportage of newsworthy events.

If you were to count the amount of complete lies in those rags, you would probably not only have to use all your fingers and toes, but you would have to borrow someone else's fingers too.
So this goes beyond just the invasion of privacy -- this goes into the malicious lying territory.

Reality television is another issue. When people allow cameras into their daily private lives, it is bound to have a negative effect -- especially when these people are married. I can think of three celebrity couples who have split up after having their lives shown to millions of viewers on their reality shoes. I suppose that even without the reality shows, they would eventually split up and divorce, but the shows definitely did nothing to help their relationships and marriages.

Posthumous publishing is another example of an invasion of privacy. When an individual writes something, be it a private journal or a work of fiction, and specifically chooses not to release it to the public, what right do others have to publish them after the person's death? If these writers did not want their thoughts and ideas to be published, is it really right to go against that and reveal them to the entire world, for all future generations?

But although posthumous publishing is a breach of privacy, it is also a great addition to the literary world. We have so many great, classic works of literature that would have never seen the light of day if someone had not decided to publish them after the writer's death. There are many people we would not have even heard of if their wishes were respected, and that would have been a great loss. For instance, most of what we know of Emily Dickinson today is because her family found her poems after her death and released them to the public.

Time actually has an interesting article about this, which lists some posthumously published works of literature.

Also, after Beethoven became deaf, he used conversation books to communicate with people. After his death, most of those books were destroyed, which prevented us from getting a personal glimpse into this famed composer's life. Only imagine how much we could have known about him! Dozens of books filled with things he wanted to say, in his own handwriting. And all that information has been deliberately destroyed to protect his privacy.

So should it be 'all for the sake of literature' or should individual privacy be more important when it comes to writings?

I sometimes wonder what I will do with my all my writing. I cannot begin to count the amount of notebooks, binders, and papers I have, full of accounts of my personal life, fictional stories, poems, and so on. I would not want anyone reading it unless I felt I wanted to share some things.

You never know what will happen after your lifetime. Anything you create or record can take on a life of its own.

Just Some Thoughts  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , , ,

There is something about writing that gives it the power to consume an individual and take over his or her life.

I have been writing compulsively the past few days. Each time a significant thought strikes me or I have an idea, I write it out thoroughly, which is something I have not done in a while. Thoughts that would usually go unnoticed by me and remain just that -- fleeting thoughts -- now become written words.

Sometimes, when writing seems to take precedence over everything else, it is difficult to actually live your life. When writing occupies all your thoughts and much of your time, there is little room left for living life as a normal human being.

But on the other hand, it is the most welcome thing after a period of writer's block, and if the urge to write comes, who am I to ignore it or regret it? I love writing; the fact that I have the ability to express what is in my head and heart is precious to me, even if most of that writing will never see the light of day.

Now all I need to do is write something that I will actually post on my blog or allow others to read. That should not take long.
Oh, and by the way, I added a second column in the sidebar on my blog and put up a number of quotes that I feel more than adequately express some of the things I believe.


Posted by inkstainedhands in , , , , ,

I happened to look out the window an hour or so ago, and I saw that half of the sky was turning different shades of pink, while the other half was already a deep, dark blue, as the night was advancing.

It just struck me that I barely distinguish between sunrise and sunset these days. I observe both, and it is just something that happens. It does not indicate a certain time to me or mean much, other than that the lighting is different. Last night, as I looked out of my window before falling asleep, I saw that the sky was already rapidly lightening and I heard birds beginning to sing their morning songs. One night, as I was ready to allow sleep to overcome me, a sound pierced the silence of the night. Chirp, chirp. As the bird's voice broadcasted loudly into my room, I thought to myself, "Oh no, you have got to be kidding. Please don't do this now." Seriously, those birds start being vocal as early as 5 AM.

It has been this way since Motzei Shabbat, and despite my attempts to change this schedule, it seems to be stubbornly fixed into place for now. (We will see what effect Israel and the different time zones will have on this.)

There is something about nighttime that I have always loved. It seems to bring out my creativity, and it intensifies all of my thoughts and emotions, which translates wonderfully into writing. I remember when I was fourteen, and I was working on my first book, I stayed up every night past 3 AM and wrote pages and pages, because that was just when the inspiration seemed to come to me. And the past few nights have been no exception. I have many pages of writing to show for this past week, and most of it was the result of a sudden urge to express something I was feeling. I actually quite like some of the poetry that has come from these sleepless nights.

