Thursday, January 13, 2011

A confession, The Confessions, and ...a pledge?

Life gets busy, and life away from computers does need attention - and we all take time for that. But - maybe you have encountered this? - I actually hit a wall, a problem I was reading about that was so much bigger than me that it almost got the better of me. I was following up on "The People of the Book", which had plenty of references to persecution of the scattered Jewish people. This was troubling, and I wanted to find out more (without reading a history text!). I was so excited when I found "The Book of Abraham" by Marek Halter, reviewed at my good friend Mirek's blog here, and this is where the going got rough, I think. Mirek captures the essence of the difficulty in his review: "Even though Marek Halter did not write martyrology of Jews, it is hard not to think of the family dole as of martyrdom. Most of the history of Jewish exile is the constant escape." This is what I could not understand. I would have to write a book to describe the searching that I have done as a result, but for now I just wanted to point this out. Mirek reviewed a book that he found helpful to balance the picture - see his post here.

So that's my confession. Next I want to mention a new (but old) favorite, from 398AD, that I will review soon: the Confessions of Saint Augustine. It wasn't until very recently, when a friend sent me a passage from this book that that was so powerful, that I searched out a copy to read again - and only then did I devour this book! Why? I think it is because Augustine writes so personally, engaging deep questions as he tries to reconcile spirituality and religion and truth with the reality of his own heart and life. The passage is here:

Late have I loved you,

Beauty so ancient and so new,

late have I loved you!

Lo, you were within,

but I outside, seeking there for you,

and upon the shapely things you have made I rushed headlong,

I, misshapen.

You were with me, but I was not with you.

They held me back far from you,

those things which would have no being

were they not in you.

You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;

you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;

you lavished your fragrance, I gasped, and now I pant for you;

I tasted you, and I hunger and thirst;

you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

I will say more soon! And that is the essence of the pledge. I'll be posting book reviews and other tidbits that interest me once again, every month or so. And enjoying it again! Thanks so much for reading.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why I have not posted...lately

It is a much as I love reading and sharing reflections here, with good friends...I am at the same time trying to be present in the lives around me. We each do this in our own ways. I will try to post something, if not a book, then ...something! This is my nephew, now 4 years old, on the Staten Island Ferry in his fireman costume. He is something else!!! We were on our way home from meeting three friends of his - from the same orphanage in Hanoi - so sweet that they were all adopted in the same region. As you can see, he is coming along just fine in America!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Next books


Here are the books I will be posting on over the coming weeks and months. "The Book of Abraham" by Marek Halter is next - I haven't finished it, but have something to say nonetheless. Feel free to ask about any of the other books. I'd be glad to shuffle my list to suit readers' interests.
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Puzzle Mystery

If you are still reading here -- I apologize for the long quiet spell! One difficult story led to another difficult truth and the puzzles, to me, seemed to multiply! The solution has not necessarily come, but I have found a wonderful set of books along the way. And perhaps a greater interest in what makes for a great story, at least in my view. It would be my pleasure to share these things with you (if anyone is still there!!) - so I wanted to at least invite you to check in again soon. And to thank you for the times you have read my posts, whether or not I knew it. Look for something here soon!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pieces of a Puzzle Part 1.

One good book leads to another - or so it has been for me, lately. Here is the first one on my list, with more to follow:

People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks
Two things fascinated me about this book, before reading it. I loved the title from the moment I saw it, not sure exactly who these people were or what was meant by "the Book". It turns out that the book in question is the Sarajevo Haggadah. This is the second thing about the book that captivated me. I wanted to know more about this book! The description on page 8 of People of the Book was all I needed to be captivated by curiosity:
The Sarajevo Haggadah, created in medieval Spain, was a famous rarity, a lavishly illuminated Hebrew manuscript made at a time when Jewish belief was firmly against illustrations of any kind. It was thought that the commandment in Exodus "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or likeness of any thing" had suppressed figurative art by medieval Jews. When the book came to light in Sarajevo in 1894, its pages of painted miniatures had turned this idea on its head and caused art history texts to be rewritten.

So the mere existence of the book in question is point of fascination to me. But there is more: the book was created in medieval Spain (when, how, why?). It somehow came to light in Sarajevo at the end of the 19th century (how, why?) - then apparently, during the seige of Sarajevo in 1992, the book was saved from sure destruction during intense shelling, by the Muslim head of the museum library.

The interweaving of the human stories - the People - the Jewish people and those who carried this book from medieval times to now - and the Book, this mysteriously created Hebrew manuscript in the form of a lavishly illuminated book - these are, in my mind, the elements of a story that has great potential. That the book "surfaced" from obscurity in Sarajevo, was nearly destroyed and then rescued and restored to its place as "the symbol of Sarajevo's multiethnic ideal" - by a Muslim man - that is a huge sweep of culture and history that I could not resist. Then, add that the author was in reality a war correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Sarajevo, and she was in Bosnia during the siege of Sarajevo...I had to know what she would do with this!!

The book was very engaging, despite a few weaknesses, and in my next post, I'll explain how it led me to the next book...then a movie...and the music that revealed the puzzle itself to me.

In the meantime, here is the author's web site for the book and here is a map created especially for the book.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How to teach physics to your dog

Here a new book that is at once completely silly and really quite an accomplishment ( I hope!). Quoting directly from the book's site,
Each chapter is built around a conversation between Chad Orzel, a physics professor at Union College, and his dog which Emmy seizes upon some aspect of quantum mechanics as a way to obtain doggy goals.

Most of us have some experience with doggy goals, I suspect. It's great to see a physicist finding a fun and accessible way to help his students shift perspectives, from regular Newtonian reality to a quantum perspective, using this familiar and non-threatening knowledge to get started.

There are two introductory articles on the site to give you a sense of how much more easily your dog may adapt to nonintuitive concepts in quantum physics more easily than most of us - especially the first time around. I like the "Talking to your human about physics" article best, but both that one and "Talking to your dog about physics" are a great way to waste time. Which is, sometimes, just what you need.

Maybe I should try to talk to my dog (Ruby) about statistics - before I teach another class?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Unknown From Nowhere Reveals Extraordinary Gift and Stuns World

In case the story of Susan Boyle has passed you by, it is worth 7 minutes, 7 seconds to watch this YouTube video of her moment on the television talent show, "Britain's Got Talent". It's just a little bright spot that lit up in the last that every woman in your life should see!

Here is an article from the New York Times.