Friday, September 30, 2005

Hard Day's Night



I'm wiped today. Up late last night, tending to a cute (but inexplicably fussy) baby. Yeah, she's cute, but sometimes she just cries for no conceivable reason. And that keeps me up. That, my Snood addiction, and my idiotic desire to blog.

When I whined about it to Ofer this morning, he told me the following story, which was told to him by an Israeli Arab:

In the Beginning, G-d handed out life-expectancies to all of the different species. To man, G-d decided that 20 years was enough.

When man heard about G-d's decision, he approached G-d. "20 years? That's nothin'! How about some more?"

G-d said, "Allright, fine. You can have 70, but I'll have to get another 50 years from somewhere!" So He swiped 30 years from the Donkey and 20 years from the Dog.

That way, man would live like man for the first 20 years, then for the next 30 he'd work like a donkey, and would have the last 20 to die like a dog!


'Course, the story probably sounds better spoken in Arabic-inflected Hebrew.

And on that cheerful, inspiring note, Good Shabbos!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Bathing Beauty!!!



Naomi let go with the most massive load of crap last night. It got all over the place. No diaper could ever contain that much raw baby sewage... it's like it was waiting, waiting, waiting... then, BANG! All over her clothes, herself, Sarah's skirt. Unbelievable.

So we had to give her a bath. Here's the video (Quicktime required).

So. Freaking. Cuh-yute!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Yardley, Yardley, Blooga, Blaaga!!!



For 3 years in a row, I went to Uman for Rosh Hashana.

In this 1998 self-portrait, I am sitting smack dab in the middle of the Sofiyivka Forest in Uman. In the hour preceding this photograph, I'd been attempting to engage the G-d of Abraham in some sort of cathartic screaming dialogue involving guilt, repentance, and semen (though not necessarily in that order). It wasn't going so well, as you can tell by the look of resignation emanating from beneath the large furry animal that had chosen, at that time, to settle its chestnut-brown carcass upon my face.

There's a song that the Breslover Hassidim sing when they go to Uman (which is the Ukrainian town in which their Rebbe, Nachman of Breslov, is buried). The lyrics are "Uman, Uman, Rosh Hashana; Uman, Uman, Rosh Hashana!!!" You don't have to be in Uman and it doesn't have to be Rosh Hashana when you sing it, but singing it at other times of the year is kinda like singing "Happy Birthday to You" on a day which isn't really your birthday -- it makes you seem kinda out-of-phase with the rest of the world.

Uman's inhabitants are mostly lower-class, post-Communist-era peasants from whom a crisp, new twenty-dollar bill might buy a week's worth of lodging, an entire month's supply of vodka, or even an astonishing selection of top-grade Ukranian booty (your choice). Everything has that "third-world bootleg" feel, down to the worn-out-looking Fila jumpsuits and gold-capped teeth that the grubby local youths proudly display as they leer and jeer at you from behind the proteksia of their own drunken stupors.

Modern pilgrimages to Uman started with Rabbi Gedaliah Fleer in 1961, but after the Iron Curtain came down in the late 80's/early 90's, more and more of Rebbe Nachman's followers started showing up every year -- in 1998, more than 10,000 Jews showed up, and the gatherings just keep growing. There's now a gi-normous shul, called The Kloiz, which is capable of holding 3,000-4,000 congregants in the same room. There's a hotel, a mikve, a kupat cholim (infirmary), a caterer... everything a good Jew needs to prepare to cry out from the depths of his shattered mortal soul on Rosh Hashana.

So I'm walking around the backwater Ukranian streets with my pal Gavriel (now Rabbi Gavriel, currently in Boulder, CO but originally from Yardley, PA), with no KFCs or Sbarros or even street signs to help orient us to our surroundings, when Gavriel spontaneously busts out singing a lyrical snippet from everyone's favorite Hassidishe musician:

A man walks down the street
It's a street in a strange world
Maybe it's the Third World
Maybe it's his first time around
He doesn't speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterlings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says Amen! and Hallelujah!


As we round the corner to the Main Street, we pass a throng of Fila-clad young ruffians, obviously enamored of the "Uman, Uman, Rosh Hashana" chorus they've been hearing day and night from the mouths of these strange, affluent, black-frocked, sidelocked tourists. One of them, passing by our group in a mock-jigging dance and mock-Hassidishe singing voice, parodies our strangeness by singing wildly, "Uman, Uman, LaLa, LaLa!!! Uman, Uman, LaLa, LaLa!!!!!!!!!"

As if to say, "What the hell is so special about our trashy little toilet of a village, you unbelieveable idiots? Some Hassidic dude dies here 200 years ago, and you decide to party your asses of on our main street because of it?!?!?"

Gavriel's like, "Imagine if you had a bunch of freaky-looking Ukranians coming to your hometown, throwing some huge freakin' party in your backyard and singing the name of your city over and over and OVER again -- 'Yardley, Yardley, Blooga, Blaaga!!! Yardley, Yardley, Blooga, Blaaga!!!!!!!' You'd probably be freaked out, too."

