Sunday, March 29, 2015

Happy Pesach!

What great news to open my entry to Listserve Lotter Winners' Circle on my birthday! (48)

I live near the Hague in a lovely old university town, but I grew up in California. Most years around this time of year my wife and I visit family in Maryland for what we call Camp Pesach. When I was younger, we'd celebrate Passover with my mother's parents, her three siblings, as many of our cousins in that part of the family who could make it (and as most lived on the east coast, this was really just an issue for my sister, my parents, and me). Last night over shabbat supper, my Aunt Karen recounted what was essentially my grandmother's dying wish, that we continue to gather as a family, and not slip away from one another. So each year, Bobe's four children, their spouses, her eight grandchildren and their spouses and children gather in a big house on Chesapeake Bay. It's 28 of us this, the 20th, year of Camp Pesach. (For a variety of reasons we're gathering a little early - we allow such concessions as we're gathering from two coasts, two continents, and three or four states now.)

Back in the early days of this celebration, my sister and I compiled a Haggadah (the book of prayers and stories and songs that make up the Passover seder) for the family in small ring binders so that we could add new material, family photos, and so forth. This year she asked me and my uncle Dana for poems to add. I gather that his runs to four pages, mine to 18 lines:

Wandering, we pitch our tent again,
Gathering, our clan, about the flames,
Reclining, kings and queens, before the feast.

Ancient histories and new,
Far loved ones and near,
Recount - It would have been enough,
Shankbone, orange, and charoset,
Blood and frogs and bitter herbs.
Who knows one, I know one little goat.

We drove a stake into the desert
(For we did these things,
our grandparents, our aunts and cousins,
Twenty generations back or twenty days.
All at once, all of us)
We poked a stick into the desert floor.

Taking root, a willow, branch and leaf,
An oak, a spreading chestnut,
Under which we spread our feast.

And some recommendations:
I blog irregularly about politics and music on WordPress at JoeJots.
Music: In the moment, I'm listening to Louis Armstrong's Hot Fives and Hot Sevens which is some great early jazz.
Literature: I'm rereading James Baldwin's Go Tell It On The Mountain which is one of my favourite novels. If you enjoy horror fiction, I recommend Red Phone Box from Ghostwoods Books (disclaimer: I contributed a couple of its chapters).

May the springtime treat you all well.

Joe Silber
Leiden, The Netherlands

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Ro-Sham-Bot by Effie Seiberg (Originally published in Ligh...

by Effie Seiberg
(Originally published in Lightspeed Magazine)

I found a robot’s heart today. I didn’t think they still made robots
with hearts, but there it was, at the corner of Leary and Sycamore. It
even looked like a heart: size of a fist, valves pulsing with pale
ching ching noises each time they opened and shut. The metal was old
and worn.

I took it home and plugged it into my computer. It had a few jumbled
videos—the way older robots used to store memories.

I sorted by number and began to watch.

The first video was in a warehouse. Lines of identical, still robots,
presumably the same old-fashioned model as the one whose heart I’d
found. The field of vision jerked to the left and found another robot
looking straight at it. The other robot smiled, and glanced downwards.
The camera followed it and saw the other robot’s hand clenched in a
fist. One, two, three times it bobbed the fist up and down, and then
extended two fingers. Rock, paper, scissors. The camera then captured
its own robot hand reaching forward to join the game. Scissors beat
paper. Paper beat rock. A wider robot smile. None of the other robots

I clicked to the second video. Same warehouse. An operator in white
QA-tested each robot. They all stayed very still. The robot to the
left flashed a silly face, and the camera jiggled in suppressed
laughter. The operator approached, and the camera snapped forward.

The next video was in a factory on a moving conveyer belt. The robot
to the left was about to get tied into cushioned packaging. It already
had the manual for “Personality-free Chore-Bot” nestled in its arms.
It looked up and said, “Shouldn’t you buy me dinner before you tie me
up?” The startled operator hit the alarm. Red flashing lights flooded
the factory floor, and a mechanical voice said “Faulty Chore-Bot.
Remove for destruction.” As the robot to the left was removed, the
camera swiveled forward and was still.

The fourth video was in a living room. Children played on the carpet
as a middle-aged couple unpacked the robot. “This should be the
perfect model for us,” said the man. “None of that personality module
nonsense. It can start by keeping the deer away from the tomato patch.
Go on now, go outside.” The camera swung from the door to the
children, who were playing rock, paper, scissors, then back to the
door and headed out.

I hoped I wouldn’t see the man disassembling the robot in a later video.

The next several videos were in the garden, in different seasons. The
camera patrolled around the tomatoes. Sometimes heavy and ripe,
sometimes hard green buds. Sometimes the camera would look through the
back door, like it was waiting for a glimpse of the playing kids.
Sometimes, the man would shoo it away. I scanned through these pretty

I clicked to the last video, which was in the garden at night. Nothing
to guard against. The robot’s hands went through the motions. Rock,
paper, scissors. Rock, paper, scissors. Over and over, until finally,
the camera looked down and the hands unscrewed the robot’s breastplate
and reached in. The video went blank.

