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Caption: "I'm not menstruating, I just murdered someone!" he screamed to deaf ears.
cremains: (Spock)


Slang warning on the Avenyn (major street near where I live). "Slang" means hose or pipe (it had been placed over the sidewalk as part of some construction work) and is seemingly related to shlong.



Sign in an elevator. I thought Israel had the most gruesome warning signs, but no.



First few lines of Shir HaShirim written on גויל.
cremains: (kafka's grave)
We moved out of the old people's home and into a new apartment in the old city of Gothenburg, where -- this is hard to describe -- at night the crowd of old buildings appear to bristle about and peer with their dim yellow windows inside the room. Before I left for Sweden, one of my old teachers said to me, "Who knows what secrets you will discover in Scandinavia that you could only uncover by going there?" Well for one, our new apartment actually belongs to a wealthy gentile sea captain and contains a locked room to which we are forbidden entry (and do not even have the key). It contains what I guess must be his most classified possessions. He left his books in the living room, including two volumes on how to kill things with falcons.

As Nabokov (and Nick Cave) wrote, the elms and the poplars are turning their ruffled backs against the wind. Everything is a fierce, rainy grey, with the exception of some yellow leaves in the gutters. The sea tries to chop up the harbour's giant shipwrighting cranes.

In other words, it is the perfect time for reading H.P. Lovecraft.

I also need to add that I've rediscovered this amazing video. It holds up so freaking well.
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We picked up a couple of standard stamps at the maqoleth (here called something I don't remember) to mail letters to the kids. On getting home, however, we saw to our surprise that the pictures were of two men kissing, a shirtless woman making out with a translucent balloon, and an old man beholding a picture of Jesus. Considering that the kids were recently banned from using Skype on the basis that it's "forbidden by every rabbi in the world" (we got a letter from a semi-famous hareidi rabbi saying that it's completely permitted, to no effect), I can't imagine these would go over well.

We live in an apartment connected (as in with hallways) to the "Olders' Home," and yesterday received a visit from their elderly people ambassador, who invited us to come every Tuesday and Thursday for "A French game called 'balls.'" Considering what happened with the stamps, I was more than a little suspicious of what he had in mind, but it turns out it's just pétanque. Pétanque is well-known to us because of its freakish prominence in our pre-Jerusalem place of residence, Netanya.

Everything is very clean, so clean that I saw a woman walk in central downtown yesterday with only very minimally dirty bare feet. No one seems to be drunk at noon fighting. The fruit is not rotting in the supermarket, but seems made almost of shiny plastic. I have literally not heard a single car horn honk. I have not yet been called retarded, in fact, I get the impression that such a word would be met with kindly disapproval.

I miss home.
cremains: (always rain)
There's so much to say about leaving and arriving, some of it too hard, but I will note the following:

- M. gave me a packet to open on the plane which contained a beautiful picture of herself, laminated with tape, and a message saying "To Yonah, have a nice trip. From me, M." I am amazed by the kindness from one just ten years old, the generosity it takes to give something to a step-parent, the insight and unselfconsciousness it takes to know that a photograph of yourself is the best thing for the occasion. It came wrapped in purple construction paper, labelled with pink marker, cut with little blunt scissors--the world of children and its population of distinctive objects, which I am leaving behind.

- The Darda'im gave me a sidur so I can be a good little Darda'ith even in shockingly Ashkenazi Scandinavia. "Who will fill the women's section now?" one asked (I was the only one who went to minhah and the weekly learning on shehitah). The rav gave me a blessing. It's nice to be cared for.

- My yeshivah was, by the end, no longer the place for me. But to think about it, I began in one of the lowest shiurim, worked my way to the top one, and a few weeks before I left substitute-taught a class. That might simply say something bad about it rather than something good about me, but regardless, it's progress.

- There are birches here, thought of in Irish traditional tree-lore as the aristocrat of the forest, represented by the letter (b-sound) in Ogham. Funny how the change in physical environment triggers so much memory. Instead of sandstorms, hoopoes, and cubes: rain, ravens, and triangles. Everything seems washed in iron grey. It's beautiful, but I miss home too much. My physical reality is now a little barrier between me and the learning, if not an unsurmountable one, and it used to be a connection.

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Nov. 27th, 2011 03:12 pm
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I had a dream about a game my friends used to play in elementary school, where we would each represent a planet or some sort of space force and conduct diplomatic relations with each other by passing notes. In the dream, I met my best friend from that era, Becky, on a bus in Sweden, and she told me all about how they were still playing the game. Her new people were a race of people whose spaceships were gorgeous, chameleon-coloured squid.

I came up with something, too. Back in the day my group were called the Mavadonians, so the new dream ones were called Neo-Mavadonians, and they were subsistance farmers on a little planet. They had no great ambitions and no serious troubles, as they were ruled by a supercomputer who regulated everything for them and protected them. For their govenment, they would elect their version of a prime minister; the name of the position was called the First Enemy, in the style I guess of the title First Lady. The job of the First Enemy was to design hostile scenarios for the supercomputer so that it could prepare for and protect against situations which, being a computer, it couldn't imagine or invent. For example, the First Enemy would write for it that the local wolf species was way overpopulating and encroaching on the townships. Since the neo-Mavadonians met the squid people the First Enemy had to prepare all kinds of space scenarios, which was very hard going because they had never contemplated threats of such great magnitude before.

***

Last week was ass and I can't imagine that this is going to be any better. Work is so horrible and I don't have the patience even to explain what silliness is going on there; but if only I wasn't unbelievably poor I would quit, and quit in style; in my imagination I would do that "Oh wait, I've got something in my pocket for you" routine and then give everyone hydraulic middle fingers. Combined with the stress of everything else, I just want to stay under the bed the whole day.

Weirdly, one of the few highlights has been finally finding the Teimani synagogue that is the only place on earth that uses the same sidur and customs as I do and is if possible they even more obsessed with Rambam, the Teimani equivalent of Justin Beiber. It was awesome. I hate women's sections, but at least this one was filled with Talmud volumes and other books that it is culturally assumed you have to be both smart and educated to read, including of course shelves and shelves of Rambam. Most women's sections have no books at all or just little collections of psalms. If only I could get them to read some serious feminist literature, it would really be my dream place.

This kind of Teimani is a breakaway group called the Darda'im. They are very into doing things as they were at the time of the Gemara, in love with science, and huge sceptics. Here is how one person explained it to his kids:

One Shabbat, the kids asked me why they can not do magic like Harry Potter.

I told them it was because their father is a Darda'i!

What is a Darda'i?

A Darda'i is a person that just by getting close to a wizard makes the wizard lose his strength and became a regular guy. Even the great wizard like Dumbledore, respect to him, if Dad gets close, soon will become a simple man on the street. Just by Dad looking at him, Groundskeeper Hagrid will get smaller and smaller, just like a child. Even Lord Voldemort, that they don't mention his name, can not get close to Dad! So it's not a good idea to take your dad on a trip to England, since if he only gets close to the Hogwarts School of Wizardry, the school right away will become a regular school for everything. It would even be dangerous, because everyone who plays Quidditch would fall to the ground and Madame Pomfrey cannot take them to her clinic, because she too will lose all her magic.

Then the kids asked me: how I can do all these great and wonderful things?

I answered: I studied with the great Rabbi Yosef Qapah, my teacher, and he taught me all these things.

Then the question is whether I can teach them as well?

I answered: most definitely!

- "Harry Potter in the Land of the Dardai'm"


My favourite part of this is the illustration of how scepticism doesn't have to lack imagination.

The one thing that's a little contradictory is that, as they say, one of their goals is to be as Gemara-y as possible, yet the Gemara talks all the time about necromancers, chicken-footed demons, cat placentas, post-divorce liquor store sorcery, etc. There are intellectually honest ways of reconciling this (for example, the demons occupy the exact same role in Gemara society as germs do in ours) but it's not a walk in the park.

So if anybody asks, I am an honourary Darda'ith.

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this hill is far enough

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