28 November 2009

The vigil and mass for Jorge López M.

Photos: Elyaqim Mosheh Adam.

Not surprisingly, I was running late for the vigil here in New York City for Jorge López who was the victim of a ghastly murder in Puerto Rico. His story greatly moved me, but I was nevertheless victim of my own difficulty managing time. While hurrying down Christopher Street toward Pier 45, I encountered a new friend I had met at the most recent Fur Ball who was walking the opposite direction. I didn’t think I was all that late, but his walking companion gave me the impression the whole event might have been over, and my friend informed he himself left because he was bored.

Little of the vigil had elapsed when I arrived. I had missed speeches by some people I know, but I listened to the remaining speakers, many of whom were able to move the crowd to sadness or anger and others who read woodenly from scraps of paper or their mobile devices. I felt a little guilty that I spent so much time socializing with friends I had not seen in a while, but times like these can call for us to reaffirm our bonds of friendship. I felt a lump in my throat when my friend Karlo had difficulty maintaining composure describing how a gay youth activist and volunteer had become a pile of body parts.

One of the things that moved me most was seeing the vigil participants leave together and move en masse down Christopher Street while still holding their lighted candles. The mass afterward at the Church of Saint Luke in the Fields had been clearly marked as “optional” in all the literature, and maybe it would have been best had I not attended. It had its good moments, particularly hearing Dionne McClain‐Freeney, former head of the Center’s Youth Enrichment Services program, performing on the piano, but overall was far too religious for this atheist. I did however encounter some more friends and had some particularly good photo opportunities.

After saying my tearful goodbyes to everyone who seemed to want to rush home, I went to View Bar to join the crowd watching the American Music Awards, but there were only about ten customers present.

Atop this article are my seventeen best pictures, but I took over one hundred fifty. All my pictures of the vigil and mass can be seen in their Facebook photo album. I also found many other pictures on Facebook of the event, and I wish to be informed of any I have missed: See albums by A.G., C.B., C.D., D.D., E.P., E.X., J.McG., J.N., J.N., L.C., M.D., M.D.B. and N.O. Photo sets on Flickr are by David Badash, jasminegrapes, Raymond Perfetti and Vernon W.

Thus far, I have located sixteen videos on YouTube that document the vigil, and they are all on my playlist. There is also at least one video on Facebook.


• A version of this article is reproduced at webcitation.org/5lczOFbpM.
• Additional comments on this article may be available on FriendFeed, Facebook (and FriendFeed), and Jaiku (and FriendFeed).

26 November 2009

Hodgepodge, 2009 November 26.

• The botanical dictionary Plant Names in Yiddish די געװיקסן־װעלט אין ייִדיש (‎2005), by Mordkhe Schæchter (מרדכי שעכטער Mortxe Şexter) is now available online free. (Lorna Sass at Large, Apodion.net, Languagehat)

• My beloved friend Andrew Jónás, whom I mentioned in previous articles, died of a cerebral hemorrhage just prior to Yôm Kippûr. I miss him. ☹ (Cheer New York, Mike Dreyden Blog)

• Importing my Facebook events into Google Calendar was one of my best decisions. (SBDC via Lifehacker)

• My old friend has turned out to be a responsible parent who recognizes poor parenting when she sees it. (The Swamp)
(See also a discussion of a child-choked business in my neighborhood.)

• Today’s right wing is fundamentally different than it was sixty-five years ago. (Daily Kos)

• Sometimes an article just nails it: a great atheistic essay in the form of a point-by-point reaction to another article. ([R]eason [S]cience [M]etal)

Ḥummuṣ is mistakenly perceived to be specifically Islamic rather than generally Near Eastern. (Holy Taco via Robguy 4.0)

• The plight of an ethnic minority of course also affects their music. (Deutsche Welle on YouTube, via Aktiveytor)

• A version of this article is reproduced at webcitation.org/5lZlMdAMV.
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22 November 2009

Fragile Jewish Diaspora languages.

Photo: Antropoturista (tomke_lask).View from a window of a synagogue in Quba (Qıbə), Azərbaycan.
An article (Tom Colls, “The death of language?,” BBC News, 19 October 2009) made me think about the eventual deaths of various Jewish languages. Hebrew as an everyday spoken language is often rightly cited as an example of a triumph in the revival of dying languages, but often overlooked are the Diaspora languages that Hebrew rather intentionally displaced, many of which are now in decline or even seriously endangered. In a comment on the article, M.D. noted
The flip side of the revival of Hebrew…is the probably imminent demise of Yiddish and Ladino (Judaeo‐Spanish), two previously vibrant Jewish languages…. The movement to transform Hebrew…into the national language of Israel had as much to do with 19th‐century Zionist romanticism as anything else. Yiddish and Ladino were considered ghetto languages by Zionist intellectuals, and so not only not worthy of preservation, but deserving of oblivion. [T]he speaking of languages other than Hebrew (but especially Yiddish) was actively discouraged.

My own two ethnic Diaspora languages, Yiddish (ייִדיש) and Juhuri (ז׳אוּהאוּראִ) are both listed in UNESCO’s Interactive Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger as “definitely endangered.” Yiddish is spoken by more than three million people including many children, but is apparently in decline, and the overwhelming majority of Ashkenazim worldwide have no fluency in it. Juhuri has fewer than 100,000 speakers, and while I have no concrete information, I suspect it is gravely endangered outside of insular populations in the Caucasus. Mountain Jewish children and young adults across the globe are probably more likely to speak Russian, Hebrew, Azeri or English than Juhuri. It might even qualify as “severely endangered” were it not considered a dialect of Tati rather than a language unto itself.

Related: Steve Caruso, “The death of language?,” The Aramaic Blog, 21 October 2009.

• A version of this article is reproduced at webcitation.org/5lTR3zWI3.
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17 November 2009

From Facebook Wall to Surface Web, 25–31 October 2009.

▴ …likes this video a little too much. Thanks, Shemuʼel (and Elaine, Peter etc.). —26 October (C.O’C. on Facebook; Facebook)
▴ …is compiling a list of people who removed him as Facebook friend and has so far reached 28 (not counting two whom he’d never met, four who later requested to be friends again, and the many who rejected his request in the first place). Many were vital community contacts he had met once or twice; others were friends whom he loved and who he thought loved him. He acknowledges, however, he takes Facebook too seriously. —27 October (Facebook) (Update: As I continue to remember and notice people, there are now forty-one on the list.)
✡ “Just call me ‘Dreydl’ (דרײדל),” said the active partner in the relationship, “because I’m a top!” —27 October (Facebook)
▴ …still loves Mr. Goldstone and wants to give him an egg roll, but not everybody feels that way. —29 October (MuzzleWatch, Facebook|FriendFeed, Jaiku|FriendFeed)
▴ …loves a gruesome Halloween recipe. —30 October (not martha, Facebook|FriendFeed)
▴ …also enjoys viewing (as opposed to taking) aerial photography. —30 October (instantShift, Facebook|FriendFeed)
▴ …learned what is orange and sounds like a parrot. —31 October (Jokes.com, Facebook|FriendFeed)
▴ …is finally dressing to go out for Halloween. Thank goodness for that extra hour we’ll get. —31 October (Facebook, Jaiku|FriendFeed)

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13 November 2009

Park(ing) Day came to Jackson Heights.

Photo: Hrag Vartanian.

Had I read at all about the coming of “Park(ing) Day” to my neighborhood on 18 September, I probably dismissed it as not being relevant or interesting. More than likely I confused it with the unfortunately similarly named “It’s My Park Day” which I avoided because of its emphasis on families and children. If I anticipate crowds of screaming, running children, I scream and run the opposite direction. If I expect throngs of babies in strollers, I stroll someplace else.

Photo: Haci Richard.

That day turned out to be a busy one for me anyway. After staying up late at Elevate meeting guys on whom I developed crushes, I probably slept right through Park(ing) Day before marking the Jewish new year by running out to LGBT Night at Asia Society’s Leo Bar. The front door of my apartment building was also barricaded at the time due to construction that necessitated my coming and going via the service entrance. Due to all these poor excuses, I did not attend.

Photo: Hrag Vartanian.

Despite my lack of attendance, a small, temporary park called “Stone Soup Park” was nevertheless assembled across parking spaces in front of our Aqua Clara Laundromat, the location chosen because of the participation of the Laundromat Project who “bring art programs to where our neighbors already are: the local laundromat” and thereby “aim to raise the quality of life in New York City for people whose incomes do not guarantee broad access to mainstream arts and cultural facilities.”

Photo: Hrag Vartanian.

That art program was The Photo Booth Without Borders by local artist Carlos Martínez (site, micro-’blog, Facebook) who was sponsored by the Laundromat Project’s Create Change Public Artist Residency Program to develop artwork specific to the neighborhood, and whose fascinating installation did this by “recording participants’ personal stories and taking photographs of them interacting inside the booth.” (I assume “Create Change” to be a double entendre that also refers to the coin-operated laundry.) Live music was even performed by tango trio Mi, Miha & Me.

In addition to the movie above, Carlos also made one about the creation of the piece, and Hrag uploaded two videos (1, 2) shot at the event.

In retrospect, I wish I had attended, but at least there was one gay, Near Eastern person present enjoying and documenting the event: Hrag Vartanian, whose pictures adorn this article. Pictures and videos by Haci Richard are also online, but they seem to confirm my worst fears that it became an occasion for parents to dominate such a small space by stuffing so many children and strollers into it that childfree adults cannot enjoy themselves.

Photo: Haci Richard.

Updated, 11 December 2009: I found an additional set of photographs by L.M.
Updated, 29 December 2009: And two more by C.C.F. and C.M.


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06 November 2009

Hodgepodge, 6 November 2009.

• An article about Dr. Tina Strobos’ hiding Jews during World War II specifically noted the ethics of atheists. (The New York Times via J.K.G. on Facebook)

“It’s the right thing to do,” she said with nonchalance. “Your conscience tells you to do it. I believe in heroism, and when you’re young, you want to do dangerous things.” ¶But such an outlook has an origin, what Donna Cohen, the Holocaust Center’s executive director, calls “learned behavior.” Dr. Strobos comes from a family of socialist atheists who took in Belgian refugees during World War I and hid German and Austrian refugees before World War II.

• The Coalition of Reason advertises atheism in the New York City subway system, but alas in Manhattan stations only. (City Room via J.B. on Facebook)

• The Institution for the Secularization of Islamic Society (ISIS). (Center for Inquiry)

• Hear the endangered Cypriot Maronite variety of Arabic in this two-part documentary in Greek. (YaLibnanTV and YaLibnanTV on YouTube, via جبل اللغة, via Languagehat, also available at gskordis and gskordis)(Facebook/FriendFeed, Jaiku/FriendFeed)

A version of this article is reproduced at webcitation.org/5l5kCWl1K.