(to be continued)

Monday, September 26, 2005

"I'm a Writer...!"



A self-proclaimed Orthodox woman playwright visited our home for Shabbos lunch. One of the questions she asked me over the course of our meal was, "If you could drop everything and write what exactly what you wanted to write, forget about money or deadlines, what would it be?"

The $84,000 question! I think I must have blurted something out like, "A TV show about a post-college American kid who goes to Israel and becomes a fiery ba'al teshuva at a radical West-Bank yeshiva designed for credit-card-hippy burnouts, set in the late 90's right before the second Intifada!"

...or... something like that. Actually, I may have mentioned mashing that idea up with something vaguely Freaks-and-Geeks-esque (with some Firefly and Six Feet Under stylings). Not bad for being put on the spot, huh?

Later, as we continued mulling over such a grandiose and unlikely TV-show premise, several big problems arose with the idea:

ONE: No network would ever finance it, and even if they did, it probably wouldn't make it past the pilot before Budweiser or Altria decided it was way too pro-Occupationistic or just plain pro-Semitic (which it wouldn't necessarily have to be),

TWO: Ditto for any of the Jewish companies who might finance it,

THREE: Who do you get to act in such a piece? Hollywood types playing grubby West Bank settlers, mysterious, mystical Rabbi figures, dreadlocked Jewish expatriate kids, Palestinian Arabs? Would there even be Arab characters?

She encouraged me to write it anyway. I remain dubious about my own ability to write something requiring such complex and subtle characterizations, such in-depth knowledge of the political realities of late 90's Israel, and such technical know-how (i.e. a TV pilot with all the requisite getting-to-know-you and setting-you-up-for-the-future), but it may be worth it, if only as an excercise, to keep my creative impulses alive during the humdrum of my corporate life.

Also, who knows... maybe someone will read it and want to produce an independent feature from it...

I can still dream, can't I?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"Everybody's Got a Past..."



If you look closely at the various images portrayed in the mosaic above, you will discern the pretty face of yours truly in various states of consciousness/attire, acting the lead in a variety of low-budget psychological horror films made during my high school years by an obscure (and now defunct) production company called "Q&A Productions."

In The Skinny Clown, my character was a lovelorn photographer who, instead of passionately making out with the girl of his fantasies, takes pictures of her. At the end of the movie, the girl tells him that he looks like a clown. He stabs her and leaves her sitting alone to die at a coffeeshop. He then walks outside and smokes a cigarette.

In the black-and-white Sweet Pickles, my character ruminates on his strained relationship with his father and on the nature of cruelty, all while cavorting about in a bathroom wearing nothing but a pair of tighty-whiteys and a misshapen cowboy hat. In bitterness and frustration, he punches the wall, causing a framed picture of his father to shatter into a million pieces on the floor. While cursing himself, his father, and his bleeding fist, a shard of glass punctures his foot, and he slips in a puddle of his own blood, uncontrollably cracking his skull wide open on the bathroom counter. He dies, whimpering and alone, on the cold, hard plasticine floor.

In the music video Are You Ready? my character picks up a hooker and brings her back to a hotel room. She decides that he looks like a clown and will not sleep with him. He beats her senseless on the bed, then goes into the bathroom to wash up. As he looks into the mirror, the face of his grandfather stares back at him with an inexplicable look of conviviality. Featuring a cameo of my real-life grandfather, David Silverman z"l.

In Hey There, Jive Turkey! my character Ike meets up with a buddy to discuss his personal problems -- his girlfriend is cheating on him. Throughout the conversation, we learn that Ike is a depraved pervert who doesn't actually respect or care about his girlfriend or the buddy with whom he is talking. That's OK, though, because we discover gradually that the buddy is the one who's having the affair with Ike's girlfriend, right under his nose.

Remember, everyone, this was high school...

Why do I bring any of this up at such a seemingly random and/or inappropriate moment (it being Elul, the month of repentance and all)? Well, because the director/pal with whom I made all of these magnum opuses (opae?) just reappropriated/recontextualized a bunch of those old videos for a gallery opening that he recently did in Tampa. And supposedly he'll be sending me some video documentation. So stay tuned for some potentially sick shit, y'all, if you think you can handle it.

I'm not actually sure if I myself can, to be honest.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

"Take My Love, Take My Land..."



We don't own a TV in our house. The devil's soapbox, we're prone to call it.

But we do have a DVD player. And high-speed internet. One way or another, in our home or in someone else's, our new daughter's impressionable little mind will become slowly yet thoroughly inundated with Scratch's barbed missives.

Whatev. At least she'll be able to watch Firefly. And by the time she's able to understand it, the movie version will long be into sequels...

Serenity premieres in 17 days. Last time I ventured forth to the cinema, it was for the depressingly mediocre Star Wars conclusion. I've got a feeling I won't be nearly as disappointed this time...

(Thanks to Esther at My Urban Kvetch for putting the Firefly DVD set on her Amazon Wish List -- goes to show ya, you never know where you'll strike gold...)