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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Caught Rapping on Video

Aaaaaah. I hate the way I look on video. But I do rap, and that's something of a consolation, right?

Yesterday the amazing Sawyer Novack and I got interviewed about 1/20, the movie I wrote and he costarred in. We were promoting the first New York City screening of the film -- which is happening on Sunday, November 6 (see below). He was a really good sport. And we saw each other for the first time since filming, and (now I'm going to sound like a grandparent or something) he's at least twice as tall as he was when we shot it, and he's been up to all this other stuff. For instance:
New Anti-Smoking Ads Warn Teens 'It's Gay To Smoke'

That's right. SAWYER IS ON ONION.TV. (And it is totally offensive, and hilarious. Sawyer comes in at 1:55 if you're squeamish.)

And, yes, we're going to be screening the movie live! It's at the Branded Saloon in Brooklyn. It's a "brunch screening" at noon, whatever that means. Come and figure it out with me. (Oh, and here's Part 1 of yesterday's interview, which I'm putting on the bottom because I fidget a lot at the beginning. I know. Diva.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dressing the Part

So a few weeks ago I stumbled across this weird video. It's a fashion show from the '80s, a Jean-Paul Gaultier collection featuring hot bored-looking chicks dressed up as Hasidic Jewish men.

Of course.

I was basically compelled to feature it in a Jewniverse, which I did (it's out next week--subscribe right now to get it!). Then I wrote it. Then I thought that was the end of it.

It wasn't.

Today I'm wearing a white button-down shirt. It's a far cry from the punk-rock t-shirts of my choice, the vaguely hip blazers of my wife's selection, but it's what I've been wearing more often lately. Like Gaultier, I might be going through a phase of my own -- albeit, less fashionably. And, uh, less revealingly.

I have to say, I kind of like it. I feel more serious -- about work, about myself, and about little things. (My posture is improving dramatically.) It's a little more distinguished. And when I walk down the streets of my own relatively ultra-Orthodox neighborhood in Brooklyn, I get this whole stare of respect and/or identification with a group of people whose respect or comradeship I never thought I'd be after. Which is to say, the old guys. I always wondered why the bulk of retired people didn't just wear t-shirts and Bermuda shorts. Now I think I know.

Anyway. A few weeks ago, the online show Rew and Who did a feature on 1/20, the movie I wrote. It's filmed in the East Village, in a studio in the back of a bar called Otto's Shrunken Head, and it's every bit as punk and alterna-something as you think it is. I was invited in for an interview along with one of the stars. Heading out of the office, I shed my starched and Jewish shirt and changed into a more-suitable Mumm-Ra t-shirt (which you might think is related to Mamre, where Abraham pitched his famous tent, but is actually the bad guy on ThunderCats) and ran downtown.

So that was how I filmed the first interview:  

We got invited back today -- we're appearing with Alan Merill, who wrote "I Love Rock 'n Roll." And again, I'm wearing a white shirt. This time, I'm not taking it off. After all, there's nothing more punk than not looking very punk in the first place. This might not be all of who I am, but it's a part of who I am.

Even if they mistake me for Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

She-mix-ni Atzeret

Tonight starts Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, the final round of Jewish holidays -- for this month, anyway! Here's a little mix that I stumbled into putting together, song by song. This morning at synagogue I was getting ready for Shemini Atzeret, which starts tonight, looking ahead in the prayerbook -- you know, like peeking at the ending. One thing I always forget is the Prayer for Rain, Tefilat Geshem, which is the beginning of the rainy season in Israel. Which immediately stuck this song in my head. It's not exactly a part of the traditional liturgy, but I've been singing this song longer than I've been praying:

The celebration kept coming, and so did the songs. The new Y-Love video, the first song from his upcoming album, is out today. (And the album has a shout-out to my book! And it features Andy Milonakis, who's the weirdest and most original thing on MTV right now.

And, just to tie everything together, our house guest just wandered through the room and heard the song. "Oh!" he said. "Is that the new Drake video?" I had no idea what he was talking about. "I thought you'd know," he said. Apparently, the platinum-selling hip-hop artist Drake has a new single, too, and in the video, he and his companions are drinking Bartenura Moscato D'Asti -- which my older daughter calls "blue wine" and which is the only kind of wine my mother drinks. It's bubbly and sweet and basically like alcoholic soda. It makes family meals tons more fun...and is there any wonder that it's the beverage of choice among Jewish soul singers?

