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At the end of the story of Korach ben Itzhar, the cousin of Moses who leads a strange rebellion in Numbers 16, Moses says

Numbers 16:29-30If these men die the common death of all men, and be visited after the visitation of all men, then the LORD hath not sent Me. But if the LORD make a new thing, and the ground open her mouth, and swallow them up, with all that appertain unto them, and they go down alive into the pit, then ye shall understand that these men have despised the LORD.


'Make a new thing' is a doubled use of the same Hebrew root letters, and that root is the root used in Genesis 1 to describe God's Creation of the world, so trying to preserve some of the sense of the Hebrew we might render it 'Create a creation'. Which is terribly infelicitous, so.

There is a debate among the more philosophical commentators about the nature of miracles. Rambam holds that God set in motion the natural laws of the world- physics, in a nut shell, and then because God is the Unity at the center of creation, God is able to alter those natural laws to effectuate something outside of them. Ramban, instead, holds that all of creation is constantly and miraculously being instantiated by God and that what seem to be miraculous violations of the natural laws of physics are just naturally within God's power. Both Rambam and Ramban are incredibly subtle and complicated thinkers and it's hard to say what either meant. It's possible this is not a debate and that they're truly in agreement. I do not claim to understand their teachings, which is why this post. But let's assume this is a debate as at least a starting axiom.

There's a third position, one which is at the same time even more naturalistic than Rambam and less, or which may be what Rambam is actually saying, I'm not sure. And it derives from this moment in the story of Korach.

Pirkei Avot 5:6 : Ten things were created on the eve of the [first] Shabbat at twilight. And these are they: The mouth of the earth [that swallowed Korach in Numbers 16:32]; and the mouth of the well [that accompanied the Israelites in the wilderness in Numbers 21:17]; and the mouth of the donkey [that spoke to Bilaam in Numbers 22:28–30]; and the rainbow [that served as a covenant after the flood in Genesis 9:13]; and the manna [that God provided the Israelites in the wilderness in Exodus 16:4–21]; and the staff [of Moshe]; and the shamir (the worm that helped build the Temple without metal tools); and the letters; and the writing; and the tablets [all of the latter three, of the Ten Commandments]. And some say, also the destructive spirits, and the burial place of Moshe, our teacher, and the ram of Abraham, our father. And some say, also the [first human-made] tongs, made with [Divine] tongs.



This is a really complicated Mishna that I don't understand at all, but it seems clear from the fact that the first item on the list is the mouth of the Earth that it's the phrase "Create a creation" that is the source for this logic. (I don't have the sources for all of the other things in this Mishna. I think the fact that the other two mouths are mentioned sbusequently suggests that the Earth-mouth is the source for all three of those. And I'm pretty sure there's no Torah source for the bit at the end about tongs, which is why it's just part of the 'and some say'... all that is purely Midrash Aggada) The Mishna is saying that Moses asked God to invoke a miracle of creation and this mouth that had been created at Creation and set up to swallow Korach swallowed up Korach. And it raises a lot of questions. It seems to be a response to this question of the nature of miracles, and its answer is in one sense more naturalistic than the Rambam: Not only is the world run according to natural laws set in motion at creation, but even things that apparently work outside of the laws of nature are actually naturally set in motion at creation as part of a special step in creation that took place Bein Hashmashot of Erev Shabbat.

Yet this is a hugely problematic theory for Jews because it seems to propose a completely deterministic universe where an intervention like the Earth swallowing up Korach for sinning against Moses and God can be preprogrammed as part of creation. If this is the case, where is free will? Where is Korach's ability to choose on his own whether or not to sin, if this preprogrammed miracle Earth-mouth was created as part of the Creation of the World?
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Dear [community profile] fic_corner Writer

Thank you for writing me a story! My childhood favorites are not sacred and I'm interested in seeing however you see fit to explore them.

Here were my prompts:


Cyber.kdz - Bruce Balan
Fandom tl;dr: Teenage adventures with dial-up modems!

I love this fandom so much. The idea of the Net as this unregulated frontier where kids could make a difference because only their actions, not their appearances, mattered. And the found family, who bickered with each other endlessly but ultimately stood up for each other when someone needed it.

The Grounding of Group Six - Julian F. Thompson
Fandom tl;dr: Just an ordinary story about ordinary kids at an alternative school involving lots of camping


My usual request for this fandom is pure trollfic: Write a fluffy school story with none of the darkness of the original canon and act like that's all that's there. To see if you can lure unsuspecting people into the ridiculousness that is this book. Basically write a fic as if the cover story from the end of the book, where Group Six was just overlooked and nobody remembered to recall them, were true.

I realize this is a deeply specific request and I am fine if you disregard it and write something that actually engages with the story as it actually exists.

Westing Game - Ellen Raskin
Fandom tl;dr: Chess and mystery and money and wordplay and family, complicated family

I love everything about the Westing Game and its twisty, emotionally complicated payoff, and would love to see more about any character.

I also have this theory... let me dig it up.

Sam Westing is involved in a car accident leading up to his disappearance which is an extremely mysterious event. It is apparently real- Sykes's limp is real, not faked, per Chris, and the only limp in the book not the result of a Turtle kick. And it results in facial disfiguration for Sam, but of a sort that is dramatic enough to render him unrecognizable to his ex-wife when he is Sandy, but not enough that he cannot mask it (presumably with makeup?) when he is in his Northrup or Eastman guise. I do not understand the import of the accident. If the accident is what changed his outlook on life, why wait 20 years after for his revenge/game/reparations?

...For Turtle to be Sam's rightful heir, she has to ultimately 'win' the game, which most straightforwardly means either a)finding the fourth or b)beating Sam at chess, which JJ and Theo never managed and nobody else in the game ever attempted. But Sam is not the kind of person who happily loses games. Sam's game is set up so that neither Turtle nor JJ nor anyone else has to win, but... what happens to Eastman's money in that scenario, if Turtle loses? Does he have to set up another Westing game with new heirs to manipulate? Is there the possiblity that this is not the first Westing game he has run? Is the quest for heirs the thing which has occupied the twenty years since Westing's disappearance?



So basically I would love to see a take on a different Westing Game, a different grasping and overly manipulative attempt for redemption from Sam Westing.

Sizzle & Splat Series - Ronald Kidder
Fandom tl;dr: Youth orchestra members, clarinetist and tubist, team up to fight crime.

Hans Kleiman is my favorite character in the series but I'll take anything with Sizzle and/or Splat. I love Kleiman's fusion of games and music, as a passionate enthusiast of both myself. I wish there were more of him, I wish he didn't have to die to impel the story's action, because his chemistry with Sizzle is wonderful.

Star Voyager Academy - William Forstchen
Fandom tl;dr: Book 1: Harry Potter at Starfleet Academy. Book 2: Harry Potter on his first mission for Starfleet. Book 3: Harry Potter is an alcoholic former Starfleet officer enlisted to make first contact with aliens

I think I'd like to actually see the war, you know? The part bizarrely skipped between books 2 and 3, where everything went to shit in utterly predictable but no less tragic ways.

i ship Matt/Justin, I ship Tanya/Justin, I ship Thor/Jason, I ship Tanya/Madison... Not so interested in Justin/Brian or Matt/Brian, I think. And I'd also love gen. Falcon fighting gen! Complicated morally ambiguous battle gen! Academy hijinks gen!
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Rabbi Joseph Dweck's lecture on male homosexuality and Torah

Rabbi Dweck's Sefaria source sheet

Rabbi Dweck's subsequent clarifications on his lecture




Presented without specific comment on the content (I am prepared to discuss the content privately if asked). I don't agree with everything Rabbi Dweck teaches here, I don't disagree with everything Rabbi Dweck teaches here, but I admire him greatly for the bravery and kiddush Hashem of risking his career to move this conversation forward in our community. And the fact that these teachings could ruin his career breaks my heart, because there are too many lives at stake in this conversation. The Orthodox community needs to be more honest with ourselves about that.
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Oh man, when I was a kid I used to run home after school to watch Batman reruns on WPIX 11. I'm pretty sure I didn't know they were reruns, I just knew that they were awesome. I was obsessed with the show, with the POWs and the BAMs and the ZAPs. My grandmother sewed me an Adam West Batman costume for a birthday one year and I proudly strutted around the house.


When I heard the news this evening, I popped in my DVD (I have two complete sets, a bootleg set from before the official DVD set was released, and the official release) and watched The Bookworm Turns/ While Gotham Burns, which I remembered as always being one of my favorite episodes. Roddy McDowall as the Bookworm, a failed novelist turned thief, who conceives of his crimes as novels, with serial chapters and plot twists galore. I watched and I remembered little preteen Ferret, thrilled to death with the idea of a crime where having memorized the complete works of Hemingway and Cervantes could help one crack the case. Where the villain pauses before executing his crime to remind his henchmen that in Burns, it's "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men', not 'the best laid plans'. Adam West's Batman was always absurd (He stops Robin while in the midst of climbing sideways up a building to remind him to always climb with two hands on the rope; He stops the Bookworm's gang before a fight to remind them to set aside their glasses lest they get damaged.), but there was a message behind it: a message about the power of intelligence and moral behavior to triumph over brute strength and selfishness. Crime doesn't pay.




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For [personal profile] morbane

A Playlist of Interesting Instrumental Music

"River Pulse" - Anoushka Shankar

Shankar is ravishingly, ferociously talented on the sitar, in ways that feel so individualistic that comparisons to her famous sitarist father don't seem useful.

"Carmen Fantasie- Movement 1" - Anne Sophie Mutter

I love the whole thing, a virtuoso violin adaptation of themes from Bizet's opera, and I particularly love Mutter's rendition, but here, have a taste and see if you can choose not to seek out of the rest.

"Death by Triple Fiddle"- Edgar Meyer, Joshua Bell, Sam Bush, Mike Marshall

-So many fiddles! So fast! And Joshua Bell's electrifying solo!

"Mah Yedidus" - Andy Statman and co.

-I just mentioned Statman's concert last week. This song... It's a bluegrass rendition of a Jewish song traditionally sung at Shabbat lunch. I love the fusion so much.

"Caravan" - Fanfare Ciocarla

-Romanian wedding band cover of a Duke Ellington classic

"King Porter Stomp" - Wynton Marsalis

-An elegant modern take on one of the THE essential jazz tunes... which honestly I am putting here because I HATEd leaving it off the playlist I made for [personal profile] liv.


Download morbane's playlist here


For [personal profile] bookherd

A Playlist of Songs I Can Listen to On Indefinite Repeat When I Have A Headache


"Twinklebell Canon" by Rodney Farrar's Fat Notes

-Cello choir mashup of Pachelbel's Canon and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It actually works, trust me.

"Vexation of Erik Satie" - Jean-Yves Thibaudet

-A ridiculous piano piece that comes with instructions to play 840 repeats. Needless to say, it's not been performed in its entirety many times, and it's unclear if Satie ever really intended for it to be performed, but it hits a nice balance for me between repetitive and having enough harmonic content to hold a tiny part of your brain occupied.

"U Smile Slowed Down 800%" by Justin Bieber

-This was a weird viral hit a few years ago, and I actually wrote a whole NaNo novel while listening to this on repeat. It's freakishly soothing.

"Sakura, Sakura" by Chanticleer

-Honestly you can't go wrong with anything by Chanticleer, right? This is a Japanese folk melody.

"Untitled 1" by Sigur Ros

-From their weird Hopelandic album (), spacy and gorgeous, with a clear sense that the band is operating in a different paradigm of time.


Download bookherd's playlist here
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For [personal profile] liv

A Playlist of Jazz from the Last 20 Years

This turned out to be harder to make than I thought it would be... I cut a lot of great music to keep the time down to something sort of reasonable.

"Sleeping Wild" by Norah Jones

-Wonderfully insistent bass line, perfect minimalist piano solo, and simple, affecting vocals from Jones... a song that looks like it could've been song from her debut album except that the musicianship is better in every way.

"Hadasha" by Electric Masada

-Mutated version of the Klezmer/Avant Garde jazz fusion that John Zorn pioneered in the early '90s with Masada. This is from an early '2000s concert held in honor of Zorn's 50th birthday. A set of inspired musicians led by guitarist Marc Ribot, percussionists Cyro Baptista and Joey Barron, with extra weirdness contributed by Ikue Mori. And of course some wonderful saxophone from Zorn, reminding you at times of how much he's taken from Coltrane.

"Umbrella" by Postmodern Jukebox ft. Casey Abrams

- Um... It is a jazz cover of the Rihanna hit. Because it's silly. With winks to the standard "Singing in the Rain" for extra fun.

"Bear Town" by Polar Bear

-I originally was going to have both Polar Bear and Basquiat Strings hold down the fort for modern experimental jazz, but realized that was kind of redundant, since Seb Rochford drums for both. I went with this song, which has one of the best grooves of either band.

"Pointless Nostalgic" by Jamie Cullum

-For my money, Cullum is the best of the modern standards singers, with a bright tone and a willingness to borrow selectively from modern pop without sounding like he's trying too hard to create a crossover hit.

"Transit" by Darcy James Argue's Secret Society

-It's an argument that the big band is not yet dead. And a pretty convincing one, if you ask me.

"Transformation" by Terri Lyne Carrington

-Off "The Mosaic Project", an album featuring a range of female vocalists and an all-female jazz/funk band helmed by drummer Carrington. This song features vocals from Nona Hendryx of the soul trio Labelle.

"Optimism" by Vijay Iyer

-I struggled for a while trying to decide which song from Accelerando I wanted to include here, because I love the whole album so much. Iyer's piano sound is so exciting.


Download Liv's Playlist here




For [personal profile] chaila

A Playlist of Music That Could Maybe Possibly Be Wonder Woman Vidsongs??!?

Yeah, I dunno, [personal profile] chaila and I choose vidsongs based on such different criteria that the odds I give her anything useful are pretty low, but hopefully the songs are enjoyable on their own terms.


"Oxygen" by Renee Fleming

-"I wanna be cooler than T.V. / For all the kids that are wondering what they're going to be" List of previous fannish characters I have suggested vidding this song to: CJ Cregg, Birgitte Nyborg, Kara Danvers.

"Naima" by Karrin Allyson

-Lovely vocal cover of John Coltrane's ode to his wife.

"Legends" by Julia Ecklar

-"I remember Apollo, / Who flew the chariot of the Sun. / And I wonder of the legends they will tell / A thousand years from now."

"No Anthems" by Sleater-Kinney

-"To feel rhythm in silence / A weapon not violence / A power, power source". Also Sleater-Kinney for all the vidsongs!

"One of the Boys" by Gretchen Wilson

-"But I still got this little girl inside of me / That likes to be treated like a queen". A song where you'd have to work against the regressive country-music-ness of it, but I think all of the problem lyrics are at least potentially workable.

"We Can Rise" by Chana Rothman

-"Where on Earth will my help come from? / I come from heaven/ I come from Earth / I come from life / I come from my birth." Also, Hebrew for Gal Gadot? (Adapted from Psalm 121, fwiw)

"Sunrise" by Jefferson Starship

-"Two thousand years / Of your / God damned / Glory" Because Grace Slick is the best. And fuck the patriarchy.

"Laughing With" by Regina Spektor

-"But God can be funny/ at a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke." Because Diana's divinity is so interesting and complicated.



Download Chaila's Playlist here



[personal profile] morbane, your playlist may take another couple of days.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
I haven't done this in a few years, and I had fun the last time...

Comment on this post and I'll make you a playlist. If you want to specify things you are looking for musically, you can, otherwise I'll just surprise you.
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The [community profile] wiscon_vidparty vidshow had 19 premieres this year, which is amazing, and a lot of them are just incredible vids. I wanted to highlight some of my favorites:



Stamina (women's sports) by [personal profile] runawaynun

SO GREAT! I love the way it revels in the wonders of female physicality but also deals with the political and historical struggles that had to be fought to allow these women to become the athletes they did.

I Am The One Who Will Remember Everything (Harry Potter) by [personal profile] chaila

The most amazing McGonagall vid. It has so much going on, so many narrative throughlines, all of McGonagall's students and all of the ways in which she shapes them and they shape her. I actually reread Sorcerer's Stone today in its wake and all of McGonagall's scenes read SO DIFFERENTLY now.


Field Work (Imperial March) (Indiana Jones) by [personal profile] eruthros

So slyly ironic at first, so devastatingly incisive as it ramps up.
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[community profile] jukebox_fest revealed its stories!

I got an awesome fic for David Bowie's "Starman".

Do Rock Stars Come From Outer Space? (1220 words) by Anonymous
Chapters: 1/1
Fandom: Starman - David Bowie (Song)
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Original Character/Original Character
Characters: Johnny (The Narrator), Claire, Claire's Father, The DJ, The Starman
Additional Tags: Alternate Universe - 1970s, Science Fiction, Rock Stars, Glam Rock, Gender Identity, Romance, Hopeful Ending
Summary:

Rock stars are too beautiful to be mere human beings. They must be aliens...





Find the rest of the stories in the collection here.
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It was great! I didn't really expect it to be great, but it was. The action was so kinetic and joyful- ZOMG Diana's smile when she's using her powers!- and it sat on top of harmonious thematic development about the difficulty and moral complexity of war. Diana questing to slay Ares, as if War were a thing that could be slain like a dragon, and then realizing that truth is a much deeper ideal and that standing up for those who can't protect themselves is a much worthier way of waging war against Ares than trying to slay him with a sword.

Chris Pine was really good as Steve Trevor, this world-weary doomed soldier who slaves his fortunes to Diana's because "there's only two choices- doing something, and doing nothing, and I already tried doing nothing." He is unapologetically sexist and so is everyone else in the movie, and that's not something anyone in the movie, even Diana, really tries to change. But he recognizes Diana's heroism and her power and he invests himself in trying to support it even when it costs him. [The world of Wonder Woman is a mess, and it's not getting better fast, but there is the chance for it to get a little better, and that's enough for Wonder Woman to fight for. It's a very gradualist feminism. I think it's striking that unlike in The First Avenger, where Cap has comic books and all sorts of imagery of legacy and inspiration, Wonder Woman doesn't really show mundanes being inspired by her example- other than one town that subsequently got wiped out by von Ludendorff.]


But mostly, DIANA WAS SO GREAT. (I am anxiously awaiting [personal profile] chaila's post(s) on the movie- nobody articulates the sheer joy of Diana fangirling as effectively as she does). LITTLE BABY DIANA MIMING USING A SWORD. DIANA WINNING HER FIGHT AGAINST ANTIOPE AND THEN GETTING BLINDSIDED WHEN ANTIOPE DOESN'T FIGHT FAIR... AND THEN DIANA NOT FIGHTING FAIR EITHER. DIANA AND ALL THE USES OF THE LASSO. DIANA NOT UNDERSTANDING HOW YOU COULD FIGHT IN A DRESS. DIANA READING ALL 12 VOLUMES OF CLEO's TREATISES ON THE BODY AND PLEASURE. DIANA CHARGING INTO NO-MAN'S LAND, BECAUSE SHE'S NOT A MAN. EVERYTHING SHE DOES IS AMAAAAAZING.


PLEASE CAN WE GET WONDER WOMAN 2??
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I did something this week I'd been meaning to do since I was in college: Went to one of Andy Statman's regular residence gigs at the Charles Street shul in the Village. He's been in residence there since, like, the late 90s, and I spent four years in the mid '00s just a half mile east, and I knew he was playing shows, and I knew I loved Andy Statman's music like burning, but I never managed to do it. Because his weekly gig was on Thursday nights and Thursday nights were usually frisbee team practice in Union Square, I think.


Statman is a klezmer clarinetist and bluegrass mandolinist and sometimes a jewgrass mandolinist/clarinetist. He plays both instruments with prodigious speed and fluency, and more importantly, with tremendous soul and spirit. He was a student of the great klezmer clarinetist Dave Tarras and became one of the great proponents of the '70s klezmer revival.

I came across one of his albums in the library last week and said "Hey, I wonder if he's still playing at Charles Street" and I checked and he was, so I went in to the City to see the show.

The concerts are in the tiny and cramped basement of the shul, with Hebrew school posters of the Alef Bes on the walls. There was a bottle of vodka and some pareve cookies on a table, apparently for anybody who wanted to take. They didn't take admission, but at intermission the shul president asked everyone who could afford it for a fifteen dollar donation. When a woman tried to give him a twenty, he forced her to take change. It was, in short, one of the most heimishe concerts I've ever been at.

And the music was splendid, an opening set of klezmer with Statman blowing beautiful strings of notes on his clarinet along with his trio of bassist Jim Whitney and drummer Larry Eagle (Highlighted by 'the Lobster song', supposed a song played by Romanian Jewish lobstermen in early 20th century Maine while they gathered their treif bounty), followed by an instrumental bluegrass set. They were later joined by visiting guitarist and bluegrass singer Gene Yellin for a handful of songs. They made up the setlist as they want along, sometimes just strumming a chord or a simple melody to get the rest of the band on the same page. Yellin wanted to play a couple of songs that Whitney and Eagle didn't know- Whitney told Yellin and Statman- "You two get started, we'll either figure it out and catch up or we won't." Spoiler alert: They figured it out.

The whole experience was a blast, getting to hear such great music in such a low key setting. I need to go back again when I get a chance.
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A few things:

A friend from college just posted this comic, and it's pretty amazing and should be shared widely: http://www.charipere.com/blog/miscarried (TW: The title pretty much gives it away. Deals with miscarriage and living with loss)



On a completely different note, I've been watching How To Make It In America and struggling to articulate a genre name for a thing I love which links How to Make it In America with shows as disparate as Orphan Black and The Wire and Suits and some other shows I love. What these shows have in common is that they use the mechanics of the competence porn subgenre- supernaturally clever and skilled protagonists working together in teams that maximize everyone's potentials- but the good guys don't always win at the end of the hour.

The rush I get from watching these shows is definitely the same I get from watching shows like Leverage or Bones or the Flash, the hustle of adjusting plans on the fly to deal with unanticipated obstacles, the sudden insight of how to creatively route around a problem... but somehow outside the genre requirement that the end of the episode bring a triumph and a close to the episodic structure.

How To Make It In America sometimes closes its episodes with its heroes getting an unexpected order to make 300 T-shirts by next Wednesday, when they'd gone in looking to sell jeans. But it just as often ends its episodes with those 300 shirts, frantically and competently sourced from a mysterious warehouse in Greenpoint, stolen when the truck they were sitting in was jacked.

I really like that combination of competence and failure. But I don't have a vocabulary to describe the generic conventions of these stories, though I think they do have conventions. Like, there's a very specific kind of defeat-snatched-from-the-jaws-of-victory beat that I've seen on all the shows I mentioned, and a very specific gutpunched-character-sits-alone-while-sad-usually-indie-music-plays-into-the-credits beat.


Incompetence Porn? Anti-Competence Porn? Failure Porn? None of these names seem quite adequate to call what I'm describing. Possibly it's just Competence Porn That's Weirdly Paced... it's very common on these shows for the heroes to hit the tropey denouement of a competence porn plot at the three quarters mark, and it feels like the episode is over, and then rather than the episode ending, the remaining quarter of the show is the letdown. But we could, I suppose, think of that as really being the first fifteen minutes of the next episode of a competence porn storyline, time-shifted to the end of the previous episode.




Also, I finished reading the Meyer's history of Reform Judaism, which remained just as frustratingly full of interesting factoids yet tantalizingly far from enough detail fleshing out any of those factoids to the finish. The biggest hole in the book is in Meyer's discussion of the Reform Movement's actions during the Holocaust- I think there's a general sense in the Jewish community that because of Reform's connections at the time to the richest and most politically influential Jews in America, it could have done more than it did to mitigate the effects of the Holocaust, and nothing Meyer says refutes this sense, but... he mostly chose to skip over any serious discussion of what Reform did do during the Holocaust, despite covering both the immediate pre-war and post-war eras at length. It's an omission that felt cowardly to me.

I also had feelings about his discussion of Sally Priesand, since unlike most of the other interesting factoids taking all of a page in the book that I wanted to read a whole book about, I actually have read the whole book about Sally Priesand. I did think Meyer actually fleshed out some questions I had after reading Nadell's book... it seems clearer, in the wake of Meyer, that women Rabbis became an inevitability in Reform Judaism only after the merger of HUC and JIS- the institutional politics of the various campuses of HUC-JIS is something Nadell wasn't all that interested in.

All in all, I'm glad I read the book, but it's probably going to lead to a lot more reading about Jewish history to answer all the questions it left me with. But that's okay.
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I submitted my vid for Club Vivid last night!!!

Looking through emails, I conceived the idea for this vid at the start of October, started collecting clips on 10/15, had the first draft on 11/28. I have put so much work into this vid over what is for me a very long time to work on a fanwork. I definitely think this is the fannish project I've put the most of myself into.

It feels very funny to be done with this thing that's consumed so much of my attention for months. I celebrated the completion by doing a shot of slivovitz, as felt appropriate. I subsequently felt a little dizzy, but I'm not sure if that's because of the liquor or the feeling of loss.

August seems a long way away. Funny to have to sit on a fanwork for so long before sharing it. I'm used to the instant gratification of finishing something, posting it, and getting comments more or less right away. I widened the circle of people I asked to beta in the last week, so I did get to see some new people reacting to seeing it for the first time, including the first set of people I actually literally was in the same room with and watched them react to it. They responded as I'd hoped and it was awesome.

I can't wait to dance to my vid at Vividcon.
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Last night I went to a Star Wars themed pub trivia event in honor of May the 4th. I went with a team of people I've been fannish about Star Wars with for fifteen years- we've done Star Wars rpgs together, we've gone to cons together, we've grown up talking EU books together. I didn't expect we'd win, as I'm well aware that there are many people more obsessive about Star Wars than I am, but I thought we'd do decently. I'm usually good at trivia in general and I'm usually good at knowing things about Star Wars.

We were holding at 5th through most of the evening, but slipped to 9th at the end (out of about 15). I'd have been pleased with fifth, but 9th is kind of sticking in my craw.

It turned out the night tilted a little more toward The Force Awakens and Rogue One than we were comfortable with. I've seen TFA maybe three times, and R1 once, plus a bunch of rewatching parts of TFA with the sound off while vidding "Science Fiction Double Feature". But it's more than just "Eh, they're new movies, we haven't had time to watch them as much." I haven't read the novelizations, I've only read one of the tie-in novels, I haven't read the technical manuals. Whereas with the original movies AND the prequels, I've done those things. Obsessively.

Yet we can hardly say I've been unfannish about the new films, given that I just vidded TFA, a process that took quite a few hours of investment. I think it's interesting how differently I've been interacting fannishly with TFA and R1. And sorta frustrating. I guess I want to have the same level of obsessive trivial knowledge about the new movies, but I don't want to put in the work. :P
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Cyrano de Bergerac by Franco Alfano, staged at the Met with Roberto Alagna as Cyrano

This was actually really good. I'm surprised, I didn't know what to expect of Alfano, who's most famous for finishing Puccini's Turandot (yuck) rather than for his own original work. The drama was exceptionally tightly plotted, the vocal lines were pretty and the orchestration made surprisingly ironic use of its lush post-romanticism.

Written in the 1930s based on a play written in the 1890s, it felt like an opera of the 1890s in spirit- A sort of verismo mostly unaware of Schoenberg, Debussy, Stravinsky. But I'm not sure I mean that in as negative a way as I normally do. In some sense there was a rightness to the choice- Cyrano de Bergerac is a story about a bygone era and that Romantic nostalgia is consonant thematically with the story being told.

The only major problem I had with the transplant to opera is that the Baron is a little too similar to typical operatic empty shirt tenor heroes that we're supposed to root for, not quite ridiculous enough, because he is not supposed to be a villain either. So the idea that Roxane may end up with him does not seem quite as horrifying as it should, to an audience inured by offensively banal romantic operas. The third act does not quite hold together as a result, a little too frantic in its movements to fully develop its principal characters. But the fourth act... What a gorgeously executed "15 years later," a jump that stands in for a kind of romantic development most operatic composers can't quite evoke in the time they have available to them. One of the reasons opera love is broken is that you can't invest the time it takes to actually show real relationships forge themselves on stage, unless, you know, you're Strauss. But the 15 years later jump here sold me- the Cyrano/Roxane relationship that followed speaks clearly of 15 years of development.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Title: Science Fiction Double Feature
Fandom: Star Wars A New Hope/ Star Wars The Force Awakens (geddit? It's a double feature!)
Vidder: seekingferret
Song: "Science Fiction Double Feature" by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Content Notes: Canonical Major Character Death, Violence
Length: 2:29
Responsible for the lack of consistent title block from vid to vid: seekingferret
Summary A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, God said let there be lips. And there were, and they were good.
Created For: [personal profile] niyalune [community profile] equinox_exchange Spring 2017
Acknowledgements: thanks for [personal profile] thirdblindmouse for betaing!
Originally posted: here on AO3



My primary vid for Equinox was "Science Fiction Double Feature", a Star Wars fanvid to the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes punk cover of the opening song from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I'm really pleased with how it turned out, how it's informed both by the Star Wars fandom meta side and by the Rocky Horror fandom meta side as it tells a story about the cyclical nature of media franchises and scifi as a genre in general- the literal 'double feature' in my vid is A New Hope and The Force Awakens, the iconic original film that is itself a transparent remix of things like the classic Flash Gordon serials, and the awesome new remix of the original film.


So... my relationship with Rocky Horror is complex. I was first introduced to it at nerd camp, where a costumed performance of "Sweet Transvestite" was a Second Saturday ritual and where quite a few of the campers knew the callbacks by heart. Because of its association with nerd camp, and because my friends enjoyed it, I watched it with nerd camp friends several times in the years after we left nerd camp- it was a habitual part of our reunions.

My opinion on RHPS, as a film, is simple: I think it's terrible and I think once you get to the Floor Show it becomes unwatchably terrible. That said, it can be fun to watch the earlier parts with good friends, and some of the callbacks are amusing. And for a movie that I dislike, it has a lot of good memories attached to it.

And I do resonate with the opening song and with the movie's idea of looking back nostalgically at early 20th century B movie SF. Which, not coincidentally, is what Star Wars, released only 2 years after Rocky Horror, is also doing- though they're tonally completely different, they're nostalgic about the exact same movies! I make a lot of vids where I find some inexplicable and surprising connection between two disparate fandoms/memes/themes, but that's not what this is. This is a vid about the very real nostalgia that drove the creation of both Star Wars and Rocky Horror. And how that cycle of nostalgia has looped around to the point where, cashing in on nostalgia for Star Wars, JJ Abrams created The Force Awakens as a coherent, recognizable remix of Star Wars.

I'm super pleased with so many of the lyric matches- Han and Chewie as Fay Wray and King Kong, Obi Wan as the Invisible Man, BB-88 as the Tarantula, Threepio as Anne Francis in both verses, Peter Cushing's Tarkin as Dr. X (he was, of course, cast as Tarkin because he spent so many decades playing various creature builders in various B SF films), Vader and Kylo as the Androids Fighting, and wrapping up each verse with the cantina crew as Rocky Horror fandom itself, which is to say Star Wars fandom, a crew of wonderful weirdos united by our shared obsession with skiffy. The song maps to Star Wars incredibly easily, really.

At the end I threw in a joke based on one of the Rocky Horror callbacks, because it felt necessary to acknowledge that part of the fannish experience of Rocky Horror- a twist on the Fuck the Back Row/ Fuck the Front Row/ Fuck All the Rows! callback that ends instead "Fuck Kylo Ren!" Which I figure is something everyone in Star Wars fandom ought to be able to agree about.

The opening callback in the standard Rocky script begins "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away." There is, again, in the fandom a significant connection between Star Wars and Rocky Horror. In different ways they speak to the same things. To be honest as I was vidding and listening to the song over and over I kept hearing the callbacks in my head... I'm not sure there are any other conscious references to callbacks in the vid, beyond the Fuck the Back Row joke, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were subconscious ones, places where my lyric matches are informed as much by the fannish subtext of Rocky Horror as by the actual text of the song. Certainly I had great pause about how to vid the "Brad and Janet" lines not because of who Brad and Janet represent in the film, but because of what they represent in the fannish consciousness. Anyone I tagged as Janet would carry the 'slut' moniker with her, and, for example, I definitely did not want that anywhere near Princess Leia. But I also was hesitant about tagging a male character as Janet the slut because that kind of joke is at least potentially transphobic. So certainly the fannish consciousness of Rocky Horror shaped how I approached the vid.

I made the vid before [personal profile] niyalune posted their letter, and really before looking very closely at their journal, so I was relieved when I poked at their work to find their awesome Brooklyn 9-9 vid to The Time Warp, which signaled to me that I was in the right territory. In other meta thoughts, I was amused as hell when I opened my present and found that for the second exchange in a row, I both received and gave a vid with music by the same band- in Festivids it was They Might Be Giants, this time it was Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Both are, I think, really vid-friendly bands. TMBG because they sing songs about specific things, which can provide better grounding for vidders than songs that are just about vague romantic feelings. And Me First because their uptempo covers can give a foothold to vidders who find the slower paced originals require too much support from the images.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Title: Feasting and Dancing
Fandom: Star Wars Original Trilogy
Vidder: seekingferret
Song: "This Year" by the Mountain Goats
Content Notes: Canonical Major Character Death, Violence, Child Abuse
Length: 3:40
Responsible for the lack of consistent title block from vid to vid: seekingferret
Summary Ready for the bad things to come.
Created For: [personal profile] niyalune [community profile] equinox_exchange Spring 2017
Originally posted: Here to AO3




I was looking to do something with Skywalker family angst, per [personal profile] niyalune's request. It was kind of a tossup between the song I ended up choosing, "This Year" by the Mountain goats, and fun.'s "Carry On"- both songs about just putting your shoulder to the wheel and enduring pain and loss and sadness to hopefully get to the good stuff you're not entirely certain is around the corner. Ultimately the evil stepfather stuff in "This Year" carried the day- I was talking to [livejournal.com profile] allandaros and he commented on how, of all the fictional characters with daddy issues, Luke and Leia's daddy issues are perhaps the most legit- their daddy is actually a genocidal maniac. If anyone deserves the right to bitch about his daddy issues, it's Luke Skywalker. And yet... "This Year" is a brutal song, but it's also a self-mocking song. The narrator, looking back on his teenage years, knows to some level that the abuse was not his fault, but he also knows that as a teenager he was a stupid teenager. The absurdity of "I am going to make it through this year if it kills me" anchors the song, and then Darnielle piles on ironies like "I was seventeen years young" and "twin high maintenance machines" (I reversed the polarity of that one back to literal for double irony points by making the Falcon and Luke's X-Wing the high maintenance machines ferrying around their high maintenance pilots). This is a vid about how Luke is a ridiculous child who turns into a hero in spite of having a hell of a lot stacked against him.

This vid was harder to figure out than "Science Fiction Double Feature"- the lyric matches less obvious, the narrative trickier. I had to do the opening thirty seconds four times, over the course of two weeks, before I had it down. At first I had a much longer whomping Luke section at the start where I played out, over the instrumental prelude, each of a series of terrible things happening to Luke- the dianoga attack, the wampa attack, crashing his airspeeder, etc... It didn't work- the whole thing was too slow and repetitive and the story I was telling didn't really start way for too long, so I had to cut back the instrumental prelude, trim back all the whomping of Luke into a much more economical narrative, and get into "I broke free on a Saturday morning" and Luke's actual agency much quicker and the section started to gel. Then I stalled out for a month, before finishing the remaining two minutes in about a week. I think I needed to stew on the vid to decide how to pace it, when Vader would reappear and which moments told the story. I also considered for a while whether Leia's daddy issues belonged- ultimately I decided that the song didn't have the narrative density to support those dual narratives, but that's a question that to some degree still lingers for me as a what-if. There are a couple of places in the song that seem like natural places to introduce a new perspective, but I am less certain that there are natural places to conclude the second narrative. I could see introducing the torture droid scene from ANH, I could see Leia running full-steam ahead, blaster locked and loaded, in the mid sections, but I couldn't see how the ending of the Leia narrative looked. She never gets to confront her father the way Luke does.

I hit "there will be dancing and feasting in Jerusalem next year" and really struggled with what to do after that. It's an obvious lyrical match for the end of RotJ- Luke triumphant, having escaped/surmounted his father's shadow. But if I do that jump, how does the vid continue? How do I work my way back to the final chorus, and then to the thirty seconds of instrumental coda that follow the last chorus? I jokingly told [personal profile] sanguinity I was thinking of just stopping there- Luke celebrates with his new family over the final chorus, then thirty seconds of credits. But it was an unsatisfying solution, so what I ended up doing was switching mid-chorus from the RotJ celebration to Luke's final battle, as if to say that the celebration still lies in the future, he's still fighting for his soul and his father's soul, and the abuse is something he'll carry even after the celebration. Even though it was forced by the song and not my original plan, I think it worked out better than if I'd ended the song with Luke's pure, unambiguous triumph. There is an integrity as a vidder in trusting the song you've committed to- if it truly is the right song, it will teach you how to vid to it, nudge you into new understandings of the characters. And if it's the wrong song, well, then you add it to the ever-growing scrap heap of failed vid ideas.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
I've been thinking, as I wrote in my last D&D post, about how to do the more natural settings in my new campaign in a way that both explores the economic questions and maintains the sense of whimsy and adventure you want in a fantasy adventure and it struck me that the obvious approach is to use Fey. The very nature of Fey adventures is tied up in questions of contracts and obligations, it's inherently economic in nature. Players want to exploit a mine, but in order to gain access they need to make deals with the local fey, whose goals may be orthogonal to predictable economic aims, but whose practices are definitely economic in nature.

This creates a really interesting potential scenario: Beneficial contracts that players make with fey accrue immediate guild merits (XP) toward levelling, but if a deal with a fey is ever breached, players lose those guild merits and potentially can de-level. I really like this effect, it makes breaking fey contracts have real, meaningful teeth to the players on a metaphysical level.

Larger contracts between Auction Houses and fey kingdoms are also a wonderful source of adventure hooks, as such deals no doubt require periodic acts of maintenance. I'm imagining a scenario like where the Deal is that in order to ensure safe passage across a river in fey territory, all the Carter's Guild needs to present the local fey lord with a small, somewhat obscure but not valuable gem every year- the kind of payment where the players might wonder what the hell the faeries want with it. The players try to cross the river and the fey lord, wearing an outfit beautifully adorned with hundreds of identical gems showing that this Deal has been in force for centuries and revealing the intricate way that this ageless lord executes plans over long time scales, denies them passage until they present him this year's gem. And he doesn't deny them passage by force, but with a simple but immensely powerful teleport spell. Any time they try to cross the river, they end up back where they started. I can do so much with this kind of story element.


So I'm going to need to think up the details of the organization, such as it is, of the fey in the Mannheim Vale. I definitely want multiple kingdoms/courts of fey, but I probably also want individual loner fey creatures.
seekingferret: Photo of me with my 2012 Purim beard, with stripes shaven into it. (Default)
Just watched an IA episode of a police procedural. And I was wondering- has anyone ever made a morally satisfying internal affairs episode on such a show? IA episodes have to be my least favorite trope of police procedurals because all police procedurals are morally bankrupt, or at least morally driven by the dictates of closing plots in 40 minutes or less. Yet we are still supposed to regard the protagonists as the heroes, or the premise of the show doesn't work. So an IA episode involves, for one 40 minute or sometimes 80 minute period, looking back at past episodes of the show from an external, absolutist moral lens. It makes no sense within the internal morality of the show, and given that as soon as the IA episode is cleared, usually by a deus ex machina that bestows no meaningful consequences on our heroes and often affirms their cloudy moral horizons as righteous, morality returns to amoral normal, it does not serve to create a new moral status quo.


Maybe the Wire achieves a successful IA storyline? I've only seen the first season, so I'm not sure, but I guess I could believe the Wire could pull it off because the Wire doesn't require us to think of the police as the heroes of the show and it doesn't require us rooting for their success.

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