Sunday, April 17, 2005

I've always thought so!

Apparently I'm gonzo!

gonzo jpeg
You are Gonzo the Great.
You love everyone, and still you get shot out of a
cannon on a regular basis. Oh, and you are
completely insane and have a strange
fascination for chickens.

The Great Gonzo, Gonzo the Great, Just Plain Weird

Tapdancing blindfolded on tapioca while balancing a
piano on his nose, backwards, five times fast.

"From Here to Eternity...with no brakes."

"Touched By An Anvil"

"No parachute? Wow! This is so cool!"

What Muppet are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

You are the warrior anime girl.You are the type
that can start a fight and win.You are very
strong and can beat anyone up (but just don't
^_~) and some people can be afraid of you but
alot of people admire your strength and want to
be just like you well the people that want to
fight.You can defend yourself very easily and
can probably handle some kind of weapon.You
have a short temper(like me)and get angry
easily but you can be really nice at times
^_^and once a fighter always a fighter.

If You Were An Anime Character What Would You Look Like?(Girls Only)
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, April 10, 2005


Isaiah 66:
6. A voice of tumult from the city, a voice from the
temple, the voice of the Lord rendering recompense to
his enemies.
7. Before she labors, she will give birth; before her
labor pains come, she will deliver a son.
8. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such
things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in
one day? or shall a nation be born in one moment,
as Zion labored, and gave birth to her children.
9. Shall I cause to break (the waters), and not
cause to give birth? says God; shall I that causes
birth, hold it back? says your God.
10. Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her,
all you who love her; rejoice for joy with her, all
you who mourn for her;
11. That you may suck, and be satisfied with the
breasts of her consolations; that you may drink
deeply, and be delighted with the abundance of her
12. For thus says the Lord, Behold, I will extend
peace to her like a river, and the glory of the
nations like a flowing stream; then shall you suck,
you shall be carried upon her sides, and be dandled
upon her knees.
13. As one whom his mother comforts, so will I
comfort you; and you shall be comforted in

The imagery of Isaiah in this passage is unusual; of the images of God in the Torah, it is the most female, envisioning God initially as a midwife holding the knees of Zion on the birthing stool, and further along as not simply a midwife, but as a comforting mother. These two related aspects of God are directly connected to the idea of birth as a simile of redemption. Within this metaphor are nestled two contradictory views: first, that the delivery of the nation comes painlessly and quickly, birth without labor. Yet, the next verses belie the suggestion of painlessness, continuing, "As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem" implying that, in fact, we are in
need of comforting, that the birth process has not been as painless as we thought it would be. The vision manages to incorporate the idea of suffering as necessary and productive of joy and simultaneously of suffering that is made more intense in order to shorten it dramatically: be patient, God says, your suffering is worthwhile, and afterwards, I , your Mother, will comfort you and you will be joyful.

Lev. 12: 2. Speak to the people of Israel,
saying, If a woman conceives, and bears a
male child; then she shall be unclean
seven days; as in the days of her
menstruation, shall she be unclean.

In Tazria, the rabbis find a vision of redemption through the image of birth that opens our portion; the midrash suggests that in our opening verses, the words, " If a woman conceives and gives birth, etc. (12: 2). alludes to a verse from psalms (Ps. 139:5), "You have formed for me [something] behind and [something] before." R. Johanan said: If a man merits it he inherits two worlds, this and the coming world.
Rather than the superfical reading as a levitical instruction manual to purifying rituals after birth, the rabbis understood the verses of our portion to have a deeper meaning, one which is revealed only by intense scrutiny of each verse as a discrete unit. The verse leads us to an understanding that formation is the formation not just of a fetus, but of ths world and the world to come: the world behind us and the world before us.
Birth is a passageway betwen two places, the liminal space where miracles happen. It is the moment of transformtion, here what was one thing beomes another, but this
transformation is not without difficulty. Thus when a woman bears, she shall be tamah for seven days. The process is one of utter physicality, of wrenching change, and of hesitation, in which thinking of God is difficult, even with God there as the midwife.
Isaiah's imagery links us to the understanding of God bearing Israel: as a mother bears a child. The imagery of childbearing as redemption of Israel is an especially appopriate one for the weeks leading up to Pesach. Passover is a holiday, after all, of birth. Israel emerges from mitzrayim, the narrow place, the birth canal, into the bright world, blinking furiously, at the changes we have just undergone and are further to undergo. Like an infant, we are howling at the coldness of the world, at all we now have to do for ourselves. The midrash on our verse says,

"How does the embryo lie in its mother's
womb?--It is folded up and lying like a
writing-tablet. Its head lies between its
knees, its two hands rest on its temples, its
two heels on its two buttocks; its mouth is
closed, but its navel is open; its food is
that which its mother eats, its drink is that
which its mother drinks, and it does not
discharge excrement lest [thereby] it
should kill its mother. When it issues
forth into the open world, that which had
been closed is opened, and that which had
been open is closed."

