Friday, May 27, 2011


I think it may be an overly simplistic explanation, or maybe it is heresy posing as intellectual curiosity, but it might just be that the normative set of ritualized practices within the Jewish community was established by a guy with OCD.

Now, I'm not one to mock or denigrate people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. In fact, I believe that every single person has some aspect of OCD. Some are just more obvious than others and some people are better able to self-regulate. I actually have this theory about most every condition. The human psyche is a delicate balance of defects, each one compensating for another. Only when one is out of balance does it then manifest. But enough about me.

So if you take a look at the kinds of traditional activities in Orthodox Judaism, you'll see that they are expressions of some person's perseverances a couple of thousand years ago. Now I'm not talking about the laws as listed in the 5 Books of Moses (nor am I suggesting that it was Moses who was the OCD one; he had anger issues, self-esteem problems and a complex family dynamic, but he wasn't OCD) but about the behaviors which have worked their way into our daily lives. Here are some examples steeped in the kinds of routines that an Orthodox person might have.

Wake up. Wash hands in a particular way a specific number of times.
Don't walk 4 steps without head covering.
Kiss the doorpost of every doorway.
Wash your hands in a different stylized way before eating certain foods.
All foods eaten must be preceded by a particular set of words.
Don't eat certain foods together or in a certain order.
If you touch your foot, wash your hands in a particular way.
Put your shoes on and tie them in a specific order.
Every spring hunt for any speck of certain foods and burn it.
If you light candles to start a holiday, you have to light them to end it.
4 cups of wine has to be balanced by 4 of everything else

if I wasn't OCD before I started doing all this stuff, I certainly am now. Gotta go wash my hands...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A deeply spiritual and disturbing cosmology

I was lying half awake (or is it half asleep...I can't recall if I'm and optimist or not), when I started thinking about the origin of the universe. This is the prime reason why I should not be half anything.

The standard understanding of the origin is the Big Bang theory. Everything that was anything was compressed into this tiny little dot and then, for some reason (I posited a reason in a story I wrote when I was about 13, but we'll leave that to history) the little dot went kabloo-ey and stuff went all over the place. And I mean ALL over the place. According to that theory (and doppler radar aimed into space) the universe (save Brooklyn) is expanding.

I recall hearing another theory a few years ago. I can no more remember the source than I can remember exactly how many years ago, but I did hear it somewhere. The theory said that the universe expands until it reaches a final point, then it begins to contract. Eventually (and I don't know if it will be morning or afternoon) it all comes back into that same little dot of all-ness and then it kabooms back out and the whole process begins anew. This universal de ja vu is known (at least in my memory) as the "bang bang bang theory." So what does this have to do with my falling asleep?

I try to help myself sleep by doing some deep breathing exercises. They are very useful for evenings when I have forgotten to do my deep drinking exercises. I slow my breathing down and try to calm myself. But breathing happens in and out, even when I don't try. It just seems that I, as the local quasi-intelligence, can exercise control over the repeating and seemingly involuntary process. And that reminds me of the universe. That repeating "in and out" of breathing is like the repeated in and out of the universe and the divine power is the one with the thought of slowing down or speeding up the process. We are all in some set of cosmic lungs.

I'm guessing that at that point I kind of fell asleep because that's as far as I got and the next thing I remember, I was strangling the alarm clock.

extant things

Some quick puns

I am thinking of getting a new subtexting plan for my phone. It has the < /metaphor > built in.

I also need help seeing the big picture so I'm going to be getting context lenses.

Then I'll get a rubber cover for my phone to keep it from getting stained. I just have to make sure that I have a latext plan.

How about a new App that allows people to design clothing on their devices, and send those designs to other people. Maybe call it a text-ile message.

The SAT's will be allowing students to take their Achievement assessments via smart-device on the new Subject Area Texts.

And of course, George Bush is at his ranch doing nothing but chatting all day. He's deep in the heart of text-as.

the Big G suggests that he would like a pretexting plan, which would be the entre into his sexting, but I think that pretexting would mean getting in touch with someone for some other reason.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mister Anthropy

I hate People.

Notice, I capitalized the letter P in that statement. You should all know by now that I'm not a great fan of people but it is also true that I don't like People. Coincidence? I think not.

People, you see, is a magazine which is not about people. I know because I'm a people and the magazine isn't about me. I guess the original name was "People Who Aren't You" and they shortened it because it didn't fit on the cover. In the past, I have railed at the articles that prove that celebrities are just like me (if I was a celebrities) and photoessay that suggest that a famous person carrying a baby is somehow more significant than anyone else carrying a baby. But I have found a new windmill.

So there I was on a recent evening, trying unsuccessfully to drown my sorrows, and reading a recent issue of People. I stumble upon a set of pictures of Important People at a gala affair celebration Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of the year. Now that may be one of the top 10 dumbest things EVER.

Let's get this straight. One magazine showing pictures of celebrities standing around at an event created to commemorate another magazine's list of celebrities. There they all were...smiling, drinking, playing music and looking fabulous. That same night, I had come home from work, grabbed a quick dinner while helping my kids with homework, watched the news and fell asleep because I had to be up the next day. I, no doubt, looked fabulous, though.

