Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Dog days in Del Mar

Friends who just visited showed me a new side to Del Mar. They came with dogs (at right: Buffy) so I had to get to know where dogs are welcome. The highlight is Dog Beach, where pooches run free! But Del Mar, spectacular seen from the bluff above Dog Beach, is dog-friendly, too.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Water patterns, Solana Beach

All you need: sand in two colors, water, sun, gentle waves at low tide.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Chopped and diced

My book's most improbable distributor yet? But I suppose Job knows all about Household Blenders - Centrifugal and Masticating Juicers, too!

Friday, December 27, 2013


White gold, feathery cloud and a band of blue where they meet

Thursday, December 26, 2013


Is this a "selfie" - word of the year - or, as it's my shadow, a "shelfie"? In any case, there's more than self here. When I took it I noticed just the Christian mugs and Santa-hatted Buddha, but not the blue Pacific, or the Torrey Pine growing from the Buddha's hat.

Bardo bard

Recently finished another great book by Kim Stanley Robinson. Okay, so it's taken me more than a month - I took it along to AAR and Thanksgiving. But there's so much there, it's so smart, at so many levels at once. As he described it when visiting Lang, his work - whether science fiction or alternative history - explores "histories we can never know," works from whose vantage you can reflect powerfully on important moral questions.

The Years of Rice and Salt (2002) imagines how world history might have unfolded had the Black Death taken out all of Europe, and Christianity with it as a player. Central Asia, where Islamic and Buddhist cultures meet, is where much happens (maybe Robinson wrote this book just so he could refer to what we call the Middle East as the Midwest!). The Americas are colonized, but from the Pacific side, by Chinese and Japanese - Yingzhou and Inka are the continents' names; eventually the world's greatest city winds up close to where San Francisco now is - though on the north edge of the "Gold Gate." By a clever plot device most of the Plains Indians are inoculated against Old World diseases, are able to keep the Chinese confined to the west and the Muslim colonists from Firanja (Europe!) to the east coast; they develop the most promising model for peaceful coexistence of peoples (taken up by South Indians liberating themselves from the Mughals), and on it goes. Robinson's stories are always well-researched and very scientifically literate - he's a great science fiction writer, after all - so nothing here happens capriciously. Everything is an inspired reflection of events, tensions, potentialities in our world history. Each is in a style appropriate to the time and place. And, most important, his characters are intriguing, engaging. Their joys thrill, their tragedies devastate.

Robinson's figured out a great way of telling a story encompassing the whole world over centuries: his characters are reborn, passing through the Bardo (from the Tibetan Book of the Dead) on their way, which changes aspect as times change. The same set of characters, known as a jati, appear in each chapter, recognizable by the first letter of their names but also by certain traits of personality. If it gets a little wearisome after centuries, the characters are the first to say so. Rebirth loses its charm eventually.

In the final section, corresponding to our present, scientific discoveries lead to secularization, at least among scientists and intellectuals. Buddhism and Sufism have long since come to an understanding (in the absence of nasty Christian crusaders, it's non-Sufi Muslims who are this book's villains) so the form secularization takes is skepticism about reincarnation. How the author handles that is indicative of his gifts. He has people discuss various views of the shape of history, all of which have, in one way or the other, animated his narrative (some are the work of characters from past chapters). The discussion winds up being about the importance of storytelling, of teleological "dharmic" vs. nihilistic "entropic" history. A wise character recommends:

I suggest that as historians, it is best not to get trapped in one mode or another, as so many do; it is too simple a solution, and does not match well with events as experienced. Instead we should weave a story that holds in its pattern as much as possible. It should be like the Daoists' yin-yang symbol, with eyes of comedy and tragedy dotting the larger fields of dharma and nihilism. That old figure is the perfect image of all our stories put together, with the dark spot of our comedies marring the brilliance of dharma, and the blaze of tragic knowledge emerging from black nothingness. (736)

This would be precious if it came early and unearned in the book, but coming at the end it adds another level of knowing pleasure to the remarkable achievement of the book. And there's a twist at the end (consistent with the approach attributed to the "Samarqandi anthologist Old Red Ink" on 739), as a character whose name starts with B, like our first protagonist long before, seems to be coming gently to the final - earned, enlightened - end of his last (and perhaps only) life... I won't tell you: read the book!

I read the The Years of Rice in Salt, having devoured his more recent 2312, in part as prep for China. It's also one of those death-wish books - like Leslie Marmon Silkoe's Almanac of the Dead - where one contemplates the possibility of his nonexistence. Would it really have made such a difference? Or so little? An interesting challenge religiously, too. As in his more recent 2312, there's a lot of religious questioning in this book (most extensively 141ff and 573ff). I'd love to find a way to use one of his books in a class...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dreaming of a white Christmas

The star of Torrey Pines State Beach today: wish I'd thought of that!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Venite adoremus

Christmas greetings from our little Mexican nativity set, this time with flowers and plants from the garden, and lots of seeds of local Torrey Pine trees... and a brace of turtledoves!

Fall of night

The sine curve-like pattern of waves on the beach inspired these shots.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Year end

As the year ends it may look like I've settled into a relaxing holiday in California, but there's lots left to do from the year just ending - and next year to plan too! First thing due is my revised "Resource Use Decisions" paper, which will appear in a special issue of Himalaya. My draft is 5000 words but the editors would like it to grow to 7000 (!). Then there's "Queer Christianities," for which this is crunch time: final manuscript is due in mid-January. That means lots of editing of other people's work, and drafting the introductory apparatus. And then it's just the usual stuff - finalizing the next semester's syllabus, firming up the religious studies curriculum for 2014-15, and... reading new stuff!

Saturday, December 21, 2013


This is fun. Answer twenty-five questions about your word usage and pronunciation and find out where it sounds like you're from. Here's me:
I guess my years out east have smudged my southern California argot a little bit northward, but not enough to efface it!


Alas, my grading for the semester isn't done, though it should be. A student, who plagiarized for an earlier assignment and was read the riot act, has plagiarized for the final assignment, too! It makes me feel sad rather than angry. (Also a little guilty, as we were supposed to meet and talk about it but I got distracted by Thanksgiving, etc.) Presumably the student - a first year, and an international student to boot - is just overwhelmed, and was ready for the course to be over.

But here's an unexpected twist. Where the student's from, I was told, it is permissible to copy passages from a website, without the apparatus of quotation marks, etc., so long as the website is listed in the bibliography. I'm dubious. But the more interesting thing was what the student said next. As a non-native speaker, the student routinely puts work through a website called grammarly.com, which, among other things, tests for plagiarism. The paper I got passed the grammarly test.

Or so the student claimed in a conciliatory e-mail: my understanding of plagiarism should obviously trump grammarly.com's, but it's not as if the student didn't try to avoid plagiarism. If you believe this is a case of plagiariam, I will accept it, because I see that did not format it to my own words well enough. I wasn't quite sure what this meant, so I copied the first plagiarized five-sentence chunk into grammarly.com.

Frustrated by the intellectual timidity of traditional colleges, they envisioned a new kind of academic institution where faculty and students would be free to honestly and directly address the problems facing societies in the 20th century. In 1919, they created a School of Advanced Adult Education to bring creative scholars together with citizens interested in improving their understanding of the key issues of the day through active questioning, debate, and discussion. The founders named their new school ‘The New School for Social Research’. Over the years, The New School for Social Research, now formally named The New School, grew into an urban university with seven divisions. The university is enriched by the diversity of its students, who represent a wide range of ages, social backgrounds, aspirations, perspectives, interests and talents.

Its plagiarism red flag went off, too. "Unoriginal text detected"!
What's going on? This was all in an opening section which seems to have been added in haste. Deeper in the essay the chunks are smaller, and some are even disguised with synonyms. I recall an episode from the early teaching career of my friend H. When she confronted a student with evidence that his whole essay came from online (it wasn't even on one of the assigned topics!), he replied with great contrition: "I'm so sorry! I must have forgotten to save the changes!"

I decided to try an experiment. How much would I have to change to get these 5 paragraphs through grammarly.com's plagiarism checker? Changing one word in each sentence wasn't enough, or two. (I tried.) This required some real thinking! But by the time I'd made about twenty changes, replacing some words, moving others around, and adding a few

Discouraged by the intellectual timidity of the traditional universities of the time, they imagined a new kind of academic establishment where students and faculty would be free to honestly and directly face the problems facing societies in the 20th century. In 1919, they established a School of Advanced Adult Education to bring together scholars with creative citizens interested in improving their understanding of the central issues of the day through active querying, discussion, and debate. The founders named their new establishment ‘The New School for Social Research’. Over time, The New School for Social Research, now formally known as The New School, matured into an urban university with seven divisions. The university is enriched by the wonderful diversity of its students, who represent a broad range of ages, social backgrounds, perspectives, interests and ethics. 

