Go Watch *Monsters*

I had no idea they even had free feature-length movies on YouTube. Anyway, go watch Monsters. It’s just as good as I remember it being in the theaters; back then it felt like it was mostly about U.S. foreign/immigration policy with a smattering of Chernobyl anxiety (this was back in 2010). Now, in the midst of a plague year, it feels like it’s sort of about a lot more.

Also, are you finding that, when watching old movies now, you’re often distracted by how close people stand to each other, how blithely they enter each other’s homes or push into crowds, maskless? How we used to live was crazy, right? 😷

Xappy XrismanuKwanzXanukahNacht!!! ♪♫♪♬🎅🏿🎄✡️🐲🔥🇺🇸⛄️🕎

I’m a Jew—born and raised—but I come from a “mixed” family (they say “interfaith” now).  My dad is a Jew, but my mom was raised Christian.  Both my maternal grandparents—with whom my sisters and I spent a lot of time—were practicing Christians. Interfaith families are really common now (my wife and I are mixed), but were much less so when I was young.

As you’re likely aware, back when I was a kid there weren’t a lot of Xanukah songs for us Jewish kids. But there were absolutely zero songs for mixed half-a-Jews with an Xmas tree and a Xanukiah and a cat that managed to catch fire in the Xanukah candles every year and Xtian grandparents who came to town on Xmas Eve specifically to partake in the Jewish tradition of Xmas Chinese food.

There weren’t many mixed kids like us—and there weren’t any songs or holiday specials or children’s books that reflected what we saw and felt and loved about wintertime.

So these are my songs, for all the little intersectional mixed kids out there, who don’t have any holiday songs to sing.

What Comes After the Paint and Swastikas

(N.B. I originally wrote this for my congregation, but I figured some of the rest if you might benefit from the message, too.)

You almost certainly heard about the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids shortly before the election,“TRUMP” and “MAGA” spray-painted over the names of the honored dead.

[source]

Maybe these pictures worried you.  Maybe they frightened you.  Maybe they embarrassed you—because, let’s be honest: it’s shameful to be bullied, to get the “Kick Me!” sign pasted to your back again and again, century after century.  

Or maybe you didn’t feel much of anything. Maybe you’ve grown numb; one more slap in the face at the tail end of four years of unprovoked suckerpunches, it can all sort of blur together. I get that.

I don’t exactly have words for how it made me feel.

I saw these pictures of the Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids, and I immediately thought back to the swastikas spray painted on Temple Jacob last winter, way up in the Upper Peninsula town of Hancock.  And I thought about the dozens of swastikas and slurs defacing our local skatepark back in 2017.   

(I go to that skatepark a lot.  It was hard not to take it personally.)

And I thought about the increase in anti-Jewish hate-crimes here in America over the past four years.  I thought about the increasingly violent nature of those crimes.

I thought about the bomb threats. And the synagogue shootings.  And the stabbings.  And the rallies.  And the men with guns in the capitol.  

And so on.

And I felt hopeless. And I was afraid.

So I emailed the rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Israel (who maintain the cemetery in Grand Rapids that was desecrated on election’s eve). I wrote to voice our support and solidarity, and ask what they might need to restore the cemetery.  

Rabbi David J.B. Krishef replied almost immediately:

“Hi Dave — the cemetery was cleaned by a small group of people who live around the corner and took it upon themselves to clean the stones without even letting us know what they were doing, and a few other people, including one from Ann Arbor, who drove in and decided to wash the paint off. We are grateful for all of the love and support and positive notes we’ve received.” 

It dawned on me that this second half of the story is rarely reported, but often the case:

A lone jackass skulks around smearing his petty foulness in the dark; the whole community—not just Jews, but people from all over the community unwilling to let ugliness linger—return in the light to set things right.

That’s what happened in the cemetery in Grand Rapids.  And when I went back and checked, I discovered it’s what happened at Temple Jacob in Hancock.  