Thoughts just strike me, like lightning, and they remain impressed on my mind until I give them an outlet and write them down. When ideas come to me, I feel as though I cannot just ignore them, even if is what I would normally do during the daytime. At night, they somehow feel more significant, and I feel I must record them. So I got into the habit of keeping a notebook next to my bed, and whenever the urge strikes me, I pick it up and begin to write in the darkness, completely missing the lines and unable to dot my i's and cross my t's. But it works.

This actually reminds me of some Phantom of the Opera lyrics....
"Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination."

Last night, as I was trying (in vain) to fall asleep, I heard an airplane or a helicopter flying somewhere in the distance. And... it made me think (no surprise there).

I have only been on an airplane four times in my life -- to and from Israel (when I was four and was completely traumatized by the experience), and to and from California (a couple of years ago). One of the most fascinating parts of the California vacation, for me, was the plane trip. I just loved looking down and seeing these mini-towns below me, almost like doll cities. On our red-eye flight back to New York, I saw the lights of Los Angeles twinkling below us amidst the darkness. It was delightful.

From an airplane, the world below you seems like nothing. The people are too small and too far away to really matter, and when we see that one town below us, its inhabitants seem so insignificant to us. At first, they are mere specks, and then they become invisible, and their houses become mere specks, until finally, the entire town becomes a mere speck from your perspective.

Is it not amazing then that G-d, who sees the entire world below him, all those countless specks, cares about and watches over every single one of us? Although there are millions of us, all these tiny little ants, He still sees us as individuals, and nobody escapes His notice?

More Upbeat  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , ,

Well, here is another quick post while I am working on the longer ones. I thought I should just update my readers on what is going on.

I was planning to write a very long post on childhood, and by 'very,' I mean longer than any of my previous posts. (Considering the length of some of those, this is saying much.) It was to include some references to both classic and modern literature and some prominent figures from the media, but I did not think my blog would be the best place for it. So while I am still working on the piece, I have yet to decide what I want to do with it. Yesterday, I thought of a new idea for a separate blog post, also revolving around the topic of childhood, but then I thought of finding a larger audience for it. I'll let you know how that goes.

Looking through some of my previous posts, I see I have mentioned some other posts I wanted to make, including one on Edgar Allan Poe and another one about the right to privacy for one who is in the public eye. So look out for those. (This is a reminder for me as well. I am looking forward to writing and posting those... I feel very much in the mood of writing.)

And another update... on my Israel plans!!

My father just paid today for the apartment we are renting there. I believe it is in Maalot Dafna. Is anyone here familiar with that neighborhood? The results of my Google searches have informed me that it is an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, which makes me a bit apprehensive. I have these visions of being glared at for being dressed like a Flatbush girl. Please dispel these images.

But anyway, there is something about every plan we make that makes me more and more excited, because it is becoming a reality. Hopefully I will start packing, or at least organizing the things I need to pack, later this week. Imagine how much that will excite me... :]

We will be spending the first couple of days in the Golan Heights, then about two weeks in Jerusalem, and the final two or three days in Ashdod. We will be passing through Tzfat and Teveriah, I believe, and I also hope to spend a few hours in Tel Aviv.

So, are there any places in Israel you would recommend I visit? I'd like to make a list of places to visit and things to see, and I would love to hear your suggestions!

The Latest  

Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

"Humanity can be quite cold to those whose eyes see the world differently." -- Eric A. Burns

"Ignorance and inconsideration are the two great causes of the ruin of mankind." -- John Tillotson

"The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism." -- Sir William Osler

Sometimes, I feel as though there is not much to do but despair over the sorry state of the world and of humanity. I wonder whether there will ever be an end to this... the end of senseless hatred based on willful ignorance, the end of discrimination and prejudice, the end of the pain we cause each other.

Blog Updates  

Posted by inkstainedhands in

As some of you might have already noticed, my blog has a new layout! I am still getting used to it and also trying to fix a few things up, but I am quite happy with it in general.

The archives are formatted a bit differently now. They used to be organized in a hierarchy format -- the year, the month, and the post titles of this month, but that did not seem to fit in with the layout so I had to change it to a list format.

Post times are gone as well, as far as I can see. There are only dates on posts now, as that is how the layout works.

The text size is a bit smaller as well, especially in the sidebars.

There is a new addition in the form of a search box, in the top right corner, to make it easier to find older posts.

Although I liked my previous banner, I am making a few changes to it now so it should blend in more with the background. Hopefully, I should have it back up before I leave for Israel.

But overall, what do you all think of this new layout?

"It's Personal"  

Posted by inkstainedhands in ,

We have this deep, innate curiosity about the people and things around us. We want to know more, to dig deeper, to see all that there is to see.

