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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kosher on the Road-ster

We're four episodes in, and my Lesbian Hasidic Cross Country Road Trip story -- a little serial thing that I'm writing for Hevria -- finally gets on the road. Basically, we make it to the first bathroom break.

I'm still trying to decide whether I should keep writing. I'll let you know what happens.

Kosher on the Road


One thing I hadn’t counted on when I hit the road: How would I eat? I don’t know if you know, but the kosher diet is one of exquisite restriction, that whole no milk and meat together thing, but also a host of other things we can’t have — namely, anything cooked in a kitchen that’s ever had anything non-kosher inside it. In today’s modern world of packaged food and artificial everything, it’s gotten a little easier — Oreos, for instance, might look like cream-filled wafers, but there’s no dairy, no meat, the whole thing’s basically a lump of sugar cooked by a robot.
But I’ve heard tell of supermarkets on the road where not even the orange juice and bottled water is kosher, where the tiny Ks and Us and Hebrew letters we search for in our secret codes are absent, where even the potato chips and white-bread loaves are baked with lard. When Elyse and I planned our cross-country expedition, I just figured I’d stack up before we left. Or on the way. Or before we got too far.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Way Smoke Smells

So I really love going into the conference room at this day job, and I just realized why. Everyone who smokes goes through the conference room and into the fire escape, and so there's a residue, not of smoke, but of sort of pre-smoke and post-smoke, maybe the smell ignited by freshly burning paper, or a special smell that only happens at the moment when a match strikes?

It reminds me of my aunt's house growing up, and of inch-high shag carpeting, and of the '70s. No word on whether there's a bunch of furtive, antisocial Siamese cats patrolling around the office, but I'll keep you updated.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Praying, and Cookies

There's this little afternoon prayer service inside an office building. Today, because it was the anniversary of his aunt's death, one of the elderly gentlemen brought in boxes of cookies and brownies for everyone. Before anybody ate, this one guy held up his phone and said, "This is the kosher certification for the cookies. I'm not saying anything about it, good or bad. I'm just saying I don't recognize it, and you should all know that before you eat it." He didn't take any. I left right away, disgusted with that guy. Now I wish I'd taken a cookie right away and sank my teeth into it. Or maybe I just wish I would've sank my teeth straight into that guy's face.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Scott Pilgrim, You're Old.

So I've been having a bad week and basically a bad year, and just not happy with anything, and my publisher just gave me a list of corrections that's literally half as long as my book and my Sesame scripts are falling apart and there's this guy who really wants to get me fired, and I couldn't even write on the train this morning. And I dug in my backpack and came out with Scott Pilgrim #5, the one where he fights the twin ex-boyfriends and Ramona tells him that she hates his band, and I started thinking about the movie, and how it was the first movie we brought the baby to. And now that baby is five years old, and how can it be true that the Scott Pilgrim movie is that old, that it's been a part of my life that long? And I thought that, if it's been five years since I sat in that theater and watched Scott Pilgrim, I can totally make it through the next five years at least. I think. I hope.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Amplify Is For Sale

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The latest: I just got quoted at length in a news story about the company, Amplify, where until a month ago I wrote video games, and how it's ostensibly failing, and that the company is up for sale. I kind of don't believe it's failing -- not entirely -- except that our games have barely gone on sale (they're still not yet available to the public) and there hasn't really been time for anything to happen.

I'm kind of depressed and kind of surprised (almost everything I said about Amplify could basically be boiled down to: "They let us make amazing stuff and it sounds like they're going to pull the plug before anybody gets to see it"). And, unlike my quote, a lot of what we made wasn't even for the Amplify Tablet. I mean, the only game you can actually officially get of ours, Twelve a Dozen, is for your friendly neighborhood iPad.

The entire piece is here, if you want to read it. But hopefully I'll have something better for you to read very very soon.

And one thing that has nothing to do with Amplify: A website I co-founded and sort of semi-secretly co-run, Hevria, dedicated to finding creative folks within religious communities, is trying to raise money for new films and sites and programs. It's an unbelievably worthy cause, and if you've got a few extra bucks, it'd be awesome if you kicked some of it their way.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Skiing with Babies

For Passover, we left behind New York (and our kitchen) and went to a ski resort in remote Canada with my in-laws and a ton of kids. It wasn't a nightmare. It was really wonderful. But me and my anxiety made it a nightmare anyway. Maybe the fact that I took my baby on a 6000-foot-high ski lift had something to with it. Here's my latest piece for Hevria:

I Forgot to Selfie

BY   APRIL 14, 2015  ESSAY
I went away for Passover with my kids and my wife and my wife’s family. We went to the mountains, to a really nice ski resort, and I took pictures of trees. I mean it. That isn’t, like, a metaphor for something — on my phone, you click GALLERY and all you have are pictures of furry green. Well, a bunch of stony white patches, too. We were in the mountains. There were a lot of rocks. You couldn’t take pictures of the trees without shooting a bunch of rocks.

Keep reading

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Talmudic Secret of Foreplay

 Via Daniel Boyarin's epic book Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and and the Invention of the Jewish Man:

So, um, I believe a wow is in order. Also in the same chapter: I learned that James Joyce's Ulysses uses the phrase "goyim naches."


Sunday, March 8, 2015

How I Ran Away from San Francisco

Continuing my tradition of writing B-sides to my Hevria posts, here's the latest post and the latest behind-the-scenes story. First, let me apologize for that picture: my friend Harbeer took it on a spur-of-the-moment day shortly before I left the city in 2004. I'd just gotten a college gig performing poems. I had no idea what it meant to have a college gig. They wanted a headshot, so Harbeer and I went looking for the most ramshackle, ghetto background we could find. We didn't have to go far. It was the backyard of his apartment. Later, I used that as the author photo for my first book, Never Mind the Goldbergs. This, I guess, is its third life.

