Thursday, February 26, 2015

Flowers for Nancy

Struggling with my next illustration for The Song ov Elmallahz Kumming, Bouk 3. Ecchhh. What to do? Pulled out the camera, of course, and took yet another picture of the snow. And then, well, I decided to have some fun...

8 bunches of flowers for Nancy and then 5 pictures of the snow, looking out my study window. If you click (or double click) on an image it should display all the pix as a slideshow.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mendocino photo journal

Last December Nancy and I traveled thru Northern Cal down to San Francisco, staying in Mendocino along the way. Ahhh. Heavenly Mendo. Rivals Provincetown as the best place in the world (in my little world, anyway).

Here are a few pictures I took. Enjoy.

On the road in Oregon, about 10 miles west from Grants Pass.

Sigh. That North Caly coast. Rain and fog and the thunder of surf.

Our cottage, from the back yard.

Looking out thru the front gate of the cottage. Mid December colors.

A Mendo high rise.

Another one.

Some interesting hardware, reinforcing a house.


A house on Heeser owned by some geezer. Nice yard, eh?

This is my dream house, or a close approximation.

Looking up to Main from the coastal headlands.

Among the shops and houses...

Down to the Mendo Hotel.

Old hippies don't die. They just keep on truckin'.

Now, THIS is a lumber yard!

The coastal headlands. Ocean is off to the right.

From Lansing and Main.

View from Headlands Park, lazing on a sunny afternoon.

That's all fokes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Book repair - caution with Japanese paper

Siddur Repair Team:
To avoid the Japanese paper hinge pasting itself shut, simply place a piece of wax paper in the hinge. Here are 3 pictures showing what I mean.

Lay the wax paper in place, right up to the fold in the hinge; close the cover; and apply weights. Simple!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Parashah Yitro - an exploration

The following is a short discussion, aka a dvar (a word), or a drash (an exploration), on the Torah portion Yitro, Exodus/Shmote, 18:1  to 20:23. I will be presenting this discussion to my congregation, Shirat HaNefesh tomorrow, 2/7/15.

Yitro and the building of national identity

Yitro, Jethro, is a parashah, a sidrah that most of you probably know quite well, although it often gets mixed up with Ki Tisa (tablets, golden calf) 4 sidrahs later. What are some of the salient things that happen in this sidrah?

Yitro comes out to meet Moshe, acknowledging the God of Israel as the greatest deity.
Yitro advises Moses on how to govern better, building a judicial hierarchy.
In the 3rd month, on the 1st day, the Israelites arrive at Mt. Sinai.
Moshe goes up Sinai, and God informs him He wants Israel as His special people.
Moshe returns to inform the people and they/we agree to the terms.
Moshe again ascends and is told to prepare people for experience of God on peak of Sinai.
Moshe instructs people to purify themselves for 3 days, and set a boundary around Sinai to keep people away.
God appears at peak amidst clouds, thunder, ram’s horn blasts, and summons Moshe up.
God tells Moshe to go back down to warn people to stay away.
God declares the Ten Commandments while Moshe is among the people.
Moshe enters mist of God’s Presence and God tells him not to make idols but to make an altar for sacrifice.
In sum, Moshe goes up Sinai 3 or 4 times, but the Commandments are given when he is down with the people.

A traditional drash starts with something far, something apparently unrelated, and then shows how it is near, that is, relevant.

I would like to start with a mashaal, a parable. It's about a king who wanted to marry a beautiful and strong and wise and noble woman. When she gladly accepted his offer of marriage, he had a very special ketuba, a marriage contract, prepared.  In it, among other things, he described all the wealth he was transferring to her.  Such and such tracts of land; thus and many chieftains for an honor guard; what well-trained handmaids and servants; which buildings in the capital city; abundance of garments of this and that sort; special cuisine and cooks; and so on.
The problem was, just after the wedding the king was called away to a distant land across the sea. After many months, he hadn't come back yet, and secret desires began to stir. 

