Monday, December 21, 2020

Grand Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Ithaca, New York

Jupiter and Saturn in conjunction.

Tonight is the Grand Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the sky, as viewed from the Earth. They look really close to us, but in actuality they're hundreds of millions of miles away from each other. But they look cool.

Unfortunately, in Ithaca, New York, it's usually cloudy in the winter, and often raining or snowing. Tonight is a typical cloudy Ithaca night. So we can't see the Great Conjunction in the sky. We can see it, however, down the street from me.

One of my neighbors has created an entire solar system, from the Sun to Pluto, out of various translucent materials, and has hung them around his house, just down the street from me. We usually see them hitched to bicycles or on the backs of the bike riders as they wheel through the neighborhood on Halloween. Tonight Bike Walk Tompkins did have a celebratory bike ride, but without Dave's planets. 

Earth, Mercury, the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn


Pluto, with Jupiter and Saturn in the background.


Friday, December 11, 2020

A song for Hanukkah, for our current darkness and fear

The Israeli children's Hanukkah song Banu Hoshech Le-garesh, as performed by Divahn (led by Galeet Dardashti), on their latest album Shalhevet.


We've come to banish the darkness
In our hands are light and fire
Each alone is a small light
But together we are a great radiance

Turn back darkness
Far away, blackness (of night)
Turn back from before the light

Turn back darkness
Far away, blackness (of night)
Turn back from before the light

Divahn and Galeet Dardashti

Iranian-descended singer Galeet Dardashti leads the all-female power-house Middle Eastern Jewish ensemble, Divahn. The New York City-based group has gained an international following with its fresh and fiery renditions of traditional and original Sephardi/Mizrahi Jewish songs: lush string arrangements, eclectic Indian, Middle Eastern, and Latin percussion, and vocals spanning Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish, Persian, Arabic, and Aramaic. “Divahn,” a word common to Hebrew, Persian, and Arabic, means a collection of songs or poetry. Through its music, Divahn underscores common ground between diverse Middle Eastern cultures and religions.

Divahn's new album, Shalhavet, was released in early March, 2020. The album release party, at Joe's Pub, was recorded and can be viewed here. The tour that was planned was cancelled due to Covid.

I first encountered this song in Israel more than thirty years ago - not at a children's party, but at left-wing anti-occupation demonstrations during the first intifada. I didn't know it was a Hanukkah song. I thought it was a political song against the darkness of oppression! I think it's equally good as a children's song and as a song against oppression - in our hands are light and fire, against the darkness, and we can turn darkness towards light if we all work together.

At the album release, Galeet explains the meaning of the song for her and why they recorded it.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukkah!


Wednesday, December 09, 2020

296,698 people have died of Covid-19 in the United States, as of today.

Today (December 9) it is reported that at least 3,243 people died of Coronavirus in the United States, according to Worldometer. In each of twenty states, more than 50 people died of the virus. This is the most reported in a single day, since the beginning of the pandemic. We've surpassed the level of illness that existed in the spring, and there's no sign of the toll lessening.

Update for December 10 - 3,105 people died of Covid, for a total of 299,738.

Update for December 11 - 3,042 people died of Covid, for a total of 302,773.

Update for December 12 - 2,038 deaths, for a total of 305,081 Americans.

Update for December 13 - 1,379 deaths, for a total of 306,459 Americans who have died of Covid.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

The Helix Nebula

Looking like a great celestial eye, this is the Helix Nebula. Discovered 200 years ago, it is a planetary nebula located in the constellation Aquarius. One of the closest to the Earth of all the bright planetary nebulae.

📷 NASA's Hubble telescope
(Image posted in the Nature Revives 2020 Facebook group).


Pottery masks for sale - Ithaca, New York

In January of 2016 I started to make pottery. I had made pottery when I was a teenager, along with other crafts, but stopped when I graduated from high school. I was inspired to start making pottery again because of a friend of mine who had many hobbies, and enjoyed them greatly. I realized that I didn't have any hobbies, and that I wanted to do something creative that appealed to my artistic side. I took classes at the Clay School of Ithaca, and I got hooked. I started with throwing on the wheel, but I never managed to get as good at it as I felt I needed to be, and took a handbuilding class and discovered that I enjoyed it much more. 

In 2015, on a visit to Israel, I went to an exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem that displayed ancient stone masks from the Neolithic period. I became fascinated and started to make my own - first trying to copy the Neolithic masks and then creating my own designs based on the stone masks but in my own style.

I'm now selling these masks at a local pottery pop-up store (open until December 23). If you're interested in looking at them in person, they're being sold in the back room at Buffalo Street Books, in the Dewitt Mall, which is open from 12:00-4:00 pm.