"Junk! It's all junk!" scowled Professor Madcap, for the tenth time. Or maybe twelfth. I had stopped counting.
"Well, what were you expecting to find?" asked Julie, shortly. Julie was a third-year archaeologist like myself. She was tired of digging through the rubble, just like the rest of us.
The Professor had promised us some real work, for a change. This cave was supposed to be the latest most likely location of some ancient manuscript of the Hashmonaim. It was a newly discovered cave branch, part of a network called the Caves of the Maccabees.
But all we had found after three and a half days of digging were a few arrow-heads and some broken shards of pottery.
"Manuscripts! Writings! I'd settle for an ancient grocery list, at this point!" snarled the Professor. He threw down his cap in disgust and sat down on a low rock.
Julie and I took this as an opportunity to sit down ourselves. We had learned only to rest when the Professor was resting, or risk a pointed scolding about "lazy, useless students."
"This is probably a wild goose chase," added the Professor, taking a swig of what he claimed was water from his canteen. "Damn Hutchingson! He probably did this on purpose! Getting me back for that 'hot tip on the holy ark'." He shook his head.
I looked at Julie and our eyes met, wordlessly. Archaeologists and their strange practical jokes.
"Professor," I asked, cautiously, "are we looking for some particular manuscript?"
He didn't answer right away. Eventually he said, seemingly to himself, "Oh anything. There is one thing ... but, no, anything."
"One thing?" I pressed.
He finally looked back at me. "Well, I have some rough evidence that the 98th book of Havel Havalim is supposed to be in this area. But perhaps that's all part of this seemingly elaborate joke!"
"Havel Havalim? What's that?" asked Julie, saving me from having to do so.
"What! Third year students and you don't know about ... good grief, who let you into archeology school?" He sniffed at us. We waited patiently.
"Havel Havalim was a type of Blog Carnival, a collection of articles from the writers of the age. There were many presses in those days. It was hard for everyone to keep up with all of it. So a weekly round up of the best articles was collected and republished in a list form, or Blog Carnival. So far we have found the first 97 volumes of Havel Havalim. Evidence seemed to indicate that we would find the next one in this cave branch, but this is obviously a complete waste of my time!" he finished.
In sudden anger he jumped up and kicked the wall. The net result of this was that he then started hopping around on his other foot, in pain and swearing volubly.
"Come on, let's go!" he said suddenly, and began gathering up his stuff.
But I noticed something on the wall where the Professor had kicked. The wall had cracked and was beginning to crumble.
"Professor! Wait! Look!" I said, pointing to the wall. In a great rumble, a section of the wall gave way. A cloud of dust rose up from the rubble.
The Professor stared at the wall in part astonishment and part horror. "Oh no!" he wailed. "What have I done?"
"Wait!" said Julie, peering through the rubble. "Look at this!" As the dust began to settle, we could see a small space behind the wall and what appeared to be a small hole in the wall at about waist height.
Julie approached the hole, shining her flashlight into it. "Professor! There's something in there! There's something in there!"
"What! Get out of my way! Let me see!" yelled Professor Madcap, rushing forwards. "Could it be? Could it be? Yes! Yes, it is! I don't believe it!"
The Professor pulled out an ancient scroll. Although faded and cracked, even I could make out the ancient Greek inscriptions on the outside of the scroll:
"Havel Havalim, Issue 98"
The Professor danced around, singing for the all the world like a drunken sailor. "I found it! I found it! Ha ha ha! Just you wait Hutchingson! I found it!" And so saying the last, he landed on his sore foot, screamed in agony, and fell backwards over the lunch basket.
He sat up, still grinning, despite his pain. "Come! Come! Let's take a look at what's inside, shall we?" We gathered around behind him as he unrolled the scroll.
"What's that, Professor?" asked Julie, pointing at the first item.
"Let, me see. It says here that an additional Blog Carnival was also in the process of being created at the same time that this one was being written. It was called, uh, the Channukah Blog Carnival. Wow!"
"What?" I asked.
"Apparently it was updated continuously for eight days, even though the maintainer only had enough free time to update it for one day. What a miracle!"
"What else is there?"
"Let's see. There appears to be some strange sort of author who went by the name 'me-ander' who wrote about how nice it was to be the recipient of Saying 'Thank You'.
"She went on to talk about the troubled times they lived in, and how a simple funeral for an old person was out of the ordinary, but still happened in Old People Die, Too. And on the flip side goes to a Lovely Little Wedding.
"Someone called 'Shiloh Musings' worried over the relationship between Israel and 'The Vatican' in Bad News Behind the Scenes, and a few other posts."
