lethargic_man: (Default)
I'm gratified to have just been informed that as a result of the recruitment drive for the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow register I did at work a few years ago, my überboss's daughter has just proved a match, donated stem cells and saved a life. (Whether it stays saved we will find out in the coming months.)

If you're not already signed up, sign up now: you could turn out to be the one person who can save a leukaemia sufferer's life.
lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)

Chapter 4

The Biblically unnamed wives of the first generations )
Mahalalel took unto him to wife Dinah, the daughter of Barakiel the daughter of his father's brother, and she bare him a son in the third week in the sixth year, [461 A.M.] and he called his name Jared, for in his days the angels of the Lord descended on the earth, those who are named the Watchers, that they should instruct the children of men, and that they should do judgment and uprightness on the earth.

Jared is named in Genesis, but his name is not interpreted. It does indeed derive from a root meaning "descend".

The myth of the Watchers is also found in the First Book of Enoch; on account of which 1 Enoch is deemed to predate Jubilees, though how they can tell it's this way around and not the other I don't know.

What's notably different in Jubilees from the account of the Watchers in 1 Enoch is that the Watchers here came at God's behest, and only later went astray; in 1 Enoch they were sinning from the word go. Regardless, the end result was the same: the Watchers taught humankind lots of inappropriate knowledge, which, along with their son's marrying human children to beget the Nephilim, occasioned the destruction of the Watchers and ultimately the Flood. (This story is broken up in several pieces, according to their chronological order, in Jubilees, and I am not listing each one here or telling the story in full; you'll have to read Jubilees or 1 Enoch (or Wikipedia) if you want to learn it!)

In the fifteenth jubilee in the third week Lamech took to himself a wife, and her name was Betenosh the daughter of Barakiel, the daughter of his father's brother, and in this week she bare him a son and he called his name Noah, saying, 'This one will comfort me for my trouble and all my work, and for the ground which the Lord hath cursed.'

Later rabbinic thought follows this, deriving נֹחַ (Noaḥ) from the root נחם NḤM "comfort", rather than נח NḤ "rest"; I cannot see the justification for this.

Have you ever noticed how Adam died only a little short of a thousand years old? The Bible gives no explanation for this, and I have not heard of a midrashic one either, but the Book of Jubilees gives a nice explanation, leveraging Psalms 90:4 ("For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night."):

At the close of the nineteenth jubilee, in the seventh week in its sixth year, Adam died, and all his sons buried him in the land of his creation; he was the first to be buried in the earth. He was just seventy years short of one thousand years; for one thousand years are as one day in the testimony of the heavens and therefore was it written concerning the tree of knowledge: 'On the day that ye eat thereof ye shall die.' For this reason he did not complete the years of this day; for he died during it.
The author of Jubilees evidently does not consider that Cain received enough punishment in the Biblical story, and adds to it as follows:
At the close of this jubilee Cain was killed after him in the same year; for his house fell upon him and he died in the midst of his house, and he was killed by its stones; for with a stone he had killed Abel, and by a stone was he killed in righteous judgment. For this reason it was ordained on the heavenly tablets: With the instrument with which a man kills his neighbour with the same shall he be killed; after the manner that he wounded him, in like manner shall they deal with him.'

[Dead Sea Scroll of Jubilees] Jubilees posts                     Jewish learning notes index

lethargic_man: (capel)
Let's not get too distracted at Succos with the dwelling in temporary booths and shaking plants; these are both just reflections of what the festival is _really_ about, which becomes overt on Hoshanna Rabbah, and on Shemini Atseres, and did so once upon a time throughout Succos in the Temple. Here's a little reminder of it:
lethargic_man: "Happy the person that finds wisdom, and the person that gets understanding."—Prov. 3:13. Icon by Tamara Rigg (limmud)

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I am fascinated with what filled the gap between the last books of the Bible being written and the opening of the Talmudic era. A few months ago I read the Book of Jubilees, which fits slap-bang into the middle of this period, being written roughly contemporaneously with the Hasmonean revolt. After a while, I found myself, as one does, beginning to forget what I'd learned in it, so I decided I'd do the same with it as I did the other year with the Samaritan Torah and, week by week, blog the portion relevant to that week's sedra (only with multiple posts the first two weeks, because there's a lot of interesting differences with the Masoretic Text those weeks); so I shall be doing this starting with פַּרְשַׁת בְּרֵאשִׁית next week. The backlog of posts will be available here.

