25

Malaise-y Susan

So, normally I don’t do this – or at least not here, that is – but I just have to say it. I’ve been super down lately. This blog is about stories and fun and jollity and stuff like that but I haven’t been feeling it, so it’s time for a get-real post. And if you don’t like these kinds of posts, you can come back tomorrow for something different.

It’s just been really weird for me lately. Spring semester is going along pretty smoothly, I have several conference papers to work on, along with an article and thinking about prelims, but I’m just not feeling it. I don’t know if it’s the body image issues I’m going through right now, or general loneliness, or depression, or stress, or just “winter malaise” of single-digit-weather Wisconsin. But something is just not right in Jacob World, and it’s bugging me.

“Ya wanna blog about it, Jacob?”

Well, that’s kind of what I’m doing. I guess. I don’t know.

I’m just grateful that I haven’t been totally alone for too long this week; WeKache was here to visit, and then I had lunch with the Gellers, which is always super nice, and maybe we’ll hang out tomorrow, and then on Purim on Wednesday.

I guess I’m just nervous about the show. This coming weekend I’m committed to be in the theater from 9 AM to 7 PM on Saturday, and then 10 AM to (potentially) 11 PM on Sunday. Then, after next Monday off, I’m in the theater for at least part of the day every day for the next seven. And then there’s everything else…film festival…APO…dance…school…

Wow, what a disappointing 400th post.

Oh, and there are two different dresses. TWO DIFFERENT DRESSES, PEOPLE.

31

What A Nightmare, Charlie Hebdo

So, today my dad came into my room at about 9 AM telling me that there’d been a shooting in Paris today, and not of the fashion kind. It wasn’t until I got out of bed and went online that I read about the casualties; seasoned journalists, talented cartoonists, and policemen who had nothing at all to do with the magazine. They showed the videos on the news, but I could barely watch them. It looked like something out of Grand Theft Auto. And why?

Because of a cartoon.

Just a drawing, an image, a figment of someone’s imagination inked with pigment. Before I get into my political/non-political harangue here, let me check myself by saying, yes, Islam does not approve of depictions of Mohammed in any way, shape, or form, and that in a way, depicting him in a political cartoon is a little disrespectful of a tradition and culture of millions. But there are options. First, they don’t have to even look at it; most media in Islamic countries is heavily monitored anyway, so it’s not like people in rural Saudi Arabia or Indonesia are going to even see it. Second, there’s the option of writing a strongly-worded letter to the magazine in question, in this case Charlie Hebdo, a French humor/satire periodical. Oh yeah, and third, don’t kill people, because as we learned in kindergarten and the musical Urinetown, killing people is wrong.

What surprises me is how many people didn’t see it coming. This is the worst terrorist attack in France since 1961, which is horrible, but more people are killed in terrorist attacks every day for less, like villagers in Nigeria and Cameroon who just wanted to live their lives and educate their children, or commuters in Australia who just wanted some morning pastries. According to the news, Charlie Hebdo had previously been the victims of hacking and firebombing, for the exact same reason. Who would’ve thought that something like this would ever happen in contemporary, hip Paris?

I could name one.

Molly Norris.

In 2010, Norris, a Seattle-based cartoonist drew a picture of a box of pasta, a coffee cup, and other random items shouting “I’m Mohammed” in a Ryan Stiles-does-Carol Channing kinda way, with the headline, “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.”

It was kind of cute and a little funny, but free speech didn’t fly with Islamic fundamentalists who drew the cartoonist in their cross-hairs. The comic also drew attention from Internet users all over America who drew their own Mohammeds, and soon it spiraled out of control, with her name all over it. She tried to distance herself from it, to no avail, even proposing “Everybody Draw Al Gore Day,” but it was too late. The newspaper terminated her column after receiving threats, and when she took her case to the FBI, they shrugged. Her life unraveled; she changed her name, left Seattle, and stopped drawing cartoons. A woman’s career, home, and identity ruined because of just one drawing (Cashill, Goldstein).

