Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dead Jews found down a well

BBC reports that 17 bodies found at the bottom of a medieval well are likely Jewish victims of persecution. 

The most likely explanation is that those down the well were Jewish and were probably murdered or forced to commit suicide, according to scientists who used a combination of DNA analysis, carbon dating and bone chemical studies in their investigation.
The skeletons date back to the 12th or 13th Centuries at a time when Jewish people were facing persecution throughout Europe.
The article describes the source of anti-Jewish sentiment well:

Jewish people had been invited to England by the King to lend money because at the time, the Christian interpretation of the bible did not allow Christians to lend money and charge interest. It was regarded as a sin.
So cash finance for big projects came from the Jewish community and some became very wealthy - which in turn, caused friction.
Interesting article, especially for someone with interest in both Jewish and medieval history, but I am amused that their evidence for these being Jewish corpses seems to be, "Of course they're Jewish! I mean, who else would you stuff down a well?"

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To my son

I heard your heart beat yesterday.

It's the most beautiful thing I've ever heard.

I want to record it and make it my ringtone,
or lay out speed bumps on our street so when I drive at the right speed
it makes the same rhythm.

Convert it to a data stream and send it into space,
or bounce it from end to end across the internet,
an infinite loop of data. Noise. Life.

I already love you, and I don't even know your name.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Magneto and the Holocaust

Just saw "X-Men: First Class" with my brother and sister-in-law. Pretty good; I enjoyed! One thing really bothered me, though.

It's always the small details with fans, right? With all that changed in the remade Star Trek, my wife gets most upset about Kirk having the wrong eye color. In X-Men, they decided to make Magneto Jewish.

This seems like a small enough change; in the comics, Magneto was (gently) retconed as a Holocaust survivor, informing his separatist vision, making him more sympathetic anti-hero than over-the-top villain, and ratcheting up the irony of his whole "genetically superior race" thing. He was in the camps, though, for being a Gypsy, not Jewish.

Small change; don't really care, on the surface. Glad to have another overachiever in the ranks, right? Except the movie uses this as an excuse to ratchet up the Holocaust imagery to a degree not seen in any summer blockbuster since "Schindler's List". At the end of the movie (spoiler alert!) Magneto declares that he has suffered enough at the hands of those "just following orders" - a badass line! - then dramatically stage-whispers "Never Again!" before doing something naughty.

That was the step too far. Sure, it's another movie where the only identifiably ethnic characters are all villains, but mutants have always been Marvel's metaphor for race, so I'll allow some room for that (small room, though; not happy about it). But summing up Magneto's creed by using modern Holocaust imagery doesn't fit, and turns this complex character into a comic book Jewish Defense League ("A .22 for every Mu....tant"?).

It also reinforces the message that the Holocaust is the central issue of modern Judaism, a philosophy that drives me batty. I get it; he's motivated by revenge. Of course, if he was a nice WASP like Batman he'd be a hero, but no; the Holocaust is so important that it turns Jews violent. Just look at Israel, right?


I don't think that's what the writers were trying to do. I suspect that, like most modern Holocaust literature, one of the writers is the grandchild of a survivor, and wanted to honor his grandparent's struggle, or reinforce how important it was to them, or something. They probably included the "Never Again" line as an inside reference they thought Jewish viewers would appreciate. "Oh," we're supposed to say, "I totally get his motivation now!"

We get it. Fine. But that was the line too far. Based on this subtlety I expect the sequel will be about Magneto's attempts to broker a "Two-State Solution" based on the '67 borders.