But first I should give an introduction to what the book is, as it's not well known today in Judaism or most branches of Christianity (with the notable exception of the Ethiopian church).

The book purports to be a dictation, at God's behest, of the history of the world by the Angel of the Presence to Moses on Mt Sinai; it differs in various interesting ways from the account in the Bible. The book does not represent the mainstream Jewish tradition (i.e. what became it, by virtue of the other traditions dying out!), though; indeed, it was heavily used by the monastic community at Qumran (possibly the Essenes) who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls.

One of the biggest differences between its worldview and that of mainstream Judaism is that it recognises a solar calendar. As I learned from Rachel Elior's book The Three Temples and the talk she gave about it at Limmud, at this time the Jewish world was split between those who believed that the calendar was and had always been solar, and calculated, and those who believed that the calendar was and had always been luni-solar, and based on observations of the moon. The calendar was, as we shall see, very important to the author of Jubilees; indeed the reason for the name of the book is that everything in it is dated in jubilees (forty-nine year periods) since the creation of the world, which are divided up into "weeks" of seven years, which are further divided into into individual years.

Jewish learning notes index

The Four Species

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 12:58 pm
lethargic_man: (capel)

In a few days time it will be Succos, concerning which the Torah says:

Leviticus 23:40 ויקרא כג מ
And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. וּלְקַחְתֶּם לָכֶם בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים וַעֲנַף עֵץ־עָבֹת וְעַרְבֵי־נָחַל וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם לִפְנֵי ה׳ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם שִׁבְעַת יָמִים׃

Here in northern Europe, one doesn't exactly find palm or citrus trees growing, so we have to import these at some expense, but in the southern Mediterranean in which Judaism originated, it's quite a different matter. [livejournal.com profile] aviva_m and I were recently in the beautiful Kolymbetra Gardens in the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily; and, seeing a section devoted to citrus trees, got excited at the thought of seeing esrogim growing on trees. When we found in turn each one of the Four Species, we wanted to find a rabbi to check if they were kosher, but since there were no rabbis around, we asked a rabbit instead.

The Four Species, illustrated with rabbit photos )

Now that we've got all four species, we bind the last three together with willow leaves, with the myrtle on the right and the willow on the left, take them in our right hand paw, with the citron in our left, and wave them like so:


Chag sameach!

(no subject)

Monday, September 21st, 2015 07:44 pm
lethargic_man: (capel)
It's very nearly Yom Kippur, in which the very liturgy encourages one to do teshuva as if one's life depends on it. I, however, find it difficult to achieve or maintain that degree of intention or intensity. I was pleased to discover a few years ago that the Sephardi machzor contained a כַּװָנָה to be said before the prayers, asking God to help you pray. It was, however, a bit too kabbalistic for me, and I couldn't this year find where I had put it. So I wrote my own (using the copy-and-paste school of liturgy writing).

Master of the Universe, behold the Day of Atonement has come, as is written in Your Torah, “This shall be for an eternal statute, to atone for the Israelites from all their sins, once a year.”

On this day it is incumbent upon us to perform teshuva before You. It is, however, revealed and known before the throne of Your glory that all is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven, and Man requires help to achieve this. Help me, Lord, help me to return to You with a whole heart.

May it be Your will that I do my teshuva with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my might, in order that I may come out from this day changed and improved, that my good impulse should be strengthened and my evil impulse subjugated.

Blessed are You, who hears prayer and answers Your people Israel when they call out to You.

רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, הִנֵּה בָּא יוֹם הַכִּיפּוּרִים, כַּכָּתוּב בְּתוֹרָתֶךָ וְהָיְתָה־זֹּאת לָכֶם לְחֻקַּת עוֹלָם לְכַפֵּר עַל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִכָּל־חַטֹּאתָם אַחַת בַּשָּׁנָה׃

בְּיוֹם הַזֶּה עָלֵינוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה לְפָנֶיךָ׃ אַבָל גָלוּי וְיָדוּעַ לִפְנֵי כִּסֵא כְּבוֹדֶךָ שֶׁכֹּל בִּידֵי שָׁמַיִם חוּץ מֵיִּרְאַת שָׁמַיִם, וְאָדָם צָרִיךְ עֶזְרָה כְּדֵי אֶת־זֶה לְהַשִׂיג׃ עֲזוֹר לִי ה׳, עֲזוֹר לִי לָשׁוּב לְךָ בְּלֵבָב שָׁלֵם׃

יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ שֶׁאֶעֱשֶׂה תְּשוּבָתִי בְּכָל־לְבָבִי וּבְכָל־נַפְשִׁי וּבְכָל־מְאֹדִי, כְּדֵי שֶׁאֵצֵא מִיּוֹם הַזֶּה נִשְׁתַּנָּה וּמְתוּקָּן, לְמַעַן שֶׁיִתְחַזֵּק יֵצְרִי הַטּוֹב וִישְׁעֻבַּד יֵצְרִי הָרַע׃ בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה, שׁוֹמֵעַ תְּפִילָה וּעוֹנֶה לְעַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּעֵת שַׁוְעָם אֵלָיו׃

lethargic_man: (reflect)
I don't generally post anything remotely political here, because it tends to attract flak (and when other people do, it can make my blood boil), but I want to say something on the "migrant crisis". Or refugee crisis as it actually is, because most[1] of the people trying to get into the EU from outside atm are refugees. Looking at my Facebook feed, I'm probably preaching to the converted here there, but I've been getting annoyed at the attitude of both the UK government and the UK media (no one has been "marauding" near Calais; show me any reports of refugees looting local shops, for example).

But the real reason I'm posting this is to draw attention to this article. One can talk about how it is our moral duty to help; one can talk about how my own ancestors came to this country as refugees; one can talk about how immigrants don't steal jobs, they create them, because the total number of jobs is proportional to the total size of the workforce, not just the native part of it. Against that, though, one could argue that the country, and the EU in general, don't have the infrastructure to cope with a mass influx of refugees.

I've mentioned elsewhere that it's rather hypocritical to try and stop people immigrating to the EU when parts of it are becoming depopulated and desperate to prop their numbers up, and how there are noteworthy exceptions to this.

However, it's the main article I'm linking to here which has completely changed my views (from "managed inflow" to "open the gates!") on the subject. Let me quote the relevant part:

"[To absorb two million refugees] Europe would have to spread the newcomers throughout our 500 million members. This need not herald the collapse of European civilisation – the west absorbed 1.3 million refugees after the Vietnam war without a social apocalypse. [...]"

This I hadn't known. We've done it before, so we can do it again. But it needs political will to make it succeed. In particular, in this country, there has been a shortage of new housing built for many a year now, and taking in 240,000 refugees would make that worse. But this is a soluble problem; all it requires is sufficient government incentives to make building large numbers of new houses bureaucratically attractive, as I think it's red tape that is holding that up now. But that's a political challenge, not a logistical one.

[1] With some exceptions. *boggle*
lethargic_man: (Default)
I was telling [personal profile] green_knight yesterday about my reading through Sir Henry Yule's commentary on Marco Polo; [personal profile] green_knight had, it seems, missed my blog posts on some of the coolest stuff in the book, but seemed interested, so I've gone back and tagged them (there's only a few) in case anyone else wants to catch up.

Here's something I thought I blogged last year but evidently didn't. It's fairly well-known that in the Middle Ages people thought salamanders were lizard-like creatures which could tolerate the heat of a fire, and indeed lived in them. Polo sheds some light on how this myth arose, and why (I'm going to quote out of order here, for my own purposes). Polo writes about how fibres made from salamander are:
made into napkins. When first made these napkins are not very white, but by putting them into the fire for a while they come out as white as snow. And so again whenever they become dirty they are bleached by being put in the fire.
Have you figured out what this is yet? Here's some more clues from Polo:
At the northern extremity of [Chingintalas] province there is a mountain in which [...] there is a vein of the substance from which Salamander is made. For the real truth is that the Salamander is no beast, as they allege in our part of the world, but is a substance found in the earth; and I will tell you about it.

Everybody must be aware that it can be no animal's nature to live in fire, seeing that every animal is composed of all the four elements. Now I, Marco Polo, had a Turkish acquaintance of the name of Zurficar, and he was a very clever fellow. And this Turk related to Messer Marco Polo how he had lived three years in that region on behalf of the Great Kaan, in order to procure those Salamanders for him. He said that the way they got them was by digging in that mountain till they found a certain vein. The substance of this vein was then taken and crushed, and when so treated it divides as it were into fibres of wool, which they set forth to dry. When dry, these fibres were pounded in a great copper mortar, and then washed, so as to remove all the earth and to leave only the fibres like fibres of wool. These were then spun, and made into napkins [etc, as above].

Now this, and nought else, is the truth about the Salamander, and the people of the country all say the same. Any other account of the matter is fabulous nonsense. And I may add that they have at Rome a napkin of this stuff, which the Grand Kaan sent to the Pope to make a wrapper for the Holy Sudarium of Jesus Christ.
Figured it out yet? I am ashamed to confess I hadn't, until I read the explanation in the commentary, but I told my father and he got it immediately, as he's had to deal with these white fibres himself: they're asbestos! (Which cures me of all desire to have a napkin of my own which I can clean by throwing into the fire, cool though it would be.)

Yule writes:
"The fable of the Salamander," says Sir Thomas Browne, "hath been much promoted by stories of incombustible napkins and textures which endure the fire, whose materials are called by the name of Salamander's wool, which many, too literally apprehending, conceive some investing part or integument of the Salamander.... Nor is this Salamander's wool desumed from any animal, but a mineral substance, metaphorically so called for this received opinion."

Those who knew that the Salamander was a lizard-like animal were indeed perplexed as to its woolly coat. [etc]
lethargic_man: (capel)
Here is the children's siddur that I, along with all the children in the Newcastle Jewish Nursery School, was presented with in 1977 to commemorate the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

[photo] [photo]

The irony is that it's an American publication: I find it amusing to have the dedication to the Queen at one end and the Star Spangled Banner at the other.

Moreover, facing the Star Spangled Banner is the Hatikvah (the Israeli national anthem). As a child I had no idea what either of those was, but, being used to seeing Hebrew in siddurim with its translation on the facing page, for many years I was under the impression that the Star Spangled Banner was the translation of the Hatikvah!


lethargic_man: (computer geekery)
The process that led to my becoming a software engineer started in 1982, when I joined my school's computer club, where the teacher, Mr Eastwood, proceeded to teach us tykes to program.

I don't have any copies of my first program—I don't think we were given any opportunity to save or print out what we'd done at the time—but here's the first program of mine I have, in, as it turns out, not any digital format at all.

[photo of hand-written computer program]

From its content, it would appear I was eleven at the time, though I can't have been so for long, as my father got a BBC Micro that year and I rapidly switched from programming in the Spectrum BASIC this program is written in to BBC BASIC.

I have to confess, I find myself a little underwhelmed, looking at it, at the quality of my programming when I was eleven (not to mention my ability to leave myself enough paper when starting to write it down). The references at lines 21, 27 and 28, BTW, are to things my family called my brother when he was a toddler.
lethargic_man: (reflect)
Something I wasn't really aware of until the last few years is the vast migration of ethnically-cleansed German refugees at the end of the War. One can argue about the rights and wrongs of this—certainly, Germany as a society had to be punished for what it had done (though the role of the Treaty of Versailles in the rise of Nazism should have shown the dangers of doing so in a blunt manner), but not all of the people forced to leave their homes would have been guilty of any wrongdoing. Furthermore, prior to the War, there were German colonies right the way across eastern Europe, way into Russia, descendants of German traders in the Middle Ages. Most of these also got expelled from their countries, and one can't help feel sorry for people dumped into Germany who had nothing to do with the Nazis, and who knew nothing of German life, as their ancestors might not have lived there for centuries.

It's (reasonably) well known that Poland moved a hundred miles to the west at the end of World War II. It's not really clear to me why; it seems to me Stalin performed a naked land grab of eastern Poland, but, not wanting to reduce the territory left to Poland, gave it Germany's eastern territories instead. Maybe he wanted to punish the Germans living east of the Oder-Neisse line by evicting them from their homes, but what I didn't discover until last week was that he also ended up punishing a vast number of Poles by evicting them from their homes in the east of the country (rather than either granting them Soviet citizenship or letting them remain as aliens). This left me appalled: there's a word for this; it's called Lebensraum, and it was the policy of the regime he had just been fighting.

Anyhow, something which occurred to me a while ago was to wonder how much of the territory taken from Germany to give to Poland at the end of both World Wars was German all along, and how much of it taken from Poland in the first place during the eighteenth-century partition of Poland (and yes, that part of history was indeed doomed to be repeated). (Or indeed how much was territory that Germany had dispossessed Poland of earlier still, but before the nineteenth creation of the German Empire, there was no German nation state, but just a mishmash of duchies, kingdoms and the like, any of which may or may not have been part of the German Confederation, the North German Confederation or the Holy Roman Empire, or had German or Polish rulers, or German or Polish citizens, etc, so it becomes difficult to tell without more research than I can be bothered to put into this.)

[livejournal.com profile] aviva_m said there was probably a map online which showed the information I was after, but I couldn't see one with a few minutes' googling, so I created my own, by crudely superimposing two maps from Wikipedia; the areas in red were the parts of pre-WW1 Germany which had been Polish before the partition of Poland.


Of course, that's not the end of the story. Pomerania, northeast of the present border, I discovered last week not to have been Polish since the Middle Ages; at various times it was independent, Danish, and (prior to the eighteenth century) Swedish. Silesia I have no clue about. I probably ought to rectify my ignorance at some point, but I find it hard to be motivated to learn the history of a country that can't be reduced to linearity like my own, but has to be considered as the sum of its many many parts.

Jan Czekanowski

Thursday, August 6th, 2015 06:31 am
lethargic_man: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] aviva_m and I just spent an overnight trip in Szczecin, which is just over the Polish border from Germany; for both of us it was our first time in Poland. Whilst we were there to do tourism, at the back of our minds we were conscious of the fact Poles have a reputation for a rather unreconstructed attitude towards Jews.

When we went on a tour of a wartime air raid shelter—which was fascinating for me, to see a glimpse of the wartime experience on the other side—[livejournal.com profile] aviva_m was struck by the fact that, though it talked a little about the general wartime conditions, not a single mention was made of what happened to the country's Jews. For me, following the guide in a printed English translation, the line about the air raid shelter having guards at the entrance to deny foreigners access (including, apparently, Poles whose ancestors had been living in what had been German territory since the eighteenth-century Great Northern War), had the addition "and Jews", but that was all.

By chance we came across a plaque on a wall marking where the synagogue had been, and that the community, dating from 1812, had been murdered in the Holocaust, but the plaque was not put up by the authorities (and was up a grassy bank, such that you couldn't read it from the pavement).

Then, in a park, we came across a statue of Jan Czekanowski:


There was no explanation of who he was, but on Wikipedia afterwards I read that he was "a Polish anthropologist, statistician and linguist, known for having played an important role in saving the Polish-Lithuanian branch of the Karaim people [Crimean Karaites] from Holocaust extermination. In 1942 he managed to convince German 'race scientists' that the Karaim were of Turkic origin although professing Judaism and using Hebrew as a liturgical language. This helped the Karaim people escape the tragic destiny of other European Jews and the Romas."

I'd vaguely heard of this before, but hadn't known who was responsible, and thought I'd take the opportunity to bring it to your attention.
lethargic_man: (Default)

Places wot I been to, updated for this year's travels in Sicily, Malta and Poland:

map )

map )

lethargic_man: (Berlin)
It's looking increasingly likely now that I'll be emigrating to Germany, which raises the question of what to do with my possessions. Specifically,* since I came to London I set about amassing a personal library, of all the books I'd read from the library but wished to reread or lend to friends, and it's now quite large.

* I.e. I am choosing to concentrate here on this, and ignore, for example, my succah, which, given that I bought the components of it and assembled it myself, I also have a sentimental attachment to, or my bike, which I've a good mind to take with me by travelling overland by train, with bike and suitcase and careful planning.

Over the course of the last year, I've been weeding out of it anything I didn't think was good, or had managed to completely forget the content of (even if my book log says that I thought it was good), or was never likely to want to reread or consult again. However, that still leaves over two and a half Billy bookcases' worth, all told.

I know there are some people who would get rid of the lot (and others who would attempt to sell the books, then buy the same ones again at the far end), but I'm rather attached to my books; I want to take them with me. The question is: is this sensible? This is going to cost!

Recently, I've been considering another purge of my bookshelves, but this time it would have to involve books I know are good. [livejournal.com profile] aviva was horrified when I mentioned this to her. But these are books that I'm simply never likely to read again.

Which raises the question of what the point of a personal library is. Despite my intentions, it's very rare that I actually get around to rereading any of my books; there's too much I've yet to ever read for that! But I do sometimes lend them to friends, and I do also from time to time take one down and browse bits of it. And those who have attended my Shabbos lunches know I can rarely get through one without taking a good handful of books down to consult, read from or just generally wave around. But regardless of any of these, I find the mere presence of books I've known and loved to be comforting.

But how high a price for transport does that sentimental attachment really justify? Anyone got any thoughts here? Or, indeed, advice from anyone else who's moved countries (or distances too long to make sticking everything in a rental van (assuming my library would even fit now!) sensible) on what is intended to be a permanent basis.

† Another argument against e-books, I suppose, though since I do the majority of my reading on Shabbos, I'm never going to be switching to those. Plus, as [personal profile] rysmiel first pointed out back in <checks> 1998, I'm a hardcopy romantic.

‡ Yes, I've looked into this. It would require around twelve hours' driving, but it seems to be just about impossible to hire a van for a one way trip out of the UK. The sensible solution would be to hire one at either end and either drive it back myself or find someone else prepared to. But it's probably cheaper just to crate my possessions up and send them off.
lethargic_man: (capel)
Here's a question for you. Why do I never see the kind of Jew I am—acculturated (and non-capel-wearing, though even MO would be an improvement), but deeply engaged in Jewish life, someone for whom ritual observance is at least reasonably important, but has a preference towards grassroots minyanim over established synagogues—represented in dramas on either the small or the silver screen?

There's plenty of us about—my social life revolves around several intersecting sets of such people—but those who commission dramas seem either not to know about us, or choose to ignore us, or deem our demographic too difficult for the general populace to get our head around.

Or possibly I'm just watching the wrong programmes and films—can you point out counterexamples?

[ETA: Some suggestions on the crosspost over on Facebook.]
lethargic_man: (Default)
I was listening to Our Routes by Gypsy Hill a few days ago, and it occurred to me I never blogged about it or them here. (I appreciate that this is a somewhat inappropriate day to discuss music for some of my readers, but it's when I've got around to writing this; you can always read the post now, and investigate the album if you're interested later.)

Gypsy Hill were the support act at the Fanfare Ciocǎrlia concert I went to earlier in the year; but they were one of those rare* occasions where the support act was as good as the main act, and indeed I got myself the CD before the main act had even come on the stage.

* Hah, what do I know what I'm talking about, from the number of times I go to concerts?

Gypsy Hill's setup was like that of the Apples, the Israeli dance band I saw perform at Limmud Fest back in 2008: a drummer, a substantial brass section, and a DJ (in this case, very thin and with long long hair) scratching and sampling on the turntables.

On further investigation, there turned out to be an actual connection: one of the members of the Apples is thanked on the Our Routes sleeve notes, and the album and the Apples' Attention! share a sample (of a man saying "These are the things that you and I have to understand": a little googling suggests this may be from a speech by Malcolm X). (There are a few other spoken-word samples, which one can enjoy oneself identifying: Tom Jones saying "Think I'd better dance now" is from the Art of Noise's cover of Prince's "Kiss".) Also, half of the band members have Israeli (Hebrew or Russian) names, and there's a short Hebrew-language sung intro and outro to an instrumental track.

The style of music is a little different from the Apples, though, being a heady mix of dance vibes and a mishmash from Eastern Europe, as can be seen from the track titles, which include "Căciula Pă Ureche" (Romanian), "Balaka", "Pachupa" and "Evitza" (anybody want to identify these languages?), "Balkan Beast", and "Afrita Hanem" (Egyptian), plus one swing jazz track. The name Gypsy Hill is a bit misleading, though: it turns out to be a suburb of London rather than indicating Romany influence.

The name of "Afrita Hanem" gave me a couple of nice linguistic "ping!" moments when I looked it up on Wikipedia. It transpires the music uses a bass line taken from a 1949 Egyptian film about "a poor singer who falls in love with the somewhat spoiled daughter of his boss. [When] her father won't let the marriage happen due to Asfour's class status, Asfour turns to a genie for help, but the [female] genie falls in love with Asfour instead, and tries to manipulate his desires." When I saw the title was given in English as Little Miss Devil, I realised I actually knew both elements of the name: `Afrita (عفريتة) is the feminine of `ifrit (عفريت), a type of genie you may have come across in the Thousand and One nights or elsewhere; and hanem (هانم‎) as a female honorific I knew from the Los Desterrados song "Buenas Noches, Hanum Dudu".

The only criticism I would really make of this album is that some of the tracks are too short; in particular, the first track seems to end just as it gets going. But if this, Gypsy Hill's first album is this good, I look forward to seeing what heights they will reach in the future.

Stromboli eruption

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 12:21 pm
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Now here's a crazy sight:

View piccy )


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Lethargic Man (anag.)

October 2015

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