• Ireland was a desert, and uninhabited, when the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea –Nennius, Historia Brittonum, trans. Giles

  • And I, to this day, have hardly been able to understand, even superficially, as was necessary, the sayings of other men… but like a barbarian, have I murdered and defiled the language of others. –Nennius, Historia Brittonum, trans. Giles

  • That some consider Janina, the protagonist of Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead, to be a “protest figure” is a really bad sign. She’s a sociopath. 📚

  • The Thin Man (1934).

  • As the poet Yona Wallach wrote, “עברית היא סקסמניאקית” (“Hebrew is a sex maniac”)–and thank goodness for that! Hillel Halkin on gender and the Hebrew language.

  • A novel, a poem, and a history of American sci-fi. My picks for best books of 2018, in excellent company at Mosaic magazine. 📚

  • Chloe Weil talking in 2013 about how to make Twitter hers instead of her Twitter’s. This brilliant young woman died in her 20s not long after. I only knew her briefly but she was unforgettable.

  • Captain Galway / knew how to fill his uniform, apart / from the left sleeve & it was the empty / sleeve that had lured Flora. Sucked her up / like a hungry straw. –Martina Evans, Now We Can Talk Openly About Men 📚 📖

  • I couldn’t move, / hardly able to breathe, my lungs shrunk / to the size of two teaspoons tied / around my throat. –Martina Evans, Now We Can Talk Openly About Men 📚 📖

  • Hopper’s Cape Cod Morning visits Portland. 🎨

  • Whan kynge Charlemayn had sene the gret meruaylles that were done by the commaundment of kyng Oberon, he sayd to his lordes, ‘Syrs, I beleue this man be god hymselfe for there is no mortall man can do this that he hath done’ –Huon de Bourdeaux, Bourchier translation 📚

  • Why Composer Steve Reich Always Wears a Baseball Cap

    (h/t Alan Jacobs)

    From the Globe and Mail

    SR: I was brought up a secular, Reform Jew, which means I didn’t know Aleph from Bet. I knew nothing, and therefore I cared nothing. My father cared culturally, but that’s all. So when I came home from Africa, I thought to myself, there’s this incredible oral tradition in Ghana, passed on from father to son, mother to daughter, for thousands of years. Don’t I have something like that? I’m a member of the oldest group of human beings still known as a group that managed to cohere enough to survive – and I know nothing about it. So I started studying at Lincoln Square Synagogue in midtown Manhattan, an Orthodox temple, that had an incredible adult-education program for the likes of me – and I asked whether they would teach a course in biblical Hebrew, and they said sure, and they brought a professor down from Yeshiva University to teach that, and I studied the weekly portion – I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a weekly portion and commentaries thereon.

    So this whole world opened up for me – it was 1975, at about the same time as I met my wife, Beryl, and so all of this sort of came together and it did occur to me – isn’t it curious that I had to go to Ghana to go back to my own traditions because I think if you understand any historical group, or any other religion for that matter, in any detail, then you’ll be able to approach another one with more understanding. So the answer to your question is yes. The longest yes you’ve ever heard.

    WB: So has that influenced your personal life as well as your musical life?

    SR: Well, sure.

    WB: But I’ve read a lot about you, and your Jewishness is not the first thing that comes across. I’m not saying you’re not a religious person …

    SR: But I am. Guilty as charged. This is my yarmulke [pointing to his baseball cap]. This is my way of dealing with the non-Jewish world.

    WB: Are you serious? Because I wondered about that – why you’re always seen wearing a baseball cap.

    SR: Yeah. This is my kipa – this is my way of squaring the circle, of being able to be comfortable in the various worlds in which I find myself. In synagogue I have a regular yarmulke on, but outside, I wear the hat. I wear it on stage and I feel good that I can do that – that I’ve found a solution, a way of maintaining a couple of 1,000-year-old traditions while still not trying to force myself on people. If people see Steve Reich in a yarmulke, all of a sudden it changes the way they perceive me – it’s very powerful. I had to find a way to be comfortable in my own skin and my own skin is complicated – I live in at least two or three worlds. I’ve always believed in understatement and a certain amount of reticence. That’s a big part of my character. So that’s what I’ve done. I don’t carry a sandwich board. Now you’re going to blow my cover!

    🎵And here’s something lovely to listen to.

    tags: USJews

  • The “Jewish Christmas” isn’t Hanukah, it’s Sukkot: decorations, ornaments, strung lights. Christians bring a tree into the house, Jews move a house out to the trees. They build a nativity scene. We live in one for a week.

  • Re-reading Perelandra for my winter “Fantasy and Faith” mini-course. Kind of wish I owned this edition. 📚 📖

  • “In 1839, sisters Marion and Celia Moss published their first collection of poetry, Early Efforts: A Volume of Poems, by the Misses Moss, of the Hebrew Nation, Aged 18 and 16.A poem about Jewish bravery, in the Jewish Review of Books.

    This is very much in the spirit of Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, as I explain here.

  • Practice what?

    You’re welcome, ladies.

    Personal favorites:

    1. Have your car break down at strategic places.

    2. Learn to paint. Set up easel outside engineering school. [Actually seems like good advice.]

    3. Stand in a corner and cry softly. Chances are good that he’ll come over to find out what’s wrong.

    4. European women use their eyes to good advantage. Practice in front of a mirror.

    5. Go to Yale.

    6. Make and sell toupees–bald men are easy catches!

    And here’s a fun podcast in which the article is discussed with the redoubtable Mollie Hemingway.

    I’m just glad that it’s 2018 and we men can use the same techniques to get a wife.

  • The notion of a were-owl may seem peculiar, but it has a history.

    📚 📖

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