How do we complete this mashaal, this parable? Of course, before you can complete the parable, you need to postulate what the nimshaal, the underlying story is, since a parable is a story meant to illustrate and clarify another story. Take a few minutes to postulate the ending to this parable. If you already know the parable, imagine a new ending.

While your mind is composing the parable’s ending, let me seed your imagination with some ideas.

First, what is illogical about Yitro’s advice about forming a hierarchical judiciary?

This is hard, so let me give you another mashaal. A parent said to her 5 year old, “I want you to obey all the laws of this household.” The five year old of course agreed, but a moment later she did something that angered the father, and he yelled at her. Sound familiar? What’s illogical here? Do you have a written set of household laws that you can refer to? Do you read those laws to your 5 year old every night so that she will know them well?

So now, what’s illogical about Yitro’s advice? [My answer: Israel does not yet have a body of laws to adjudicate!]

So the rest of the sidrah is about getting the Laws, right? Wrong! All that Israel obtains is 10 laws, not even a bare minimum to actually govern a functioning society. There’s no civil or business law here, and only a couple of the most extreme criminal issues are covered, without any discussion of procedure or punishment. Further, one commandment is about outlawing certain thoughts, coveting, which is unimplementable and was never intended to be implemented (it seems to me), at least in a human court.

So what’s missing here? What remains illogical?
1. The build-up of case law over 40 years is what ultimately becomes the Law of Moshe.
2. Much of the law emerged as a response to human need in the face of human conflict and confusion about what to do.
3. A nation needs to build an identity if it is to implement a functioning judiciary. The values that form a nation’s identity also shape a nation’s laws, and vice versa, a nation’s laws, and the way they are implemented, shapes a nation’s identity.

So when does Israel really assume a national identity?

The issues of national identity building are ongoing. Read the news. Much of what you read is about national identity building. Look at the problems in the Middle East, in Africa, in Russia and the former Soviet Union. Look at our national debates about abortion, immigration, racism and affirmative action, corporate profits, history textbooks. The list of issues concerning national identity building is endless. Yitro is the first sidrah in which we, the Jewish people take the first steps towards our national identity building.

The rest of the Bible and then the compilation of our other canonical texts, Talmud, Midrash, Kabbalah, and now in this era, all the documents and historical events leading to the establishment of Israel, and now continuing in the building of Israel, are mostly about national identity building.

So let us return to our mashaal of the king. Now that you have composed your version of the ending, let me tell you how the original author completed it:

After a year, the king still hadn't returned, and the whispering grew louder.  After 2 years people began to be bold enough to ask the queen why she didn't seek out a new royal husband. There were many to be had! But this noble and devoted queen cast them out of her presence.
    The king didn't return for a very long time. But finally he did return. And his wife rushed out to greet and welcome him. The truth is, the king was amazed, and he asked her, "You are truly more noble than I could have imagined! How were you able to withstand your doubts and remain loyal to me?" And she answered, “every time I worried or despaired, I pulled out our ketuba, our marriage contract, and I would read about all the gifts that you bestowed upon me, and my faith in you would return."

    Naturally, it is the nature of a parable that the story refers to something other that its literal meaning. So, who is that king, and who is that queen, and what is that ketuba?

    The king is God, and the queen is the Jewish people, and the ketuba is our Torah. Throughout the ages people have tried to claim that our God has abandoned us, and that we should turn away to another faith, or to no faith, but when we study our Torah, we realize what an incredible privilege it is to be Jewish, to be chosen to be a priesthood people. And that has renewed our faith and courage, in spite of everything.

In sum, parasha Yitro may be seen as a wedding ceremony, in which the Jewish people are married to God, and the Torah is our ketubah. It is in this sidrah that the idea of the nation of Israel is born. It is here that Jewish peoplehood starts to emerge, both through law, and through the willingness to take on an enduring purpose -- to be a priesthood people, to be a holy nation.
This drash was composed in honor of the new ketubah, the new Torah scroll that Shirat HaNefesh is getting, that is indeed being repaired and prepared right now, and which we will take possession of in the coming months.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A book repair manual

The synagogue I belong to has a problem: all its prayerbooks (siddurim; siddur - singular) were poorly bound by the publisher, and are in desperate need of repair. I took a look at them, and saw that they were quite fixable. I was given permission to run a class on book repair, to teach congregants how to repair them. Since I want to pass on the skill, I felt everyone would need a DIY booklet with the specific steps and methods for repairing these books.

Naturally, I underestimated how long it would take to make the booklet. 12 or 14 hours later I had 2 booklets in pdf format. I decided on 2 so I could limit their size to something manageable to make, download, and view

I thought my blog readers (or anyone searching Google Drive, for that matter) might also be interested in learning a little about the structure of a book, and some repair skills. While the directions are targeted for a specific set of books -- our congregation's siddurim -- with a specific set of problems, the methods may be applicable to other non-valuable hard-bound books. Kid's, adults, seniors: DON'T try repairing any book that you think is valuable or important (to you or anyone else).

By the way, you will notice I never mention the use of tape of any sort in these booklets. Why? Because taping up a book to fix it is like drinking arsenic to make a headache go away.

So here are the links to view the pdfs in Google Drive:



Sunday, January 18, 2015

My 5 ebooks

For those of you who may be interested in finding out about the ebooks I've published, and perhaps even purchasing one or more of them (they cost less than $5 each), below you can find brief descriptions of each of them. Enjoy!

Atternen Jewz Talen:
This book contains the opening pages of the diaries of the Eternal Jew (aka the Wandering Jew). In the opening scene he describes Jerusalem in his youth, as it was in 30 CE. He then recounts his meeting with a revolutionary named Jesus. Realizing he has left out some critical information, he turns back to the origins of humanity, telling what he knows about those early days.
This is not the Eternal Jew you might have heard about from unreliable or hate-mongering sources. He is a wise and engaging fellow, proudly Jewish, with a biting wit, and a wry but mystical view of worldly events and his place in them.
The story is told in two versions. The original text is an altered English where words and ideas morph, one into another, using a strictly phonetic spelling. To help the reader, however, a translation into standard English follows each stanza. As a further help, each stanza is followed by an embedded reading, so one can listen to the story, and read along at the same time.
The story is further enriched by images produced by the author, and selected scans taken from the author’s notebooks. The final chapter of the book is a collection of useful source material and links for further study and exploration.

A Pilgrimmage tu Jerusalem:
A young pilgrim hears that the place to which he is making pilgrimage is not what he expects. Truth or illusion? Redemption or damnation?  What do we really know about our journey and its end? This short remarkable tale, rich with illustrations by the author, and supplemented with images of the original hand-written text, will challenge the mind, delight the eyes, and bring genuine pleasure to the reader.

The Song ov Elmallahz Kumming, Bouk 1:
Elmallah, a divine messenger, is sent to Ertha to awaken her. Although she dwells as a shadow in a shadowy wilderness, Elmallah is instructed to liberate her latent beauty, power, and desire. But can Elmallah lift her from her wild state, or will she overwhelm his spirit and drag him into the darkness of her world?
The Song ov Elmallahz Kumming is the epic story of the man of God whose heart is captured by the one he is sent to redeem. The book contains many illustrations produced by the author, and also includes audio recordings of the author reading the text.

The Song ov Elmallahz Kumming, Bouk 2:
In this, the second book, Elmallah enters into Ertha’s prehistoric wilderness. He is unprepared for its danger and cruelty. He is equally unprepared for the passion and love he feels for Ertha that heightens and clouds his thinking. Ertha is as wild as the world she lives in. Can Elmallah survive in such a place?
The book’s many illustrations, produced by the author, are based on Mesopotamian bas reliefs. The book also includes 13 audio recordings of the author reading the text.

Ottoman Beachcomber:
The world was a very different place in 1983, at least in Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey. In this book you will go on travels in a simpler time to places innocent and charming. Join me as I outrun demons that are chasing me, dance in morning dew with unknown women, walk across borders in the dead of night, find my estranged wife in a 15th century Ottoman marketplace, and explore delightful villages far off the beaten trail.
This ebook is also enriched with photos from the author's wife's archive, and liberally sprinkled with links to related websites and photo archives.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Elmallah, Bouk 3, Image 5

About 2 weeks ago, on Nov. 29, I posted some preliminary images I was creating for the fifth image in my latest ebook now in production: The Song ov Elmallahz Kumming, Bouk 3. The image illustrates Dumuzee's servant betraying him to jackel-headed invaders. The two stanzas describing the scene can be found here:

At the time that I created the images in the previous post, working from Assyrian bas reliefs, I assumed I'd use the following image (in one form or another) for Dumuzee. It is a Sumerian bas relief of the god Enki. I had already begun working on it, as is obvious:

However, I then came across a remarkable wall carving from the Assyrian obelisk of Shalmaneser, showing King Jehu of Israel bowing to Shalmaneser. I decided to take some liberties with the Elmallah text (in the poem the servant is not described as bowing to the invaders), and use this detail from the obelisk for my servant. Here he is:

Merging the dogs into this image wasn't so easy, as the colors and backgrounds were not originally compatible. Hammer and chisel; chisel and hammer. I then chiseled in some cuneiform text (sure wish the soft clay hadn't hardened into limestone...), put on a little border of semi-precious stones, and here's how it turned out. Actually the original image is a png about 5mb and 2000x1200 pixels, but to post it here, I had to reduce it to a jpeg, 800x250, which still doesn't fit on this page. Click the image to view it:

Sunday, December 07, 2014

The Eternal Jew, beginning of the Crusades

Here’s a new scene, my pen still smoking, for my poem The Atternen Juez Talen.

This post embodies a new modality for me. Usually I present the poetry in my standard voice, MetaEnglish (or more affectionately, stevetok). Then I present a standard English (“oel Eenglish”) version, also in verse. For the first time I am instead presenting 1) a prose version 2) in standard English 3) first, and then the MetaEnglish poetic version. The prose version is totally accessible, and perhaps it will inspire the intrepid among you to forge on into the MetaEnglish version.

Please realize, tho: MetaEnglish is like a higher dimensional view of reality. As with any reduction in dimensionality in a system, the gain in accessibility will come at the cost of 1) lost information, and more critically, 2) lost context/connections. What remains is, I hope, an amusing and historically viable tale.

Some background: This scene takes place at the beginning of the First Crusade, as armies are just amassing in Northern France and the western German states. Our hero, the Eternal Jew, has been ordered to accompany Godfrey of Bouillon as a translator. Bouillon himself has just joined forces with the infamous Count Emicho (a temporary alliance, as it turns out, and as such, not out of the realm of historical possibility).

As derived from Jeremy Cohen’s book Living Letters of the Law, a new and virulent form of anti-Semitism was arising in Europe about the same time that war with the Muslim world was beginning to percolate in Europe. Christian competition with Judaism had long taken the form of distortion and defamation, and when politically feasible, oppression, but now we see a hatred emerging that would lead to a millennium of ethnic cleansing and genocide.


Oel Eenglish, proze verzhen:

When Emicho heard there was a Jew in the train, he shouted a line he repeated so much his men started to call him ‘Knees and Humps’:
    “No need of our humping a thousand miles to find and wipe out infidels. There’s plenty of Jews right here in our midst.”
Then he sent a sergeant to cut me down. (The word of his coming outstripped his feet; otherwise a different axis would have twisted this tale.)

Up swaggered a cutthroat, ax in his hand. The hair on his head and the bush of his face were dense and matted like a billy goat’s. With a foreign accent that I knew well, he threatened the cooks and the clean-up boys.
    “Where’s that little snipe of a Jew, that cowardly dog what hides in his house defyin’ the order of popes and kings, and refusin’ to convert to the true faith. Where’s that weak and ugly gimp, that seduces our girls and wives. Show me that womanly beggar of a guy who wastes all day just readin’ his books, those magic verses and devilish prayers to switch our gold into rotten beets while he fills his purse with the coin he steals. I’ll pluck his stony heart from his chest.”

Standing up on the cook’s cart waving a knife of my own, I said,
    “You’re talking ’bout two Jews. Which one you want?”

That put his little mind in a stir – a Jew talkin’ back with a knife in his hand. And what’s this talk of more than one Jew? He looked around to assay the turf  -- who would spin with him, and who would resist, and who was just edging into the bush. But no one was moving; just staring at him. Still more confused, his mouth agape, he sputtered like thief with a chicken in his hand.
    “Where?... two Jews?... anyone seen?... What are you starin’?... Emicho says...”

     “You’re talkin’ ‘bout two Jews, one is God and one is a devil. You wanna kill God? Or you wanna look in satan’s eyes and be swallowed up like a beaker of beer?”

    “What do you mean?? No Jew is God! And I weren’t talkin’ ‘bout two damn Jews. Just you! Come down so I can skin you alive.”

A snarl returned to his bushy face and he started toward my cart when a voice rang out,
    “Pedro, that one is a man of mine!”

Well, no one moved or said a word because Buyon (Godfrey of Bouillon) was sitting on his high horse just behind Pedro, watching this show like a circus event or a wrestling match, with an edge of danger, better to amuse.

    “Have you ever met a Jew before, Pedro? Let’s sit and talk with one.”
And there was Pedro, shock and fear overlaying his anger, his hate, his posture of courage, and his bullying soul, like he’d just been told by the pope himself to kneel and serve old Beelzebub.

Buyon called for a pitcher of wine.
    “Tell me, my Jew, and don’t mislead like your nature inclines, like your fathers all teach. Tell me, who is this other Jew hiding in our camp? Is he spying on us?

    ‘These men are as dense as a pile a stones,’ I thought. ‘And now they’re digging a trench to throw me in and pile on that stone.’

Said I,
    “No sire, you misheard. I said that Pedro here seems to  think that there’s two of me. And not just an everyday Jew am I, but an angel with powers dreamy and  vast, and a devil, ugly, and meaner than an asp. Think about what he’s saying. Bat-faced me, unshapely and course, but all your girls come running to me. Trembly me, hiding in my house, but I have no fear of the king or the law. And lazy me, who has never worked -- I just read and pray and your gold comes my way. Sire, none of these things is true. I’m a God-fearing man, honest and straight.”

    “Hear that Pedro! An honest man! The only Jew that ever was. And we two sitting in Eden’s midst, happy as babes at nurse’s teats. We see one thing, hear one thing, and he just turns it inside out. Poof! Our memories disappear. Magic, Pedro. And he’s my Jew. He’s a knotty man, Pedro. Beware of him.”
And one last guzzle. The wine dribbled down through his grizzled beard, and he up and went.

No tellin’ what that was all about, but Pedro, he looked at me with many blinks, then tripped on a stool as he ran away.


Stevetok version

Wen Ummukko* eerz thaerz a Ju in the traen
            * oel Eenglish: Emicho
He showtenz a line he repeet so much
Hiz menz start a kawl himz ‘Neez an Humps’:
    “No need a humpenz uv a thowzen mile
    “Tu fine an wip owt infaddelz.
    “Thaerz plennee a Juwerz niy heer in ar mist.”
Then he send uv a sarjen tu kut me down.
The werden iz kummen owtstrippen a feets
Or a differn axxez wil twis this tale.

Up swaggern a kutthroet, ax in iz han;
The haeren iz hed an a boush for a fase
Dens an matten like a billee goet.
With a forren aksen az I knowen wel
He thretten the kouks az the kleen-up boyz.
    “Waerz that littel snipen a Ju,
    “That kowwerlee dog wut hiedz a-hows
    “An defiyen the order uv papen az keeng,
    “An refyuze a kunvert tu the truwen faet*.
            * eka d’omray: faeth
    “Ware iz at weeken uglee gimp,
    “Him that sedusen ar gerlzen wive.
    “Sho me that woumennee beggennes giy
    “Hu waesten awl dayz a reed uv him bouks,
    “Them majjek verzen a devvellee praerz
    “Tu swich ar goel intu rotten beets,
    “Wile he fil him persenz with iz koynee steel.
    “Iel pluk iz stanee harts uv iz ches.”

