Saturday, November 26, 2005

School Censorship-Part 1

11th grade came time for us to read Shakespeare's Macbeth. I was in the office when the shipment of brand new books arrived. The next day, our English teacher announced that the books were not ready yet. "Oh, I thought I saw some in the office the other day," I suggested. "Yes, they're HERE, but they're just not READY," she informed us.

Later that week, I found myself in the office again. I walked in and laughed. Two women sitting at the desks, sharpees in hand, systematically turning pages and crossing out selected lines in our books. The stack of completed "censored" books grew, and it dawned on me that the cover was mismatched. A closer look revealed that the cover photo had been covered with some opaque contact paper.

"Are you censoring our books?" I asked, rhetorically. "I don't get it: if it's not good for us to see it once, why is it better for you to read it so many times as you cross it out? How do you feel about the fact that they are making you read something inappropriate?" They confessed that they didn't understand it either, but they were merely following directions.

The next week, we finally received our copies of Macbeth. "Oooooh my Gosh...." my classmates murmured, as they effortlessly peeled off the contact paper covers and rolled their eyes at the mild picture of a man and woman leaning on one another. We finally understood why our books had arrived but were not "ready."

As we progressed in the book, we found our marked-up paragraphs. We laughed as the girls whose books hadn't been perfectly censored read the paragraph aloud. They got help from the girls who simply held their books up to the light to reveal the forbidden text.

Now, I see that their intentions were good. But think about it this way--if they wouldn't have put some contact paper over a mild PAINTING of a woman leaning on a man, (not even kissing or anything) nobody would have noticed or cared. If they wouldn't have used a [see-through] marker to cross out mildly sexual content, we would have either skipped it in class (and gone to read it on our own-or simply forget about it), or just read it casually and get over ourselves. Get over the fact that we live in America. If we want to have a secular education, and read Shakespeare, that's what comes along with it. Come on. I think they took this trip a little too far. They called more attention to it by doing what they did!

Also, for the girls who were rebellious and resentful of the school-it only helped them form these negative thoughts toward the school for restricting them. They already feel like they are stifled by not being able to wear anything they like, go anywhere they want...this does not help the situation.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Tehillim E-Mails

Despite the fact that my HS told me that the Jewish Press is not "our type of paper," I try to read it when I get a chance. Last week's issue mentioned something that crossed my mind, but I hadn't thought to discuss. The author discussed the practice of e-mailing Tehillim names to your friends, and what to do with them after receiving these emails.

If there are 100 Fwd: s on it, you don't know when it's from or whether it's still necessary to daven for this person. They usually don't tell you why. Is someone having surgery, or was someone diagnosed with a terminal illness R"L? That might clue you in on how long should you daven for this person. Maybe s/he was taken from this world before you received the e-mail. The surgery could have been done 2 weeks ago, and s/he's fine. Or the doctor made a mistake, and there is nothing wrong with him/her.

Then, when will you know to stop saying Tehillim? Hopefully, s/he will heal quickly and completely, but you won't get to know that. Nobody ever sends emails, "Baruch Hashem, this person, -----ben/bat----- is better, so you may remove him/her from your Tefillah list." Nor do they send the unfortunate news, "Baruch Dayin Emet, this person has passed. Please remove him/her from your Tefillah list." Therefore, there may be thousands and thousands of names that people recite daily unkowingly, which are completely irrelevant.

As the author in the Jewish Press does, I usually recite a Perek at the computer upon receiving the e-mail, but am stuck after that as to whether I should continue saying the name or not. Is that enough? Am I too late? Too early?

She suggests ending that practice, and establishing a web site where people can list names for Tehillim. Although, not many people would regularly visit the site. Only the ones who need to post the names. And who's to say that they will remember to update the visitors on the person's condition?

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Something Positive! Yay!

A while ago, I reported a pleasant experience at a Shabbos Sheva Brachos that I attended. The new "Machatunim" (boy's parents and girl's parents) certainly deserve each other. As I mentioned, I have known for a while that the girls parents are special people. That shabbos I learned that the boys parents are as well.

In the Kallah's grandfather's speech, he mentioned that every year during Sukkot, the girl who helped with the honeydew became a kallah that year. I muttered something to the effect of, "I know where I'll be sukkot," which made me sound massively desperate to get married, but whatever. It was more for the humor. It was for the kid who was sitting next to me.

The boy's mother turned to look at me. I turned bright red. My mind raced. "I said it too loud. I shouldn't have said it. Why is she looking at me? " Our eyes met, and she smiled at me. I shyly smiled back, and avoided her the rest of the meal because I was so embarrassed.

After betching, she approached the table. She set the cup of wine from Sheva Brachos in front of me, and asked all the girls at the table, "Does anyone here want Sheva Brachos wine?" Pardon my ignorance, but I asked, "Why? Is that a segullah?" She nodded knowingly. I thanked her, took my sip, and passed it around.

This woman never saw me before. She knew nothing about me and my life experiences. She did a seemingly small act of chesed, not knowing how good it made me feel-about her, myself, and about people. (That didn't last TOO long, but I still feel it now) She did something so kind and thoughtful for a total stranger. I was blown away.

So call it boring. Call it pointless. I am simply amazed at this woman's behavior. Most people would feel bad for the idiot who muttered something like that, but they wouldn't do much about it. Maybe they'd smile at her. I doubt they would bring her Sheva Brachos wine, and in the unembarrassing, subtle manner that this woman managed to achieve it. I'm impressed.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My Uneventful Trip to the Library

All it took was one trip to the Brooklyn Public Library. Well, two, if you want the other story.
Alright, my books were due at the Library today, so I went between classes, and looked around a little.

Last time I was there, I looked over a guy's shoulder at the computer station and he was glaring at a picture of Paris Hilton, and as you can imagine, she wasn't too dressed.

So this time, I saw some frum middle-aged guy, (which just dawned on me, what's he doing in the library at 2 in the afternoon anyway?) at the computer. So I looked over his shoulder. All I saw was Yahoo. Okay. Kosher.

I went over to the magazines, because sometimes I like to be a nerd and take out Consumer Reports or some cooking magazine. This frum teenager slipped a copy of Fitness magazine out of the cubby, and looked at me through the corner of his eye to make sure I hadn't seen. He walked to a private spot in the corner, and started to flip through it. I was getting ready to hand him a Men's Health, because I don't think he needs to know the moves for a perfect Jean butt.

Then another frum teenage boy approached, and put back a copy of Cosmo. Huh? Meanwhile, the kid with the Fitness magazine was looking around to see if anyone saw him.

So I was done with the magazines, and figured I'd browse the cookbooks, and see if they got anything new. Everything was too heavy, and I wasn't in the mood. On my way out, I passed the computers again. I nonchalantly glanced to my left to see if the stereotype of frum guys looking at porn in the library was true, and there it was onthe frum man's monitor, "Your search for "Playboy".... With my own eyes, people.

I was in the library for 15 minutes, and that's what I saw. Don't give me this "boooring" crap. And I know that everyone has a Yetzer Hora. And maybe the frum guy was testing something, or who knows what. And everything else. This is not an opinion, it's merely a report of the facts. But OMG, if walls could talk!