Information Society – Running (12" Single )

Information Society – Running (12″ Single ) Source: Information Society – Running (12″ Single )      Today’s soundtrack – way back when songs went longer than 5 minutes     

Information Society – Running (12″ Single )
    Today’s soundtrack – way back when songs went longer than 5 minutes    

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December 2010: Where has this year gone?

Pardon the hiatus.  Hello December 2010!  Let’s dust things off a bit here…

December 1, 2010, items to consider:

Dates to think about: World AIDS Day.  Washington Post also notes that this is the day in history – in 1955 – of when Rosa Parks got arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat, leading to the boycotts; the day of the conclusion of a Crazy 1824 Presidential Election – where the House ended up making John Quincy Adams the winner to end a deadlock in the vote, pissing off Andrew Jackson; and in 1860, Charles Dickens initiating the serial format of “The Great Expectations” (the novel with two endings);  ten years since the crazy 2000 Presidential Election, when the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on what became Gore v. Bush.  Wow…

Happy Hanukkah!  I thought that this op-ed piece by Howard Jacobson, this year’s Booker Prize winner, was very interesting about his take on Hanukkah.  With some Jewish-British (British Jewish?) wit, Jacobson asks how to make Hanukkah relevant in this crazy modern world:

Everyone knows the bare bones of the story. At Hanukkah we celebrate the Maccabees, also known as the Hasmoneans, who defeated the might of the Syrian-Greek army in 165 B.C., recapturing the desecrated Temple and reconsecrating it with oil that ought to have run out in a day but lasted eight. Indeed, Hanukkah means “consecration,” and when we light those candles we are remembering the re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

But how many Jews truly feel this narrative as their own? I’m not asking for contemporary relevance. History is history: whatever happens to a people is important to them. But Hanukkah — at least the way it’s told — struggles to find a path to Jewish hearts. [….]

Isn’t there something a touch suspicious, for example, about our defeating the Syrian-Greek army? It lacks equivocation. Escaping from bondage in Egypt by dint of magic and smart talk is comprehensible: Exodus played to our strengths. Similarly, Esther — who had married out of the faith, remember — turning the tables on Haman. In our best stories, we lose a little to gain a little. We use our heads. Trouncing the Syrian-Greeks sounds worryingly like wish fulfillment, and the story of the oil that should have run out after one day actually lasting eight feels too much like parable.

I’m not suggesting that lighting the candles isn’t fun. A menorah can be beautiful and calling the ninth candle — with which, in ascending order, you light the other eight — the “shamash” has a nice edge of wit to it. A “shamash” is a servant, usually the person who looks after the synagogue, and there is something about personifying this humble candle as a beadle that amused me as a child. There is even a lesson in it: sometimes we do not burn for ourselves alone. But then again you don’t want that to turn into one of those excruciating rabbinic banalities that Hanukkah encourages because there is so little else for the rabbi to talk about. [….]

The cruel truth is that Hanukkah is a seasonal festival of light in search of a pretext and as such is doomed to be forever the poor relation of Christmas. No comparable grandeur in the singing, no comparable grandeur in the giving, no comparable grandeur in the commemoration (no matter how solemn and significant the events we are remembering), in which even the candles are small and burn out pretty much the minute you light them. [….]

So what’s to be done? Either Hanukkah should merge with Christmas — a suggestion against which the arguments are more legion even than the Syrian-Greek army — or it should be spiced up with the sort of bitter irony at which the Jewish people excel. Instead of the dreidel, give the kids their own cars for Hanukkah, in memory of the oil that should have run out but didn’t.

Maybe we should also dedicate each candle to one of the more recent narrow escapes of Jewish history. The Spanish Inquisition candle. The Russian Pogroms candle.

I’ve seen it argued, too, that those Christmas doughnuts that Germans call “Berliners” in fact are direct relations of the oily cakes and fritters Jews bake at Hanukkah to celebrate “the miracle of light.” That Hanukkah would thus have gone on being unknowingly remembered in Germany even when all the Jews had gone from it is a victory of sorts. I’d light two candles to that.

Last but not least:

Like past Novembers (see 2007, 2008, and 2009), I participated in National Novel Writing  Month (NaNoWriMo).  I made it past the 50k word minimum, and more or less finished a rough draft that won’t be seeing the light of day for awhile.   “A Danger to Self and Others” is my so-called spy novel – “so called” because the spies spent more time getting all angsty than anything else.  The tale ended on “To be Continued,” since it is technically part of my ongoing Agency series (a “series” since I don’t really write Agency stories in any particular sequence), where a secret British Agency deals with the waning Cold War and then the first Gulf War and various implications.

The tale is a bit of a caper, but also an origins story of how one of the characters actually got into the spy business in the first place.  Violence included a couple of dead bodies, fire, gunfire, crazy car chase scene, and some judo.   And, much Pointless Conversation (indeed, “Pointless Conversation” was the title of one of my chapters).  “A Danger to Self and Others” also included the words “Magical Hand Grenade” (wherein the spies decide on using an object to cause some destruction, the “magical” part consisting of the fact that they weren’t using a real hand grenade).

Yes, this so-called spy story really needs much, much revising!

Much to catch up on.  To be continued…