Stannen up on the kouks kart
Waven a nive a my oenz, I sez,
    “Yur toks abbowt tu2 Juez. Wich iz yur wonts?”

That pout iz littel mien in a ster --
    A Ju tokken bak with a niven iz han.
    An wuts this tok uv mor an wun Ju?
Hiz louken arrownz tu assay the terf  --
Hu iz spin with him, an huze a rezis,
An huze jes ejjen intu the boush.
But no wun iz a muve; jes starenz at him.
Stil mor kunfyuze, iz mow a-gape,
He sputter like theef with a chikken han.
    “Waer?... tu2 Juez?... enneewun seen?...
    “Wutter yur starenz?... Ummukko sez...”

     “Yur tokkenz bowt tu2 Juez, wun az God
    “An wun iz a devvel. Yu won a kil God?
    “Or yu wont a louk in satenz iy
    “An be swawlo up like a beeker a beerz?”

    “Wut a yu meenz?? No Ju iz God!
    “An I wern tokkenz bowt tu2 dam Juez.
    “Jes yu! Kum down for I skinz yu allive.”

Az a snarrel retern tu iz boushee fase
An he start tu my kart wen a vois reengen owt,
    “Paydro, that wun iz a man uv mien!”

Wel, no wun muev or sez a werd
Kawz Buyon* sittenz on hiz hi hors
            *Godfrey of Bouillon
Jes behien Paydro, wochen this sho
Like a serkus evvent or a resseller mach,
With an ejjee daenjer, better tu ammyuze.

    “Hav yu evver meet a Juez befor,
    “Paydro? Lets sit an tok uv wun.”
An thaerz Paydro, awl shock an feer
Overlayen iz aengerren hate
An hiz poscherren kerrij an bulleyen seel,
Like heez jes bin toel by the pape himsel
Tu neel an serv oel Beelzebub.

Buyon kawlz for a picher a wine.
    “Tel me, my Ju, an doen misleed
    “Like yur naecher inklienz, like yur fotherz awl teech.
    “Tel me, hu iz this uther Ju
    “A-hid in ar kampen? A spiyen uv us?

    ‘Theze menz az densen a pile a stane,’
I theenks. ‘An now thay dig uv a trench
    ‘Tu thro me inz an pile that stane.’
Sez I, “No siyer, yur a mis-herd.
    “I am the say that Paydro heer
    “Seemenz a theenk thaerz tu2 a meez.
    “An not jes evverday Juez I am
    “But a aenjel with powwerz dreemee vas,
    “An a devvel, uglee, an meener an asp.
    “Theenks abbow wuts in hiz say.
    “Bat-fase me, unshaepee an kors,
    “But awl yur gerlenz kum a-runnenz tu me.
    “Trembellee me, a-hid in my hows,
    “But I hav no feeren a keeng or law.
    “An lazee me, hu nevver az werkt --
    “I jes reedenz a pray an yur goel kum my way.
    “Siyer, nun uv this theeng iz truez.
    “Iem a god-feeree man, onnes az straet.”

    “Heer that Paydro! An onnes man!
    “The onee Ju wut evver wuz.
    “An we tu2 sittenz in Adenz mist
    “Happlee az baebz at a nersen teets.
    “We see wun theengz, heer wun theengz,
    “An he jes ternz it insiedz owt.
    “Poof! Ar memmerz ar a dissappeer.
    “Majjeks, Paydro. An heez my Ju.”
    “Heez a nottee man, Paydro. Be waerz a him.”
An wun las guzzelz. The wine dribbel down
Thru iz grizzel beerd, an he up an goez.

No talen wut that wuz awl abbow,
But Paydro, he louk at me with mennee a bleenk,
Then trips on a stool az iz run awway.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Conservation of an old prayerbook

Cindy Arnson asked me to repair a siddur (prayerbook) that belonged to her grandfather, Jacob Fishman (zt"l). A little over 100 years old, and probably a bar mitzvah gift to him, this siddur was once a beautiful book. It had a carved ivory front cover with inlaid brass decorations, and a plain ivory spine and back. The covers were rimmed with brass, and there was a brass clasp. It was now in pieces. Of most concern, it's covers and spine had broken off. The paper of the book body had become brittle and discolored, and a few were torn. One signature (sewn section of the book) had broken out. What to do??

