The Obvious

we are what we google

Posted in i don't know, valuable lesson by theobvious on May 17, 2011

Just now while brushing my teeth I thought: it’s remarkable how many questions I ask the internet these days. There tend to be quite many questions in my life in general, and I am the sort of person who, when faced with a question, needs to find out the answer tout de suite lest I am to suffer horrible cramps of information deprivation. So why isn’t there a service which would remember Google queries, so you could pull up your day in questions?

From what I remember, I started today with several variations on the query “icons move on reboot samsung”. When my phone is rebooted or even connected to the computer and then disconnected from it, all my application icons shuffle around and destroy my carefully thought out placement. Answer: this is normal, nothing can be done except installing an outside launcher. I did and disliked it, so for now the icons are in disarray and I’m trying to tame my OCD tendencies. The next query was “wi fi error android”, because I realized the previous research was costing me lots of money on 3g, as my wi-fi was off and wouldn’t turn back on for some reason. (Yes, I go on line using my phone as soon as I open my eyes in the morning.) Answer: this is not normal but usual, nothing can be done except rebooting the phone (and having all the icons move around).

Later, already at work, I googled “djembe laffe” to see what the rhythm I’m about to learn in a three-day workshop sounded like. It appears that laffe or lafè is better known as “kurubi”. One of the results for that was this. Then I checked “she’s a boy i knew” to see whether it was a good film. I ended up seeing it, and it was very good and led me to my next query: “glamorous lesbians”, because I realized that though there are all kinds of people in the world and surely some of them are lesbians who follow the latest in fashion and wear high heels and shimmering make-up, I have never seen such a one, and even though in all probability she’d look like any other glamorous lady, I still wanted to. This was not a good idea. If any of you need a good query to find lesbian porn, this would be it.

Upon arrival home, I began googling again, first for “hula hooping tips”, then “hula hoop calories” and finally “are unweighted hula hoops useful”, because I have a new-to-me hoop and want to make sure it’s helping my cause, which is the same reason for which earlier I googled “exercise app capoeira” to see if there was any application that would calculate the benefits from my vigorous two-hour workouts if the workouts were not running or cycling (apparently not, what is this obsession with mile-based exercise?, but I discovered a 1989 video with conditioning exercises to improve capoeira technique, which may come in handy).

After clearing things up with the hoop and doing a 20-minute impression of a chicken with St. Vitus Dance, by the end of which I’d like to believe I finally learned to apply the tips yielded by all that research, I googled “שיר השירים” (Song of Songs) to find the Hebrew text for verse 1:17, because someone wants to tattoo these words on her body and doesn’t speak Hebrew, and you may think I know the Bible by heart but I don’t, and why would you assume such a thing? The answer, by the way, is: קרות בתינו ארזים רחיטנו ברותים.

Finally, I decided to write this post, and a flurry of queries ensued: “what I googled today” helped me find out that there is indeed no such application yet. “game everyone switches places” meant I was looking for a metaphor for my icons shuffling and could vaguely remember there was a children’s game like that. Although the answer, “train wreck”, is technically suitable for the occasion, I decided to forgo the metaphor. “st. vitus dance” was to check that St. Vitus is indeed spelled this way. He is. And that’s a good note to end on.

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being incoherent is okay at four a.m.

Posted in capoeira, travel, valuable lesson by theobvious on February 6, 2011

Yeah I’m here, who said I wasn’t.

This has been a month of firsts for me. A. and I trekked to Cairo from Jerusalem. As we were shuddering through our five-hour ride in a speeding van in the dark desert, it suddenly struck us that it was not just a new city we were about to experience, and not merely a new country. In fact, it was an entire continent. The word “Africa” had always seemed so distant. Actually, it still does. And yet we were a train ride away from Chad or Niger, places hitherto synonymous with “unreachable”, and therefore “unreal”. As was the entire experience. We were sitting in the back of a van full of sleeping Egyptians, having a whispered argument about the Suez channel and whether we’d crossed it or not. Later, we found out we had.

We were there just before the current tumultuous events, by the way, and might have been among the last people to see Meseti’s beautiful wooden boat intact. The toy world found on Meseti’s sarcophagus, with the wooden models still wearing scraps of fabric for skirts as they went about their toy lives, was one of the things to leave the most profound impression on me. Funny how some things get at you. When they said there were people injured, even dead, I was, for want of a better word, concerned. But when this boat appeared in the news, broken, I cried. Suddenly, it became so very real to me that some kind of a world was crashing down.

