Fixing a Hole

RECENTLY, I RECEIVED SOME SPAM from Chosen People Ministries (one flavor of the Jews-for-Jesus-ers). When their website’s response-form asked why I wanted to unsubscribe from future mailings, I wrote, “Exodus 20:3; 1 Kings 18:21. Go play with someone else.”

They shouldn’t take it personally. Although I am in love with my own religion, I have a soft spot for other kindly faiths and their faithful. Jewish tradition itself avers that “the righteous of all nations have a place in the World to Come,” which I interpret to mean that deep truths are to be found everywhere humans of goodwill congregate.

Prosatio Silban and the Refectional Research

THERE ARE ONLY SO MANY variations dictated by a food’s texture and flavor, but Prosatio Silban was determined to find a new one.

It was sultry in the beefy cook’s galleywagon, but not from the season. In point of fact, he had going all six of his fatberry-oil cookstove’s burners, as well as the oven. He was poaching, pan-frying, simmering, toasting, sautéing, boiling, and confiting his simultaneous way through experimental iterations of an in-common culinary theme. And he was doing it on a deadline set by Sir Rando Stefh, a wealthy arts patron who had hired him to create a new and unique gastronomic triumph by that evening.

Hiding in Plain Sight

THE BEST YOUTHFUL HANGOUTS MAKE deep, lifelong memories — especially after they’re gone.

Among our local, accessible, destinations in the late 1970s/early 1980s were those we called “The Bin,” “The Corridors,” “The Nuclear Plant” and “The Structure.” (Another, “The Twilight Zone,” has been written of elsewhere.) Listen, o seeker after others’ nostalgia, and attend:

THE BIN: In the middle of a church parking lot near the Walnut Creek BART station sat a shipping container-sized recycling receptacle.

Prosatio Silban and the Sick Call

SOMETIMES, EVEN THE IDEA OF rolling out of bed is too painful for words.

Prosatio Silban was sick. He wasn’t quite sure with what, but the symptoms were plain: congested head and chest, sore throat, joint- and head-ache, cough, chills, and fever. There was something going around the Commonwell – but then, there was always something going around – and while he had taken all the expected precautions against infection, still, there he was. Sick.

O Angrim, Lord of Time, All-Limiter; please – extend Your stark fist in my direction, he prayed. And soon.

5 Thoughts: The Grand Old Process

1. THERE IS A CERTAIN COMPULSION to the act of writing: an unscratchable itch that won’t let the fingers refrain from their fruitless but busy task, whether on paper or keyboard.

2. To ask writers “Why do you write?” is to confess an ignorance of this basic graphomanic drive. One writes because one can’t not write, just as one breathes because one can’t not breathe. It is a function of having a particular sort of bodily structure, of brain or lungs or soul. Just as creating is joyful — physically pleasurable — refraining from creativity can be quite painful.

Prosatio Silban and the TED Talk

IT WAS A GREAT HONOR to speak before a throng of one’s peers at epicurean Pormaris’ Archive of Gastronomic Artifice – but it was also not without its terrors.

Prosatio Silban made a point of perusing the Archive at least once a year to research new recipes or rediscover old ones. The grand museum of, and showcase for, the cuisines and foodways of the Uulian Commonwell and surrounding Exilic Lands was also an occasional venue for “TED” (Taste-Engaged Discourse) presentations. Thus, you may imagine the beefy cook’s surprise, delight and anxiety over being asked to address his colleagues on the topic: “Cultural Competency and Eclectic Refection.”

A matter close to my heart, he thought, reading the gilt-edged invitation.

The Torah Guides’ Torah Guides

THE TORAH CAN BE A great read — inspiring, comforting, uplifting, provocative — but without the explanatory input of generations of commentators, it can also be a bit daunting. Fortunately, Jewish tradition has portioned this essential text into weekly bites for easier consumption. In the spirit of Simchat Torah, which begins Saturday night and marks the (at least) 2,355th end and rebeginning of the annual Torah reading cycle, here are some of the resources used by our local community over the years we’ve spent engrossed in this Book of Books. I hope it helps you too.

The Sapirstein Edition: Rashi (5 volumes)
Author/Publisher: Artscroll
Slant: Very Traditional
Points: Rashi is the commentator par excellence. He is strictly concerned with elucidating the Torah’s plain meaning, and he brings to bear on each verse nearly the entire corpus of the Jewish textual tradition as it existed in his time. Use this if you want to understand Torah as Serious Jews have done for almost a thousand years. (Nice literal translation too.)
Caveats: A good deal of Rashi’s work has to do with Hebrew grammar, so keep that in mind — he can sometimes be a tad dry. Also keep in mind that he was a literalist, operating from the model that the Torah was Divinely written. Even if you don’t share that view, there’s a tremendous amount of classical Torah nutrition here.