One of the things I love most about going to class is participating in discussions. Since I live alone, there are only so many times I can rehash the same conversations over and over in my head, like why I should or should not sweep the floor today, or if I made the right decision about this or that in my life. So, going to class and participating in discussions is one way to hear other currents of information and contribute words of my own, words that may mean something to someone, or not. I’ve never been called out for lack of participation, and I do my best to keep my thoughts limited and on topic.

It’s rare that I have a moment like I did today.

So there I was, just sitting in class, listening in and taking notes on a discussion about societal values, symbolism, and political ideology. Even though I didn’t quite understand every word of every reading we had to do, hearing them spoken aloud helped me get a better perspective on things. This topic was one I had been unsure about, but a thought came to me as we discussed different levels of societies and the socially constructed methodology.

I raise my hand. (Even though since there are only seven students and one professor, most people just start talking, I still raise my hand, because I guess I like rules, or I’m bad at breaking old habits).

The professor calls on me, and all eyes turn toward me.

My brain says: Where did the carefully crafted thought I just had disappear to? I know it’s somewhere…and yes, it had to do with…

“The values of society can sometimes be as cut-and-dry as visual symbols, like…”

Like what?

“Like…Boy Scouts. And Girl Scouts.”

Okay, Jacob, good, keep going.


Come on, you can do it.

“Whenever they complete a task that coalesces with a positive attribute of the fundamentals of their organization, they get a badge, and I guess that these badges are a way of exposing the values behind the organization and society of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America.”

Keep going, you’re almost there!

“So, my point is, it can be as simple as a merit badge that shows the values of a society that values ethics, and children.”

Okay, wrap it up.

“They promote their own cause by presenting boys and girls with badges, that they wear across their chest, on their, um, clothing, shirt, vest, that thing, wraps around your neck, shoulder, shirt, vest, thing, so that it can be easily seen and understood by outsiders…”


“…the core values of their organization, which causes a sense of pride, validating their sense of community-mindedness, to their community, and their importance within their own society, as well as to outsiders, with the badges they wear, across, their shirts, vest, chest, the thing that wraps around…”



What? Where am I? Who am I? What am I saying? What is…what? I should just stop talking, this is dumb…

“I should just stop talking, this is dumb…wait…oh my God, I’m sorry…” ::bites lip awkwardly::

At this point, the professor jumped in, and said something like “oh yes, no, yes, that’s a good example, that proves your point, you did a good job with that…” and we moved on, with me still kind of staring into nowhere.

I think I quietly said something to myself like “ugh, that was terrible, that made no sense…”

At which point the girl next to me overheard me, patted me on the shoulder, and said in a small voice, “No, you’re good, that was good, you’re okay.”

Oy vey. That’s all I have to say.



For some reason, I’m feeling like a dragon today. As in…just dragon along. It hit me this morning – I’m just exhausted. This is not cool. The semester has barely even started. I don’t even have any assignments yet. Maybe it’s the weather. It’s way too cold to do anything let alone write a sentence (this one has taken me about five tries), yet today I dragged myself out to the gym, to two meetings, and Chabad.

And yeah, I’m heading out again now.

Excuse me while I live a little.



Equal Rights

Classes are over, and all I have left to do is one paper that’s already 17 pages long, and I’m going home in 4 days, so I think it’s safe to call the semester just about over.

That, and I had such a boring day that I couldn’t think of anything to post.

So here’s a list of equal rights. Or equals that seem right. Or rather, things that are equivalent to one another. Whatever, I’ve been writing all day…

Equal Rights

  1. Being descriptive = fail, but throwing a bunch of ideas at a computer screen like so many strands of wet spaghetti against a refrigerator = the way to go.
  2. Diet Coke = food group.
  3. Cheese and crackers = Wisconsin’s chips and salsa.
  4. Elevator rides = karaoke time.
  5. Einstein Bros. Bagels = always a bad idea.
  6. Reading everything that’s required = not required.
  7. Friends reruns = required.
  8. 3 AM bedtime = 2 AM bedtime.
  9. NYT crossword = nightly regimen.
  10. Blogging = writing, which = practice.



Limited Brain Capacity

I think I’ve uncovered the secret to how I’m surviving these days.

Or at least an excuse for forgetting/slacking on things.

