Saturday, August 26, 2006

Irina (The Ignoble Experiement, a.k.a. Live Dangerously!)

Today, we're delighted to have with us Irina (The Ignoble Experiement, a.k.a. Live Dangerously!)...

The panel has their questions...

Let's start this thing...

How has blogging changed you?

For one thing, I'm signifcantly more in touch with what's going on in the news. I was a bit of a new junkie before, but now that I keep a blog myself, I much prefer reading blogs to newspapers. As a blogger, I've grown significantly more comfortable with my writing; it comes much easier to me. I also find it much easier to strike up conversations with people I don't know, at least online. In real life, I've grown much more confident and since I've started blogging, find expressing my opinion much easier, regardless of the atmosphere. I've also developed a thicker skin in terms of criticism, and especially in terms of ad hominem attacks. I don't get as defensive when I see someone saying potentially offensive or just plain stupid. And finally, I find it much easier to be open-minded and listen to other opiniions. I think reading so many blogs and getting comments from so many different people has helped me see something interesting or worth listenting to even in people I would otherwise find nothing in common with.

Do you meet many bloggers? (If so, who?) Do you enjoy meeting bloggers, and why/why not? How is that different from meeting someone else new?

Unfortunately, I haven't had an opportunity to meet many bloggers, but I'm really looking forward to doing that in the future, and would jump at an opportunity to do so. I did, however, meet a few. The first blogger I met was actually the person who wound up encouraging me to blog: Michael. However, when we met, I didn't know a thing about blogging, and certainly didn't know that he was a blogger, so I guess that's not quite what you meant. I've also met the blogger from The Ministry of Offence, who helped me design the new look for my blog. We worked on that for several months online, but he visited NYC soon afterwards, and that's when we met live. I also got a chance to talk to Woland, another blogger from my blogroll, who lives in Israel. I guess whether I enjoy meeting bloggers depends on who I meet, just like with any other people. However, it's definitely very different from coming in contact with complete strangers, because I feel like I know bloggers a little bit, so if we meet, it's not completely uncomfortable. I have to say from my limited experience that the fact that I knew both bloggers I met as such for some time before seeing them face to face definitely helped. I knew a little bit more about them than what their blogs presented. At the same time, it was a little strange, because even though I knew they are "real" people, still seeing someon in 3D is a surreal experience, almost like when a character from a book you enjoy reading comes to life.

Hopefully, I'll meet more bloggers with time, and at some point, will expand on these observations!

NPR recently ran a story about Evangelical Christians supporting the State of Israel (full text here). There hasn't been wide discussion of this phenomenon, but I wanted to pose a question to Irina, as a Jew, from someone who was raised in an Evangelical Christian household: Do you believe that 'biblical advocacy' (as it is referred to in the NPR piece) on the part of Christians will help or hurt Israeli support in America and around the world? Is this support that you would welcome, or would you feel anxiety or disbelief about their stance(s)? Obviously there are other issues at stake in this discussion, but I wanted to get your general opinion on the matter. Thank you.

I've heard many people express their reservations about the support of Evangelical Christians, and possible ulterior motives - but I'm personally not one of those people. I think that as long as they express their support in an ethical manner, it's no different from any other type of support. As for the rumors that they are only doing that because they hope that one day all Jews are going to convert to Christianity - I don't care about that at all. It's just as much of a speculation as saying "when pigs fly..." , for all intents and purposes. The important thing is that they are showing help when it's needed - and that's it. Their motivation is their own personal business.

Now, as far as the second part of the question, whether it will help or hurt support of Israel in the United States and around the world, I'll deal with each part separately. I don't think their support will change anything about the way the non-Evangelical Americans view Israel (whatever way that is). It may be ONE of the contributing factors to the general policy of major Christian groups towards Israel, and perhaps it may affect some of the politicians, however, I think, in the end, it doesn't really change anything, since, I think, the politicians conduct foreign policy and show support for Israel, because they view it in terms of national interests, rather than in terms of interest of any particular group. As far as how the world views this support, I have to say, I don't think the "international community" is being very honest when it comes to evaluation of Israel.

I think they may use Evangelical support as an excuse for expressing some of their fears about their own problems with religious interest groups (I'm talking about EU), but in reality they inherently have a negative stand towards Israel, and I don't think that anything can be done to influence European governments to support Israel at this point in time. Nor, I'm afraid, is popular support going to increase anytime soon. As for non-European states, I don't think they make the separation between the support of Evangelical Christians and the United States as a whole, so again, I don't think this support will change their own attitude in any way.

If you could live anywhere, where would you live?

In Israel, definitely. I'm not sure where exactly, but I would definitely want to live in Israel. For all sorts of practical reasons, however, that's out of the question right now, so I'm settling for second best - New York (Brooklyn). I don't think I would want to move out to any other part of the city or the suburbs. I am thinking about going to study abroad somewhere for a term or two one day, but not in the immediate future.

How has your recent trip to Israel impacted your life (practically)?

Well, I can definitely see that my outlook on the country has become more 3D since I've actually seen the country and the way it looks, and the small details of everyday life. It' s definitely not monolithic, so that influences the way I tend to discuss Israel in casual conversations. Also, although I've been contemplating making aliya even before visiting, this idea has become solidified. I'm now thinking in terms of tentative schedule, rather than completely abstract terms. I've started following social/economic/domestic developments more closely, and also am contemplating where I'd go to live and of a way to secure a good job once I do decide to come. Right now, the North seems more appealing to me (geographical preference), although, since I'd be going there as a professional, perhaps Tel Aviv might be more suitable. So, yes, I'm actually making a long-term plan, although it still may be awhile before I can go through with it.

Favorite cartoon and why?

Beauty and The Beast, because Beauty is so much like me in so many ways (bookish, alienated, with a huge imagination, and slightly otherworldly). I also find the theme of learning to tolerate other people's shortcomings and helping them change, rather than just avoiding any challenge in personal relationships, very compelling.

Given one famous dead person you could talk to for 8 hours, who would it be and what would be the first topic of conversation?

Right now, it would be Niccolo Machiavelli. I'd ask him what he thinks of the current state of affairs, and talk to him what he thinks the West should be doing in terms of resolving its problems with Islamist extremists and their supporters. I have a feeling he might offer an interesting realpolitik outlook!

Where is one place in the world you would like to visit that you have not been?

Tibet. I've been dreaming of visiting it for many years now. I can't wait to go there one day...

I fell in love with a girl named Irina a long, long time ago (about 25 years). Please say you ain't her.

Nope, definitely not. I'm only 21.

Are any of your law profs like Charles Kingsfield? If so, do you get along with them and see them as inspirational, or are they a pain?

Well, I've only had one so far - my Legal Process professor. My actual classes are starting Monday, after the interview. Although this professor uses the Socratic Method, he's very intelligent about it and doesn't humiliate anybody. He's also warned us that Fordham is not the law school which harbors too many of such professors! However, we're definitely going to be challenged and questioned and asked to explain our thought process. Whereas, I don't think humiliating students is a good way to teach them anything, I do think that tough grilling can be very stimulating and thought-provoking, and am looking forward to that.

Have you visited Israel?

Indeed. I visited it for the first time this year, in May/June, and enjoyed the experience immensely.

The Obligatory Question: Mac or PC?

Definitely PC. Moreover, I'm a proud Windows/Microsoft user! (Yes, I'm a fan of All Things Evil).

What was your worst day blogging?

The single worst day blogging for me when I had to write about my grandmother's passing (last year, March 29). It was a short post and a quick one. I didn't want peope to think I was disappearing on them, but at the same time, I really didn't know what to write and how to express everything I was feeling. For the first time, however, I felt like I was doing something wrong blogging, because it probably wasn't appropriate under the circumstances. However, at the same time, I felt compelled to blog up what was happening, just to make sense of what was happening.

What is your favourite book?

There are too many to mention. However, one book that I've reread numerous times over the years was Hermann Hesse's "Steppenwolf". My friend gave me that back for Hanukkah, when we were in eighth grade, and I started reading it immediately. I couldn't tear myself away from it. The book is like a testing stone for the changes in my personality, because whereas I always wind up identifying with one of the characters, it's always a different character, or in a different way. It's really amazing, how the writer captured exactly what I'm going through - at different stages in my life. I should probably reread it again, soon.

What's the most Redneck / White Trash thing you've ever done?

I have a small beanbag pillow I sometimes take with me in the subway to make the seat more comfortable. That pillow came in a plastic cover. I never took the cover off, and whenever I take the pillow with me, I always lean on the plastic.

If you had a time machine, and could travel to any place or period for 24 hours, what kind of sandwich would you pack for the trip?

What a great question! My mom makes an awesome egg-and-cheese sandwhich with fried bread, except she also fries potatoes and spinach with it. The sandwhich comes out huge and absolutely delicious. Yum!

Why do you blog?

For many reasons, actually. I started blogging for self-expression and to practice my writing, hoping that overtime, I'd gain a small salon-like audience to discuss various intellectual topics. But my blog transformed itself into a dumping ground for all kinds of things - personality quizzes, papers, photographs, travel logs, fiction, dreams, memes, rants, carnival hosting, so right now, it's more than just a fun pastime. It's a lifestyle, so I guess I blog, because I'm part of a community, and this is the way of socializing in that community, even if I don't actually always to talk to everybody.

Who is the smartest man you ever met?

The smartest man I ever met was my high school AP U.S. history teacher, because he understood what I'm all about better than anyone before or since. He summarized that understanding in a short statement: "Irina, you're a pain-in-the-neck. One day, when you marry, your husband will either go crazy, or kill himself, or kill you, or any combination of these - and when it comes to trial, I'll be the first to testify in his defense." ; )

If you could share a meal with anyone from history, who would it be?

Breaking bread with someone is a show of trust, so it would have to be someone I'd trust with my life... Hmm. Not too many people would fit that criterion! It would probably be Socrates, because I don't think he'd have any interest in getting rid of me if he didn't like something I said or did. At the same time, I'd have the advantage of being practiced the Socratic method on, and coming out much better prepared for law school! : )

Oh, and what would you order to eat?

Nothing that would include hemlock! I'm thinking about a nice variety of Mediterranean food would be appropriate. Definitely some dolmaa, and feta cheese salad...

What's the funniest thing you ever saw?

The funniest thing I ever saw was when my cat was a young kitten, she threw down a huge round beet, and was trying to roll it around on the floor, playing with it as if it were a ball. It was hilarious. I think the beet was bigger than she was!

Thank you, Irina. This was a joy.

Next week, we'll have interviews with That 1 Guy (Drunken Wisdom) and with Tink (Tink's Tribulations).

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