And that’s what happened here in Ann Arbor, too; I know, because I saw it:  I went to the skatepark the day after it was tagged. The city had already power-washed away the paint. And unknown members of the community at large had come through with colored chalk and, evey place where there’d been a symbol of hate, replaced it with a message of welcoming and love:

[source]

What I saw in Ann Arbor was not the exception; it was the rule, even now, in this time of widely reported “unprecedented division and unrest.” And maybe it feels like we’re mired in a time of unprecedented division and unrest because we only report the first half of the story—the smeared paint, the thrown punch, the shots fired—and then move on to the next catastrophe, without checking back to see what comes after the paint and the screaming: a nation of folks ready to take it upon themselves to fix whatever any single angry loner chooses to break.

I was having trouble wrapping my brain around a quarter million Americans dead from COVID since March…

… so I made this:

250000dead/zl.pl 😷

Building this didn’t make me feel better, per se, but it’s giving my mourning a proper place to latch onto things. z”l

May your memory be for a blessing, Leviticus Erlewine (z”l); he was a commercial pilot from Wolf Lake, MN. He hated go-karts and loved his wife.

Xappy XmanuLUBBA-DUB-DUUUUB-ukah!!! ♪♫♪♬🎅🏿🎄✡️🐲🔥🇺🇸⛄️🕎

I’m a Jew—born and raised—but I come from a “mixed” family (they say “interfaith” now).  My dad is a Jew, but my mom was raised Christian.  Both my maternal grandparents—with whom I spent a lot of time growing up—were practicing Christians. Far from shockingly, my own marriage is mixed (my wife was raised Catholic, our kids are Jews who end up participating in a lot of Xtian traditions).  Interfaith families are really common now, but were much less so when I was young.

As you’re likely aware, back when I was a kid there weren’t a lot of Xanukah songs for us Jewish kids. But there were at least some. Meanehle, there were absolutely zero songs for mixed half-a-Jews with an Xmas tree and a Xanukiah and a cat that managed to catch fire in the Xanukah candles every year and Xtian grandparents who came to town on Xmas Eve specifically to partake in the Jewish tradition of Xmas Chinese food.

So, listen, America: As a rule, we’re a nation that always wants everyone to be one thing or another thing—black or white, nerd or jock, Jew or Gentile, girl or boy. We don’t have much patience for things that are mixed and ambiguous and a lil-o’-both, neither hot or cold. Subsequently, most of us neither-fish-nor-fowl spend a(n un)healthy portion of our lives aggresively trying to be One True Thing.  I was in my 20s, and in a Women’s Studies class, before I learned what the hell “intersectionality” was, and my identity began to finally start to make any sense to me.

Anyway, there weren’t many mixed kids like me when I was growing up—and there weren’t any songs or holiday specials or children’s books that reflected what I saw and felt and loved about wintertime.

So these are my songs, for all the little intersectional mixed kids out there, who don’t have any holiday songs to sing.

Enjoy!

Holy Shit—Neither Kanye West nor Jay-Z are 1/10th the Artist of Donald Glover

There’re tracks by Kanye I like, and I have a great deal of respect and affection for Jay-Z (both because of and despite “The Story of O.J.“), but I’m sorry: As artists, neither have a patch on Donald Glover. The clarity and breadth of his thought and expression are dazzling and compact and searingly intense; it’s like getting hit in the chest with a frozen super-critical sphere of napalm.

The end draws nigh! EXPIRATION DATE chapter 7 is here! #FreeReadFriday

… and, SPOILER ALERT: the *FAKE NEWS!1!!*, “ghost SWATs” and Boltzmann brains have arrived!

ExpieDate-banner

Chapter 7 is here, as is every every previous chapterfree online and downloadable as PDFs, courtesy of the fine folks at Arbor Teas (who’ve also furnished discussion questions for book groups and connected with the Ann Abror District Library for special Summer Games points and badges.

Also, I’ll be doing a little Q&A here once the final chapter of Expiration Date drops, so if you have questions, please feel free to drop me a line.