You see people probing into each other's lives, and then devouring what the tabloids feed them about celebrities' lives. Those two things come from the same root basically: the desire to know more about someone else's life, even though it is none of your business most of the time. Let us face it -- it's called 'personal' for a reason.

It is not our business to pry into the lives of the people we know or to ask for personal details, unless we are quite sure that it is not a breach of privacy.

Sometimes, when you know that the person wants you to inquire (about his/her day or something that just happened because he/she wants to tell you about it), it is perfectly fine. You sometimes get the impression that a person is bursting to tell you something but refrains from doing so until you broach the subject or ask them directly, which then gives that person the opportunity to share whatever it is he/she wanted so badly to tell you.

In some situations, asking questions about an individual's personal life shows that you care and that it matters to you, which is a great thing because it makes them feel more comfortable around you, knowing that they can talk to you and you will listen and be interested in what they have to say.

On the other hand, though, many times your questioning is unwelcome and considered an intrusion into another person's life, especially if you are not close friends and you do not have the right to know everything about that person.

I would say that the rising popularity of blogging is contributing to the decline of that sensitivity of what is personal and what is not. Perfect strangers have the opportunity to read your thoughts, to know what is going on in your life (if you make it public on your blog), and to acquaint themselves with another person's drama. In my opinion, people often go too far in what they allow the public to know. But that, of course, is their choice, and if they have no problem with it, what can I say?

My issue is really with how far people can go in trying to find out more about somebody else's life, even when it is none of their business.

I hope to continue this topic in one of my future posts as it relates to people in the public eye and literature.

Some other future posts:
* Childhood
* Edgar Allan Poe

The King of Pop  

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People sometimes ask, "Where were you and what were you doing when the Twin Towers fell?" Some even ask the same question about the death of Princess Diana. I was too young when she died to even know about it, but I clearly remember what I was doing as the airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers on 9/11. I was sitting in school, in my fourth grade classroom. A couple of girls were picked up by their mothers, which obviously aroused our curiosity. One girl asked me to pass a note to some other girl sitting next to me, and I was waiting for an opportune moment when the teacher's back was turned. Then, the intercom crackled, and I was told to go to the office because my mother was picking me up. I hastily handed the note to the intended recipient, earning a glare from the teacher, and I rushed downstairs. As my mother and I were walking home, she explained what had happened to me. Back then, Manhattan seemed so far away, and I did not feel the full impact of the event. Once I got home, I realized just how major it was when I turned on the TV and was greeted by images of the falling buildings on every single channel.

There are many such historical events that are later vividly remembered and recounted. The most recent was Michael Jackson's untimely death and the speculation that followed.

I was sitting at my computer, probably blogging or checking my email, when my mother passed by me and remarked that Michael Jackson just died. I held back my surprise, and silently did a Google news search. Various sources had different stories. Some said he went into cardiac arrest and was currently being treated at the hospital. Others claimed that he was in a coma, but was still alive. And then, there were those who reported that he died that very hour. Online journalism is a strange thing; you never know which story to believe and which to carelessly toss aside. One of my friends then called me to ask if it was true; I did not really know what to say. But within a couple of hours, it was confirmed that Michael Jackson had died.

At first, I was a bit in shock, and it took a while for it to sink in. Every single time I went to my Google or Yahoo homepage, I saw headlines about his death, and I was reminded of it over and over again.

I first started listening to his music when I was eleven or twelve. I still remember sitting at my computer and listening to those songs while flashes of color danced before me on the media player's background. Even more than that... I remember the smell of air freshener in the room, which was later associated in my mind with Michael Jackson. His CD was one of the first I ever got, and back when I only had three CDs, I would play his over and over again.

It is sometimes funny to see what you remember from the past. Very often, I find myself thinking about some very random, minor memories that are seemingly insignificant, and I don't usually understand why it is indelibly stamped on my mind. I remember when I was twelve and I went to sleepaway camp for the first time. It was the summer after sixth grade. We went on a trip to an amusement park, and the ride back was late at night. I was very tired after an exhausting day out in the sun, and it was dark in the bus, so I put on my headphones and thought of resting a bit. I ended up falling into a semi-conscious state to the sounds of Michael Jackson's music. I still remember hearing those songs as I was falling asleep; they sounded as if they were coming from underwater.

As the years passed by and I discovered other artists and bands, I started listening to his music less and less. When he disappeared after being acquitted a few years ago, I stopped following him. I mean, if I saw news articles about him, I would check them out, but I just did not really care that much anymore, to be honest.

And now, I just can't help but think about it.