I’m going with…Limited Brain Capacity.

Someone, somewhere, said that we only use about ten percent of our brains on a daily basis. Someone somewhere else called that person a big fat liar. I say that they’re both wrong.

These days, my brain feels kind of like an iPhone. Once you have so many apps, photos, videos, songs, etc. on an iPhone, it gives you that “memory almost full, delete some stuff” message. For me, that’s how I’m getting by.

For instance, lines. Last week’s rehearsals were pretty disastrous and I totally blanked on lines, several times. So much so that I was given the option to do the whole show on book. The day of open dress (Wednesday) I took my car to get it fixed, and in the two hours I was given to wait for it, I basically blocked out everything from my mind – state capitals, shopping lists, possibly even the names and ages of all my cousins – and just focused on sweeping out those megabytes of info and sweeping in the lines. Effectively making me a line-bot, or in layman’s terms, an actor. By the time I got to rehearsal that night, I was feeling confident. I did a quick line-thru spit-back thing with Marc, and we managed to get almost all the way through the play with me messing up only a handful of times; and by messing up, I mean completely losing focus, not merely getting words transposed, which happens sometimes to the best of actors. Kat asked me how confident I felt in doing it off book, and I answered affirmatively, and that night I managed not to screw up too badly. Before the next night’s performance, I hadn’t had much time to look over the script, and at two points got completely stymied – not enough to slow down the whole show, but so much so that I needed some saving. Friday afternoon I had a bit of time to look over lines, and that night I believe I gave my best performance, only screwing up a line or two in scene three. There was also another factor that was keeping me on my toes, but that’s for a later post. Saturday night kind of got lazy, with one of my (very few) line flubs causing a whole page of scene one to be skipped, but other than that, a near-perfect acts two and three.

Since then, I’ve not thought much about my lines, but I’ve been extremely careful in managing where exactly my brain is, given that we’ve got a pick-up rehearsal scheduled for Wednesday and three more performances until we close on Saturday night. After that, I will be free to forget. But not until then.

Due to Thanksgiving travel and general play fatigue, I’ve been missing both of my regularly scheduled dance activities, kabuki and ballroom. Ballroom’s kind of a lost cause for me this semester – I’ve resigned to saving it for next semester – but kabuki, one of the things I thought I was doing pretty well in, has become a victim of my Limited Brain Capacity. Seeing as that I’m auditing the class, I can really pick and choose exactly what I want to do. I’ve chosen to do no written work at all, seeing as I don’t have the extremely hard-to-acquire out-of-print textbook, and only focus on studying the performance and improving my own. The final will consist of:

  1. Sword cadence
  2. Fan dance
  3. Bannai
  4. Combat sequence
  5. Monologue (Sukeroku or Agemaki)

The easiest thing for me to remember is Bannai, since it’s basically a short monologue with gestures. I was present in class for the majority of the sword fighting and fan dancing, so I’ve retained most of those. I did miss a few classes where some new moves were added. Today I did the fan dance and I was surprised at how much I had forgotten. Like, even some of the beginning moves, the easier ones, and the sword cadence as well. For the combat sequence, I learned everything up to the final two moves, but since there’s an odd number of students and I’m the only auditor, I’ve been sitting out. The professor, however, told me that if I want to try for the final, I’ve got my pick of partners. Depending on how many people want to go twice, I might be very popular. However, I haven’t practiced it for a while so my memories of the combat routine may have fallen out of my brain along with the rest of the fan dance. As far as the monologues – I’m not even going to try. Lines for the play plus Bannai plus…all the other academic and non-academic stuff I have to remember and use on a daily basis have pretty much caused me to defer any other new information up to the Cloud.

Speaking of academics…

I have finished all assignments for one of my classes, and have blocked it out of my mind completely. For American Drama, all I have left is a final exam, so other than leafing through the plays for the past few weeks, all knowledge from that course has been shifted to the Cloud as well. This leaves me with Cruelty, for which I have one paper due Thursday (which should be in my mind but is not as I have not yet started) and Restoration, for which I have turned in my first draft, so until I get it back tomorrow with comments, is out of my mind. Other things like laundry, eating, cleaning, bathing, reading for pleasure – these familiar fuzzy thoughts are re-materializing, if only for a short while before Cruelty-Restoration-my lines for the play come back to me from the Cloud.

