...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Everybody had a good year; everybody let their hair down. Everybody pulled their socks up; everybody put their foot down (oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah)

1. What did you do in 2006 that you'd never done before?

I tried answering this question, but 1) some of the things I did in 2006 for the first time are not blog-appropriate, and to write about only the blog-appropriate without writing about the more delicate stuff seems kind of ridiculous; and on the one hand, who cares, but on the other hand, my brother reads this blog; and 2) 2006 (and in that I’m including my experiences in Chile, since I came back to the US in early January) was kind of like my own Bildungsroman, and it would be impossible to capture all of the new experiences and feelings, et cetera, so I’m not even going to try. I can say, however, that I grew up more this year than I did in any other year.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My New Year’s resolution was to lose the 20 pounds I gained in Chile, and not only did I not keep that resolution, but I gained at least 10 more over the course of spring semester after I returned. Yeah, “oops.” I don’t regret the Chile weight since each pound represents a delicious memory and that’s part of the experience: how can you fully appreciate Chilean culture without sopaipillas and manjar and empanadas? I gained weight spring semester because I was depressed and slothful and drank too much. So my resolution for 2007 is to not be depressed and slothful, to drink less, and to be more active and we’ll see where that takes me. Some other resolutions were of a more personal nature and let’s just say I accomplished a couple and am still working on a few big ones.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My best Chilean friend Ronald’s sister Waleska gave birth to a baby boy.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No, although people close to me lost people they cared about and loved.

5. What countries did you visit?

I lived in Chile and the United States and visited Argentina, Uruguay, Italy, Greece, France, and Vatican City (it counts!) I probably traveled more this year than I ever will in any one year.

6. What would you like to have in 2007 that you lacked in 2006?

An intellectually challenging, personally fulfilling job. But honestly, 2006 ended on a really high note; it would be hard for 2007 to surpass it.

7. What dates from 2006 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

January 13: Carla and I return to the US. That’s honestly the only date that’s been etched onto my memory, and I think I might actually have it slightly wrong—it might have been the 10th or 12th. Which just goes to show, I’m not really the date-etching type. The first Thursday of every month is also significant for me now.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Returning from Chile knowing that I had lived that experience to the fullest, without any regrets. Embracing my Religious Studies nerdiness and deciding to dedicate myself to it; discovering my passion for Chassidus (Hasidic thought and spirituality). Pushing myself further academically this semester than ever before and succeeding; surviving spring semester 2006 without becoming totally embittered and disillusioned. Cultivating relationships and friendships with some pretty awesome people. Being open to new experiencs and just putting myself out there and going for it.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Losing touch with people in Chile, both Chileans and Americans I met there. The loss of my friendship with Ryan.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I got a yeast infection sometime spring semester; not a huge deal, and I think I blew it up to way bigger proportions in my mind, because of some things that happened in Chile which… most people reading this have already heard the story, with which I drunkenly regaled you all on my birthday. (Cringe; and I’m thankful Clay has a sense of humor.) I also thought I had mono, but it turns out…I didn’t. I’ve been pretty healthy this year, I guess.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Bus, plane, ferry, and train tickets that allowed me to crisscross South America and Europe. I guess you could say that it was really Karen McCarthy’s Mama Lola: Vodou Priestess of Brooklyn that convinced me I wanted to go into sociology of religion, which I’m passionate about; in that case, buying that book at Powell’s might be one of the most significant things I’ve ever done.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Many people, but especially those who faithfully and steadfastly pursued their own spiritual disciplines, practices, and studies; and encouraged me in my own.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

In a word: Ryan’s. (Let’s not pull any punches.) And sometimes mine, I guess, in response to Ryan’s.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Traveling, but it was worth it.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Returning to the US; classes starting again last spring semester; traveling in Europe with Sarah over the summer; visiting Peggy and Amy in Portland in July; classes starting this fall. I get really, really excited about thrilling intellectual exchanges with the many wonderful conversation partners whom I'm blessed to call my friends. Every week I get really, really excited for Bible Study for Hippies, for instance.

16. What song will always remind you of 2006?

That one J-Pop song that Chris always played last spring in our apartment; “Dancing in September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire (anyone who spent any time in the boys’ and my apartment last spring will remember this song); Lizst’s Hungarian Rhapsody; anything Disney; all of Jesus Christ, Superstar!; the theme song to “Step by Step” (day by DAYYYYYY by day!).

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Infinitely happier. Fall 2006 was the happiest semester I spent on campus, which was a pleasant and much-needed surprise, since Spring 2006 was the saddest semester I spent on campus.
b) thinner or fatter? Fatter.
c) richer or poorer? Poorer.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Exercising, getting out of the apartment last spring, exploring Portland, pursuing spiritual practices. I wish I had started attending Shabbat services earlier, although maybe I wouldn’t have been spiritually or intellectually prepared for them last spring.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Crying, drinking, holding grudges, obsessing over Ryan and that whole thing.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

With my family, in Eugene; nothing out of the ordinary.

21. Did you fall in love in 2006?

No. I fell in “really like,” though.

22. How many one-night stands?

None, ever.

23. What was your favorite TV program?

Honestly? Flavor of Love. I loved the show itself, and I loved that we would all watch it together and talk about it and quote it. I loved that it was kind of our thing, you know?

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Hate is too strong a word. I dislike some people whom I didn’t dislike at this time last year, but I try not to spend too much time actively disliking those people.

25. What was the best book you read?

Honestly, I read some fantastic books this year. I would even go so far as to say that 2006 was my best reading year. Mystics, Mavericks, and Merrymakers: An Intimate Journey Among Hasidic Girls and Mama Lola: Vodou Priestess of Brooklyn top the non-fiction side and pretty much convinced me not only of my then-emergent love of Chassidus but of my passion for the sociology and anthropology of religion, the area I eventually want to pursue in graduate school. Along the Religious Studies lines, I really enjoyed, and constantly reference, The Idea of the Holy by Rudolf Otto. I loved Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and I cried like a baby at the end of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf was also moving and had a lot of personal resonance for me, inasmuch as you could pretty much cross out one the characters’ names and write “Jessica of Spring 2006” and it would work just as well. But for best book, I’m going to have to go with the big guy himself: Ulysses.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

The Velvet Underground, which ironically was also my greatest musical discovery of 2004, but I found “Peel Slowly and See” on mytunes a just few months ago, and I’m loving it.

27. What did you want and get?

I wanted to be in a not-fucked-up relationship with an intelligent boy, and I am.

28. What did you want and not get?

Enlightenment.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

I really loved Little Miss Sunshine. I'd like to see Science of Sleep again, too.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 21 on February 18. My mom stopped in Portland on her way up to Seattle to visit my grandmother over the long weekend; and we had dinner then spent the night at the Heathman downtown the night of the 17th. Ryan cooked a fancy French lunch the afternoon of the 18th, and Amy, Peggy, Anna, and Chelsea H. came over for that. We went to the Vagina Monologues later that evening, then a group of friends came over to the apartment for drinks (earlier that morning I went to the liquor store for my first legal alcohol purchase, for which, frustratingly, I was not carded). And believe it or not, I made it to church bright of eye and fresh of face the next morning.

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Falling in love.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2006?

Jeans, shirt, jacket or coat. Sometimes a scarf. I guess I wear skirts more frequently—say, a couple times a month—now than I did before, which is the influence of Chile, but honestly, I have no fashion concept. The biggest “fashion” change I’ve made this year is that I rarely blow-dry my hair anymore and I hardly ever wear mascara, which I used to wear everyday. Who has the time?

33. What kept you sane?

Solitude, friends, and the pursuit of spiritual discipline. Reading. McSweeney's. Bible Study for Hippies and Shabbat services. Getting off campus, and those quiet moments on campus where the winter sunlight's streaming through the trees and I stop on the bridge over the ravine and just look at the trees and see each individual leaf illuminated; those moments of mysterium tremendum that Rudolf Otto gave me a vocabulary with which to describe.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Flava Flaaaaaaaaaav!

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

The presidential election in Chile and everything that went with it; migrant farmworker issues and the debate over illegal immigration; the recent death of Pinochet, ex-dictator of Chile. The fall from grace of Ted Haggard and evangelical culture in general, particularly the evangelical blogs and the evangelical teen discussion forum.

36. Who did you miss?

Friends I met in Chile; the friendship I used to have with Ryan.

37. Who was the best new person you met?

There’s no way I can choose something like that.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2006.

It’s not very eloquent, but I guess I learned how to be more comfortable in my own skin and with myself.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Everybody had a hard year
Everybody had a good time.
Everybody had a wet dream
Everybody saw the sun shine.

Everybody had a good year
Everybody let their hair down.
Everybody pulled their socks up
Everybody put their foot down.

-“I’ve Got a Feeling,” The Beatles.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

RIP, Jared from Zoom

I was saddened this afternoon to hear of the death of Jared, one of the kids from the first couple seasons of PBS' old show Zoom, in a car accident. Andy and I watched Zoom for probably longer than we should have, and although we mocked a lot of the kids on that show (to this day we still make fun of David), Jared always seemed like a cool, pretty self-aware guy, and was by far our favorite of the kids. I always wondered what happened to those kids; according to the obituary my mom read in the New York Times, Jared was a third-year acting student at Julliard. Here's the AP article. God, that's sad.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

This week in God

Or, really, Saturday-before-last in God, when I experienced another incredible Jewish Renewal Moment (TM).

The last Saturday I spent in Portland, the day before I left for Eugene, I went, as usual, to Saturday morning Shabbat services at P'nai Or. Services there generally last about three hours, and roughly follow this order: singing and chanting in Hebrew from the siddur (prayer book) for about an hour; prayers; the rabbi's sermon (I sort of think that's the wrong word to use, not only because of the Christian baggage attached to it but because Reb Aryeh's sermons are more like discussions, with a lot of participation from the congregation and debate, but the only other word I can think of is farbrengen, which might have too much Hasidic baggage. If anyone reading this knows, feel free to tell me) for another hour. There are Hebrew and English bilingual editions of the Torah scattered throughout the pews so people can follow along. The last hour is spent with the Torah: first prayers are said and the Sh'ma chanted, then a couple people bring take out the Torah scroll and kind of process around the congregation with it while everyone sings and dances and claps. It's kind of like a mini-Simchat Torah; Chris, you would recognize the song--it's the one that we thought sounded like "The Boxer." When the Torah is coming around, most people touch their tzit-tzit (fringes of the tallis, or prayer shawl) or siddur to its covering and then kiss their tzit-tzit or siddur. Then the scroll is unrolled to that day's Torah portion and everyone gathers around the table and Reb Aryeh reads/sings from the Torah in Hebrew, simultaneously translating into English and offering midrash (interpretation). Then more prayers, the Torah is put back into the ark, more prayers, then everyone joins hands and sings this song that's goes something like "Odeyvot shalom aleynu, odeyvot shalom aleynu, odeyvot shalom aleynu veah ruah." That's an extremely rough transliteration but remember that my Hebrew vocabulary is limited to like less than 20 words. I do know that shalom means "peace" (I think everyone knows that) and "ruah" means breath/spirit, though. Edit: This is the song I'm talking about. It turns out that "ruah" has no place in it at all, which means I've been singing the wrong words. Oops! Nice song, though. And other than that my transliteration was actually pretty okay.

The thing about the Torah scroll that you might not know if you don't go to Jewish services or don't have a lot of Jewish acquaintances is that it's huge, and made of animal-skin parchment, with the Hebrew written by hand by scribes. All of the words, especially God's holy name (the Tetragrammaton) have to be very precisely written, and if the ink smudges they have to scrap that whole piece of parchment and start over. There's tons of rabbinic discussion and halakha (religious law) about scribal practices, including huge debates about how much ink should be on the quill before beginning the Tetragrammaton, because the scribe is not allowed to break the writing motion to redip (no double-dipping if you're a Torah scribe) and the thickness of the ink must be consistent throughout. All of this is to say that the Torah scrolls are extremely precious, very expensive, and fragile. Nobody touches the scroll with their bare hands, not even the rabbi, because the oils in the skin could smudge the ink. When the little kids are crowding around the Torah table, the rabbi's always reminding them not to touch it with their bare hands.

After the Torah portion last Saturday, something different happened. A young couple from the congregation had brought their three-month-old baby daughter and their toddler son to be blessed by the rabbi and the congregation. A few people spread out and held up a tallis over the family, as though it were a chuppah (wedding canopy); the rabbi asked the parents to explain the children's Hebrew names and said a few prayers and brachot (blessings). Then he unrolled the Torah to a significant passage, and directed the mother to lay her baby on the Torah.

He put the baby on the Torah!

With no kind of protective plastic layer at all!

I couldn't believe it!

As the little baby girl stretched and wiggled, he said a few more brachot and prayed that, just as she stretched her little arms out and touched the sides of the Torah, as she grows she might stretch and wrestle--like Ya'akov--with God, yet always remain within the tradition and within the bounds of God's love.

It was a really touching moment, and one of my favorite Jewish Renewal experiences yet. The fact that the rabbi would lay a baby directly onto the Torah really struck me, as did his midrash. When I saw Daniel that night, I ran it by him, asking if that kind of blessing of infants is customary in all Jewish denominations, or if it's just a Jewish Renewal thing. He had never heard of it or experienced it, so maybe it's unique to P'nai Or, or unique to the Jewish Renewal; regardless, what an incredible moment. And that night, as we were walking to his house, the only words running through my head were "Baruch ata Adonai Eloheynu," over and over.

Monday, December 25, 2006

One year ago / Hace un año atrás...












Christmas 2005: Dispatch from the end of the world.

Last year I spent Christmas with my friend Juan Carlos in Punta Arenas, Chile's southern-most city; Juan Carlos has generously invited me to spend the holiday with him so that I could get to know Southern Chile and so that I wouldn't pass it solita (all by my little self), displaying the incredibly Chilean hospitality. We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at his uncle and aunt's house, with his cousins and his grandmother; they were, like Juan Carlos and his mother and brother, so incredibly welcoming, and had even wrapped presents for me. I got an email from one of his cousins a in mid-January from his cousin Marcela a few weeks into January, soon after the semester started--her father, Juan Carlos' uncle who's pictured in the family shot above, died suddenly and unexpectedly, a tragic and shocking footnote to my Punta Arenas memories. She told me that my Christmas pictures were the last taken of him, and asked me to send her all the ones I had.

From top to bottom, the pictures are:

1) View of Punta Arenas on Christmas Eve. Juan Carlos' uncle picked us up from his house and drove us to this viewpoint so that I could see the city.

2) Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Torres del Paine is a couple hours to the north of Punta Arenas, near Puerto Natales.

3) Glacier Perito Moreno. This is actually in Argentinean Patagonia, about 5-7 hours east of Puerto Natales.

4) Wild alpacas near Torres del Paine.

5) Juan Carlos, center, pouring a brindis (toast) of champagne. His mom and his younger brother are standing to the sides.

6-8) Penguins on Isla Magdalena! I took a ferry out in the Straights of Magellan one day to visit a national penguin refuge. Tiny Magellanic dolphins jumped along side the ferry as it raced through the choppy grey waters. That island was probably the coldest, windiest place I've ever been.

9) There were a lot of alpacas in Southern Chile.

10) Juan Carlos' family: from left to right, brother, cousin, uncle, mother, me, grandmother, aunt. His other cousin Marcela, who was around my age, was out of the room, and Juan Carlos was the one taking the picture.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

A sniper in Eugene?

Yesterday evening around 5pm I was riding home from Valley River Center along the Mackenzie River bike path. A few blocks past the rose gardens, there was a police barricade set up across the path: flashing lights, a police car, and a couple officers standing around. One of them came up to meet me as I slowed to a stop a dozen or so meters before the barricade. "Can I get past?" I asked, thinking that, I don't know, someone had jumped in the river or something. "I wouldn't recommend it," the officer said. "There's someone up on Skinner Butte firing a rifle into this area." Holy shit, I thought. "Oh my God," I said. "Yeah. We'd recommend that you wait until we hear back from the officer we sent up there. If you need to get by, go back to the Washington Park area and head up on 4th Street. The buildings would offer you some coverage, probably, if he starts firing again."

I asked the officer it would be safe to head back towards Valley River, cross the bike path, and continue towards Alton Baker Park on the other side of the river, and he said that would be fine, so that's what I did. I heard sirens later, and I assumed that they were related to the gunman ("sniper" is my word; the officer never used it); I can tell you that when I rode over and popped an acorn a few minutes later, I damn near jumped off my bike.

I told me parents what happened after I got home. On the news that night, there was a brief mention of a report being called in on gunman on Skinner Butte, but apparently the police couldn't find any evidence and they think it might have been kids setting off fireworks. Regardless: scary.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

No comment

Me: "Mom, I'm seeing someone in Portland."
Mom: "Really? Someone nice?"
Me: "Yes."
Mom: "Not an axe-murderer, then."
Me: "Obviously not."
Mom: "Man or woman?"

Monday, December 18, 2006

No, you're schmoopie

Tonight my little brother's girlfriend Betsy came over for dinner; he cooked goulash, which is kind of a big deal, since it takes like three hours. Betsy brought a cake that she had baked for dessert. Aren't they sickeningly adorable? Don't you hate them just a little bit?

The real question is, why is Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause still in the first-run theaters?

As many of you know, one of my favorite things about Eugene is seeing crappy teen movies for $1.50 at the second-run movie theater in the next town over. I just looked on Fandango to see what's playing, and here's the line-up: Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny, Borat, Flicka, Man of the Year, Employee of the Month, The Guardian, Open Season, School for Scoundrels, Flyboys, The Illusionist, Barnyard: The Original Party Animals, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

Are you fucking kidding me? You would have to pay me $1.50 to see most of those movies. (Caveat: I have no interest in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and I try to limit my Will Ferrel intake to moderate levels.) All I want is a cotton-candy movie about sassy and superficial high school kids. Is that too much to ask??

And no, I haven't finished (...er, started) my Apocalypticism paper yet. Agenbite of inwit!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

"Agenbite of inwit. Inwit's agenbite. Misery! Misery!"

These are the two most heartbreaking, poignant, melancholy passages of Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf (the first passage) and Ulysses by James Joyce (the second). In the Joyce passage, "agenbite of inwit" is a Middle English phrase meaning "remorse of conscience;" "me" is Stephen Dedalus and "she" is his younger sister. Having brought himself out of the misery of his family and home, Stephen feels at once obligated to save his sister, drowning in poverty, and suffocated by the possibly that she might pull him back down with her. Reading the Jacob's Room passage was one of the few times I've cried this semester, so evocative is it of how I was feeling at the end of last semester.

****

…For she had loved too; and been a fool.

“One’s grandmother ought to have told one,” said Fanny, looking in at the window of Bacon, the mapseller, in the Strand—told one that it was no use making a fuss; this is life, they should have said, as Fanny said it now, looking at the large yellow globe marked with steamship lines.

“This is life. This is life,” said Fanny.

"A very hard face," though Miss Barrett, on the other side of the glass, buying maps of the Syrian desert and waiting impatiently to be served. "Girls look old so soon nowadays."

The equator swam behind tears.

"Piccadilly?" Fanny asked the conductor of the omnibus, and climbed to the top. After all, he would, he must, come back to her.

But Jacob might have been thinking of Rome; of architecture; of jurisprudence; as he sat under the plane tree in Hyde Park.

****

She is drowning. Agenbite. Save her. Agenbite. All against us. She will drown me with her, eyes and hair. Lank coils of seaweed hair around me, my heart, my soul. Salt green death.

We.

Agenbite of inwit.

Inwit's agenbite.

Misery! Misery!

Friday, December 15, 2006

"Is this the end of Judas + Jesus?"

Yes. Yes, it is.

Okay, so we had the long-awaited homoerotic leather Jesus Christ Superstar! singalong last night, and it was awesome. I hope everyone who came had a good time, and I think we can all agree that it's a good thing we decided to make this one a dry event, considering the ease with which we were soberly making up lyrics like, "Judas...must you betray me...with a blowjob?" and "Ah wish ah knew how to quit you, Jesus!"

Meanwhile, while Facebooking today, I realized that a girl from my Short Story class has the same name (first and last) as a minor Baby-Sitter's Club character.** Y'all, I must be stopped.

**Trivia! What's the name of the editor-in-chief of the Stoneybrook Middle School newspaper?

Edit: I was marvelling to Chris and Eric at the Religious Studies department party yesterday that my blog is in the top ten for several google searches on Ulysses: "Ulysses and menstruation," "Elijah and Ulysses," stuff like that. I thought it was weird, but now I understand why, having just googled "Agendath Netaim" (a phrase from chapter 4) and having come up with nothing useful. If someone had written a blog post about Agendath Netaim, I definitely would have clicked on that link--it would probably be a lot easier to understand, and clearer written, then 99% of the results.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Elijah is coming! Is coming!! Is coming!!!

Today in Apocalypticism, Kugler asked us to reevaluate John Collins and Co.'s working definition of apocalyptic literature: "[A]n apocalypse is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial insofar as it involves another, supernatural world." Sure, ancient books like Daniel and Enoch and Baruch (what? exactly) and Revelation might contain all those elements, but apocalypticism as it manifests itself in contemporary culture, religious traditions, and literature rarely does. I mean, rarely are you going to find works that contain the both a priestly and a royal messiah, Gog and Magog, angels, demons, dream visions, journeys through heaven and hell, an Antichrist, etc, etc, all crammed into one work.

How, then, should be define apocalypticism? Kugler argued that it's better understood as a strategy, instead of a genre: the strategy with which, as one girl suggested, people understand the finitude of their own lives, protest their own deaths, and reconcile themselves to the nature of the world.

On the one hand, yes, I agree. But on the other hand--and I almost said this in class, but didn't--there are still contemporary movements and works that contain all of those apocalyptic elements. Just check out the last paragraph of chapter 12 of Ulysses, in which our protagonist and assimilated Jew Leopold Bloom flees the drunken and violent sheeplike men of the tavern and is swept up in a chariot vision, all whirled together and exploding like his Roman candle on the beach as he watches Gerty McDowell in one great blast of apocalyptic imagery and motifs:

When, lo, there came about them all a great brightness and they beheld the chariot wherein He stood ascend to heaven. And they beheld Him in the chariot, clothed upon in the glory of the brightness, having raiment as of the sun, fair as the moon and terrible that for awe they durst not look upon Him. And there came a voice out of heaven, calling Elijah! Elijah! And he answered with a main cry: Abba! Adonai! And they beheld Him even Him, ben Bloom Elijah, amid clouds of angels ascend to the glory of the brightness at an angle of fortyfive degrees over Donohoe's in Little Green street like a shot off a shovel.

I mean, in that passage alone you've got your Jesus imagery, you've got Elijah, you've got some Revelation thrown in (his clothing matches that of the pregnant woman clothed with the sun), you've got your angels and your heavenly journey. But the thing is, if you define apocalypticism as only a strategy, then I'm not sure that passage, or Ulysses as a whole, would count, because while it's chockablock with apocalyptic motifs, it's not particularly eschatological. The last image of the novel, the penultimate chapter before entering the washed-in-the-blood river of Molly Bloom's stream of conscious, is one of peace and rest and stability; Bloom and Molly lie in bed together, in their warm Dublin room: "At what state of rest or motion? At rest relatively to themselves and to each other. In motion being each and both carried westward, forward and rereward respectively, by the proper perpetual motion of the earth through everchanging tracks of neverchanging space."

Everchanging tracks of neverchanging space. What does that mean for Ulysses as an apocalyptic work, and what does that mean for Bloom as a symbol of Irish and Jewish messianism?

If I could answer that question, I would have a much easier time writing Kugler and Rishona's papers.

Edit: Man, does anybody know what I was talking about there? Yeah, me neither. Let's just chalk it up to contransmagnificanjewbantantiality. Here's the procrastination report: I have a seven-pager for Rishona due tomorrow at 6, and it's so, so difficult for me to start papers the day before they're due when I know I'll have a solid two hours tomorrow afternoon to work. But it's about Ulysses! and Judaism! And those are two of my very favorite things to talk about! Plus, I have to revise a few reading summaries for Paul tomorrow, and find my EB Tylor summary. Stupid Tylor. Though all things considered, I'm surprised I've only misplaced one of the summaries. Goal: Ulysses until 9, then coffee and revising my Hume, Durkheim, and Schleiermacher summaries. I would like to be in bed by 1am or 2 at the latest so I don't start hallucinating Peggy again.

Finishing off a semester of Feminist Theory with a rousing discussion of the Power Rangers...

Heather: "I never watched the show, but I did study karate under the Red Ranger."
Ali: "Oh my God! The real one?"
Susan, reaching across the circle: "Touch my hand! Touch my hand! Touch my hand!"
Heather: "He even put my belt on me."
Brandon: "The question is, did he take it off?"

A few minutes later, discussing who's bringing what to the final project presentations:

Kori: "Brandon, you bring decorations."
Brandon: "Oh, make the gay one bring the decorations!"
Kori: "No, just bring those blow-y things!"
Brandon: "Oh, make the gay one bring the blow-y things!"
Karin: "Well, you could bring hashbrowns."
Brandon: "Oh, make the gay one from Idaho bring the blow-y things and the hashbrowns!"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

When ben Bloom Elijah founds New Bloomusalem, homework will be abolished

This afternoon after getting back to campus I thoroughly cleaned my room, and not the kind of cleaning that's just moving around piles of stuff-I recycled, I threw away, I vacuumed. Then I ate dinner. Then I took a nap. Then I spent two hours reading the evangelical teen forum. Then I updated my blog.

It's almost as though I'm avoiding writing a paper about Jewish and Irish apocalyptic elements in Ulysses!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Good Shabbos

This morning at P'nai Or there was a special Children's Shabbat service before the adult service; if I had known, maybe I would have lingered over my breakfast a little more and finished drying my hair rather than rush to the schul--but on the other hand, listening to Reb Aryeh's discussion with the little children, I learned a few more Hebrew words, and witnessed one of my favorite Jewish Renewal moments yet.

When I arrived to the schul, Reb Aryeh was sitting on the floor with a circle of maybe eight or nine kids around him, mostly boys, mostly younger than six, mostly in kippot, leading a discussion on last week's Torah portion, Genesis 28, in which Yaakov (Jacob) has a dream vision of angels ascending and descending a ladder to the heavens. The Hebrew word for angel, malach, can also be translated "messenger," and as Reb Aryeh pointed out, the gematria for "ladder" is the same as "Mt. Sinai," which suggests a mystical equivalence between the two concepts. The kids hurled questions at the rabbi: "How can an angel go up the ladder and then down the ladder if they start in heaven?" "How can you go higher up the ladder if you're already at the top?" "How can you go further down the ladder if you're already at the bottom?" "What if you stay at the middle of the ladder?" Rather than discourage the kids or move on with his lesson, the rabbi encouraged them while deftly steering the conversation back to his original point: "These are such great midrashim; let's look at what Yaakov does here..." But the kids kept piping up, more and more until the rabbi cried out, "Oy, it's like I'm living in the Zohar!"

Friday, December 08, 2006

Such wonderful things surround you; what more is you lookin' for?

So Chris and Carla came over to watch and sing along to The Little Mermaid with Amy, Masha, Anna and me. And here's the thing: Scuttle the Seagull sounds exactly like a certain New Testament professor Amy, Eric, Chris and I all had last semester. Like, exactly. And this professor was prone to squawking and shrieking about things like his feud with now-dead Jesus scholar Robert Funk, the founder of the infamous Jesus Seminar, "kids these days and their teeny-bopper talk," Mediterranean types, the evil eye, giving the finger to scholars he disagreed with, how the wedding at Cana was a "major kegger," and one hilarious incident in which a drunk Bob Funk called him up and cussed him out over the phone. So every time Scuttle spoke, Amy and Chris and I all looked at each other and dissolved in giggles, and then when it looks like Prince Eric and Ursula-in-disguise are about to be married and Sebastian tells Scuttle to rally the forces and create a ruckus to stall the wedding? Four words: "STALL DAT JESUS SEMINAR!"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Maybe Aladdin should have wished for secondary sexual characteristics

...you know, like armpit hair. Or nipples.

Last Friday after the Taizé prayer service, Amy, Carla, Eric, and Chris (Chris, get a blog!) and I all went back to our apartment for something Amy and I have been anticipating ever since last semester: Disney singalong!! We watched, and sang, and recited Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. Tomorrow we're watching The Little Mermaid, and if you read this blog you're officially invited. So if you want to be "Part of Our World" come over around 7!!

Edit: I was under the impression that Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace was 1900 pages long. It turns out it's only 1079. Piece of cake! Plus, I have it on good authority that after page 300 or so it gets highly readable.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Morning by morning new mercies I see

One of my favorite things about my church, First Congregational United Church of Christ of downtown Portland, are the beautiful stained glass windows. I always sit on the left side of the sanctuary, so I have a great view of the huge, jewel-toned window on the right, which shows Jesus welcoming the little children to him. We don't have a large cross at the altar (a consciously-made decision that I disagree with) and I find that having an image or an icon helps me focus in prayer, so often during the prayers or the Doxology I turn my head towards the eastern window instead. (That window and I have quite a history: it also served as the jumping-off point for a Kugler paper about hermeneutical philosophy, entitled "Sunday Morning Epistemology: Hans-Georg Gadamer, Paul Ricoeur, and Stained Glass Windows.")

Today during the sermon, I and several others around me watched as the sun slowly came out from behind a cloud and illuminated the window. The yellow tones became golden; the muted blues and greens, unimpressive on a cloudy day, brilliant sapphires and emeralds. At one point, for several minutes, the sun's position was such that exactly half of the circular window was illuminated. There was a sharp line of shadow down the center of the window. Jesus glowed, while the people crowded around him were left in darkness. Slowly the sun emerged and the shadow was pushed aside; soon all were glowing with the sun, and it struck me that perhaps there could be no better metaphor for the coming of the Son of God into the darkness of the world.

After the service Dorothy, a friend of mine from the church, and I were talking about the stained glass window. I told her how I use it as a focus for my prayer and meditation and she nodded. "I love it, too," she said, "because we are all called to Jesus. No matter who you are or where you are, we can all be like the little children gathered to him...even Dubya could sit with him! Anyone!"

Amen, and may it be so.