Monday, April 23, 2012

Charles Haar and Me

Leafing through the Harvard magazine that came in the mail today, I learned that Charles Monroe Haar, "LLB 48, Brandeis professor of law emeritus" at the Harvard Law School, died on January 10. The Harvard obituary doesn't say how old he was, but google leads me to the New York Times obituary which reports that he was born in 1920. I never knew him and know very little about him except that he was one of the first experts in land use law and an important figure in urban redevelopment circles in the post-WW2 era. But when I saw his name and the report of his death, I felt a bit of emotion that can only be described as mourning combined with nostalgia. How and why does one mourn for a man one doesn't know? In fact,the mourning was only partially for Prof. Haar (although I wish his family my sincere condolences), but mostly for my own father, who died over two decades ago. Haar began teaching at Harvard Law school in 1952 (I learn from the obituary). In 1952, my father was a statistician for the Baltimore Redevelopment Land Agency and a night law student at the University of Maryland. At that time, Maryland offered no courses in land-use law. Indeed, according to Harvard magazine, "[Haar] was one of the first law professors to introduce students to the emerging field of land-use law." Since my father had gone to law school at the suggestion of his boss at the RLA and since he had decided that urban planning and land-use law were where he wanted to make his career, it was only natural perhaps that when he graduated from Maryland in 1953, he would turn to Harvard and Haar for some additional instruction. He got some sort of post-graduate fellowship and spent a happy year in Cambridge, MA in 1953-54. The most important aspect of the year was the opportunity to study with Haar at the law school and to participate in a research group on land use at the school of public administration. (You can find what looks like a rather dry report from 1955 entitled Farm and Other Operating-Unit Land-Use Planning at Google Books based on the work of this group.) From my father's point of view, the second most important aspect was that he took a labor law course (somehow he had not taken a labor law course in law school--lawyers, is this possible?) with Archibald Cox, later of Watergate fame, who told my father that he should switch from land-use to labor law (at least according to my father). My father stuck with land-use and left Cambridge to move to Saint Louis and then to DC. He was a practicing lawyer, mostly in government service, but he also taught off and on as an adjunct in law school (Catholic U in the 70s) and in urban planning (Maryland in the late 80s). Of course he used Haar's casebook for his courses. As I said, I never met Haar, and I don't even know how much my father kept in touch with him over the years. But that year seems to have been a formative experience. I didn't connect the dots when I was younger, but the newness of the field in the 1950s must have been exciting. Haar was less than a decade older than my father and was only in his second or third year of teaching in 1953-54. Haar was also Jewish (or at least born to Jewish parents, as the Boston Globe obituary puts it.) And in 1953, being Jewish meant something socially in the Ivy League, even, I'm guessing, in the law school. It is easy to see why my father might have felt such a strong connection to his teacher. I know my father really enjoyed that year. Once when we were visiting Boston in the late 70s or early 80s, my father dragged us to see the dorm he had lived in (looked like a total dump to me although the cinder blocks were probably new and gleaming in 1953) and later, when we did a college tour in the late 80s, we had to eat lunch at the Greenhouse Coffee Shop--I drew the line at the Wursthaus which was his first choice. The high point of the trip for him was sitting down at a table and finding an elderly man at the next table: "Professor [Paul] Freund? I am sure you don't remember me but you were the chair of the special student committee in 1953 when I applied to the program...." Professor Freund graciously said he remembered. Who knows? But it made my father very happy. My father died less than a year after that college trip. Professor Freund died a few years later (1992--I just checked on Wikipedia), and now Charles Haar is also gone. So is the Greenhouse Coffee shop and the Wursthaus too for that matter. And the nostalgia? I too spent a year as a kind of special student (hence the alumni magazine) at Harvard when I was writing my dissertation and my wife's work brought us to Boston. At some point during that year, it occurred to me that I was in a very vague way following in my father's footsteps. It even occurred to me at one point to look up Charles Haar and see what he could tell me about my father in that period. But I was busy with other things and didn't pursue this. (Now my nostalgia and mourning is mixed with regret.) I suppose it's strange to feel nostalgia for someone else's past. But Charles Haar and Paul Freund and Archibald Cox and Cambridge, Mass in 1953 all became part of my past as well. I'll leave it there.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