Before that, for the first time in my life (that I can recall at least), I went to the Israel Museum. We didn’t spend too much time there, due to my embarrassingly short attention span and the sheer visual overload that the place inflicts on an unsuspecting citizen. However, we did see some awfully old and/or beautiful things. Including some sandal nails from some time B.C. Let me reiterate: funny how some things get at you. Small things. These are the nails that held someone’s shoes together, as he or she walked this land two millennia ago. These are the dried-up dates someone neglected to eat at dinner. 2,000 years ago. “Eat your dates,” said his or her mother then in a language I can speak now, “They’re healthy.”

Having returned from two weeks of intensive travel, I felt overcome by sluggishness. The snow, the early darkness, the thick clothing and clunky shoes, the freezing office were all extremely conducive to going home at 7 pm feeling like the day was over and spending five hours with the computer. So at some point I begged my brother for help and he graciously agreed to walk me by the hand to his capoeira class. The first time was last Monday. Last Wednesday I did a headstand. On my head. Using my hands for support. To support the bits of my body that weren’t supported by my head. This, obviously, was not something I’d anticipated doing. Not to worry, I’ve not been brilliant with the rest of it. Still. A month of firsts indeed.

For some reason, this post is begging for an ending that may seem a bit of a non-sequitur, but follows the rest perfectly in my head. Today I learned, or remembered, that Buddy Holly died at twenty-three. After which, I listened to “That’ll be the day” several times, thinking, I’m twenty-four. Twenty-four and a half this past January. It’s 2011. And there still are things in the world for me to do for the first time.

a penny for my thoughts won’t be enough

Posted in emotions, home, important, language, me myself, people, photos, places, thoughts, travel, valuable lesson, writing by theobvious on June 23, 2008

This trip turned out to be a learning trip. It was so rich with revelations there was practically no room left for much else.

I learned once again about real friendship, which doesn’t always need to involve personal presence, but is all the more exciting when it does. A friendship I value is a lucky, tricky, strange, full, and happy convergence of two people who couldn’t be more different or more alike. I am lucky to have several of these.

I learned about being the object of the emotions other people usually evoke in myself: concern, kindness, incomprehension, puzzlement, impatience, endless patience, affection, and a desire to share. I haven’t thought much about the way I react to these, and it is probably time to give it more consideration.

I learned a very important lesson about coping with loneliness. I was by myself a lot on the trip, however this was not the self-sufficient solitude of choice, but rather the desolate loneliness of choicelessness. The hours I spent this way left me despairing, with nothing to apply myself to, scared. I want to avoid these.

Finally, I learned something about writing. Someone gave me ‘Lost in Translation’ by Eva Hoffman to read, and the slow, soft, reflective style of someone who went through assimilating a whole new language as their main means of self-expression is an epiphany for me. There is much food for thought in this.

looking up

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my locker-room conversion

Posted in emotions, exercise, me myself, people, thoughts, valuable lesson by theobvious on April 11, 2008

Remember when I complained about feeling awkward in the locker-room at the gym? That has changed. I have been making amazing discoveries. There is a phenomenon acutely present there which I had never experienced such full contact with before, and it is called womanhood.

The women at the gym are quite an assorted bunch. Some of them are annoying, to tell the truth, but each and every one of them, in her unique way, is a woman, a lady, a female – a girl. The sense of femininity is expressed every second, in their every move and action, in their very being.

I can see women standing before mirrors, gingerly poking their sides to see how they’ll look when they lose several pounds. I can see them stealing furtive glances at other women, comparing, envious, gloating, compassionate. I notice that their choice of undergarments is telling.

A woman of about 60 is putting on her swimsuit after a workout. When the slick fabric covers the bumps and scars of age, work, and motherhood, she becomes another happy ageless girl in the bubble bath – just like the three-year old next to her, come with her mom, laughing loud and hard.

In the locker-room, everyone shares – the space and ergo, for just a moment, their life. As I stand before the full-length mirror (alas, no such luxury at home), I see reflections of women leaning against lockers, drying themselves, chatting and giggling at each other, sorting their belongings.

After the workout, the girls gradually transform out of sharing mode, they cover themselves in layers: body cream, then underwear, clothes, accessories, packed bags, lastly a business-like air. They walk out into the lobby and call their assorted boys to pick them up and back into their lives.

Still, a girl, I’ve found out, is always a girl: when she adds a little extra wiggle to her salsa hips – the instructor is a handsome, amiable guy – and when she blushes in the locker-room, surrounded for the first time by casual nudity. When she lingers in the shower, and when she rushes out, hair still dripping.

I used to say I was unfeminine. In our first months together, A. never gave me flowers, because he thought I’d hate them. He was surprised to learn that I actually liked receiving flowers from him. I am now equally surprised to find myself doing all those things I just described. What do you know – I am, too, a girl.

