seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
As I mentioned a while ago, after much anticipation, Rabbi Ethan Tucker and Rabbi Micha'el Rosenberg's book Gender Equality and Prayer in Jewish Law came out earlier this year. This book, in draft electronic form, has been much circulated among Open Orthodox connected people, so I've been hearing people talking about it for years. I read it and digested it slowly, because it's dense and thematically challenging, but finished it sometime during my travels last week.

The book is not prescriptive at all- it's not p'sak, an authoritative ruling on the questions it asks. It's a review of the halachic questions involved in a)Can women lead a prayer service? and b)Can women be counted as part of a minyan prayer quorum according to Orthodox Jewish law? It's not a simple question, and Tucker and Rosenberg write carefully to force the reader to think through all of the implications of the question.

In particular, Rabbis Tucker and Rosenberg take care to make sure halachic decisors do not reach the right end (which for them is clearly a reformulation of Jewish ritual practice that creates more space for women to participate equally) for the wrong reasons. For example, some prominent halachic decisors offer rulings that appear sympathetic to the egalitarian position, but which emerge from sexist understandings of a woman's capabilities and role in the community. One might be tempted to say "Oh, the Ran says this is okay, he's a Torah gadol, we have support to do what we're doing," but if holding by the Ran's position means affirming a sexist idea about women, that may undermine the egalitarian effort altogether.

Or a leniency on letting women participate may implicate other unintended consequences we wish to avoid. For example, such a leniency may exist in a statement about the participation of both women and minors in a service- we may wish to let women participate but continue to limit the participation of minors, and using this particular leniency would not allow us to do this.

A third set of such cautions applies because many of the restrictions Rabbinically applied on female participation in prayer services are in the name of kavod tzibbur- the honor of the synagogue community. This is a general sense the medieval Rabbis had that allowing women to lead services diminished the honor of the synagogue for some reason- there are various post-hoc theories about what the reason is, whether it's because it makes the men of the congregation seem uneducated, or because women are seen as inherently sexualized and impure, or something else. There is also a long body of Rabbinic literature that says that a community can waive a restriction about kavod tzibbur because of some other conflicting communal need... i.e. if a community only has nine men, some Rabbis say that they can waive kavod tzibbur in order to fulfill the minyan with a woman as the tenth. But, point out Rabbis Tucker and Rosenberg, waiving kavod tzibbur involves acknowledging the dishonor inherent in the act you're allowing. Thus to an egalitarian it's much preferable, though halachically more difficult, to establish that the act involves no breach of kavod tzibbur at all rather than waiving concern for kavod tzibbur. They offer some suggestions toward this end, arguing for example that women in the secular modern world are expected to participate equally in social institutions so that actually excluding them is a greater desecration of kavod tzibbur. This answer is not responsive to the medieval commentators who seem to think that the status of women as violating kavod tzibbur is not dependent on community context but is inherent in the shape of God's universe, but this position is clearly not uncontested.

I think I emerge from the book no more certain how the halacha should play out, but more certain that Orthodoxy needs to work harder to involve women in ritual. And I appreciated the way Rabbis Tucker and Rosenberg challenged me to think about the halacha in new ways and in deeper, subtler contexts. It's an unquestionably brilliant and important work.
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King Porter Stomp

Jelly Roll Morton - "King Porter Stomp" 1924
Benny Goodman and his All Stars- "King Porter Stomp" 1935
Pat Williams- "King Porter Stomp" 1968
Manhattan Transfer - "Stomp of King Porter" 1997
Wynton Marsalis - "King Porter Stomp" 1999

Women in Jazz

Billie Holliday- "They Can't Take That Away From Me"
Ella Fitzgerald - "Take the A Train"
Mary Lou Williams with Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy - "Mary's Idea"
Albinia Jones with Don Byas' Swinging Seven - "Evil Gal Blues"
Terri Lyne Carrington - "Mosaic Triad"

Jazz as Concert Music

Miles Davis- "So What"
Charlie Parker - "Ornithology"
Thelonious Monk w. John Coltrane "Bye-Ya"
Dizzy Gillespie - "Salt Peanuts"

Modern Jazz

The Bad Plus- "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Esperanza Spalding - "Endangered Species"
Vijay Iyer - "Optimism"
Ikue Mori - "Invisible "Fingers"
Matana Roberts "Pov Piti" from Coin Coin vol. 1
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Worldcon, as mentioned, was something of a mixed bag. Helsinki itself was great, but the con had ups and downs.

I got in Monday afternoon and spent the afternoon holed up in my hotel room torn between a strong desire to start exploring and a brutal jetlag exhaustion. Exhaustion won, but I managed to stay awake in a stupor long enough to knock myself into the right time zone for Tuesday.

Tuesday I went on a con-organized bike tour of Helsinki. Helsinki has a billion to one scale model of the solar system scattered through the city and we set out to go from the sun to Pluto. The total ride including getting to the sun and getting back to return the bikes was about 25 miles, by far the longest bike ride I've ever done, and it was amazing. The views of the city we got were stunning, the treasure hunt aspect of finding the planets was a lot of fun, and I got to meet a variety of Worldcon members who I stayed in touch with throughout the con.

Subsequently I took advantage of Helsinki's city bike program to borrow bikes for shorter trips, mostly to-and-from the hotel and the convention center. Helsinki is full of bike lanes and people seem to be using them quite a lot. My hotel was about a 3/4 mile walk to the con... not a walk I minded doing, but it was much faster doing it on bike.