If this isn’t making any sense to you anymore, that makes two of us.

Basically, my point here is that my brain can only take in so much new information at a time, especially info that must be memorized and performed. That’s one of the reasons I don’t miss acting – more on that later.

But in the long run…what does this mean for my brain? Is my ten percent drying up? Am I using more of my brain? Or are my brain cells just having a massive orgy and reproducing at lightning speed?

Because my brain is a curious creature, it went and Google Searched “limited brain capacity finals week.” The first hits were scholarly articles, which I would love to read but my brain does not want to. Next stop on the crazy brain train: Wikipedia. Looking for an simple yet concrete answer, I stumbled upon Baddeley’s model of working memory.

In short, these two guys Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch came up with a system of how our short-term memory works. This model, created in 1974 and amended in 2000, consists of three main areas of focus:

  1. The central executive is the portion of the short term memory that organizes all of the trains of thought; it’s literally the depot. It’s the center in the brain responsible for multi-tasking. Mine is working very hard at the moment, the “notes” function thinking about all the work I have to do and the fact that I have three washer loads that need to hit the dryer and that I need to put on pants and shoes before I can go to the laundry room to do that, as well as playing an mp3 in my brain for a soundtrack (currently, that fan dance song from kabuki class), the video/camera/photos/facetime registering all the colors and symbols on the computer screen, and somehow, through all this, my motor skills, enabling me to type at a relatively rapid speed to put words on the screen without constantly needing to look at my fingers for guidance. Effectively, we’re all multi-taskers by nature.
  2. The phonological loop takes in and interprets sounds and words, so that we may repeat them back. Right now there isn’t any background music or noise, so mine’s got a respite, but reciting lines over and over and hearing them cued to me every night acts sort of like a “voice control” function in the brain. At least that’s how I’m interpreting this concept at the moment.
  3. The visuospatial sketchpad allows us to navigate through our lives, literally. It’s why we don’t have to concentrate so hard on walking, because it can draw internal maps so that we can take advantage of the first two elements of the short-term memory while doing a task such as walking, and not running into walls or tripping and falling over. (sidenote – eight finger knuckle crunch at this moment – this must mean it’s getting serious). This allows me to navigate my apartment, the theatre building, and the stage. At the same time, it helps me go through my blocking, both for the play and for the kabuki dances. This area, my “maps” function, exerts itself pretty heavily these days, with a need for knowing floor patterns essential to my survival as an actor and a kabuki performer.

So what does all this mean?

Basically, I’m not a lunatic. I do have issues to figure out and I’m navigating them to the best of my ability, but as far as me putting things on shelves in my mind, it’s totally appropriate. Right now, my brain is working overtime, but relief will come soon, in the form of tasks and obligations being finished.

But I can’t think about that point in the future too much, lest I drop my internal iPhone in Olestra, causing a need to visit the always helpful-but-not-helpful Apple store and unexpected fluid leakage.

…well that got graphic very quickly.



How to Write A Paper for Grad School

Well, first of all, tervetuloa to my first visitor from snowy Finland (who was actually my friend Johanna), and bem-vindo to my first visitor from sunny Portugal (who happens to be a bookcrosser who has a blog here). Also, to my first hits from the state of New Hampshire and the province of Alberta. Welcome. You are special as well.

I have a paper due in the morning, so of course I’m going to write a blog about writing a paper instead of actually doing it.


How To Write A Paper for Grad School

Step 1: Picking A Topic

Don’t just pick a topic because it sounds easy, because that’s lame. Where’s the challenge in that? You don’t need to make any great discoveries, but you’ve gotta do the assignment – caring about it a little helps. If your topic gets shot down, either a) amend it and go forward anyway, b) find a new topic (warning: results rarely satisfying), or c) go to your professor and say, “So what do you want me to do?” But not that bluntly, maybe.

Step 2: Prewriting

Yeah, this doesn’t happen.

Step 3: Research

This is the most best part. If you’re me, you get to go and search online in a bunch of databases for articles that may or may not be beneficial, scour the card catalog for colorful books in all sections of the library and possibly libraries in other cities and states, and then curse the fact that it’s 2 AM and you have to wait until the morning for the library to open so you can hunt down your materials like so many artifacts in the Hidden Temple.

