On The Doorposts of Your Spaceship?

Outer space got a little more kosher in 2008, courtesy of Dr. Garret Reisman, the first Jewish astronaut to have lived in the International Space Station.

“The mission went pretty well, I did not break anything that was too expensive,” he says. When he got to the space station, via the space shuttle Endeavor, he was quick to put up a mezuzzah in the bunk where he slept. “I did not consult any rabbi, so I hope I did not get into any trouble,” he says. Full story.

The hilarious and cute Dr. Reisman (check out his interview with Stephen Colbert) was in Israel last week for the Ilan Ramon International Space Conference; it’s heartening to know Israel still wants its hat in global space endeavors after losing the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Roman, after the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas in 2003, killing all seven crewmembers.

But let’s just hope they don’t let Mel Brooks on the strategic planning committee:

(Hint: The Jews get to space around :50.)

Tip o’ the yarmulke to FailedMessiah.com.

Not Kosher, But Tasty

I was planning on blogging on something really deep and spiritual today, but while searching for material I got hung up on HEEB’s interview with the fantastically trashy Courtney Love.

Who claims she’s Jewish. On her adopted grandmother’s side. Or something. Right before she bitches that “Every time you buy a Nirvana record, part of that money is not going to Kurt’s child, or to me, it’s going to a handful of Jew loan officers, Jew private banks…”

It really is a glorious trainwreck of a read if you’re looking to make yourself feel terrific about your own life – especially your parenting skills.

I’d always admired Courtney – “Celebrity Skin” is a great freakin’ album and her role in “The People vs. Larry Flynt” was brilliant” – but all the Xanax and Botox seems to have turned her brain to mush.

Frankly, as much I love other wacky Jewish mothers, I’m not in any hurry to extend and invitation for Shabbos dinner – I’m afraid she’d ask my mother-on-law to drip candle wax on her nipples or start lecturing on how the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is her favorite religious text.

Here’s to a drama-free Shabbat!

T-Shirt of the Week: Meshuggah – In A (Mostly) Good Way

Tee hee hee, la la la…I’ve been dancing a jig ever since Tuesday’s rawkin’ inauguration festivities. Itzhak Perlman in da house!

Actually, I’ve been toe-tapping since Sunday’s HBO “We Are One” Lincoln Memorial concert – though we were all wondering what the hell Shakira was doing there with boobies hanging out. (Not that we don’t love our Colombians – peace, Ctraffik!) I did have to wince Bono paused during “Pride (In the Name of Love)” to address the “Israeli dream…and the Palestinian dream”? Ballsy, I thought, but not inappropriate. And yay for cease-fires, no matter how fragile.

Anyway, I’m still riding the high of watching the door slam on eight years of Bush and this giggly slogan from Green Turtle Shirts speaks to my dizzying happiness and plain old dizziness:

Besides it being that time of the month again (I’m talking about the work deadline, but El Yenta Man keeps wondering why that seems to coincide with PMS), I’ve got a big business-y summit to plan for next week, as well as a Havdalah lesson plan for Shalom School (I’m thinking roll-up beeswax candles and spice boxes made out of plastic salt shakers scored for pennies at Dollar Tree.)

On the not-so-fabulous side of things, I am also working very hard on forgiving my father-in-law for inviting non-relatives to clean out my mother-in-law’s closet. I’ve spent the last year removing things in phases as to not upset her and also replaced things in larger sizes so she’d be comfortable. Apparently he got impatient with my process and for reasons I cannot comprehend, decided to ask these people to come by, guess what fit and remove the rest. I don’t enjoy airing family laundry here (and there is a BACKLOAD, lemme tell ya), but as delighted as I am about our new president, this incident has me so riled I can barely breathe. My MIL might be permanently out to lunch (speaking of which, I need to go pick her up right now for the JEA) but she ain’t dead yet, and there were things that are now gone that I thought she might want to pass on to her granddaughter. They took the Mary McFadden gown she wore to my wedding to Good-freakin’-will, y’all.

If you think I’m gonna let him do the same thing with her jewelry, Jew craaazy.

Glad to See Some of Us Are Keeping A Sense of Humor

Man, I just love those hilarious yids over at Bangitout. Their Top 10 Lists always bang, but this one is the bomb – uh, y’know, the kind that doesn’t sprew shrapnel. Shabbat Shalom to all!

Top Ten Facebook Status Updates from The Middle East

10. Israel and Hamas joined the group: “Cease Fire.”
9. Hamas left the group Cease Fire and received a gift from Iran.
8. Israel poked the United Nations, no response.
7. Israel created the event “Cast Lead”; Hamas is attending and has invited civilians.
6. Israel and Hamas are no longer in a relationship.
5. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are now fans of Israel.
4. The world commented on Israel/Hamas status.
3. Hamas posted a new photo album and tagged civilians.
2. The United Nations posted an event, “New Cease Fire Resolutions.” The US may be attending; Hamas and Israel are not attending.
1. Hamas is no longer on Facebook. Palestinian Authority and Israel are now friends.

Woman of the Book

I’m a complete nerd when it comes to books, and my collection of signed copies is one of my most treasured possessions. If there was a hurricane on the way and I had to evacuate, Ken Kesey’s Sailor Song and Marge Piercy’s The Art of Blessing the Day would be in the same shopping bag as my wedding album.

That shopping bag just got heavier as of yesterday:

Geraldine Brooks
, author of my hands-down favorite of 2008, People of the Book, was the featured speaker at USCB’s Lunch with Author series. If your book club hasn’t featured her yet, she’s a genius at spinning fascinating fiction out of existing materials: Year of Wonders is based on life during the Black Plague, and March, the story of the absent father in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women won the Pulitzer Prize.

I was extremely late to the luncheon so I didn’t actually get to break bread with Ms. Brooks, but I did find some standing room for her completely charming talk about her writing process, her past career as a war correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and interviewing Michelle Obama (read the piece at More.com.) She also alluded to her current project, Caleb’s Crossing, which delves into the Native American history of Martha’s Vineyard, and shared the news that Catherine Zeta-Jones has just bought the film rights to People of the Book.

Being last one in the door meant I was first in line to get my book signed, and Geraldine was patient and gracious with my request to snap a picture. But if I’m going to go bonkers over starting a collection of photos with famous authors, I guess I’d better plan to add my back-up hard drive to my evacuation shopping bag.

*To save the Yenta some precious time, the above is cross-posted at savannah.skirt.com. But there’s more:

So you probably know by now that I can’t go anywhere without announcing my Jewishness loudly and proudly. Because People of the Book deals in Jewish themes and history, I just had to mention to Geraldine Brooks that I write a Jewish blog and that as a Jewish person I was so impressed with the breadth of her historical research and her compassionate treatment of the materials and for a non-Jewish person, she really knows so much…

During all this sycophantic blathering her eyes were sparkling, amused. When my mouth finally sputtered to a stop, she laughed and exclaimed in her tinkling Aussie accent, “But darling, I AM Jewish!”

Boy, did I feel like schmuck. Why I assumed while I reading the book that she wasn’t Jewish, I’m not really sure, but since I didn’t question my own feeble thinking I didn’t bother to Google the subject and this Houston Chronicle interview about her teenage obsession with Judaism, her subsequent conversion and marriage to journalist Tony Horwitz.

Color me apologetic, Ms. Brooks.

Koshersexy Is The for Word 2009

Have y’all seen comedienne Jamie Sneider’s “Year of the Jewish Woman” calendar? Sure it looks like porn, but it’s got all the religious holidays and everything!

I’m sure someone will be outraged that I’m not outraged, but it seems to me combining the naked with the sacred seems like a fantastic idea, especially when you add cookies. Check out the entire gallery of Jamie’s artfully-hidden boobies here.

I know you’re ALL clamoring for a naked Yenta calendar, but sorry friends, there is not an airbrush artful enough to erase these vericose veins. But hey – I just had an idea – wouldn’t everyone like to see a racy spread exploiting the muscles of El Yenta Man?!

Grrrr. Sigh. *sniff*

Yup, still disturbed by the news from and about Israel. And the frightening worldwide trend of hating all Jews and setting synagogues on fire if one doesn’t agree with Israeli politics. Not to mention the Facebook updates.

I believe in the right to stop the friggin’ rockets and protect Israeli children, and that if Hamas cared about its citizens it wouldn’t use its women and children as human shields. So why are the Israelis being accused of war crimes? And what does it say when if the only non-Jewish sources I can find to corroborate my beliefs are FoxNews and Christian web sites enthusiastically touting the coming of Armageddon?

I’m unmoveably down with the Holy Land as a Jewish homeland and would like to see every last Hamas rocket shoved up Iran’s a**. If that means I’ve got to stand next to douchebag Sean Hannity and a bunch of Jesus-loving grannies, so be it. But look, if the only leader in the whole world preaching unilateral support for Operation Cast Lead is GEORGE Freakin’ BUSH, perhaps some strategies need to be rethunked.

In the meantime, I’m gonna keep on reading. But somehow, I don’t think Joe the Plumber-cum-war correspondent-for-dummies is going to clear anything up for me.

