Posts Tagged ‘ reviews ’

Sorting Debbie

2011.01.10
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IN THE WAKE OF SINGER and prolific synagogue-music innovator Debbie Friedman, I find myself mourning her death but ambivalent about her legacy.

The mourning: If you worship at most “progressive” (i.e., non-Orthodox) North American synagogues, you’re familiar with her work (particularly the Mishebeirach, a prayer for healing which was recently (some say “at last”) canonized in the new Reform prayerbook). But if you ever saw Ms. Friedman in concert, you really saw her. The woman fairly glowed. Not literally, but in the eyes of the mind: huge radiating love-and-wonder vibes not really all that different from a Grateful Dead show, and from which people depart laughing, woohooing, and singing to themselves for days afterward. She was a great and phenomenal talent who brought a lot of joy to this end of the universe and, as is so often the case, the world seems a bit darker for her absence.

The ambivalence: While introducing folk music to the service makes the service, or rather the joy inherent, more accessible, it can also turn the service into a sing-along. And, even as a happily compulsive singer-along, that’s not why I attend services. At one time or another it has been my pleasure to attend Grateful Dead concerts, coven circles, Mass, church, a Buddhist shrine and various other experiential constructs. I found each of them beautiful and, in a sense, useful. But none of them move me in the way of a book-and-dream-fragrant silence, woven through with wordless murmurings and solemn chanting of the ancient heart-known Hebrew. It is, to me, authentic, which is to say familiar and challenging in a way that singing along not quite is.

“One man’s meat” is a proverb in many tongues and times. But when someone like a Debbie Friedman passes out of the world, it makes many other things feel small. Thank you, Ms. Friedman, for making Earth a bit bigger for a while.

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2010 Roundup: Top Posts

2010.12.28
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IT’S DE RIGUEUR FOR NEWS outlets to wrap up the year with a look at their Big Stories, and we at Metaphorager.Net are no exception despite that we’re only a “news outlet” in the sense of “what’s news to me.” After 10 years of blogging, we only reached our 365th post last week. I could cull my favorites, but that’s a bit too self-serving so here instead is a commented list of this year’s Top Seven Posts by views (as they’re all the stats I could find):

5 Thoughts: Why (and How) We Write 1,636 Views
This was enjoyed and shared by someone with a stumbleupon.com account. I like to imagine it adorning writers’ garrets from here to Montmartre.

About 97 Views
For those who couldn’t help asking, “Who IS this guy?”

ORL Redux: Interview with Robert Anton Wilson 95 Views
Thanks to the wonderful folks at http://rawilsonfans.com, this Most Obscure Interview EVER With Robert Anton Wilson isn’t languishing unread in the bottom of a packing crate.

Links 71 Views
I can’t explain the number here. I sometimes check a site’s links-page if its “About Us” doesn’t tell me enough; maybe others do too. (If that’s the case here, read this instead.) On the other hand, some of these are definitely me checking layout … but not that often.

A Proposal for the Moon of Earth 71 Views
Tied for views with the “Links” page is this immodest proposal to eternalize Stanley Kubrick. I don’t know why it’s not built yet; someone must be on to me. Ooops. Ha ha ha. Is this thing on?

Season’s Regreetings 43 Views
This was also seen and shared through its Facebook page, account, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Same-To-You/178304932195551. (The numbers are essential to the link.) The view count here doesn’t concern me as much as, say, Prosatio Silban or the pithyisms — I’d like to see it spread, credit or not.

Clips 37 Views
News pieces, commentaries and speeches. (Yes, speeches.) Nice to know they hold an interest of some sort — I hope historical.

In related news, the top 10 Google searches turning up a Metaphorager.Net reference are “natural machines” (12), “smallest particle accelerator” (12), “http://metaphorager.net/raw/” (10), “janusz korczak” (6), “metaphorager” (6), “‘jim gjerde’ sputnik” (5), “religious fables” (5), “pithyism” (4), “http://metaphorager.net” (4), and “80s generic foods” (3).
(Also with 3: “linda tomback,” “letter to a dead friend,” “robert anton wilson interview,” “jon stewart slams glenn beck,” “prosatio silban,” “a couple of hamburgers,” and “http://metaphorager.net/frank-frazetta-r” (which full link is actually “http://metaphorager.net/frank-frazetta-rip/.”) Footprints on a digital beach. I like ‘em.

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December Is Science Fiction And Fantasy History Month

2010.12.02
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PASS IT ON. (WHY? BECAUSE, as Stewart Sternberg, who got the idea following a Twilight fan’s public ignorance of same, puts it: “(W)e owe it to ourselves to promote quality work and to invite the young into our fold, giving them a perspective and understanding of the traditions and tropes of our literary world … how it has helped us vent our angst, voice our identity, and celebrate our optimism.”

Science fiction (which I first grokked when I was seven; I didn’t discover fantasy until I was 15) taught me that things were possible outside my 1960s New Jersey existence: that some day, we might have space stations, an international computer network, cleaning robots and two-way TV — not to mention an understanding between races and nationalities that there are more exciting human games than trying to whack each other lifeless. Learning that others shared these secret goshwow dreams has, in some cases, helped me face another day; “being” a science fiction fan feels like membership in a vast underground culture of people who get it. That’s probably common to many in the pre-postpunk and earlier demographics but may not be so now that multimedia SF (film, TV, videogame, webcast) is more dominant than the book-and-zine scene of our youth — before Google and Harry Potter, or cheap access and cultural prevalence, science fiction and its acolytes led a more furtive existence. But the camaraderie’s the same — and likely always will be.

In short: Those who know not the joys of Vance and Bester, Leiber and Brown, Ellison and Sturgeon, Asimov and Clarke, or even bookbound Tolkien are, Arthur-like, unaware of their great heritage; from the first murmurs of Capek and Gernsback to today’s CGI-fueled cyberdreams — and those of us who remember the past are obligated to teach it. Squa tront!)

More: http://house-of-sternberg.blogspot.com/2010/11/science-fiction-and-fantasy-history.html

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Reporters And Other Artists, Remember:

2010.12.01
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“IN THE ABSENCE OF NUANCE, it just becomes noise.” –Ann, commenting on a newspaper article which lacked some rather essential facts

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For The Kids (A Mini Rant On NorCal “Spirituality”)

2010.11.28
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“There’s so many choices here, a man could half-starve before picking breakfast.”
Ol’ Thinkypants

THAT MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY WILL NOT long endure whose members celebrate every festival but their own(1). C’mon people — whatever your tradition is, it got Grandma and Grandpa over here, fed them through wars and afflictions, and kept them and your folks together long enough to produce you. Don’t you want to know their secret? So dust off the shelf, pick up whatever’s yours and have at. It’s yours by right of succession through love, and It only lives in that way when someone qualified is at the controls.

So don’t dabble — delve! and remember what Ol’ Thinkypants says: “Drink deep, or don’t even spit.”

_____
(1) Written after reading one more Sunday-papers account of a ritual-appropriating church and reflecting rather sourly on those Jews who embrace something else due to ignorance of their own. (Informed choice I got no problem with.)

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!

2010.11.08
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,.
– –. ? ,;.
? — http://languageremoval.com/.

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Ian Fleming’s Wisdom School

2010.11.02
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FROM THE NOVEL “GOLDFINGER,” page 056 of the Penguin Centenary edition:

Bond sat back. He was prepared to listen to anyone who was master of his subject, any subject.

(This is one of those quotes that keeps coming into my mind when speaking with anybody about anything they know well and love, especially if they know and love it better than I do. Everyone’s an expert on something. Pass it on.)

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Election Day Haiku

2010.11.02
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God who hears all, please –
Don’t let the idiots win.
Please. Please. Please. Please. Please.

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First Graf: Moby-Dick

2010.10.13
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SO FAR, IT HAS TAKEN me two years to read Herman Melville’s classic of monomania and cetology, mostly because I don’t want to finish. And so I haven’t, yet.

It’s the language. Melville rolls so many word-clad notions around his tongue, and flips them into and between your ears with such easy fluidity, that it doesn’t matter whether or not he’s digressing (which he does, for most of the book). We fancy moderns with our choice of storytellers and interpretations know how the story goes, or at least how it ends, before we read it. That’s an advantage of sorts over the initial 1851 audience, one which lets us concentrate instead on the journey — since, despite its encyclopedic treatment of whales, the men who hunt them, and the global economy resulting therefrom, we might miss the fact that Moby-Dick isn’t really about whaling at all, at all.

Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. This is my substitute for pistol and ball. With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship. There is nothing surprising in this. If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or other, cherish very nearly the same feelings towards the ocean with me.

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First Graf: Ringworld

2010.09.22
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SINCE 1970, LARRY NIVEN HAS written four books and a number of articles concerning the Ringworld: an Earth’s orbit-diameter ribbon made from disassembled planets and populated by its builders with all manner of adaptive species, each with its own culture and agenda.

Who built it? Why? And what caused its civilization — one vastly superior to 29th century Known Space — to fall so abruptly? These questions are at the core of the eponymous first novel, where two humans — 200-year-old Louis Wu and his 20ish inamorata, Teela Brown — join the aliens Speaker-to-Animals (a Kzin, something like an ironic feline wookiee) and Nessus the Puppeteer (a three-legged, two-headed galactic captain of commerce) in an exploratory mission to the mysterious structure.

Neal’s bias: Classics, especially for those with a heavy worldbuilding fetish, although Ringworld and The Ringworld Engineers also stand alone fairly well. I enjoyed the first two novels immensely;The Ringworld Throne I thought better the second time (but was close to the Eight Deadly Words on first read) and Ringworld’s Children largely for how The Master integrates (the technical term is “retcons“) the latest cosmological theories on dark matter and the like. Four rockets. Check ‘em out.

In the nighttime heart of Beirut, in one of a row of general-address transfer booths, Louis Wu flicked into reality.

His foot-length queue was as white and shiny as artificial snow. His skin and depilated scalp were chrome yellow; the irises of his eyes were gold; his robe was royal blue with a golden stereoptic dragon superimposed. In the instant he appeared, he was smiling widely, showing pearly, perfect, perfectly standard teeth. Smiling and waving. But the smile was already fading, and in a moment it was gone, and the sag of his face was like a rubber mask melting. Louis Wu showed his age. …

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First Graf: Winnie-the-Pooh

2010.08.27
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“GENTLE FUN FOR ENGLISH TAOISTS” is as good a description as any of A. A. Milne’s two booksful of stories of the Hundred-Acre Wood’s most famous resident. These are not children’s tales any more than “Bullwinkle” or “Le Morte d’Arthur” are children’s tales: unless it’s for the child that reawakens in us when we read these stories. (And yes, S*TO*R*I*E*S: If you only know Pooh through Disney, you don’t know Pooh.) NOTE: That reawakened child may have difficulty getting through the increasingly nostalgic-for-what’s-lost second volume House at Pooh Corner; I personally will never read the last story again without handkerchief or, better, towel. But this excerpt is from the very first story in Winnie the Pooh, titled “Chapter One, In Which We Are Introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees, and the Stories Begin:”

Here is Edward bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn’t. Anyhow, here he is at the bottom, and ready to be introduced to you. Winnie-the-Pooh.

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Blog: “Oy Bay”

2010.08.17
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JEWISH BLOGS CAN BE DICEY: on the one hand are individuals writing about everything from raising kids in Israel to student-rabbiing to Torah to protesting one’s Torah(1), and on the other are institutions often conducting “outreach” or fundraising. The former tend to shoot from the heart, the latter try (too self-consciously(2), methinks) to “engage and inform.”

One which seems to do both is http://oybay.wordpress.com/, a volunteer-written guide to the Jewish Bay Area. (I say “seems” because it hasn’t been updated since early July, but perhaps this trackback will stimulate them.) Most of the entries are written by “Oyster,” who presents as every synagogue’s zayde(grandpa)-of-all-trades (ours are named Sy and Addy), but the “About Us” list is decidedly under 30 (OyBay’s target demographic). OyBay’s pleasant mix of RSS feeds, links and occasional dispatches makes it an accessible jumping-on place for Bay Area Jews.

Neal’s rating: Four whole-wheat bagels with a glass Cel-Ray.

- = – = -
(1) To speak of “one’s Torah” is as to speak of “one’s Zen;” it’s really “one’s principles and demonstrated grasp of same.” Some people also speak of this as “one’s Jewishness” or “one’s “Yiddishkeit.”
(2) That self-conscious thing is deadly. If you too wear a yarmulke in public, you know what I mean. If not, then imagine someone making a big deal about not making a big deal about something that’s worth making a big deal about, then emailing you updates.

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