In which we discuss the voice in my head, and its tendency to yell at me

I don’t know what goes on in other peoples’ heads.
I mean, I’ve read articles on brain science, but I still feel like I don’t understand what’s going on in a person’s head when I’m talking to him/her.

Imagine a robot, who is taught human interaction solely by watching reruns of “I Love Lucy” and Adam Sandler movies.

I would make that robot uncomfortable.

Basically, when I’m talking to someone, it’s a three-way conversation, between me, the person I’m talking to, and the voice in my head, which is coaching me on how not to make a complete fool of myself.  However, that voice is also me.  You can see how this might cause problems.  A simple example:

Me: Hey, what’s up?
Voice: Good.  Nice, solid opening.  Neutral, but not boring.
Friend: Not much, and you?
Me: Not much.  Life is good.
Voice: Oh no!  This conversation is drab and unimportant.  Make it a meaningful interaction!  Say something interesting!
Me: I can fit my whole fist in my mouth.1
Friend: (awkwardly silent.)

And it doesn’t get much better from there.  There’s a reason I started a comic called “why I shouldn’t date.”  I was always shocked when girls agreed to a second date.  Part of me wanted to say, “You know that the awkward nervous thing isn’t a first date thing, right?  It’s a me thing.  This ain’t going away, honey.  It’s just going to get worse as we date more.”  It’s to my credit that I never came out and said that, but I think they got it.

Yes, I am now happily married, and marginally more at ease with my wife of 2+ years, but there’s a world of people out there, just waiting to be made uncomfortable by me.  The dialogue above was an example of how a conversation  with very little at stake goes awry.  When the topic is heavier, it only compounds the problem.  For instance:

Me: Hey, how’s it going?
Voice: Good.  You’ll get this one right.  Just avoid mentioning your fist. Or your mouth.  You know, just avoid mention of any and all orifices, ok?
Friend:  Not great.  I think I just failed my final in a very important course.
Voice: Ok, we know this script. This is where you commiserate.  Let him know that you understand him.
Me: Yeah, I’ve been there.
Friend: Oh?
Voice: Ok, now drive it home…
 I failed all my courses in college, and set fire to the Registrar’s office.  Once, I cut a man, just to watch him bleed.
Friend: WHAT?
No! No!  Overkill!  Make yourself look good!  Say something positive!
Me: I love puppies and marshmallows and jellybeans!
Friend: To eat?
Voice: Oooh, this is a tricky one.  Tread carefully. Say you don’t eat puppies.  Be very clear on that point.
Me: No, I only eat the puppies.
Voice: Damnit.
Me: Jellybeans and marshmallows!  Ha ha!  I mean, I only eat jellybeans and marshmallows.  Well, I eat other things.  But not puppies.  I eat other animals.  Um, dead ones.  Only the normal-to-eat dead animals, prepared in a normal fashion.
Voice: I think you just barely squeezed by that one.
Riiight.  Um, what does this have to do with my test?
Voice: I have no idea.
Me: I have no idea.
Friend: Yeah, well this whole thing has got me pretty depressed.
Voice: Ok, here’s our chance. Cheer him up!  Say something happy!
Me: I can fit my whole fist in my mouth.
Voice: (sighs).

And that’s par for the course.  Welcome to my life.

  1. Truth is, I can fit my whole fist in my mouth. But that’s a story for another time.^

On Creative Efforts

I’ve decided to finally return to this space, after almost 3 years away.    While it’s true that my last real post coincides quite neatly with a week or so before I met my wife, it’s not really due to my courting and marrying her that I left.

Basically, I have trouble with consistency.  I’ve posted before about this, and, well, nothing is new.  But I’m going to give it a try, because, as Neil Gaiman puts it,

…creativity isn’t always a matter of magic and inspiration. Mostly it’s a matter of work. Of doing it. And I hope we did that too. There were songs that didn’t make it, things that never gelled, but with all that, the best part of it was when when stumbled away from the studio, six songs that hadn’t existed before existed now.

It’s true. I have to stop thinking about writing, and just write. Because, frankly, I have lots to say.

Ok, first installment is in the near future (read: within a week). I believe I shall title it “In which we discuss the voice in my head, and its tendency to yell at me.” Good fun.

Who knows? I may get get back on this bandwagon yet. Wish me luck, cyberspace.

From the Vault

I’ve been busy, this time justifiably so.

But I thought that I’d share some of my favorite pieces from the archives, which include at least 3 of the 5 pieces in the “driving” category.  Check it out.

Elul Before the Storm

So, it’s Elul again.
I’m not ready for this. I’ll have more to say soon, I’m sure, and hopefully the time to say it.
In the meantime, my post from last year still resonates with me, even if it’s still a one-step-forward-giant-leap-back situation.

Trying to explain

Aliyah is like a good pop song. It looks silly and trite on paper, until you’re there at the concert. Then, you’re just gaping at it all, with this dumbstruck-lovesick look on your face, as if to say, “oh, now I get it. But no, I can’t explain it.”

I mean, there are no power chords in aliyah. Not always. But still.

One Day

Yesterday I was talking with some friends. It went something like this:

Me: Yeah, it was really —
(I back into a light fixture.)
Friend: Oh, are you ok?
Me: I’m fine, just a little startled. (Pause.) You know, that should be on my gravestone: “Here lies Ilan. He was fine, just a little startled.”
Everybody: (General agreement.)

Comic #4

So here I am again, talking to the ether.

