Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hot enough to fry an egg -- and make quesadillas, and casserole...

This afternoon, Debs and some friends of hers decided to take advantage of the unseasonable heat to cook brunch in several cars -- including, for a short while, mine. The Times and The Stranger both had folks on the scene, so I'll return with links and/or professional-quality photos when and if they become available. In the meantime, check out Debs' photos from yesterday's test run at Carkeek Park:

The joys of waterobics

For about a month or so, I've been joining Kelly at Evans Pool for waterobics. The class, which meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 to 9 p.m., involves such exercises as jogging, "cross-country skiing," and bicycle-kicking (not to mention resistance training with floating barbells) in the pool's deep end. Evans is a dream come true for those of us who dislike swimming in cold water because of all the time it takes to get acclimated. Its water temperature makes it seem like the biggest bathtub in the world.

We always work out to dance remixes; recent offerings included a sped-up version of Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" and, even more hilariously, a punchy reworking of the post-9/11 Springsteen tune "The Rising." As my friends and housemates may know, there aren't many types of exercise I enjoy doing more than once, but waterobics has won my heart. This might be because it, like pugs and many other things I love, counts ridiculousness among its virtues. A form of exercise that's healthy? Hardly impressive. Physical activity that's good for you and makes you feel like an 85-year-old at a Boca Raton retirement community? No wonder I'm hooked.

Shock, meet Barack

Sure, the much-ballyhooed "beer summit" is today's news, but Monday's Free Press story about the president chilling with Detroit's WNBA team gave me a burst of hometown pride.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nelly weather

The man himself would surely agree: It's getting hot around here.

Problems of privilege

As the years pass, I empathize more and more with what Sasha expressed in a recent post. The following passage feels especially relevant:
I recall back in my days as an engineering student, sitting in the lab chatting with a young female classmate from India. She was telling me about the men her parents were considering having her marry. I was aghast.

“Your parents are choosing your husband?”

“Yes,” she said. “That’s how we’ve always done it.”

“But don’t you want some say in it? Doesn’t that seem horribly unfair?”

She laughed. “I watch you American girls and your dating. You are always so unhappy. It sounds terrible. I don’t want that.”

I’m almost envious of the days when women had no options, no careers and arranged marriages. I see the insanity in that, but I don’t feel it. I’m tired of options. I’m exhausted from heartbreak and doubt and risk-taking and failure and maybes. I just want to see the path I’m on, get a copy of the maze with the solution on the back.

Wanted: Facebook addicts

Stories like this always make me think of a classic, and prescient, Far Side panel:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Abstinence-only lunch programs

The Onion demonstrates its brilliance anew. On a personal note: I tried the abstinence-only approach to eating as a teenager, and I don't recommend it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thai Tom closed by Public Health -- for about a day

Thanks to Steven for the info. Not surprising by any means, but certainly unfortunate, since the Tom has been serving up fast, tasty, authentically spicy food for years now. Michael even sang its praises in the Weekly a few years ago.

Update, July 27: Psych! Thai Tom is open again. I just had their spicy noodles on Aleph's patio with Dane, Steven, Masha, Ilana, and Sergey. Combined with somewhat cool beer, a delight.

"Rachel" and the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival

One of Dane's friends, Davey, recently wrote a terrific post about Jewish San Franciscans who pressured SFJFF not to screen Rachel, a documentary about the late activist Rachel Corrie, about whom I've also written. (It ended up being screened, as JTA reported today.) When Davey refers to
a small but wealthy segment of the Jewish community that is so Zionist that it considers it inappropriate for a Jewish film festival to screen any film that is not explicitly and completely pro-Israeli-government
the word "groupthink" comes to mind, and I feel grateful that I was raised with healthy skepticism in relation to Israel.

When I was growing up, if someone around our family's Passover table said "Next year in Jerusalem," as is customary, my father would express ambivalence about that supposedly universal Jewish yearning. I think a source of my own ambivalence with regard to Jewish identity is related to the notion that because I'm Jewish I should believe X, Y, or Z, or should support Israel in this or that particular way. I'm an individual, I have my own mind, and the Israeli government is a government, not something God created, not the 11th commandment. It's flawed, and when it's acting as an oppressor, it needs to be called out, especially by Jews.

Some aspects of my skepticism towards Judaism and certain things Jewish may reflect deep-seated ethnic self-loathing, but when it comes to questioning Israel's actions (and its incredibly suspect "internal investigations" of such incidents as Corrie's death), skepticism equals common sense.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Beauty, remixed

Michael sent me this gorgeous reworking of an already magnificent track: Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek." Bliss out below.

Another tip from Michael: Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Heads Will Roll," which he describes at The Singles Jukebox as "perfect summer-driving soundtrack, whatever time of day or night." Funny -- that's how I've been using it for weeks.

Convent comedy

If you find yourself around a copy of this week's New Yorker, make sure to read Paul Rudnick's hilarious account of writing a comic screenplay about nuns for Disney. (Spoiler alert: It eventually became Sister Act.) The guy has never been funnier. His tell-all piece reads like Sedaris in his prime, with a showbiz edge, or like the best work of This American Life veteran David Rakoff. Just excellent stuff, from start to finish.

Ravenna Kibbutz at

Kibbutz community member Shoshanna Barnett wrote a nice piece (partly) about us last month. I especially like this passage:
Many synagogues are notoriously family-focused. So what’s a pre-family yid to do? Or, as in the Ravenna Kibbutz, many people want to find a strong Jewish community without pressure to follow religious aspects of it. In the Kibbutz and in Jews in the Woods, another unaffiliated community with a focus on people in their 20’s and 30’s, I found that people were curious [about] each others’ backgrounds, while still withholding judgement. Connection is the key in these communities, and I attest that I did, and do, feel connected.

A relic of my tween years -- for iPhone!

As reports, The Secret of Monkey Island, Ron Gilbert's landmark 1990 pirate adventure game, has been reworked for everyone's favorite smartphone, and the results are impressive:

I loved Monkey Island when I was a pre-adolescent video-game fanatic, and I still have great affection for it. It's beautiful graphically, its clever, geeky sense of humor influenced mine, it boasts inventive and memorable music, and it's about as well plotted as any game I've played. (Loom also comes to mind.) I'm glad to see it updated in such loving fashion, and I especially appreciate that the iPhone app lets you switch to the original version instantly at any time during gameplay. Hope somebody gives Monkey Island 2 similar treatment. (Hat tip to Jay V. for posting the article on Facebook.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Palin's resignation speech: the "Vanity Fair" edit

Thanks to Kim for the tip. This brilliant concept, beautifully executed, really satisfies my inner (and outer) copyeditor.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Emily Gould on "Away We Go"

Today Steven read me Ms. Gould's harsh review of the new Sam Mendes movie, which was written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida (the movie, not the review). She gets a few details wrong, but I can't say I disagree with much of what she says -- especially in the following passage, where she discusses one of the movie's major theses, "that it’s okay to be an asshole if you feel that someone else is being an asshole, because assholeness, in that context, is a way of being good":
This lesson is most clearly taught in Away We Go’s Maggie Gyllenhaal sequence. Maggie’s character LN (I don’t get it — is the letter “e” a tool of the patriarchy?) is a hyphenated-surnamed professor of something who lives in a nice bungalow full of Buddhist kitsch in Wisconsin. Her toddler breastfeeds (we’re meant to find this gross) and she and her longhaired, pirate-shirted husband exude the exact same creepy sexual pretentiousness that Will Farrell and Rachel Dratch do in those SNL “lovahh” sketches. Except those sketches are funny. LN isn’t funny, because she’s not satirizing anything real. This is irritating because there is a rich vein of 100% authentic ridiculous hippie over/underparenting that exists, but the movie will not tap it, because that might offend someone, I guess? So when LN condescendingly explains to Burt and Verona, who are visiting Wisconsin to see whether they might want to raise their unborn daughter there, that she adheres to a (made-up) parenting philosophy that eschews strollers because, she says, “I love my babies. Why would I want to push them away from me?”, it isn’t funny, not to me at least. And when she says this, Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) covertly exchange a look of “This person is totally cuckoo for cocoa puffs!” and roll their eyes at each other.

Eventually they can’t keep their disdain to themselves: at dinner, Burt finally snaps and announces to LN and her husband, in front of their toddler, that they are “bad people” who are full of “bullshit.” Then Verona stands aside and giggles smugly as Burt grabs the verboten stroller that they’d brought as a thoughtless gift and entices the toddler to take a ride in it. We are meant to giggle smugly, too, at LN’s comeuppance — except I was too busy trying to puzzle out which couple’s self-righteousness we were meant to be laughing at, to laugh.

This is not a long, reflective post

I haven't been writing those for a while. Variety of reasons. I do want to get back to them, but in the meantime I've tried to post little things I've found around the Internet. And I hope to feature more old poems -- the ones I'm willing to share.

I have a new writing goal: Send poems to trusted fellow writers, get feedback, and read at Coffeehouse in August. I've found myself writing new poems lately from a place of need, i.e. "I'm going slightly crazy and I need to get this out in a brief, relatively unstructured form that forgives vagueness, at least in the first draft." So I'll maybe start posting those. I read other people's blogs and see what personal stuff they reveal -- Sasha and Dane come immediately to mind -- and I'm inspired and a little ashamed that I don't do the same.

There's the 21st-century dilemma of how much to make public, since your boss or mother or friends or ex might be reading what you write, but other bloggers seem to find that fine line pretty consistently. I thought I was running a slight risk when I wrote about going, and staying, on Lexapro, but there's stuff that's a whole lot more personal than that. And maybe by posting poems I can bring some of it to light.