So I really wanted to use the view outside the rabbi's house where I was crashing during this visit. They had the most amazing little room they let me stay in, right on the top of the house, with slanted ceilings where the roof sloped. And outside was an awesome jacaranda garden. But Elad said the picture didn't load -- I wrote the whole post as a draft on Gmail on my phone, which was the first time I'd done that (this is also my first smartphone, and is really new, and I'm still not very good at it, and also that's why there are weird AutoCorrect typos like "mazel tomb" instead of "mazel tov") -- so he stuck that old Harbeer photo on instead.

And I was outraged, and I hated having my picture as the lead photo for something I wrote, because I just want the writing to stand for itself, you know?, or at least use something cartoonlike, maybe stolen from an episode of Scooby-Doo, to show you how funny it's going to be. So I promptly took the photo at the top of this piece -- I happened to be walking through one of the coolest, most graffitied alleys ever at the moment that Elad asked me about it -- because, okay, at heart I guess I am still an egotist.

Anyway, here's the piece. I hope you enjoy it.

San Francisco Made Me Orthodox

BY   MARCH 3, 2015  ESSAY

I’m in San Francisco this week, the city where I grew up, the city where I learned not to grow up. I moved here when I was 22, shortly after I became observant, partly as a dee-double-dare-you to my Creator — I’ll give myself one month to make a living doing poetry, I told G-d, and either you help me out doing that, or I’ll bow out gracefully and go to yeshiva.
Three years later, I hadn’t left yet.
I used to hate the tourists and business visitors. Now, years later, I am one of them. I stay in the convention center for most of the day. I wander around, searching for the rare corner store that doesn’t sell $7 bags of artisan tortilla chips. I keep kosher, dammit. Back when I lived here, you could buy a normal 99-cent bag of Lay’s Potato Chips, certified kosher by the Orthodox Union, totally ghetto and not that expensive. Now if you want a mass-produced kosher bag of chips, you practically have to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. And I don’t have time for that. I’m a professional video game designer. I’m only here for my conference, and another session is starting in ten minutes.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Jews vs. Aliens

It's not properly out until March 17, but I have a short story in a new collection called Jews vs. Aliens. (There's also a companion volume, Jews vs. Zombies, which will be released at the same time.) My story is called "The Ghetto," and I will try not to give anything away but it's about an alien abduction in Crown Heights. And it was just featured on BoingBoing, which for a very small percentage of the population is roughly equivalent of getting a Nobel Prize in Weirdness. Oh, and here's the cover.

My favorite-person-ever (and Big Bang Theory producer) Eric Linus Kaplan also has a story, and so do a bunch of other wonderful people. And the whole batch is edited by Rebecca Levene and Lavie Tidhar, that latter of whom might be the most bitingly satirical and wise Israeli expat science fiction writer ever to exist. Not that there's much competition, but if there was, he'd wipe them out like a bunch of Space Invaders.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Squeezing Art into Life

Hey! I've been super delinquent about posting. But not about writing, I promise. Finishing a novel, and writing a new children's book, and the regular scribbles. And this.

Basically, Alan told me this story, and I knew I needed to do something with it. The other night, I called him up and spent two hours typing what he said -- not polishing his sentences so they sounded more like mine, not cutting out the prepositions and the passive verbs. It felt good. It felt honest in a way I haven't written in a while, to just take another person's voice and mivatel yourself (um, nullify yourself) to it. Here's what I got.

He Tried To Quit Music, But God Said No

“This isn’t a miracle,” he warns me, the first thing he says. “I can tell you the story of how it happened. But there’s some interesting stuff that happened before, that happened after — well, I think it’s interesting. I’ll let you decide.”
That’s Alan Jay Sufrin talking. He’s one of my favorite musicians. Alan is equally comfortable when he straps on an acoustic guitar as when he takes a bunch of keyboards and computers and makes some ridiculously danceable electropop anthems. He calls himself “the short Jewish Prince” — the singer, not the royal status — although he’ll usually follow it up by saying something like, “Well, Prince is also short.” In any case, the two have a lot in common: they’re both inspiring, both incredibly prolific, both can take the simplest tune and build it into an amazing anthem that sticks in your head for days and that you never regret having there.
Alan’s also one half of the pop group Stereo Sinai, with his wife Miriam Brosseau. They came out with two amazing albums that took Biblical verses and stories and Psalms and turned them into really wonderful pop songs. Then Alan started writing some of his own original stuff, possibly as a side project, possibly as the next phase of his career — and then he stopped making music entirely.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


So I have this friend who we used to tell each other everything, and now we both have babies and other kids and never talk anymore, and when we do it basically goes like this:

me:  i'm pretty sure i'm going insane.
 liz:  oh, DO tell.
 me:  i don't know liz
my anxiety is worse than ever
i don't know how to talk to people
 liz:  what?
   let it all out
 me:  and i'm pretty sure my novel sucks and it's not even finished yet and if it doesn't sell i don't know if i can take it
      and i started drinking coffee again
 me:  espresso
 liz:  well, that'll give you jitters and make it hard to talk to people if you're all speedy
or are you just having a hard time finding words for your coworkers who just got laid off? cause that would be hard for anyone
 me:  no, like
 liz:  who the hell do you talk to?
 me:  i was at a party a few weeks ago and it would've been so easy to talk to people before, and i just clammed up and i was like i don't care about these people but i don't actually have friends around anymore so it might be nice to have some but i just couldn't open my mouth
and the only person i said more than 2 words to was natasha lyonne
but that was because she said hi when she passed me and she looked familiar and i thought she went to my high school
 liz:  oh nice name dropping, i see what you did there.

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