"As I hear all the tawdry details of Jenner's story, I am also re-reading 'How Sex Changed' by Joanne Meyerowitz. [...] In it, Meyerowitz discusses the reactions to Christine Jorgensen's coming out in the 1950s, and how both her tale and many others who came out shortly thereafter, were steeped in the same sort of salaciousness as the promotions for Jenner's autobiography.
"Upon reflection, I realize, too, that every transgender person - and not just the Jorgensens and Jenners - face this same sort of thing. When you are trans, the standards of privacy are thrown out the window. We are expected to share our most intimate details to anyone we come across.
"Without exception, any time I was interviewed in any depth, I found myself asked about my name prior to my transition, or for photos of myself from my youth, or for details of any surgeries I may have undertaken. It really didn't matter if any of that would be relevant to the story: my disclosure was simply expected.
"The same standard is not expected of non-transgender people. Maiden names and other such things are considered private enough to be used as security features with banks and other institutions. Non-transgender strangers don't expect details of another's hysterectomies or vasectomies unless they happen to be medical professionals. So many things are naturally considered one's own private business.
"The minute one divulges one is transgender, however, all bets are off. What's more, to make an issue about such questions is to risk being panned as deceptive."
-- Gwendolyn Ann Smith, 2017-04-27
The torah portion begins with Moshe describing to the people the rewards they'll receive for following in God's ways -- people and flocks will be fruitful, crops will be bountiful, none will be barren, there'll be no sickness or plagues, and they'll be victorious over the other nations. This is one of several places where the torah describes rewards for doing mitzvot. This is hard to understand, though, because the world doesn't work this way -- we do have people who want children and are barren, we do have sickness, crops aren't always bountiful, and so on. The good sometimes suffer and the wicked sometimes flourish. So how are we supposed to understand this?
(Spoiler warning: I don't have deep answers to this age-old problem. I have some thoughts.)
One approach we could take is to place it in context. Moshe is speaking to the Israelites at the end of their 40-year trek to the promised land. They're standing on the shore of the Yarden, about to cross over and conquer the land after this speech. Perhaps Moshe is speaking to these people in this time. There's even an ambiguously-placed "in the land that He will give you" (in 7:13), so maybe this promise isn't for everybody forever.
That's not very satisfying, though. The torah is supposed to be eternal, for us and not just for them.
Another approach was taken by the rabbis at least as early as the mishna (in Pirke Avot): Olam HaBa, the world to come. If we aren't rewarded in this world, Olam HaZeh, then we will be later. There are even mitzvot for which we get rewarded in both; we list some of them in eilu d'varim in the morning service. We should still focus on this world, not obsess about an afterlife like some other religions do, but an afterlife gives another opportunity for reward. I'm not sure how satisfying this is to most people, either.
I'd like to propose two additional dimensions to what the torah says about rewards, two additional axes to consider.
The first is communal versus individual actions and rewards. Sometimes the torah addresses us in the singular and sometimes in the plural. Some rewards, like bountiful crops, are clearly communal -- it's pretty hard for me to have a good harvest with rain in its proper season and so on while my immediate neighbor has the opposite. Some rewards could be individual, like health. Obligations, too, come in individual and communal varieties; we all have individual obligations in the mitzvot, but the whole community together has some too, like setting up courts, bringing communal offerings, and conducting wars in particular ways. And sometimes individual obligations can bring communal rewards -- there's a rabbinic tradition that if every Jew in the world were to keep (the same) Shabbat once, we'd get the moshiach. Quite aside from the individual rewards for keeping Shabbat -- you get Shabbat, a day of rest -- there can be a big communal reward.
When looking for rewards for our actions, therefore, we should look to both our individual and our communal benefits. Even if you're not feeling personally rewarded for following torah, maybe you're helping your whole community live in safety, health, and comfort. That counts, too.
The second dimension is the question of whom we do mitzvot for.
The Reform movement is not a halachic movement. Ok, technically we do say that the ethical mitzvot are binding and it's only the ritual ones that are optional, but those ethical mitzvot align pretty well with values we already have anyway like not stealing, being honest in business, caring for the poor, and many others. Among the others, we choose -- sometimes as a community and sometimes individually -- which mitzvot have meaning to us and we do those. Many of us find meaning in Shabbat, in communal worship like our morning minyan, in study, in many social-justice pursuits, and more.
If our progressive values and halacha conflict, however, we reinterpret (occasionally) or set aside (usually) halacha. By and large, we do the mitzvot that we do for ourselves, for the good feelings they produce and the values they align with.
When we do mitzvot for ourselves, maybe that good feeling that we get is the reward for doing the mitzvah. That's fair -- we're rewarded here and now, in Olam HaZeh, for doing mitzvot. Isn't that what we wanted?
So we tend to do mitzvot for ourselves, but there's an alternative. If we believe that torah is mi Sinai, from God, then we should do mitzvot not for ourselves but for God. Even the goofy ones, the ones we don't understand and don't find personal meaning in. (I struggle with this, to be clear.) I don't know too many people who find spiritual fulfillment in sha'atnez, the law against combining linen and wool, but it's something God cares about. Last week a friend and I were talking about kitniyot, the additional foods that Ashkenazim don't eat during Pesach even though they're not chametz, forbidden grains. (A bunch of other foods got implicated by association.) My friend is a thoughtful, intelligent person who wrestles with torah and seeks to understand; he's not one to just say "tell me what to do and I'll do it". He told me that some of these decisions about kitniyot are clearly wrong -- but nonetheless the halachic system that God gave us produced this result, so he follows it. For God, not for himself.
The name of our portion, Eikev, comes from the same root as Ya'akov, heel-grabber. I don't remember where I heard this idea, but perhaps this word is meant to remind us not to trample on mitzvot just because we think they're minor or goofy. Who's to say which ones God most cares about?
What's the reward for doing mitzvot for God and not for us? Is there a reward for putting up with ridiculous-seeming food restrictions for Pesach, for waving greenery around on Sukkot, for checking fiber contents on our clothing, for separating meat and milk dishes, and many other things? When we're not doing mitzvot for our own benefit the rewards can be less clear, but if we have faith that God gave us the torah at all, why shouldn't we also have faith that God will deliver on His promises in some way at some time?
When looking at rewards for torah, either individual or communal, perhaps we should have less focus on specific rewards for specific deeds. Instead, let us do right and trust God to respond.
However, much as it pains me to say it, he has a point when he says "This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next?"
Let's compare Robert E. Lee with George Washington. Both lived in Virginia. Both owned slaves. Both were considered by their contemporaries to be men of great personal honor. Both were talented generals who led their poorly-trained, poorly-supplied armies to surprising victories. Both committed treason by lending their military talents to an armed rebellion by a region that wanted to declare itself an independent nation. But Robert E. Lee lost, and George Washington won. Is that, by itself, sufficient reason to put up statues of one, and tear down statues of the other?
Of course not: people want to tear down statues of Confederate generals because they fought to defend slavery.
I'm not a Civil War historian, and I have no idea how strong a part slavery played in Lee's thought process when he decided to work for the Confederacy rather than the Union (I gather both courted him at the start of the war). In the murky depths of my memory is a possibly-apocryphal quote from Lee to the effect that "a country that can't stay together without war doesn't deserve to stay together". For that matter, I don't know whether Washington was thinking about slavery when he took his job leading the Continental Army. At any rate, let's suppose hypothetically that historians were to find solid evidence that defending slavery was not a significant part of Lee's reasoning, or even that he opposed slavery but chose the Confederacy for other reasons. Would that suddenly make Robert E. Lee worthy of statues again? I doubt it: anything that memorializes the Confederacy and its leaders would still be viewed as a reminder of black slavery and white domination, and a rallying point for people who would prefer to return to that world.
But we must remember black slavery and white domination, or be condemned to repeat them. I see tearing down statues as rewriting history. The fact is, these people were important historical figures, and were at one point considered great enough to put up a statue of. If our opinions of their greatness have changed, let's discuss the new context and new information that have led us to that change of mind. Even a statue of Saddam Hussein or Adolf Hitler serves to remind us that they ruled their respective countries for years, during which they did despicable things (and presumably some good things); removing their statues makes it easier to forget both their rule and their despicable acts. Sure, move the statue to a site not of honor but of historical context -- in fact, I think that's what Charlottesville was trying to do with Lee -- but don't just erase it.
(For those readers in the SCA, I'm also bothered when the list of Kings of the East is read aloud omitting Angus. The historical fact is that he served as King twice, and his subsequent conviction for murder doesn't change that.)
For a contrary point of view, see Talking Points Memo.
May I remark how much I dislike the expression "presser?" I understand the desire to cut out keystrokes/characters, but it's really unpleasant.
If you think you may have had a run-in with a ghosts around town, I would love to hear about it. Feel free to PM me.
Example of a local legend : around the Powder House tower there have been reports of mysterious blue lights and what sounds like a man yelling for his daughter to stop necking with a neighboring farmer (but I've never spoken to anyone who has experienced this personally, just rumors I've seen online).
The Gazette thanks the King’s Champion of Arts and Sciences, Lady Raziya bint Rusa, for this report.
The East Kingdom’s team of artisans displayed a wide array of fabulous skills at the Pennsic 46 Arts and Sciences War Point. Below, we are pleased to provide some highlights of their work.
The reference document was a papal bull, and was chosen for its complexity and topic. The original has about 1850 words, and is the charter for St. Mary’s College. In addition to the reference material having clear parallels in use, the concept of a deliberate forgery is medieval.
Many medieval organizations would write up charters after they were established, because they needed a document to prove legitimacy. This was done despite the fact that the documents may not have been required when the organization was founded. The East Kingdom College of Scribes is in a similar situation, with no royal charter on record. This charter was not made to be an official charter, but instead to translate the concept of an official forgery to Society culture.
The charter itself is very similar to the original but not an exact copy. The scale is smaller because of the cost of parchment. The ink is walnut instead of black keeping with the ink of the original.
The text has undergone small changes in order to make the references to SCA culture, instead of the Roman Catholic Church. The beginning and ending lines have likewise been changed to note that the document is not official, and the date is written to society standards. Some of the changed lines now read (in translation): “By the order/request of the Signet, this document has absolutely no legal standing. In fact, this document should not be taken seriously.”
This dress was made as an imitation of a wealthy noblewoman’s gown, and as such is fairly sumptuous. It is not as ornamented or as expensive as that of the queen. The garment is made of silk and linen and contains artificial pearls and metal accents.
The outer dress is red silk with white silk lining the tippets; linen lines the rest of the garment. The most expensive fabric is used on the most visible areas, and more utilitarian fabric is used elsewhere. This is an appropriate medieval practice that was deliberately duplicated here .
Internal non-visible seams were machine sewed to save time, due to time constraints. All visible seams were hand sewed, and can be seen in the felling of the body seams. The dress is covered in 36 “pearled” roses. Each rose took approximately a half hour to create.
The apron and samples of Reticello on display are based on 16th Century Italian lacemaking. This project was made more difficult to research because the all extant examples of the craft are later than 1600, despite confirmation that the craft occurred before 1600.
Reticello is the earliest documented form of needle lace. The process involves removing threads from the construction of the fabric and binding the remaining threads together into artistic patterns. The challenge arises from engineering the product to be both beautiful and structural.
The apron is made of 4.5 oz Barry weight weight linen with 60/2 linen thread for the lace. It has 23 2″ squares of reticello lace in a line through the lower part of the garment. Each square takes approximately 6-8 hours of work. Not including the sewing, or practive, this accounts for 138-184 hours of labor. There should be three additional vertical lines of lace on the apron to be more accurate to Italian aesthetics. The lacing was limited due to time constraints.
This piece is made as a copy of an extant silver example from a Swedish museum. The armring was for a woman and likely dated to the 8th century.
The ring was constructed carefully because, due to cost of materials, there would not be an opportunity for a second chance at making the armring. 30″ (8.5 oz) of sterling silver bar were required to make the piece. Sterling was used instead of pure silver, because medieval silver was not very pure.
Practice for the final work was done in copper, although copper has significantly different properties when working. Silver melts quickly – a property which almost resulted in the loss of the piece.
The piece required forming by hammer, annealing, twisting, polishing, and stamping. The stamping was made with a tool that had two triangular shapes on it. The squares on the final product are the negative space left over between the stamped impressions.
The laurel wreath was created in the style of wreaths seen in illustrations in the 14th Century. No surviving laurel wreaths from that time have been found, but older Greek and Roman versions exist. Given the context of one illustration – gold leaves, the brittle nature of real laurel, and the presence of the leaves upon an emperor – the assumption is that the illustration depicts a metal, rather than a real wreath made of the laurel plant.
The wreath was made of brass rather than gold, due to finanical concerns. Sheets of brass were soldered to wire in pairs; each pair was then attached to a spine. The brass pieces were so thin that several wore through during construction and had to be remade. Embossing veins on the leaves was done with fingernail and blunt pencil.
In period this kind of work would have been done with an alcohol blow lamp; this piece was made with a propane plumbers torch. A mix of ash, sand, and pumice in a matrix of wax and oil would have been used to clean up the marking and flux from construction. It would have been manipulated with sticks when applied to the metal; in this case a modern dremel with scouring pads was used because of time constraints.
NB: All photographs of the exhibition graciously provided by Mistress Anastasia Gutane.