And that wasn’t even the first time it happened.

In 2005, the Danish newpaper Jyllands-Posten ran a comic depicting Mohammed, and got worldwide backlash. In fact, according to this article translated by Jacob Wheeler, the newspaper’s editor Flemming Rose made a statement.

“It sends a shiver down my spine. Thinking about the people in Paris, what they’re experiencing now. In addition to shock, I’m not surprised. If you look at what’s happened in Europe over the past 10 years, since Jyllands-Postens Muhammad cartoons were published, time after time there have been threats and even violence…Here at Jyllands-Posten we live in fear.” (Rose)

As we can see, a pattern has developed. Oddly, a five-year pattern, but that’s besides the point. I could write a pretty long list of cartoons and comic strips that offend a particular religion. Christians are the butts of jokes all the time, and how many people have reacted inappropriately angrily to those depictions? (And no, the Westboro Baptist Church does not count.) How many Jews stormed and pillaged Seth MacFarlane’s home after the controversial lyric in Family Guy’s “When You Wish Upon a Weinstein?” Answer: None. There was a backlash against it initially by some Jewish groups, but MacFarlane changed the lyric and everybody just went back to the couch. But with Islam, it’s a whole different set of characters; if a cartoon is enough to rile people up so much that they feel the need to reach for the guns and the car keys, whether figuratively or literally, on repeated occasions, what does this say about the Islamic agenda? You can talk all day long about how they are extremists, and how they’re not representative of the true Islam, but the facts remain the same: it keeps happening. And it’s the same people. And they have access to more and more ammunition, resources, money, and power.

And who is taking action to stop it from happening?

In the 24-ish hours since the event, world leaders have spoken out about today, in defense of freedom and in denunciation of acts of terror. The list is long and growing: USA, UK, the EU, Russia, Australia, Israel, the Vatican. And the words come from their leaders: Barack Obama, Tony Abbott, Benjamin Netanyahu.

But one part of the world has been conspicuously silent.

Where is King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? Or King Abdullah of Jordan? What about Sheikh Tamim of Qatar – what does he think?

Silence. Figures.

The question is this: with the world knowing what it knows now, as a result of today’s shootings, what’s going to change? How can we prevent this from ever happening again?

What have we learned?

Ok, ok, forget free speech for a moment; in what kind of world is it okay to go to someone’s workplace and gun them down, under any circumstance? That is the question.

I don’t think there is an answer, but if anyone reading this knows, please tell me.

For the latest info:

NPR: At Least 12 Die In Shooting at Magazine’s Paris Office, Suspects Named

Works Cited

Cashill, Jack. “First They Came for Molly Norris.” WND. 7 January 2015. http://www.wnd.com/2015/01/first-they-came-for-molly-norris/.

Goldstein, Aaron. “A Further Thought on the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks & where is Molly Norris now?” The American Spectator. 7 January 2015. http://spectator.org/blog/61410/further-thought-charlie-hebdo-terrorist-attacks-where-molly-norris-now.

Rose, Flemming. “Jyllands-Posten Editor on Charlie Hebdo.” Trans. Jacob Wheeler. The Daily Beast. 7 January 2015. http://www.thedailybeast.com/cheats/2015/01/07/jyllands-posten-editor-on-charlie-hebdo.html.

Taylor, Adam. “Why Would Terrorists Kill Cartoonists?” WorldViews. The Washington Post. 7 January 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/01/07/why-would-terrorists-kill-cartoonists/.

7

On Breaking Glass

Last night, the fire alarm went off, and since it was two in the morning and there was no way I was going out in the SNOW (yes, it’s snowing here), I took that as time to wash the giant pile of dishes that has been piling up in the sink. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I had two wine glasses sitting behind the sink, and as I took a clean bowl out of the dishwasher, I knocked one into the sink.

It shattered.

Now I only have nine wine glasses. Wine glasses that came from my grandmother, that survived the moves from Baltimore to Houston to Madison to Madison again, plus countless people (okay, maybe like fifty) who have used them since they have been in my possession.