The book could not be fully restored. The paper had deteriorated badly and that is a process that can't be reversed. The binding itself was still tolerably good, and the loose signature could easily be tipped in (glued back in place). The boards of the covers were also in bad condition, but to remove the ivory, inlaid brass, and brass rims would be a long, difficult process that could very well end badly. Especially problematical would be re-attaching the brass rims. At least one corner would have to be opened and then re-soldered after being re-fitted to the new board. Given that the book had no meaningful public value ($100; maybe $200), a 30-60 hour restoration at standard restoration rates would involve a cost of some number of thousands of dollars.  Like I said, what to do?

One reasonable answer would be to tread softly, and do 4 fairly simple things: document the book's condition before restoration, re-attach the covers and spine, tip in the loose signature, and then document the book's condition again. That's what I did.

I carefully photographed the book when it came into my shop, and I photographed the stages of restoration. I used those photos, along with descriptive and explanatory text, to make two pdf booklets, a before and after. Here are a few photos from those booklets:

Here's the book as it came into my shop, in a plexiglass box (a good way to store it).

The 4 pieces of the book, from top left: book body, ivory spine, ivory back cover, brass and ivory front cover. The brass rim and clasp are easy to see.

The back of the spine, with rotten paper and the remains of the old, original cloth cover (purple-ish).

Detail of front cover, showing brass rim pulled away from board.

Another view of the brass rim and board.

The clasp on the back cover.

The first step in restoration: clean the spine of old paper, glue, cloth, crud.

Here you can see the cloth flange (left side of book) attached to the spine, that will be used to re-attach the covers. In the center is a cloth tube to be attached to the spine so the book can flex when it opens. Waxed paper extending from the top and bottom of the tube assure that glue won't fuze the front of the tube to its back (thus disabling its tube function).

Attaching the tube to the spine using PVA glue. The blue material is latex, wrapped tightly around the book to assure steady pressure to all parts of the tube, given that the spine has an uneven surface. The bars are weights made of lead poured into square aluminum tubes (nice square edges, safer to work with, and less maleable than lead alone). Pencil gives a sense of size.

The book, completed.

Clasp works again.

Monday, December 01, 2014

A scene from The Atternen Juez Talen

The following excerpt comes from work in progress on my narrative poem The Atternen Juez Talen (The Tale of the Eternal Jew). The year is 1096 CE, and Sodya, the Eternal Jew has been invited to teach history at Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki's (Rashi's) yeshiva (school). Sodya is rather bemused by this, and enters into a little revery.

The excerpt here is presented first in MetaEnglish (Stevespell), and then in Old English (standard English). If you have trouble reading the MetaEnglish, scroll down and read the standard English version first. You'll find the MetaEnglish isn't really all that hard or strange, after all. 

Your feedback is always valued.


Me, Sodya, the Atternen Ju,
Shumaken, wonderren, jerneemen, kouk,
Messijjer, onvoy, advizen too.
Bekum a yeshever an teechennes saje.
In a werl a chaenjleengz, Iem a chaenjennes man.

Evvaddens! Thats wut my iyz wer seen.
Tern it an tern it intu histerree.
Yet hu iz the jujjenz az truwen the fals?

[deleted stanzas]

We maken histerreez az thay maken us
An remake histerreez az the remake uv us.
An weer kot like Zeno in iz infinnit redres
An blien az Ballom iz seet on iz as.

Now Iem a-poez tu teech a histerreez*.

                    * eka d’omray: memmerreez
So my startenz the teech with a fames kumpare*,
                     * eka d’omray: pare
‘It’s the fers a tiemz an the wersen tiemz.’
A talen tu(2) sitteez, Jerrusem an Rom.

