Sunday, February 05, 2006

Want to Play Jewish GeBlography?

DePerplexing the J-Blogosphere, A Moreh Nevuchim?

Last week a book fell off the shelf at home -- picking it up, it was a copy of the Yeshiva College Student Directory from 1993, "The Guide to the Perplexed". I don't know why it beckoned me to read it, but I'm sure glad I did.

For those of you who attended Yeshiva College or Stern College from 1984 onwards, "The Guide" is an integral part of college student life at Yeshiva Univesity. Containing a wealth of information from minyanim, library hours, the street and avenue numbering system of Manhattan, to where to go on a decent date for under $10 -- this student guide includes the name of every YC/Stern undergraduate student, their home address, dorm room and phone number.

If you weren't in the guide, you didn't exist.

I saw the names of friends I hadn't thought about it years...names and numbers scribbled in that brought back a wave of memories. Some reminded me what a character I was back then.

Who could have known about Jameel in the late 80s?

Why did I have the phone number written in for the "PLO Mission to the United Nations"?
Actually, that was pretty funny. I called them up and told them I was a Political Science PhD student at Columbia, and my thesis was on the viability of a Palestinian State -- and wanted to know if they could send me any source information. I gave them my YU dorm address with my name spelled backwards, and they sent me boxes and boxes of Intifada magazine and loads of other rather scary stuff. Better I should have it, than someone else...but I digress.

Jewish GeBlography:

What blew me away was the number of bloggers that I now know around the JBlogosphere that were listed back then. I felt like I had come upon a relic high school yearbook, which coincidentally contained a large number of bloggers...almost all of them anonymous to the real world. I was there too...(not in the 93 edition, though)...and wondered how many of today's bloggers appeared in a Guide in some shape or form.

Going back even further, I found bloggers who are public with their identities and noticed that some of us were even on the same dorm floor at the same time.

Hardly a day goes by without some new blog coming my way; mostly anonymous, with a few tantalizing, revealing details thrown in. The majority of us hide behind silly monikers and catchy blog names -- we wonder once in a while what would happen if…people knew who we really were...

Ever see “Conspiracy Theory” will Mel Gibson? This poor, tormented conspiracy theorist has an apartment chock full of filing cabinets of every conspiracy theory known to man. When the black helicopters finally come after him, he has his contingency plan; one touch of a button and the entire contents of his precious library are instantly incinerated.

Same thing in “Enemy of State” with Gene Hackman. The ex-spook who knows it all with the bug proof lab in a warehouse also has a self destruct sequence -- if his anonymity is ever compromised.

Do you ever wonder what would happen if you woke up and everyone knew who you were? That your mask of anonymity would be ripped from your face…what would you do?

Would you hit the “Remove Blog” button in your blogger, permanently removing hours, days, maybe even months of your existence, your finest creativity, your favorite posts?

It’s not really backed up anywhere…

So on a daily basis, we shrink our world; some of us talk by email, by IM, at work, in person, speak on the phone and hang out in real life, some meet in real life.

Granted, some of the bloggers I know have decent reasons to keep their anonymity, and I'm still, for the most part, just an anonymous Bernie/Jameel living somewhere in a Yishuv north of Jerusalem.

Yet...I can't out myself to the world.

The word מבוכה -- similar to the same root מורה נבוכים doesn't only mean perplexed. It also means quandary, sheepishness, tizzy, tumult, turmoil, bafflement and bedazzlement.

All good words to describe anonymity...or wanting to remain anonymous in the JBlogosphere.

And as a side note: The past week has shown a marked increase of people's comments that could divulge my identity. You know who I am? Great. Drop me an email. However, I'd rather if you didn't post comments that could "out" me. Thanks.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Anonymous said...


Was I in that Guide. I *think* that I was here in yeshiva in Israel in '93, but I honestly can't quite remember. I didn't realize that we might have been in YU at the same time.

Aryeh Bak

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Hey Aryeh. I wasn't in the '93 Guide since I finished YU a few years earlier.

However, the editors always sent me copies for a few more years...

Therefore; we were in Israel at the same time back then ;-)

MUST Gum Addict said...

Well, having never been a student at YU (or Stern for that matter), I can safely say that I'm not in that book, although I am quite familiar with it as I had many friends who attended those schools.

As for anonymity, I'm aware that there are many people out there who know who I am. Friends will sometimes come over and tell me what a great post I wrote, etc. I don't mind that people know who I am -- but I keep a wacky name because when you read a post of mine, I want people to READ it in an anonymous way. In truth, as I've seen some other bloggers mention, having some people know who you are keeps you from writing things that might otherwise not be appropriate.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

NemoAliya: Actually, I prefer Robert, since it sounds closer to my moniker, "Rashid."

Mirty: Since I was alive in '73 when your Horev/Israel stories transpired, I assume I was also alive when you were at Barnard.

Some bloggers have met me...I've met some of them...some have even come for shabbat to the Muqata.

And then there are those who came for shabbat and didn't even KNOW they were at the Muqata for shabbat.

Must Addict: Well, I'd add you to my guide if I had a current one ;-)

Jack Steiner said...

Oh come on. We all know that you are Bernie Kleinman. Why hide the truth. ;)

Shifra said...

The J-world is small and like you I walk that fine line between anon/and non-anon. This Shabbos I was actually thinking of the word "nonimous" "or non-nonimous (sounds Greek right?) to describe bloggers who's identities are always in the balance.

Jack Steiner said...

nonimous- could be ominous blogger, but probably not how you want to be known in the blogging world. Although if you rather enjoy being a villain or a blogger who raps it might be cool.

Irina Tsukerman said...

Huh, every college must have something of that sort! My own had one of these as well... and was no help to me at all. Unless you dorm, you don't usually get to be with the "in" people... But that episode with PLO was hilarious! I should try something like that... Play a practical joke on someone, by giving their address to the mission to overwhelm them with the material... But I'm afraid, I'll just lose a friend!

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Irina: The best part was spelling my name backwards! I could write a blog entry a day for a year based on all the strange things I wrote in my guide.

Shifra: Actually, it sounds Latin-seque. Ominous Nominous: The fear of constantly walking that fine line between anonmymity and notoriety.

Jack: *sigh* Its hard living the dual life of Bernie and Jameel. You know, 2 passports, 2 birth certificates, 2 addresses...but the nomonimity makes it all worthwhile.

Jerusalemcop said...

I'm also not in the G.T.T.P, but I have siblings who were.

I think MG is very right. If there are ppl who lknow you're identity, you wont talk about just anything. Unfortunately, it works the other way too: If I want to blog about a particular topic that I need anonymity for, I can't since those close to me will know what I have to say.

Great post Jameel.


P.S. we still havent finished our "discussion" from your car-ride this morning.

Olah Chadasha said...

Ah, the Guide... Now, that brings back memories. It just made me think... I have no idea where my copies are. Hmmm... I should really find them.

Ezzie said...

Don't frighten me with that "it's not backed up" stuff. That's really scary, Bernie. :)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Elster: Its just one of those things bloggers do (unless of course, you're name is Ezzie).

OC: Nothing beats Guide nostalgia.

Ezzie: I'm working on a solution for good blog backups.

Anonymous said...

: sigh :
I was in the Guide. I wrote in my Guide. I underlined in my Guide.

I would never let my kids see my copy of the Guide.

MC Aryeh said...

There should be a guide to J-blogs and bloggers. I feel more free blogging anonymously, but I am not sure much would change if I blogged under my actual name....

Search the Muqata


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