Step 4: Realization

This paper is due in like ten days. There’s no way you can realistically read all this stuff you have.

Step 5: Contemplate Your Choice to Go to Grad School


Step 6: Do Anything But Your Paper

Hang out with friends. Call your dad. Talk to your landlord. Do a crossword puzzle. Fold some laundry. Try out a new recipe. Drink. Take a walk. Go to the gym. Watch just one episode of Family Guy. Stare at the wall. The possibilities are endless!

Step 7: Realize That it’s Due Tomorrow

Freak out.

Step 8: Blank Stare

This should be directed towards your computer screen. If your stare lasts for more than four hours, see your doctor.

Step 9: Hot Tub Dip

No, not an actual dip in the hot tub (this should have been covered in step 6) but rather write with fire and passion. Emerge with six words.

Step 10: Just Write Something

Something. Words. Anything.

Step 11: Write Something On Topic

This will start with one word, then expand to five, and then la di da type type type for like an hour and, voila, you have approximately 2-3 more pages than the assignment required, so now you have to delete some of the more purple and verbose stuff. Usually, it’s that time of night where everything makes sense, so send it to your printer, go to sleep, and try to remember to bring it to class in the morning. YOU HAD ONE JOB, DUE DATE.

At least that’s how it always works for me.

Your results may vary.


Failure Pie

Today was just one of those days. Things just didn’t go my way. And the worst part of it is, it’s left me tired but not sleepy.

(I just waded through reading something that was unbearably dense, so bear with me.)

It started off pretty well, the sun was shining, and that was about it. I ran to class, got there late, and spent the next almost-two-hours wishing that I were elsewhere. Class ends, and I run home to finish and print a paper, make some soup that I eventually dump down my throat as I go back out the door, and was late for my next meeting, which wasn’t horrible, but left me feeling pretty non-confident about myself. I was on time for the next class (yay) but it was my afternoon three-hour class, and I was sitting there wishing that I was elsewhere. By the end of hour two I’m usually pretty checked out. Then I had about a half-hour to shove a half-sandwich down my throat (Throat to Me: Don’t push it.) and then it was time for rehearsal, which was probably some of the worst hours of my day, then home, where I did some stuff, but mostly felt the need (and still do) to dick around and not do work (which is a bad idea) and stretch my brain to think of more stuff to type in this entry, and tell myself I’ll be in bed by 12:30 only for time to be like “surprise! you bummed around the apartment doing nothing and now it’s 3 AM, or 2:30 if you’re lucky!” And on top of that, now I feel incredibly lonely in this apartment that, while lovely, still doesn’t feel like home with the piles of mess in different places, the white hospital-room walls that nothing in the world will adhere to, and the fact that I still don’t know where half of my stuff is at any given time, yet the time I’d spend looking for a new place is spent in class, running from place to place, and – you guessed it – doing nothing constructive at all. It’s a cycle that kind of needs to end, and fast, because I’m beginning to feel like I’m going through the motions, springing back and forth on a rubber-band-slingshot between my apartment and the Vilas building with a few other stops in between sometimes that take more time than they probably should.

Oh, and my shoulders hurt from exercising yesterday. Um…good for the bones, I guess? Bleh. I don’t know.

What I do know today:

  • I’m so lonely when alone, but when in class, most of the time I just want to get out of there.
  • Saying “you’ll be fine” to me right now would be like…I think I’ll go there in a future entry.
  • The little things accumulate and escalate.
  • Budgeting more travel time is never a bad idea.
  • My computer’s fan is embarrassingly loud.
  • I’m always doing stuff, but I would never call myself “busy.” I don’t know about that. Again, more in a future entry.
  • I should probably go back and read through my posts and follow through on some of those future-entry topics.

All those charts were right, about grad school being a six-slice pie (school, social, sleep, exercise, diet, and extracurriculars, or something like that) when they say “pick four and fail at them all.”

In that case, I have about seven pies worth of failure.

And I’m not even really doing any of those things right now.

…so I guess I just proved the chart right.


How I Got Into Graduate School – Round 1, Part 2

Today was my Hebrew birthday, so that’s something, I guess. Happy birthday to me.

But to continue where I left off…

So here I am, in March 2011, with prospects looking pretty dim for the coming school year.

