cremains: (drunken vulcan)
Some local group is putting up Jesus Christ Superstar. I saw their posters on the way to my first visit to a Swedish swimming pool, which was freakishly like Roman baths as described in the Talmud: a hot pool, a cold pool, and vast amounts of intimidatingly tall and fit naked gentiles. I was taken aback by signs in Swedish which encouraged me to "have some respect" and not wear a bathing suit.

Anyway the posters for Superstar reminded me of my main question with regards to the musical, namely, what is with Herod? Which Herod are we talking about? I could place him if I knew what name he goes by in Hazalic literature, I think. Why is he so often jewed up in performances when no other cast member is? And what's with his portrayal as being super gay, is that random, or did we have a queer king, or is it a Christian attempt at insult?

All questions which lead me to this great line in Wikipedia:

Often, as in the films Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) and The Passion of the Christ (2004), Antipas is portrayed as effeminate (Antipas was played in those films by Joshua Mostel and Luca De Dominicis respectively); the origin of this tradition may have been Antipas' manipulation by his wife Herodias, as well as Christ's description of him as a "fox" in Luke 13:32
cremains: (ד"ר פראנק נ פורטר)
I dreamt that the world was dying of drought. I lived with H. and the stepkids and we were in the final stages, all lying on the ground and waiting for the end. The government had a small amount of water available by lottery for children only, but the stepkids had lost the draw. I wasn't scared or upset, just drained.

In another dream, I improved a black and white oil painting I did by adding a layer of unrealistic colour. When I woke up I tried it - I don't have oils beyond lamp black and china white, so I used watercolour, which was better anyway because the tints are transparent and the resistance between media was something I could use. Is it great? No. But the dream was right that it is actually marginally better.

The Fall

May. 5th, 2013 10:53 pm
cremains: (always rain)
An old friend reminded me that I painted this back in the day. He still has it up on his wall, although I'd forgotten it had existed and had no record (scan, etc) of it. His fiancee took a photo of it for me:

cremains: (Default)
For the community shopkeep/gravedigger/goldsmith:

For a couple that provided immense help in translating from Hebrew to Swedish:


Apr. 18th, 2013 03:01 pm
cremains: (always rain)
A merman made of watercolour and nail polish:

cremains: (always rain)
So, I finished writing and correcting Shir HaShirim; tomorrow I'll be able to sew it up. It's written on gewil, which is not really parchment but the whole skin of the animal, like moccasin material. Gewil is beautiful to write on, soft and smooth, but truly hideous for dealing with any mistakes. You can write with 99% accuracy, but that 1% of the time when you miswrite it will basically definitely look like ass, no matter how you fix it. Often you can get a "decent" erasure by wetting a cloth and rubbing at it carefully but hard; however, this still leaves a smudge and often the letters come out thicker and less elegant on the erased surface, like so:

The Talmud assumes and indeed urges that most writing will be done on gewil rather than parchment (which dominates ritual writing today, especially in the Ashkenazi world), and accordingly favours non-erasure-based error correction, such as allowing one or two letters to hang off the edge of the margin (as opposed to demanding perfect justification). If you forgot words, Talmudic halakhah tells you just to write them small above where you need them, rather than trying to erase and jam in. Like so:

However, strangely and happily, a lot of this scroll was done without any mistake (probably due to heightened attention caused by fear). Below the cut is an excerpt.

מה דודך מדוד )
cremains: (so dumb)
I like a good monk drama, which is why I picked this novel up from the library, but how did A Canticle For Liebowitz get published without more editing? I picked it up for fantastic monk stylings a la The Name of the Rose or Cadfael but sadly the author decided to include some Jewish shit in the book, of which none makes any actual sense. The presence of BS Jewish characters almost wrecked it for me on its own (it's a normal Christian imagining of what Jews are probably like, such as always pining for a Jesus-esque messiah and so forth) but wow, the Hebrew is so damn bad. Like the transliteration is totally bizarre, as in


is meant to represent the name "Lazar" but it actually spells "Leaeo" or something. There are also Hebrew phrases that are actual legit nonsense, and some are painful approximations of actual phrases but as reconstructed by someone looking at a Biblical Hebrew grammar for a maximum of five minutes. Why couldn't the author ask someone who actually speaks Hebrew (as in has some fluency and comfort) -- or, when he wanted to include some other detail of Judaica, why not ask like an actual Jewish person? I wouldn't think of writing a character or language without worrying about at least a very basic threshold of accuracy. It's both bizarre and insulting.

