“Alert” is an anagram of “Alter” – and Robert Alter’s meritorious translation and commentary of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes is currently on sale in hardcover for $14 exactly on Amazon – cheaper than Amazon’s price for the corresponding paperback.
I’ve scanned a number of lists of “top news of 2013,” but to my surprise, none of the ones I looked at included what was undoubtedly one of the most important stories of 2013: the discovery of Richard III’s remains under a parking lot in Leicester.
Seriously, this story will undoubtedly become a staple of books on British history. How can any future history of the War of the Roses – or of British middle ages – not include the story of the discovery of his remains in Leicester?
Now maybe this showed up on some “top stories of 2013” list, but how did it miss most of the lists?
This is a very familiar liturgical hymn for Jews, dating back to the 15th century liturgies, and supposed to be from the 11th century or perhaps much earlier. The first line has often been translated “Lord of the Universe” since olam can mean either “eternity” “a very long time” or “the universe/world.” The transition from “eternity” to “world” happened some time in the last two millennia. So, in modern terms, “Lord of the Universe” but in the biblical sense, and in the sense of the poem itself, “Lord of Eternity.” Update: This is a translation by Esther Hugenholtz. And here it is in Hebrew script.
Adon olam asher malach
Lord of Eternity Who reigned
b’terem kol yetzir nivra
before anything was created
Le’et na’aseh b’cheftzo kol
In the hour of Creation, He willed all
azai melech shemo nikra
and so His Name is known as King
V’acharei kichlot hakol
And after all is completed
levado yimloch nora
only He will reign in awesomeness
V’hu hayah v’hu hoveh
He was, He is
v’hu yihyeh betifarah
and He will be in splendour
V’hu echad v’ein sheni
He is Alone, there is no second
lehamshil lo lehachbirah
to rule Him in fellowship
B’li reishit, b’li tachlit
Without beginning, without end
v’lo ha’oz v’hamisrah
and His power is not shared
V’hu eli v’chai go’ali
Yet He is my God, He is my life and my Redeemer
v’tzur chevli be’et tzarah
my rock in vanity in my hour of need
V’hu nisi u’manos li
He is my banner and my shelter
menat kosi beyom ekra
He is my Cup [of salvation] on the day I call
Beyado afkid ruchi
In His hand I place my spirit
be’et ishan v’a’ira
in the hour of my sleep and waking
V’im ruchi geviyati
And with my spirit and body
Adonai li, v’lo ira
the Eternal is with me, I shall not fear
Here are two arguments for “Master/Lord of the Universe.” There is a conservative/liberal split in Judaism on whether this prayer/hymn should open with “Lord of the Universe” or “Eternal Lord.” A bit complicated. I have my own issues with Artscroll.
However, we do know that in the Hebrew Bible El Olam means Everlasting/Eternal Lord. In French and German this was translated as “Eternel” and “Ewige” which are equivalent to “Eternal.” They morph easily into a name for God. In English, “Everlasting God” has not become a popular name for God. Here are various translations for El Olam in Genesis 21:33,
בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה, אֵל עוֹלָם.
the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.
το ονομα κυριου θεος αιωνιος
nomen Domini Dei aeterni
le nom du Seigneur, Dieu éternel
dem Namen des HERRN, des ewigen Gottes.
I can’t help feeling that in Greek, Latin, French and German, the use of the word for “eternal” lead to using this as a name for God, in a more popular way than in English. “Eternal” is easily abstracted to “eternity” and the quality of being “eternal” in a way that “everlasting” is not. In any case, I don’t think that Olivétan really brought about a paradigm shift in using “L’Eternel” for the name of God. He had access to a great deal of material, scholarly and rabbinical works for his translation.
In short, this poem emphasizes that God existed before matter, a Platonic position, rather than an Aristotelian one. God shares power with no one at all. God is one. God is represented by many metaphors that somewhat represent the nature of God, but none that exactly represent this eternal being who existed before matter. God cannot be anthropomorphized. God relates to humans today. God is redeemer and sustainer of life.
Positioning God before the creation of matter, outside of the beginnings of mortality, distances God from sex. Sex is created for the necessity of continuing the propogation of mortal species. God exists entirely outside of that. However, the Kabbalah, deeply dependent on this tradition, did develop a strong gender theology, sometimes very negative to women and sometimes not so much. It seems that there is a strong human tendency to anthropomorphize God, and to make God in the likeness of humans. Such is life.
