Mom, Dad, Couldn’t You Have Used A Better Picture?

So, is he really home?

It seems so hard to believe. Only a few months ago we were watching so many protests which appeared to have no effect at all. Suddenly, out of nowhere, there’s a deal for his release. Before we know it, there are photos of him hugging his family. How did that happen?

Before Gilad was released there were rumors about what sort of bargain the government was going to make to get him home. Seven years ago, the Israeli government traded 400 terrorists for the bodies of three soldiers. I was thirteen at the time, and I remember feeling confused and afraid. Why would the government release so many terrorists just to get dead bodies? I felt scared thinking about all of those criminals running amok. It didn’t seem like a fair deal in my thirteen year old mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy he’s home, and it does seem like it was the right thing to do. It gives me hope to know that sometimes it does happen. But I’m not going to say I like the deal they made. I don’t like to think that one Israeli soldier is worth a thousand terrorists – as poetic as that may sound. I think it’s important to remember that although that was the deal, it does not mean that any one person is worth more than another. That sort of mindset will not help us evolve into a better race. Terrorists, as terrible as they may be, are still humans, and I don’t like the idea that their government is teaching them that they are not even worth one thousandth of an Israeli soldier. Or trying to make it look like the Israeli government thinks that, which I’m sure they will do, because why pass up an opportunity to blame the Jews? It doesn’t seem like a healthy mindset to me.

Gilad Shalit
Mom, Dad, couldn't you have used a better picture?

Back then I was not in favor of letting a bazillion terrorists out of prison to rescue Gilad. I was afraid that it would cost us more than one Israeli soldier. And who knows? Maybe it will.

But right now I feel differently. I don’t feel any more afraid with more terrorists on the loose; there will always be terrorists. But I do feel safer knowing what my country would be willing to do for me to get me home.

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What’s Up With Modern Art?

We’ve all had those teachers who drone on about the deep messages hidden in poetry, literature, and various types of art. As an artist, this has always bothered me, because I don’t like to think of how people might misinterpret my artwork. I’ve realized over the years that this is not something I can control, that when you release art, interpretation is in the hands of the audience. Still, I can try to be nice to my fellow artists and try not to over analyze their work.

Yesterday I walked around an art museum for the first time since I visited the Louvre in 2007. I won’t deny that the Israel museum is quite a step down from the Louvre. But there are some thought-provoking pieces in there. My date and I strolled around, gawking at the various sand tables and dried brooms which were not very impressive, finally stopping in front of a giant canvas, covered entirely in black paint.

“And the thing is, he used a small brush,” said my date.

I nodded. “Of course.” For the contrast. The painting is flawless; the strokes are invisible, only the rough surface of the canvas can be identified beneath the smooth layer of black.

“I wonder if there’s something underneath it,” I mused. I was reminded of a story I heard from my grandmother about a kindergarten age girl who used to paint beautiful pictures and then cover them all in black. Where I was unimpressed with the giant black painting a moment before, I began to wonder what its earlier incarnations looked like. A painting doesn’t usually appear out of thin air. It’s a process.

A work of art which speaks for itself

When I think about my literature teachers who felt the need to make everything a sex symbol, I can’t help feeling a little misunderstood as an artist. Yeah, a lot of things probably are sex symbols, but not everything. If a painting has a message to give, it will deliver without somebody else explaining it to you. Art shouldn’t be analyzed down to the last green dot in the corner. Art should speak for itself without the use of words. Art speaks with silence. A work of art which is truly remarkable should fill a silent museum with echoes of emotion. People don’t wait hours on line to see the Mona Lisa because it’s big, or pretty (which it is neither) but because it shakes you up. So modern art may be a little less visually appealing, but if you can hear it shout, then it has succeeded in doing its job.

Book Review: The Time traveler’s Wife

The Time Traveller's Wife  The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to admit: I didn’t cry when Dumbledore died. But I was moved to tears by The Time Traveler’s Wife.

This is not the kind of book which is impossible to put down. Instead, you get to read it at your leisure, enjoy it, and actually remember it when you’re done. The author succeeds in giving the reader the same experience as the characters. Clare moves through time linearly, to keep the reader grounded, while Henry jumps from time to time and allows the reader to experience the suddenness and confusion he does. The love story pulls the reader into the book so that even when you aren’t reading, Henry and Clare are present at the back of your mind, as a real life lover would be.

Audrey Niffenegger writes with a lot of words, but she uses them masterfully. Her metaphors and descriptions only contribute to bringing the book to life.

“I eat ten Oreos, slowly, gently prying each one apart, scraping the filling out with my front teeth, nibbling the chocolate halves to make them last.” (page 31)

And yet, it’s not just long breathtaking cookie eating scenes like this. In some places the writing is so concise you do a double take and ask, did that really just happen? For instance, I think this is the shortest sex scene I’ve ever encountered:

“[Henry] says, ‘Does that door lock?’ and I flip the lock and we’re late for lunch.” (page 165)

From the first page, the book is ringing with moral dilemmas and existential questions. The author asks her own questions through the characters, but also uses the questions to tell the story. The fact that her characters ask makes them even more human, especially because it makes the reader wonder if they will change their answers as the story progresses.

“But don’t you think it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to just be okay for your whole life?” (page 231)

Any book in which one of the characters is a cellist becomes an automatic favorite of mine. In this case, the cellist is Alicia, Clare’s younger sister. There aren’t many references to it, but the few were done well. “Alicia is seventeen and a senior in high school. She’s a cellist.” (page 16) It is as if being a cellist explains everything about her character, which is quite accurately how we cellists feel about ourselves. 🙂

It is rare to find a love story which begins in childhood and continues through entire lives, especially in books which are meant to make money. This love story is so detailed and so real, and still it is so gripping as Henry and Clare grow up and get married. Their relationship changes, and their lives change, but the love story is intriguing to the last moment. There is one moment where Clare describes them sitting on swings on a playground which made me think of how a love story can be thought of as a sequence of memories – the moments we choose to string together into a chain we call “romantic.”

“I try to put my heart into hers, for safekeeping, in case I lose it again.” (page 370)

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