I was away for a while. Stuff happened. Then when stuff stopped happening, when the whole stuff-happening enterprise just petered out, it took me a while to realize. I looked around and said, “Stuff? Where are you? I thought you were happening, and now you’re not. That’s it. I’m going to go and do something else. If you want to happen later, you know where to find me.” So, um, here I am.

I figured I’d return with a bang, so here’s the long awaited new comic. Enjoy (and click to enlarge)!

Comic 4: This is not based on a true story.  I hope.

Reactions to the shooting

Last night, upon hearing about the horrific terrorist attack (is there any other kind?), I changed my Facebook status to “Ilan is mourning the victims of the terror attack.” this morning, I changed it to “Ilan woke up and realized it wasn’t all just a bad dream. Sometimes, it isn’t.”
This is one of the things we do. Our generation posts the thoughts off the top of our heads in short, concise bits, so our friends know. So, I compiled a list of my friends’ reactions to the shooting last night, as posted in their Facebook status updates. I thought it might be worth sharing these. Feel free to post more in the comments. I will update this post if more come in.
Note that the names are removed to protect privacy, but with a few exceptions, each of these is from a different person:

  • _____ is very angry because of the מצב.
  • _____ is thinking of everyone by Merkaz Harav.
  • _____ thinks its important to still go out tonight. Who’s with me?
  • _____ had been remembering another terrorist attack today, and now this.
  • _____ is feeling a bit numb after hearing the news.
  • _____’s family is all safe.
  • _____ is mad, angry, frustrated, and at a loss. I hate our government!
  • _____ is sad.
  • _____ is welcoming in Adar, and mourning for Jerusalem.
  • _____ is ok.
  • _____ feels transported back to Jerusalem, circa 2001.
  • _____ is wondering how long the Israeli government is going to keep trying to make peace with our enemies instead of throwing them out of Israel!
  • _____ is safe after the terrorist attack, and is sad…………….
  • _____ May Hashem Avenge their Blood.
  • _____ is falling asleep to a lullaby of ambulance sirens.
  • _____ is in pain for her nation.
  • _____ is not able to comprehend.
  • _____ is השם ינקום דמם.
  • _____ is playing david broza to get some clarity.
  • _____ is praying for those hurt by the terrorists in Israel today.
  • _____ is wondering when the terrorism will end… just horrible news…
  • _____ is crying to hashem..
  • _____ weeps for the children who have returned to borders breached by what the universe must be given.
  • _____ is sad and can’t fall asleep. may Hashem avenge their blood.
  • _____ is trying to comprehend how it happened.
  • _____ is wondering why she’s in america.
  • _____ decries the cowardly Jihadist attack on Mercaz HaRav.
  • _____ is waiting for the requisite post-bombing UN cycle of violence statement.
  • _____ Can’t believe what happened tonight. I was scared for the first time EVER to walk around Jerusalem. What is going on here? Anyone in charge here????
  • _____ is excited about [statement of hatred deleted] in the powerful month of Adar Bet. HaShem Yinakem Dmam.
  • _____ is deeply saddened by the shooting in the Jerusalem yeshiva and is disgusted by others rejoicing this.
  • _____ is really upset by the tragic events in Yerushalayim today. Hashem yerachem.
  • _____ is literally sick from looking at the news.
  • _____ is very sad.
  • _____ doesn’t understand why the government is so incompetent.
  • _____ על אלה אני בוכיה.
  • _____ is hurting. She wishes a Shabbat Shalom of Geulah Slemah for ALL KLAL YISREAL!
  • _____ is upset over today’s events.
  • _____ Yochai Lipschitz, 18, of Jerusalem; Yonatan Yitzchak Eldar, 16, of Shiloh; Yonadav Chaim Hirschfeld, 19, of Kochav Hashahar; Neriah Cohen, 15, of Jerusalem, Roe.
  • _____ is wondering what G-D is trying to hint to us on this fateful rosh chodesh adar – that itself is a contradiction in terms!
  • _____ is shocked and sad at the murder of 8 young yeshivah students in Jerusalem by an Arab terrorist. Jews, wake up!!!
  • _____ is looking forward to Shabbat Across America-Together, while Shabbating in Jerusalem, blocks from Yashiva Mercaz HaRav, where 8 Souls were taken from this World.
  • _____ is still trying to comprehend…
  • _____ is mourning with the families.
  • _____ simply has no words.
  • _____ is looking to a peaceful healing shabbat for all of am yisrael…
  • _____: May God protect Israel, since our government certainly can’t.
  • _____ hopes shab will make things better. why dont they get it?!
  • _____ is trying to balance simcha and etzev…
  • _____ is המקום יינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון השם ינקום דמם.


Tonight, a man walked into a yeshiva here in Jerusalem, and shot and killed 8 people, 7 of them teenagers, and wounding dozens of others, 11 of them seriously. They were celebrating the first day of Adar Bet, the happiest month of the year. I don’t have more to say. What can I say? I can remember the fallen, but frankly, that just isn’t enough right now. When there’s a real hurt, a physical pain in the pit of my stomach from this…bedlam, then all of the pretty words or high-minded ideals don’t help. It’s just, sometimes a thing gets broke, can’t be fixed.

Worth at least a dozen words

whiteboard_small.jpgSome days, you look at your work, and you say, “I do that?” Or at least that’s what happens to me.
I work from home. Today, I stepped back and looked at the stuff I mapped out to build the web application I’m working on today. (See left.)
I think maybe I need to get out more.
Or drink more. Or drink less.
Maybe get a trained monkey.

Yeah, trained monkey’s good. I think he should have a hat.
He will have a hat and I shall call him Gerald.