Through the Baltimore County secondary school grapevine, my mother hears of a woman who is planning on retiring from her position at a local Catholic girls’ school in order to foster the launch and growth of a full-time life-coaching business. So she sets the two of us up. At the second or third meeting, upon expressing my interest to go to graduate school for theater but not having had any bites on my three previous applications, she tells me a few things: 1) that three wasn’t enough for a first go-round, 2) application season is most likely over, so to set my sights on building my resume in the coming year with work and volunteer positions, and 3) to go to the library, get a book of majors, and pick 10-20 graduate theater programs around the country, and contact them with a letter of interest and some supplemental materials, but not the same ones I used on my previous applications. She asks me what else I have, what else that’s interesting about me. I show her the YouTube video that I worked on for the ASTR video contest (wow, I just realized that that statement needs context – note to self: tell that story too) and she claps her hands together and says “Marvelous! Just send out an email with a short letter of interest, your CV, a link to that video, and nothing else.”

So I do that.

Before long, I start getting emails from said schools. I get emails from schools in New Jersey, Ohio, and South Dakota. I even get a call from a university in Oklahoma, from a woman who I didn’t remember but remembered not only meeting me at ATHE in 2010 but seeing the previous incarnation of the video there as well (side note: today, this woman is a dear friend and colleague of mine who I can’t possibly imagine having forgotten!) with the first of the many puzzling yet pleasing pieces of information I’m to hear in the next few weeks: that she would love to have me in her program and could possibly slide me in for fall admission. She does mention that I’d have to mobilize pretty quickly, and that even though it is a slot in a program, the department is very small and in a small town in Oklahoma with limited cultural opportunities and absolutely no Jewish life to be found. The main point here is that she tells me to consider other options, but that she could possibly make it happen for me if I really wanted it. Which is a very comforting thought.

Then, on April 13, my email of interest shows up on the computer screen of the theatre department at the University of Houston, in faraway Houston, Texas. The response I receive is an overwhelmingly positive one, with many compliments to my resume, my YouTube video, and my personality. The response also poses a question at the end of the body of the message, asking me “by the way…would you be interested in Fall 2011 or Fall 2012 admission?” 


I fire back a response asking them what they mean by this, and not ten minutes later, a response shows up in my inbox, saying that someone dropped out of their incoming fall class, leaving them with a spot to fill, and I seem like a good candidate for doing just that, provided I can get an application in ASAP (but with no concrete promises that this will, indeed, happen).

Wow. Okay.

Over the coming days, I get into action. I fill out the application, send off GRE scores, call in some favors for last-minute recommendations (which is kind of fortuitous, since it happened to be spring break), and in about 48 hours, voila, my application has been completed and sent off. Upon receipt of the application, I get a phone call from the head of the department for an informal interview. Then, another phone call from another professor in the department, for another informal interview. Then, I get a call from a current student in the program to talk about the program from a student perspective, and Houston logistics. After she and I introduce ourselves over the phone, she says, “just so you know, they wouldn’t have asked me to call you if they weren’t already going to accept you, so basically, congratulations, but you didn’t hear it from me.” So things are looking pretty good – in my favor, you could say.

Fast-forward to April 25. Exactly two weeks after the initial contact was made. It’s Pesach, and I’m taking a mid-afternoon nap when my phone alerts me that I have an email, waking me up. I go to check…and it’s an acceptance letter.

I’m in.

And it took all of two weeks, as opposed to the months I spent preparing for the other applications.

Maybe the stars were aligned that day, maybe it was fate, or maybe I just plain deserved it, but whatever way you slice it: I got in, then I moved to Houston, then I started classes, then two years later I graduated after successfully defending a thesis. But we’re getting ahead ourselves here.

Because that’s how I got into graduate school.

Thanks, YouTube.


How I Got Into Graduate School – Round 1, Part 1

I’ve been trying all day to think up a good and interesting story, but I couldn’t, so I’ll just tell you how I got into graduate school.

But first, how I didn’t get into graduate school.

When I got back from Israel in 2010, I started looking at options for graduate schools, since that was clearly the way to go. I found several programs that I liked, and applied to three of them for admission: University of Iowa, University of Colorado-Boulder, and Yale School of Drama. Yes, I know, Yale School of Drama. My advisors advised against it, but a guy can dream, can’t he? And what’s the worst that could happen? Oh yeah, a rejection letter. But if you’re willing to face that as an option, then hey, go for it, I guess. Which I did.

