Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ninth Annual Ralphies, Better Late Than Never

This year's Ralphies will be a bit different, as I'm introducing some new categories:

Worst Computer Company: Apple. Every time I upgrade the operating system, some of the software stops working. Plus, Unicode still does not work that great on many Mac applications. Plus, Steve Jobs, may he rest in peace, was kind of a jerk. (Wait, aren't all the 1% jerks? Well, Bill Gates at least is a philanthropist.)

Best Summer (or Winter) Blockbuster: I saw several major motion pictures, including Lincoln, The Hunger Games, and The Avengers. The Avengers was the most enjoyable, although I deeply regretted that they did not include Kang the Conqueror. (Also, let me get this off my chest: Lincoln was clearly conceived as a play, not a movie [the screenplay was by Tony Kushner! Hello!], and the acting was hammy and theatrical. I'm looking at you, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field.) But my summer blockbuster was not a movie, but a book: Planesrunner, by Ian MacDonald. Exciting, original, and the special effects were awesome. Can't wait to read the sequel, Be My Enemy, which just came out.

Goodbye, Television: Pretty lousy. Fringe, the only show I watched faithfully, has ended. It was always worth watching. Olivia and Walter, I will miss you. Peter, not so much. Joshua Jackson did an adequate job, but only just. Plus, chemistry between him and Anna Torv? Zero. What will replace this show? So far, nothing.

Favorite Sports Team: The last time I rooted for a baseball team, it was 1988, and the Dodgers were winning an improbable World Series with Orel Hershiser and Kurt Gibson. Then we moved and baseball entered a dark age of strikes and steroids. Then came the miraculous summer of 2012, and the Washington Nationals reignited my interest in baseball and made me care again. Thanks, Nats.

Live Music: For me, I rediscovered concerts in 2012. DC has some nice small venues for the kinds of music I like. I saw Tennis and Real Estate at the Black Cat, and WIld Flag and Sufjan Stevens at the 9:30 Club. Wild Flag in particular showed themselves to be a superb live act. For at least a month after the concert (here's a clip), all I wanted to listen to was WIld Flag or music that reminded me of Wild Flag (and that means lots of punk and indie rock). I hope that Carrie Brownstein, one of the leading members, doesn't let her TV stardom put a damper on her musical creativity.

Books : I already mentioned Planesrunner (which would also make a great TV series; hello, BBC?). Also recommended on the fiction list is Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, dealing with the English Reformation from Thomas Cromwell's point of view. Although her perspective is quietly secularist (and clearly anti-Catholic), she paints a vivid picture of that time, and her dry and austere style fits the subject matter. I read a lot of non-fiction last year, although at the moment nothing stands out. But here's one I'm dying to read.

Pie: Lemon meringue, and it's not even close.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

A Suggestion About I Enoch 90:15

"And I saw until the owner of the sheep came against them in wrath and all who saw him fled and they fell away from him into his shadow."
—Enoch 90:15

This verse from the "Animal Apocalypse" of I Enoch has been taken to be corrupt, especially the words "into his shadow." Patrick Tiller says "the phrase is peculiar." In his translation, R. H. Charles places it between brackets.

Nevertheless, I think the phrase may have originated in an overly literal translation of Aramaic בטלל, bitlal. This phrase, literally "in the shadow," comes to mean "because of, on account of," in the Aramaic of Qumran, as in these phrases from the Genesis Apocryphon:

שביק ארזא בטלל תמרתא, "the cedar was spared because of the date-palm" (19:16)

ואחי בטליכי, "I will live because of you" (19:20)

Therefore the original of Ethiopic wa-wadqu kwellomu westa selalotu would be something like ונפלו כלהון בטללה, "they all fell because of him."