Wednesday, December 08, 2010

"What's your 2:30 feeling like?" UPDATED

-Who wants to hear about my bizarre headache? So bizarre that I'm something of a medical marvel - a med student was summoned to the health center just to have a look at me. You'd think there'd have been something to see, but because this wasn't an episode of "House," no such luck. (My head, that is, did not plop off and onto the examining table of its own volition, only to get screwed back into place in time for an upbeat ending 50 minutes in.) The medicine that works (brilliantly, I might add) for this headache will apparently cause my stomach to explode violently ala "The Meaning of Life" (or, will cause stomach bleeds) if I consume so much as a drop of wine. Happy holidays, indeed.

-Capes: so-very-now. But so-very-good-of-an-idea? Tried on the one pictured here, didn't buy it because it was $80 or something and I wasn't in a useless-$80-purchase mood, then when that mood struck months later, Uniqlo no longer had capes. Tried on another (this, but navy with plaid lining) at the Housing Works bonanza - $75, thrift-but-unworn, visibly so-not-worth-it. Then of course friggin' American Apparel, which has planted itself right smack in the middle of window-shopping-NYU-student territory, puts this in the window. I'm considering consider it, if that makes sense. Is it warm or impractical? Elegant or exactly-how-many-latkes-are-you-hiding-under-there? Worth trying on, or so obviously overpriced that I should put blinders on when passing any of the store's convenient locations?

-In other shopping news, I just did some online purchasing (ooh!) from Frahnce (oh la la!). The item in question was an article which could only be read if I paid up. And I mean only - the secular and Jewish libraries I tried to find it at in Paris were not forthcoming. It was a whopping five euros and well worth it.

UPDATE: Because the four or so windows I have open about Judaism and Christianity aren't enough (this is the dissertation-writing method in which I write all five - ? - chapters simultaneously, depending which notes work for which), I've also been debating Withywindle on such questions as whether there is such a thing as "cultural Judaism" and the optimal role of pretentiousness in discussions of theology. To borrow, as somehow seems appropriate, from John Cleese, "I could be arguing in my spare time."


Sigivald said...

Considering the price of good, heavy wool, $80 is not unreasonable for such a thing.

And it has the advantage of looking better than the other two capes.

(Capes are pretty dubious, aesthetically, in my experience (though the Uniqlo one seems to work pretty well in that picture).

And I say that as someone who does medieval/renaissance re-creation, so I've seen a lot of damned capes.

There's a reason people uniformly wear coats these days - they're a million times more practical than a cape or a cloak, especially if you have to actually do things with your hands.)

(Were it me, I'd just make one by modifying a coat pattern... but I'm used to making such things, and have a sewing machine and whatnot.)

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Believe it or not, I did make a cape - it was as simple as cutting down the seam of a skirt I never wore, and cutting two slits for armholes. But it looks... not like the cape of my dreams. Nor, for that matter, did the American Apparel one I just, alas, tried on - it was one size fits all as in none, and did me no favors.

$80 for wool is reasonable. $150 for wool blend and no choice in size, less so. This might be time to investigate the sewing machine that's possibly at my parents'.

Matt said...

Sorry to hear about the headaches. Reading the link, I can well imagine how more or less non-stop headaches for a month or more, even if not always extreme, could lead to "tearing". Probably also to cursing, too. Really, though, I hope the situation will work out, as it sounds awful.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Thanks Matt, but it really wasn't so bad - I had it for weeks, not months, before I finally saw a neurologist who figured out what it was. I'd been watching too much "House" and was, frankly, relieved that all it was was something that would go away with some variant of Advil. The main thing was that I spent those weeks gripping the side of my head, which made me look like more of a lunatic grad student than usual!

Britta said...

My mother wore a black wool cape as a maternity coat when she was pregnant in the late 70s and early 80s. I have worn it out myself a bit when I was in HS and home on break in college, I kind of like the look. I did once wear it to a Sound of Music sing-a-long costume contest, since it kind of resembled Maria von Trapp's traveling cloak. I didn't realize they are coming back in, though maybe that's because in Chicago the only coat in during winter is knee-length down.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


It's way too cold for a cape here, too - it's now definitively fleece-under-sleeping-bag-coat season. But... pretty! There was, of course, a nearly $400 version of the thing featured in the NYT Style section this morning. I really should figure out a sewing machine...

Britta said...

I think the problem with trying to compare "cultural Christianity" to "cultural Judaism" is it's a total apples to oranges comparison. There's been a push at least in certain places to study the Abrahamic religions as some how on par with each other, which is just totally not the case. In this case, Judaism is a religion of a people, much like Zoroastrianism is, or Shintoism, etc. In contrast, Christianity (and Islam) were a proselytizing a set of beliefs and practices (linked to material and structural institutions of power), many of which were syncretically absorbed into/with the local customs. If one wanted to look at state religions in early modern Europe, one might get a bit closer, but that's really not how Christianity seems to exist in 21st century America. Thus, to say, "I'm a Christian" really is not at all the same thing as saying "I'm a Jew," in terms of speaking about identity.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


Agreed and disagreed. Agreed insofar as Judaism - simply saying "I'm Jewish" - implies specific cultural belonging, whereas "I'm Christian" does not. There's no ethnicity, cuisine, or accent associated with being a Christian in America. Where I'd disagree is, there are subsets of Christianity - WASPs, Irish Catholics, urban black churches, exurban megachurches, wherever Sarah Palin worships, etc. - that might be identifiable by "religion" but that are at least as much about culture. Missing church or not believing in one's heart of hearts doesn't stop one from having a cultural membership in a particular subset of Christianity. One might not be able to be culturally Christian, but I've met enough cultural Belgian (and Italian, French...) Catholics, for example, to have no doubts as the the existence of cultural Christianity.

I mean, I agree with you more than I disagree, because there's obviously a difference between a religion-of-a-people and a religion based on belief, and to say that all categories we now refer to as "religions" are fundamentally about faith above all else is basically to say that Christianity is the model by which we should judge all other religions. But even if we accept that "religion" has no fixed meaning, there's still a cultural component to the ostensibly belief-and-practice-only religions.

OK, I'm rambling, but I hope this makes sense.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


Moved this to the Christmas thread, and responded there.

Britta said...

Actually, I pretty much agree with you. I think Christianity in particular can be cultural and part of a larger identity (I certainly identify as a "cultural" Lutheran). I guess where I'd differ is that it's not enough to say, even if you are a cultural Christian, just "I'm a Catholic." For that to be a meaningful cultural identity, one really has to modify it with an ethnic identity as well, such as "I'm an Irish Catholic," or "I'm a Roman Catholic" etc. In other words, certain forms of Christianity are tied up with belonging to an ethnicity/culture, but they themselves aren't enough. How evangelical American Christianity fits in I don't know, because I have never really spent any time in places where evangelical Christianity is common. If I had to take a stab at it though, I think the cultural Christianity thing is really tied to forms of Christianity which were state religions in Europe/the rest of the world--Catholicism, Anglicanism, Lutheranism, Orthodox Christianity, etc., and so got embedded in everyday life. Like, there are cultural Catholics and Episcopalians and Greek Orthodox people, but not cultural Methodists or Baptists? Or, is white bread America culturally linked to anti-establishment Anglo-protestantism and its offshoots.

I have this issue with my own identity as a Lutheran. To say, "I'm a cultural Lutheran," if I am non practicing but still have many of the cultural customs/influence from an underlying ethos, how is that really different from just being shorthand from saying, I'm Northern European? I mean, for people who know anything about Lutheranism, people pretty much know just by looking at me that background is/was probably at some point at least nominally Lutheran, and the question is to what extent I was raised in a practicing home, or did my relatives convert to something else in America.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


So maybe this is the Christmas thread? Now I'm confused... Are comments not appearing to the other post?


"I guess where I'd differ is that it's not enough to say, even if you are a cultural Christian, just "I'm a Catholic."

I actually do agree with you there. The only reason "I'm Jewish" works to convey cultural meaning is that, in the US, there's only one culture commonly associated with Jewishness - the NY, bagels, "Seinfeld," Ashkenazi one. (Even though Jerry's apparently half-Syrian-Jewish, as came out during the Syrian Jews fascination when there was the NYT article about it - or maybe this was mentioned in the article itself?) I wonder what "cultural Judaism" would imply in France, where the Jewish culture in recent decades comes more from North Africa, but which, like the US, had waves of Eastern European Jewish immigration earlier on - would the expression automatically summon one, the other, or (at this point) an amalgam of the two? Certainly in Israel, "cultural Judaism" isn't too relevant - in Israel, one (or so I've been told) refers to Polish Jews as "Poles," American or British ones as "Anglo-Saxons," etc. In the US, meanwhile, "Christian," "Catholic," and "Protestant" are all too broad to be identified with a culture. In most cases. I could think of situations where either Catholic or Protestant would be enough, if it was implied, given who lived in an area, that "Catholic" meant Italian, "Protestant" WASP, etc.

"To say, 'I'm a cultural Lutheran,' if I am non practicing but still have many of the cultural customs/influence from an underlying ethos, how is that really different from just being shorthand from saying, I'm Northern European?"

Ah. This gets to another issue, one I should have brought up earlier, namely that for all kinds of reasons, it's not socially acceptable to refer to Jews as anything but a religious grouping. What you say re: "people pretty much know just by looking at me that background is/was probably at some point at least nominally Lutheran" could be applied to me re: Judaism, but it's considered an insult to say someone looks Jewish, whereas "looks Northern European" suggests... Tiger Woods' Swedish bikini model (ex-?) wife. You don't have to describe your culture as "Lutheran" - and in fact, as you point out, it would be odd to do so - because implying that your background is more than just a religion isn't controversial. Meanwhile, I could say that my background is Russian, Polish, Romanian, etc., which would distinguish me from German or Moroccan Jews, but would overall be an inaccurate description of which civilization my family came from.

CompassRose said...

I wore a beautiful mohair cape my mother made me as a coat for years (I still have it, but there's a rip in the back now that I haven't fixed) and I would advise capes only if you don't drive, and don't habitually carry more than a handbag.

PG said...

Not sure where my previous lengthy comment went, but don't worry about it.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


I moved one to the other post when I was feeling energetic maybe a week ago - if there's a new one, I haven't seen it.