If you click on the tag “Eternal” at the top right of this post you should get all 7 posts in this series.
Here is a selection of books, old and new, that are about women, by women, and about participation in the world of ideas, institutions, wars, market economy, art, exegesis and life in general.
Elizabeth Gaskell – 19th century, any movies or books (Kindle Editions $2.00 or under some free) “North and South” “Mary Barton” “Wives and Daughters.” “Cranford” and many more.
Middlemarch by George Elliot 19th century (Kindle Edition is $1.06)
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, 2013, an ingenious tale of moral and philosophical dilemmas, takes place in the Jewish and Syrian neighbourhoods of 19th century New York.
Spymistress by Jennifer Chiaverini, 2013- a true story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a woman who ran a spy network during the Civil War.
Certain Women by Madeleine L’Engle, 1993, an adult novel, fully secular and fully exegetical, unique, – a woman writing exegesis by novel.
Invisible Women: Forgotten Artists of Florence by Jane Fortune, 2009
The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen, 2011, about Sofonisba Anguissola, Renaissance artist
The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hameln, trans. by Marvin Lowenthal, 1987, a Jewish woman merchant of the 17th century
The Life of Christina of Markyate by Fanous, Leyser, Talbot, 2010 about an 11th century determined young women who becomes a spiritual director. Lots of plot twists in her true life.
Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox. 2013, The true story of deciphering Linear B, the Mycenean written language, with emphasis on Alice Kober’s ground breaking work.
On exhibit at the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth is show of art called “The Age of …”; here, today I took a photo from the outside in (since photography isn’t permitted within).
Once inside, I studied carefully the 107 pieces, mostly paintings and some sculptures. I’d read the brochure, one paragraph of which I’ll also share with you:
Now, I guess you noticed that the one name I’ve highlighted for you is ambiguous: “Would that be, Marcel Duchamp?,” you ask. Well, yes, his works were there too.
But what if I told you this work was there (which I’ve copied from the webpage of the Art Institute of Chicago)?
Yes, you’re right. It’s by Marcel’s little sister, Suzanne Duchamp-Crotti. And her piece was there with his pieces.
But the following is not one of his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his, or his either.
That one you may recognize is the single piece in the exhibit by Gabriele Münter.
Then there’s this one. Who’s it by? Well, I don’t blame you if it takes you a while given all those named on the brochure and those for whom the exhibit is prominently named. Yes, not one of those guys. Rather, this third piece of the one hundred and seven works of art shown is the one by Nathalija Gontcharova.
(I’d gone with my son to the exhibits at the Modern Art Museum across the street. Not much different. We saw two pieces by women, as I recall. All the other hundreds of pieces of modern art displayed were by men. Now, my son is a professional artist and one of my daughters is a painter and a college student, who, by the way, just did her own home improvement project last evening by tiling a bathroom floor. I’m just not sure what the implicit message by the art museums is here, are you? We pay money to see art, and we see art predominantly produced by men. There are token pieces by women, but don’t they belong to their age and to ours in equal measure?)
I read this with great interest and sympathy, China of my Mind . I to0 have many aunts and uncles, in laws and outlaws, who were in China, one being the first Brit to transverse China from ocean to India, another starting a boarding school, some incarcerated during the war and so on. We too had Chinese vases and embroideries. We had students from different parts of China living with us for many years, as well as a Chinese penpal from an orphanage in Hong Kong.
I also have a sister who lived in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing for years, writing letters home to Mother every week. She has published her autobiography and is a celebrated Sinologist. I have even been to China. But could I write about it?? I don’t think so. But I haven’t read this book so perhaps it is well done. I can’t say.
I had never walked in a Beech Wood before,
The bright emerald green in the sunlight
And the rustling sound of the wind,
the large simple shape of the leaves
and the majesty of solid trunks and solidarity among the trees.
In winter the skeletons all show against the sky
and the leaves on the ground have rotted into the earth
I walk not on Beech leaves, but on the rough leather of
intermingled undecayed alder and oak leaves, red, white, pin,
and the smell of pungent balsam and fir is absent,
like a live thing that I had thought would walk through
these woods with me. But it isn’t there. I didn’t realize.
