Sunday, April 30, 2006

A novel in six words

Ernest Hemingway once said that he could write a novel in six words. When challenged to make good on his boast, he brought in a sheet of paper with the following:

"For Sale: baby shoes, never worn."

*mentioned in a profoundly moving article by Daniel Raeburn in the New Yorker

Old Couples

Sometimes I look at old couples. Really old, maybe in their eighties or nineties. The man and woman sit next to each other silently. Grey haired, stooped. They don't speak. They don't fidget. They aren't in a hurry.

They aren't bickering, but neither do they seem affectionate. They seem disconnected from the world. It is as if they are still together through habit and nothing else, like a disintegrating spaceship in that peculiar orbit where the debris will keep circling the Earth, though the vessel is no longer intact.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Drowning in blood

Humans abhor murder, right? My friends - it is a myth. Humans murder all the time. It is not an abberation, it is the norm. We murder because we're hungry, or because wey are jealous, or because we covet, or because we hate.

Especially because we hate.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Venus in Furs

Irina is blogging that often sex and violence is gratuitous, while Tobie points out that sometimes it is necessary.
DBS promotes Objective Morality without God, but in the fascinating post and comments no one mentions the aspect of morality that has nothing to do with treatment of others - the inward looking assessment of one's soul. Or to put it in Judaistic terms, "bein adam l'atzmo"? Meanwhile, my mind is incubating all these ideas as it listens to the Velvet Underground.

For some reason, the song "Venus in Furs" has captured my soul. Its music - an Elizabethan ballad mixed with the droning influences of Greek, perhaps Moroccan styles. The subject matter - sadomasochism. The title of the piece is the name of the book by the eponymous Baron Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch.

And as much as personally I am puzzled by masochism and as much as it holds no attraction for me in any way that I can discern, the words of the song ring in my head:

Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Clubs and bells, your servant, don’t forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

Downy sins of streetlight fancies
Chase the costumes she shall wear
Ermine furs adorn the imperious
Severin, Severin awaits you there

I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears

Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leather
Shiny leather in the dark
Tongue of thongs, the belt that does await you
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

Severin, severin, speak so slightly
Severin, down on your bended knee
Taste the whip, in love not given lightly
Taste the whip, now plead for me

I am tired, I am weary
I could sleep for a thousand years
A thousand dreams that would awake me
Different colors made of tears

Shiny, shiny, shiny boots of leather
Whiplash girlchild in the dark
Severin, your servant comes in bells, please don’t forsake him
Strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Pesach Redux

Monday night 11:30 pm:

The on-board computer on our brand new oven blows. Wife hysterical. Pesach starts Wed pm.

Wednesday 7:30 am:

Coming back from the siyum at shul, find one child projectile vomiting on wife in bathroom. Another two lying listlessly on couch. Soon, two more are vomiting. Call to cancel with guests for seder. However, oven is fixed due to wife breaking down in tears on the phone to the store previous day.

Wednesday 5 pm:

Children experience miraculous recovery. At least parents are back on for seder.

Thursday 2 pm:

Daughter wakes up from nap with 104 fever. No other symptoms. Fever goes away by nightime, however, at this point we've cancelled Friday lunch at friends'.

Thursday 7:40 pm:

Twelve minutes between mincha and maariv. As I am about to start chit-chatting, the guy in front of me says, "Would you like to learn with me for 12 minutes? I just got a new book and it's really great." I am cornered. The new book seems to be some type of illustrated Mishna on the Passover sacrifices. I now know that it took three people to slaughter the lamb - one to hold it, one to slaughter it and one to hold the vessel to collect the blood to sprinkle on the altar. Money quote - "See how he is holding the knife away from the wound? If any blood from the knife drips into the vessel, it renders the sacrifice invalid." The guy is a doctor too.


Great weather in Chicago. No further disasters to report.

Executive summary:

Potential for horrible chag - all disasters miraculously averted.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Elizabeth Bishop

I came across a poem in the New Yorker by Elizabeth Bishop which I thought was beautiful. It reminds me of another poem, by Boris Pasternak called Winter Night. Of course, as Nabokov wrote vehemently, you cannot translate poetry, so the Pasternak translation is a pale shadow of the original.

Anyhow, here is the Bishop poem - enjoy!

Close, close all night
the lovers keep.
They turn together,
in their sleep,

close as two pages
in a book
that read each other
in the dark.

Each knows all
the other knows,
learned by heart
from head to toes

Monday, April 10, 2006

Dirt is NOT Chametz!

Barely any time to post, due to insane wife making me clean the whole house before Pesach! She conflates searching for chametz with spring cleaning, and the outcome is me not going to bed till 2am every night till Yom Tov.

For those who haven't yet seen this, enjoy!

Chag Kasher v'Sameach, y'all!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Fons Vitae

A recent post from Irina mentioned the movie "Un Chien Andalou", (which for some bizarre reason is actually titled "Le Chien Andalou" in the movie itself). The title made me think of Andalusia, the beautiful southern tip of Spain, the Biblical Tarshish.

It is an amazing feeling when you pick up a book, and the opening sentences take you prisoner.

HIS METAPHYSICS emerge from desire: his ethics evolve to a science of sense. What begins there in wisdom ends in anger: what was anger gives way to a grace. He is a poet of poles and swells and reversals, of splits that propose a completion. He is the most modern of the Hebrew medievals, the most foreign to a modernist approach. In his verse what looks like a mirror is meant in fact to be passed through: transparency marks a divide. Hebrew is Arabic, Muslim Jewish, his resistance a form of embrace.

The author is talking about Avicebron, aka Ibngebirol, aka Avengebirol, aka Avengebrol, aka Avencebrol, aka Avicebrol. To us Jews, he is Shlomo ben Yehuda Ibn Gabirol, who re-introduced Neoplatonism to Europe seven centuries after Plotinus and became one of the cornerstones of medieval Scholastic philosophy. He was also an extraordinary poet.

Here is a sample.

The Pen

Naked without either cover or dress,
utterly soulless, and hollow -
from its mouth come wisdom and prudence,
and in ambush it kills like an arrow.