It reminds me of my Muncle (monk uncle) who once argued with me for way too long that tau the Greek character (the one shaped like T) is actually in the Hebrew alphabet (as opposed to just the name which is attached to this character: ת). This dude is considered to be religiously super educated and supposedly took courses at some point in Hebrew and yet manages to be a complete dumbass. Who knows what shit he teaches about Jews and Hebrew to his fellow church people? In this case he finally conceded after I was able to produce a Hebrew grammar written by a Christian (aka someone "unbiased"). He should be a character in A Canticle for Liebowitz.
cremains: (Spock)

Slang warning on the Avenyn (major street near where I live). "Slang" means hose or pipe (it had been placed over the sidewalk as part of some construction work) and is seemingly related to shlong.

Sign in an elevator. I thought Israel had the most gruesome warning signs, but no.

First few lines of Shir HaShirim written on גויל.
cremains: (Default)
Y. just finished learning Sefer Yehezqeil and asked me to draw a likeness of one of the wild creatures described in it. I drew this with a pen (no possibility of erasing... stress) on the back of some cheap ass smurf stationary while we sat in the cafe. He was actually visibly impressed, which is rare, and so very gratifying, even though I think the actual story is far too beautiful in its vagueness and confusion to pin it down to a solid visual image.

cremains: (always rain)

All this little animal "art" is as a result of having to make a hundred thank-you cards, which means the subject matter can't be too disturbing; since I have a pretty narrow artistic range, an inability to draw people pulling out their eyeballs or stabbing themselves leaves me with the "cute animal" category. Manners seem to be highly valued in Sweden and I just can't picture anyone being pleased to receive a card like this:

(originally about a comic about a necromancer)
cremains: (Default)
spent a few more minutes trying to make this picture not quite as slacker:

some of last week's writing:

Eliezer is a much more interesting and complicated figure than I remembered (he also speaks much more).

Tonight my Ryoga-esque ability to get lost resulted in a spooky walk by Gothenburg's dark and foggy harbour, illuminated here and there by giant white ships with strings of lights. One ship had a plank lowered to the publically-accessible walkway and there was music playing, although I couldn't hear voices and nobody seemed to be walking around either on the pier or the ship. If life was a video game, it would call for investigation, but in real life I'm much too afraid of misdemeanor charges. Too bad HP Lovecraft wasn't there to get overly weirded-out with me.
cremains: (drunken vulcan)
I had a dream I was struggling to cross a desert with a train of Christians. The thirst was overwhelming and people were beginning to drop. "We have no water; we're going to die," one of them said. "If we have no water, how have you been baptising your new members?" I retorted in a j'accuse moment. They protested that they found that water in cemeteries along the way and it was therefore not proper to drink. "Well, you have a choice: to be improper or to die," I said. They exchanged glances. At that point, Cleocatra the obese calico came and started gnawing at my foot until it was horribly bloody. I woke up to find her dozing peaceably by my side. I had no signs of injury (or desert adventure).
cremains: (always rain)
A dream about abusing H. horribly, a dream about being a Nazi counterintelligence agent, a dream about immersion in a miqwah in a rat-infested hotel room in Frankfurt, a dream about Yishmael, a dream about naming the kid.

Quick rooster I drew for the ruling member of the community "olders' home" - working at the daycare in Jerusalem taught me how to draw animals in five minutes or less that are just decent enough not to be insulting on a thank you card:

cremains: (drunken vulcan)
I had a nightmare that I was getting divorced thanks to an awful downspiral in my relationship. At the same time I had to take care of this giant rabbit coop filled with all sorts of small barnyard animals. My cat ran on to the freeway and got his head run over by a truck. With the divorce paper still in my hand I went to see if he was still alive but saw his brains splattered on the tar. I didn't even have time to retrieve his body since there was heavy traffic and a huge litter of kittens and piglets which needed to be scooped out of the way first.
cremains: (always rain)
There was a sect of Hasidim who handled snakes, like some Pentecostal people. They drove around Jerusalem in trucks loaded with snakes and handed out giant ones to passers-by. I wrote to one of my teachers about this in disbelief and he told me he used to be involved with them himself.