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extremely loud & incredibly close

Posted in books, emotions, thoughts, valuable lesson by theobvious on March 19, 2008

I finished reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by J. S. Foer on Saturday. It’s an amazing book. Among other things, it taps into the issue of boundaries when it comes to tragedy. There is a sense of (property? level of belonging?) about every kind of event, sad ones perhaps most of all.

Let me explain: it is possible to grade the connection one has with something like 9/11. There are the people who lost family members and friends, there are the ones that fought to save lives, then the ones who were close by, but the damage they suffered was limited to psychological trauma, the ones who live in a city whose changed skyline reminds them every day of the tragedy, the ones who lost the sense of safety in their country, the ones who were dumbstruck with fear and compassion, but were physically far away – and so on.

And when you think of it in terms of art (specifically literature) the question arises of the moral position in which one stands when one writes about something – and then reads what the other has written. It is difficult, I imagine, to write about something like 9/11 and not be scrutinized by the people whose pain level is higher than yours, whose sense of (property? again that word) may be offended by your interpretation, however good or poor, just because you are not as close as they are, so how can you understand and what right do you have to? It’s a huge responsibility, and Safran Foer handles it remarkably well, I think.

From yet another point of view, once you’ve faced the challenge of writing about something from a certain level of connection (is this still making sense?), you have then created a bridge for people from other levels to connect through. See, I, the reader, have not experienced 9/11 from as close as the author did, and he, in his book, describes an even more intimate experience than his own. This way I get a look at what it was like through the filter of my own memories and his.

What I’m trying (and failing miserably) to say is that a sensitive topic such as this has a sort of field of conditions around it which are incredibly hard to match; reading the work of someone who has managed to do that leaves a deep effect on someone who, prior to this, had no possibility nor moral grounds to experience that effect.

I am thankful for the fact that this book left me devastated for a day, because that brought me nearer to understanding the devastation that people closer to the tragedy felt for a much longer time – and are possibly still feeling.

NB! Please understand that I am not aiming to offend anyone – anything that you find hurtful is probably just clumsy wording on my part. Please let me know so I can try and rephrase it. I do not in any way imply to pass any kind of judgment in this post, all I’m doing is reflecting on my own feelings determined by a set of assumptions which may or may not be correct.

sounds of poinnnng

Posted in music, valuable lesson by theobvious on March 15, 2008

Usually when watching a band or an orchestra perform, I need to know exactly which person is making which sound, and for that it is necessary to see all of them. Also, I always pay attention to sounds familiar from cartoon soundtracks and suchlike. I think to myself, oh, that is what makes that noise!

Today we had unfortunate seats, flung far left to the very edge of the hall, and as the orchestra were sitting in a semicircle, we found ourselves facing the tail end of the string section. We could see no faces, but each and every hairdo. No prodigy virtuoso pianist, but both the harps and the girls playing them.

Well, who knew. That turned out to be more than enough! Did you know how many of those special movie sounds are made by harps? Even the ominous hoom-hoom when the good guys enter the empty cave, even the poinnng when Jerry breaks Tom’s whisker! What a fascinating instrument, the harp.

There is a woman in Jerusalem, playing a harp on the main tourist street, dressed usually in a medieval (or maybe just really old-fashioned) dress. I used to think she was quite mediocre, but now I have new-found respect for her. Next time I’m there, I’ll put ten sheqels in her hat if she can do hoom-hoom.

the bright side of life

Posted in film, life, random, the thrilling goings-on, valuable lesson by theobvious on January 25, 2008

My main plan for this afternoon was a cup of coffee with a dear friend of mine, and I had based the day around it. That went to hell when I was walking through the door, because the dog made it out before me, and when she runs away every plan needs to be put on hold. She hadn’t run away for over a year now, but today her instinct got the better of her.

Anyway, when we were done chasing her through the new snow (kind of fun, but not with disgusting old hags yapping at Dad and me from every direction; God, people can be so bloody annoying) it was too late to go anywhere, so all that was left was put on A.’s old cords and sit down to watch movies. So I finally watched Life of Brian and The Holy Grail.

I really like Monty Python. Theirs is a kind of humour that is easy to appreciate – with a healthy dose of PG-16, but lots of wordplay and just good old tongue-in-cheek parody too. I always watch comedy with the question in mind: was this fun to do for the crew? This seems to have been a hoot, and that makes it all the more enjoyable for me as a viewer.

And there’s also the music. I actually have their album (Monty Python Sings) in my walkman, and it’s hilarious. I’d recommend it to anyone. Life of Brian has some of the funnier songs, while The Holy Grail has lots of its funny moments based on the soundtrack – like the adventures of Sir Robin, or the majestic music that follows Arthur around.

