(relatively) recent

In search of Berlin's northernmost point

I was browsing Google Maps the other day, looking for new places to go on the cycle rides that have replaced commuting as my form of exercise whilst I am working for home, and noticed a peculiar finger of land pointing northeast, at the northernmost point of the city-state of Berlin:

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Only a hundred or so metres wide, it narrows to half of that at its northernmost point. Aside from wondering why on earth the boundary did that,* I thought: I have to go there and see what it looks like, at Berlin's northernmost point.

* Almost certainly due to the interchange of land ownership by the nobility (and minor royalties) during the Middle Ages (due to buying, selling, and marriages) that led to the internal divisions of pre-1945 Germany having such a fractal complexity; my guess is that the boundaries of Buch were determined by which lord owned which land at some point, and then in 1920 the entirety of Buch was glommed onto Berlin.

So I did. It was a substantial bike ride—a full hour less loose change from home—and what I was surprised to find was that although the end of the finger of land ran alongside a path, the northwest side ran along no obvious property boundary, but rather through the middle of a field:

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(Berlin coloured by me in purple, Brandenburg in natural colours; boundary demarcation approximate.)

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There was also no indication whatsoever that this marked a state boundary.

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
(relatively) recent

(no subject)

Way back when, I started keeping track on a map of whereabouts in London I'd cycled. There's probably apps for this nowadays, but when I started this, smartphones didn't yet exist (as far as most people are concerned). When I moved to Berlin, I started doing the same for that city. There were probably apps for this, but I didn't have a smartphone until a few months ago, so I continued drawing lines on a (digital) map the way I had for London.

After approaching four years, I suddenly realised, with an inner wail of despair, that I should have been doing this in a layered image, so that I could turn my exploration of Berlin into an animation. Now of course it was too late, and Berlin was already quite explored, and I had few earlier versions of my map graphic left.

But then, when I realised I would be moving shortly to southwest Berlin, and there would be a whole new wave of exploration, I decided to start using image layers anyway. And then of course the lockdown happened, and I started going on bike rides to keep myself fit rather than simply cycling the same route to and from work all the time.

So here is the result, as it currently stands. There's quite a lot of new territory covered within the course of this year, and I haven't even made my flat move yet! (I will continue updating this graphic as I cover new territory.)

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—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
limmud

Ezekiel the Tragedian

I get a bit annoyed when I hear people talking about the Egyptian princess who rescued Moses as a baby as Batya (or Basyŏ) as if that was a fact from the biblical text.

It's not; it's a midrash dating from centuries later. Other, more ancient, traditions assign her different names. Josephus, writing over nineteen hundred years ago, calls her Thermutis; the Book of Jubilees, written two and a half centuries earlier, concurs, calling her Tharmuth.

So much you might have heard me say before. Now I have learned from Rabbi Ludwig Philippson's commentary on the Torah of still another name: The third-century church historian Eusebius (whom Philippson frequently makes reference to, but I never got around to looking up who he was until now) calls her Merrhis.

Today I also learned from (Wikipedia via) Philippson of the existence of Ezekiel the Tragedian, the oldest known Jewish playwright, who retold the story of the Exodus in a five-act play (of which 20–25% survives). "This drama is unique in blending the biblical story with the Hellenistic tragic drama." I'm intrigued; I think I'd like to read this, now.

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
(relatively) recent

Geordieländer für Immer!

After designing my „Ich bin ein Berliner geworden“ sweatshirt, I was on a roll, and designed another one for my father to get me for my birthday. (Shame it could be months before anyone sees it except on Facebook.)

Click through for higher resolution.

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—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
(relatively) recent

Saturday Afternoon Blues

When I was a teenager, way back in the middle of the last century, I used to dabble in musical composition, as well as writing fiction, despite the fact I didn't study music at school beyond the age of fourteen, and my lack of qualifications in composition beyond Grade 5 Theory of Music.

This, dating from about 1990, is the best of what I turned out. It's pretty derivative, but then all my creative endeavours were then. (My writing would eventually evolve past that; my composition petered out before it got to that point.)

It's also badly named; the "blues" in the title refers to the mood, but in the title of a piece of music one would expect it to indicate the genre, which it doesn't.

It is programmed and played on the Hybrid Music System for the BBC Microcomputer, which I think I might have got as a barmitzvah present from my parents. It sounds pretty crude and electronic today, but back in the eighties, you couldn't get a more powerful system for programming and playing music for anything near like the price.

The language the Hybrid Music System used, AMPLE, was, so my more musical brother told me, the best one around for encapsulating musical notation in a text-based form, to the extent that to this day, if I have to jot down music, I'm more likely to do it in AMPLE than go to the bother of scrawling down a stave. In AMPLE one extends a note, or a rest, by whatever the current unit of time is set to with a slash, a.k.a. solidus ("/"); this actually works by moving the current pointer in time forward by this much. One can also move the pointer back by that much with a backslash (a.k.a. reverse solidus), so take that, Omar Khayyam! *ahem* I mean, hence the subtitle of the piece. This functionality is useful when a phrase or longer section is repeated except for the last few notes.


Don't ask me why I am posting this here now; a critique from my musical friends would probably be humiliating. But OTOH they're my friends so I'm hopeful they're not going to humiliate me.

And if you're not one of my friends, then all I can say is well done for reading this far. ;^)

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
(relatively) recent

Searching for the quintessence of Jewish practice

Here's something I've been wondering about for going on for twenty years, but had (some) new insights into in the last year or two, as I shall explain. Orthodox Judaism of today portrays itself as being how Judaism has been practised for millennia (until the rise of the Reform in the early nineteenth century), but is that really the case? Collapse )Sometimes I look at Judaism and think the fundamentalists took over the religion. This is not, however, I think a recent phenomenon. Looking at the literature in the Dead Sea Scrolls, it seems to be the case that the fundamentalists had taken over there too (for at least the Qumran sect). And even in the time after the return from the Babylonian exile, we see Nehemiah imposing much stricter standards on the returnees than they had themselves been adhering to.

Of course, there was a group of people who did take over Judaism almost two thousand years ago: the rabbis, whose movement represented the continuation of Pharisaism. Collapse )

Last Shovuos the topic came up in conversation with Rabbi Reuven Firestone of the kingdom of Ḥimyar in present-day Yemen, which was Jewish (or at least its royal family and much of its population) in the final century or two of its existence before its destruction in the sixth century. Why were there so many Jews there? Reuven told me that after the Mishna was written, it—meaning rabbinical Judaism in general—was generally accepted in the Land of Israel, but not in Babylonia. The rabbis sent emissaries to Babylonia to convert the Jews there to accepting the Talmud; thus the people the Talmud portrays as "ignoramuses" were actually not non-practising Jews but those practising a different stream of Judaism.

As the Babylonian community gradually became increasingly hostile to non-rabbinical Judaism, it is thought, so Reuven said, that Ḥimyar became a refuge for those who would not accept the authority of the Talmud. With the destruction of the kingdom however, the last bastion of pre-rabbinical Judaism came to an end.

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So what are we left with, when we manage to avoid looking at Jewish history through rabbinically-tinted glasses? Sometimes I think Judaism as we have it came "off the derech" centuries ago. But the corollary of Judaism having come off the derech is that there is a derech. The question is only one of how to find it, when the Torah doesn't give clear instructions on how to obey it.

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I only recently discovered the remark of an early advocate for reforming Jewish law (his name was Jesus of Nazareth, you may have heard of him) that the Sabbath was made for people and not the other way around". I think there's a lot to be said for this. But the solution is not to simply junk three thousand years of tradition and just go with what you like (or not if you're not a Reform Jew at least, which I'm not). The solution is to pore through the evidence and try and find what Shabbos observance (or kashrus, or whatever) looked like before the fundamentalists got ahold of the religion, or to put it another way: what the essence of these practices is.

But that's not really possible because the earlier (i.e. Biblical) writers took knowledge of this all for granted, and evidence from the Second Temple period either suffers from a taboo on writing down oral law, or is sectarian (i.e. divergent from the path that led to modern Judaism. So what, then, am I to do?

The answer is of course keep grappling with the issue. After all, "wrestles with God" is what the name of my people, Israel, means.

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
(relatively) recent

My feelings about being a Berliner

I used to hate it, when I lived in London, when people referred to me as Londoners. (Actually there was someone, whom I won't name here, who used to regularly wind me up by referring to me casually in conversation as a Londoner, until eventually she took pity on me and let on what she was doing.)

This had a lot to do with the way that Londoners, and London Jews in particular, would act as if London was the be-all and end-all of British life, and the rest of the country did not exist. As a Novocastrian, I took umbrage at this.

For some reason, though, I never had this hang-up concerning identifying as a Berliner. Possibly the fact I never had the experience of living in the provinces in Germany had something to do with it, but I think it's more that Berlin from my perspective (which mostly means my workplace and my synagogue(s)) is much more cosmopolitan than London: Most of the people I know here came to Berlin themselves, or failing that, their parents did: Multi-generational Berlin families—people who speak the Berlinerisch dialect—are few and far between in my circle.

I felt I wanted to express this. So I made a sweatshirt (click through for higher resolution):

[photo]

Explanation for non-Berliners/non-Germans: The text of course plays with JFK's famous "Ich bin ein Berliner", but the addition of the "geworden" changes the meaning from "I am a Berliner" to "I became a Berliner". The bear I am dancing with is the state symbol of the Berlin. The I in "Berliner" is a silhouette of the TV Tower, which for me acts as a symbol of Berlin as the city I live in (the Brandenburg Gate being more a symbol of Berlin as capital of Germany). And the Union Jack in the background I have altered to be in the colours of the German flag to show both where I have come from and my successful integration into German society.

Lastly, the back of the sweatshirt reads "Und du?" ("And you?")

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
Have a [gap] day

Reacting to Halle

There was a group I'm involved in here in Berlin (or was before having a baby made everything more complicated), which went to Halle for the High Holydays, to support the small and ageing Jewish community there.

Suddenly a substantial chunk of my social circle here in Berlin has become terrorism survivors.

This is a sad reflection of what it is to be a Jew today. (Or, indeed, most other times in history.)_

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
(relatively) recent

Source of the Danube

A few years ago, aviva_m and I visited the Danube delta in Romania.

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Holidaying in the Black Forest this year, I thought it might be cool to visit the river's upper end; I don't think there's another river which I have visited both source and estuary of.

Collapse ) —Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.
beardy

Black Forest

In follow-up to this, so that's why they call it the Black Forest:

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—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.