"What's The Vatican," asked Julie.
The Professor looked up. "Uh, some kind of mythical monster, I believe," he muttered. He coughed, and went on, "Let's continue ...
"My these people have strange names. Here's one called 'Knockin on the Golden Door' who writes about a peanut in an article called Jimmy Al-Carter, Redux."
"A peanut?" I asked, confused.
"Oh wait," said the Professor. He scratched his head and wrinkled his brow. "Maybe it's a farmer. A peanut who's a farmer? What's that word again. Pea .. prea, president? No, that's ridiculous ... well, we'll just have to examine it more when we get back to the institute."
I chuckled to myself. A peanut who's a farmer, indeed.
"Here we have someone called the Jewish Blogmeister apparently interviewing someone called 'Life in Israel'. And then another interview with the Bagel Blogger in Interview of BagelBlogger." The Professor looked up at us.
"Bagel was also a type of food. Perhaps this has something to do with the peanuts. Another article also mentions this Bagel Blogger; someone by the name of Psycho Toddler conscripted the Bagel Blogger to help with Parsha Parts, as he described in Bagel Parts."
We shook our heads. None of this was making any real sense. But he went on with the scroll.
"The Blogmeister continued with The changing course of Jewish Music Orchestra Biz, noting how orchestras are shifting their attention to bigger vocalists.
"Don Radlauer kept his eye on a group called Honest Reporting, in Watching a watchdog: HonestReporting veers off course. Meanwhile, Honest Reporting reported on the 2006 Dishonest Reporter of the Year Award.
"And The Egel Nest ['Perhaps there was a transcribing error?' I suggested.] talked about his new composition of Jewish lullabies, in Project X Revealed...
"The Ignoble Experiment talked about her Mixed Feelings at a pleasant concert almost ruined by a rude audience and staff. And then wrote about breaking down prejudices in A Ray of Light.
"Hmmm, here's something new. This isn't an article at all, but an announcement about a new Israeli Wiki.
"What's a wiki," I asked. "Some kind of small rodent?"
"Something like that, I believe," answered the Professor. "A very strange animal. Apparently, anyone can take the rodent, disassemble it, and then reassemble it with a different number of legs and eyes."
"Ooh," exclaimed Julie. "That sounds horrible for the poor rodent."
"It was pretty horrible for the people who had to look at it, too, so I hear. This next part was apparently a guest writing in another writer's forum. Chabakuk Elisha wrote on Honesty, as well as other lessons about basic ethics and morality.
"Here's something. Life in Israel talked about El Al negotiations. Apparently, El Al was a camel caravan that would carry travelers back and forth to Israel. One sect of Jews got mad at the camel drivers for working on shabbat, once, and so instead they decided to only travel by wild pig from then on. Life in Israel was then Questioned on various issues regarding haredi attitude toward exclusive education and acceptance based on family reputation.
"Someone called Simply Jews wrote a humorous article about a conference that took place in a fast moving country (they even called the country "I Ran") in The new age of Islamic science."
"Wait, isn't I Ran the ... Julie ... didn't we once read ...?"
"Yes! Yes!" exclaimed Julie. "An ancient prophet had a vision after seeing a flock of seagulls. He wrote down the vision in poetry:
And I Ran
So far away
Couldn't get away
It must have been a lovely country if the prophet so longed to return to it."
The Professor continued. "And ... well, this is rather strange. More about peanuts in Jimbo - intimidated?"
"Surely that couldn't be about peanuts, Professor," claimed Julie. "I mean, surely, no?"
"See for yourself," answered the Professor. "Although I admit it does seem a little strange.
"And here, Life in Israel also talks about this conference in I Ran, in The holocaust conference in Iran. Life in Israel seems to be more interested in the so-called Jewish participation in the conference.
"Ah," I said, "so I Ran must have been a homeland for the Jews."
"It's too early to draw conclusions. We will have to do more research, my young padawan!"
"What's a padawan?"
"Never mind, let's continue. Raanan Ramblings bemoaned the wrong holiday being celebrated in Seasons Greetings?
"Now what is this? Someone called 'There are no feminists on a sinking ship'? Is that a name or a value system?"
"Anyway, she wrote a humorous description of a fictional Air Chumrah: The Charedi airline. And then upbraided some singers in MBD and Fried speak about tape copying: Stick to singing guys...
"Rubicon3 linked to an SNL routine about Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. He linked again in Calling All Jews.
"Huh? Linked? SNL? Mel Gibson? I don't understand," I interrupted.
"Me neither. We'll have to look these up later. Apparently, whatever this 'Mel Gibson' was wasn't important enough to be preserved for later generations.
