The Ridiculous, the Sublime, the Brilliant

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I’m at dinner (at a mexican restaurant). I can’t reflect on any of the day’s events as I spent all of today in a meeting. No kidding. No exaggeration. I was in a meeting from 8:30 until 3:00, With a lunch break. So I missed all of the panels, but not going to panels is actually a long-standing tradition (of some level of honor) among attendees to these affairs. Because this is the only time that all/most of my colleagues get together, it’s a good time to meet and take care of business, which is what I spend the whole day today doing (I was meeting with Steven Cohen and Isa Aron about our Synagogues project).

So, the following is going to be mostly from a loose survey of my friends at dinner, who spent much of the day dutifully attending panels.

Most of my dinner companions had attended the panel on Jews and Communism, which sparked a lively discussion about its strengths and shortcomings. Mostly, people were happy that Jewish studies was talking about Communism as an important chapter in American Jewish History (and not just like “Oh look! There are Jewish Communists, and isn’t that cool,� but really working with through more serious, sustained analyses of what Communism meant to the Jews who were involved in it.

And then the conversation devolved thusly:
Me: “So what was the best part of thus-and-such panel?�
Person X: “So-and-so [the person’s name is hereby withheld] is hot.�
Person Y: “What did you say?�
Person X: “I said ‘so-and-so is hot.’�
Person Y: “So-and-so IS hot.�

Academics are funny that way — and conversation vacillates wildly from serious debate about scholarly issues to conversations about looks, dress, and other such nonsense.

The “Women in Sports� panel featured a film called “The Jewish Woman in Sport,� that was a pretty good intro to some lost women in American sports, including a woman who travelled around with Bobby Jones on a celebrity/patriotic golf tour.� pretty cool, no? But they left out Tiby Eisen, one of the women who played in the “All Girls Baseball League,� as seen in the film “A League of Their Own.�

Rebecca Alpert gave a great paper about Jewish women in baseball — not just about players (like the aforementioned Tiby Eisen) but also fans, wives, and owners, too. And she did a good job of putting these women in historical perspective, and putting the issue of gender to the phenomenon of baseball, which extends far beyond the foul lines.

The conference is something like the combination between the brilliant and the sublime, the important, the seemingly important and the inane, and the ways in which all of these things somehow find places to converse.

Posted on December 19, 2006

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