No needled scent from the ground rises up to my nostrils
and beckons me down to that rich aroma of dirt and duff
I lift my eyes instead to the sky
and float among the dark interlaced and spindled branches
thrown into relief against the dying lemon yellow sky
of a fast approaching winter night.
HT Challies. I had so many perplexing moments lining up for black tea with homo milk and a serviette, while wearing a tuque and my skookum boots! There seemed to be some suggestion that I was just making all these words up. But no, here it is on the internet. I honestly find living without the Robertson screw head a real pain. I am constantly shredding threads and that just isn’t possible with a Robertson. Icing sugar. I can live without that.
Charles Dickens’s horror story, “A Christmas Carol,” has seen countless adaptations in movies, stage, television, and radio. But inevitably, those adaptations focus on the heartwarming aspects of the Dickens tale, rather than the sheer fright of his masterful ghost story.
I recently came across Marvel’s graphic novel Zombies Christmas Carol. The hardcover edition was being remaindered at Half Price Books – if I recall correctly, I paid under $5 for it, suggesting that the publication was not particularly successful. And if so, it was a pity, because this creative adaptation manages to bring horrific aspects of Dickens to the forefront through our age’s proxy for ghosts: the zombie motif. (Remember the opening paragraph of “A Christmas Carol”? Here, that is turned on its head as Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the undead Jacob Marley)
While the idea of adapting 19th century stories to include zombies has become rather clichéd ever since the mechanical Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, this graphic novel rises above the usual dross through the terrific (albeit gory) artwork by David Baldeon and Jeremy Treece, and the story is genuinely scary. (From Daniel Kraus’s review at Booklist: “The glossy, spectacle-laden art is uniformly fine and plenty disgusting. If you’ve ever wanted to see Tiny Tim devour his own father, you’re in luck.”)
The book is clearly commercial art, and not particularly innovative, but if you want an easy read that is free of the typical maudlin presentations of the December season, this nasty little graphic novel may be a palate cleanser.
Today would be Pablo Casal’s 137th birthday.
On October 4th, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, launching the space race. On the same day, the Jewish Odessa-born Soviet violinist David Oistrakh and his piano accompanist Vladimir Yampolsky arrived in rainy Beijing for a grand tour of the Chinese capital, Shanghai, and Tianjin. This was the golden height of Sino-Soviet relations — Soviet pianist Sviatoslav Richter (and his mezzo-soprano wife, Nina Dorliak) were already in Beijing, and young Chinese musicians interested in Western music rushed to these performances of these musical giants. The official Chinese government recording company (CRC: 中国唱片总公司) quickly issued a set of eight LP “reference records” of Oistrakh’s performances in China, and they sold like hotcakes. Within a decade, at the height of the Chinese “Cultural Revolution,” those records would be destroyed as Soviets were denounced as revisionists and Western culture was forbidden.
Now, somewhat against all expectations, these recordings have been recovered, and restored in a deluxe 4CD set. I just bought a copy of these CDs, while they are not the first recordings of Oistrakh that I might recommend, they are outstanding and a fine nostalgic look at what might be considered the twentieth century’s greatest violinist.
Oistrakh’s tour was not without event (he was naturally upset when he learned that the Tupolev 104 he had flown in on crashed on its return flight to the Soviet Union, and he was “caught” listening to decadent Western jazz on Voice of America shortwave radio), it was a tremendous event that inspired an entire generation of Chinese musicians specializing in Western classical music. The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post has an article reminiscing on Oistrakh’s tour. Sheila Melvin and Jindong Cai have a fascinating history of modern China and the effect of “classical music diplomacy” on the country entitled Rhapsody in Red: How Classical Music Became Chinese.
For me, there is another type of nostalgia associated this release – a memory of when communist governments, despite their restrictions on freedom of expression, still considered excellence in culture to be a central mission of the government. It is not a time to which I would wish to return, but it did leave us some monumental cultural achievements.
Some of my favorite bloggers are looking back at this past year on the Gregorian calendar and noting their top-read posts. I enjoy this sort of marking of superlatives, somehow aggregated as if objectively, in such a subjective way.
So maybe you’ll enjoy somewhat my little look back here at BLT blogging. I’ve compiled, in chronological order, below a very short list of posts, written in September, of 2013. I like that particular month of blogging here, most, because each and every one of us co-bloggers found the time and the inclination, then, to post: