Archive for October, 2012

This Sounds Like an Enormously Difficult Job*

October 23, 2012

“So Peter of Cataneo became Francis’s vicar, a title previously used by Gregory of Naples and Matthew of Narni.  But unlike that earlier arrangement, the founder remained very present and visible.  Francis now claimed to place himself under Peter’s obedience, and he began to speak of himself as having a new role.  Rather than a leader who would give directions, he would be an exemplary brother, one who would give the brothers a model of humility and obedience…

Resigning and providing replacement leaders did not resolve the crisis that had developed during Francis’s absence in Egypt.  The founder’s behavior as a ‘subject,’ if anything, made the crisis worse.  Peter of Cataneo was not strong willed, and, in any case, it was difficult to stand up to Francis when he had made up his mind to do something.  According to one report, Francis once found himself in the position of having to tell his ‘superior’ how to order him around.”

Francis of Assisi: A New Biography by Augustine Thompson, O.P.

*Of course, the post’s title refers to Peter of Cataneo’s job, NOT St. Francis’s

What I’m Being For Halloween, Part II

October 22, 2012

Or: “DIY Fiona Apple Costume.”

I’m fucking SULLEN, okay!?

Book Psychic

October 21, 2012

Or: “Why Is It That Every Idea I Have Is Already Taken?”

A month ago or so, I read an article in the marvelous publication The Jewish Review of Books by philosophy professor Carlos Fraenkel about an “underground” philosophy club he wound up teaching to the Hasidim of Brooklyn.  A little taste (you can read the whole thing here):

“‘How could the medieval thinkers get away with interpreting the Torah according to Aristotle or the Sufis?’ Jacob wonders.

‘Well,’ I say, ‘they thought that if Judaism is true, it must agree with every true insight, even if it came from a Greek or a Muslim. The Haredim, on the other hand, think that they have to shelter true Judaism from any supposedly corrupting outside influence.’

This leads us to discuss whether the Haredi fight against cultural contamination is a lost cause from the start. I point to an interesting passage in Toledot Yaakov Yosef, the first published Hasidic book, by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye, a disciple of the founder of Hasidism, the Baal Shem Tov. R. Yaakov Yosef draws a contrast between a “small” and a “great” struggle; the former refers to a battle with weapons, the latter to the moral wrestling of the soul with the ‘evil inclination’ (yetzer ha-ra). The source of the metaphor is actually a famous hadith frequently cited by Sufi mystics. In this tradition, the Prophet Muhammad tells a group of soldiers that after returning from the ‘smaller jihad’ — the jihad of the sword — they now must take up the ‘greater jihad’ — the jihad of the soul against pleasure. Of course, the Baal Shem Tov and his disciples didn’t study the Sufi masters. But they did study Bahya ibn Paquda’s Duties of the Heart, which was translated from Arabic to Hebrew in the 12th century and became a classic of Jewish thought. Bahya’s account of the soul’s ascent to God was strongly influenced by Sufism and includes a version of the hadith in question, without, of course, the reference to the Prophet Muhammad. As Isaac points out, excitedly, the Satmar Rebbe, Joel Teitelbaum, was also a devoted student of Bahya’s Duties of the Heart!”

I was so taken with the article that I quickly emailed the author, as I am wont to do these days (every day I’m hustlin’) the following:

Dear Dr. Fraenkel,

I read with great with pleasure your article “Spinoza in Shtreimels” in the latest issue of The Jewish Review of Books, which is a fantastic publication I am always glad to get the chance to peruse.  Part of my interest in your piece was my light philosophical education –– I went to This University, which has strict Western Philosophy requirements, nearly all of which I’ve guiltily forgotten save the buzz phrase “categorical imperative” –– and part of it was because I am also a writer who has sort of inexplicably found herself covering a number of stories in the haredi community (upcoming pieces in Tablet and The New Yorker‘s Culture Desk blog.)

The main reason that I’m writing is that in addition to being a freelance writer, I’m also working for a publishing company called xxx, which is located in New York City and run by the venerable PM.  Something about your piece made me feel like there was may be a short book that could come out of it –– perhaps it was the idea of an underground club akin to Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran or some unavoidable titular association with Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union (The Lubavitchers’ Philosophy Club?) –– and I’m writing to see if you thought there is an opportunity here to expand the piece into a book.  Of course, you are the author of the article and also the man with the experience, so you’ll know best whether or not the material you amassed was exhausted in the article, but just perhaps it wasn’t.  If in fact it was, or you are busy working on other projects, I still want you to know that the article was wonderful, entertaining, and pretty damn funny at times.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this, or you just want me to continue to compliment your writing style and ability to get haredim to warm to you.  I’m good for that, too.



And his response:

Dear ID,

Thank you very much for your kind words about my essay (and my apologies for the late reply; I just relocated for a month to Berlin with my family and was without internet for over a week–a strange state to be in…).


There will indeed be a somewhat longer version of the essay which will, however, become part of a collection of essays titled Teaching Plato in Palestine (the title really does recall Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran; so your instinct was right). The book will be published by Princeton University Press; I’m not sure if publishing it with an academic press is a wise decision since the book aims to reach an audience beyond academic specialists; on the other hand, I also want the larger project animating these essays to be noticed in academic circles, so I’ll probably stick with Princeton with this.


I do, of course, greatly admire PM’s work, and may well come up with something in the future that might be a fit as my writing moves further away from academia. So thanks for your inquiry!

All the best,

Carlos Fraenkel

My, that Fraenkel is a nice man!  And finally, my somewhat cheeky reply to him:


Dear Carlos,

Woah… so… what you’re saying is basically I’m psychic re: book titles/themes?  I think that is what you’re saying.  I’ve got to add this new skill to my resume.

Anyway, your new move and the new book sound very exciting indeed!  I’ll be keeping an eye out for its release (unless you want to save me some trouble and tell me know when it’s coming off press?) and for future pieces in JRB and other places.  Please do keep me and X Publishing in mind for future work!  We actually do a lot of stuff that has an academic bent but is aimed for a lay readership, so we may just be the perfect place for your next project.

Hope to speak again some day!


The moral of the story is: even if an idea you have has been “taken,” it feels better than it being flat out rejected, so awkwardly email away!


October 19, 2012

I emailed the producers about this Shining conspiracy theory documentary in January of this year to inquire about screenings.  Allegedly being ahead of the game doesn’t get one anywhere at all.  Note to self.  Well, it appears that it premiered at this year’s New York Film Festival, and won’t be out until March 2013, and even then only in small release.  The film’s website says it’s about the below:

ROOM 237 is a subjective documentary feature which explores numerous theories about Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” and its hidden meanings.  This guided tour through the most compelling attempts to decode this endlessly fascinating film will draw the audience into a new maze, one with endless detours and dead ends, many ways in, but no way out.  Discover why many have been trapped in the Overlook for 30 years.

Chuck Klosterman, who saw the film (bastard!), gives the following details:

“[The documentary] approaches The Shining from the perspectives of five obsessive theorists (none of whom are ever shown onscreen — you only hear their voices). Two of the theories are really just deep critical readings of the film: One insists The Shining is about the Native American genocide and the other suggests The Shining is a metaphor for the Holocaust. The other three hypotheses are less reasonable, but more creative and inimitable: One person sees the entire film as Kubrick’s unspoken confession that he faked the moon landing. Another focuses on secret images in the movie that involve the Greek myth of the Minotaur; the third is built around the premise of subtextual synchronicities that hinge on watching the film backward and forward simultaneously.”

Behind the scenes!

Oh, how I do want to see this film!  I have my own conspiracy theory about The Shining that involves the man in the bear costume giving a blow-job to the random ghost at the end of the movie when Shelly Duvall is running around looking freaky and feeling freaked, but I’ll save that for another time.

Pity Flowers UPDATED!

October 18, 2012

My boss sometimes buys me what I like to call “pity flowers” because he feels bad for being such an incompetent person and for me having to babysit a grown-ass man.  Today, he decided to buy me these flowers that are ball sac-shaped, light green, and covered in small hair-like things.  He told me he got them because they’re weird and I’m weird.  He also told me I was never allowed to ask him what they were called.  From Googling, though, it would appear that they are a type of flower known as a “swan flower.”  Here is a picture:


According to Wikipedia, here are some fun facts about the swan plant:

*Also called a balloon plant or balloon cotton-bush

*It is a milkweed native to southeast Africa

*The sacs are described by the Wikipedia writer as “bladder-like”

*They are a food source for caterpillars and monarch butterflies


UPDATE: Apparently at bodegas these are often labeled as “hairy balls.”  This, I’m guessing, is why my boss told me I was never allowed to find out what they’re called.

A Peep of Pinter

October 17, 2012

I Know the Place

I know the place.

It is true.

Everything we do

Corrects the space

Between death and me

And you.

Sad Girls Zine

October 16, 2012

A ‘zine I wish I had edited, and that I will hopefully contribute to in the future?

Artist is Grace Lee.

Oh, that reminds me that I’m working on an epic post about the 90s and girl-dom, but it involves as lot of cutting and pasting, which is obviously really labor intensive and will take me approximately 3-4 weeks.

Three Celebrities I THINK I’ve Seen Over the Past 24 Hours…

October 16, 2012

… but am not 100% positive.

1. Jim Jarmusch

2. Shawn Astley

3. Brendan Sexton III

16 Ways To Say “Potato” in Poto-and-Cabengo-Ese

October 13, 2012

1. poo day dooz

2. puh da tut

3. buh da duh

4. puh tay toe sa led

5. po ta too

6. puh day too tah

7. po da tuht

8. po da too

9. po day tah ta led

10. puh tah ta let

11. boo day poo tile

12. buh da too

13. puh tay toe ta led

14. puh ted ta led

15. puh tay to tah

16. puh toe toe

I’ll Give It to the Nonsense Listserv

October 13, 2012

This sounds pretty fun:


NYC Fifth Annual Big Wheel Race

Welcome back to Fluff’s Fifth Annual NYC Big Wheel race. The past five years have shown us the marvels of madness with Ice Wheels, speed trials and countless four-wheeling events on three wheels. We’re back to the brouhaha that started it all.

Bring your own Big Wheel. This includes: Big Wheels, trikes, velocipedes, skateboards you can sit on and control, ice boxes, toilets with wheels, soapbox vessels, or other hand made or rehashed contraptions.

The rules are as follows: Your seat or bottom must be no higher than 12 inches above the ground. Avoid rubber wheels; plastic or other is favored. Wear safety gear. Riders have been known to break 30mph. This is open to everyone. You ride at your own risk. We’ll use both the Rocket Path and the Danger Loop.

Costumes: superheroes are encouraged to dress the part and ride as the heroes they are. Wonder Woman, we miss you, please come back. Performers: If you’d like to play your guitar, bring your hoop, spin poi, or teach us all how to paint small children’s faces please do so.

Central Park

106th Street and 5th Avenue entrance, walk up to the top of the path, Manhattan

3p photos, 3:30p racing, 5:30p enchiladas; $free


Then again, I’ve always been a sucker for those pillow fight people.