Friday, July 17, 2009

R.I.P., Walter

Maybe it's something about turning thirty; I'm finding famous people's deaths increasingly moving. Of course, Walter Cronkite's also brings up "golden age of journalism" stuff, and if ever there was a time for journalism nostalgia, it would be now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Culture jamming

Courtesy of, a few "improved" local billboards.

A nice marquee shot

I love old-fashioned, neon-powered movie theater marquees, and the Guild has one of the prettiest in town.

Hebrew school baggage

My interview with PresenTense is finally online! I really like how it turned out.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Good on Tobey Maguire...

...for getting cast against type. Not that I'll see this, but it's nice to know he has a life after "Spider-Man." I still remember how much I liked his performance in Wonder Boys.

Friday, July 10, 2009

When I get married...

...I want to register the way my friends Jesse and Abby did. Truly inspired.

Maybe the Kibbutz could sponsor them?

Chase isn't anybody's fireworks sugar daddy, so if we want some big boom-bap in the sky next year, we're going to have to pool some local dough. I like the Microsoft and Amazon suggestions, but I think it's a golden opportunity for the Ravenna Kibbutz to put itself on the map by saving the day. All we'd need is $500,000.

Insidious Nanny Statism or a righteous, progressive use of city government?

The Times reports on "Bottled Water Bans and Meat-Free Days." You be the judge.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Steven interviews Gorgeous George

My housemate writes a column called Chow Bio for The Stranger, and George is his latest subject.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

One more time-capsule poem

I wrote this one in 1998, as a creative writing major at Oberlin. My mother uses it in the introduction of her soon-to-be-published memoir, (Re)vision of a Life: My Mother’s Holocaust Story.


a welling up of voices,
sorrowed, pious
and heavy with deference

these are
the dizzying heights
of mourning, of seeking out
the unanswerable questions
and answering them once more

this is
how He would have us weep,
how the order of things must be,
how lives at their end
are marked by narrow grooves
worn into the Rock of Ages

raised on the odor
of old pine pews,
the child finds his place
in the Holy Ark, his lullabies
the swelling hymns and distant,
hollow voices of the dead

And here's a passage from my mother's book:
I am the only child of Holocaust survivors. As is the case with most of the second generation, I am one of very few of our family members left in the world. I never knew my grandparents or a host of other relatives who could have filled my bank of memories and experiences while growing up. Instead, they were photographs to me—and stories. I always felt different in that regard as a child, except when I was around others who had suffered similar losses even before they were born. My recollection of childhood memories is incomplete, but the Leitmotif is certainly the Holocaust. My mother would say with both grief and pride: “I am from the Holocaust. I am the survivor, the only one left from my big family.” And now my son Neal and I are the only ones left from her side of the family.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Embarrassment of riches

The latest New Yorker features not only a review by Malcolm Gladwell of Wired editor Chris Anderson's new book, Free (about the Internet phenomenon of something -- music, information, etc. -- for nothing), but also a profile by Ariel Levy of Nora Ephron, with an emphasis on her soon-to-be-released Julie & Julia, in which Meryl Streep plays Julia Child.

“But can you tweet a minyan? I don’t think so.”

The New York Times examines the intersection between social networking and religion. (Is the article just an excuse to use that headline?)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Holy crap

I'm hoping 6:30 p.m. is early enough to arrive at Gas Works in light of the demise of Fourth of Jul-Ivar's.

Update, July 6: It totally was.

The best thing ever

Steven tipped me off:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bye, Sarah

See you in 2012. (Maybe this is what the Mayans meant.)

Apocalypse porn

From Roland Emmerich, director of Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, comes what could be the most ridiculous, destruction-filled catastrophe epic ever made. Do I totally suck if I kinda wanna see it? I have a weakness for trashy end-of-the-world flicks (is there any other kind?), particularly if they star Amanda Peet and the former Lloyd Dobler.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Time-capsule poetry

Sasha's mom recently ported some old documents to a new computer, and she found e-mails I'd sent Sasha back in 1996. At the time, Sasha ran a site called The Sweetest Cherry that published original poetry, and two of the e-mails contained poems from my 17-year-old self. I herewith republish them, noting only that the first won an award and the second is almost unbearably pretentious in the way that only teenage poetry can be.


If you'll stroke my coals
With my favorite feather
I'll make us both
A cup of tea
We'll drink it like the Japanese
Slurping politely
I'll recline
You'll bite my knees

You'll wear olives
On your index fingers
I'll put bagpipes
On the stereo
Then we'll lie there
Almost together
The wolves will howl
And the snow will snow


Christened in Red Dye 40
I was, first of my generation
To be initiated crimson
Into life. And since that day
I've felt a deep vermilion shadow
Following me. Confessed, I have,
To many an analyst
My bloody torment:
Swathed in gory vividness,
I enter offices, shake hands,
And lie on couches,
Only to discover
Through their words of numb compassion
That the little blood my body holds
Must be content to hang in clouds
Around me, changing breath and love
And rest into ordeals of suffocation.
My veins lie idle,
I feel no pulsing in my breast,
And I am nebulous in the mirror glass.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009