29 October 2012

Steampunk, Mori Girl, and Judaism

There are a couple of identifiable alternative fashions in America -- goth, punk, ethnic -- but I just heard that in Japan, there are several street fashions each associated with a lifestyle, a philosophy, an entire approach to the world.
I am not sure the same can be said for their American counterparts... I suspect that it is only the rare person on this side of the Pacific who says, "I think I will dress, and live, and look at life, as if I were a Poe character (or a clockwork Victorian, or a Tibetan herdsman), as much as possible." But in Japan the fashion of let's pretend we live in the woods has got its own name (mori-kei) and publications and corresponding philosophy and values and, if I understood correctly, not a small number of adherents.

It's very Jewish, that your style of dress should be an organic expression of your philosophy and values -- though in the case of mori-kei, and I could be wrong about this, I am not so sure the interest in the weltanschauung gave birth to the fashion instead of the other way round.

Jewish dress is defined by Torah principles, which makes it fairly difficult to pin down, as fashions go: it's not defined by a particular shape (like steampunk) or color (like goth) or texture (like mori-kei) or place (like goncha) or era (like vintage) or being different from what everyone else is wearing.
One of these days I should write about what does define it... does someone more learned who writes for this blog want to tackle that one?

As it comes out, Rav Bulman zt"l once observed that traditional Jewish dress is the dress of the nobility of the past generation. But that's incidental.

25 October 2012


Lewis and Clark headed up the Missouri, looked West, and saw some mountains they expected to reach any day.
The days kept passing and the mountains kept getting bigger, until they reached the foot of the Rockies.
Well, they got over those. And then they looked West, and saw the Cascades.
By the time they got through the Coast Range, they were stuck spending the winter at Fort Clatsop, in what is now Astoria, in the corner of the Ourigan Columbia and the Coast. The journals from that winter are repetitive.
Wet and disagreeable.
Cold and wet.
Cold. Disagreeable. Wet.
They wound up eating their tallow candles for lack of meat.
In the Spring they bade Oregon weather good riddance and returned to Missouri.

Today Astoria is a small shipping town on the Oregon coast. We walked through the repair yards.

My father identified the boat on the left as homemade.

I believe the owner told us that his Metta Marie, which is now being taken apart, is some 80 years old.

Poor things want to be out sailing, and here they are propped up on land for repairs, looking out to sea.

Ocean-going ships

Monument to the Unknown Whatsit

It really is that green.

Seagull tracks

Nice colors

Astoria is a very old town, and looks it.

It is still wet. But not disagreeable.

18 October 2012

The Difference between Elul and Rosh Hashana

The difference between Elul and Rosh Hashana, said Rabbi Geometry, is that in Elul the King is coming, and on Rosh Hashana the King arrives.


Cathlamet crops up in the journals of Lewis and Clark as a Chinook town on the Columbia.
Today there is still a Cathlamet - whether in the same place, I couldn't tell ya - on the Washington side.
It looks like Oregon: small wooden houses with leaded windows, from the '30s. This despite the lack of zoning laws, which says a lot about the people of Cathlamet. There are no stoplights in the entire county. There are a lot of lawn ornaments, cast deer predominating.

There is an old hotel, with the lobby on the second floor, whose proprietors took time to shmooze with us. All the people we met are down-to-earth folks who work for the county and fish.
"Would you ever live outside this county?" one of them once asked a young lady of his acquaintance.
"No," she said.
"Will you marry me?" he asked, then. (She said yes.)

Out in the river lies the island half of Cathlamet, Puget Island; and that looks like Washington: massive houses on large lawns, alternating with fields of Holsteins.
The fields are very green, the hills very blue, the sky very grey: the entire county is executed in watercolor.

As always, clicking on pictures will enlarge them.

Raise your hand if you transposed two letters in the name of the boat in the foreground.

I forgot about this local variation on the police car.

This house is pretty typical of the entire mainland Cathlamet.

Doesn't this look like a saloon? --The upper floors are abandoned.
The siding is asbestos.