Once again, here's the money shot: Happy Shemini Atzeret!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stuff That Counts

Every year I make these "12 steps to a better matthue" lists. This year I decided not to. Decided there should only be one item on the agenda this year: Spend more time doing stuff that counts, less time doing stuff that doesn't.

Right now I'm doing mindless Internet stuff. But doing it in the kitchen as Itta cooks. Counts, I think.

Friday, October 7, 2011

1/20: The Official Sub-Page

Just as a matter of site stuff: I added a page here for 1/20, the movie I wrote. (It isn't the film's actual website, which is more comprehensive and informed; this is just sort of reminding me that I wrote a movie, and anyone else who winds up on that page too I guess.)

1/20 movie

And Kayla Dempsey, who plays Yvette, and I were just interviewed yesterday on the punk variety show Rew & Who. Kayla bursts out with some a capella Janis Joplin because she is incredible. Rew is pretty amazing, too. I mostly just giggle and prevaricate. Here's Part 1. Edit: Here's Part 2! With Kayla singing Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz." She is so amazing.

And because I'm not quite ready yet to stop talking about it constantly: I wrote a new book! It's about my best friend dying and the R.E.M. album Automatic for the People and the first time I fell in love. Check it out and review it. You can even maybe buy it, if you've got $2.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Q: Why is it that Steve Jobs is dead at 56 but Robert Mugabe and Gaddafi and Assad and all the murdering despots are alive and well?

A: Dammit, don't you think this is a question for G*d? Wish I could tell you the definitive answer. I'm kind of lucky i'm not a rabbi.

Steve Jobs wasn't the greatest human being in the universe. If someone would've asked me before today, I'd say he did a lot of crappy things for digital rights and content creators. He also did a lot of great things. Far be it from me to speak loshon hara about the dead.

But why do bad things happen to good people? Why is my best friend dead? Why do complete scumbags and idiots get paid tons more than I do? How does a dork like me wind up marrying someone well-put-together and coordinated like Itta? Seriously, it's all divine providence. You just gotta trust that the divine bureaucrats know what they're doing.

(Question from my mother-in-law. The title is hers, too.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Yom Kippur Jury Duty

So I need to tell you, it's really weird being called onto a jury the day before Yom Kippur. When I tell people, they've mostly been quick to freak out about the religious rules about it -- mostly, that I'll be in court until an hour before the holiday starts, and apparently you're supposed to have a great, grand feast the day before Yom Kippur. In the exact words of the Talmud (I don't remember; I'm totally paraphrasing) -- "Anyone who stuffs his face the day before Yom Kippur, it is like he fasted for two days."

Something tells me people don't eat in courtrooms. I don't know this for sure, but I feel like I'd remember it if I saw someone on Ally McBeal or Law & Order crunching on some Dipsy Doodles. (Or, on Ally, probably unpeeling a suggestive-looking banana.) I actually don't know at all what to ally mcbeal courtroomexpect, beyond the specifics of the trial. Officially, I'm not allowed to share it with you, but let's just say I found it strange that they still accepted me as a juror -- considering my new book came out last week, and I told them all about the accident at the center of the story. *whistles*

I know I should have tried to get out of it. Believe me, as a small nonprofit employee who writes a daily email and a father of two, it's really freakin' hard to make the room in my life for it. (And I guess you could make the case that Idid try to get out of it -- see above, the part about my book.) The real kicker came when I asked a lawyer-friend, and he said, "You'll get off without a hitch. They never choose Orthodox Jews for a jury." And now I sort of feel like I'm the first Hasidic Jew who's ever served on a jury, and I've gotta make a good run of it, or else everyone will think Hasidic Jews are draft-dodgers. Jury-dodgers. Whatever.

But as the trial date gets closer and closer, I find myself getting both more apprehensive and more excited. Partly it's that I'm going to be put in charge of somebody's future, someone's fate, and maybe a lot of money. Partly that it's reflexive. Just like this person's going to be standing in front of us, I'm going to be standing in front of God, defending my lifestyle choices and excusing my slip-ups and asking for another shot.

I don't think any of this renders me partial to the defendant or the plaintiff. Or maybe it does? That's all any of us can really do, right? -- take our life experience and apply it to our verdict. I'm talking about the New York District Court case, and to my own divine case.

So I probably won't get to have my pre-Yom Kippur feast this year. But I have a feeling it'll still be meaningful. Plus maybe I'll meet Lucy Liu?

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