IN THIS ELECTRONIC ME-FIRST age, it is both rare and a point of honor never to begin a blog post with “I.” (Nitpickery note: I mean the word and concept, not the letter. Yeesh.) Not that I’m not tempted — but it’s too easy, too prevalent (for my tastes) and symptomatic of what I find least attractive about Lower North American pop culture.
There is a blogger who epitomizes what I’m talking about, and whose (apparently non-ironic) advice for Internet success is “Tap into narcissism.” She makes an interesting point, but I think that only produces a pile of people shouting “Lookit me! Lookit! Lookit!” instead of offering something interesting.
I don’t want my art to be narcissistic; I’d rather have it said about me “Who is this guy?” than “Who does this guy think he is?” Better still would be, “What a great story! Who wrote it? And are there more?”
YESTERDAY, I POSTED A COMMENT to BoingBoing asking people to “Google ‘deconstructionist face-bullhorn’ (for) … where I stand on the whole horned-rim/hornrimmed/modern-equivalent-of-John-Lennon’s frames issue.” So far, 22 people have. Whee! (This post’s title is taken from a phenomenon well-known to after-hours Renaissance Pleasure Faire folk, whereby those standing at the bottom of the little...
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or, There and Back Again Without Leaving
(BECAUSE OF WORDPRESS, I’M REPUBLISHING this 2002 piece — it works better as a “post” than as a “page” — and although my kippa-wearing has become a bit less pronounced of late it still reflects my approach to finding a place in Judaism. If you’re not hot for apologetics or manifesti, you have my permission to read something else.)
Despite that I’ve worn a yarmulke most of the time since 2000, I don’t define myself as Orthodox. Or Reform. Or, for that matter, as Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal or otherwise adjectivally Jewish.
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(IN FACT, THE WHOLE “REASON” I “am” “religious” in the first place is only due to a direct perception that the Universe is, in some essential and indescribable sense, alive and conscious. I can’t help seeing that, feeling a part of it, and celebrating.)
(Also, as much as I love science, I’m more fascinated by rituals and customs, folkways, manners, stories, legends, myths, folklore. I see religion as structured spirituality, and its practice one of many attentive arts of living. And I like the perspective of participating in something bigger, older and more continuous than I am. I guess that’s one reason why some people play music or build stuff or deeply study anything.)
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TUCKED INTO MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER’S BIBLE is a yellowed sheet of paper containing the flavor of living tradition.
In short, it’s my mom’s recipe for knubel borscht (pronounced “k’nubble”): beef simmered in beet soup and garlic. That’s it: three ingredients, plus heat and time. Perhaps in part due to its simplicity, or that I’ve been eating it for most of my childhood Pesachs, knubel borscht is satisfying on a soul level. It fills the house with a scent at once sweet and savory, fruity and meaty, and which may in fact prove to be the smell of Gan Eden should the requisite air-sampling technology be designed and utilized.
The recipe originally comes from “the old country” (in our case, my Polish g’g'father or his Romanian wife); the original calls for a large pot, 5 quarts of borscht, 7-1/2 pounds of bone-in chuck roast with a packet of soup bones, and a large head of peeled garlic. Add everything together, simmer three hours or more, skimming off the foam; serve on plate and in bowl.
For our Seder Monday night, I created a lower-portion variant which is just as pleasing in all the essentials and doesn’t really suffer for the lack of soup bones. Four ingredients counting the pan:
9″ Pyrex baking pan
1 pound brisket
Quart of borscht
Head of garlic
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and chop garlic. Put brisket in pan fat side up (trim excess fat first). Sprinkle garlic on top, pour over borscht, seal with aluminum foil. Three hours later, you’ll need a knife to cut through the aroma and open the oven. Put the meat on a plate, the soup in a bowl, and revel in the small blessings by which G?d or the quantum membranes thereof sustain and nurture the world.
1. THE FOLKS AT WHOLE FOODS’ Sonoma branch were trying to do the right thing. Last week, I noted that their refrigerated Passover display contained some sixers of He’Brew Beer (unaffiliated with but heartily endorsed by Metaphorager.Net). Fermented grain being Passoverly inappropriate, and wanting to save the store some face, I mentioned this to one of the managers (“This isn’t offensive, just incongruous to knowledgeable shoppers.”). As of yesterday, the beer is now gone — but the other freestanding display now features cocktail rye breads and two boxes of hamantaschen.
(I love hamantaschen, which are poppyseed-filled Purim cookies. I love them even more on Purim, which holiday occurred two weeks ago. But I really love the human impulse to make the customer comfortable, even if we don’t know what her comfort level is.)
2. If you’re in the Sonoma area tomorrow, join us for “painless Torah study” (no experience necessary) from 10 am to noonish. Our portion is Tazria (Leviticus 12:1-13:59; Haftorah: II Kings 4:42-5:19). Call 707.933.9430 for directions.)
3. I am way pleased to announce that PunkTorah.Org has published one of my divrei Torah at http://punktorah.org/dvar-torah/ (the one titled “D’var Tazria & Itchy Skin Diseases”). PunkTorah is what you get when young people play in the vast Jewish landscape with today’s tools, yesterday’s texts and eternal enthusiasm. (They have an online minyan, or prayer meet, three times a day!) Nachum-Bob says “check ‘em out.”
(PASS IT ON.) AND USE yours with care — they’re a non-renewable resource.
THERE’S NOTHING LIKE THE INTERNET to show you how unique you’re not.
FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS, a group of friends has made an annual equinoctial hike to a secret location for the sole purpose of … well, I can’t really say, since what fun is a secret society if you don’t keep it secret?
But one night at the bonfire … let me back up. The bonfire is some distance from the campground, with most of that distance along a sandy beach beneath an overtowering and rock-calving cliff. During the latter part of the evening, which stretched into the early hours of the next morning, some of our bonfire circle had drifted off in twos and threes so as not to be caught by the incoming tide. The rest of us decided to put off that task.
With an ominous hiss, a wave crashed into the bonfire.
“Time to go,” we said.
While we were trudging back, I looked off to my right and saw another wave approaching. Even at 3 a.m. (or perhaps especially at 3 a.m.), it looked big enough to crush me. So I ran left, reaching my top speed about a yard before encountering a waist-high rock, then bouncing off that and into the cliff face.
“Oof,” I said, after a minute.
And that’s why, after a throbbing hand and rib earned me a ranger-chauffeured trip out the next day, I am sometimes called “Dances With Rocks.”
But remember — that’s a secret.
“ALL THAT’S NEWS TO ME, I print.”