While working on and sending off the applications, I got an invite from UC-Boulder to come out for the weekend and attend a Prospective Grad Students’ Weekend there. They offered free food, activities, and the normal grad-school-visit stuff. The only big expenses would be flight/hotel, and when I presented my parents with this option, they said, “why not?” So off I was to Colorado for the weekend, a state I’d never been to before and haven’t been to since. It was early spring, so it was gorgeous up there in the mountains – I had a great time, made good friends with some of the professors and students, and generally enjoyed myself. I even pictured myself living in Colorado. Upon leaving, I was taking a walk with a professor when I asked her (kind of bluntly) if she thought I could get in, and she seemed pretty positive about it, so I left Boulder with a good taste in my mouth.

Then the rejection letter came a few weeks later. For some reason, it wasn’t that upsetting – at least I had a great time there, and I had bigger fish to fry. Speaking of…

One day in March, THE EMAIL CAME. It was THE YALE EMAIL. To summarize, it basically summoned me up to New Haven for a day for a round of interviews. My dad said “whoopee!” and off to New Haven we went. I was so nervous about it I actually called up a professor of mine a few days before to ask some preliminary questions, and even practiced some jokes and read-up on early American theatre, for some odd reason. Of course, the day we were supposed to go, an electrical storm knocked out Philadelphia and our train got canceled, so instead, we took a later train. We still got there, but with barely a moment to breathe before I had to head out to get interviewed by SEVEN PEOPLE. At the SAME TIME. And of course, me being a clumsy idiot, about a block before the building, I slipped and fell on the ice, resulting in a bloodied right hand. What hurt even more was I was talking to my friend DeDe at the time, planning to meet up later for dinner, and then WHOMP.

Fortunately, the building had a first-aid kit, so with minor bandaging, I entered the interview room and got pelted with questions. I had them laughing a few times, and I thought that I did an OK job. While I was in the room, Dad found out that out of about 50 applicants, they’d only summoned the top 15 to New Haven for a mere 5 spots, so that made him (and me) feel pretty special. Later that night, we met up with DeDe, Yaakov, and their adorable baby (who is a big brother as of last week – congrats guys!) during which DeDe had an awesome spit take with her hot chocolate where she almost died. Then, Dad and I saw The Piano Lesson at the University Theatre, then I went out with DeDe once again for a trivia night, which we won (because my team ALWAYS wins), and then went home the next day. Still no word from Iowa.

The next email I got from Yale was…a rejection letter. Boo. But hey, at least I can tell my grandchildren that I almost got into Yale.

Never mind that not one but TWO of my cousins applied, got in, and actually went to Yale…but that’s beside the point.

And then, there was Iowa. I know they only had 2 spots available in their program, and I hadn’t heard, so I called to see what was up. They apologized for waiting so long to get back to me, but then I got the shocking news that they had made two offers…but that I was still in the running.



Apparently, they’d had a lot of applicants and a really tough time making decisions, and I made it through the final round of cuts to be put on the waiting list, and in fact, was the top alternate on the wait list, and they’d already sent rejections to everyone else but me. I don’t know how true this was or if they were just saying this to make me feel better, but we did speak about it by phone and email, so I’m pretty sure it was sincere. They told me to wait just one more week, because if one of the two offers declined, the spot would be mine, and they said that that situation has occurred before.

So I waited a week…

And it didn’t happen. REJECTION. They did, however, tell me to reapply and that I’d probably get in, but due to funding, they weren’t sure if they were going to accept a new class until Fall 2013, if I was willing to wait. DOUBLE REJECTION.

And that’s how I didn’t get into graduate school.

But wait…what? The title of this post is how I GOT into graduate school, not how I DIDN’T GET into graduate school!

That’s a story for another time, possibly tomorrow, or possibly in a few days. But it has a (sort of?) happy ending, so don’t despair, Pooh Bear. I just made that up, and I’m totally using it in conversation tomorrow.

Will the Brady Bunch get out of that old west prison? Will Rachel marry Joey instead of Ross? Will we ever find out who shot J. R.?