Monday, May 25, 2009

The TARP is Jesus

Margaret Atwood, in her recent book "Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth," notes that in Aramaic the words for "debt" and "sin" are the same. When we ask for forgiveness from our trespasses or call Christ the Redeemer, we are employing, as she put it, "the language of debt and pawning or pledging." She goes on, "The whole theology of Christianity rests on the notion of spiritual debts and what must be done to repay them, and how you might get out of paying by having someone else pay instead." (By this standard, America really is a Christian nation.) She adds, "It rests, too, on a long pre-Christian history of scapegoat figures - including human sacrifices-who take your sins away from you." For the repayment of our debts, we look to the government, the TARP, you might say, is Jesus.
As for expiation, we endeavor to find the worst offenders, whose transgressions can stand in for everyone's. Atwood discusses a medieval character called a Sin Eater, an outcast who took on the sins of the dying and bore them until another Sin Eater-the greater fool-came along to take them off his hands. (If Sin Eaters existed now, someone would securitize them.)

Nick Paumgarten, New Yorker Magazine, May 18, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Cruel Reality

I think there is probably no worse feeling than waking up in the morning after having a dream that felt so real that you thought it was real. And desperately trying to sort out whether any of the good things that you just experienced are real. And recognizing that none of them were.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Who needs fiction?

She is the daughter of playboy Brian Lennard, who founded Sacha Shoes, and actress Marilyn Galsworthy, whose mother was one of the original Dior and Chanel models. Lennard has two sisters, Pandora (b. 1988) and Jessica (b. 1983) - named by their mother after three of their father's mistresses: "a tribute to those who didn't make it".

Lennard was brought up in Belgravia, Bel Air and the Cote d'Azur. The sisters were picked up from school every day in a Rolls-Royce, and had access to five houses equipped with butlers, nannies and cooks. However, her father reportedly lost the family fortune on the gaming tables and left them penniless, at which stage her parents divorced. Jessica now works for the Linklaters law firm in Paris, and Pandora still lives with her mother in Fulham. Pandora is assistant fashion editor of Tank magazine.

Lennard was reportedly the reason a London based New York hedge fund banker spent £36,000 in one night on drinks at the Aviva bar in Kensington's five-star Baglioni Hotel, and left a £3,000 tip. The banker had reportedly made £3M on one deal that day, and was so infatuated with Lennard on the night of the "Revolver" premier, he kept sending her over bottles of Dom Perignon champagne. Eventually he put his Black American Express card behind the bar, and said: "The drinks are on me!" Customers put away 851 cocktails - with a combined price tag alone of £5,959; and in the end the bar ran out of Cristal magnums and had to move on to the normal-sized bottles. Lennard said: "I was very flattered to be receiving so much attention... Even though the guy was very sweet, it was not quite enough to make me leave my boyfriend. Maybe he could try diamonds next time."

Jasmine Lennard

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Non-Music Monday

Max Ernst - L'Ange du Foyer (Fireside Angel)

Nen Echten Duvel

I normally don't care for Belgian Ales, but I have an inexplicable urge for one of these:

Friday, May 15, 2009

What prompted the last post?

There IS something awe inspiring about nature. Here in Chicago we finally had some warm weather and the flora began sprouting. Both my wife and I noticed how strange these plants look sprouting from the ground. Like some kind of undead reaching up from their graves.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins


that's right - awkward family photos!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Winnie the Pooh on Swine Flu

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Ibn Ezra Responds to Biblical Criticism from 11th Century Moslem Scholars

Found this Ibn Ezra quote on the Nishmat website. He is talking about the midrash of the assimilated Jews being killed during the Plague Of Darkness, and he mentions the fact that this midrash plays into the hands of "Moslem scholars" who were already attacking the rationality of the Exodus story.

