So, I flew down to L.A. on Saturday morning, went to a seder, visited the Getty Villa in Malibu, and flew back on Sunday evening.
The seder was fun. This year's innovation was that instead of reading the whole story of the exodus from Egypt out of the Haggaddah, we went around the table and everyone got to tell bits of it from memory. I was a little disappointed, because I was mentally working out a whole subplot about how Tzipporah dealt with her husband's peculiar habit of conversing with flaming shrubbery, but the folks ahead of me covered more ground than I expected, and I ended up having to talk about unleavened bread.
Maybe next year I'll prepare a discourse on the biochemistry of leavening. Or maybe not.
Things did go off the rails a bit after we finished the bulk of the meal - us "kids" (a category that presently includes everyone under 35) spontaneously decided that we had had enough, and were going to prod the seder along to its conclusion regardless of the intent of poor uncle Bruce, who was leading the darn thing. I think we did technically all fulfill the various ritual requirements, but there was a bit where one half of the table was singing "Who Knows One?" while the other half was singing "Adir Hu".
In short, we had hilarity, chaos, blatant disrespect for one's elders, and gefilte fish with green sauce. Everything one needs for a successful seder.
On Sunday morning, Daniel and his parents and I went to visit the Getty Villa. It was quite fun - well worth a visit. In addition to getting to actually see a large number of the statues whose photos used to grace my Latin text books when I was younger, I was particularly intrigued by the exhibits which attempted to reconstruct the painting with which many of these marble statues were decorated. It looks, as my father-in-law said, rather like something out of Marvel comics, and it's still hard to believe that the ancient Romans would have preferred the rather garish painted statues to the plain marble.
Also interesting was seeing the rather controversial kouros (a Greek statue of a young man) purchased by the Getty a few years ago. I read about it in Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink: the short version is that many experts believe that the Getty was snookered into buying a very expensive fake. (The sign accompanying the statue at the Getty merely says that "some doubts have been raised about its authenticity".) I am no kind of expert on ancient art. About the only thing that I can say is that it looks in much better shape than most of the other stuff of its alleged age in the Getty collection. If it is genuine, I'd like to know what circumstances led to its extraordinary state of preservation.