Rockabilly Time

Even this close to Christmas, you have to make time for a little hot rodding.


It cries out for a caption contest, doesn't it?

The WSJ (Google link here) reports on a desperate need:
Frustrated by the dearth of holiday movies for ferret lovers, Alison Parker, a Vancouver-based filmmaker, directed “Santa’s Little Ferrets,” which she plans to start shopping to television networks early next year.  “If you’re a dog or cat person, you’re covered when it comes to holiday movies,” says Ms. Parker.  “There’s nothing out there for people who have ferrets.”
Most of the article addresses the compulsion to dress up our animals in seasonal themes, which I understand very well.  My smallest dog always acts like she's cold, snuggling under blankets if the house falls below 72 degrees.   It seemed a perfect excuse to buy her an adorable little snowflake-patterned sweater this Christmas.  I can't quite decide if she likes it. She certainly objects to being put into it, but is the look she gives me afterward one of grateful warmth, mute anguish, or just her usual inscrutable googly-eyed stare?  My niece reports that her chihuahua loves being dressed and rolls over in anticipation.  This is not my experience.
“Treating a pet like a family member makes you feel really happy,” [pet stylist Dara Foster] says.  “If people could put a Christmas sweater on a fish, they would.”
Oh, don't count us out yet.  But I think my dogs would prefer finding some Christmas ferrets under the tree.   I'll never forget, some thirty years ago, watching a housemate's cat run up the trunk of a fully decorated Christmas tree, pursued by a single-minded visiting dog.

The Christian Quarter

Home of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Christian Quarter is both like and unlike the other quarters of the city.  

The Jerusalem Headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller.

Saint George and the Dragon.

A modest "palace."

The Zion Gate

The stone walls of Jerusalem were built by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. The Zion Gate is near the room of the Last Supper, and was chewed up (as you can see) during the 1948 war that established the state of Israel. The Jews were pushed out of the Old City during this time.

When you have heard American politicians advocating for a 'two state solution' along the 'pre-1967 lines,' did you realize this meant telling the Jews that they had to give up the Old City of Jerusalem, the holiest site in their faith? I didn't realize it until last week.

It's already the case that the very holiest site of all, the Temple Mount, is denied to them. Even though it is Israeli territory, no Jew can go there and pray. Any Jew who wishes to go there must be accompanied by a policeman who is charged to remove them at the imam's orders, to be given the minute they start anything like a prayer on the Temple Mount. It is Israeli police who enforce these orders, on their own brethren.

Amazing stuff. The only parts of the Old City I didn't walk were the ones I was denied access to, by Israeli police, because I was not a Muslim.

The Jesus Story... told by the tourist guidebooks in a hotel in Jerusalem.

It's not wrong, but how mysterious that explanation must seem if you don't happen to know the rest of the story.

How Grendel Stole Christmas

An amusing poem from The Heretic's Mirror:
Every Scylding in Heorot liked mead a lot,
But Grendel the beast, roaring outside did not.

Grendel hated Scyldings, the whole Danish clan.
Can I say why? I don’t think I can.

He spied on the Scyldings, he fumed and he wailed.
He watched as in Heorot they drank mead and drank ale.

“How can I hurt them, the king and his thanes?”
Alone in his barrow, it drove him insane.

Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
Grendel got a horrible, awful idea!

That fiendish old monster was up to no good.
He decided to kill them and gorge on their blood....
It's a funny poem, but that structure suggests that we have a lot of real-life Grendels in the world these days. Fortunately, we know what the answer to that problem looks like.

Not a tortured artist

I like to work on tiny things.

Here's a guy with an obsession that puts mine to shame, and on a huge scale, too.  He reminds me of what an old art history professor said about Matisse, that he had strong feelings about only one thing--painting--and painting was pure joy to him.

Making a splash

You know you've arrived on the national progressive scene when your impassioned plea to be excused from final exams at Harvard Law School (because social injustice bums you out) generates an argument in the comments section over whether it's meant as a parody.

