What Ever Happened to Second Life?

Second Life

Second Life/Chronicle of Higher Ed

Want to know what it’s like these days to be a scholar wandering through Second Life, the three-dimensional, virtual world that was once billed as The Next Big Thing in academia? Just fast-forward to a famous scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail—the one in which a cadaver collector pushes a cart through the streets of Arthurian England, yelling “Bring out yer dead!” An overzealous customer approaches with an alive-but-ill “corpse” slung over his shoulder. “I’m not dead yet,” the body insists. The customer assures him otherwise: “You’ll be stone dead in a moment.”

So it goes with Second Life. Once an alternate universe that held much promise for higher education—one which attracted thousands of dollars in university investments—Second Life today more closely resembles an academic ghost town.

Read more in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Vitae site.


Interview with Shalom USA Radio (Baltimore) about the Passover sandwich


Marc Chagall’s ‘Praying Jew’ at the Art Institute of Chicago

Members view Marc Chagall's 'Praying Jew' at the Art Institute of Chicago

Marc Chagall’s ‘Praying Jew’ at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo: Menachem Wecker

Members view Marc Chagall’s The Praying Jew (1923) at the Art Institute of Chicago’s preview of its renovated modern European paintings and sculpture section.

I liked how the women on the right looks like she is wearing a prayer shawl or phylacteries just like Chagall’s model.


How Alfred Dreyfus Laid the Foundations for Blogging and Social Networking


“Le traître: Dégradation d’Alfred Dreyfus” from Le Petit Journal, Supplement Illustré no. 217, 1895. Lorraine Beitler Collection of the Dreyfus Affair, U. of Pennsylvania Libraries/Maltz Museum.

The public trial for treason of French Jewish captain Alfred Dreyfus has proven fodder for everything from anti-Semitic walking cane handles to a riot-inducing 1931 play and another play in 1974, which the New York Times panned as a flop. Roman Polanski is reportedly directing a film about Dreyfus, which is no wonder, since the Dreyfus Affair continues to “intrigue and confound” even after a century, as Robert Zaretsky wrote recently in the Forward.

Dreyfus also was said to have inspired the emergence of Zionism as a movement. The officer was publicly degraded in an 1895 ceremony at the Paris École Militaire, where his sword was snapped in half among other embarrassments, and where the crowd yelled, “Death to Dreyfus. Death to the Jews!” Theodor Herzl would later credit those cries with solidifying his conviction that there needed to be a Jewish state, although in the new book “Revising Dreyfus,” Jess Olson, associate professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University, refers to that claim as “mythology.”

Read more in the Jewish Daily Forward.


An ancient matzo sandwich for Passover

15th Century Haggadah

Joel ben Simeon. Haggadah. Tempera, ink, and gold leaf on parchment. Italian c. 1454. Courtesy: Library JTS/Metropolitan Museum

Undoubtedly, matzo is the culinary star of the Passover Seder, or meal, with supporting actor roles doled out to bitter herbs, shank bones, salt water, charoset, and a few other dishes.

But there’s an unlikely recipe that also surfaces in the Passover ritual – a kosher-for-Passover sandwich made of paschal lamb and bitter herbs set between two pieces of matzo.

That sandwich, according to rabbinic tradition, dates back to the first century (BCE) sage, Hillel. If Hillel truly pioneered such a delectable configuration, he would have done so some 18 centuries before the fourth Earl of Sandwich (John Montagu), who is often credited with inventing the sandwich in 1762 to avoid leaving the gambling table.

Read more in the Christian Science Monitor.


Chicago Concert Brings Interfaith Music Together

“This sanctuary is the most religiously diverse place in this great city,” said Michael Siegel, the rabbi of Anshe Emet, a Conservative synagogue in Chicago.

If that sounds like crowing, consider that conspicuous among the attendees of the synagogue’s April 6 “Sounds of Faith” concert were kippas, Greek Orthodox vestments, and headscarves.

The program, which packed the synagogue’s 1,100-capacity main sanctuary, featured Koranic recitations, Old Testament cantillation, and monastic chants.

Read more on the Jewish Daily Forward‘s Arty Semite blog.


