Monday, July 26, 2010


This shot was an accident while playing with my phone during the movies, but I like it.

Joshua Cohen, Witz
The Rolling Stones, Emotional Rescue

I feel a little like that R.E.M. song that goes

This is where we walked
This is where we swam
Take a picture here
Take a souvenir

up in here today. A little broody and ploddy about living the wonder life. The Rolling Stones, even in their disco decline, are always a handy remedy to such moods.

The Rolling Stones, "Dance (Pts. 1 & 2)"

I finished Book I of Witz this weekend; 5 more and 600+ pages to go.  I'm to review the thing when done and I keep having to look things up because of my general ignorance of ways and means of Judaism, upon and against which this book is built. With each Wikipedia link I keep thinking I should put that in the review whereas few passages of the actual book have inspired the same thought. Except this bit about cancer:
Because his mother had had cancers and his mother's mother had had cancers, his mother's father, too, then their own parents as well, and then their parent's parents had all had their own cancers and yadda and blah unto the most rarefied generations; everyone he's been related to all the way back probably forever since even Adam, he's thinking - who's death at one thousand years old isn't accounted for in the detail that would seem to befit the first death, naturally caused - had had cancers, and then died of them weakened and feeble at whatever unripe young age. (p. 48)

Each of Witz's zillion pages are as densely packed but the compressed, repetitive beat of this little passage captures the pant of this book's cant. So is culture a cancer? Is one's heritage terminal? Is being casually analytical about one's or another's heritage tantamount to being so about one's or another's cancer? I'm not sure. Let you know when I get through Book II. I do like this factoid about the Tanakh:

The name "Tanakh" is a Hebrew acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah ("Teaching", also known as the Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings")—hence TaNaKh.
Acronyms are always harbingers of rewarding mystery. Look at that Washington Post thing about all the secret agencies that maintain our freedom through obfuscation. It's an excellent read and I don't usually read these kinds of things. This line about interdepartmental competition and SCIF's (sensitive compartmented information facilities)
"They've got the penis envy thing going. You can't be a big boy unless you're a three-letter agency and you have a big SCIF."

reminded me of a meeting I was in when I worked for an Important Software Concern in the Pacific Northwest, about something that was maybe going to rise to inter-departmental importance. My boss said rather excitedly that we might get a TLA for this. They were all worked up about a TLA, and it went on for a while until I sheepishly piped in, "What's a TLA?" stopping the joy cold. "Thee-Letter Acronym." they replied. "An acronym for 'Three-Letter Acronym.'" It wasn't much longer until we looked to move elsewhere.

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