I hate the idea of celebrity to begin with but what were they all standing around and patting themselves on the back for? To celebrate the 100 most influential people. Influential? Let me be blunt: as far as I know, at least half of these people could have been dead for the last 5 years and I wouldn't have noticed. Influential? How. Some musician whose work does nothing but make me change the station. Is that influence? An actor whose movies I haven't seen, standing next to someone whose claim to fame and influence, it seems, is that he's standing next to an actor whose movies I haven't seen. Self-important comedians who forget that their job is to make me laugh and if they aren't doing that then they should get away and write new stuff. And of course, famous people whose fame comes from being famous people. Celebrity will breed itself.

They do not influence me. They do not inspire me. I don't know who most of them are, nor do I care. To label them influential at all is superficial, capricious and unproductive. To call them "most" influential is arrogant and insulting. To have a party for them is only made worse by having the people at the party be the exact audience they are least likely to have influenced.

If you really feel you need to have an event celebrating people who have an influence (one which I can drive under) then you need to call me and have a long talk about what that even means. Because I don't think any of these important people (or People) have any idea.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Friday, May 6, 2011

A word of thanks

I was gonna go to the 7-11 today and pick up some magazines. Nothing rude, mind you. Maybe an EW or a People. Just to pass the time. And I know the fear...while I'm there, I might end up buying lottery tickets, a soda or some boot polish. Now you might ask why I don't have a subscription but the fact is, I don't read the magazines all that much. I know the kids like them but I hate having them in the house. But today, i was gonna cave in and pick up an issue of something.

So I grab the key and I'm about to go out when suddenly I'm paralyzed with fear. I begin worrying about Osama Bin Laden. What if he's out there, waiting for me and planning to kill me on the way to 7-11? That would J.P.S. (just plain suck)! I saw my dreams of a magazine disappear -- "damn you OsamaI" I thought. I really just want to go down to the corner and I can't because you might have plotted to blow up the mailbox near my house, right whern I'm on my way to 7-11 to buy a magazine.

But then I remember...we got him! Osama's dead so I can feel free to go get a magazine without the fear of some unknown 7 foot tall terrorist who might spring out and fly a plane into me (which would, by the way, J.P.S. also). But when I went outside my neighbor's dog barked at me, so I went back inside.

Mr. President, I think your mission at this point is clear.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

What is the allure

What is it about being on the radio, or on TV or in the movies which is so attractive? Is it simply being the focal point of attention? I don't think so. I have been pondering this point - I was at work and someone spoke over the loudspeaker. And everyone who knew the guy said "hey, that's ______! I know him!"

Someone else gave a lecture. Individuals came up afterwards and wanted to associate with the speaker. There is something about the referred or connected power which makes the allure of the media more than just the momentary "being famous."

So here I am, a student of the media, a student of culture, and I have this simple question and no answer. It seems so basic: what motivates us to want to be near, on or somehow connected to the media? After the requisite 3 minutes of thinking about while I did something else, the answer came to me. And when I tell you, you'll say "of course" as if this is the most obvious thing in the world. And that's the trick. It IS the most obvious thing in the world but you didn't tell me the answer any earlier, so shame on you.

The answer, not surprisingly, is power itself. Think about it. Let's say you are in a dialogue with someone else. There is (in a perfect world) 1 speaker and 1 listener. Each can easily balance the roles within the dialogue. Fair enough. Now turn the one-to-one into a group of five people. Each can talk to any or all the others. Things start to get a bit loud but there is still some exchange. Maybe, the group switches to email to reduce noise, but all 5 can email to any or all the others. The inbox begins to swell. Now make it a group of 10. Lots of mail flying around. messages are getting lost.

So the group has to choose -- either they can all give up their individual rights to speak whenever and moderate themselves into a perfectly even distribution of speaking so that all have to listen the same amount, or they have to find some way to sift through all the noise and find what content has real value to the group. In order not to have to listen to the random side messages that user A spreads during his turn, groups will often look for a moderator who can choose the messages which are useful. He shapes the conversation and injects his own message content in their at his whim. He has the power of access to all the others' ears. To get a message to the group requires acknowledging him as the gatekeeper.

Now think about an audience of tens, or hundreds or even thousands. It isn't just about publicizing a message to that group but about having access to or affiliation with the gate keeper. Being on the radio is cool, but being friends with the DJ is cooler because it means to have either influence on, or can reap the benefits of that person's power.

So it isn't about the 15 minutes of fame but about the connection to people who are getting a full hour.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Happy Holiday

On this, the Star Wars holiday (and let me wish all concerned a hearty "May the Fourth be with you!") I offer a new poem dedicated to my favorite character.

Ode to TK-421

You were the first to die,
To be stripped of your shell
And used.

You were the luckiest,
To escape the eventual explosion
And confusion.

You were the only one
To have a name or any

You were innocent
Simply standing guard and
Trying to help.

Why did you join? What did you leave behind?
Did the allure of white make you feel good? Was it the call of space?

You were only known
When you were absent, but you
Will always be in our hearts.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry