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Friday, February 26, 2010

Holy Hot Pants

Yes, I have several Mormon friends, and yes, they do make fun of each other for wearing what the more playful adherents of their religion have dubbed holy underpants.

mormon underwear

The link between ritual undergarments and religious purity didn't start with Joseph Smith. In this week's Torah portion, Tetzaveh, there's an extensive description of exactly what clothes -- material, color, and otherwise -- the High Priest should wear:
Exodus 28:2 And thou shalt make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, for splendour and for beauty. 3 And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise-hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron's garments to sanctify him, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office. 4 And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, and an ephod, and a robe, and a tunic of chequer work, a mitre, and a girdle; and they shall make holy garments for Aaron thy brother, and his sons, that he may minister unto Me in the priest's office. 5 And they shall take the gold, and the blue, and the purple, and the scarlet, and the fine linen.

The Torah goes even further, and actually discusses what type of undergarments the High Priest should wear. Earlier this week, when I was reading the daily Torah portion, my mind was blown, and -- as per norma -- I ran to my wife, who grew up Hasidic. As per norma, she laughed at me. What kind of a Jew am I, not knowing about holy underpants?
(28:42) You shall also make for them linen pants to cover their nakedness; they shall extend from the hips to the thighs. They shall be worn by Aaron and his sons when the enter the Tent of Meeting or when they approach the altar to officiate in the sanctuary, so that they do not incur punishment and die. It shall be a law for all time for him and for his offspring to come.

"What kind of pants start at your hips and go to your thighs?" I said. "That sounds like hot pants."

"They're underwear," said my wife, totally calmly, as if this sort of confusion happens to us on a daily basis -- which, by a much looser definition, it might. We don't always talk about holy underwear, but we did have a conversation the other day about why our kid frequently wears underpants on her head.

I did some digging and checked around with the commentators. They all seemed to be in agreement: this was, indeed, the Tabernacle's modernized version of a fig leaf. Rashi notes that Moses is commanded by G*d to suit up Aaron and his sons in their ritual uniforms, which includes this; a bunch of other commentators say that, because of the placement of the verse in the flow of the Torah (this particular item of clothing is listed last, after the commandment is given), Moses was not required to dress them in these particular lederhoisen. Ohr HaTorah, another Torah commentator, adds, "Were not Aaron and his sons perfectly capable of putting on their own underwear?" It's as near verbatim as the translation lets me get.

So, there you go. Jews and hot pants -- we did it first.

And, while my G-dcast co-producers and I didn't peek beneath the holy vestments, we outlined basically everything else from the parsha in this week's episode. Just in case, you know, you ever get appointed High Priest and the invitation didn't include a dress code.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Defending Punk

924 Gilman Street in Berkeley is a volunteer-run concert space that was famous in the '80s for hosting huge fights and riots, and famous in the '90s for introducing Green Day (among other folks) to the world. By the time I moved to San Francisco in 2001 (if you want to read the full story, it's here) it classified as a legitimate shrine to visit. A few weeks after I moved there, my friend Edie Sedgwick played a show there -- which was kind of like having one of your siblings be named High Priest of Judaism (or whatever religion you happen to be a member of), if only for one night.

I'm in an upcoming anthology about the space. Terena Scott, the editor of the anthology, just interviewed me for her site. Here's a snip:

How do you personally define punk?
I'm really bad at personally defining anything -- I just do what I do. But a lot of what I love is punk, and so that rubs off on the stuff I write and the person I am. So I guess that makes me punk?

Punk, I think, is anything that flies in the face of what you'd expect. Punk is yelling at the top of your lungs when you're expected to be quiet, and it's acting like a full-on gentleperson when everyone expects you to stage a riot...or the exact opposite.

But it's more than that, I guess. It's not just going against what people expect of you. It's really ignoring the idea of expectation itself and doing whatever you want or whatever you're feeling. I'm talking about art, mainly, although I think it still holds true with everything else.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are Dragons Kosher?

The just-released Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals aims to do for kosher food what Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials did for animal guides, and what The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy did for...well, the galaxy -- it aims to apply real-world logic to the most unreal, to create an objective guide to the most non-objective things our creative imagination can conceive of.

And the thing is: it really does the job.

imaginary kosher animals

Ann and Jeff Vandermeer are both science fiction writers, both married (to each other, not coincidentally), and both armed with a smattering of Jewish knowledge and Jewish texts. In 2007, on a whim, they knocked out a blog post arguing which imaginary animals are kosher. Some of the animals came from different cultural mythologies -- there's Bigfoot, chupacabras, and the abumi-guchi, a furry creature in Japanese mythology that's essentially an animated, live horse stirrup. (Yes, a horse stirrup.)

Mermaids, the Vandermeers decide, are not kosher. Likewise, the jackalope of midwest American folklore. The collection of animals that the Vandermeers summon isn't exhaustive, but it's entertaining, and the hard-line pencil illustrations really make you feel like you're reading one of those medieval demon reference guides that the gang always seems to reference on Buffy. (And, by the way, how do they always look through the right book? Even when they're on the wrong page, they're never like, "Oh, it's in Volume MLXII, not Volume MLXIII." It's always a few flips away. Sorry. Tangent.)


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ten Things I'm Looking Forward To in New York City

Packing now. It's been a breathless pair of months in Melbourne, and it's an added awesomeness that we get to come back here in a few months for a family wedding (and a double added bonus that we could be part of the engagement in the first place, packing snow clothes and meting out advice...well, the advice we could, anyway). I'm feeling a bit down on the world for forcing me to go back to New York, and in February at that, and spending all my time behind a desk instead of, well, doing early-morning praying & working out (seriously!) in the dew and going to the park with my kid every day. And the fact that poetry shows here are as energetic and sing-alongy and fist-thumping as AC/DC shows.

Which is why I'm trying to get myself psyched for the USA.

1. Saying the words "NEW YORK CITY" and kind of getting chills.
2. Listening to the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album in the East Village.
3. The first incognito day of spring.
4. My free show at Franklin Park with Penina Roth and Stephen Elliott.
5. A zillion kosher restaurants, and none of them are "America-themed."
6. Nirvana Slam. (More on that soon.)
7. Young Adult Writers Drinks Night.
8. Making our own Passover seder.
9. More little MJL internet movies.
10. ______________*

* I'm leaving this one blank, because I want to find something to take up that spot that's even better than anything I'm expecting.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Comics Debut

Granted, it's not me writing Uncanny X-Men, but it's on the other side of the camera. It's from Ethan Young's excellent e-comic Tails, which you can read free here. (You can actually start on the chapter I'm in and not miss out on too much -- here's the first page -- and then go back and read from the start. Because it is amazing, and highly recommended.)

See? Even when I'm in Australia, New York finds a way to claim me. The temperatures in Melbourne are about the same as the temperatures in New York -- 35 degrees in both places -- but, believe me, it feels a lot better here.

Ethan (SPOILER WARNING) used to live downstairs from us. He designed this card for my daughter's first birthday, which I'm still ga-ga about. The Yiddish was added by his roommate. Check it out and marvel:

Ouch. Sorry for the pun.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

This is Where I Was This Weekend

This is where I was this weekend:

where the wild things are filming

spike jonze

We didn't see the Wild Things. Or, we might have. No Spike Jonze, though.

And this is one of my three favourite places in the world.

That's it. For now. New story coming, as soon as we (it and I, that is) stop fighting with each other.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lost Season 6 Spoilers

After you listen to this, you'll know just as much about the final season of "Lost" as you do now. Which is to say: There aren't really any spoilers.

This is just a poem. It's my fan-fiction version of what's going to happen in the next 18 or so weeks.

I hope you like it.

<a href="">Lost Season 6 Spoilers by Matthue Roth</a>

(If you can't hear it here, go to

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