I'd passed the test: "The text in this document is original."

It didn't take more than a few tries, and I've even learned some useful strategies for next time! (Changing words is less effective than tweaking the sentence structure.) It was like a game. Plagiarism's never been such fun! Is this how papers are written in the age of the internet?

One last thing. Perhaps this flagrant plagiarism was a cry for help? The student added one sentence to the end of the paragraph with the five plagiarized sentences: Originality and research at New School stands out to be one of the most important traits it possesses.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Eavesdropping on soliloquys

A friend has just published an article on plant communication, a rather more sober view than the effusive television program I mused about a few months ago or the ambitious views of Matthew Hall's Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany (which I thought I'd posted about but evidently forgot to; he takes it as demonstrated that plants perceive, react, have a sense of self and even engage in choice). Yes, plants do send out chemical signals of various kinds, and other plants (often of other species) do respond to them, arming themselves against pests, etc. Initial scientific skepticism over this seems to have been overcome.

But it seems we're not able to say that one plant somehow seeks to communicate with the others, or that the others in some way receive these signals as communication. Ockham's razor suggests that all that's going on may be plants sending warning signals to themselves - some botanists propose calling these "soliloquys" - which other plants pick up in a sort of "eavesdropping." But that's still very interesting. There are parts of our own communication which are essentially eavesdropping on others' soliloquys, too - all those arts of "reading people," for instance. We might not even notice that the soliloquy isn't our own.

That's reckless anthropomorphic talk, of course! My writer friend sagely concludes: the science of plant talk is challenging long-held definitions of communication and behavior as the sole province of animals. Each discovery erodes what we thought we knew about what plants do and what they can do. To learn what else they’re capable of, we have to stop anthropomorphizing plants, said [Ian] Baldwin, who is now at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, and try instead to think like them, to phytomorphize ourselves. Imagining what it’s like to be a plant, he said, will be the way to understand how and why they communicate.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


A secret message I noticed this morning on the wall of our corner bagel shop. If I'd been able to read it, might it have told me I'd be sitting on the tarmac at JFK nearly two hours after scheduled departure for San Diego? Might it be able to tell me if and when we'll finally take off? [Update: we made it, got in just over 2 hours late.]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It gets real

My landlady is jacking up the rent, a lot. She claims - rightly - that the market rate in the neighborhood has been rising rapidly. Indeed, word is that there's no place in the country where property values have risen as sharply in the last decade as in Prospect Heights. It is a very nice and very convenient place to live.

This map shows what's going on: Park Slope is flowing up over Flatbush!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Through all the waves

The scene: Friends of Firefighters, a community center supporting current and past members of the FDNY in Red Hook, Brooklyn, one block from the harbor. When hurricane Sandy hit New York just over a year ago, the room was under four feet of water. Once the water subsided, it housed 28 visiting firefighters from around the world in bunk-beds - teeshirts from their various brigades garland the wall. In the kitchen adjacent someone is making pizza. There's coffee and cookies for us.

We're here for a special community event. Famous actors of stage, screen and TV are doing a dramatic reading of an ancient Hebrew poem, the Book of Job - a 30-minute condensation of Stephen Mitchell's poetic translation. Our stars are Arliss Howard, Zach Grenier, David Strathairn. Once they finish, their places at the table will be taken by members of the community who will share their reactions to the story in light of their Sandy experience. Then the event's director, Bryan Doerries, will elicit reflections on disaster and its aftermath from the audience through five questions anchored in the story of Job.

This is the tenth such Job performance/town meeting put on by Doerries' organization of engaged actors Outside the Wire. The first was in Joplin, MO on the first anniversary of the tornado that leveled that small city in 2011, in a big church packed with mostly evangelical citizens. Someone had known of Outside the Wire's work using classic plays with communities struggling with trauma and called them up. Could they do something for this town visited by devastating natural disaster? Someone thought of the man from Uz. In the video made of the event, Paul Giamatti was an anguished Job. The others, including David Strathairn as Bildad and God, were the same as tonight.

"Job in Red Hook" was the third or fourth performance of Job offered to a community affected by hurricane Sandy, the first I was able to attend. (I hope to be there for "Job in Long Beach" on January 26th, and "Job in Staten Island" on February 9th.) I've been interested in Job in performance for a while, and in my book even suggested that its liturgical use worked as a kind of community theater. This setting and frame show just how cathartic the story can be.