I unplugged the heart and took it to the workbench in my garage. I
dusted off my spare chassis and brought it over. The heart looked like
it would fit inside perfectly. My daughter always loved Rock Paper

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0 US) 2014 Effie Seiberg
effieseiberg (dot) com

Effie Seiberg
San Francisco

Friday, March 27, 2015

Leaving the Line

I opened up to life, and now life has opened up to me in return.
Just last night I was in a café, sharing my most inner thoughts with an acquaintance from high school who I hadn’t seen in a while. We were inspired by a “social study” that we read about in the NY Times, titled To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This. In the study, two strangers are placed in a room and ask each other a series of increasingly personal questions. We decided to try it out for ourselves.

Two enlightening & emotional hours later, we reached the final question of the study:

‘Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it.’

I felt a lump in my throat grow as I tried to verbalize the thoughts whose only other location have been at the back of my mind.

“I think I have a good life… and for the most part I do what I want that makes me happy… but it feels like there’s always something in my brain that feels… trapped. It’s telling me to do more, explore more, be more…I almost feel like I can’t breathe…but I don’t know what to do about it.”

My heart raced in fear of expressing so much vulnerability. He gave me a quite notable response, as follows:

I see life like a nightclub. There’s the main entrance, where you wait in line, along with 99% of the other people trying to get into the club, and hope that the bouncer chooses you to get in. The second entrance is for privileged people, who get in because they’re celebrities etc. What most people don’t realize is that there’s a third way inside…

The third way is leaving the long line and running through the alley, banging on the back door, sneaking through the windows, doing anything you can to enter. The scariest part; however, is not going through this unfamiliar territory, but rather leaving the main line that you have already been waiting in for so long.

The main entrance is the line that I have been in my entire life, and it seems most of society is there too.

I am a 21-year-old business student, and until recently, I have been in this line- waiting patiently in line to enter the nightclub. My future plans consisted of securing a “respectable” internship for the summer that would turn into a practical full time job, graduating school on time, and having my career laid out for me. That’s true happiness… right?
I am slowly learning that the “I’m trapped” voice in the back of my head doesn’t believe that’s the right way to go.

Today, as I write this email, I have just arrived to an unfamiliar hotel, in a strange town, with someone who, yesterday, was merely an old acquaintance, but now is a friend. He convinced me to “get out of line” and go on an unknown adventure with him.
So here I am, ditching class during the week (which I never do), taking a spontaneous trip to an unknown town (which I never do), feeling scared, nervous, and excited, but mostly free. I’ve decided to take some time off of school, make my own adventures, and find what makes me feel permanently free. (Any suggestions?!)

I guess in my own, small-scaled, cheesy way, this morning I decided to run out of the line and into the alley, in search of the third entrance.

Ashley Sadighpour
Los Angeles

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Of Accents and Being

Dear awesome humans,

I want to start by telling you that you are loved.

I don’t know what your life is like right now, nor do I need to. The only thing you need to know is that despite what you may be thinking, you are most definitely loved, appreciated, and treasured. You matter.


When I saw “You’ve won the Listserve!” in my inbox, I thought how clever an idea it was to punk 25,000 people by having that as a Listserve submission. Then I opened the mail and realized – holy mackerel, I actually won The Listserve!

No pithy life advice, no memoirs, just a clarion call for others out there like me.

I was born in Asia and spent all my life there before living 18 months in the States on a study abroad-cum-internship program. I vowed early on that I would not do the FOB thing and thus embraced arms-open lips-puckered all that the beautiful state of Washington had to offer me: its people, its culture, its eternal rain.

The result of all those months engaging Americana? A blended accent, blended enough that people in my country of origin believe I sound American, while I and other Americans know it’s a little right of center at best.

Have you ever lived somewhere for a long time, had your accent evolve, and then come back to a society that judges you for it?

Anyone who has been abroad for extended periods will know that accent shifts happen naturally, and, sometimes, irreversibly. Some maintain the ability to code switch between their evolved and original accents; others can’t. I belong to the latter.

I hold no shame for my blended accent; the way we speak is an integral part of our personality and I’ve become a more outspoken, confident person as a result. I thoroughly embrace it as a part of me that has changed and evolved with the experiences I’ve opened myself to. But many people in my country don’t see it that way: I’ve had revulsion, confusion, and mockery for “trying to change my accent” because I can’t code-switch back.

I’m an egotistical douchebag so I usually don’t let it get to me, but I would be lying if I said I’ve been totally impervious to some of the things I’ve heard. You don’t realize how personal your accent is until you spend days in a slump because someone gave you crap for the way you speak.

