Friday, June 29, 2007

Um, Sorry.
A Message From Simon

Could we really call this a Jewish blog if we didn't periodically get too busy and then neglect to update it for long periods of time, feeling horrendously guilty all the while? Even if our neglect can't always be chalked up to a hectic schedule, and is sometimes a byproduct of many hours spent browsing hotties on MySpace? And even if feeling the guilt required more psychic energy than banging out a few amusing paragraphs? Genug!

We're sorry, is my point.

We're sorry because we know you've taken the time and effort to steer the majestic craft that is your browser over to our Jewy little marina more than once and found the same old stale posting there. Perhaps you've huffed off, vowing never to darken our splash page again. Or maybe you were wracked with concern — are Sera and Simon OK? Has something happened to them?

That said: Sera has been busily crafting killer-chiller scripts for a TV show and tending to the myriad needs of her burgeoning canine, Mojo. I, meanwhile, high-tailed it out of town (accompanied by the lovely Julia) for a largely DSL-free vacation in the glorious state of Washington.

During that time, I spent many blissful hours with my nose in Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union, a cracking good novel set in an alternate reality where the Jewish state, Sitka, is in Alaska. It's a noir thriller mixed with Pynchonian magical realism and a ton of Yiddishkeit. Nu, read it. One of the book's most vivid characters is a half-Jewish, half-Tlingit detective; he was much on my mind as I surveyed the Jewish guests of a wedding party at a lodge on an Indian reservation abutting a rainforest. Colliding worlds make great fiction and fascinating reality, no?

We spent a few days in Seattle, but the revelation was staying on the Washington coast (thanks to the offices of our beloved pal Mollie and her generous family), where the weather was largely sublime and where we saw quite a few of these:

That's right, people: bald eagles.

Making their way over a vast, flat stretch of surf between the ocean and a prototypically Northwestern stand of Conifers, rousted by crows, they flaunted their magnificent wings as their white keppes glinted in the sun. It was if they were saying, "I am this close to being removed from the Endangered Species list."

And they were finally delisted mere hours after we returned home, thanks in part to the offices of meshuggeneh nature people who took bald eagle eggs from nests in order to fertilize them in labs (they left fake eggs in their wake, which must've been awkward for the eagle parents).

We spent a lot of time spying on the eagles — sometimes squinting through binoculars, sometimes just gawking right underneath whatever tree one happened to be perched in. I learned a lot, especially about the gap between an eagle's patience for sitting and my own.

If I'd had DSL, I could've given him a run for his money.

I promise a more substantive post soon. It will confront big issues like art and the soul. And Jewish identity. Or something.

Oh, and don't worry. We're fine.

Thanks to Mollie for taking this pic.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Jews Who Need a Time Out

a rant, by Simon

Look, we'd rather be talking about hotness. We'd rather talk about the 50 or so amazing women, many of the Hebraic variety, who recently attended the home of Simon (though he was sent into local exile while the all-girl party transpired) at the invitation of the lovely Julia. Or the incredibly hot style of Jewish-British chanteuse Amy Winehouse. We'd rather go on about drinking red wine in the hot tub under the twinkling stars.

But instead we need to talk about some Jews who are not only not hot, but who are truly pissing us off.

One is a politician and the other a pundit. They have both publicly called for the U.S. to start dropping bombs on Iran. One of them has done so very much in the context of what's "good for the Jews."

They are Sen. Joe Lieberman, that weasel-tongued toady of the Bush regime and delusional cheerleader of the Iraq war, and ultraconservative columnist — and candidate for a rainbow assortment of psychiatric Jujubees — Norman Podhoretz.

Here's what Lieberman said on the risibly titled TV show Face the Nation:

If they don't play by the rules, we've got to use our force, and to me, that would include taking military action to stop them from doing what they're doing.

Well, that's bad for all kinds of reasons, though typical of Lieberman's fealty to the bellicose bullshit of the Neocon elite. The "play by the rules" part is especially hi-larious, given Lieberman's smug defense of Bush's rule-flattening Iraq War and, much more recently, his de facto protection of Attorney General Gonzales, who gives lying worms a bad name.

Joe says the Iranians are "training Iraqis to kill Americans" in Iraq, which may or may not be true, but, um, there's a simpler and far less bloody way to address that problem (hint: it involves getting U.S. troops the hell out) — on which the Senator helped the Prez put the kibosh. Even worse, he's said that backing down from a confrontation would be a "sign of weakness."

In the past, though, he's emphasized a nuclear Iran's dire threat to Israel (Lieberman had just returned from a trip to the Middle East, including Israel, when he issued his call for airstrikes). But a threatening situation doesn't mean there can't be dialogue. And heightened tensions don't always necessitate the dropping of ordnance on human beings. Also, note the shifting rationales for the same preemptive military action. Sound familiar? No? Anyone? OK, OK, here's a little clue: switch the "n" in "Iran" to a "q."

So, yeah, bad. Neocon destructo-robot bad. But just check out Podhoretz's words, from an editorial splashed, not long ago, on the pages of The Washington Post (and,of course, in Podhoretz's own diseased organ, Commentary). After making a preposterous case for Ahmadeinejad as a geopolitical juggernaut of evil (bolstered by such clearly-lashed-to-the-moorings-of-reality authorities as John Bolton), he calls for — spoiler alert! — massive U.S. airstrikes on the nation of Iran. He then concludes, at the ass end of an alarmingly tender panegyric for Bush:

It now remains to be seen whether this President, battered more mercilessly and with less justification than any other in living memory, and weakened politically by the enemies of his policy in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular, will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel. As an American and as a Jew, I pray with all my heart that he will.
As we've tried to explain in the past, it's a horrible thing to advocate dropping bombs on anyone. And only a crack-addled pinhead could seriously believe that bombing Iran would improve conditions in the Middle East for anyone — let alone the people on whom said bombs would rain.

But it's the "as a Jew" part that makes steam come out of my ears. The idea that these two barnacles on the hull of the U.S.S. Dubya can blithely call for fiery death to rain down on human beings on the grounds that it would be good for the Jews is so fuckingly wrong that it almost makes me believe in metaphysical retribution, just so I can visualize Joe and Norm roasting in the Devil's sauna next to another "friend of Israel" who routinely expressed the need for various people to be incinerated, Jerry fucking Falwell.

Let me tell you something: You don't need to be a foreign-policy scholar to see that Ahmadinejad's latest crackdown, wherein various marginally free forms of expression are being peremptorily trampled and various forces of liberalization further marginalized, has been helped along by saber-rattling American shitheads. After all, the Iranian President is at pains to remind his long-suffering population, this is a security emergency. The Americans could blow us up at any moment, and this Jew in the Wall Street Journal is freakin' praying for it! And this other Jew in the Senate is calling for it!

What is a liberal Iranian to say to this? Well, most Americans don't feel that way. It's just the crazies in power. It blows my mind how much I sound like a liberal Iranian sometimes, and how much my government can sound like theirs.

And does anyone seriously believe that more explosions will solve the current crises? Can anyone honestly entertain the idea that blowing more men, women and children away with tax-supported firepower will be helpful for Israel?

No, it'll make it much worse. And it'll provide the impetus for yet more terrorist explosions, which will in turn justify more bombing missions, and on and on and on.

We're unlikely to have much impact on the actions of authoritarian assholes like the Iranian president. But we can sure as hell speak up when people in our own country and ostensibly our own community try to gin up mass death in our names. It is time for the Hot Jews to stand up and tell these cold-blooded Jews to step the fuck off.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sifting For Diamonds In A Mountain Of Ass.

Do you hate it when writers write about writing? If so, um, stop reading.

The Very Hot Jews are also Very Hot Writers For Hire, so sometimes we write about stuff that's more writery than Jewy. But our Hebeness, as you know, permeates all aspects of our lives; so we think it counts sufficiently to run posts about the creative process. Call it Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Jew. Or, Portrait of the Jew As A Young Writer. Or, point out that we're not very young, which: shut up.

Actual, bona fide young writers email me (me meaning Sera; going solo on this post riiiiiight... now) a lot. Sometimes, what they ask me boils down to "how do I become a better writer?" Yes, good writing is subjective, blah blah; let's cut the crap, because we all know what these youngsters are aiming at. And we all want to know how to do it. Is there a certain class to take? Book to amazon? Pill to chop up and mainline, because we will if it makes the swamp of donkey dung we just composed miraculously transform itself into sparkly genius.

Despite my general joie de vivre, while working I am haunted by this nagging feeling I call The Wrongness. As in, something is very wrong with this thing I just wrote. I dunno what. But I know it could suck a lot less than it does.

I don't know the secret answer to shaking that ickity feeling. I don't know how you force your creative mind to take it to the next level already. Sorry. If someone reading this knows the answer, email it to me. Please. Be your best friend.

In the absence of solutions, I've developed strategies. Most, like the Eating More Peanut Butter strategy, have failed miserably. The only thing I've done that helps significantly is Write More. It ups the statistical odds of writing something unsucky.

I know, so unglamorous. So unrelated to playing with your dog or kissing in the park or watching movies or eating more peanut butter.

Also, who wants to write more, raise your hand? Anyone? Bueller? Thought not. We all know the fun part isn't Writing, it's Having Written. So what I do is trick myself into writing as much as possible as quickly as possible, with the understanding that most of it is going to suck ginormous monkey balls. I then sift through the mountain of ass without judging myself for it. Not that I'm a non-judgmental person. Nuh uh. It's just that even I can't really get it up to feel bad that something I typed up in 5 minutes while surfing Dlisted isn't gonna win me the Nobel Prize. And I get that 10% of the shit will turn out to be gold. Or at least pyrite. At any rate, good enough to use in some capacity.

I've got lots of systems for the prolific generation of hellaciously overwritten crapola. Allow me to share one such system here. Let's begin with a long, digressive story, because you would totally rather read it than, like, write.

Breakfast At Denny's.

When I was in high school, my social life was made possible by the architecture of my parents’ house. Specifically, the location of my bedroom. Our two-story home was built into the side of a hill, the better to enjoy our expansive view of grey smog behind which, we were repeatedly assured by our real estate agent, lay the gorgeous San Bernardino mountains. My bedroom? Lower level, with a sliding door to the backyard. Wasn’t it nice of my parents to see to it that I never had to actually crawl out a window to sneak out at night?

I encouraged as early a curfew as possible. Because the sooner we all “went to bed”, the sooner I could walk right back out of the house again.

That was the easy part. Once I’d slipped away, down the street to the Jehovah’s Witness church parking lot where my friends were waiting, we faced our true obstacle: There was absofuckinglutely nothing to do in Redlands.

More often than not, we ended up at Denny’s, nursing stale coffee and ingesting toxic quantities of mozzarella sticks. None of us had enough money for a more ambitious meal. But the coffee refills were free. We had a system, which I will describe to you with the disclaimer that my adult self is embarrassed by our treatment of the harried Denny’s waitstaff.

Our system was to ball up a bunch of paper napkins to form a little “ghost." We’d draw a mean ghost face on it. And when our cups ran dry, we’d perch the Coffee Ghost atop the napkin dispenser. If it took more than a minute or two for the waitress to spot us, we’d toss the Coffee Ghost up and down, making loud “woooooo-woooo” ghost noises. The waitress had long ago gathered the intel that we weren’t exactly gonna leave the best tip in history, and tossing the Coffee Ghost invited some of the most subtle yet pointed sarcasm I’ve ever heard from a member of the service provider industry. And I’ve shopped at Fred Segal. After between-the-lines-ing that she fully expected us to die horror-movie drug overdose deaths which on a karmic level we completely deserved, she’d fill 'er up and quickly get back to her preferred occupation, shunning us.

We had time to kill and caffeine to burn off. So, somebody invented “Breakfast.” I have no idea how it got that name. Here is how to do Breakfast. One of you pulls out your journal. (You better believe we all had journals with us at all times.) Someone writes the first word. Say, “I.” The other chap writes the next: “never”. Back and forth, lightning-quick. Sentences, stanzas, strange stories composed word by word. The finished page, checkered in alternating handwriting, yielded surreal, vaguely English-As-A-Second-Language poetry: I never only waited forever when cars parked on heads of state past river rocks of milk carton trash at sunset on Mars.

We found this wildly entertaining. And we marvelled at the occasional profundity discovered by just letting go with no thought of making it "good." Amid the knots of quasi-gibberish were genuine diamond lines. Plus, it was fun to show poetry who's boss.

Aaaaaallll of this to say, I haven’t changed a bit. Well, I’m almost twice as old. And I don’t dress quite so adventurously. But my social life still involves Breakfast in many forms. Like this blog thing Sime and I amuse ourselves with. And I still treasure that which takes some of the teeth out of the big bad monster, writing. Like my current fave—The 30 Day Experiment.

The 30-Day Experiment.

The 30 Day Experiment has generated some of the best stuff I ever done wrote. I dig the hell out of it, and I wanted to share. Invite the emo writer types among you to try it. (I know you’re out there. Put down the Damien Rice CD and listen up.)

The experiment was born when a friend and I were chatting about how “generating inventory,” i.e. writing actual viable stuff, is an erratic and slow process and totally blows. We decided to shortcut the mad search for the spark by simply providing it for one another. That way, we could get a taller pile of written guano in a shorter amount of time. No more standing at the corner of Writer's Block and I'd Rather Be Drinking, waiting for the Inspiration Bus that never comes.

Each day, one of us would write a poem or short piece of prose and email it to the other, who would read it and then immediately write one of their own. None of that stopping to think business. Just fingers and computer keyboard. Sometimes the pieces dialogued, sometimes not. But it worked. We wrote a thingy a day for 30 days. It was like going to the writer-brain gym every morning. And what a marvelous bucket brimming with vomitously bad writing I accrued. Priceless. And I mean that unironically.

I just started a new 30 Day Experiment with this Hot Latina Novelist I have a writer-crush on. Sime's gonna start his own. We think you should maybe start one too. Why the fuck not? At the end of it you’ll have a big-ass pile of... something.... that wasn't there before. Which totally beats having no pile at all. Challenging as getting a piece of writing from heinous to decent may be, it doesn't get easier by doing it less. You don't get to skip the heinousness by staring at a blank screen. To keep with the fitness metaphor: to my knowledge, going to the gym never stops being annoying. But it's less of a drag when you're in shape.

Plus, if you do this consistently for 30 days, somewhere in your hillock of feces you will find rough bits here and there which, once cleaned up, will reveal themselves to be startlingly valuable and genuinely good.

Let us know how it goes. We'll be here. Typing.