2011 reading

December 2011
Jane Langton, The Deserter: Murder at Gettysburg
Kathleen George, Taken
Lee Goldberg, Mr. Monk on the Road
Jay Z, Decoded
Sara Paretsky, Tunnel Vision
Henning Mankell, The Dogs of Riga
Jane Langton, The Shortest Day
November 2011
Amos Oz, A Perfect Peace
Laurie R. King, The Pirate King
Jane Langton, Murder at Monticello
October 2011
Jane Langton, The Thief of Venice
Jane Langton, The Face on the Wall
Jane Langton, Dead as a Dodo
September 2011
Magda Teter, Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege After the Reformation
Talya Fishman, Becoming the People of the Talmud
Jane Langton, Divine Inspiration
August 2011
Jane Langton, God in Concord
Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question
Jane Langton, The Dante Game
Jane Langton, Dark Nantucket Moon
Jane Langton, Natural Enemy
Jane Langton, Murder at the Gardner
Pink Horwitt, Jews in Berkshire County
Jane Langton, The Memorial Hall Murder
Sara Paretsky, Writing in an Age of Silence
Martha Grimes, The Winds of Change
Jane Langton, Emily Dickinson is Dead
Jane Langton, Good and Dead
Jane Langton, The Minuteman Murder
July 2011
Marisha Pessl, Special Topic in Calamity Physics
Marvin Heller, Studies in the Making of the Early Hebrew Bookk
Lynn Hunt et al, The Book that Changed Europe
Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point
Sara Paretsky, Total Recall
Sara Paretsky, Guardian Angel
David Liss, The Devil's Company
Laura D. Hirshbein, American Melancholy: Constructions of Depression in the Twentieth Century
C.P. Snow, Strangers and Brothers
Julian Symons, The Man Who Killed Himself
Julian Symons, The Man Whose Dreams Came True
Martha Grimes, The Old Wine Shades
Martha Grimes, Foul Matter
John Edgar Wideman, Brothers and Keepers
Egon Balas, Will to Freedom: A Perilous Journey through Fascism and Communism
Edith Balas, Bird in Flight: Memoir of a Survivor and Scholar
Joanne Dobson, Death without Tenure
C.P. Snow, The Search
Robert Goldsborough, The Bloodied Ivy
C.P. Snow, The Affair
June 2011
C.P. Snow, The Masters
Veronica Stallwood, The Oxford Exit
Guillermo Martinez, The Oxford Murders
Colin Dexter, The Secret of Annexe 3
Ann Blair, Too Much To Know
Harry Kemelman, The Day the Rabbi Resigned
Pawel Maciejko, The Mixed Multitude
May 2011
Colin Dexter, Mystery of the Third Mile
Brian O'Neill, Paris of Appalachia
Adina Hoffman and Peter Cole, Sacred Trash
Colin Dexter, Morse's Greatest Mystery
Manning Marable, Malcolm X
Colin Dexter, The Remorseful Day
Solomon Freehof, On the Collecting of Jewish Books
Colin Dexter, The Dead of Jericho
April 2011
S.J. Parris, Heresy
William Powers, Hamlet's Blackberry
Roy Rosenzweig, Clio Wired
Colin Dexter, Last Seen Wearing
March 2011
Colin Dexter, The Daughters of Cain
Sharon Kinoshita, Medieval Boundaries
Graham Moore, The Sherlockian
Donna Leon, Willful Behavior
Donna Leon, Fatal Remedies
February 2011
Sean Wilentz, Bob Dylan in America
Sara Paretsky, Indemnity Only
Staurt E. Rosenberg, The Search for Jewish Identity in America
January 2011
Bill Bryson, At Home
Marion A Kaplan and Deborah Dash Moore eds. Gender and Jewish History
Harry Kemelman, Someday the Rabbi Will Leave
Jill Patton Walsh, The Attenbury Emeralds
Mary Roberts Rinehart, The Case of Jennie Brice
Faye Kellerman, Hangman
Laurie R. King, The God of the Hive
Wilkie Collins, Armadale

2010 reading

December 2010
Josephine Tey, The Singing Sands
Bram Stoker, Dracula
Margaret Drabble, The Sea Lady
Iain Pears, The Raphael Affair
Dick Thornburgh, Where the Evidence Leads
Vincent Lardo, McNally's Alibi
Shmuel Feiner, The Origins of Jewish Secularization in Eighteenth-Century Europe
Harry Kemelman, Monday the Rabbi Took Off
Harry Kemelman, Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home
Harry Kemelman, One Fine Day the Rabbi Bought a Cross
November 2010
Harry Kemelman, Friday the Rabbi Slept Late
Jack Wertheimer, ed. Learning and Community: Jewish Supplementary Schools in the Twenty-First Century
Natalie Zemon Davis, A Passion for History: Conversations with Denis Crouzet
October 2010
Harry Kemelman, Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry
Jane Haddam, Festival of Deaths
September 2010
Haper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
August 2010
Naomi Ragen, The Ghost of Hannah Mendes
Jack Finney, From Time to Time
Josephine Tey, Brat Farrar
Barbara Burstin, Steel City Jews
Josephine Tey, Miss Pym Disposes
Stephen L. Carter, The Emperor of Ocean Park
P.D. James, The Private Patient
David Assaf, Untold Tales of the Hasidim
July 2010
Samuel Heilman and Menachem Friedman, The Rebbe: The Life and Afterlife of Menahem Mendel Schneerson
P.D. James, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Geza Vermes, The Story of the Scrolls
Rebecca Goldstein, Mazel
Donna Leon, A Question of Belief
Irina Reyn, What Happened to Anna K
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Donna Leon, The Girl of His Dreams
June 2010:
Robert Paul Wolff, In Defense of Anarchism
Rebecca Kobrin, Jewish Bialystock and Its Diaspora
Robert Paul Wolff, The Autobiography of an Ex-White Man
Ann Waldron, The Princeton Imposter
Lee Goldberg, Mr. Monk in Trouble
David Lodge, How Far Can You Go
May 2010:
Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night
Robert Paul Wolff, The Ideal of the University
Ken Koltun-Fromm, Material Culture and Jewish Thought in America
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God
Samuel Rosenberg, Naked is the Best Disguise: The Death and Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes
Fred Inglis, History Man: The Life of R.G. Collingwood
April 2010:
Faye Kellerman, Blindman's Bluff
Mark C. Taylor, After God
March 2010:
Lawrence Block, The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza
Robert Bernard, Death of an Old Goat
Peter Charles Hoffer, The Historian's Paradox
Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People
February 2010:
Donna Leon, A Noble Radiance
Donna Leon, Doctored Evidence
Robert Grudin, Book
January 2010:
Hillel Halkin, Yehuda Halevi
E.M. Forster, A Room with a View
P.D. James, Talking about Detective Fiction
Ann Waldron, Unholy Death in Princeton

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Update on the Study of Antisemitism at Yale

The Yale Daily News reports that a new program may be in the offing.

Story here.

That was Friday: here is the report in the Forward from today.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Antisemitism and the Study of Antisemitism at Yale

Antisemitism may be (chimerical) nonsense but it has had serious consequences in human history so the study of antisemitism should involve serious--and dispassionate--scholarship.

So what to make of the fracas over Yale's decision to close the Yale Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism after its initial five-year term?

Some of the critics (of Yale's decision):
Abby Wisse Schachter in the New York Post.
Alex Joffe in (or do I say "on"?) Jewish Ideas Daily.
Caroline Glick in the Jerusalem Post.
Walter Reich in the Washington Post

And the critics of the program (who applaud Yale's decision or at least sympathize with it):
Antony Lerman.
Jerry Haber (aka "Magnes Zionist")
Zachary Braiterman in the Washington Post (responding to Reich).
And Deborah Lipstadt in the Forward.

(Read the articles and blogposts above; don't read the comments unless you like to see how nasty humanity can be.)

All the people I link to agree that antisemitism is a bad thing (to put it really simply) and that it should be studied in a serious way in academia. (I decided not to link to anybody who thinks antisemitism is a good thing.)

To put it in the explicit terms of their arguments: the critics of the decision think that Yale has cancelled an important program that did serious academic work because the political implications of that serious academic work troubled some Yale faculty, administrators, alumni, and perhaps some deep-pocketed potential donors who passed over Yale as a result. The critics of the program think that the program was not doing the serious academic work needed or not doing enough of the serious academic work that the topic deserved, mainly because the program sponsored or at least tolerated shoddy academic work that conformed to certain political views, and that this undermined or threatened to undermine whatever other good academic work was happening.

I don't know the work of the Yale Initiative well enough to form a definitive opinion but I offer a couple of observations and questions:

1. What was Yale thinking (to the extent an institution can "think") in setting this up in the first place in the way they did? External funding, a non-tenured (non-tenure track) faculty member in charge, connections to external organizations, a topic that is bound to generate controversy, and not-very-clear oversight by faculty committees? All of this could have worked but clearly it did not and given the realities of how research universities work, Yale administrators should have foreseen some of the problems.

2. What was Yale thinking in just cancelling the program without an opportunity to correct deficiencies? If they did indeed think it was a hopeless case, then a clearer and more substantive explanation was needed. And someone should have been anticipating the reaction of the Jewish community and prepared a better response than "We have a lot of other Jewish studies courses."

Yale is my alma mater, the place I first got interested in Jewish studies in a serious way, and the place that significantly broadened my horizons in all kinds of ways. I'm eternally grateful to the institution and I'll keep making my little annual donation and paying my Quarter Century Fund pledge.
And it's quite possible that there is more to both stories (of the origin and of the end of the program) than meets the eye, but I am sorry to say that from where I sit, Yale looks awfully stupid in all of this.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I would be cooking and think, 'I'm not a numismatist, I'm not a Jewish studies professor, I'm a chef. What am I doing with my life?'"

--Xu Long, Chinese chef and author of Money of Ancient Judea and Israel

See here for the Sacramento Bee story (reprinted from the Los Angeles Times.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nook Color update

Still pleased with this, especially the ability to take all the pdf's I want to read on a trip along with the detective novel for the way back without carrying a lot of paper.

The only major pdf issue seems to be that a pdf generated from a scan doesn't seem to work. The other slight annoyance is that if you are reading an epub book and then go to something else, the device puts you back on the page you are reading the next time you open that book. But for pdf, the device always puts you back at the beginning.

The lack of Hebrew support is annoying. Hebrew shows up fine in a pdf but does not show up in an epub book or in a word document. Maybe this will be taken care of in a future software upgrade?

The only other problem is my emerging addiction to the chess game that is included.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Nook Color: First Thoughts

I have been thinking about buying an e-reader or a tablet for a little while and finally decided to buy the Nook Color. I bought it in Florida last week so I could play with it while on vacation.

My main reason for buying the Nook rather than the Kindle was that I wanted to be able to download a variety of e-book formats and not just ones available from Amazon. (My basic view is that the Kindle will be the betamax of tablets if Amazon keeps it proprietary.)

My main reason for buying the Nook rather than the IPad is that I wanted something a little lighter and smaller for travel and I figured that if I really needed the fuller computing possibilities, I would bring my laptop to wherever I was going.

So far so good. I am too cheap to actually buy any e-books so I have been reading only free stuff. So I have been mainly reading books published before 1923. I read the free sample Barnes and Noble classic edition of Dracula (never read it before), and I've been enjoying Wilkie Collins' obscure Armadale.

I'm basically making a gamble that more books will become available in e-book format, that public and university libraries will figure out good ways to lend them, and that publishers will price them so that people will want to actually buy them.
I am especially hoping that academic publishers will figure out a way to price e-books like paperbacks and not like hardcovers. Otherwise, I am going to be spending a lot of time on airplanes reading 19th-century novels.

I've also been transferring pdf's from my computer and reading them. A few of the files won't open so that's worrisome. I have to do some investigation to see why. Most work fine, though.

And the only other problem is that there is no support for Hebrew (unless embedded in a pdf). So no Hebrew web-browsing and no Hebrew in epub (google books). But Hebrew in a pdf (e.g. books scanned by hebrewbooks.org) works fine.

The web browser works fine although it has the same problems that a smartphone has--too small a screen for most websites (although the screen is bigger).
I looked at one youtube video and the quality was ok. You're not going to want to watch movies or tv shows on the Nook, but a short video will work.