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Monday, January 23, 2012

Patrick Aleph Rocks My Religion

For someone whose life is writing on the Internet, Patrick Aleph still has a lot of secrets.
Aside from running the alterna-Torah site PunkTorah, the "online minyan" OneShul, the collection The G-d Project, and a bunch of other sites, Aleph is an astoundingly prolific blogger and YouTube video-maker. As a convert, his perspective on Judaism -- and on Jews -- is that of both an insider and outsider, and his observations on Jewish life and belief are often reflective of that. The things he loves, he loves. And the things he finds disquieting or hard to swallow -- well, he doesn't have any hesitation about making note of that, either.

If you've never encountered Aleph before, or if there's too much of his stuff out in the universe for you to know where to start, here's a great place. He's just released -- for free -- an e-book collection of his writings, titled, appropriately,PunkTorah, named after both his punk do-it-yourself principles and his website. The two dozen or so essays touch on everything from the actual nuts-and-bolts of Jewish practice to the more aesthetic and eschatological wtf-nesses of belief (how weird is it that we believe in an intangible, invisible G-d who doesn't actively interact with humanity, anyway?). And he really isn't afraid to break boundaries or mess around with tradition: In one piece, Patrick talks about working with queer Jews, self-proclaimed Jews who've neither traditionally converted nor been born into the religion. And the next piece is titled "Everything I Needed To Know I Learned From Chabad."

Actually, his essays are almost all amazingly-titled. OK, let me just give you my five favorites:

* Indie Rock Is My Shacharit Siddur
* Alterna-frum
* Walgreens and Tempeh Reubens Brought Me Closer To God
Star Wars and Andy Warhol: PunkTorah's Non-Jewish Influences
* Diary of An Angry Convert

Full disclosure: Patrick cites me in a few of the essays. But I didn't remember that until after I was almost finished writing this, and I still think it's a pretty damn great book. And it's free, so you aren't wasting any money -- or any trees, for that matter.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Truant, but truthful

Tons of stuff to update, and I am totally truant. There have been a lot of people saying a lot of really nice things about Automatic, and I should write about them. But first I need to say a really nice thing about someone else: The amazing Ethan Young's first full-length graphic novel, Tails, is finally coming out! You can, and should, order it now. It's about being an artist and a vegetarian and an Asian geek with fantasies about turning into a superhero and living in New York City.

ethan young tails

Oh, and I show up occasionally in the book.

And, totally separate, my sometimes-editor David Levithan compiles a best-of music list every year, and polls his coterie. His most recent list was just posted. Here's my entry:

Matthue R Goes Camp 

Weird thing: There's not much punk/loud stuff on here. I mean, Wild Flag, but that might be a vote for my past. I think that the most exciting stuff I'm finding is stuff that I'm just starting to give a second thought to? Also, other thing: A lot of the albums here are free mixtapes that the artists give away online. I mean, I love the hip-hop community.

most essential: Childish Gambino, Camp

2. Wild Flag, Wild Flag
3. Frank Ocean, nostalgia, ultra.
4. Shondes, Searchlights
5. Regina Spektor, Live in London
6. Roots, undun
7. Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday (which I know didn't come out this year)
8. Girls in Trouble, Like You, Like Me
9. The Amy Winehouse uncollected-songs album.
10. House of Balloons, The Weeknd

Just in case you're curious, NONE of my albums made the Top Ten. Am I really cool, or just really out of touch?

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