Evverwun knowenz at Jerrusallem
Iz the senter the werl an the Throne a the Lor,
That Rom, them seezerz, ar enveyus uv.
So the rommen paeps, in thaer kompenstate,
Aklaem thay senterren the rejen* uv erth.
                     * eka d’omray: rejent

An evverwun knowenz the lammentes faets
Wen the rammen barbareyenz laed tu waes
The hevvennee wawlz uv the Throne the Lor:
Exxile for God an Ju unnallike.

So wen Iem a heer az Rammules iz seejd

For a yeerz, an fammen iz eeten them up
An Badwelah fienlee torz it down,
Jes like Jerrusallem, tor tu the grown,
My theenks* with a tinj uv bitten avvenj,
                     * eka d’omray: thaenks
    “Them Kristyenz wil sufferz a simmaller fade
    “Az us, wokkenz theze rokkee roedz,
    “A wunder az tiem run bakkerdz now,
    “Awway frum Adenz az awway frum the Lor.”

Waal, a duzzen seemz tu wok that wayz.
Wich tot me wel an soon ennuf,
Better tu louk in a merer yerselz
Than tern a merer on histerreez.
Ar simmatreez aent so simpel az that.


Oel Eenglish verzhen

Me, Saadia, the Eternal Jew,
Shoemaker, wanderer, journeyman, cook,
Messenger, envoy, adviser too.
Become a yeshiva’s teacher and sage.
In a world of changelings, I’m a man of changes.

Evidence! That’s what my eyes have seen.
Turn it and turn it into history.
Yet who is the judge of true and false?

[deleted stanzas]

We make history as it makes us
And remake history as the remake of us.
And we’re caught like Zeno in his infinite regress
And blind as Balaam seated on his ass.

Now I’m supposed to teach our history*.
                     * others say: memories
So I start my teaching with a famous comparison*,
                     * others say: pair
‘It’s the first of times and the worst of times.’
A tale of two cities, Jerusalem and Rome.

Everyone knows that Jerusalem
Is the center of the world and the Throne of the Lord,
That Rome’s caesars are envious of.
So the Roman popes, to compensate,
Acclaim they are at the center of the region* of earth.
                     * others say: regent

And everyone knows the lamentable fate
When the Roman barbarians laid to waste
The heavenly walls of the Throne of the Lord:
Exile for God and Jew alike.

So when I heard that Rome was under siege

For a year, and famine was eating them up
And Baduila finally had torn it down,
Just like Jerusalem, torn to the ground,
I thought* with a tinge of bitter vengeance,
                     * others say: my thanks
    “The Christians will suffer a similar fate
    “As us, walking these rocky roads,
    “Wondering why time runs backwards now,
    “Away from Eden and away from the Lord.”

Well, it didn’t seem to work that way.
Which taught me well and soon enough,
Better to look in a mirror yourself
Than turn a mirror on history.
Our symmetries aren’t so simple as that.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

More images for Song ov Elmallah

For the next image in Bouk 3 Dumuzee, the shepherd/king, has fled from invaders who want to plunder his treasure. They begin bartering with his chief servant. These are the verses for which the image is being created:

Then up thay roze tu hiz hows and tu hiz serven
And with the cheef ov hiz men thay barterd in sienz:
    “We wil giv yu a wel in its wotter....”
    He ternd awway.
    “We wil giv yu a kow in its burden....”
    He ternd awway.
    “And we wil giv yu a feeld in its grane....”

Then the cheef serven, he pointed with hiz hand.
With the rite hand, the hand with 5 ringz,
He pointed tu the eest.
With the left hand, the hand ov 4 ringz,
He pointed tu the west.
With wun, he pointed tu the ruwenz,
    The abandond sittee.
With the uther he pointed tu the dwelling
    Ware the serven huddeld.
Fienlee he pointed tu the gulleez
    In the fouthilz north.
Then the jakkel hedded wunz
Tor him appart and devowerd him.

In the image, we see the chief servant (a Sumerian carving of Enki) pointing, while he is surrounded by dogs (taken from a Nineven wall carving). Here are 2 sets of the dogs, 2 versions of each: