If you’ve ever wondered what Vox Day looks and sounds like when he’s not holding a flaming sword, Futrelle has unearthed a video interview. He’s actually not particularly interesting; he recites tepid versions of the awful things he’s written, and he gives a good impression of a not-very-bright person scuttling around in a corner to avoid getting pinned down.
So he does say there’s no such thing as rape within a marriage, and that being gay is a birth defect. He also says that being an atheist, or rather, lacking a spiritual sense, is a birth defect. I didn’t watch the whole thing, and just skipped about, because jeez, he’s boring.
“Big Pharma” & Privilege: Or Why I Wish Allies Would Stop Using This Phrase, by Camilla Laurentine
Those of us with disabilities who are on medication regularly depend on “Big Pharma” to stay alive. The reason I wish people would just stop throwing the phrase around is that they are only looking into a fraction of what’s wrong with the medical system when they talk about it. And even if they’re not about to spout off some unsolicited advice or some shame to any disabled person happening upon them, they are in a minority of those who don’t use the phrase to shame people for doing what it takes to survive.
21: GOOD HEART
Five roads diverged. Eliezer chose the path
of vision. Yehoshua chased friendship.
Yossi wanted to be a good neighbor.
Shimon sought to think ahead. But Elazar
craved a good heart, and their teacher said
I prefer the words of Elazar
because his choice includes all of yours.
A good heart. In gematria, good plus heart
-- seventeen plus thirty-two -- equals 49,
the days of the Omer. Three weeks in:
press a metaphysical stethoscope to your ribs
and listen to the lub-dub of your lev.
Tap with your fingers: is its tough exterior
softening like pliable red wax in the sun?
Can you carve grooves of gratitude, trace
the map of this meditation labyrinth
and leave an imprint? Make runnels in the clay
and see what flows through you. Instilling
a new habit takes a month of practice.
Four weeks remain before it's time to harvest.
What grows inside your four chambers?
Today is the 21st day of the Omer, making three weeks of the Omer. Today is the 21st day of our 49-day journey between Pesach and Shavuot, between liberation and revelation.
Gematria is Jewish number-math. In Hebrew, letters double as numbers, which means that every word also has a numerical meaning.
Lev is the Hebrew word for "heart."
In one Mussar model, today is the day to meditate on the quality of לב טוב, a good heart. That phrase reminded me of a Hasidic teaching about the importance of having a good heart, which I blogged some years ago on Lag b'Omer: The bonfire of the expansive heart.
Once there was a stuffed rabbit who yearned to be Real. His Boy loved him so dearly that he became Real in the eyes of the Boy -- but when living bunnies caught sight of him, they laughed, because they knew he was only a toy, unable to run and play with the real rabbits.
Some of you are smiling. You recognize this story, by Margery Williams. Let me continue.
One day the Boy became sick, and the stuffed rabbit stayed with him throughout his illness. It was uncomfortable and hot but the rabbit did not budge, because he knew his Boy needed him.
When the fever broke, the doctor instructed the family to burn everything which had been in contact with the boy -- his sheets, his clothes, anything which might carry the germs of scarlet fever. Of course, this meant the bunny, too.
So the bunny was taken to a place outside the house along with everything else which might be contagious, and set aside for the burning. But before the gardener arrived with the matches and kerosene, the bunny wept a real tear, and from that tear arose a fairy, and the fairy told the bunny that he was truly Real now: not only in the eyes of the Boy who had loved him so dearly, but real now in the eyes of everyone.
Why am I telling you this story today? Because of our Torah portion. Tazria-Metzora is full of blood, childbirth, leprosy, eruptive afflictions, and questions of purity. This week's Torah portion takes us on a deep dive into the binary of tahor and tamei -- usually translated as pure and impure, though I don't like that rendering. I resonate with Rabbi Rachel Adler's interpretation that being tamei means being charged-up, electrified, with a kind of uncanny life-and-death energy.
Have you ever been sick, and felt both physically and spiritually different from the "well" people around you? Have you ever done the holy work of the chevra kadisha, lovingly preparing a body for burial, and come away feeling that the world is in strangely sharp focus for a time? Have you ever given birth, or witnessed a birth, and felt as though you were touching the Infinite? Have you ever visited a hospital ward, and come away feeling that the hospital is a holy place -- and also a place which gives you the shivers, with its reminders of mortality? That's tum'ah: a temporary state of wakefulness to the Mystery of life and death.
This Torah portion speaks frequently of tzara'at -- usually translated as leprosy or as an "eruptive plague." Tzara'at is something with which a human being can be afflicted, and it is also something with which a house can be afflicted. In either case, the priest comes to examine, and there is a quarantine period, and if the house cannot be cleansed, it is torn down and taken to a place of tum'ah outside the city.
Although our Torah text comes from a time many centuries before germ theory, it speaks of contagion, and of whether and how it is possible to shed tum'ah and become tahor again.
Reading this Torah portion this year, I found myself thinking of the Velveteen Rabbit. His Boy contracted scarlet fever, and afterwards the rabbit was deemed contagious and was cast away. He became, in the language of Torah, tamei.
But it was through his encounter with sickness that he was able to become truly Real: not only Real in the eyes of his Boy, but Real in the eyes of the world. It was through the experience of being tamei that he was able to emerge into a state of taharah and to become truly alive.
And the same is true for us. Every life contains encounters with illness, contagion, and death. But when we take the risk of loving one another even though we know that life contains loss -- when we oscillate with one another between sickness and health -- that's how we become Real.
Becoming Real, as the Skin Horse in the nursery reminded the Velveteen Rabbit, is not always comfortable. Usually it involves being loved until one becomes shabby and threadbare. Becoming Real comes at a price, and that price is willingness to be in the world, to age, to have one's sharp edges rubbed off or one's plush fur become tattered.
But once you are Real, you know that your fur growing shabby isn't the most important thing. Once you are Real, says the Skin Horse, you can never be ugly.
Or, phrased a different way: once we are Real, we know deep in our hearts that in the eyes of the One Who made us, we are beautiful; we are perfect; we are loved; just the way we are.
Happily in this case, it was No News Is Good News. The birth went just fine, and Chris and I now have another daughter, named Zoe Amelia. She's a super easy baby but sleep deprivation and never having two hands to type with are still the order of the day (and night), so all my internet time is pretty much reading Facebook on my phone and typing what I can with one hand. Hence the lack of updates. Very sorry about that!!
I'll put up photos when I can. But she's beautiful, and Robin is an adoring older sister so far (we're astonished). Robin is also going through the terrible twos, so things are pretty noisy around here, but cute in-between all the screaming times. Which aren't that numerous. But are very very loud. So loud. I love earplugs.
And yes, Zoe was named partly after Zoe from Firefly. No one is surprised by this, I assume. ;)
....with one exception.
I once ran across the dramatization of the dev process (montage-like) on TV and watched because it's kind of soothing to watch developers suffering (they're like a floor away from me and I've had a bad week, okay?) until we got back to real time and I promptly lost my mind.
A Summary of the Horror:
They're like "almost there after weeks of (montage) work, oh noes there's a null character mcguffin plot reason thing must get it out like right now tonight no waiting!" or something like that, how do you even know this you just finished the last line and haven't compiled it...hold up, where are the design docs, I haven't seen any since this started, how are they--and they're all scanning the source code--scanning a million lines of source code with their eyes ON SINGLE MONITOR WHY, not even using a search algorithm--who does that, what kind of fucking IDE are you using, why don't you have color enabled to make this easier, wait, that looks like microsoft notepad with the background painted black-- "OH FOUND IT FIXING IT NOW" wait, no, did you erase something and then hit enter that's a new line, but go back, problem, the mcguffin wouldn't be in there, that's in a class file, why are you--hold up, what language is this-- "Okay, compiling now!" holy shit did you just-- "Almost done!" wait, what, no, you can't do that, you don't fly edit your code (that did like magic or word processing, they weren't clear) have you ever heard of debug or like-- "Okay, done, send it--" IN TEN SECONDS REAL TIME THAT WASN'T A MONTAGE "--to whothefuckever we can start distribution like next week awesome going to hawaii!" WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING YOU DIDN'T EVEN RUN IT-- "Everyone go on vacation now bye!" NO NO YOU UNIT TEST SYSTEM TEST USER ACCEPTANCE LAST HAS TO CHECK FOR MEMORY LEAKS AND LOAD AT LEAST RUN SOME AUTOMATED SCRIPTS WHAT ARE YOU DOING DID YOU EVEN CHECK TO SEE IF IT EVER WORKED IN A REAL-TIME ENVIRONMENT BECAUSE YOU MACHINES ARE SET TO IDEAL CONDITIONS NOT THE WILDS OF PRODUCTION--
I'll spare you the rest--they say when the trauma becomes too much, the memory's blocked so sanity can be retained--but one thing's really just bothering me here.
In this ultra-tech, totally pro too many coffee cups suspiciously unstained and without chips or being shattered against the wall and no crumpled up design documents because the analysts are sadistic fucks and will give you three contradictory rules and don't understand how to use Visio or the concept of driver flow...all the super-cool computers only had one monitor each.
I get it now.
This is about a desperate dev team torpedoing the project due to hideous working conditions, inadequate equipment, lack of support personnel, and no design documents because they were set up to fail by an evil CEO who wanted to cut corners and get rid of the entire dev department to bring in an alien design team from Mars (who secretly plan to conquer the world because even aliens wouldn't agree to this nightmare unless they had another motive entirely) and now it all makes sense!
( this is totally what happens next )
1.) Man and Superman, at the National Theatre. This one I wanted to see rather badly, because a) it's the complete version, which is almost never shown - they usually cut the Don Juan in Hell interlude-, and b) it stars Ralph Fiennes as John Tanner and Indira Varma as Ann Whitfield. Also, the NT always does well with Shaw. This production is another case in point. This is a three hour play, not counting the break, and an idea play at that, i.e. Shaw uses the flimsiest comedy conventions of his day (parodied and turned upside down by him, of course, but a century later what was then original reverse and parody has long since become the new convention, such as women as the pursuer, men as the pursued etc.) to provide minimum plot so he can use the characters to spout his philosophy. Which is also outdated now. It shouldn't work. And yet, it does, both because Shaw's display of rethoric fireworks always comes with witty flourishes, and because the actors are up to the task.
As a result, you have a long play which doesn't feel long at all. I've heard Fiennes as John Tanner in a radio production of the play before, so I knew he was up for the language (and given his character has to carry the majority of the rethorics, you really need an actor who can deliver them!), but on stage he also gives Tanner a manic physical energy. Not Don Juan in the interlude, btw; I thought that was a neat and subtle choice, because Juan after centuries in the afterlife is a far wearier version of the character, and so to let him be far more self contained and low scale in his movements as opposed to Tanner who is often crossing the stage was a logical difference.
Indira Varma (whom I've seen in a lot of tv, from Rome to Torchwood to Luther) was also up for both the charm and the ruthless go-getting of Ann, though given she's not just drop dead gorgeous but has such an aura of self assurance, it was a bit defying belief that everybody but Tanner and her mother would buy the "obedient and dutiful helpless woman" act instead of immediately seeing through it. Then again: this is one of the ways in which what was a present-day play in Shaw's time, dealing with contemporary people, can't really be transported into the current day in our part of the world because for starters Ann and her sister, both of whom are adults by our reckoning, wouldn't need guardians after the death of their father, and even if they were made a bit younger they still wouldn't need them since they have a living mother. This production doesn't go for Edwardian costumes, btw, it has everyone wear (our) present day clothing, and has added some updating (so John Tanner receives a text from Rhoda on his mobile cell phone instead of a written message on paper), and on the one hand, I think Shaw would be pleased because other than his actual historicals, he never wanted to write costume plays, but on the other hand, like I said, the whole guardian bit makes no sense in the current day, and the opening scene - which had people chuckling and laughing within a few minutes of the play starting, proving the gags still work - really depends on it. Also, the Violet subplot which is Shaw's parody of a Victorian melodramatic convention (so everyone expects Violet to be A Fallen Woman swept away by passion when she turns out to be a very sensibly organized and married one very aware of the need for money to finance her life style) is more believable in the period that it's set in if you think about it, but again, the energy of the performances and all the well delivered punchlines make you buy it while you're watching.
In conclusion: very worth watching, if you can get a ticket; I had to queue early in the morning for a hopeful return, andn lucked out.
2.) Oppenheimer, a new play by Tom Morton-Smith, produced by the RSC and moved to London. The other one I wanted to watch, not just because the recent tv series Manhattan reminded me of the subject and themes again. If you're German and my age, chances are you've read In der Sache J. Robert Oppenheimer by Heiner Kipphardt in school or seen a production, because that particular play by now has achieved modern post WWII German literature/theatre status. (We read it in conjunction with Friedrich Dürrematt's Die Physiker and had to analyze how both dealt with theme of scientific discovery in the service of power, ethical responsibilities of scientists etc.) Now Kipphardt's play - which was first produced in Oppenheimer's life time, and he wasn't thrilled, quipping that it "turned the whole damn farce into a tragedy" - was based on the transcripts of the 1950s McCarthy era hearings in which Oppenheimer's loyalty had been questioned, and that's an era Morton-Smith's play stays away from, though it's obviously conscious of it; the new play starts in the later 1930s and ends a few weeks after Hiroshima.
In the program, you can read the author commenting that for a while Oppenheimer had been as well known as Einstein to the general public but while Einstein was cast in pop culture as the wise and cheery old uncle in pop culture (never mind how questionable that is in reality), Oppenheimer, quoth Morton-Smith, "retains something of the mad scientist about him. He is the 20th century's Victor Frankenstein - a man who pushed science beyond what whas natural and brought forth a monster."
"Victor Frankenstein" is as good a character description as any for Morton-Smith's Oppenheimer, which is perhaps why the actor who plays him, John Heffernan, is better in the second half of the play than he's in the first one. In the first half, when Oppenheimer is supposed to be optimistic, charismatic in a drawing-people-to-him way, you don't really buy it (case in point: the opening monologue which is Oppenheimer addressing his students in Berkeley, which is obviously meant to sound witty and thought provoking - but the actor just plain doesn't come across as either) but in the second half, when he's simultanously hubristic and increasingly self loathing, aware he's selling out more and more of his former ideals but clinging to it being worth it because of the end goal, with, to borrow a Joss Whedon phrase, an inferiority complex wrapped around his superiority complex (or the otherh way around), you do believe the character from both a writing and an acting point of view.
Other than Oppenheimer, the scientists given enough lines to get characterisation are his brother Frank, Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, Giovanni Rossi Lomanitz, Robert Wilson and Charlotte Serber. (Klaus Fuchs shows up, but briefly, and has a quick exchange with Hans Bethe in German in which the actors impressed me because while it was evident neither of them was German they did pronounce the things they said correctly, with the right speech rhythm, so they must have taken the trouble to get coached for what were only two or three sentences. (Bethe asks him about Leipzig and his family, Fuchs says that all of his family are dead.) ) I'm especially glad about Charlotte Serber's existence as a dramatic character, because the two women in Oppenheimer's life follow traditional roles and come more across as aspects of him rather than characters in their own right - Jean the idealistic Communist who commits suicide (which kills the last of Oppenheimer's idealism), Kitty the ambitious wife urging him onwards in his career. Charlotte otoh as the only female department head can be both ambitious and idealistic (and have a good relationship with her husband).
Idea-wise, perhaps the two key scenes are the argument between Oppenheimer and Wilson after VE-day, in which Wilson brings up that since the bomb won't be used on Germany anymore, and the Japanese don't have the capacity for a nuclear program of their own, why use it at all, wouldn't a test site demonstration be enough, or couldn't Oppenheimer tell the military the science doesn't work after all, etc., and Oppenheimer replies in an outburst: "The bomb must be used... and used on people.. before the war ends. If the world is not aware that these weapons can and do exist... if it was to be keppt a military secret... then the first strike of whatever war comes next would be an atomic one. It would be Edward Teller's super-bomb."
This is of course the still debated argument to which there is no answer (yet): is the whole reason why nuclear bombs were never used in any war post WWII the fact they WERE used and everyone could see the results? Would they have been used during the Cold War if that hadn't happened? The idea to create a weapon so awful that nobody dares to use it has haunted the 20th century, and it certainly didn't work with nerve gas, but whether or not it worked with the atomic bomb... I guess we'll still find out. Given current politics.
Anyway, the counterpoint to this scene is the final one. Now the play actually includes Trinity but has Oppenheimer remain silent during it (and staggers away while everyone is celebrating afterwards), and I was curious whether Morton-Smith would actually not include the famous quote. But no. Instead, he has Oppenheimer use it in the very last scene, in a bitter conversation with Kitty (and after a bitter one with Lomanitz (L: "You were a radical. And now...finally now...you are in a position to act on your ideals." O: "Let me tell you how you become a man of power. Of influence: you trade your ideals for self interest.") That very last scene plays up the ambivalence again, the old hunger for fame and the new abhorrence for the full implication, has him declare "I accept on my soul... on my back...I accept the weight of those Japanese... if I have brought atomic power to the world...if I have nullified war... then I welcome it all. But no. Instead I feel like I've left a loaded gun in a playground." And this monologue culminates in the famous line: "There's a passage in the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, it came to my mind at the Trinity test".
So the very last words of the play are : "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
Which is perhaps the only way you can end a play with this temporal frame. I'm not sure that as a play, it will uphold the way the Kipphardt play did, because it changes focus a couple of times, and there is some clumsy exposition (Oppenheimer delivers a key memory of his teenage years to a psychiatrist who never shows up before or after), but it certainly kept my attention while I was watching, and continues to make me think.
On the site, Ray uses language ranging from the formal to the abusive (including insults and racial generalizations) and non-sequitur lines such as "Belly-Button Logic© Works. When Does Teenager Die? Adults Eat Teenagers Alive, No Record Of Their Death." The narrative weaves in and out of his metaphysical theory with numerous unique digressions. Throughout the text, Ray refers to himself as being godlike with a superior intelligence, claiming the existence of absolute evidence and proof behind his theories. Some have claimed it is futile to analyze the text rationally, locate meaningful proofs in the text, or verify any evidence. Academia has mostly ignored Ray's theory.
When you try to browse to the Time Cube site, you see it for a moment, then it redirects to a cybersquatting site. I managed to capture it, without the background pattern. It's evidently made from an MSWord document and is bloated with the overloaded formatting that Microsoft produces.
It is copyright by the owner; I've kept the copyright notice, which is at the bottom. The version behind the cut does not have the colors, centering, different size type (but all huge), and so on.
As for the text content, read and heed the warnings in the Wikipedia extract above.
You may want to prepare yourself. My advice is in the userpic.
crossposted to http://thnidu.livejournal.com/1514488.ht
First round, focusing on books acquired recently:
The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo by Zen Cho
I had forgotten this was only a novella; also it doesn't have chapters. But I read the first few pages and found it hilarious and decided it was a definite keeper. (I went straight back and finished it after I'd read the remaining four first chapters.)
Younger by Suzanne Munshower
This was a Kindle First offering last month. The prologue totally has me sucked in: a woman going on the run, her boss suddenly dies, there are secrets afoot to do with an experimental treatment that makes people look younger? Keeping this one.
The Book of Deacon by Joseph Lallo
The God Decrees by Mark E. Cooper
Defender by Robert J. Crane
I got all three of these in: Quest: Eight Novels of Fantasy, Myth, and Magic, which I was alerted to by Lindsay Buroker, whose first novel (which I've read and enjoyed) is in it. Sadly all three of these were boring me before the end of the first chapter.
I was a bit worried I was getting "bitch eating crackers" about epic fantasy, so I went back to Buroker's The Emperor's Edge and confirmed I still like that first chapter. These three just aren't my thing.
I just spent a day in an academic environment and met a friend for dinner. It was really nice.
The conference went really well. I was running slides for the paper presented by Nicole Jordan, concerning the German use of poison gas on the Eastern Front and the transformations of the Battle of Bolimów in André Malraux's Les Noyers de l'Altenburg (1948); other presentations especially of interest to me were by Heidi Tvorek and Santanu Das. I heard about the Australian capture of the wireless station at Bita Paka and the travel writing of British nurses in Serbia and the songs of Indian sepoys in German POW camps. I had never been inside Busch Hall before yesterday, so I had never seen the murals painted by Lewis Rubenstein in 1936—Hitler-moustached Alberich, Norse gods fighting Ragnarök with flamethrowers and canisters of chlorine-green gas. A member of the audience was a veteran of World War II who vividly remembered drilling with gas-masks. I was asked what university I was from and it was frustrating, but not devastating to have to answer none at present. I did not have to explain David Jones' In Parenthesis (1937) to anyone. I don't know if I can make the companion conference tomorrow at Brandeis, but I keep thinking about it.
I was (reasonably) not invited to the dinner afterward, so I walked around Harvard for a hungry five minutes and then called schreibergasse and met him for dinner near South Station. He had never had Malaysian food before, so I was pleased to introduce him to Penang. I continue to value the presence of a restaurant in my life that will serve me a durian shake, no questions asked. I came home and the cats trailed me hopefully around the house because I smelled like delicious ginger duck noodles.
There is a lacuna in the original post here, because derspatchel came home and we watched George Washington Slept Here (1942), a pastoral comedy of home renovation starring Ann Sheridan as an impulsive buyer of antiques who falls in love with a tumbledown Colonial farmhouse in Pennsylvania and Jack Benny as her husband who is firmly in love with New York City, thank you very much. Percy Kilbride as the laconic handyman who comes with the property steals most of his scenes by mentioning each new and dire issue—tree blight, the rising price of gravel, a cavalcade of insects from termites to seventeen-year locusts—without cracking so much as an absence of expression. Meanwhile the relations have descended in the form of hellraiser nephew Douglas Croft and world's most stultifying uncle Charles Coburn, kid sister Joyce Reynolds has transferred her latest affections to an actor in nearby summer stock, and Hattie McDaniel quite reasonably objects to cooking in a kitchen which also contains a peripatetic horse. Charles Dingle doesn't have enough of a mustache to twirl as the overbearing neighbor, smugly asserting his rights to what feels like ever more of our heroes' property, but he'd almost certainly take up the practice if he grew it out a bit. The part of the decrepit farmhouse is played, at least in the interiors, by the set of Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace—I recognized it by the staircase up which John Alexander's Teddy charged so many times in my childhood. (I was delighted. Actors, I get to recognize from part to part; I've never had the experience with a fictitious house before. I remain proud of the spontaneously uttered phrase ". . . and dilapidated the crap out of it.") The role of Sheridan's destructive yet adorable terrier is performed, uncredited, by Terry of "Toto" fame.
I don't know how closely the script follows the original stage play except in one crucial respect: it's genderswapped. As written originally by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, the wife is the skeptic and the husband the cracked history buff. Switching the roles around gives the film the opportunity to run on Benny's slow burn and Sheridan's resolute wilting optimism as the true state of the house makes itself inexorably clear, from disintegrating doorknobs to a distinct lack of plumbing to a surprise vertical route from the back bedroom to the kitchen. (Benny is unbelievably unsurprised to hear that local legend has it wrong—it wasn't George Washington who slept there, it was Benedict Arnold.) It's generally a smiling comedy rather than the bruise-your-ribs-laughing kind, but it has its moments, and there is a nice vein of surrealism running throughout, best exemplified by Kilbride's periodic reports on the digging of the new well: "We just struck cemetery" pales before the eventual "We just struck quicklime." If it's not the sheer brilliance of Benny's other starring role from 1942, I don't hold it against any film for not being Ernst Lubitsch. I don't even hold it against Mel Brooks. George Washington Slept Here is more than worth your time if it turns up on a TCM or a library shelf near you. This review sponsored by my generous backers at Patreon.
So that was also pleasant. I should round out this day by sleeping. Ideally without nightmares. I'd still like some more joy.