I was travelling lost through fallen San Fransisco (a city I know next to nothing about). It was at once crowded and empty, highly industrial and filthy, with garbage strewn everywhere. From time to time massive iron trams would glide by, as tall as skyscrapers and long as dragons, made completely of a dull, unpainted metal. There was actually only one floor for passengers, the height being comprised of an almost endless staircase from the entrance to the benches, again made only of metal. At first I got on one to go home to my tiny, messy apartment, but the dream changed, and I was homeless, wandering through the streets. As the sun went down, I calculated that I was going North, and worried about how I would know that once night fell. The North Star? I didn't think I could actually recognise it. I fell asleep in a micro-alley for trash between two huge stores. Although when I was awake I was alone, when I slept, H. and my grandfather would appear beside me and sleep also.

I dreamt I was teaching at my old yeshivah, a course in Ein Yaaqov. The first hour was to be spent on learning the stories, and the second hour was spent producing "real art" that would emblemise the tale. I was trying to convince the students to see with their inner eye. At the very end everyone would show the images they had made. This was supposed to make memorisation easier. This was in the version of my yeshivah which has appeared a few times in my dreams, where it is always night and the only light comes from the walls, which are made of aquariums.
cremains: (Default)
Circumstances compel me to note a few things about Les Miserables and what bothers me about it. Saltedpin and I had a conversation before where she pointed out that Jean Valjean and Javert are actually supposed to be morally complicated characters -- and they are, just not in the way I think Hugo intended.

Here is what annoys me about Jean Valjean. He gets out of prison and immediately recreates a similar environment for his workers (Saltedpin actually did I get this idea from you?). He pays them relatively well, but imposes overinvolved morality codes on their private lives, creating the workplace atmosphere that ends in Fantine getting fired for having a child out of wedlock. While he surely ends up very sorry for this tragic event, Fantine's situation inspires no reflection whatsoever on whether or not he should change things at the factory. What he gets from the situation is this: his moral standards are fine, but sometimes there are special people and they warrant special treatment.

Fantine dies and leaves Jean Valjean to take care of her daughter, Cosette. This time Jean Valjean creates the most prisonesque environment of all, controlling every aspect of her life. He enrolls her in a nunnery and limits her access to the outside world to supervised soup kitchen volunteering. He keeps her from her own past, as well as his. I don't know. The soup kitchen thing too seems so emblematic of his approach to social problems. He will feed people once they become poor, but these encounters with poverty don't leave him wondering about social change, even in the politically-charged atmosphere of a brewing revolution.

One scene really stands out to me, when Javert thinks that he has falsely denounced Valjean as a convict (in reality, he was correct). Javert asks for dismissal, and explains to Valjean that he expects upright behaviour from all police officers, himself no exception. Since he acted out of pettiness, he must be discharged. Valjean tells him he should go easy on himself, and this shocks Javert, who tries to explain that you just can't make an exception for someone because you personally have a good feeling for them: "if I were not severe towards myself, all the justice that I have done would become injustice." This is maybe my favourite line in the whole book, but it goes over Valjean's head -- he really does not see that selective pity (available only to those who catch the eye of power) makes those arrests which did go through arbitrary and unfair.

Dear God, I started this post full of self-righteousness and have no steam left to edit it to non-shitty, well-supported English, or to bring it to any sort of point. I have this whole other thing where Eponine and Javert are basically the same people who made the opposite decision at a critical moment in life...

Never mind, I'm tired and confused.

I also dreamt that I was chasing after my sister trying to tell her that cheetahs were going extinct, but she dismissed this as a "middle-class concern."
cremains: (Default)
I dreamt that I was in a squad of four devoted to fighting monsters. The squad included Buffy, Dawn, Xander, and Inspector Javert (me). We were in an ancient manor with tall, semi-solid iron gates, discussing our plans in low tones, when two haggard nuns came by and threw grenades of poison gas into the courtyard through a little square hole in the gate. We ran over to throw them back but were not completely successful and many people, including myself, were hurt.

