Allegorical Nonsense

An allegory. Nonsense. Put them together. Okay, not really.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Retiling the bathroom

So I finally got off my e-ass (I like to think of it as the slow version of e-mule), and checked out some other people's blogs. And you know what I found out? Whereas in the past, the only way I would see someone else's blog was by clicking on a likely sounding "Random Blog" on the homepage of (and finding out that it sounded likely because it was crap), I started looking at the blogs that my friends link to on their blogs, and so on and so on. What I realised was: (i) that it took me a few seconds to figure out how to say "and so on and so on". What came to mind was: "וכן הלאה וכן הלאה", which I think really says something about priming and neurocognition and the like; and (ii) that there are actually some blogs out there that I can really get into, and some people with genuine feelings and a lack of embarrassment about expressing them. And that's really nice. Oh, and (iii) I figured out that I've started to number things in lists like a lawyer. You know, Roman numerals. Semicolons. I burnt my finger the other day. Classic product liability case. In a sense, I'm disappointed I didn't get more injured so that I could sue the Chinese manufacturer of that quality sparkler which I lit on the stove and burst into flame. Can you get punitive damages in China? I like the idea. Punish people for being careless. In fact, I think it is worthwhile applying the idea to everyday life. Spill over a glass of water? Get a punch in the face! That'll teach you for next time. And if you don't learn, up the punishment until you do! All those shlemiels and shlimazels out there have got another think coming. Okay, I'm starting to talk like a hillbilly. I think it's time to pop my blister and let out a little blister fluid. It's been a pleasure sharing with you.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

The McDonalds Effect

I was told by friends that used to work at McDonalds, that after working at McDonalds for an amount of time, they were no longer able to eat at McDonalds. This was despite the obvious financial incentives that their employer would give them to do exactly that. And the reason for it was, primarily, that they had seen the production process, and that they were therefore too disgusted to eat the final product.

I think that for a long time, this was my attitude to producing any kind of expressive art - fear that by the fact of participating in the process of writing, I would be turned off the consumption of that art - in this case reading - by the fact of having seen the inner processes of the art itself.

And this is perhaps one of the tragedies of my generation - that because processes in which, otherwise, participation would only increase the appreciation of the product, have become so degraded as to have quite the opposite effect, we are encouraged to accept and generalise this as the rule, and not as some form of demeaned and demeaning exception.

It is perhaps the fate of humanity that in every generation there must be a tragedy, however that tragedy is not defined until writers propose and argue and repropose and reargue exactly what that tragedy is. And by the time the tragedy is defined, it has most likely already changed.

There is a lot in how you define something. A leader returns after years in "exile", yearning all of that time to return to his/her homeland. What does that mean, "exile"? Does it count as exile if the person happened to leave for that period of time, for economic reasons? Because they got accepted to a university there? Because their family moved there? Does it matter? There is no formula for leadership - a leader maximises the story that is behind them into something which becomes a story with a moral, a message - a leader creates around her/himself an epic. Or maybe it's just got to do with money. Or maybe the way other people see you. But which people? Again, it probably doesn't matter.

I always wonder why people read other people's biographies and autobiographies. Perhaps it is because they are looking for the formula of that person's success, for something that they can mimic and become that person. But the whole point is that that person is that person because they did not mimic someone else - they acted as only they knew how and did, and then they told lots and lots of people how great they are for doing so, and wrote about it a book, and then sold that book for money. Potentially lots of money. And they spent that money on building up their image, and the whole thing starts again.

It probably doesn't matter.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Bartleby, the Scrivener

I was just reading through a post I made a while back, entitled "Why Internet Books Will Never Succeed" (how's that for cross-promotion? okay, not so good since this is the same medium) and I realised that it could leave the gentle reader with the mistaken impression that I had not, in the end, read the short story entitled "Bartleby, the Scrivener" by Herman Melville. In order to correct this terrible misconception (if the reader weren't quite so gentle, I wouldn't feel quite so bad), I must point out that I did, in fact, read the story. And it was incredible.

Seriously. I highly recommend it. And I take back all I said about why people won't read internet books. Intellectual curiosity and all that. Marketplace of ideas, and its ilk. Monty Python, and its elk. In fact, I would put it up there with "Of Mice and Men" in my "top short stories of all time" list, if one were to exist. Which it does not. Sorry, Herman. But really, you started it, having a name like Herman. Hehe, Herman. You kind of had to be an author with a name like that, didn't you? Surely you couldn't have had any friends. You were probably like the kid in "The Neverending Story" - running away from the bullies and hiding in an attic somewhere and writing your books. Except that the kid in "The Neverending Story" was reading a book. Whatever. Don't contradict me, Herman.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

There's a joke

There's this joke that I read once, that went something like this:

"People who live in the United States think that it's dangerous living in Israel. But people who live in Israel will tell you don't be ridiculous, it's only dangerous if you live in the North. People who live in the North say relax, you're sensationalising things, it's only dangerous if you live in Nahariya, Haifa or Tiberias. People who live in Nahariya, Haifa, or Tiberias say that you've clearly been reading too much Ma'ariv, and that if you think sensibly, it's only dangerous in certain areas. The people who live in those certain areas will tell you, what, are you crazy, you can live in those areas all your life and never have any out of the ordinary happen to you, the only really dangerous area is this one street. People who live in that one street will tell you, what, you think there are really katyushot falling here? It's only at number 8 that it's dangerous. People who live at number 8 will tell you, no, not really, it's really quite okay here, it's only Apartment 6 which is a bit risky. The people living in Apartment 6 will tell you that it's only dangerous if you go out on the balcony between 10 and 12 in the morning, and particularly if you lean out over the railing beyond where the roof-line covers you and really stick your head out there ... so except for one guy who's hiding under a table somewhere, what are we all so worried about?"

The funny thing is that it's true. There is a war going on. Apparently. I know this because every so often I see the TV at work broadcasting things about the war that is going on, people every so often mention numbers of missiles that are in the tens and hundreds, some of the people I know have been called back into the army, whether on miluim or active service, and I get the occasional email asking me how it's all going what with the war and everything. And I can't help but believe that I've become so successful at cultivating the inborn human talent of setting boundaries at the borders separating what is "normal" from what is "not part of my world", that geographically, I've broken some kind of record. I mean, when I was living in Australia, those "borders of normality" were set (or at least, I thought they were set) at - the Western world and a bit more. They certainly excluded Africa and a bunch of other continental land-mass. It probably in fact excluded lots more, closer to home. But it was never really tested.

That's not so true. I did get mighty pissed off at the Australian government imprisoning people indefinitely in conditions fit for people who commit violent sex offences against children, for the "crime" of running away from people or situations that were out to kill them, purely because those people crossed an international border. And I certainly had a social conscience, even if that meant constantly feeling bad that I was quite powerless against the world. But I never really got a chance to see just how close a war could get without feeling that it affects me personally.

Don't get me wrong. The loss of human life that is occurring in vast numbers currently due to intentional acts of unpunished violence is a tragedy of immense proportions. Every time a person loses their life in this conflict, I experience emotion, but could it ever happen to me? Could I even need to be in a situation where I need to go to a bomb shelter in order to avoid a real threat of death? Unlikely. And whether it's likely or not (and it's not), I lack the feeling of fear that likelihood of death might be expected to bring.

I actually think that I'm going to live forever. Because the way I see it, death is a ceasing of being. So effectively, for as long as I have any ability to experience life, I'm going to be living. And when I'm not, my brief existence within these "life boundaries" will have never been, and there will be nothing.

What the ...? It seems that this blog can just turn on a dime from some kind of political social commentary to some kind of self-centred "let's talk about the universe for a bit" genre. I'm quite glad that I don't have readers, who could be thrown off by this kind of lax attitude to consistency in posting. In fact I feel sometimes that writing a blog is a little bit like shouting in a large empty echoing hall. It's quite cathartic, really. Like when I got my driver's license, at 16, the best part of it was not the ability to move a weighty piece of metal alloy by a process of internal combustion, but the ability to sing as loud as I could possibly want (whether to the radio or not), and be absolutely comfortable in the sense of my own privacy. I guess it says something about my desire for privacy and the feeling of its lack, at that age. But it was wicked fun.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006


I have a friend who wants to become a Carmelite monk. No, this is not a joke. What's funny is that I have a number of friends / family members who went into Yeshiva for a period of time, and even a few who were seriously considering becoming a Rabbi. But for me, becoming a monk takes the sacramental cake. I mean, even a priest would be within one standard deviation of the mean. A monk is really an outlier.

But why? Is it because it seems like an outdated concept, except maybe for Buddhists or other people from countries whose language I don't understand? Is it because it seems so counter to the materialism of the world I have come to know (and perhaps even to love)? Is it because you may or may not need to shave the middle bit of your head, as if premature baldness will not do a good enough job? I have no idea. But there it is. The guy's becoming a monk.

He's a very smart guy, so he'll probably end up rising through the ranks, if there is such a thing as ranks amongst Carmelite monks. He might end up as a cardinal, or the Archbishop of Sydney one day, or something, presuming that such positions take people from amongst the monks, and that he should want to. It's very possible that he doesn't want to stand out, and that's the whole reason why he got into the monking business in the first place. But perhaps that's not a fair comment. I mean, a person becoming a monk could hardly be indicted as a conformist. It's about as unconformist as you can get. And yet, perhaps it offers something of a solace that you can join a group of like-minded people and become part of a whole.

I have another friend, who I really should be returning an email to right now, who is merely submissive and paranoid. I find the guy very difficult to understand, and sometimes get the feeling that everything he says to me is somewhat disconnected from reality. Perhaps I am merely over-suspicious and should be accepting everything he says at face value. Perhaps I am the paranoid one. Just imagine, two paranoid people walk into a bar. The first one says "...", and then stops in fear of what the other one meant by that.

Is it possible that I attract strange friends? Or is it rather (as I would like to believe) that the more you get to know someone, and the more you become familiar with their peculiarities, the more you realise that normality is an illusion, and that it only exists inasmuch as people strive to be more like it? Or is it perhaps that everyone has a very different idea of what is normal, and that we are miscommunicating when we compare one another to that standard? I'm going to leave that one open.

I have a feeling sometimes that if I learn enough and gather enough experience, I will get it. I mean, all of it. It just takes a bit of effort, and then I will understand everything there is to understand, and there will be no more misunderstanding, no more awkwardness. I am beginning to believe more and more, though, that there is no such thing. That people who seem to get it are clinging on for dear life to the idea of just getting through this one problem, this one meeting, and hoping like hell that no-one asks anything really difficult, which not only do they not know, but about which they don't even know how to form the question. Mmm, prepositions which work.

I find sometimes that I'm writing something, and I want to express something, and all of a sudden, grammar gets in the way. Like, it's just impossible to actually express a certain concept, because the grammar just won't allow it, and you have to make a decision - either you can ditch the concept, or you can try to find a work-around (which sometimes there just isn't), or you can express what you wanted to express and just hope like hell that your reader puts up with the fact that you're really not clear and really not a talented author at all (not to mention a talented owner of a language-specific-programmed brain). Like "language-specific-programmed brain". I wanted to say, "a brain that is programmed in language (as a whole) in a manner which is language-specific (in particular)". But I just couldn't get it out. It may have something to do with my morbid fear of editing.

Editing. Ha. It always seemed to me so feeble, like an admission of weakness. Clearly, it is a marker of self-confidence and a contributor to strength (like saying "Practice! Ha! If I can't do it straight away, I won't do it at all!"), but some kind of emotional block inhibits me. It's because of that same block that I walk out of exams early - pretty much the minute I've finished writing my answers, tarrying perhaps for a quick skim over what I've done, and I'm out of there. Clearly I make mistakes. And clearly, there are mistakes that I wouldn't make should I have checked my work in a more careful and, overall, slow, manner. But I can't handle it. Is it arrogance? The feeling that I don't need to check and therefore I won't? Perhaps it is born of arrogance. But it has become part of my emotional make-up. And the moment I wake up, before I put on my emotional make-up, I say a little prayer for you.

And you, and you, and you.

I'm outa here.