A fine teacher

My friend's pianist son has finally started college, in the music department of our alma mater.  He's an intense and self-conscious young man with wildly romantic notions, so he over-reacted a bit recently when he felt he had underperformed a jury.  He immediately wrote a mea culpa to his advisor full of wild explanations of where his life and career might have begun to go off-track.  His humane and sensible advisor wrote back with this advice:
First of all, your jury, while quite under your best level of playing at present, did show some big improvements in important areas, especially more natural use of your body and in overall musicality of approach. Of course, I knew as you were playing that you were very uncomfortable internally and that the mistakes were getting you rattled. However, contrary to what you said, your sound was not bad except for some harshness at the beginning . . . .
Internal feelings not withstanding, your jury was from an expressive point of view quite decent and ALL of the faculty noted a fine improvement in overall artistry over their previous impressions of your playing. . . . These people are all good musicians, [name redacted], and I don’t think they would lie to you; you can read the jury sheets and they are all very complimentary. . . .
You are right in having high standards, wanting only the best level for yourself. You are also partially right in being disappointed with your showing today and in knowing that you cannot claim a professional level of public performance with these kinds of mistakes. You must keep in mind, though, where you are pianistically at the moment and also that the players in the school who are consistently free of errors slave away at the instrument six hours a day or more at present and have done so for many years prior to coming into the school. You have not focused so single-mindedly on the piano, although you have cultivated other areas in compensation--intellect, general musical knowledge and artistic creativity. There is plenty of good stuff to build upon. . . . There will be successes such as your first master class performance and disappointments too. Expect a bumpy ride as a matter of course. It will take a tremendous amount of will for you to succeed at this. The important thing is to stay centered--treat both success and failure as the impostors that they really are. . . .
Your email is very soul searching and thoughtful, but I think there is a simpler explanation to what happened today. It is not so much that you played the wrong repertoire or are on the wrong path (although mindless practicing is obviously bad and more mental practicing indeed is an important piece of the puzzle for you). My feeling at present is that you simply need more experience performing to get used to nervous pressure. Just get up and do it. Your hyper-active mind can be your enemy--I would advise you not to overanalyze situations like this. And of course, we will roll up our sleeves and figure out what repertoire and technique you must do now to make you a stronger player.
. . . Above all, don’t let any one uncomfortable performance stop you. It is only one performance. If you played this same jury again tomorrow, there would be a good chance that you would ace it. You know what your real level is at present and more experience will narrow the gap between intention and result.
I admire this teacher's balance between encouragement and discipline.  He's not likely to let his sensitive but driven young charge fall into either discouragement or complacency.

Handmade law

Perhaps inspired by the Williams-Sonoma catalogue rant, Cassandra sent me this mission statement from an artisanal attorney.  I think I'd have been better suited to practicing law if it had been like this:
Are you tired of large corporate law firms making the same cookie cutter litigation? Do you fondly remember a time when quality mattered in law suits, when there was art and craftsmanship in every court motion filed, when company records were drafted using the traditional methods and tools? If you have become dissatisfied with mass-produced legal representation, stop by my scriveners shop; for I am an artisanal attorney.
* * *
How is an artisanal attorney different from any other attorney? Like other artisans, I pay close attention to my ingredients and process; I am intimately involved in all stages of creation. Other attorneys print their documents on paper they buy in mass-produced boxes, tens of thousands of sheets at a time, using ink that mechanically jets onto the page. I make my own paper by hand, using the traditional methods of 14th-century book publishers, who printed their works on linen and vellum. The flax for the linen grows along the sides of a nearby swimming hole, and the plants’ growth is influenced by the laughter of children in the summer, when I pick it by hand. . . .
And all the law is imported from Portugal.

Gaudete Sunday

Roman-era Mosaic from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

I am still in Jerusalem.  Today I heard a Latin Mass sung in a stone church by a minor order of brothers charged with keeping the sacred places in this city.  I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Tomb of King David, and a room vaulted by Crusaders because they believed it to be the hall of the Last Supper.  Yesterday I heard a Mass, or their equivalent, by the Armenian church which remains quite important here.  They have a tremendously beautiful form.  Later I walked by the garden of Gethsemane, through the Valley of Kings, and to the Mount of Olives.  

Look for me to return home toward the end of the week.  Greetings, though:  I wish you well this third Sunday of Advent.