Philadelphia seminary to sell art collection

The Eakins room at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia (William Innes Homer)

The Eakins room at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia (William Innes Homer), via National Catholic Reporter

St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia has announced that it will sell seven of its important paintings as part of a campus-wide consolidation plan. Six of the works are by 19th-century painter Thomas Eakins, whose work titled “The Gross Clinic” sold for $68 million in 2008.

Christie’s has been hired to sell five Eakins works: “The Right Reverend James F. Loughlin” (1902), “Reverend James P. Turner” (1900), “James A. Flaherty” (1903), “Dr. Patrick Garvey” (1902) and “Archbishop James Frederick Wood” (1877). The seminary has also enlisted Bonhams to sell Colin Campbell Cooper’s “St. Peter’s Cathedral” (undated) and Sotheby’s to sell Alice Neel’s “Archbishop Jadot” (1976).

A sixth Eakins painting, owned by the American Catholic Historical Society and on display at the seminary, is also to be sold.

“The seminary has long been a steward of these works, but this was the right time to seize an opportunity to do what is best for the artwork and for the seminary itself,” Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Senior, seminary rector, said in a March 21 statement. The seminary’s core mission is to form men for priestly service, he added. “We are not a museum.”

Read more in the National Catholic Reporter.


Stedelijk Taps Jeff Wall for First Post-Reno Photo Show

Jeff Wall Invisible Man Ralph Ellison

Jeff Wall. ‘Invisible man by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue.’ (1999-2000). Transparency in lightbox. 174 x 250.5 cm. Courtesy of the artist/Stedelijk

There is good deal of irony in the manner in which Vancouver’s Jeff Wall presents his photograph “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue (1999–2000) — printed on a transparency and mounted on a light box. “The large-scale image is illuminated from behind by fluorescent lights, which Wall began using after seeing light-box advertisements in the late 1970s,” according to the Museum of Modern Art’s website.

In this image, Wall proves a careful student of Ellison’s 1952 novel and its anonymous narrator, who describes his subterranean home, or “hole,” as being “warm and full of light.” The figuratively invisible narrator steals from Monopolated Light & Power to illuminate his 1,369 lights. “I’ve wired the entire ceiling, every inch of it,” Ellison writes. “And not with fluorescent bulbs, but with the older, more-expensive-to-operate kind, the filament type.”

It’s not clear if Wall’s photo contains precisely 1,369 bulbs, but even if it is approximate, the ceiling is covered with lights. Yet Wall uses the very fluorescent bulbs that Ellison’s narrator sought to avoid to illuminate his transparency. Where the invisible man is trying to rack up the biggest bill he can for the Man, Wall is fine with lighting his works on the cheap.

In addition to the large scale and unique materials that Wall adopts in his work, one of his great gifts is his ability to capture a scene packed with visual information and movement in a manner that suggests that he somehow has a knack for being in the perfect place at the exact right time.

This tension between the staged and the serendipitous surfaces in many of Wall’s works, 37 of which are on exhibit through August 3 at Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum. “Jeff Wall: Tableaux Pictures Photographs 1996–2013” is the museum’s first major photography exhibit since it reopened in 2012 following a nine-year renovation process.

Read more in Canadian Art magazine.


Is the Hebrew Bible Single-Minded on Singlehood?

Dates anyone

‘Dates anyone?’ Flickr/Jan Smith

The reason Genesis 2:18 gives for the divine decision to create Eve is that “[i]t’s not good for the man to be alone.” God decides that Adam needs a “helper opposite him.” Although the Hebrew word “Adam” refers to the first man, it also suggests all men. Thus was born a stigma against singleness.

“In that text, we understand that a human without a mate is frowned upon. The Torah seems to prioritize marriage,” says Jason Miller, a Conservative rabbi from Detroit.

While most of the rabbis Miller knows understand that it is acceptable for a single woman or man who wants to raise a child on her or his own to do so, he says dishonor still surrounds singlehood.

Read more on FaithStreet’s On Faith site.


A royal Hanukkah lamp in Amsterdam

Front of JHM Hanukkah lamp. Photo by Menachem Wecker

Front of Hanukkah lamp recently given on long-term loan to the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam. Photo: Menachem Wecker

A Hanukkah lamp that was recently given to the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam may have one of the most compelling provenances of any Jewish ritual object. [Read more on the Jewish Daily Forward's Arty Semite blog.]