The odd part of this is that I have good days, where I mentally occupy the same space I did while living in the States and am suave charismatic and eloquent, and really off days where I exist in an obfuscating limbo where I struggle to say even the most basic of sentences and become a blubbering mess. It is something I have no control over and it’s given me anxiety in both my personal and professional life. Sometimes it is limiting when I want to express myself and am unable to say it in a manner congruent with my manner of speech. Cognitive dissonance in the extreme?

My plea – I want to hear from others like me. Maybe you were judged for having an evolved accent, or perhaps you too lost your ability to code switch and you share my struggle of good/off days. Send me an email. I want to connect with you.

Or perhaps you’re a speech pathologist and can diagnose the above-mentioned problem. If so, I really really want to hear from you.

Or maybe you’re someone in the US looking for an extremely capable and talented individual willing to work his butt off at whatever cost. I’m an honors graduate, 2 years in the banking industry with easily transplantable skills a fervent desire to follow my destiny and work in the US. Hire me! (For real, CV readily available on request.)

Some closing thoughts:

Everyone should try salsa/social dance
Walk up and talk to that girl you see at the bar/coffee shop/street
Manage your finances properly and start saving from a young age

Leonard H

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Not to be a Debbie Downer but

Pick a number between 1 and 500.

In rare moments I become aware, deep in my bones or at least somewhere that is not in my brain, of a fundamental truth so overwhelmingly important that it really should derail me: the fact that we are meaningless; that there is this something called "existence" here floating around, and that I and everyone around me is constructed haphazardly and magnificently out of this something for no particular or general reason, an accident of time and fundamental forces and particles being pushed together/apart. This is a realization of the fact that we are not only nothing but in fact a nothing that is utterly crushed by itself, meaningless on a cosmological scale that dwarfs all of our daily actions and routines.

These moments sometimes come to me on the packed train in to work, cramped into a tiny space with far too many other people, all of us silently and conspicuously traveling together toward presumed lives we are leading. I want to ask the other people, right there on the subway car, whether they have considered on introspective nights the same questions I have, whether they have asked themselves to what end they find themselves here or anywhere, whether they are aware that they will eventually be utterly forgotten. We will be forgotten on both the cosmological scale, as a simple bizarre occurrence in a universe of matter that has no special place for such statistical anomalies; but we will also be forgotten by our own people, with the exception of a few chosen for remembrance past their lifetimes. (Consider how much you know about any one of your 64 great-great-great-great grandparents, and you’ll have an idea of whether any of your descendants will remember you 150-200 years from now.) I wonder if the other people on the train know this, whether any of them are, like I am, struggling with how we respond to and move beyond this understanding, how we can learn to be conscious of this and still reconcile our hopes and goals and bills to pay and I-need-to-pick-up-milk’s. How many of the train-riders have never considered it; how many are in denial; how many have found the personal answers that work for them?

I believe we can find some grand peace in accepting the universe in its simple being-ness (who could blame it?), and that Buddhist and other similar worldviews are all about tackling these issues. But still I have not left my day job and my hobbies, and still my mind wanders for large stretches away from these major issues. I want to teach myself to incorporate these thoughts into my waking daily interactions with the universe, but I’m not there yet. And that’s okay, for now.

I’m working my way toward it, and I know others are on parallel paths. So I guess I just want to say: hi! to the other little pockets of self-awareness out there. And to say that for now I take comfort in the perhaps-naïve thought that there is some power in saying “no!” to the infinite nothing, that we all still have the agency to say “I will continue to read my books and learn to draw and get to work on time, and if the universe wants to belittle me it can go f**k itself because I’m doing it anyway”, and maybe we can find truth in that simple decision to exist consciously. Or at least we can have some fun doing it.

Your number is 127.

I exist and would love to hear from ya.

Hakuna your tata,


Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Hi fellow listservers, just a shout out to you about flying potatoes and happy mondays ! Check out your white feathers indicators more often than not. Srsly ?? Yes, dead seriously, sincerely yours. P.S. Keep posting

France, near Paris

Monday, March 23, 2015

I collect hobbies.

Like Penelope in The Brother's Bloom, I collect hobbies.

Penelope Stamp: I collect hobbies. I see someone doing something I like, and I get books and learn how to do it.

If you'd like to give it a go, here are some recommendations:

Dabbler--a monthly email newsletter featuring a new hobby or interest and informtation about how to get started. Become a Digital Volunteer for the Smithsonian Institution-- Transcribe journals of some of history's great minds.

Listen carefully when someone talks about their passion--Especially if they start with "This may sound boring, but..."

KipKay--learn to build a new gadget or electronics project every month.

Read old handbooks and pamphlets--I especially enjoyed the first edition of the Boy Scout Manual.

Please email if you'd like to tell me about your hobbies or passions or favorite books. I love learning new things.

Thanks for all of the interesting emails, fellow members.

South Korea