"In the meantime, Rubicon3 also posted a more understandable article about the Jewish attitude toward hate and war in War and Hatred From a Jewish Perspective.
"Israel Matzav wrote about the standoff with Haninyeh in Border standoff resolved. In fact, this guy seems to have written a whole host of interesting posts during that week. We should check all of them out." He skipped forward about four or five sections, and then continued.
"Debbie Schlussel wrote about the discriminatory practice of delivery by UPS, and how it ended, in Package Apartheid: UPS is Official Delivery Service of the Jihad.
"Yourish weighed in on terrorists PR war in Words fail at the hypocrisy of terrorist spokesliars.
"Treppenwitz continued his great writings on sentimental subjects with 'Ma Pitom?!', and other inscrutable Israeli expressions.
"And speaking of sentimental, Abbagav [whose name derived from a popular music group from that era named 'ABBA'] wrote a touching story of a mom and a kid in Funny Thing, Miracles.
"A Blog For All wrote about water issues between Israel and Jordan in Better Dead With Red.
"The group Israelity talked about a secret trip to Israel in Hollywood Heavyweights Sneak In and Out of Israel."
The Professor looked up. "Which reminds me. I recall reading in another source that these visitors spent time studying in the Jewish Institute known as Pardes."
"No, Professor, you must be mistaking this story with the story of the four men who went into pardes and only one emerged unscathed."
"No, no. A different story, I believe.
"Anyway, let's continue. Modern Uberdox wrote about The 26th Yartzeit of Rav Hutner zt'l."
"Who was that?" asked Julie.
"Apparently, a great man who loved his wife.
"Joe Settler wrote about the apparent discovery of Yeshivat Shem v'Ever found in North Syria.
"Ah! Something interesting! There were rumors about an incompetent leader of Israel at this time, and here is some evidence from someone called YID with LID. He wrote how Olmert Blunders Again and Nuclear Ambiguity Goes Out the Window. This evidence can be added to the other 9,999 pieces of evidence we have previously uncovered.
"And look. Another corroborating post from Mere Rhetoric in Olmert: Israel May Or May Not Have Nukes. And another in A Blog for All.
"Professor, if this is all from one week of writings, it must have been a dramatic week, indeed!" I said.
"So it would appear. But almost every week in Israel was dramatic at that point in history. On the other hand, some of the things they talked about were events that were only events in the media, and not really events in and of themselves.
"For instance, here is an article by Life of Rubin about a Rabbi, a tree, and an airport in This Story has NOTHING to do with any "War on Christmas" ...
"But then you have articles such as this one by Bookworm Room, about the killing of children in As you sow, so shall you reap."
"Wow!" said Julie. How much more is there?"
The Professor flipped through the rest of the scroll. "Oh, it goes on for pages and pages. Very long winded, these Jews were. Let's break for lunch."
After lunch (we were able to rescue some of the sandwiches over which the Professor had tripped), we continued with the examination of the scroll.
"Secular Blasphemy reported on good news and bad news. Norwegian state broadcaster's host calls for genocide of Israelis on the one hand, but Iran saved Polish Jewish children from Nazis during WWII on the other.
"Someone, or something, called My Not So Random Thoughts wrote about donuts in Some Sufganiyah Bites. And by the way, a Jerusalem Post we recovered from that week also had several pages on these ancient balls of fat and sugar."
"Oh, they sound horrible!" exclaimed Julie. "Thank goodness all we eat today is brown rice and tofu."
"Indeed. Elie's Exposition expounded on the parsha of the week in Vayishlach: What's in a Name.
"Culture for All reflected on Hanukkah and the Dreidel in Happy Chanukah, as did Yehuda on the blog of 192 countries in Hanukkah in Israel and Around the World.
"Yehuda weighed in on a strange report in a contemporary newspaper covering the subject of circumcision and AIDS in The New York Times on AIDS and Sex, and also talked about Free Will and Charity, and asked How Good is Good Advice?"
"Professor," yawned Julie. "I'm getting tired. What do you say we wrap this up and take it on home?" I couldn't help but agree.
"What? Too much for you, eh? Fine, we'll take it home and continue later. Pack up!" He rolled up the scroll, and puttered around the room, muttering under his breath about lazy, useless students. I looked at Julie and rolled my eyes.
That was the end of our expedition for that week. You will be able to read about next week's adventure on me-ander. For further information, see the Havel Havalim Blog Carnival entry.
Until then, keep your bone dusters clean and your pickaxes sharp. You never know where Professor Madcap is going to take you on his next wild expedition!