And just like that, one tipped over and broke, right into the sink, where it was easy to fish out the pieces with a cloth and throw them into the garbage like last week’s beer bottle.

It’s just a glass, and it’s not even that special; my grandmother probably got them at a department store or something. I could probably even find the same pattern online if I tried hard enough. It was just the shattering of the glass that made my heart judder, just a little bit. I’ve been a bit edgy lately, nervous, anxious, ready to go home but not ready for all the work I have to do before then, worried about friends and family, feeling somewhat lonely, and lazy because I’ve only danced twice this week and haven’t been to the gym at all. I’m just living my life.

Oh well, at least I got to do my Florida Evans impression to myself in my apartment.

2

A Collaborative (Lack of) Effort

Two days ago, West Virginia University freshman Nolan Burch tweeted that “[i]t’s about to be a very eventful night to say the least.”

He’ll never know just how eventful that night was; after being found unconscious on the floor of a frat house, he was rushed to the hospital where he died today. He was 18 years old.

Stories like this happen with more and more frequency, all over the country. The names, genders, races, and ages vary, but it’s always the same pattern. Over and over again. You could say that it was Burch’s fault for getting so drunk at the party; you could blame it on peer pressure, as he was pledging that fraternity; or you could blame it on his friends (with or without quotation marks) for allowing this to happen. But the facts remain the same. Someone is dead. This will happen again, elsewhere, next week. No one will be put on trial. It’s almost considered an act of God. Whoever was at that party, whoever served the alcohol, whoever hosted the event, will go on living their lives and Nolan Burch will become an afterthought.

In an interesting turn of events, WVU announced the suspension of all Greek life on campus. I’m going to give them two weeks, and I’m being generous, because everyone knows that when you anger the stupid rich people, their money goes away. And an act of revocation already failed; Kappa Sigma, the fraternity which Burch was rushing and who hosted the party, was suspended just one week prior to the event due to a street fight. You’d think they’d want to avoid trouble and maybe keep a low profile on campus for a while.

I’m not bashing Greek life; I know plenty of people who are in fraternities and sororities. Being a brother, and now an advisor, for APO – granted, not a social fraternity, but a Greek letter organization all the same – gives me a little more perspective on the state of fraternities. I am proud to be part of a group that does not haze nor drink, and values anti-hazing so highly that the term risk management – as in, not even risking any activities which could lead to hazing or an extreme incident such as this one. And I know Greeks who do good things, great things for charity, involving people who could otherwise be either sitting on their couches or getting drunk/high somewhere else. When a girl I knew at UMass was considering transferring because she was bored on campus and she didn’t have a lot of friends, one of the suggestions I made to her was to join a sorority that meshed with her interests and had girls that she liked in it, and she balked as if I’d told her to do yoga in the middle of a highway. (She ended up transferring anyway). But basically, Greek life is not all bad.

But then, things like this happen.

Is the Greek organization at fault? You could say no, because technically they had had their charter revoked, but the party occurred at a fraternity house, with people who would not have been there had it not been for the Greek organization. But no amount of rules and regulations by the national organization prevented this group from recruiting pledges or hosting parties, so in a way, the higher-ups in the fraternity were culpable, for not taking swifter action with the university to dispel the chapter from the campus in a more permanent way. The ones who are at fault are the occupants of the house and hosts of the party, in any event, because it happened on their property, regardless of being Greek or not. If they were true “brothers” and friends to Burch like they say they were, they could have taken action much earlier or stopped it from happening outright. Greek life didn’t control their choices; their own stupidity did.

WVU can yell, scream, and revoke Greek life all they want, but face it: unless you take legal action (at the university or the state levels) or physically displace the house’s residents, these kinds of things are going to keep happening. Because this is college, and it’s America, and it’s what happens. All of Greek life just gets thrown deeper into the pit, but nothing changes. It happens every time, and every time it does, it just returns to the status quo. Part of the blame lies with idiotic college students, but part of the blame lies with who is supporting these fraternities, and a lack of discipline and accountability on the part of the university who sometimes fail to always follow through thoroughly.

The fact that there are so many fingers pointing in so many directions that I’m going to need extra hands means that collectively, we’re doing something wrong.

It’s stupid students. It’s the alums and parents who fund their excessive drinking. It’s advisors who are left in the dark (where are they here?) It’s university police who are too busy giving parking citations. It’s university administrators who are out of touch with what’s going on under their noses.

Everyone talks about collaboration, but clearly we’re not doing a very good job of it here.

If we weren’t so caught up in our own lives, maybe we’d have more chances to save others.

Sources of Info:

Farrell, Paul. “Nolan Burch: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know.” Heavy.com. 14 November 2014. http://heavy.com/news/2014/11/nolan-burch-dead-wvu-freshman-frat-death-kappa-sigma/

Johnson, M. Alex. “West Virginia University Student Nolan Burch Dies From Injuries: School.” NBC News. 13 November 2014. <http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/west-virginia-university-student-nolan-burch-dies-injuries-school-n248286>.

 

4

Ain’t Never Had A Friend Like…

During dinner, we were watching the Orioles-Yankees game when it went to commercial. Commercials are against my dad’s religion, so we changed to a news channel.

Along with the rest of America, the headline hit us.

ROBIN WILLIAMS DEAD AT 63. 

I was never a die-hard fan of his, but if he was in it, it was all but guaranteed to be hilarious. From the cinematic masterpiece Mrs. Doubtfire to the farting wife in Good Will Hunting, the man had a gift for comedy. Ironic that the saddest of the tragedies would end his life. I think he would’ve wanted us to laugh at his best moments, just like he’d done for decades in his career. Let’s revisit that through some gifs, shall we?

 

Robin Williams, RIP.

9

April 25th

Whoever said that thing about art imitating life was dead right.

As many people know, I do suffer from depression. It gets me down sometimes…well, actually that’s what depression is. I don’t think I need to go much more into detail about what it is. I don’t like to talk, write, or even think about it.

Sometimes I feel sad, sometimes I feel anxious, sometimes I feel heavy feelings, that’s all normal and okay. But every once in a while, I have a day where I feel numbed from the pain in a spooky way, like I’m living in a fugue state. I’m going and going, but my emotions aren’t going in the same direction. I want to smile and laugh and in short bursts I can, and these things sometimes tend to happen when I’m doing something social and normal-person-like, and I’ll want to withdraw into myself, when normally, I’m all about the fun. I fake it until I make it, and most days I even convince myself that everything’s okay, but then there are days like today, not quite lemonade and jelly beans, but more like…April 25th. Not too hot, not too cold. But overall, sluggish in pace. It’s on days like today when I’m the least productive, and where my couch and my bed are the only two places my mind and body want to be, although sleeping, eating and schoolwork are usually not in the plans. It’s watching videos on the Internet, watching TV, playing a game, staring at a book, a wall, or outer space. And by the time I get myself in gear, I’m late, or I forget something, and then I feel it even more.

I wish my apartment with a bathtub.

A hot bubble bath would be nice right now.

Will you massage my scalp?

Oh, and for the record, it was 66 degrees and slightly breezy in Madison today, with plenty of sunshine; a cruel shame that something inside me pulled me inward, keeping me from enjoying it.

But tomorrow is April 26.

4

Being Sick On Passover Sucks

It’s 4/14/14, so Happy Palindromic 1s and 4s day.

Just a brief life update.

I woke up this morning feeling really ill. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that I knew I was sick. Especially when my stomach woke me up at 6:45 AM. Instead of being productive, I ended up spending most of the rest of the day between the couch and the bed in various states of sleep instead of cleaning for Passover or doing any work.

The worst part? Since it’s the day of Passover, I can’t really eat that much. I would’ve killed for a saltine, or even matzah (the tradition states that the matzah be first eaten at the seder). So I’ve been going on one bowl of soup and some soda.

Let’s see if I can make it through the seder…