Filed under: Arts and Sciences, Pennsic
I got to know both Savaric and Tessa, who did good jobs. Savaric was dealt a poor hand - this was the first time he did active marshaling and management at Pennsic, and there are too many details to come into that cold. Having said that, he overcame everything and did a creditable job in difficult circumstances. He did not drown in his baptism of fire. Tessa and I will do better in the coming years for the experience this week, and that was largely due to Savaric.
I spent a lot of time inspecting armor and weapons. The largest weapon fail was for missing lanyards/trigger loops. The largest helmet fail was for helmets that were too small, letting me put a thrusting tip on a person's bare jaw. I hope we have something explicit about that in the next Pennsic handbook, as people seemed to think this was an acceptable situation.
I'm probably a bit too quiet while marshalling. I need to fix that. Didn't used to be true. It was probably a result of my trying to take in The Big Picture, but one shouldn't neglect the here and now to do so.
Marshal's court wasn't too difficult. Generally, one gets two kinds of cases: someone screwed up and you have to figure out how to fix it, and the intentional jerks. Fortunately, all the cases we got were from the former group, and so things were relatively simple.
I acquired a complete set of fencing gear, including a sweet 45" rapier. Now I just have to figure out what to do with the thing. I'm still studying my Agrippa, but James Klock recommended Joachim Meyer for drills I can do on my own.
I also commissioned a specialty belt for my nakers, which will make playing them much easier.
Camp was its usual fun. There was a new group on the block, and they fit in quite well.
Marshalling kept me from seeing all the people I wanted to see. I gather Patri and Britt were there for a week and a half, and I never ran into them. My bad, but I was pretty wiped out at the end of every day, and mostly went to bed early.
I played golf twice, won once, stunk up the place the second time. I fought one day. It turns out if you're from someplace that's never seen the sort of things I do, it's very hard to adequately defend what's coming. I fought one duke from someplace west of the Mississippi, and after I threw him 10' with Move #1, he got up and said "Where I come from, its customary for polearm fighters to retreat when I charge them". Welcome to the East! (Yes, I know we were in Aethelmaerc). To his credit, he figured it out pretty quickly.
One of the days I wasn't fighting, after inspecting all day, I watched some fighting. I came across to this one young guy with a poleax that went up to his nose. He took a charge from a shieldman, parried the wrap, followed the weapon back and hit the guy in the head with the hammer end. When I asked him where he learned that, he said it just seemed to be the best way.
I gave him the half hour class on fighting that way. I hope it helped. :)
We're home now. I've cleaned and packed away the tent. I'm back to doing the things I do when I'm not at Pennsic.
On the plus side, I’m getting more skilled at getting rid of them using the Shorts of Bat Entanglement. Although I did think for a while that I had activated the Portal function again, as the bat appeared to have completely vanished in the attic stairwell. However, just as I was coming back upstairs from reopening all the inside doors, I spotted the little bugger resting on the floor in a dim nook behind a couple of Kestrell’s books. With patience, care, and ruthless ignoring of the offended shrieking noises, I managed to fully entangle the bat in the shorts. It was then a relatively straightforward manner to bring it out to the backyard and release it. After a moment to recover, it flew off into the jungle, and I returned to a (hopefully) bat-free house.
In the silver lining department, everyone else seems to have slept through this.
Oh wait -- it just occurred to me. I can blame April for this! Her birthday gift of a (metal) bat to Kestrell yesterday clearly summoned this live bat through sympathetic magic! :-)
The Healthcare Thing: Republicans have been running for seven years on the unpouplarity of Obamacare, and the idea of "repealing Obamacare" remains somewhat popular. But they have not bothered to perform the crucial step of coming up with a plan that's actually more popular than Obamcare. Or, for that matter, even a deeply unpopular plan that they could still somehow ram through with hours of debate, no bipartisan amendments, no hearings, and fifty votes plus Pence. It was amazing to see the Republicans thrash through every major type of repeal. There was the no-repeal repeal, the particular version of which made things worse for the poor and better for the old before making them much, much worse for the old as well. There was the repeal and delay, where Republicans could run on having "repealed Obamacare" but no one gets to see the change until after the midterms. There's the free-lunch repeal, where you repeal just the mandate and hope that the conventional rules of economics just don't apply any more (the CBO predicts they do). The only things that remain untried are the repeal just the name and anything that resembles Trump's promises of "insurance for everybody" that's "much less expensive and much better". This isn't over yet, the Republicans could find some other plan that gets the support of one more senator, or maybe it will actually involve some convoluted plan to lure a Democratic senator from a state with a Republican governor and appointed replacements to some other part of the administration. But maybe they should consider the normal legislative process?
The North Korea Thing: North Korea is a horrible nightmare state, and war with North Korea would be an immense humanitarian catastrophe. But there's plenty of opportunities for delay to make the situation much, much worse. This seems like it would be hard situation to handle for a diplomatic, competent President with a functioning administration including a fully-staffed State Department.
The Actual Literal Nazis: Trump's response to Charlottesville was slow, tepid, and equivocating, at the very least deeply compromised. It's no wonder many white nationalists view it as not-so-covert support. This pattern of right-wing street violence being aided by "both sides" equivocation and lukewarm prosecution is a familiar one.
A major thing people wonder about is what it must have been like in their home when they were married and living there together. He spent a lot of time abroad when he realized how little she wanted him around, but when he was there, things were... frosty. Quiet and stiff. We decided that due to her resentment, Mrs. Hawking developed a profound mental block when it came to all things related to him, a resistance to making any connection or taking any interest in him. And he lacked the tools to communicate directly with her enough to even try to address their issues.
Still, I could imagine him making occasional forays into getting her to talk to him about SOMETHING— in this case, what to do about this knighthood he felt so bad accepting. Here I tried to imagine what that conversation must have been like. To wit, mostly him attempting in his indirect way to solicit her thoughts, and her shutting him down at every turn without ever actually becoming aggressive or rude. At least not overtly.
( Day #14 - All the More Reason )
I expect there will still be a rally against Nazis and white supremacist terrorism that day, and also there are related things like a "teach-in" (presumably about direct action and safer protesting) referenced in links in comments.
Some of the same groups that fomented white supremacist hatred and terror in Charlottesville today will be in Boston next Saturday.
I used to have DreamHost as a webhost. We parted ways, but I always admired and appreciated that they reliably stood up for their customers — including me — in the face of bogus legal threats seeking to suppress speech.
This week they're standing up admirably for internet users once again, this time in the face of an overbroad and deeply concerning search warrant issued in connection with Inauguration Day protests. Their blog post about it is here.
Washington D.C. prosecutors have charged and prosecuted inauguration protesters for crimes including riot and destruction of property. And without a doubt there were some crimes committed by some protesters, including assault and destruction of property. But the prosecutors' investigation has taken an alarming turn. They've been focusing on a web site called disruptj20.org, which they allege was used to coordinate illegal behavior. Here's how the site described its goal:
We’re planning a series of massive direct actions that will shut down the Inauguration ceremonies and any related celebrations–the Inaugural parade, the Inaugural balls, you name it. We’re also planning to paralyze the city itself, using blockades and marches to stop traffic and even public transit. And hey, because we like fun, we’re even going to throw some parties.
The site also contains a large about of information about protest and discussions of anti-Trump advocacy.
The Department of Justice initially used subpoenas to DreamHost to seek subscriber information about who ran the site. That's fairly straightforward. But then they doubled down. They obtained a search warrant for an extremely broad array of data related to the site, including all stored records of access to the site or communications with the site. As written, it seems to demand data including the IP addresses of everyone who ever accessed the site and the content of every site visitor's question or comment submitted through the site's comment form, as well as all emails sent to or through the web site. The Department of Justice has filed a motion in the DC court where charges are pending to compel DreamHost to respond, and DreamHost has filed an opposition articulating its objections to the warrant.
DreamHost's brief illuminates the key issues: the search warrant is dangerously overbroad, and implicates protected speech. The Department of Justice isn't just seeking communications by the defendants in its case. It's seeking the records of every single contact with the site — the IP address and other details of every American opposed enough to Trump to visit the site and explore political activism. It seeks the communications with and through the site of everyone who visited and commented, whether or not that communication is part of a crime or just political expression about the President of the United States. The government has made no effort whatsoever to limit the warrant to actual evidence of any particular crime. If you visited the site, if you left a message, they want to know who and where you are — whether or not you did anything but watch TV on inauguration day. This is chilling, particularly when it comes from an administration that has expressed so much overt hostility to protesters, so relentlessly conflated all protesters with those who break the law, and so deliberately framed America as being at war with the administration's domestic enemies.
There's a hearing on the Department of Justice's motion on Friday. I'll keep an eye on the case. You should too, and please spread the word that this is what the government is trying to do.
Edited to add: Please feel free to disregard all my analysis, because someone linked here on Reddit and an engineer says I'm not a lawyer or anything and she can tell that the law is wrong because of the law she knows.Copyright 2017 by the named Popehat author.
Join us for the Our Ville Stands with Your Ville: Charlottesville Vigil this Wed., 6pm, in Davis Square. More info: http://ow.ly/a3Y030eoWdK
6pm Wednesday, August 16 2017, Davis Square statue plaza