Sunday, August 31, 2008

Levinas in Seattle

I'm in Seattle for a few days for the North American Levinas Society conference. Because the conference is on campus, rather than in a hotel, all of the participants are staying in residence halls. Basically, I'm in a college dorm room. It sounds bad, but it's really a good thing.

I've realized something. I think better thoughts and get more work done when I am not surrounded by excessive things and gigantic spaces. I did something I told myself I wouldn't do: I came to the conference without having finished my presentation. And, somehow, enclosed in this small, bare space with none of my "things" to distract me, everything has come into focus, and I am excited about Levinas's work and my presentation on his ideas regarding ritual.

I would probably get more writing done if I sold most of my possessions and moved into an empty dorm room.

More on Levinas, later . . .

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Unruly Jews

This weekend I had friends in town, and so we did lots of touristy LA things, including Venice Beach. Considering all of the blaring music, dogs, obscenely visible body parts, crack pipe vendors, homeless street performers, and funnel cake, it was sensory overload, to say the least. Anything goes in Venice Beach, literally. So it was surprising to see a little Orthodox shul right there on the boardwalk, next to a dicey clothing store named Unruly.

But then I recalled reading this a few weeks ago:

Worshipers say workers in the shop blast music on Saturday mornings, overwhelming the religious service held with the door open to the boardwalk. When the worshipers ask for the music to be lowered for an hour, they are met with hostility, they say, some of it smacking of anti-Semitism. Once in a while, the police are called. Further, there have been occasions when mannequins dressed in G-strings and other clothes that are decidedly not part of the customary wardrobe of Orthodox Jews have been placed on the synagogue's property line - as a matter of provocation, some members suggest.

Yes, this is terrible. But there's also something terribly funny and ridiculous about the whole thing. It makes me want to experience it for myself...