The actors had not rehearsed together (is this part of the formula? I could see it making good directorial sense). As they conferred before the reading I overhead Grenier saying he'd been trying to figure out the friends but "it just doesn't add up." (Bingo!) His performance showed he'd come up with a way to make compelling sense of the rest of it, though. Job's an everyman, overwhelmed, angry, hopeful and then less hopeful for justice. In the most blasphemous section of chapter 9 he spoke extra-loud and glanced ever-so-briefly upward, as though trying to shock God into reacting - very effective. When God starts speaking (there's no hymn to wisdom or Elihu in Mitchell's Job) he sounds old and even a bit doddering - not unlike Bildad, read by the same actor - but rises to the poetry, almost lustily describing his powerful monsters. Job recants, in hushed but not abashed tones. God raises his voice now, to Eliphaz and his friends, savoring saying - twice! - that it is not they but his servant Job who has spoken rightly. The narrator tells us in exaggerated tones how Job's ends was greater than his beginning.

I haven't mentioned what might have been the most powerful part of the the reading. Unique among interpretations I've encountered, this one takes seriously Job's friends' grieving and sitting in silence with him before even a word is spoken. After the narrator reads these words there is silence, a long one. Long enough for me to wonder if someone had missed a cue, to understand that it was in fact planned, and to feel the silence welling up from all in the room, called for by all the suffering of Sandy and beyond. This silence grounded the dialogues to follow, in Uz and in Red Hook.

After the actors stepped down - there was no fuss, no chance to let this be about them rather than about Uz and Red Hook - their places on the little improvised stage were taken by a policeman, a mental health specialist, a local business owner, and the head of the local fire station. One appreciated God's question to Job, "Where is the road to light?" (Mitchell's 38:19) and had felt it answered during the aftermath of Sandy through the community's mutual help. One knew there were times when you need friends to come to you, as you aren't able to reach out to them. One was moved by Job's ranting - and his realizing it did him no good: we can't control our circumstances, but we can control our reactions to them.

Then Doerries solicited the audience's reactions. What in this ancient story did they recognize as truthful? Considering Job's friends' silent grieving with him, what human responses to Sandy had affirmed their faith in humanity? On the other hand, thinking more generally of the friends' responses, did they speak to a sort of survivor's guilt in the face of the indiscriminateness of disaster? Did their turning on Job recall experiences the audience had had of the limits to human compassion? And finally, recalling the premise of the end of the story - that good can come out of bad - how do you accept the good things that may come out of disaster while maintaining respect for the memory of what's lost? Searching questions which elicited searching responses. In the end Doerries said: "If there's one message from the Book of Job, it’s that you’re not alone in this room, in this country, in this world… and you’re not alone throughout time."

It was a remarkable discussion, in which many people participated. I don't have time to describe all the things people said (though I tried to write them all down), but I do want to share two with you. The first was the policeman from Rockaway. (His family had moved there just a month before the hurricane.) He was and is a very successful crisis specialist, but this was his first experience being the victim. When the lights went out he felt "disarmed" by his inability to be the savior for his young children. What spoke to him in the story was Job's protest: "what crime have I committed?" He's given his life to service!

What interested me was how he described this: "I'm ashamed to say that's how I feel." Ashamed! (He used the word twice.) I'm not sure how to parse that, but it seems very important, both as a fact about human experience and, perhaps, about Job. Is the humbled helper ashamed to need help himself or ashamed to have failed as a help to others? Ashamed because events forced him to think of his own circumstances and not those of others? What would it be like so completely to understand your life as in the service of others? Did Job so understand himself? Verily, I get something huge each time I hear someone else's wrestling with the Book of Job.

The other response came from a man born around the corner, though he'd moved to Manhattan a few decades ago. Sixteen years ago he was electrocuted and had a near-death experience. He knows God loves him because he was held in God's arms, but "even though I was there I don't know what he's about." Sometimes he thinks God, like us, is limited; like us, like all of us, he does the best he can. What the man does know is that Job's story resonates because "we all live that story every day." Life can be overwhelming and when we get "really clobbered," as everyone does, we can forget our own resilience. "The great thing is we go through all the waves," he concluded, "it's a ride."

I'm not sure I quite understand that either, but here, too, I hear the ring of truth. Job's story isn't a one-off story, isn't about exceptional events merely or even primarily. This man wasn't the only one to assert that Job's struggle mattered to everyday life, even in the context of this discussion about Sandy. An open discussion like this one (thoughtfully structured and expertly facilitated) is humbling and thrilling at once. The insights speaking from the depth of experience, of all people's experience, are staggering.

How big a role did Job's story play in this powerful gathering of shared experience? For some there it clearly had divine force, but for many its power lay elsewhere: a story, ancient and profoundly human. Hearing and seeing it read (and by known actors) contributed something important too. The reading - not unrehearsed but raw - made clear that while Job's is a universal story, his cries are made real in always particular voices. We felt Job's solitude the more keenly for seeing him flanked by faltering friends, and the stifling strangeness of the dialogues - not least the exchange (if it can even be described as such) with God, who is and isn't speaking to Job, is and isn't sitting right there beside him. I can't wait to see this again with a different community...

Things unseen

Noticed this little explosion of color on my way to a meeting at Parsons about an exhibition which appears to be growing from our New School history course - stay tuned for details about that as they emerge! Curiously, all I noticed when I first saw this were the texts in Hangul, but now I see that's only one of several languages. For all the cultural differences between "liberal arts" and "design," it's been a real pleasure to spend a semester with Parsons students and to start to get some glimpses of their lives, projects, values and dreams.

Monday, December 16, 2013

New School History Reflections

China on the horizon has got me wondering if there isn't, perhaps, something a little Maoist about the exercise of having students generate and share a final "personal reflection" at the end of each class enumerating what they've learned and how they've been changed... Happily the students at The New School aren't particularly interested in saying what they think you might like to hear! Some highlights from the New School history class reflections:

Through the readings given in class, the interviews done for our projects and the research done for the final websites, I was able to learn more than I thought I would. 

This course has given me much knowledge on subjects I otherwise would have not taken the time to explore. 

I noticed each week that if I had done the reading the lecture was a bit redundant and if I hadn’t I still didn’t feel lost. Good tactic for a lecture class seeing as I think only --- and I did the readings ever. 

[T]hose who read about the history of The New School’s bachelor’s degree program are likely to be impressed by the integrity and disregard for convention that it has consistently displayed. I know that I am. 

The university wasn’t and still isn’t afraid to try something new and different and teach subjects that many people don’t take seriously. Unfortunately I think it’s lost a lot its “street cred” because so many people don’t even know that it exists. 

These students are being good sports about a course they took only because it was required, and for what it's worth pretty much all of these reflections arrived attached to an email with a message to the effect of "Thanks for a great course!" or "Thanks for a great semester." While many of the reflections have not yet been submitted (they were due at 4 this afternoon) I doubt any will trump this summation of the course:

I feel this [history] makes The New School look as if it is a wonderful changing environment but all of its changes may not be for the best, and that the history of The New School may or may not be better than the future of The New School.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

I can see clearly now

One of the groups projects in my New School history section found this image - the best picture of Clara Mayer we've yet seen. "Conclusively proves they weren't the same person," one member of the team observed wryly. If only they'd provided a proper citation, too!


I didn't tell you, but my computer crashed the day of the book launch. Everything turned out OK, thanks to a Genius at the local Apple Store (and to my backing up more or less regularly - do it!). It emerged that the operating system went awry somehow. Now I'm equipped with a newer, fleeter-of-foot operating system called OS X Mavericks.

Which doesn't mean nothing's changed. In the new OS, some of the fonts I use in my diary (each of my various projects has its own font and color) have disappeared, including the one for the Job book (coincidence!). It also gave me a perfect occasion to pick a new desktop picture. You'll recognize this one. On the heels of this one, it joins this cool series.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Beginning to feel a lot like...

In reverse chronological order, here's Plaza Street East just as the day's snow started its devolution to slush, icy surfaces already forming.
Despite the blizzard, the East Village was crawling with people in Santa suits. Not sure why these guys weren't in pubs like everyone else.
Old world ornaments in old worldy Myzel's Chocolates on 55th Street, where I was not, of course, buying anyone Christmas licorice...!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Parsons Pompeii

Think of this blogpost as a pendant to the images from our class tour of the new building on Wednesday. I didn't mention that much of the interest came from our students' avid interest: most of them are from the Parsons fashion program, which migrates down to that building next semester. A big shift! I happened to be in Midtown this evening and realized it was my last chance to see the building where the fashion program has been for more than four decades. Making the most of a difficult situation - the place is stuffy and much too small, but ideally situated in the fashion district - the words YOU NEVER LEAVE PARSONS have been plastered across the windows. A day after the last classes and showings, it was a ghost town. Though rooms may have looked similar every night for 40 years, tonight the bare dressmakers' dummies were eerily reminiscent of Pompeii.

They left in such a hurry after last night's farewell party that 5 magnums of champagne were still waiting, unopened, on the abandoned stage.


Last night's book launch was a dusey. Thirty seven people showed up! The four speakers - Nic Birns, Jerry Schneewind, Leong Seow and Fran Snyder - gave exquisite 5-minute talklets, each of them worth the price of admission. I learned tons about the Book of Job from them, so I suspect it will have been informative for others present, too! (Nic also took the pictures below.) In attendance depite the busy season were current and past students (Job seminar veterans!), colleagues, folks from church, my editor, a venerable librarian, old friends, and three of four of my recent housemates! Six copies of the book were sold and more signed, and the wine didn't run out. I dare say... a success!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Theorizing Religion score

My dad sent this picture of sunset over the Pacific last night. That was probably during the time many of the students in "Theorizing Religion" sat down to craft their Final Reflections, which we just shared in class this morning. The crafting and sharing of final reflections happens each year, and is always informative (and gratifying - students are getting stuff from the class that means something to them, and which they're not getting elsewhere). But this class has had a special friendly energy, so when it came my turn to share my final reflection, I shared a lot.

Specifically, I noted that it's been twenty years that I've been teaching versions of this course -  as long as most of the students have been around. (For its first decade it was known as "Approaches to the Study of Religion.") I've not taught it each of those years, but certainly at least a dozen times, perhaps more than that. It's a special pleasure and privilege to teach it, as it gives the opportunity to reflect on what this religious studies thing is, and how I understanding my own place within it, year after year. And this can't just be open-ended navel-gazing, as it has to produce a workable syllabus each time.

Over the years the syllabus has changed in many ways, I told the class, but the core has always been a historical account of the emergence of modern thinking about religion in the West, and the academic discipline(s) that have engaged with it. The backbone has always been primary texts, from Hume to Eliade, as far as possible read in their entirety. But some of the same questions have dogged it the whole time, too. Classic texts? All western men? In various ways over the years I've tried to make it less Eurocentric, and leavened it with contemporary scholarship, much of the best of which happens to be by women. That we keep reading James, Durkheim, etc. seems warranted in part just by the fact that we do keep reading them. Pretty much the only texts I assigned in the 1990s that are still being read today are the classic texts, which serve as a lingua franca between generations - as long, of course, as we share this narrow core. Broadening the core seems the way to go, but this is something you can't do at the scale of a single class or school - or, indeed, country!

Lived religion has twisted the knife some more: to what extent does attention to thought, to systems, to texts reinforce a particular sense not just of what religions are but of what what human societies are like - an elitist one with hierarchies of authoritative interpreters? You've heard me worry about this many time before, so I'll say no more here. I shared this concern with the students, but admitted that the "hybridity all the way down" approach unsettled me, too ... as also does my discomfort with it.

I won't be doing "Theorizing Religion" next Fall - I'll be in China. And when I return to it in Fall Fall 2015, who knows what it will look like? Already when we did Marx this time around I remarked that my imminent Chinese adventure had given an edge of danger to ideas which, in an American liberal arts college setting, seem entirely recreational. After a year in the company of Chinese scholars of religion, some of them asking the same questions I ask each time I revise "Theorizing Religion," who knows where I'll be!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


We ended our New School history class in its future - a tour of the University Center, due to open its doors in a month! It's quite a different experience from inside than from outside - full of light and movement.
View from the spot from which I've followed the whole process.
 Our class gathers in the Welcome Center opposite.
View from ground floor back across intersection to my photo spot.

Something important on whiteboard next to the elevator bank.
 Iconic NYC water tower skyline view southeastward from 7th floor.
 Inside/outside view down Fifth Avenue as the sun sets in the west.
 The color scheme is nothing if not bold (Urban's colors were subtler).
 One of the fonts "wayfinding" pro Ruedi Baur designed for the building.
Distant West 14th Street Christmas lighting seen across a crowded room.
Across Fifth Avenue through a grid of divisional names.
Long-flowing stairways define the experience of the building.
 My indispensable co-teacher in the vast new 800-seat auditorium.