It is an astonishing miracle that as we emerge into the world, all that has been open is closed, and what was closed, now is open. Although I've never seen any discussion of it, I've often thought that the same brachah that one says after uing the bathroom, the asher yatzar brachah would also be the right one for laboring. The text of the blessing is found in the talmud in Brerachot (60b)

Blessed are You Who has formed
humanity in wisdom and created in him
many orifices and many cavities. It is
known before the throne of Your glory
that if one of them should be opened
[which should be closed] or one of them
closed [which should be opened] it would
be impossible to stand before
You...[blessed are You] Who heals all
flesh and does wonders

The words of this blessing echo those of the midrash: God opens what should be open, and closes what should be closed. The location of our openings and closings are essential. Even a small change would make us incapable of surviving.When God brings us forth into the world, God makes a miracle: everything that has been opened is closed and everything closed opens, so that we can survive in a world very different than the environment we had been in. The moment of birth in fact is one in which everthing is turned upside down. We are, in passing through the birth canal, literally reversed.
Pesach is a similar process: Go has midwived us into the world, and everything has changed. The world turned upside down! When we were brought forth through the birth canal of Egypt, we were made free. For the first time, we could stretch our limbs and open our eyes. God opened for us many new openings. But God also closed off for us things that were open. Slaves don't need to think about what to do today. They don't need to make difficult moral decisions, and they are not free to dedicate themselves to God or not. Their limbs are constricted like a fetus in the womb. When God brought us forth, in some ways we lost freedoms as well as gained them. Bringing us to Mount Sinai, as the Talmud relates, the mountain was suspended over our heads: we had to accept the Torah, or be buried at its foot. Freedom in the Torah is not "freedom from," but "freedom to." Freedom to serve
God, to submit to the yoke of mitzvot. Of course we can choose not to do so, but then we are like an infant trying to crawl back into the womb: it's too late, the miracle has been done for us: our openings are open, and our closings are closed. The process of growning up cannot be reversed.
When we take pesach seriously, in every generation each person looking upon themself as if they personally had been brought from Egypt, we should feel as though we have been squeezed through the birth canal once again: we are part of the process of the nation being born, and in that process is pain, and difficulty. We should feel as though the entire world has been transformed. We have gone from being helpless, subject to the winds of the world, without any control, to becoming moral agents. We have room to stretch our limbs and decide what to do. In those choices is sometimes pain and difficulty, but there is no redemption without it: Shall I cause to break (the waters), and not cause to give birth? says God; shall I that causes birth, hold it back? Once we are at the threshold, we cannot hold back: we must come through. But after the birth we will find joy, God is there to nurse us and comfort us.
And there is yet another miracle: despite all the trouble that we give to God, like a mother who loves Her child regardless of its behavior, God continues to cherish and comfort us. There is a tale of a king who asks why adam waas put to sleep when eve was created. His daughter, evidently wiser than he, takes a piece of meat from a slaughtered animal and prepares it in front of her father. When she serves it to him, he says, take it away, it makes me nauseated to look at it. His daughter triumphantly says,'There is your answer! if adam had seen the blooody mess that eve was made from, he would never have been able to love her."
And yet God knows (as the mishnah calls it) the smelly drop from which we were made. God knows the workings that were necessary to create the nation in the womb, and to deliver us to redemption. God knows the nausea of morning sickness as we began to grow and create something new, the discomfort and sleeplessness as we expanded the boundaries far beyond what God thought She could bear, the intense pain as we issued from the birth canal.
Over and over, we kicked and fought and disobeyed, and yet God continues to comfort
us. The miracle that we celebrate is not just our miracle, but God's: When a woman
conceives, and gives birth despite the pain of our redemption, God bore us, and continues to bear us. Like the mother who suffered through the pain of labor, God loves us anyway, and cherishes us.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Toddlers -from the Guardian

We haven't yet arrived at this stage, but I can certainly see it on the horizon. We're (luckily, I think) still at the stage of I find myself noticing that I must have not paid close enough attention for one minute, because my son clearly is eating something, and the only place he could have gotten it is the floor where it might equally be old food, thread, or a rock, and I have to struggle for ten minutes to get his mouth open so that I can get it out if it's something he'll choke on or is bad for him, by which time, he's swallowed it.

Toddlers, with their flawless skin, soft hair and wide-eyed stares,
are the pinnacle of human beauty, says Maggie O'Farrell. But as the
mother of a 21-month-old, she also realises their behaviour isn't
always quite so pretty
Saturday March 26 2005
The Guardian

The other week, I went to a photographic exhibition about
emigration. There were shots of long, snaking queues at Ellis Island,
of half-deserted villages, of families and their baggage on quay
sides, of people living in squalid, crowded rooms.

Among these were pictures taken on the boats to America. The
journey, the captions said, often took more than six weeks. In one, a
young woman sat with her back against the railings of the boat. With
one arm, she held a tiny baby to her breast. The other arm was
extended stiffly, grasping the hem of a coat belonging to a small
child. You could tell she had done this quickly, without looking,
without thinking. Her eyes were glazed, her face quite blank.
Somewhere in her brain a synapse had sent a message straight to
the muscles in her arm: child heading towards danger, possibly mortal,
therefore seize it.

The child was a blur in the corner of the shot, legs and arms
moving like pistons, intent on leaving the frame. I was very struck
by this photograph, not only because I had with me a child of about
the same size. And not only because, while I was looking at it, I was
obliged several times to perform the very same lunge-and-grab
movement to prevent my son from trapping his fingers in a door, from
switching off all the lights, from seizing the tail of a passing dog.

How on earth did this woman cope, with a toddler on a boat journey
to America, I wondered? How did she, and thousands like her, deal
with the demands of a small, ebullient, fractious person for over a
month at sea?

They belong to a strange race, these small people. The
word "toddler" is demeaning and also insufficient. They don't toddle:
they run, they hurtle, they stamp, they jump, they fall, they crash.
They never, ever toddle. But there isn't really another term for what
comes between babyhood and childhood, that distinct, unignorable

It's possible that they are just difficult to define. At times, they
remind me of nothing so much as the leprechauns in the Irish
folktales I used to have read to me when I was young. Contrary to the
Eiresatz tripe peddled about the globe, leprechauns are not cute wee
men in green. They are the great, indigenous tribes of Ireland,
driven underground by invading Celts. They are tricky, furious,
potent beings. The rest of the living world must respect and appease
them, not ignore or ride roughshod over them. They have huge egos and
can wreak terrible destruction if crossed or handled in the wrong
way. They are like us, yet not.

But there the similarities end. My 21-month-old son is not several
inches high, nor does he live in a hawthorn tree, and he only
sometimes wears green. My life with him is unrecognisable from the
one before he arrived, and inexplicable to most other people.

A friend phoned the other day and asked what I was up to. How could
I tell her I was sitting on a basket of wet laundry (to stop him
ransacking it and hurling it about) with one foot on the phone socket
(to stop him unplugging it), while with my free hand I was assisting
him in chopping up a wooden carrot (to distract him from the idea of
grabbing the receiver)?

They are, I think, the very pinnacle of human beauty. Some babies
are beautiful, and some definitely aren't, but all toddlers are.
Breathtakingly, perfectly, undeniably beautiful. Even ugly adults
were once lovely toddlers. It's the flawless skin, still smooth with
baby fat, the dense limbs, the still-soft hair, the small nose, the
dented knuckles, the wide-eyed stare. Don't plastic surgeons refer to
the angles, planes and dimensions of a toddler's face when creating
new features for people? It's no coincidence that artists have always
represented angels as winged toddlers. They are incarnations of a
fleeting aesthetic ideal. Perhaps this is nature's survival trick.
When the human race is at its most exasperating, it is also
at its most physically appealing.

Toddlers are past the all-encompassing dependency of babyhood, but
pretty much pre-verbal. They have urgent, towering desires, but a
limited range for expressing them. This calls for particularly weird
brands of diplomacy, negotiation, mime. My son understands an awful
lot more than he can say. He can decode quite complex sentences ("If
you go to the door and find your shoes, we'll go to the swings"), but
his vocabulary is limited to a handful of nouns.

His speech, like Cantonese, is largely tonal. "Ah-dah" can,
depending on how he says it, mean "all gone", "again", "at-choo"
or "oh dear". And at times, he will point at something on a crowded
shelf. "Ah!" he says, looking back at me. I offer him the teddy. He
shakes his head. "Ah," he says again, pointing. I try the CD case,
the jack-in-the-box, the book, the cup, the train, the pen. He is
near tears now. "Ah-ah-ah!" he shouts, pointing desperately, and I am
filled with a terrible sympathy. How dreadful to want something so
badly but not be able to communicate it.

Toddlers are a mass, a tangle, of desires and needs. They want
THIS and they want it NOW . Two seconds' time will be too late. They
are operatic,Shakespearean, in their extremes of passion, rage, love,
despair. And the ways in which these emotions are expressed is at
once so all-encompassing and so comically textbook, it can be like
watching a bad acting workshop.

If my son is pleased by something - a passing aeroplane, a song, a
cat on a garden wall - he will raise his hands aloft like an
evangelist at a prayer meeting, and hit top C with a shriek of
unalloyed joy. If enraged or upset, he will buckle at the knees and
cast himself face down on the floor, a puppet with severed strings.
It goes without saying that one state can be replaced by the other
within a matter of seconds.

I often think they represent our elemental natures; they are our
essences, unmoderated by the niceties of manners, behavioural codes,
social mores. Sometimes he is so pleased to see me that he will grip
the skin of my neck and twist it like fabric. It is agony, but the
feeling is entirely mutual. When I am away from him, I often feel
quite deranged by my desire to see him again. The only difference is
that I know that it is wrong to give people Chinese burns, even in
the name of affection.

I take him to a friend's house and, within seconds of our arrival,
he is on his hands and knees, dragging out whatever he can find from
under the sofa. I prise him away from this activity and he is
suddenly enthralled by a pair of shoes left lying in a corner. He
examines them closely, like an archaeologist with a find, gives them
a quick lick, then puts his feet into them and shuffles about. He is
offered a biscuit and he takes five.

My point is not how badly behaved my son is, although maybe he is,
but that he is doing what we'd all like to do. Wouldn't we all like to
know what our friends keep under their sofas? Don't we all want five biscuits
instead of one? Haven't we, at one time or another, felt like hijacking a
pair of someone else's shoes?

Of course, there are many things he does that I find baffling and
downright infuriating. I do not, for example, have much sympathy with
the desire to hurl things into the toilet. These days, I often clean my
teeth balanced on one leg, spread-eagled, as if in an obscure yoga pose.
One hand holds the toothbrush, one hand restrains my son, and one foot is
stretched behind me to clamp the toilet seat shut. If I didn't need the other
foot to stand on, I'm sure I'd be using it for something else. Meanwhile, I'm
trying to say - calmly but firmly, as parenting manuals dictate, but through
a gagging froth of toothpaste - "No, no. You are not to throw my mobile
phone into the toilet."

Their saving grace, when phones do land in the toilet and when you
realise too late that the cheese grater is inside the washing machine with
your most precious clothes, is that they are interested in everything. If
curiosity "weds us to the world", as Graham Swift wrote in Waterland, then
toddlers are engaged in a passionate, uxurious, intimate marriage. Watches,
stairs, lorries, lights, buses, sirens, planes, buttons, zips, latches,
All the things we take for granted are, to a toddler, like
encountering the Virgin Birth. Some things hold their attention for seconds, others
for days. My son entertained himself for an entire weekend with six teaspoons.
He put them into the washing machine, one by one, he took them out again,
one by one. He pushed them around in a box, he threw them on to the floor,
laughing at the tinkling noise, he pushed them into the gaps between the sofa
cushions and took them out again. Over and over again.

For weeks now he has been enamoured to the point of obsession with
bins. In any shape or form, but especially the big council-issue bins
around the streets where we live. He will snap upright in his buggy and point. "
BIN!!! " he will exclaim, like someone encountering a lost sibling.
Yes, I reply, it's a bin. "Bin! Bin! Bin!" he squeals, drumming his heels,
twisting round to see if I, too, am appreciating this vision. Mmm, I agree, a

We stop to admire. "Binbinbinbinbinbin!" he shouts, hoping to
engage a few passers-by. He has to get out of the buggy and walk around it twice
and I have to follow, stopping him several times from plunging his fingers
into its malodorous depths. Then we move on. "Bye bye bin," he will say,
soulfully, turning around until it is lost from sight. Fifty yards
further on, another green plastic bin will hover into view and the process
repeats itself.

There's a cliche that children make you look anew at flowers and
clouds and bubbles and kittens. Maybe they do, but toddlers also want to
share with you the hidden wonder of bins, drains, carpet fluff and gravel.

With a toddler, your life is a series of daily milestones
(negotiating yourself and the child into clothes, getting through a meal without it
ending up on the floor), of bizarre conversations (him: "Meow! Meow!"
me: "I'm not sure otters say that") and strange activities.

The minutiae of this life can give you an overpowering sense of
insight into the lives of other women, both now and historically. (I do
realise that men look after toddlers, too, and I am more than supportive of that.
But in my experience it is usually the women. In music "classes", I sing The
Wheels On The Bus, with actions, along with 30 other women who used to chair
meetings and draw up contracts and broker deals, while 30 toddlers
mill about, ignoring us and the music. Once in a blue moon, a lone man
turns up, looking nervous and bashful.) When I am admiring a very ordinary bin
for the sixth time in a morning or consoling my son for the loss of a raisin
down a grating or struggling to get him into his coat and hat and shoes
before his patience and mine expires or trying to distract him from a gathering
rage, I find myself thinking: this is what women do, this is what women have
always done.

Babies are more portable, less intrusive. Yes, they, too, take over
your life and, yes, they destroy your sleep and your sanity; but it is
having a toddler that has made me meditate on the private mathematics of female

I could read any numbers of books, pore over museum displays, watch
100 films and I still wouldn't know what it was really like to be alive
in the Napoleonic wars or to be an Icelandic fishwife. But looking after a
toddler forms a kind of datum within variant lives. They are so elemental
that they can only provoke the same reactions, the same pleasures, the same
frustrations and challenges in us all.

I peel him from the carpet, where he is prostrate with rage because
the satsuma would not stay balanced on the chair arm, sit him on my lap,
and I think about my mother, with three, or both my grandmothers, with
four, or the mother of a friend of mine, who had nine. How did they do it? He
wails and screams because it has been a long time since lunch and I have to
hold him on one hip while hastily assembling baked beans on toast and I
think about those women who couldn't, who can't, open a cupboard and reach
for a tin. How do you explain to a hungry, pre-verbal child that there is
no food?

I stagger from the car, clutching him, a buggy, spare nappies,
wipes, a coat, a hat, some snacks, a drink of milk, his wellies, mittens, a
toy or two, change for the parking meter and I think: what if I had twins?

A few years ago, I went on a tour around a colonial mansion in
Patagonia. We were shown the ballroom, inlaid with marquetry, the surprisingly
short beds, the dressing rooms filled with silks and lace, the
greenhouse with its perspiring plants. In a basement at the back of
the house was a laundry room, complete with mangles and huge tubs for
washing. In the doorway was a pair of brass hooks, worn thin with use.

"What are they for?" I asked the guide.

"A swing," she replied. I must have looked confused because she
added,"For a child."

I often think about those Patagonian laundry maids, folding their
sheets,ironing the silks and lace from upstairs, all the while
swinging a child in the doorway to keep it happy, to pass a long
afternoon. Some things don't change at all.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

...and this one is just right!

Berachot 34a
Our Rabbis taught: If one is asked to pass before the Ark, he ought to refuse, and if he does not refuse he resembles a dish without salt; but if he persists too much in refusing he resembles a dish which is over-salted. How should he act? The first time he should refuse; the second time he should hesitate; the third time he should stretch out his legs and go down.

Our Rabbis taught: There are three things of which one may easily have too much while a little is good, namely, yeast, salt, and refusal.

Our Rabbis taught: Once a certain disciple went down before the Ark in the presence of R. Eliezer, and he span out the prayer to a great length. His disciples said to him: Master, how longwinded this fellow is! He replied to them: Is he drawing it out any more than our Master Moses, of whom it is written: The forty days and the forty nights [that I fell down]?(Deut 9:25) Another time it happened that a certain disciple went down before the Ark in the presence of R. Eliezer, and he cut the prayer very short. His disciples said to him: How concise this fellow is! He replied to them: Is he any more concise than our Master Moses, who prayed, as it is written: Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee? (Num 12:13) R. Jacob said in the name of R. Hisda: If one prays on behalf of his fellow, he need not mention his name, since it says: Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee’, and he did not mention the name of Miriam.