Chicago (from Adler)

toward a eulogy

I went to Rabbi Schaalman's funeral today. Two months before his 101st birthday, 8 months after their 75th wedding anniversary, and two weeks after the death of his beloved Lotte.

Just as I started high school, my family abruptly moved from Joliet back to Chicago. My parents chose Congregation Emanuel to join, so Rabbi Schaalman taught my confirmation class. Not long after, though I was gone to college, he began a Torah study group every Saturday morning. Years later, back in Chicago after several absences, I began attending. My age had doubled but he impressed me just as much. That is my own metric to try to express his magnitude.
He didn't write. Not even his sermons. He could take a pulpit or dais, scheduled or impromptu, and be spellbinding. A few years ago he got a standing ovation at the annual meeting of the retired reform rabbis association. In his mid-90s, he remarked that he was glad he didn't write, because he'd read things he wrote ten or fifteen years ago and not like it because his thinking had developed and he disagreed.

He was born in Munich in 1916. His father served four years in the trenches, and happened to survive, and became a professor of mathematics and physics. A Jew growing up in Munich, he watched it all happening. Study with Martin Buber helped inspire him to become a rabbi, "I had to be something for God, even if it was less than what God could be for me." In 1935 he was one of five students selected by Rabbi Leo Baeck to come to the United States for a rabbinical school scholarship at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. Thus he survived, and in time was known as one of the Gang of Five, giants in 20th century Reform Judaism.
One of his passions was interfaith relations, a very obvious expression of his own experience. He became so close to Cardinal Bernardin (Archbishop of Chicago 1982-1996) that when the Cardinal, in finally declining health, made the arrangements for his own funeral, he specified that Rabbi Schaalman gave the main eulogy.
My rabbi buried a Cardinal.

The long windowsill of his office had a clutter of certificates and plaques.

His vita includes:
President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Council of Religious Leaders of Chicago, Chicago Board of Rabbis, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, JUF's Chicago Board of Rabbis, Council of Religious Leaders of Chicago he co-founded with Joseph Cardinal Bernardin;
Honorary degrees include Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College, Honorary Doctorate from Chicago's Catholic Theological Union, Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning Doctorate of Hebrew Letters, honoris causa;
Taught at Northwestern University’s Garrett Theological Seminary, the Chicago Theological Seminary; the Catholic seminary of the Society of the Divine Word, and the North Park College Theological Seminary
Chicago Theological Seminary Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Chair of Jewish Studies;
University of Chicago Herman E. and Lotte Schaalman Civilization Program for study in Jerusalem;
Trustee, member of the Executive Committee of the Council for the Parliament of World Religions;

Chicago Board of Rabbis Rabbi Mordecai Simon Memorial Award;
Council of Religious Leaders of Chicago's first Interreligious Leadership Award;
Julius Rosenwald Memorial Award;
International Council of Christians and Jews Interfaith Gold Medallion-Peace Through Dialogue;
JCC Chicago Hall of Fame;
Graham Taylor Award from Chicago Theological Seminary;
Order of Merit, First Class from the president of Germany;

and on his 91st birthday he threw out the first ball at a Cubs game.

Most important to him he founded the Union for Reform Judaism's Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI) in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, the first of the URJ’s summer camps, and continued to teach there until a few years ago.

זֵכֶר צַדִּיק לִבְרָכָה


Completely eco-conscious. Made from 100% recycled tropes.
Contains Europeans, several Africans, AND a mystical Chinese-ish mystical master with a Mongol-ish buddy!
whole earth moon

a thought on "Binti"

I don't know where "competence porn" came from, but we all know the stuff. The protagonist is some kind of nerd, and the intensity and focus of that very nerdness is what pulls him through and saves the day. It's not "identity" as in "identity politics", it's just a cornerstone characteristic.
(I don't know if there's a really good European word for Binti's relationship to tribal identity [more European words]. With that stipulation, I'll use "ethnicity", since it seems close and is as clear as anything.) In "Binti", it's living within her ethnicity that guides her thoughts and choices and priorities -- just like the nerd is living within his nerdness. And it's what allows her to cut the Gordian knot of the Big Problem.
So one way to look at "Binti" seems to be the old pattern with the central quality coming from a very different direction.

Finally: (standard disclaimer: I avoid "all" and "only". When I say I see X, I am not excluding [A-W] or [Y,Z], I am just not talking about them at the moment.)
whole earth moon

Neil's political litmus test

When you're scared enough, you can't think straight.
When you're mad enough, you can't think straight.
So when someone is trying to scare me or make me mad, I ask, "Why don't they want me thinking straight?"

Jean Renoir commedia dell'arte

The Film Center has been doing an Anna Magniani retrospective, which I've unfortunately missed most of. But tonight was a Jean Renoir, The Golden Coach, and I had to catch it.
If I'd had expectations, they would have been wrong. It's commedia dell'arte about a commedia dell'arte troupe (!), who come to Lima around 1700. On the same ship they traveled on was the titular magnificent, unaffordable carriage built for the viceroy, which is the maguffin for half the action.
Everyone is a commedia dell'arte Type. The direction and cinematography are very proscenium. The color is lush, though a couple of the reels in this worn print were a little out of register. The final resolution of the plot knots smelled to me of Molière. And the score is all Vivaldi!

Once in a while I read or see or hear something that makes me wish I knew more of the subject so I would get more of it. This was delightful, but if I knew more theater, I suspect it would be even more.
Chicago (from Adler)


One of those things where getting old and tired can look like getting old and somewhat wise is learning to manipulate yourself to accommodate the weaknesses/bad habits which just aren't going to change.
One of the things I Don't-Get-To the most is laundry. I don't mind doing laundry much, I Just Don't Get To It. So my workaround is to be careful how much socks and underpants I own. After decades of thrifting, I recently culled several Large garbage bags of shirts to the resale shop and freecycled a score of pairs of pants so I'm down to hardly more than a hundred shirts. I haven't counted the pants . . . So when I literally can't get dressed because there are no clean socks, I Have To Do Laundry.
Well, the last generation of socks is starting to seriously wear out. Last week I was going a few other places which put me in between places with the time to do some shopping. I bought a dozen pair of socks AND a package of underpants.

There's been no point in thrifting, and not much money, but the day took me by one of my favorites (The Village on Milwaukee just north of Armitage & Western, for Chicagoans). I got 5 shirts and a pair of pants. And when I got home I steeled myself and went through my shirts and pulled six to recycle.
whole earth moon

Lifetime Peak

There's a sort of meta-experience I know precisely but have no common name for. Once in a while, you're in an extreme situation and right there in the middle of it, as it's happening, you know that this is your lifetime peak of this exact kind of thing.
(I used to hitchhike a lot. When I was in Australia, I hitched a total of about 6,000 miles, half the circumference. When I was about a third of the way from Melbourne to Adelaide, a guy picked me up who was starting a two week vacation, and had some of the interests I did, so he took me along. A two week ride. That will never happen again. There's also the story of the magnificent $2 thrift store Clearance wedding dress that Alice Insley Bentley ended up wearing to be married in . . . )
So there's this excellent bulletin board for giving things away called freecycle. I got a solid sleeper sofa a couple inches shorter than the distance between the wall outlets in my new living room, just before I moved here. I asked the guy if I could wait a couple weeks before picking it up; loaded the moving van; and swung by to get it. I have a microwave, a Cuisinart crock pot, and an Oster bread maker from freecycle.
A week or so ago, someone listed an 11th edition Britannica. Yes, the Britannica. I got it. I have a complete (large volumes, not well-bound) 11th Britannica.  free  Because someone was giving it away and I happened to be online when the come-and-get-it appeared.

"No, that's my front."

(stock snappy comeback to "You're back.")
In this year's campaign to do a little less nothing, I finally got the warranty repairs on my computer which fixed the internet connection, so I'm back to a real keyboard and screen instead of doing everything on my phone. So I'm likely to be back to the livejournal pages I used to haunt, and we'll see if my faceb ooking declines. [ooh, I like that typo. I'll leave it in.]

A Transposed Critical Opinion

I enjoy and strongly support con art shows. A place where anyone can exhibit is vital. Even at the worst, I think of the classic lament about the death of vaudeville: "There's no place to be bad any more." [attributed to George Burns]
But there's a phenomenon, or pattern, which is numerous and predictable enough to be, for me at least, its own category. Pieces which are executed with serious technical skill, but say nothing. "It's done very well, but why do it in the first place?"

That was the feeling I had through most of The Goblin Emperor. I couldn't find a single plot element that didn't seem painfully cliched, all the way through to the dashes and pinches of steampunk and feminism.
The craft with which the book is written is excellent. But why write the story yet again with nothing new added at all?