Wednesday morning, worried about undercurrents of uncertainty about lines for registration, I got to the con early... and was in and out with my badge in five minutes. Registration: Well managed, never the problem, unlike at Loncon where lines to get badges were over an hour in length for quite a while. Left at odds until the con started in the afternoon, I schlepped down to central Helsinki, prowled the streets for a while admiring the architecture and the trees, visited the Ateneum national art gallery (Finnish art has such an unsettlingly beautiful aesthetic!) and got lunch at the only kosher restaurant in Finland.

Then I headed back to the con, caught the opening ceremony, and then spent a few hours failing to get into panels. It turns out this Worldcon got a lot more people than expected, than they had space for, and than they had programming for. Particularly on Wednesday and Thursday, if you wanted to get into panels, you had to show up most of an hour before the panel started and get on line. This meant that you basically had to alternate panels and queueuing rather than being able to go to a panel every hour. It was frustrating. As time developed, they added more programming space and repeated some popular panels, and at the same time, people got a better sense for how long to wait for a panel, so the lines got better, though it remained a challenge all weekend to ensure you actually got into panels you were interested in. This was frustrating even though I didn't really care all that much about missing most of the panels, because other people were and it made everyone's time management much more finicky. It was a lot harder to make plans to hang out with people when they needed to budget not just an hour for that panel they wanted to see, but also the hour before for line waiting. I got a lot of my hanging out with friends time at Worldcon done waiting on lines for panels I didn't even want to see, because it seemed like a better use of my time than waiting alone on lines for panels that sounded more interesting to me personally.

After a bit of line waiting, I went to the FFA meetup, which was a better use of my time. Things said under the seal of FFA meetup are protected by privilege, but it was fun to meet FFA people from all over the world and we hung out for several hours avoiding panels and then stayed on line together for an ultimately disappointing panel on Pirate Erotica.

Thursday I skipped the con in the morning and instead met [personal profile] ambyr and her friends for a tour of the Helsinki synagogue. In the afternoon, I missed the chance to attend a panel on Golems ([personal profile] ambyr reassured me it wasn't very good), caught a panel on the history of fandom that did the usual stuff about Worldcon I and the Exclusion Acts but then swung over to an interesting and somewhat novel survey of the early history of Nordic fandom, saw a disjointed but compelling panel on diaspora writing with Zen Cho, Ken Liu, Liu Cixin, and Israeli editor Ehud Maimon, listened to Jeff Vandermeer do an excellent job of interviewing Johanna Sinisalo and drawing out her literary themes and structures. Then I caught up with [personal profile] ambyr and her friend and we got on line for the clipping concert.

clipping was so great! Daveed Diggs has incredible charisma and the lyrics are so densely clever and so intensely science fictional both in the sense of being preoccupied with technology and in the sense of being about estrangement, to borrow the theme of the Worldcon academic track. There was, however, this to-be-expected tension between hip hop culture and SF fan culture at the concert, made even deeper by con staff's refusal to remove the chairs from the concert hall. Diggs encouraged everyone to make into aisles and non-chair laden spaces in order to dance, which we did, but that only reinforced the way the concert had been artificially limited in scale by an inappropriate venue. More hilariously, when Diggs asked the room "Who here's from Helsinki?" and got a couple of polite hands raised, he doubled over laughing and then said "Let me explain something to you: At a hip hop concert, when someone mentions the place you're from, you're expected to make noise at the top of your lungs." The very premise of a hip hop concert at an SF con in Helsinki seemed fundamentally culturally mismatched, but it was a spectacular show that I'm so grateful to have seen even in its weird context.


Friday morning, I did the Stroll with the Stars constitutional with Guest of Honor Walter John Williams and Lawrence Schoen, then attended the Business Meeting. After contentious debate, the business meeting ratified the unnamed Young Adult award and approved the name Lodestar pending reratification by San Jose.

After the Business Meeting I was pretty peopled out. I went back to my hotel room for lunch and then was so zombied out that I decided to skip going back to the con in favor of chilling out in my room watching sitcoms and cheesy action movies until the Hugo Awards.

The Hugo Awards were fun to attend, though the ceremony dragged on a tad too long because of the decision to include the awarding of the Seiun (Japanese fandom awards) and Atorox (Finnish fandom awards) as part of the ceremony. It was a nice thought to internationalize the ceremony but in practice it didn't really give those awards the attention they deserved and made the Hugos run long. N.K. Jemisin won the Best Novel Hugo again (well deserved IMO, it was the top of my ballot), Ursula Vernon gave a delightfully ridiculous speech about whale fall, and the Puppies weren't even really able to mar the joy of the ceremony at all this time.

Saturday morning, I once again attended the Stroll with the Stars, with the always entertaining Scott Edelman as the star. (Helsinki totally half-assed Stroll with the Stars, which is usually a favorite part of the con for me. Past Worldcons have gotten more than just a single 'star' for the walk, and have had locals to guide the walk to introduce visitors to parts of the city they otherwise might have missed. The walks in Chicago took us through parts of Grant Park and other highlights of downtown Chicago. In London we got some walks along the Thames. In Helsinki, in addition to getting far lower attendance, the organizers didn't even bother to go along with us on the walk, leaving a bunch of visitors to Helsinki to navigate on their own.) Then I went to the business meeting again, where the Best Series Hugo became a thing after much argument. I was pretty peopled out after this, too, so maybe 'peopled' out shouldn't be the term I use so much as 'angry at the world because of the business meeting', but I went to various panels all afternoon anyway, including a panel on Netflix Marvel shows that was largely dissecting the many, many problems with Iron Fist, a panel on the trend to more SF being translated into English, and a panel on the way digital distribution was potentially going to force the Hugos to rethink some of its categories, one of these days. I otherwise hung around the convention talking to people, skipped the masquerade but caught some of Sassafras's Norse eddas-themed halftime show, and then went back to my hotel for the night.

Sunday I did Stroll with the Stars a last time, met up with [personal profile] liv and [personal profile] jack for a far too short ten minutes, then headed to the airport to go home.


I met a lot of awesome people, had a great time in Helsinki, and there were some really cool things at the Con. But the lines were a serious damper on the fun and I hope future Worldcons will be able to do better at managing crowd sizes..
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Vividcon in general was an amazing time. Highlights were pretty much as predicted- I had a lot of fun doing my jazz panel, which I've separately written up. Premieres was full of beautiful and smart vids. Club Vivid was wonderful, and dancing to my vid was a high I may never come down from. My Shabbos dinner was terrific, with the lovely company of [personal profile] kass, [personal profile] roga, [personal profile] bironic, and [personal profile] ride_4ever. Playing a half-orc bard in [personal profile] jetpack_monkey's D&D game was a blast. And hanging out with so many awesome fans and talking about vids and fandoms all weekend was wonderful. I'm really going to miss Vividcon after next year.


Favorite Vids from the con (but there were so many others beyond these that I liked)

-[personal profile] gwyn's Star Wars vid Battleflag, which jumps from era to era beautifully telling a story of fighting for what you believe in against great odds.

-[personal profile] cherry's Thor vid Monsters of the Cosmos, which okay, I HATE the Symphony of Science because I think it fetishizes science, stripping away all the hard work and controversy and pretends like science is something inherently and unambiguously beautiful, emerging from these lone genius scientists for whom the beauty of the cosmos just magically unfolds.

And I'm frustrated with Thor because of its science-as-magic ethos, which only rarely the movie lets Jane Foster do battle with.

So the idea that I love Monsters of the Cosmos astounds me, but it's such a brilliant mashup of different kinds of fake science, and the way it centers Jane's journey is wonderful. Like, in Thor I, Jane is searching for evidence of an Einstein-Rosen bridge, a theoretical mathematical model of the interaction of exotic particles and relativity. In finding that it's real, she instead of getting entangled in the physics finds herself entangled with the literal monsters of the cosmos. It's like she gets swallowed up by something that should have just been a metaphor, while the song is elliding the fact that the idea of monsters is just a metaphor. The song says "Truth is stranger than scifi," and this is the kind of line that in my opinion has no place in a serious conversation about science, but it's the world Jane inhabits!

It's such a brilliant combination and the timing and arrangement of the visuals is stunning.

-[personal profile] dar_vidder's Harry Potter vid "The Tale of the Three Brothers", part of a yet further extended set of Harry Potter vids to Fantasia that I have not had a chance to fully watch yet. But this piece is gorgeous and grounds the whole Harry Potter series in a saga that goes back much farther and reaches much deeper than Harry's experiences, centering Dumbledore as the man who digs up ancient and powerful magicks that end up exacting a heavy toll on the lost boys around him.

-[personal profile] pipsqueaky's Keanu Reeves multivid Incredible Thoughts, about all the deep thoughts that much be going on behind Keanu Reeves's blank face. Brilliantly hilarious.

-[personal profile] sisabet's New Girl vid Wake Me Up Before You Go Go because it lets Schmidt be a total douchebag and Cece be a total bitch and still takes them seriously and celebrates their undying love for each other.

-[personal profile] anoel's Star Wars vid Carry that Weight even though I'm not capable of coming up with the words to explain how amazing it is, how it celebrates Leia and Rey, and Carrie Fisher and Daisy Johnson, and appreciates how significant they are as focal points of female pride, and yet they also reflect a fundamental failure to center women's stories in the SF we consume. I love how the end of the vid widens the scope.

-[personal profile] sweetestdrain's Harry Potter vid Blackbird, which overlaps significantly with [personal profile] chaila's amazing "I am the one who will remember everything" in terms of source footage used, but which by moving more linearly presents the clear and stunning image of McGonagall as a woman on a mission.

-[personal profile] grammarwoman's Star Wars vid "That's What's the Matter" (not yet online that I can see), which uses a Union song from the US Civil War to snark at the Imperials so cleverly.

-[personal profile] bessyboo's Ghostbuster's vid Light 'Em Up from Club Vivid, for so much exciting Ghostbusting action.

-[personal profile] sisabet and [personal profile] trelkez's Thor vid "Tubthumping" (Not yet online that I can see), so delightfully over the top.

-[personal profile] jetpack_monkey's Wuxia multifandom vid Uptown Funk, capturing the tropes and the balletic joy of the genre.

-[personal profile] pi's multifandom older women vid Worth It, proving that writing this post in one sitting has exhausted me because I have lots of feels about this vid but nothing to say except Watch it.




Now I am in Helsinki for Worldcon. Worldcon is more of a mixed bag, but mostly I'm having a great time in Helsinki.
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Because I am perverse, I structured my vidding panel around the reasons why you shouldn't vid jazz music. I had come up with a pretty good list of reasons before the panel:


-unstructured 'songs', not necessarily verse-chorus-verse-chorus
-many different versions of songs, no 'canonical' expected version from audience
-audience not as familiar with the music as with pop songs
-vidder not as familiar with the music as with pop songs
-sounds old-fashioned
-Can be hard to follow the melody
-syncopation/swing makes tricky rhythms to cut to
-Songs often much longer than typical vids
-concern to be sensitive about jazz as an African-American music and avoiding racism/appropriation
-not a lot of female musicians visible in the genre/misogyny in the music


The audience agreed that yes, these were all good reasons not to vid to jazz. We considered adjourning the panel right there. Instead, I tried to play a variety of kinds of jazz music to illustrate some ideas I had about how to overcome these problems. I didn't manage to mention all of my ideas in the panel, so these notes will constitute both an attempt to summarize what we talked about at the panel and an attempt to restructure the panel retrospectively so that it conforms more closely to its platonic ideal form.


The first set of music I played was five version of Jelly Roll Morton's classic jazz melody "King Porter Stomp." Composed in honor of his friend and fellow pianist Porter King in the early 1900s and first recorded by Morton in the early 1920s in the infancy of recorded jazz music, "King Porter Stomp" has had long, long legs as a jazz standard.

The playlist was

Jelly Roll Morton - "King Porter Stomp" 1924
Benny Goodman and his All Stars- "King Porter Stomp" 1935
Pat Williams- "King Porter Stomp" 1968
Manhattan Transfer - "Stomp of King Porter" 1997
Wynton Marsalis - "King Porter Stomp" 1999

By looking longitudinally at one song, we get to see the way jazz reinvents itself while retaining its history. Goodman's version is considered historically important as the kickoff of the big band era, at a seminal Los Angeles concert that told the record companies that swing would sell. The subsequent recordings retain specific and calculated quotations of both the Goodman and Morton arrangements- the Williams recording opens with the exact piano riff from the Morton version, the Manhattan Transfer version uses the Goodman arrangement but interpolates lyrics relating the story of the creation of the Morton version, and the Marsalis version returns to the original Morton arrangement only with a more highly prominent trumpet part and better recording fidelity and .

I had intended to talk more about the recording technology and the history of jazz, as I think it's actually important to keep in mind since jazz's history overlaps almost exactly with the history of recorded music. Until the mid 1940s, jazz was recorded to wax, which was then laboriously transferred to a metal master for pressing to 78 rpm vinyl. The result was mono both in recording and playback: If you wanted to 'mix' different instruments you did so by literally rearranging the musicians with respect to the recording head, moving the horns to the back to keep them from drowning out quieter instruments and so on.

In the '40s, three technologies emerged in parallel that changed this: the electronic microphone allowed instruments to be recorded individually with different recording settings, magnetic tape allowed those recordings to be separately edited and mixed and overdubbed, and the LP allowed those recordings to be played back at a substantially higher fidelity. As a bonus, the LP gave musicians the choice of either writing multiple songs to fill a side, or for the first time recording songs longer than ~ 3 minutes. The technology changed the way jazz was performed once artists assimilated the new capabilities.

So if you are looking to use a jazz song from the '20s or '30s, one of your difficulties is that it's going to sound like shit, and it's specifically going to sound old fashioned, because that grainy, mono sound is what we think of when we think of old fashioned music. You have several ways of dealing with this. One is to embrace it. If you're vidding a 1920s fandom, or vidding something more modern that you want to sound old fashioned, then choosing something recorded to wax will give you the sound you're looking for. The other alternative is to look at recordings like the Marsalis recording- there are musicians today who are recording consciously nostalgic versions of classic jazz songs, with the latest and greatest new recording technology.


The other thing we pointed out about the set of "King Porter Stomp" covers is that the song is a dance song, with a straightforward 4:4 time signature, obvious and repeated jazz form, and a lot of elements that make it fairly unintimidating to vidders compared to a lot of jazz music. In the late '40s and into the '50s, jazz was transformed from primarily being a dance music to being as much a concert music for sitting and listening to as a dance music. The next set of music I played was a collection of jazz music from this period of transition, highlighting the new sounds coming into jazz: Trickier rhythms, stranger harmonies and dissonances, faster note patterns. Music not consistent enough to dance to, but music that relied on the individual voices of its lead practitioners to tell expressive, emotional stories through music.

The playlist was:

Miles Davis- "So What"
Charlie Parker - "Ornithology"
Thelonious Monk w. John Coltrane "Bye-Ya"
Dizzy Gillespie - "Salt Peanuts"

To counter comments from the audience about the difficulty of finding structure in these more musically complex pieces, I pointed to specific structures common in jazz music, like the precomposed call and response passage that opens "So What", a technique originating in jazz's history as a music inspired by African folk traditions, and a technique we'd come back to in the Modern Jazz playlist to follow. I also pointed to examples of improvisional structures such as 'trading fours', the technique of two soloists altenrately improvising four measures back and forth. I also pointed out that the classic AABA 32 bar pop song form and 12 bar blues song form don't go away in this concert jazz era, it's just that rather than repeating the melody each time, the chord progression is what's repeated, embellished and revoiced to suit the individuality of the soloists. Someone in the audience pointed out that this individuality of instrumental expression offers opportunities for vidders to associate particular instrumental parts with themes or characters.

It was particularly hard for me to cut these songs down to a minute or so, because their overall structures play out over the full scale of the song.


The next set I played was Women of Jazz, to present some female voices, both singers and instrumentalists, as a counter to the idea that jazz is this male-driven genre. Because I do think this is a problem for vidders, who are predominantly women. This set also let me revisit some genres and techniques otherwise not as well covered by my music choices- Ella Fitzgerald's song highlighted the use of vocalese or scat, a technique of singing nonsense syllables that offers tremendous potential value to vidders who are often thwarted by that one lyric that undermines our whole vid. "Take the A Train" is also the prototypical 32 bar song, and "Evil Gal Blues" is a prototypical blues, so it let me talk more about the importance of those song structures to jazz music, and to consider those structures if you need to cut down a song. Meanwhile, Mary Lou Williams let me bring in some more swing music that wasn't "KIng Porter Stomp", and Terri Lyne Carrington introduced listeners for the first time in the panel to contemporary jazz sounds.

The playlist was:

Billie Holliday- "They Can't Take That Away From Me"
Ella Fitzgerald - "Take the A Train"
Mary Lou Williams with Andy Kirk and his Twelve Clouds of Joy - "Mary's Idea"
Albinia Jones with Don Byas' Swinging Seven - "Evil Gal Blues"
Terri Lyne Carrington - "Mosaic Triad"


I concluded with a set of music from the last ten years or so, contemporary jazz in some of its multifarious forms.

The playlist was:

The Bad Plus- "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Esperanza Spalding - "Endangered Species"
Vijay Iyer - "Optimism"
Ikue Mori - "Invisible "Fingers"
Matana Roberts "Pov Piti" from Coin Coin vol. 1

It's a bare sampler of the diversity of modern jazz, but it at least hints at all the directions jazz is heading in, use of electronics alongside acoustic instruments in Ikue Mori's music, use of rock and roll idioms in the music of Iyer and the Bad Plus, use of funk and soul idiom alongside jazz improv in Spalding's music, the incorporation of spoken elements in "Pov Piti" and the consciousness of modern political struggle. And I pointed out that the opening call and response between piano and bass in the Bad Plus "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is an almost explicit homage to Miles Davis's "So What", that no matter how much jazz pushes in new directions, what makes it jazz is its awareness of its history and its relentless reinterpretation of that history.

So I think the bottom line of the panel was that jazz is a terrible music to vid, but it's awesome music, and the more you learn about how jazz works, its context and its history and its structure, the easier it will be to overcome the inherent difficulties it presents to vidders. That's not necessarily an easy answer, there's no great and simple technique that solves all the problems, but different jazz music suffers from different problems, and in this way the diversity of jazz is a tremendous asset to vidders.

I will post a download link for all this music once I'm back at home after Worldcon.


Also, [personal profile] settiai posted notes on the jazz panel
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Motherfucking time zones, how do they work?
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Title: Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing
Responsible for the lack of consistent title block from vid to vid: seekingferret
Vidder: seekingferret
Song: "Et Rekod" by Yakov Shwekey
Fandom: Um... all of them? Or at least 104 of them.
Content Notes: Warning: Might Lead to Mixed Dancing
Length: 4:16
Summary: All the Jews! All the Feelz!. The Jewish dance vid of my heart.
Premiered at: Club Vivid 2017
Thanks to: Oh, man, the list. First and foremost, thanks to [personal profile] sanguinity and [personal profile] ghost_lingering for so much support and helpful feedback. Thanks to [personal profile] kass for positive feedback when it was desperately needed. Thanks to J,L,L,T, and B for giving me the opportunity to watch people respond to the vid in person and see what was landing. Thanks to a different J and L for offering a round of specifically Jewish feedback. Thanks to [personal profile] thirdblindmouse for canon suggestions and source provision. Thanks to anyone who has listened to me babble about Jewish movies in the past year, which is most of the people I know, even if they didn't necessarily know the reason I was watching a particular movie or show.




(Download available through the Critical Commons website. Note that you have to get a free account.)

(also posted to youtube)

I have so much to say about the making of this vid and my feelings about all the characters and fandoms in it that it's honestly a little paralyzing. I've written thousands of words of reveal notes and I still have thousands of words to go, but here is the vid! I worked on this vid from October to May and I poured all my heart and all my soul and all my might into this vid. It feels so amazing to finally share it with the world. It was so amazing to dance to it at Vividcon, wearing my Soulless Golem T-shirt.

Song lyrics )

List of all fandoms, not quite in order )

Vividcon!

Aug. 4th, 2017 03:34 am
seekingferret: Word balloon says "So I said to the guy: you never read the book yet you go online and talk about it as if--" (Default)
Like last year, I had airplane trouble, but unlike last year my flight was not cancelled, just delayed three and a quarter hours! I am now at Vividcon, it is now after 2 in the morning though my East Coast brain still believes it's after 3 in the morning, and I should be sleeping.

Also [personal profile] ghost_lingering owes me a drink- while we were commiserating over her delayed flight at LaGuardia and my delayed flight at Newark, we decided to race to Chicago- the winner would have to buy the loser a drink. She beat me by about fifteen minutes, proving a miserable night was had by both of us.

But I am so excited for todya at the con! My jazz panel! Vid Roulette! Vividcon Shabbos! Premieres! Other cool vidshows! Many many awesome people!
seekingferret: Photo of a button saying "Yes You Can Argue with Me" (argument)
I think this is a really interesting question the Talmud in Sanhedrin deals with, using the model of Moses and Aaron.

If two people disagree about something involving money, they can sue in court and have the court issue a ruling over who is right. There will be a clear winner and a loser and it will be unambiguous who is who, and this may result in bad feelings lingering between the two parties afterward. The result may be just according to Torah law, but that justice may not necessarily be the only thing that matters in the interpersonal relationship.

So suppose you valued peace between people more than you valued getting the 'correct' resolution to the dispute. You might, when approached by two disputants, suggest that rather than trying their case in Beit Din, they first talk to a mediator or arbitrator who can help them figure out a way to settle things out of court in a way that makes everyone get something. According to Talmudic law, such a mediation agreement is generally binding- if both parties agree to the settlement, they can't then go to a Beit Din and ask for justice, unless there was some corruption in the selection of the mediator.

This might seem like a better approach in a lot of situations. Some of the Rabbis in Sanhedrin say it's an obligation on the judge to suggest mediation if they think it will help. But others raise really salient objections.

What if you're a judge and two disputants come to see you. One is rich and powerful, the other is poor. They start telling you about the case and ask if you'll judge it for them. You hear enough detail to know that if you hear the case, the rich man is likely to lose. Is it corrupt for you to suggest mediation, knowing that the outcome will likely be better for the rich man than if you were to enact full justice? Perhaps, because you're not supposed to favor a rich man over a poor one as a judge. BUT what if the virtue of peace is greater than the virtue of justice? Perhaps it's more important to achieve a resolution where both the rich and poor men are satisfied, even though it means harming the poor man financially?

The classic homiletic is that Aaron was rodef shalom, a pursuer of peace at all costs. Whereas Moses believed in seeking true justice even when it harmed the peace.

The Talmud finds a middle ground. Its rule for judges is that they can propose mediation if they fear that they will be forced to rule against the powerful person, however once they hear enough of the case to know that they are likely to rule against the powerful person, they cannot propose mediation. That is, it's corrupt to act when you are sure that your actions are benefitting the rich person, but when it's merely a possibility that it will benefit the rich person, it's okay even if you're hoping for that possibility.

Within this principle, the dispute is between Rabbi Shimon ben Menasya and Resh Lakish over when the moment is when they've heard too much of the case to offer mediation. Rabbi Shimon holds that as soon as they've heard the case, they've heard too much. Resh Lakish holds that even after they've heard the case, as long as they've not made up their mind, they can suggest mediation. This seems to be a dispute about optics vs. intention. Rabbi Shimon ben Menasya thinks optics matter for justice, if the appearance is there that the judge pushed for mediation to favor the powerful person, it is a corruption of justice, while Resh Lakish thinks that so long as the dayan didn't act corruptly, the optics are less important than the pursuit of peace.
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This past shabbos was the monthly Shabbos afternoon picnic. Temperature was in the high nineties and the park was a little under two miles away, so I got a workout walking over to the picnic. We hung around drinking beer and tossing a frisbee and talking about superhero movies and it was a lovely time.




Monday night was my regular biweekly rpg night- we're questing in the Crimea for a lost Eastern Orthodox monastery rumored to have a mystical weapon capable of holding back the apocalypse. My favorite dialogue exchange of the night.

Me: We're searching for the daggers.
NPC Priest: So you're... treasure hunters?
Me: Well... technically, I guess. But we're ethical treasure hunters. We believe in catch and release!

The session ended on a cliffhanger with the sword wielding cultist lackey about to detonate a dynamite vest just outside the entrance to the monastery.



Later in the week, I'm supposed to get a drink with the daughter of one of my father's co-workers. My father didn't exactly do a great job selling the shidduch. It's better than the time all I was furnished was my potential date's height, but I'm not entirely sure on what basis my dad thinks we'll be compatible other than his desire for grandchildren. But whatever, I'm at the point where I'll consider any suggestion if it seems to come from a well-meaning place. There's little harm in going out for a drink.



And next week gets exciting. I fly to Chicago for Vividcon a week from Thursday. I'll be modding a panel on vidding jazz music, premiering a vid, and looking forward to lots of fun hanging out. Sunday I fly Chicago->New York->Amsterdam->Helsinki and then I'll have a couple days of exploring the city on my own before Worldcon. I don't really know what I'm going to be doing at Worldcon other than the usual, I haven't really given it much thought. I skimmed the panels but didn't see anything all that exciting. I'm sure there'll be entertaining things to do and the Hugos should be a blast, but mostly I'm going to Worldcon because I'm excited about Helsinki and because it's a place I go just to hang out with SF fans from all over the world. My parents don't understand this. My mother, whose ideas about cons all come from TV, grills me about whether I'm going to be wearing a costume, and which famous people I'm going to see, and seems disappointed when I tell her it's mostly just about hanging out and talking scifi. But whatever.


I'm also hoping at Vividcon to pass out discs for Vid Roulette. A while back at Dollar Tree there were a bunch of DVD multipacks on sale for a dollar a piece and I bought three or four. Each multipack has several DVDs in it and each disc has several movies, and most of the movies look terrible. I feel like it could be fun to randomly distribute the DVDs to vidders, sight unseen, and see what vid they can make from their randomly assigned disc. Hopefully I'll get participation for that.
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I noticed the Daf Yomi cycle of daily Talmud study was working its way around to the start of a new tractate and decided to try to get back on board. Sanhedrin daf 2 started last Tuesday.

I picked up Daf Yomi at the beginning of the cycle and learned all of Berachos and the first quarter of Shabbos before I fell off. That was a couple of years back, I think I lost momentum when we lost power for a week after Sandy and never regained the habit. This time around, I'm still figuring out how to build the habit- I've slipped behind a couple of days already.

Masechet Sanhedrin contains the laws of the Jewish legal system- courts and judges and the evaluation of evidence and so on. It also contains digressions of all sorts because the Talmud is the most ADD legal text ever. I'm given to understand that the court system described in Sanhedrin lasted only a couple of hundred years at most, in the Second Temple era, and when the Gemara is describing its details, after the Churban, the system was largely no longer in place. So I think understanding its meaning in a modern setting requires a little bit of creativity- you have to try and read it as a philosophical exploration of the meaning of justice and the best ways to attain it. You also need to recognize it as an act of creative historical reconstruction on the part of the Rabbis, the analysis required to rediscover the legal system that represented for them not merely a lost cultural and legal heritage, but an ideal of perfected justice. The legal system described in Sanhedrin is a fusion of what we would think of today as a typical secular legal system, with wise, theoretically neutral judges appointed to adjudicate interpersonal conflicts and exact punishment for violators of the law, alongside a theocratic legal system where mystical invocations of God's name reveal the just path forward. God's guidance of just judges underpins the system, which doesn't truly hold together in the absence of God.

Nonetheless, a lot of the teachings of Sanhedrin still have value today, both as general principles of how to attain fairness in resolving interpersonal conflict, and as the guiding ideas of the much scaled back Jewish legal system of Batei Dinim we have today. I was just describing to my father- an experienced lawyer who recently became a worker's compensation court judge- the fascinating Jewish legal conflict between two Brooklyn pizzerias across the street from each other. He was surprised by the field trip the Dayanim took to visit each pizzeria. That sort of trip is pretty much unheard of in the American legal system, where the judges' job is to listen to evidence presented to them by the parties and reach a judgement based only on legally presented evidence, not to act as investigator seeking evidence on their own. My father has complained from time to time about lawyers failing to present evidence in front of him that he believed would make it easier to rule in favor of their client, either out of laziness or some more complicated legal strategy. In those cases, all he could do was ask the lawyers if they had the evidence he was looking for, not go out and seek it. But in the Beit Din system, the responsibility of the Dayan is to reach a just conclusion even if it requires seeking information withheld by the parties.
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Yet the gods do not give lightly of the powers they have made
And with Challenger and seven, once again the price is paid
Though a nation watched her falling, yet a world could only cry
As they passed from us to glory, riding fire in the sky


I skippped out of the Dreamwidth meetup at Loncon for a half hour, making apologies to [personal profile] liv and [personal profile] starlady and others, to see Jordin Kare's filk concert. It left me weeping in sadness in places, and laughing in delight in others. I bought a CD from him afterward and thanked him for his music.

For the engineer sighed as he studied those plans
And he read the demented designer's demands
Then he called in his techs and he said to his crew
This guy seems to think that there's jobs we can't do
And parts we can't build so let's give him a thrill
We'll build his machine and then send him the bill


I'm sad to hear Dr. Kare passed away the other day. His music and his science inspired me constantly.
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When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

~Walt Whitman



I first encountered this poem in high school English, and I come across it again every few years. I can't explain entirely the rage it summons in me.

But maybe this is the point I wish to make. A friend mentioned the Randall-Sundrum model of the universe and I went to that wikipedia page to try to learn what that was. Pretty soon I was desperately linkhopping- I have a basic education in relativity and differential geometry, but pretty basic, and even the vocabulary I did learn at some point, it's been a decade since and I needed to refresh my memory.

So I clicked on anti-de-Sitter space and from there to Lorentzian manifold and from there to Riemannian manifold, and I want to point out something about these four articles.

The article on Randall-Sumdrum model begins "In physics" The article on Anti-de-Sitter Space begins "In mathematics and physics." The articles on Lorentzian Manifold and Riemannian Manifold begin "In differential geometry." There's that tricksy slippage between physics and mathematics Whitman is writing about. Are the learn'd astronomer's "proofs, the figures," his "charts and diagrams" a meaningful and interesting representation of the actual stars, or are they just lifeless mathematical models that lack the "mystical" potency of observing the stars with the naked untrained eye? Aside from answering this question, though, the distinction is, I think, actually important to doing physics. Because if you theorize that spacetime takes a certain shape that can be modeled by a particular manifold, and then your measurements in an experiment don't match the manifold, you have to consider two different possibilities: One, that spacetime doesn't match your theorized model, and two, that your measurements were inaccurate. But if you're a mathematician working with a manifold and it doesn't match your expectations, only your math is wrong.

So this distinction Whitman writes on matters. There are the mathematical models of the stars, and there are the actual stars themselves, and if you forget this you end up confusing the manifold with the spacetime. A physicist needs both to do their work.

Nonetheless, I feel a great rage when I read Whitman's poem, a rage at the idea that the untrained eye bestows a more exciting and therefore truer reality than the subtle delver into the measureable mysteries of the cosmos can attain through experimentation and analysis. This may be dogmatic scientism on my part, but if so, let it be!
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Feel like it's worth saying that after a week in which Facebook was utterly brutal and soul-crushing, this week Facebook has been so affirming and it's worth reminding myself why I don't quit. Pictures of friends' weddings and kids and animals and summer trips. And two threads in particular on the Frum Fandom group I'm a part of: one discussing the halacha of whether Hogswarts ghosts, if Jewish, can be counted toward a minyan, and one debating whether roleplaying a character who worships the D&D pantheon is avodah zarah.

Sometimes Facebook is terrible. Sometimes it's pretty great.
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"In fairness, the Jews ARE terrible."


"Hey Facebook friends, it's been fun watching you guys argue about whether the Jews should be able to exist in public all week. Can y'all go back to posting pictures of cats now?"


"To play devil's advocate, the Jews ARE terrible."


"AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH"


Edit: I worry my sarcasm is unclear. This is not a dialogue- all four of these messages are posts I considered making and resisted.
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As happens in the periods when I am not persistently a reclusive shut in, I am cycling between exhaustingly overscheduled and returning to being a reclusive shut in.

Three weeks ago I had plans every night of the week- D&D Monday, Puzzled Pint Tuesday, writing with a friend on Wednesday, Peter Frampton & Steve Miller concert Thursday with my family, local Shabbaton for young professionals Friday into Saturday. So I took the next week off from social interaction- the only time I went out was to go out for dinner with my dad and brother. Instead I read a lot and vidded a lot. Last week I was back to busy- D&D Monday, writing with a friend Wednesday, adventures in the City on Thursday, a few long phone calls with friends. This week's the 4th of July, messing with the flow of the week. I'll probably go see my parents tomorrow.

For a bit, I was talking to someone a friend set me up with. She's a grad student in Boston, seems interesting, and weirdly it turned out that her father has been a customer of ours for the past several months. We spoke on the phone a few times, mostly about books. Which I was just fine with, I like talking about books and can pretty much do it indefinitely. There have definitely been people I've gone on dates with for whom their inability to talk critically about books was a turn-off (An English major who said her favorite book was David Copperfield but couldn't explain what she liked about it.), so I was having fun talking books with her. Then she told me she wasn't interested, so oh well, that's how it goes. Maybe I should have talked less about books. More likely one of my other social flaws ruined it.

She recommended Walter Isaacson's The Innovators, and while Isaacson's not the sort of writer I normally love, she made it sound interesting enough to try. It's a history of digital computing technology starting with Ada Lovelace and going to the present day of web technology (as of five years ago, so already way out of date. ;) ). Thematically, it's theoretically about emphasizing the idea of innovators, plural, how computer technology has long resisted the lone inventor no matter how much people try to impose the narrator. Unfortunately, Isaacson doesn't quite manage to resist the narrative himself. In a discussion of the Harvard Mark I, he discusses the divergent creation myths crafted by Grace Hopper, who attributes the Mark I to its heroic lone founder Howard Aiken, and IBM, which attributes it to myriad small innovations from 'faceless IBM engineers.' But though Isaacson admits that the IBM version has merit, he doesn't go through the effort of giving names and faces to the 'faceless IBM engineers'. As a faceless semiconductor engineer myself, this rankled. If your point is that the teams matter, talk about the teams! In the end, The Innovators is a fun, breezy hagiography of the famous inventors of the computer age that gestures toward a broader vision it's unwilling to take to time to draw out in full detail. I enjoyed it, but I mostly enjoyed it as a pointer to a long reading list of books I'd rather be reading that do the details. I also appreciated that it was a book where the female innovators weren't buried or written out of the history quite as much, though at times it came off a bit patronizing when Isaacson described people as 'woman engineers'.

Because I'm me, I noticed when putting the book on hold at the library that the system also listed a book called Fashion Innovators and I got curious because I know so little about fashion. I was hoping it was basically The Innovators for fashion, a survey level tracing of the history of modern fashion, with an emphasis on innovation both stylistic and technological. It's not. It's just 2-4 page capsule biographies of 20th and 21st century fashion personalities, rarely reaching any kind of interesting depth, but it has its moments. The two page capsule biography of Lauren Conrad asserts already a broader definition of who is a fashion innovator than I had expected, and the more extended biography of Liz Claiborne paints a fascinating portrait of her both as a businessperson and as someone with a clear sense of style that considers both the practical and the visual element. I would like to read the book I'd imagined it to be, if I can find it. And I should hunt down a full biography of Liz Claiborne, too.

I've also read the first two books of Faye Kellerman's Rina Lazarus/Peter Decker series, which was love at first sight. <3 Murder mysteries featuring an ambivalently Jewish detective raised by Baptists and the Orthodox Jewish widow he falls in love with. They get the details of life in Orthodoxy so perfectly right, and also the feel of wrestling with God, the doubt and uncertainty of living a Jewish life in a world that does not feel tailored for it. There's a lot of books in the series and I'm sure the sharpness will wear off, but I'm looking forward to the ride as long as it lasts.


I also read The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter, which consists of obsessive close-reading of the first 4 books to try to point out all the clues Rowling embeds, firstly to the storylines of the book, and secondly putatively to the whole septology's myth-arc. Many of the supposed 'septology clues' didn't pan out, but some did, and it's fascinating to look as closely at the text as this book does.

And I read two and a half of Seanan McGuire's InCryptid series, about a family of monster hunters. Action adventure books that I can easily pick up and put down. Enjoyable but not compulsive-reading inducing.


I've also gotten back into the rhythm of biking several times a week. I bike to shul for mincha/maariv, which is a short ride but important for keeping up the habit. And yesterday I rode over to the Raritan River and rode along the river for several miles in the park... total trip about 8 miles. Not all that much compared to my friends who talk about the fifty mile rides they go on, but it's a lot for me, and it was a big deal that my legs don't feel like rubber today after the trip. And it was a pretty ride, and a lot of fun.
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Title: Feasting and Dancing (The Disney Princesses Remix
Fandom: Star Wars
Vidder: seekingferret
Song: "This Year" by the Mountain Goats
Content Notes: Canonical Major Character Death, Violence, Child Abuse
Length: 3:39
Responsible for the lack of consistent title block from vid to vid: seekingferret
Summary The Leia version of this vid
Created For: [personal profile] niyalune
Thanks to: [personal profile] echan for betaing!
Originally posted: Here to AO3


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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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