Buffy was completely out of commission and so I had no idea what to do. However, a Thompson twin appeared by my side and said "You and I can solve this through good old-fashioned police work." We jumped into a black taxi and he ducked and wove through crazy traffic, following the decrepit yet surprisingly spry wagon the nuns were using. We tracked them back to their giant, expensive-looking abbey.

Some of the nuns were swarthed in raggedy black robes. Some of them were dressed as Twilek jesters, apparently also a legit habit. I quickly dressed as such a jester and infiltrated their grounds. As I wandered their humid gardens, which were filled with large and lovely carnivorous flowers, I realised many of them had mysterious powers and were clearly planning something nefarious. However, looking like a nun was not enough: you also had to give passwords at regular intervals. A nun stopped me and asked for the password, and I fled, thankfully able to leap and glide distances in the air and balance on a single leaf of a tree to recharge.

Although it doesn't sound like it even to my own self, this part of the dream was actually so terrifying that I woke with a start and had to turn the lights on.
cremains: (always rain)
After a horrible error to my scribal work (the parchment slipped to the floor and in the process lines of new letters smudged), I went to bed at six, depressed and not completely trusting myself. I had this vivid dream: I was in the night court of the Fairy Queen, in an arena filled with strange creatures. They were half-human, but distorted into the features of beasts or even of candy. They were engaged in combat with one another.

My task was to fight a hulking man clad in black, with a black hood over his face. I knew him, and knew he was stronger than me. Somehow, though, I made all the right moves to unbalance him, and leapt onto his shoulders from behind. After a struggle, I was able to rip off his mask and expose his face to the Night Court, although I myself never saw his features. Once I was sure they had seen him, I somehow dispatched him and walked over his body to approach the throne.

The Fairy Queen took my chin in her hand and smiled at me. She was beautiful, washed in white light. "You fought bravely for one of impure ancestry," she said, which in the context of the dream was a big compliment but waking up seems pretty insulting. She expressed scorn for the other creatures in the arena but said I was not so animalistic as they were. I asked if she would kiss me and she condescended to do so, and the kiss lit me up from inside so spectacularly that nothing happening in the world about us seemed interesting or even perceptible.
cremains: (always rain)
Tonight I finished writing the first public reading section and began on the second, where Noah is building his boat. So much fear about falling behind, which is only the tip of an ink bottle away. Thus far my favourite part to write has been:

Qain was very upset, and his face fell. God said to Qain, "Why are you mad? Why did your face fall? If you do well, you'll carry it. And if you don't do well, sin crouches at the door; it wants you, but you can control it." Qain said to his brother Hevel, " " And then it happened in the field. Qain rose against Hevel his brother, and killed him.

As has been noted by 892 billion people, "sin" is not really sin in the English sense. In my translation of The Hobbit, this is the word used when Bilbo tries to sit on the couch and misses.

Speaking of the Hebrew The Hobbit, it is really making me rethink my philosophy of translation, which has been to aim for the most natural and most understandable (often means current) speech in the target language. On the other hand, it is pretty jarring to hear the trolls call each other "piece of shit," or the Dwarves describe Bilbo as "an excitable dude." Also a puzzle is when something is called "very weird" in Hebrew when the English was "rather odd." Now when Tolkien called something rather odd, he definitely meant it was damn strange, yet I'm not sure how I feel seeing that spelt out explicitly instead of relying on the reader's own sense of judgementalism.

Lastly, after reading a flashback-inducing LJ post by [profile] whatifoundthere on bad Canlit, some poems to clean my brain.

1. "Fragment" by Shannon Hamann. I heard this poem first read by David Cameron Mitchell at a queer lit street festival in Toronto, so it's almost Canadian, right?

a poem in the form of a fragment of a poem )

2. "Lines From My Grandfather's Journal" by Leonard Cohen

Erase from my flesh the marks of my own whip )

3. "On drifting clouds and signs of separation while seeing off Cheng Shu-ch'eng" by Wei Ying Wu (translation Red Pine)

This is in no way a Canadian poem either. The day before I left for yeshivah my father handed me a paper with this poem written on it.

how do drifting clouds seem to know )
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