A derash says one in five hundred left. This is a lone opinion, which is debated, and is not at all a received tradition [which would be binding]. We already have enough grief from the Moslem scholars, who say: "How is it possible that fifty-five men who went down to Egypt [with Yaakov] could be the ancestors, over 210 years, of 600,000 men over the age of twenty?"<8> ... In [every] plague that consumed Egypt, the Jews were spared. Most of the Egyptians' cattle died during dever (the plague of cattle-disease), while not one of the Jews' cattle died (Shemot 9:6). In the Plague of the Firstborn, not a single Jew died. In the Plague of Darkness, it says, "There was light for all the Jews" (Shemot 10:23). In the plagues in which Egyptians died, Jews did not die. So in a plague (darkness) in which no Egyptian died, how could all the Jews die until only one in five hundred survived? [Besides, that would mean] the Jews did not have light in their homes, but the darkness of disease and the pitch-black of death! Since only a tiny part was left from a huge nation, this would not have been redemption for the Jews but a sick evil! That's the opposite of the text. The whole thing is a derash; don't rely on it. Maybe the one who said it at the outset had a hidden reason (sod).

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Rabbinic Apostolic Succession

I don't think I've ever heard the word "Apostolic" used in relation to Rabbinic Judaism:

By the end of the 2nd century, perhaps in response to Church Father Irenaeus's notion of apostolic succession, the rabbis proclaimed a chain of authority that they attributed to the earlier synod of Yavneh. Both the early Christian and rabbinic cultures were constructing parallel frameworks of leadership based on the shared Hellenistic idea of diadoche, a record of succession linking established teachers with a larger school of thought, while tracing their lineage back to its founder. In the mishnaic text, Pirkei Avot, "Ethics of the Fathers," the rabbis constructed a chain of oral tradition beginning with the revelation at Mt. Sinai to Moses, who passed it on to Joshua, who handed it down to the Elders, who transmitted it to the Prophets and finally to the men of the Great Assembly. These Palestinian rabbis claimed that the process of rabbinic ordination had already begun with Moses, whom they referred to as Moshe Rabbeinu, "our rabbi." Based on their exclusive claim to the Oral Law transmitted from God to Moses and passed down through the chain of tradition, the rabbis were able to permanently legitimize their political and religious power.

[Full Article]

Monday, May 04, 2009

Metaphysical Monday

No music today. So, how about a little art from Giorgio de Chirico, founder of the scuola metafisica.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Yiddishe Galech

Came across this clip on YouTube from a 1939 Yiddish version of Tevye the Milkman. The opening scene is killing me... Tevye is talking to the priest, and both of them are speaking Yiddish... I'd bet Rokhl would get a kick out of this scene...

R Leiman's visit to Skokie

Went to listen to R Shnayer Leiman speak about the Golem and the Maharal. He is a very entertaining speaker. In the process of giving his talk he told a funny story:

In New York, almost a century ago, there were a slew of Yiddish newspapers. If a deadline was coming up and they were short on stories, a typical trick would be to go see Rabbi Gavriel Margolis, known as Reb Velvel. If the reporter was canny enough to push the right button, he would be guaranteed to come back with a good story.

On one such day, when news were hard to come by, such a reporter went over to see Reb Velvel and posed the following question - "What do you think of Rabbi Yoffe?". Rabbi Yoffe was one of the founding members of the Agudas Harabonim, an organization which Reb Velvel was fervently in disagreement with. Reb Velvel thought about it for a few seconds and replied:

Emes, ve-yatziv, ve-nachon, ve-kayam, ve-yashar, ve-ne'eman, ve-ahoov, ve-chaviv, ve-nechmad, ve-na'im, ve-noroh, ve-adir, u-mesukan, u-mekubal, ve-tov, ve-yoffe... (*)

See how far Yoffe is from Emes?

One thing about this story, is I could not find who Rabbi Yoffe was. This is porbably a question for Mississippi Fred.

* The text of a blessing following the Shema.

A Million Bonds

Conference call with client today:

Customer calls and says - "I wanna buy a million bonds." This is kinda a typical trade for us..."

This reminds me of Sherman McCoy and the Masters of the Universe in The Bonfire of the Vanities.