Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another Boston thought

On my recent visit to Boston, something strange happened. A clerk in a store willingly engaged in small talk as she rang up the purchase.
Perhaps the holiday spirit? or maybe I need to rethink my "chit-chat index" in light of this new data.

PS Many apologies to the friends I wasn't able to see on this trip.

A visit to Boston and its MFA

I had the chance to visit the newly renovated Museum of Fine Arts in Boston yesterday after my conference was over. Just a few weeks ago, they opened an enormous and beautiful addition mainly housing the American art collection. Next summer, they will open the renovation of the contemporary wing.

The new wing links to the older part of the Museum through a new visitor's center in the middle of the complex, as well as through some doorways and hallways leading off the pre-existing gallaries.

The Museum is now a lot like the city of Boston itself:

--a blend of old and new.

--incredible cultural riches along with just a little insecurity about whether the world will recognize those riches with New York just down the road.

--some fantastic public spaces and some odd little byways.

--a little confusing to get around. (Give up hope of seeing the museum or any part of the museum systematically unless you have a lot of time to study the map.)

--somewhat arbitrary local conventions. (Someone called me while I was in a corridor leading to the new wing--actually technically in the new wing--hung with tapestries and with nice benches to sit on. So I took the call and sat down to talk. A guard came over to tell me that I couldn't talk in that corridor, but that I could talk in the next corridor, in the old wing.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A little more WUMB

Listening right now to "These Times We're Living In: A Red House Anthology"
which includes:

Jimmy LaFave #95
Bill Staines #70
Eliza Gilkyson #43
Lucy Kaplansky #38
among others.

Some of the songs are good, while others show off instrumental or vocal virtuosity but are ultimately unsatisfying.

I've also been listening this week to "Newport Folk Festival-1963-The Evening Concerts, vol. 1" with Joan Baez (#9), Bob Dylan (#1), Jack Elliott, The Freedom Singers, Sam Hinton, Mississippi John Hurt, Ian and Sylvia, and the Rooftop Singers, which is much, much better.

The other CD I borrowed from the library at the same time is "Klezmer Nutcracker" by Shirim, a group out of Boston that did not, in fact, make it onto the WUMB list. An interesting concept, at the very least...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Been very busy and have not had time to post.

In case for some reason you rely on this blog ( to decide where to drink coffee in Pittsburgh, I must tell you that Kiva Han's location on Forbes Avenue near Magee-Women's Hospital (not the Forbes and Craig location) has closed. Apparently a Razzyfresh is going in there, part of the expanding empire of frozen yogurt.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hello Long Beach and Pasadena

A shout-out to all my readers in Southern California.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

WUMB #81, 79, 77

#81 Kate Wolf, Gold in California. This is a two-CD set of songs she recorded from 1975 to 1985 and that she put together before her death in 1987. Another of the California singer-songwriters with a pretty voice. And another singer-songwriter who died young.

#79 Willie Nelson, Country Music (Rounder Records, 2010). It's Willie Nelson. I don't think he needs an introduction. This CD is a good sampler.

#77 Bruce Cockburn, Life Short, Call Now (Rounder Records, 2006). Without the comma it would seem to be about the life of a medical resident. He likes repetitive lyrics, but that's ok because they can be effective.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Moshe Greenberg, z"l

I learned today through the H-Judaic mailing list that Moshe Greenberg passed away.
Professor Greenberg was Professor of Bible at the University of Pennsylvania and then at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for many years. You can read a brief biography by his student and successor at Penn, Jeffrey Tigay, here.

I met Prof. Greenberg in 1993 when I audited his course on medieval Hebrew bible commentary at Hebrew University. It was a course taught in the Bible department aimed mainly at undergraduate Bible majors. I was taking courses for a year after graduating college to fill in some gaps, improve my Hebrew, and prepare myself for graduate study in Jewish history. The class consisted of about 20 undergraduate Bible majors and me. I could keep up with the lectures and class discussion (in Hebrew) but the level of knowledge of the biblical text by the other students floored me. On the other hand, they knew almost nothing about medieval Jewish intellectual history. Prof. Greenberg knew my situation but spoke to me only in Hebrew, even after class.

After I had enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania for graduate study, Prof. Greenberg came (back) to Philadelphia as a visiting fellow at the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. He greeted me warmly--in English--and asked me about my studies. Later that year, he spoke to some graduate students and told the following story in response to a question about how he had embarked on his career as a Bible scholar:

He (Prof. Greenberg) had travelled around Mexico the summer before his freshman year at Penn. He had fallen in love with the Spanish language and when he got back to Philadelphia he went straight to the chair of the Romance Languages department and declared his intention to major in Spanish. But, he explained to the chair, his love was for the language--its structure and its history--not necessarily the literature, so with whom should he study Spanish philology and linguistics? Ah, exclaimed the chair of the department, we have no one right now who does historical linguistics or the kind of philology that you describe. What other languages do you know, asked the chair to the freshman. Hebrew was the answer Ah, said the chair, then you are in luck: Professor Speiser in Oriental Studies is a first-rate philologist and linguist. Why don't you go see him?

Rest in peace, Professor Greenberg.

Robert Paul Wolf's Memoirs

Have you been reading them? If not, why not?


Music for the rainy season

More selections from the WUMB list, courtesy of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

#88 Dave Alvin, West of the West: Songs from California Songwriters. Yep Roc Records (2006). All songs by California songwriters... “you’ve gotta get a gimmick,” I guess. But gimmicks aside, some of the songs are great. And who wouldn’t like a kind of folkish easy listening version of “Surfer Girl”?

#87 Carrie Newcomer, The Geography of Light. Rounder Records (2008). Nice voice; good guitar playing. And interesting lyrics. I am especially impressed with the ever-more-inventive ways that songwriters come up with ways to make romantic love seem deeply philosophical.

#85 Bill Morrissey, Standing Eight. Rounder Records (1989). This is the kind of singer-songwriter New England folk vibe I like (and thought I would get more of from WUMB listeners...maybe as I go farther up the list). I particularly enjoyed his "Party at the UN" which was a Tom-Lehreresque break from the usual laments about things that singer-songwriters lament: "Israelis with uqeleles form a dance band." That is a brilliant lyric.

#84 Loreena McKennitt, The Olive and the Cedar. A Mediterranean Odyssey . Quinlan Road Limited (2009). My first thought as the opening track began was “not my cup of mint tea.” But she has a beautiful voice and I could appreciate some of the eclectic blending of folkish music sung in English with Mediterranean rhythms and instruments.

#83 Brooks Williams, Little Lions. Signature Songs(2000). If you like instrumental guitar, enjoy.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Eclectic music selection for grading papers

What I've been listening to the last few days:

Pete Seeger (WUMB #25). Had to skip ahead on my WUMB list when I saw that the recording from the Carnegie Hall Concert from 1963 was available in the library: We Shall Overcome. The Complete Carnegie Hall Concert. Historic Live Recording. June 8, 1963. CBS Records (1989). Happened to listen to this yesterday before I learned it was Pete Seeger’s birthday.

Iris DeMent (WUMB #90) My Life. Warner Brothers (1994). Kind of folksy; kind of country-y.

Hesperion XXI, led by Jordi Savall. Diáspora Sefardí Alia Vox (1999). Good to listen to while reading research papers on historical novels and films set in medieval Spain or the “diáspora Sefardí.”

And a recording of the Magic Flute [Die Zauberflöte] from the chorus and orchestra of the Bayerischen Runfunk, conducted by Bernard Haitink. EMI Records, 1981. Why not?

And a couple I listened to a while back but didn't get a chance to post:

Jennifer Kimball. (WUMB #89) The only thing I could find by her was one song on Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Volume 3. Appleseed Recordings (2003).
Track number 5 on disc 2 is her singing Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” in English (an arrangement and the English lyrics by Pete Seeger). In the Seeger/Kimball version, it doesn’t sound like liturgical music--probably because the banjo provides the main melody. Overall, this is a great album. A really wide range of songs and voices (with some other WUMB favorites as well).
I learn from her website that she used to perform with Jonatha Brooke as “The Story” and that she is from Cambridge, Mass. and performed with various Boston-area groups in the 80s and 90s. She now seems to perform once a month or so in Boston and in Ireland.

Dave Matthews Band (WUMB #115), Before these Crowded Streets, [1998]
A mixed bag: some of the songs sound the same; and some of the music is technically perfect but repetitive and uninteresting. But there are some songs where the lyrics and music fit and are interesting (e.g. “The Last Stop”).

Friday, March 12, 2010

What to listen to while copy-editing

More from the WUMB list.

#99 Jonathan Edwards. Have a Good Time for Me (1973; re-issued 2005). Edwards singing the work of other songwriters. The amazing Wikipedia tells me that Jonathan Edwards was living in Western Massachusetts when he made this album. So far as I know, no relation to the other well-known Jonathan Edwards who spent time in Stockbridge.

#97 Paul Brady. on Andy Irvine/Paul Brady with Donal Lunny and Kevin Burke (1981)
Perfect when you’re in the mood for Irish songs and fiddling. I won’t say how often this mood strikes me.

#95 Jimmy LaFave. The only thing I was able to find in Carnegie Library was his song “I Ain’t Got No Home” on Ribbon Highway--Endless Skyway, A Concert in the Spirit of Woody Guthrie (1993).

#94 Eva Cassidy. The CD I found in the CLP system was her Somewhere (2008), one of a number of posthumous releases. I learned from Wikipedia that she died at the age of 33 in 1996 just as her career was taking off. I had never heard of her but apparently she has become quite well known in the last 15 years. A remarkable voice and a wide range on this album: jazz, blues, folk, country/swing, r&b, etc.

#93 The Band. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (1990)
“Recorded Live in Concert!” “Original Artists!” “Original Recordings!” “richly mesmerizing” “redefining American music” “resonate[s] powerfully through our consciousness” Ok, ok. Always enjoyable to listen to these guys but an awful lot of exclamation points and hyperbole here--I thought Canadians didn’t go in for that sort of thing. But they are very popular, as the scratched-up CD from the Moon Township Public Library attests.

#92 Doc Watson Family. The Watson Family from Smithsonian Folkways, 1990. (Recordings originally released in 1963 and 1976.)
“Classic examples of the Anglo-American folk tradition” (according to Jeff Place in the liner notes). Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that classics are always mediated by their transmission and reception history.

#91 Norah Jones. Come Away with Me (2002). This was the debut album of someone who is now a pretty big star (they sell her albums in Starbucks, I think). I have to confess that while the name sounded familiar, I didn’t really know who she was until I started going through the WUMB list, and I know that says something about me. (Ravi Shankar’s daughter? who knew? probably everyone) Pleasant listening while I did some copy-editing yesterday afternoon.

Coffee is yofi, but liquor is quicker.

(apologies to Ogden Nash and the Hebrew language)

Of course, I am speaking about lectures on the role of these libations in early modern and modern Jewish culture.

Your choice:


Thursday, April 22, 4:00 pm
Jewish Societies and Cultures Seminar, The Harvard Center for the Humanities,
and The Harvard University Center for Jewish Studies present:
"Jews Encounter Coffee in Early Modern Europe"
Robert Liberles, Gerard Weinstock Visiting Professor of Jewish History,
Department of History, Harvard University
Professor of Modern Jewish History at Ben Gurion University, Beersheva, Israel
Harvard University
Harvard Hall, Room 103
Harvard Yard (Near the Johnston Gate)
Cambridge, MA
For the Lecture Poster:


The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research cordially invites you to the next
Ruth Gay Seminar in Jewish Studies
Tuesday March 23, 2010 ..... Meet the Faculty: 6:00 PM......Seminar
begins: 6:30 PM
Address: Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY,
Kovno Room. Refreshments and Meet the Faculty at 6 PM. Seminar at 6:30
PM. ADVANCE REGISTRATION REQUIRED. Call 212-294-6143 or email
Presenter: GLENN DYNNER, Professor of Judaic Studies, Sarah Lawrence
College; author of 'Men of Silk: The Hasidic Conquest of Polish Jewish
Society' (Oxford University Press, 2006).
Moderator and Respondent: MOSHE ROSMAN, Professor of Jewish History,
Bar Ilan University; Horace Goldsmith Visiting Professor of Jewish
Studies, Yale University.
By the end of the 18th century, Jews comprised the vast majority of
tavernkeepers in Poland-Lithuania, leasing taverns and distilleries from
the nobility. According to most historians, Polish Jews were driven out
of the liquor trade over the course of the next century. Yet 19th
century archival sources, including an invaluable collection of personal
petitions (kvitlakh) sent to R. Eliyahu Guttmacher, housed in the YIVO
Archives, provide evidence of the continued existence of Polish Jewish
liquor traders, both open and surreptitious. The continued involvement
of Jews in this sector of the Polish economy points to the fact that
traces of the feudal economic system survived amidst a period of rapid
industrialization and modernization.
While Jewish tavernkeeping was vigorously opposed by powerful groups in
Polish society, one crucial group continued to provide them with cover:
the very local Christians they were accused of victimizing. This talk
analyzes the robust but technically illegal Polish Jewish liquor trade
during the 19th century.
This seminar series is named in honor of the historian and scholar Ruth
Gay (1922-2006) and was made possible thanks to a major gift from the
family of Ruth Gay.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Update on my addiction to print media

This talk show exchange really captures another aspect of the problem.

Thursday Thoughts

a miscellany:

1. Got coffee this morning at a Dunkin Donuts near my house. Apparently their policy is to call customers "guests." I was tempted to feign shock that they were charging a "guest" for his coffee. Paging Miss Manners and George Orwell to the conference room.

2. While drinking said coffee, I read the March 15, 2010 issue of The Nation. Jon Wiener's cover story "Big Tobacco and the Historicans: A Tale of Seduction and Intimidation" proved to be more about intimidation than seduction. Like everything in The Nation these days, unbelievable (and not in a good way). (Check out the article after that one: Greg Kaufmann, "Friedmanism at the Fed.")
We live in Chelm, folks.

3. Last week on a plane trip, I read through the first issue of The Jewish Review of Books Have you ever read a magazine in which every single article was interesting? Actually, I can't really say this about the first JRB but I would say that I found 20 out of 22 pieces fascinating--which is a pretty high percentage for me. (I won't say which 2 were uninteresting to me--you'll have to guess.)

4. I summoned my strength this morning to rip up an offer from the Wall Street Journal to subscribe for 10 dollars a month. I am trying to fight my addiction to subscribing to print periodicals.

Currently arriving at the house and the office (not including journals that come with memberships in professional organizations, alumni magazines, or house organs of museums, public TV stations, synagogues, and the like):

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (7 days a week) (since 2002)
New York Times (Saturday and Sunday) (since I don't know, forever)
Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle (since 2002)
The New Republic (since mid-1990s; dropped for a while but resumed circa 2003)
The Jewish Quarterly Review (since mid-2000s)
The Atlantic (late 90s; and again since circa 2007)
Cook's Illustrated (2000-2003?; and again since ca. 2008)
The Nation (since ca. 2007)
Mother Jones (since 2008)
The Progressive (since ca. 2008)
The New Yorker (since late 2009)
The New York Review of Books (since beginning of 2010)
The Jewish Review of Books (brand-new)

I'm probably forgetting something. If you look at the dates, you will note a disturbing trend (or heartening if you work in journalism).

We did have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal for a while under a really cheap rate but I let it lapse after Murdoch bought it. (Imagine the junk mail you get if you subscribe to the WSJ and the Nation.) I'm letting The Progressive lapse not over politics per se but just because it is extremely boring, not to mention predictable. And I'll probably take a hiatus from Cook's Illustrated for a while since I make one of their recipes about once every two years. I enjoy reading about how many tries it takes to make the perfect pot roast but there has to be a limit.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

WUMB #105, 104, 102, 100

Quick comments on:

#105 Kingston Trio, Greatest Hits.
It's fun to hear the “beginnings” of the folk movement of the 60s (in the 50s). I listened to this with the kids (well some of this--didn't feel like explaining "The Long Black Veil") and polled them: They prefer the Peter, Paul, & Mary version of “Lemon Tree” (as do I) but they preferred the Kingston Trio’s version of "This Land is my Land." (I prefer Woody Guthrie). We all found their "Charley and the MTA" hard to sing along with although. Yes, we know that they popularized it with their recording of it. But that song has long passed from song-frequently-recorded status to true folk status, in my view. Their "Early Morning Rain" is fantastic.
Again, why are the Kingston Trio not cracking the top 100?

#104 Kate Campbell, "Blues and Lamentations," 2005.
Pretty music but none of it made much of an impression.

#102 Tim O’Brien, "Fiddler’s Green, 2005.
Nice arrangements of traditional songs and ballads, e.g. “Fair Flowers of the Valley”
I also liked his “Early Morning Rain.” Maybe I just like that song.

#100 Mary Black, "Babes in the Woods," 1991.
Includes a very pretty version of Joni Mitchell’s “The Urge for Going.”

Get your Grafton fix...


I was recently reminded that Anthony Grafton writes occasional columns in the Daily Princetonian. Although focused on Princeton (naturally), he often has interesting comments there on the state of higher education with relevance to other research universities as well.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

WUMB #s 111, 108, 107

For the last week or so, I have been listening off and on (including right now) to (#108) Elvis Costello's new CD, "Secret, Profane, & Sugercane." An Elvis Costello album is always a pleasure from the lyrics to the guitar playing to the singing.

And even though I can't go into details as this is a G-rated blog, his song "Sulpher to Sugarcane" is a lot of fun, in part because of a Pittsburgh reference. I always enjoy the mention of my adopted city of Pittsburgh in popular music: "But now I'm back in Pittsburgh, I might take them up again." Not quite as memorable as "Kathy, I said, as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh..." but still catches my attention. (I also recently was listening to Louis Armstrong's version of "Muskrat Ramble," and I thought he threw in a line about the "Pittsburgh Pirates" coming to town... but I couldn't find any confirmation of this afterward.)

I couldn't get an album by Steve Goodman (#111) out of the library, but I did get hold of a 2003 documentary on DVD, "Live from Austin City Limits" which mixes footage of two of his shows in Austin in the 70's and early 80's with interview footage of him--overlooking Wrigley Field and talking about his song "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request." I have heard plenty of people sing "City of New Orleans" but never the writer himself so that was interesting. Other good stuff here--Goodman was known more as writer than a performer but he did have a certain stage presence.

And finally, I just got "The Dusty Road" out of the library which is a 4-CD set of recordings made by Woody Guthrie (#107) in the 1940s; much of the material was never released. The masters were left in a storage bin of a Brooklyn apartment building for decades and were only released a couple of years ago. Amazing stuff--Guthrie in his prime, a few years before his health began to decline; very clear recordings. If you know and love his music, you will love this collection and if you don't know his music this would be a great place to start. (And of course there is a mention of "Pittsburgh steel" in one of the labor songs.)

In the midst of all this good listening, I recently read this essay by J. Gabriel Boylan in the Nation on changes in the music industry. One of the things we are losing with the MP3-ization of music and the file-by-file purchasing (or stealing) that takes place are all the possibilities of what you can do with the album as material artefact (cf. the codex vs. the electronic book). The Elvis Costello album has liner notes with the lyrics, headed by the name of the song, followed by an old-timey topical sub-head, e.g. "Down Among the Wine and Spirits: Former-Champion Prizefighter Discovers His Name Printed Just Above the Liquor License." And the Woody Guthrie set comes in a little box that looks like an old suitcase, with a thick book explaining the recordings and containing an essay on Guthrie's travels during the Depression--and even two facsimile postcards. You can't get that kind of thing on Youtube.

Last but not least: I am having second thoughts about this whole WUMB project: how seriously should I take a "Top 120" list in which Woody Guthrie doesn't crack the top 100?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Liberal Republican" didn't used to be an oxymoron

Rest in peace, Charles Mathias.

WUMB #120: Kate Rusby

She should be higher on the list--and probably would be if Boston were in England, instead of New England.
Last week, I listened to her 2005 album, "The Girl Who Couldn't Fly." Very pretty folk music, mostly her arrangements of traditional music.

Monday, January 25, 2010

No Sellers

My neighborhood--reasonably affluent; heavily Jewish and otherwise ethnically diverse; and populated with a lot of academics (near two big research universities)--lost its only general-interest bookstore at the end of 2009 as a major chain pulled out. The rumors are that they were losing too much business to the Internet on the one hand and to a bigger store in their own chain down the road and a competitor up the road in two shopping areas with (gasp!) better parking.

Anyway, the blog for the local Jewish paper put up this photo taken by a local resident.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Difdafti January 2010

What I browsed last week, from the new book shelves in Hillman Library and from some new books from other libraries brought by PALCI.

A festschrift for Eric Zimmer, edited by Gershon Bacon, Daniel Sperber, and Aharon Gaimoni, title in English: Studies on the History of the Jews of Ashkenaz; title in Hebrew (all the articles are in Hebrew): Meḥkarim be-toldot yehude ashkenaz. (Bar Ilan University Press, 2008) Almost all the articles are on the history of various Ashkenazic minhagim or on conceptualizations of minhagim in halakhic literature. Most of the studies seem to combine fine-grain textual analysis with an attention to larger socio-cultural historical questions.

Last week, I saw the new list of National Jewish Book Awards: Congratulations to Judy Klitzner for the scholarship prize. (I will send you the commemorative trophy.) The next day, I saw her book on the shelf: Subversive Sequels in the Bible: How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other (Jewish Publication Society, 2009).

Add to the growing literature on time and calendars in early modern Europe an English translation of Max Engammare, On Time, Punctuality, and Discipline in Early Modern Calvinism (Cambridge University Press); this is an expansion of the French original published in Geneva in 2004 (L’ordre du temps. L’invention de la ponctualité au XVIe siècle.)

Laura Lunger Knoppers and her colleagues have put together an impressive Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing. I just wish they had added “in England and Britain” to the title.... Seems to me I’ve mentioned this problem before. To my good friends (who would never make this mistake) and to their colleagues (who might) in English literary and cultural studies, I wish to remind you that England was not the only place to have a “medieval” or “early modern” period or to have (possibly) had a “Renaissance” or “Reformation.”

Elliot Wolfson’s new study of the messianism of Menahem Mendel Schneerson, in Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision (Columbia University Press, 2009) is an impressive close reading of the writings of the late Habad rebbe. Wolfson also has interesting methodological comments on the role that textual analysis can play in studying contemporary religious movements. And it may be the first scholarly work on Kabbalah in which texts by Ronald Reagan are cited.

More on semi-secret messianic movements: Marc David Baer, our sometime colleague at the University of Pittsburgh, has published The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks (Stanford University Press, 2010). This book is getting lots of attention.

In the history of the book, Adrian Johns placed the issue of trust and authority between readers, printers, and authors on the agenda. So when I saw a new collection on the shelf with the title eTrust: Forming Relationships in the Online World (ed. Karen S. Cook et al; Russell Sage Foundation, 2009), I thought some book historian might want to look at this. It’s part of a series “The Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust” with 13 previous volumes. But brush up on your math before you tackle it.

I notice that the philosopher Thomas Nagel has a new collection of essays, Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament (Oxford 2010), including the one that led one philosophy blog to ask whether he has “jumped the shark.”

If you think on-line discussions about religion can get heated, check out sixteenth-century French “literature of vituperation” studied by Antónia Szabari, Less Rightly Said: Scandals and Readers in Sixteenth-Century France (Stanford University Press, 2010).

“Real” religious violence in the past: Jill N. Claster, Sacred Violence: The European Crusades to the Middle East, 1095-1396 (University of Toronto Press, 2009) looks like a very readable survey.

Last week I was also reading P.D. James, Talking about Detective Fiction, where she stresses the importance of the inter-war period as the “Golden Age” of [British] detective fiction. She also suggests that reading novels from this period gives as good a sense of post-WW 1 British anxieties as any social history. But one could look at Richard Overy, The Twilight Years: The Paradox of Britain between the Wars (Viking Press, 2009) for an account of Britons trying to grapple with a sense of impending doom. His starting off point Eric Hobsbawm and friends at Cambridge in 1939 grappling with the idea that they might all die soon.

To the burgeoning literature on the Catholic Church and the Holocaust (in the news this week), one can add Derek Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Socialism (Oxford UP 2010). Hastings threads a fine needle--perhaps anticipating the kind of controversy his book might arouse: “In striving to characterize accurately the activities of early Nazi Catholics in and around Munich, the distinction between the internal-ideal and external-historical perspectives helps to navigate around a central conundrum: avoiding the appearance of indicting Catholicism (as an institutional entity or in ideational terms) for the tragic excesses of the Nazis while at the same time recognizing the important and very real role played by Nazi Catholic clergy and laypeople who, acting as Catholics and in pursuit of what they perceived to be a legitimate form of Catholic identity, were indeed central to the stabilization and spread of the early Nazi movement.” (p.179)

Finally, more theoretical food-for-thought for the study of religion. and history in G.E.R. Lloyd, Disciplines in the Making: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Elites, Learning, and Innovation (Oxford University Press 2009). People in Religious Studies departments spend a lot of time debating how to define “religion” and often assume that it’s our special cross to bear and that those lucky folks in other fields know just what their subject is. Lloyd argues that folks in philosophy, mathematics, history, medicine, art, law, and science all have to think about this also.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Eating in Pittsburgh.

I've been telling you about places I enjoyed eating on my two trips to LA last fall, but I haven't mentioned any recent hometown dining experiences. (That may tell you how often we eat out at home...)

Had dinner last night at the Quiet Storm Cafe in the Garfield/Friendship/Bloomfield Lawrenceville border region (on Penn Avenue).
We head there with good friends and our several offspring once every six months or so for dinner. The kids like the mac and cheese, the board games, and the pinball machine. The grown-ups love the vegetarian and vegan offerings. My personal favorite is the Cubano sandwich. But I also tried the Reuben last night and enjoyed that as well.

Blog for the Study of the Jewish Book

This is the "personal" blog. When I see information that might be useful for Jewish historians with an interest in the history of the book, I post to the "Blog for the Study of the Jewish Book."

WUMB #119: Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley, “Live at the Folklore Center, NYC, March 6, 1967”; released in 2009.
The first time I listened through this last week, I didn’t pay attention to the date and thought he sounds like he’s going for a sound like 1960s folk. And then I looked at the date of the concert and realized that he wasn’t "going for" it, he was in it. Think early Bob Dylan. Particularly striking song on this album: “No Man Can Find the War.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Parents, Children, and Professions

A few years ago at a meeting of the American [YYY] Association, my wife spoke on a panel of children of practitioners of [YYY] about their experiences growing up around [YYY]. Her twist was the she went into [YYY] like her father and attributes her early interest in the subject to his influence (and that of her mother who studied a cognate field). She also feels that as she gravitated toward this field in her undergraduate and graduate studies she had a better idea of what she was getting into than some of her peers. So this article at Inside Higher Education reporting on a panel of parent-child pairs of historians at the American Historical Association caught my eye. (It might have caught my eye anyway because I know one of the child historians featured, Adam Davis.)

An interesting commonality is that children of [YYY]-ists and children of historians who go into these fields often specialize in different aspects of the field than the parent. This is the case for my wife (we joke about her limited sense of rebellion).

I certainly don't expect that any of my children will become historians, but it is interesting to think that they would have a better sense of what it's all about than I did.

More Historian Detectives

A couple of years ago I noted that many fictional detectives had backgrounds as historians. At that point, apparently, I hadn't read enough Donna Leon to know that Guido Brunetti had studied history at university (see The Death of Faith.)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Books I read in 2009

# December, 2009:
# Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol
# Josephine Tey, The Singing Sands
# C.B. Greenfield, A Little Madness
# Josephine Tey, To Love and Be Wise
# Donna Leon, the Death of Faith
# Marissa Peisman, Unorthodox Practices

# November, 2009:
# Donna Leon, Acqua Alta
# E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed Up-Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
# Harry Kemelman, The Day the Rabbi Left Town
# Valerie Miner, Murder in the English Department
# Margaret Drabble, The Radiant Way
# Margaret Drabble, The Middle Ground
# Jeffrey Shandler, Jews, God, and Videotape
# Lucille Kallen, C.B. Greenfield: The Tanglewood Murder

# October, 2009:
# David Lodge, Deaf Sentence
# Michael Chabon, Manhood for Amateurs
# Cynthia Ozick, Heir to the Glimmering World
# Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends

# September, 2009:
# Robertson Davies, The Lyre of Orpheus
# Ruth Langer, To Worship God Properly
# Robertson Davies, What's Bred in the Bone

# August, 2009:
# Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels
# P.D. James and T.A. Critchley, The Maul and the Pear Tree
# Bernard Malamud, Dubin's Lives
# Bernard Malamud, The Assistant
# Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler
# Margaret Drabble, Jerusalem the Golden
# Martha Grimes, Help the Poor Struggler
# Martha Grimes, Jerusalem Inn
# Martha Grimes, The Man with a Load of Mischief
# July, 2009:
# Robertson Davies, World of Wonders
# Robertson Davies, The Manticore
# Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler's Planet
# Robertson Davies, Fifth Business
# Martha Grimes, The Dirty Duck
# Martha Grimes, The Dear Leap
# Margaret Drabble, The Realms of Gold
# Ellis Peters, The Confession of Brother Haluin
# Bernard Malamud, The Magic Barrel
# John Updike, A Month of Sundays
# Iris Murdoch, The Nice and the Good

# June, 2009:
# Judith M. Bennett, History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism
# Mark Mills, The Savage Garden
# Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, The 10,000 Year Explosion
# PD James, The Lighthouse

# May, 2009:
# PD James, Shroud for a Nightingale
# PD James, A Certain Justice
# Carlo Lucarelli, The Damned Season
# Giorgio Bassani, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

# April, 2009:
# Daniel Lord Smail, On Deep History and the Brain
# Iris Murdoch, the Bell
# PD James, Unnatural Causes
# Robin Winks, ed. The Historian as Detective

# March, 2009:
# PD James, Death of An Expert Witness
# PD James, Cover Her Face
# Faye Kellerman, The Mercedes Coffin
# Eric Lax, "Conversations with Woody Allen"

# February, 2009:
# Umberto Eco, Postscript to the Name of the Rose
# PD James, The Black Tower
# Russell Miller, The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle
# Faye Kellerman, Street Dreams
# Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time
# Faye Kellerman, The Forgotten
# Faye Kellerman, Serpent's Tooth

# January, 2009:
# Jonathan Boyarin, Jewishness and the Human Dimension
# Faye Kellerman, Prayers for the Dead
# David G. Roskies, Yiddishlands: A Memoir
# Georges Simenon, Maigret Stonewalled
# Jack Finney, Time and Again
# E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey
# Lee Goldberg, Mr. Monk is Miserable

Catching up with the WUMB Project

See earlier posts for an explanation.

#112 is Janis Ian. Remember Janis Ian? Listened to "God and the FBI" and "Breaking Silence" in late December. Good singer-songwriter-folksy political stuff. Nothing profound to say.

Also found a fairly recent CD by Eric Andersen (#109), "Blue Rain," recorded live in 2007 in Oslo. Yes, a famous folk singer (born in Pittsburgh according to Wikipedia) singing the blues in Scandinavia.

"Spring" Term?

Our semester begins Wednesday. I doubt I will be able to find the weather as congenial as I did at the beginning of the fall term.