Sunday, June 30, 2019

A historical dinner moment

Me, attempting to engender dinner conversation that does not include gross scientific stuff: 
What do you think are the five most important moments in history in the past 100 years?

Younger Daughter:
World War I, and World War II.  Was the telephone invented in the past 100 years? 

Me:  I’m pretty sure that was invented before 1919.

YD:  Okay, then, the invention of the internet. The Great Depression, and the Counter-cultural movement of the 1960s.  That’s five.

The Common Household Husband:
The invention of frozen foods was very important.  The invention of air conditioning. Casual Fridays!  Theme parks.  And TV game shows.

Younger Daughter:  Dad, those are not moments in history!

Husband:  They changed my life.

Me:  My turn.  I think the internal combustion engine was invented before 1919.  The invention of antibiotics was very important.  The invention of reliable birth control.   The Holocaust.  The invention of robots – industrial robots.  Hmmm.  And the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The internet.  That’s for all five.  Can I go now?

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

First Lines: May 2019 edition


Here are the first lines of the seven books I finished reading in May. 

Book 1
Ah!  Celle-là!  (A son mari qui est dans la boutique.)  Ah!  Celle-là, elle est fière.  Elle ne veut plus acheter chez nous.

GROCER’s WIFE:  Oh that woman gets on my nerves!  Too stuck-up to buy from us nowadays.

Book 2
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place; he made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 

Book 3
That day the four of them went to the library, though at different times.

Book 4
Sale of College Property
“Matrimony was ordained, thirdly,” said Jane Studdock to herself, “for the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have of the other.”  She had not been to church since her schooldays until she went there six months ago to be married, and the words of the service had stuck in her mind.

Book 5
Marriage equality in Washington state.  Gun legislation in Massachusetts.  Housing homeless families in North Carolina.  Better working conditions for tomato pickers in Florida.  What do these causes have in common?  Synagogues strengthening their communities and this country through civic engagement.

Book 6
I am the keeper of my family’s stories. I am the guardian of its honor. I am the defender of its traditions. As the first-born son of a Kurdish father, these, they tell me, are my duties. And yet even before my birth I resisted.

Book 7
In the six months since the November day that his wife, Nola, was buried, Arthur Moses has been having lunch with her every day.

The titles and authors revealed:

Book 1
Rhinocéros, by Eugène Ionesco, first produced in Paris in 1960.
A stage play in which people turn into rhinoceroses.   I read about 5 pages of it in French,  and was surprised to find I remembered the colloquial expression for having a hangover:  “une gueule de bois”  (literally ‘mouth of wood’ with the mouth being an animal’s mouth).  But then to actually finish the play before the next decade, I reverted to the English.   This play would be a challenge for the costume designer.

Book 2
Revelation (the Bible).  Written ~96. 
I did a speed read.  This book is high on images of angels, trumpets, scrolls, blood, eyes, and The Lamb.  Dire events such as plague and fire dominate.   Dudes have got swords projecting out of their mouths.  There are some curiously specific time frames given: 3 ½ days, 1,260 days (which works out to exactly 45 lunar months), 5 months, 42 months.  And of course, 1000 years.  Our pastor’s recommendation is to not overanalyze (or even analyze), but just to experience the imagery.   It’s rich with references to other parts of the Bible. 

Revelation is the book of the Bible with the highest word count, out of all the books of the (Protestant) Bible, of  “angel” (75), “beast” (34), and “trumpet” (15).  There are zero uses of the words “forgive” and “cross” in Revelation.  (My word count is using the NRSV) 

It’s a different sort of Jesus that we encounter in this book than the Jesus we meet in the Gospels.  The Jesus of Revelation seeks to reassure us that it will be okay in the end.  (If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.) It might have been quite convincing to the 1st-2nd Century audience.

Book 3
Quartet in Autumn, by Barbara Pym © 1977. 
I love Barbara Pym.  This one is beautifully sad and comical, about four lonely people approaching old age.

Book 4
That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis © 1945
For the first few chapters, it was hard to stay interested in this dystopian novel.  Who ever heard of a dystopian novel that takes place at a British college? But then something happened (maybe it was the mention of Jesus?) and I got interested and read till the end.  Good triumphs, but there is no question that this is a weird novel, the third in the trilogy.  It might have made a bit more sense if I had recently read the other two recently.  The book reinforces how much the need to belong can lead humans astray.

Book 5
Recharging Judaism: How Civic Engagement is Good for Synagogues, Jews, and America, by Rabbi Judith Schindler and Judy Seldin-Cohen, © 2018. 
The question every Jew asks is, “But is it good for the Jews?”  The answer in this book is yes.

Book 6
My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for His Family's Past, by Ariel Sabar.  © 2009. 
This memoir is by a journalist about his father, a Kurdish Jew who left Iraq with all the remaining Kurdish Jews in 1950s.  The father, Yona Sabar, became an internationally known scholar of Aramaic – and he was also a speaker of Aramaic.  Aramaic, also the language of Jesus, is now a nearly-dead language.  I found this book fascinating, both for how the people in the book value language, and for the story of how the family managed to deal with its fate. I read it for book club.

Book 7
The Story of Arthur Truluv, by Elizabeth Berg. © 2017
I read this one because my Mom said she enjoyed it.  It is a sweet book, with amusing moments and descriptions of delectable baked goods.  A fair amount of this book takes place in a cemetery, which is just fine.