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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Yourself in the Third Person

If you haven't noticed, I've been even more random and scattered than usual, working on the G-dcast Purim movie, one article that might be as long as a book, and a book that's actually going to be shorter than that article (yes! new book! at least, I think so, which is why I'm mentioning it inside parenthesis inside a post about something else instead of writing it in five-inch-high letters across the main page of my website), and then Jewniverse, the daily email for my day job, which I really should start talking about more than I do -- considering I work on it for 8 hours a day and all.

While writing new stuff, the rest of the world sort of does its own thing. Which is why I only find out weeks later that there's a big old feature on the movie I wrote.

1/20 movie

They interviewed the three principals of C Malo Producciones, the company that made the movie, including Gerri del Castillo, the director, as well as Berwin, the producer, and Bruno, who we called the ninja but was officially the assistant director, even though he really was more of a ninja.

Here's my favorite quote:
“The objective was to build a rebellious film, very independent, but at the same time innocent, which rescues the lethargy of living in the periphery where the most interesting thing a person can do is to cut her hair into an intricate mohawk or build an inescapable internal universe to escape violence and total alienation.”
which comes from Gerry, who kind of talks like that. And his first language is Spanish (his second is Castillian). He says these things in English that I hear the first time, but take my brain about ten minutes to digest.

And this profile makes me miss him terribly. Here, go read it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kosher Cooking in Melbourne

Just in case you weren't ready to have your mind blown, turn back now. You might think Darth Vader is narrating, but it's my uncle. (I mean that as a compliment, I promise.) And you can spot glimpses of my brother-in-law as well as my soul brother, local (Melbourne) Jewish celebrity Bram Presser, ex-lead singer of YIDCore.

OK -- I laugh, and you kind of need to laugh, but this video is awesome. Partly that kosher cooking has gotten sophisticated enough so that a competition like this (a) exists, (b) is taken seriously, and (c) people are paying money to go to a swanky theater (that isn't even a Jewish theater) to watch the competition. I mean, sure, they do this kind of kosher cooking contest in New York (and my wife reports on it)...but in Melbourne? Go you people.

I really should be rooting for my bro, but DL, the wife of my chevrusa, is also involved. It's hard.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Red Skull Scares Me

Confession time: Captain America has never been my favorite superhero. I'm a Marvel boy, tried and true, and even though the X-Men have my heart and most perfectly embody my geekiness, the Avengers, the team that banded together around Captain America and have him as their leader (more or less), are probably my favorite superhero team.

So, as you might imagine, I'm watching the news and the previews of Captain America: The First Avenger pretty intensely.

I don't know if you caught the Super Bowl (I didn't) or the TV commercials (I've been trying to), but there was a spot for Captain America, and it's online. It starts as standard superhero fare -- there's this kind of wimpy soldier who gets put through the ringer, an explosion or two, he get stuck into a tube and comes out all steroidy and pumped up...

And then this guy whips on screen.

The Red Skull scares me. No, more than that: He freaks the hell out of me. It's bad enough that most supervillains have names like Doctor Doom or Darkseid and can blast nuclear endorphins out of their palms, but this guy is an actual Nazi. He shows up in comics wearing a swastika armband. He peppers his speech with references to "the annihilation" and "the future Reich." In a few of the more noiry comics, his I'll-get-you speeches include personal reminisces of him and Hitler.

And this is what I was reading as a ten-year-old.

The Red Skull has always been a serious character. His "skull" used to be a mask, but at some point it became his skull. More recently, he was shown (in Ultimate Avengers) giving a superhero's wife a choice between stabbing him to death with a fork or throwing their infant child out the window. (She chose the latter. He did the former anyway.) He's dabbled in genetic manipulation, social manipulation (he's been elected president and been one of the richest businessmen in the United States) and mind control. He rarely just takes a gun or a bomb and blows up Fort Knox. Instead, he just messes with our heads, which is worse, or quietly plots genocides. He's not just evil. He's creepy.

What do you think -- is the Red Skull just pushing our buttons? Or is he pushing the boundaries of what's socially acceptable?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Last-Minute Preschool

You probably already knew about this -- so, you know, feel free to scoff at my misfortune -- but if you (a) have kids and (b) they’re old enough to go to school, you sort of have to apply to schools before they’re allowed to go there. I don’t know what I was thinking (maybe that we just drive up and drop the kid on the doorstep, like the proverbial stork, but with a 3-year-old?), but apparently I wasn’t thinking very much at all.
So right now, we’re going through the radical first step in sending our toddler to preschool. Which is to decide which preschool to send them to.
I was raised going to public school, but since then, a few things changed. I became Orthodox. Then I married into a pretty hardcore Hasidic family–and by “hardcore,” I mean that I now have relatives I’ve never directly spoken to, because they are women and I am not. For someone like me, who’s always been committed to public education and whose parents and sister work in public schools, it’s a big leap to send my kids, not just to a private nursery school, but to 12 years of a rigorous religious education, followed (probably) by seminary and yeshiva and some sort of religious-indoctrination camp.
But: We are, indeed, Hasidic Jews. And public schools don’t exactly have classes with titles like Intermediate Yiddish and Medieval Commentators to Jewish Scripture. If you’re committed to a lifestyle, you gotta go all the way.
My wife -- who, it should be noted, is both more comfortable with these things, and smarter than me -- told me to chill out. (She says that a lot.) In the time from my first IM (from work, of course, which went roughly: Matthue: School deadliens R like 3 wks ago!?! what do we do???) until I got home, she’d called up a dozen relatives and half a dozen schools, established that we were in hot water, but not entirely washed up, and that many schools were understanding of first-time parents and had flexible acceptance schedules.
In the meantime, since learning that we still had a choice, we’ve been trying to prepare ourselves for that eventual choice. We’re scheduled for a bunch of interviews, and we’re still  scheduling a few more. We’ve both made lists of the top three things we want in a school. (Well, my wife has. I’m still working on it.)
Here are hers:
  1. The school shouldn’t care about surface Orthodox stuff (like asking “Do you wear stockings all the time?” or “Do you own a TV?,” even though we don’t) above basic things, like teaching the rudiments of kashrut, or having caring and involved teachers.
  2. It doesn’t have to be a Lubavitch school, but it should have some sort of Lubavitch influence (She and her family are Lubavitch Hasidim).
  3. It should be a place where people are warm and friendly (which seems like a given, but it never is).
I haven’t figured out mine yet, except that I’m really determined to find a school with a good secular studies program. Not like those scary Jewish day schools that start from first grade in grooming and prepping their kids to get into an Ivy (not like I even necessarily want my kids to attend an Ivy–we’ve seen what happens when Orthodox Jews show up in those schools), but one where English classes read real books and science is more than just “rain makes the flowers grow.”

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