So all in all, I guess I’m trying to say that even though my perfectly thought-through plan for today went haywire, I’m kind of glad it did, because I had a good day in the end. Let’s see this as a sort of practise in looking at the bright side. *whistle whistle*

worth considering

Posted in important, thoughts, valuable lesson by theobvious on January 13, 2008

I want to share this story that’s been bugging me for a while. Last year, when we were learning in Jerusalem, most of the people surrounding us were American. Including my chevruta (Jewish traditional for ‘study partner’). A very nice guy, he was excellent to study with, very cool with most of the odd things I did, until one day we were talking about something and I was telling him I’d forgotten something.

And I said ‘well, you know me, I have sclerosis.’ Which is a normal expression in Russian, meaning ‘I’m very forgetful’.

Only my chevruta didn’t know that. He gasped, went literally green, and it took me several seconds to realize what was wrong and explain. I apologized, saying that I realized how awful this must have sounded, how terrible this expression was, and how disgustingly I had behaved. All he said was: ‘Yeah that was awful!’ Not just awful, it was a dumb thing to do and I’ve been regretting that moment ever since.

Yesterday I was fuming about someone being incredibly inconsiderate and obnoxious to someone else. I was all, shut up, there’s no excuse for what you are doing! But now I realize – it’s not always that easy to be considerate. That’s not to say it’s okay to treat people like crap, but just sometimes it’s good to remember my own mistakes before I judge. So it’s a quiet day for me today as I think about these things.

day 22, anything is blog-worthy

Posted in random, valuable lesson, writing by theobvious on November 22, 2007

[Here was a paragraph on my suffering, but I erased it. Marvel at my restraint.]

Anyway, I wanted to be brief today, but then I remembered this post by Rachel of the many talents and the new Yorkie (which, oh my god, squee!). She mentions that for her to enjoy a short post, its author needs to have a decent vocabulary.

Which makes perfect sense, but it also causes self-consciousness in people like me. Do I have the right to post short? Is my vocabulary decent or does it need to put on more clothes? Am I articulate enough for Rachel and the rest of you to like me?

So I performed a simple experiment, where I visited ten ‘Word of the Day’ pages to see if I knew the words. Observe:

1) deipnosophist – someone skilled in table talk. I didn’t know this word before. I’m not likely to remember it, either. Nor am I skilled in table talk.

2) victual – food usable by people. This one I knew, but its pronunciation befuddled me. It’s one of the words I recognize in writing, but have never heard pronounced.

3) titian – a bright reddish or golden auburn colour. Didn’t know this one, would probably have understood it in a sentence from context. It’s rather straightforward really.

4) ardent – showing or having warmth of feeling, passionate. Well, duh.

5) pumpkin – do we really need a definition? Hee hee hee!

6) disparity – difference in quality or kind. Understand it well. Haven’t used it in a sentence.

7) poultrarian – a person who eats vegetarian food and select cuts of chicken and turkey. I know several people like that. Didn’t know the word. I also encourage you to check out yesterday’s word on that website. Unless you’re my mom. Then stay away from there!

8) assiduous – diligent, unceasing, persistent. Uh-huh.

9) Molotov cocktail – a type of petrol bomb. I’d rather I didn’t know what this meant.

10) monument – something that stands to keep something in remembrance. Har har at the definition. Yes, I knew the word.

Okay, result: seven out of ten, including ‘pumpkin’. (Does that compromise the purity of my experiment?) Here’s a challenge: could you use all ten in one sentence? I guess today’s lesson is that I’m okay, but just to be safe I should make my posts longer to compensate for the lack of interesting words.

Best not done while I’m on painkillers.

at least we tried

Posted in the thrilling goings-on, valuable lesson by theobvious on September 23, 2007

We tried to organize a PARK(ing) event today. It was a total no-show. Out of all the people we emailed, three showed up. And when we asked them not to drink alcohol in the park, they promptly left.

I must admit we were a little shy about handing out flyers and getting people to actually sit in our park thing. But then most of these people looked at us as though we were suggesting they enlarge their genitals by way of consuming the magic pills we were selling at half the market price.

And clearly we screwed up a bit on every possible level – my brother and co-organizer was twenty minutes late, I didn’t find any turf, our location choice was questionable, and the little trees we got kept toppling over whenever there was a gust of wind.

But the point is, we made a big deal out of this, we emailed tons of people, we got ourselves mentioned on the official website, we bought stuff (and, may I add, spent a shitload of money), and nobody even cared enough to write back they weren’t coming. Makes me question the purpose of being and all that.

Well, I guess we did get a lesson out of this. Here’s what we learned today: never organize anything at the same time as a convention of Baltic renaissance-tribesmen who are building an altar and singing weird hymns while banging on drums. True story.