I walked past a newsstand today, and his face was everywhere. He was on the cover of almost every magazine, and there were dozens of headlines screaming out at me about his career, the mark he left on pop, his life, the scandals, the rumors, and his death. I took a good look at the sight before me, and just stood there for a couple of minutes, taking it all in.

Fifty years from now, I might tell my grandchildren about it.

Little Dorrit  

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I decided to write this post after reading this one, but it took me a while to get to actually writing it.

Charles Dickens quickly became one of my favorite authors as I became interested in classic literature in elementary school. Whenever I went to the library, making a beeline for the assignments section, I would search for an interesting book I had not yet read. Honestly, I could stand there for an hour looking through different classic works, but if I did not have a lot of time in which to choose a book, I would just go with Charles Dickens, because I knew that his works were something I could always rely on to be interesting and profound. It is a good thing that he published so many books and most of them are quite long, because I still have not read all his works, so I have what to look forward to.

I find that his masterpieces contain a wide variety of interesting, deep characters, as well as thought-provoking ideas and statements. Sometimes, he can aptly sum up in one sentence a whole range of thoughts and emotions, and I often find myself stopping for as long as fifteen minutes just to digest and contemplate one thing he wrote. If I had somebody to discuss it with, each of those pauses would probably turn into a half-hour conversation.

I read Little Dorrit last year, and I bookmarked a few pages with lines that I particularly appreciated. So right now, I want to make a few observations about the book, talk about some quotes and the author's brilliance.

His method of portraying Mr. Dorrit’s character is both clever and amusing. Without explicitly stating that Mr. Dorrit becomes a pompous fool after he gets rich, Charles Dickens makes it quite clear to the readers that such is the case. He infuses an occasional “ha” or “hum” into Mr. Dorrit’s speech, which somehow tells the readers all they need to know and makes Mr. Dorrit seem somewhat ridiculous. Some people, we see, let their financial status get to their heads a bit too much.

Another thing I found fascinating was the letter Amy Dorrit wrote to Arthur Clennam during her travels. It was forcibly reminded of my ramblings in my journal. Amy wrote in the letter everything that happened to her, and she wrote paragraphs explaining her feelings. She filled up many pages in an attempt to fully describe her thoughts, emotions, and the reasons behind them. What particularly struck me was the fact that she was writing this to him. To me, it seems like something one would prefer to keep private, not something that should be fully explained with every detail in a letter -- especially since their relationship seemed somewhat uncertain and hazy. I suppose it shows what a trusting girl she was.

I wish Arthur could have examined Amy's letters with an open mind. To an outsider like me, it is plain as daylight that Amy loves Arthur and holds dear to her heart whatever he holds dear to his. It is strange that Arthur does not realize this, and if I was in their world—once I finished laughing at him—I would feel compelled to enlighten him.

“He had the power… of explaining what he himself perceived, and meant, with the direct force and distinctness with which it struck his own mind.”

That quote describes exactly how I wish my writing to be. I want to have that ability to write down my precise thoughts and emotions in a way that would enable my reader to understand and connect to it. And I must say -- I just loved that sentence.

Here are a few more quotes I appreciated:

* “New zig-zags sprung into the cruel pattern sometimes, when she saw it through a burst of tears.” I thought it was a rather brilliant way of describing crying.

* “Between the real landscape and its shadow in the water, there was no division; both were so untroubled and clear, and, while so fraught with solemn mystery of life and death, so hopefully reassuring to the gazer’s soothed heart, because so tenderly and mercifully beautiful.” Perhaps this explains our fascination with nature?

* “They came out of the avenue next moment, arm-in-arm as they had entered it: and the trees seemed to close up behind them in the darkness, like their own perspective of the past.” I found this sentence very beautiful. This was one of those things I had to pause for, just to let the idea and the brilliance of it sink in. I love when one sentence can so perfectly sum up an idea. Charles Dickens had that talent of packing so much significance into a single sentence, and that is one of the things I love about his writing. The same goes for the next quote.

* “While the flowers, pale and unreal in the moonlight, floated away upon the river; and thus do greater things that once were in our breasts, and near our hearts, flow from us to the eternal seas.”

* “He seemed to have an insatiate delight in appealing to her and looking at her; excitedly sticking his hair up and the same moment, like a dark species of cockatoo.” This kind of reminds me of my Pigeons and Shidduchim post.

* “…The waters of Venice and the ruins of Rome… were daily being sketched out of all earthly proportion, lineament, and likeness, by traveling pencils innumerable….”

I don't want to go on for hours (although I can), so I will stop here. I do recommend this book though -- as well as all other books by Charles Dickens -- to all of my readers.

Coming soon -- a post about another favorite of mine, Edgar Allan Poe!