Silent Shabbat

I know it’s unusual for a professional loudmouth like myself to be so quiet about the war in Gaza, and I have to admit I’ve been avoiding discussing the subject. It’s just too insane, and I just don’t have anything to add except for my confusion and frusturation and sadness and wishes that everyone could just get along. Naive, yes. But I’m not the only one:

Thank you to Cathy S-H for linking me to Bradley Burston’s A Jew’s Prayer for the Children of Gaza. It made me cry to be reminded that this conflict goes as far back as the origin of our people, and that as God alone saved Hagar and Ishmail, divine intervention is probably our best bet.

A peaceful, rocketless Shabbat to all.

*Bruce David’s “City of Peace”; click here for more of the artist’s work.

Mental Illness as Entertainment

An old boyfriend once told me I made a beautiful depressed person. I took this as a compliment since at the time I was sort of cultivating a tortured writer-Betty Blue thing that required smoking constantly, crying a lot about the hopeless state of the world and quoting Dorothy Parker’s Resume. Looking back, it was definitely one of my more obnoxious phases. Fortunately, after a few months I was able to climb my way out of that suckhole of a relationship and start hanging out with people who thought I looked a lot prettier when I was happy.

But still, then as now, I value people who can appreciate a good trudge through the cesspools of the soul. Someone who understands that it’s possible to be grateful for life and its myriad blessings and still recognize that it freakin’ sucks, it hurts, that it’s messy and confusing. Certainly most of my favorite writers, from Balzac to Bukowski to Rumi to Roth, have all been ecstatically depressed.

But there’s one hot mess in particular who’s psycho shtick always made me feel better about myself because I know I’ll never be quite as crazy as he is – comedian Richard Lewis. I remember being 14 and watching the illicit HBO while my parents were asleep (yes, as well as being a head case, I’m also a lifelong insomniac) and watching this guy hem and haw his way through a monologue that took me out of my own teenaged, chubby, pimply Braceface angst.

The constant pacing, the head-slapping, the groaning “Ohmygawd, I’m so depressed” – I realized that this crazy cat from Brooklyn who even I in my suburban innocence pegged as a cokehead and myself shared a neurotic wavelength that was actually sort of funny, possibly even hilarious, and undeniably Jewish. I began entertaining my friends at school with Richard Lewis impressions – using his “from hell” to the max. “Ohmygawd, I can’t believe it, did you take the biology test? Mr. Olsen is the teacher from hell!“”Mom, spaghetti again? This dinner is, like, from hell!” (that one got me grounded, of course.)

I’ve been navigating the narrow road between trying to make people chuckle and obsessing over my ego ever since, which eventually – along with too much red wine and prententious poetry – led me into the above-mentioned “beautiful depressed person” persona. Not too many laughs there. So, like I said, I moved away from that planet, but I still end up visiting once in a while. Between the (IMHO, biased) coverage on Israel and the departure of my parents back to Scottsdale (meaning the another long absence of stellar Scrabble partners, free babysitters and two of my favorite people), it seemed I was going to be taking a visit to the abyss for a bit.

But amazingly, an antidote came swooping into town just in time: The Savannah Jewish Federation sponsored a one-night stand with my favorite batsh*t Jew last night at the JEA.

It started off a little shaky – Richard seemed more than a little scattered at first – actually, I don’t think he finished a thought for the first 20 minutes even though he’s been sober for 15 years. Once he warmed up though, he was in true form, spewing neuroses about sex, his sidekick role on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bush’s last days and the Rolling Stones. He’s still stupendously mulleted and wore an asymmetrically-zippered suit that in his words, made him look like a moron.

El Yenta Man, his brother (heretofore known as BIL, as in Yenta brother-in-law) and I were sitting with the “Young Jewish Savannah” crowd (they had seats reserved for us and everything, plus we got to meet-and-greet with Richard before the show – photos to come! I may have to lie to keep up such VIP status when El Yenta Man turns 40 this year) – but the average age in the room was probably 65. Everyone who’d donated to the Federation was there, and let’s face it; there are more Jewish philanthropists on Lipitor than not.

Now if you know Richard Lewis, you already know this is not a chaste type of humor. And not much into subtlety, either – in fact, once he got juiced, the obscenities flew fast and furious about stuff you might not want to hear while sitting next to your bubbe. I’m just sayin’ some of the old kosher folks from the Jewish retirement home may have followed him for a while, but I think he lost half the room at “masturbation puppet.”

Me, my sides ached by the time it was over, which was a whole lot better than the tension headache from hell I had when I got there. I don’t know if Richard Lewis appreciate a comparison to lamb’s blood on the door, but this guy sure staved off the Angel of Depression at my house.

Here’s some vintage Richard from my BraceFace days: