Whiten Your Teeth in 10 Seconds Money Back Guarantee

Why is no one creeped out by the cult-ish implications of the snuggie?

I used to be the perfect American consumer: I was the person that read a bottle of Pantene Pro-V and was like, “It has vitamins, it’s science.” And I would buy four bottles and proclaim the attributes of the “pantene pro-v technology” to anyone who would listen, and even those who wouldn’t.

Pantene is just an example, of course. This has happened to me with everything from trident whitening gum to lotion that was supposed to make your skin look naturally radiant. “Infused with alpha-hydroxy microbeads to reveal skin’s natural radiance.”  Translation: “glitter mixed with aloe vera.” And even after I realized this I stubbornly continue to use the product, because it was “created using the most advanced membrane-enhancing technology by a team of highly-specialized dermatologists.” What does that even mean!? Who cares? It’s LABRATORY ENGINEERED to  make me beautiful, because yes, there are labs devoted to making skin glittery.

I wish I could say “they” only got me with the science-y stuff, but that’s not true: I’m a sucker for infomercials. My jaw goes slack, I start drooling, my eyes glaze over: I CAN’T HELP MYSELF.

Why? Because the black and white “before” video is  so very convincing.What is it about that clip that makes the most mundane tasks seem not only incredibly frustrating but something only really ugly people should ever have to deal with? “Are you tired of blowing your nose with a tissue?”  Asks the male staple infomercial voice-over.  Pan to scene of angry, unnatractive people struggling  inexplicably with kleenex in the most bizzare way – tissue blinds old man, tissue explodes,  ugly woman blows her nose too hard, trips, falls down the stairs, is decapitated, etc……And then the announcer proclaims, “Now with Clean-o you don’t have to blow your nose…this revolutionary tool does it for you, AND peels garden vegetables, all in one go! Then you see smiling, beautiful people easily blowing their noses and cutting up their greens. (Because it’s always a bizarre combination of “simplifying” two seemingly unrelated tasks). I once saw one that was both a hair cutter and a vacum cleaner. Don’t ask me how that one got the go-ahead from product testers. Where do people come up with this shit? This useless crap I can’t stop buying?!

Like I said, though, this form of advertising has always been my weakness. I am vulnerable to even the most lazily thrown together of marketing schemes, but especially 2-for 1 products that have absolutely no connection whatsoever to each other – even more so when a free makeup case/blowtorch/chenille towel/neon pink nose hair trimmer is thrown in.

BUT WAIT! If you call now you’ll get not one BUT TWO nose-hair trimmers PLUS a travel-sized eyebrow waxer…ABSOLUTELY FREE! (That’s another thing – two useless items plus one that is always, always travel sized, no matter how irrelevant it is. What do I need a travel-sized windshield wiper fluid cover for, you ask? To match my glow-in-the-dark radiator-cap, of course!)

But I digress! (As usual). My point is I was an easy sell. Until I started working in content for service-oriented companies, and had to do a lot of research, not only about the products themselves but on the marketing strategies used to advertise them to consumers.  So now I can’t even read the warning label of bleach without feeling skeptical. “It says drinking this will cause internal bleeding but I’m sure that’s an exaggeration,” I’ll say, after my third bleach cocktail.

The pose, the faux-hawk, the face…so many things about this promo pic make me want to punch this dude in the face. And then wipe up the mess with sham-wow!

So now what? How do I find a happy balance between the two modes of percption, between being a trigger happy consumer and an unrelenting skeptic?

Oh, who am I kidding. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my snuggie, cleaning the glitter lotion out of my ped-egg with a sham-wow.

If you understood any of that, I suggest you get some help. 

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Eating in the Land of Love and Honey

Gourmet fish, dressed to impress. I’m still hungry!

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? Someone asked me this while we were dining at a gourmet restaurant in California. I paused to consider the Halibut confit, white miso champagne risotto arranged beautifully on my sea-blue plate. I’ve been to some pretty amazing restaurants, traveled extensively and sampled all kinds of delicacies, from perfectly seared foie-gras to handcrafted ravioli and homemade green tea ice cream.

Despite all of these culinary adventures, I can honestly say my favorite meals are of the homemade Israeli variety….Not at some swanky restaurant in Paris or LA, but at “Chez Meir” in Zichron Yaakov.

Every friday night we go to my in-laws for dinner. The menu varies slightly but a few things are always the same: the white tablecloth, the shabbat prayers, and the over-abundance of  unbelievable food. There’s ten of us total, and the table is heaped with delicious dishes, from roast chicken and sweet potatoes to veggie-stuffed dumplings and (you guessed it) homemade hummus. It’s a loud, raucous affair, punctuated by multiple conversations spoken through mouths half-full of food.

We make jokes, we argue, and we taste everything, spilling soup on the tablecloth and mopping up the mess with challa. Dinner starts around seven, and by eleven we’re sipping the last dregs of our mint tea or turkish coffee, packing up boxes of leftover treats to last us all throughout out the week.

I love it.  I’ve had some of the best meals of my life in Israel, the majority of them at my in-laws table.

Friday family Dinner at “Chez Meir.” The menu varies but the taste and ambiance are always excellent.

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I didn’t tell my acquaintance this, at least not flat-out. I was being treated to a fine dining experience, after all, and I didn’t want to confess what I was just beginning to realize: I sort of hate gourmet food. It’s one of those things that – like the collected works of D.H. Lawrence or avant-garde performance art –  I’ve tried very hard to appreciate, out of a stubborn belief that it will make me more sophisticated and cultured.

It’s the pretense that bothers me. I feel as though the entire gourmet dining experience is designed to impress, so my expectations are unnaturally high. My first problem is with the menu – I usually don’t understand a word on it. I can ask my knowledgeable waiter who has a BA in culinary science, but it’s likely I’ll be even more confused. It’s not a mushroom sauce, I’m informed, it’s Chantelle Reduction, made from a rare type of French fungi cultivated by blind orphans from Myanmar. Their sharp sense of smell allows them to pick the choicest mushrooms, which are then flown in by helicopter directly to the kitchen.

Top: Veal dumpling on “curds of whey.” Isn’t that just a fancy way of saying cottage cheese? Ms. Muffet would rejoice! Below: My mother-in-law’s tomato cream and mozarella bread

I come to  understand that the “cardamom soil, pea tendril mojo” took hours to prepare, and it does look pretty, painted in artful strokes across the plate. But what the hell is it? And I hate to sound ignorant, but what is soil doing on my chicken? That is chicken, right?

Compare this to a scene at my in-laws. Whether it’s moussaka, moroccan fish or lamb-filled dumplings, my mother-in-law has the same answer when I ask about a dish. She shrugs her shoulders, tells me, “it’s good, try it.” “Tasty, tasty” everyone murmurs in agreement. My mother in-law shrugs again, half-smiling. “It was nothing. So easy to make. chik-chak!” She watches us eat, her face filling with pleasure. “La Breut,” she says (meaning, “for your health).” And we do, we eat for our health…and then some.

mushroom hay sorrel something-or-other.

Back at the gourmet restaurant, dishes are passed around and tasted, and we are all expected to make intelligent comments about the integration of flavors. People say things like, “Texturally, the saffron cream in the consomme is reminiscent of  the garlic aioli often served with boulibase.” Every dish is a showcase of inscrutable ingredients assembled in the most unusual way possible. Bean chimichirri with mushroom hay and sorrel, for example. Mushroom hay!? Did these mushrooms grow up on a farm? Are the blind orphans aware of this?

Admittedly, these forays into fine dining always end up making me feel both empty and disappointed.  The emptiness is probably hunger. I have never left a gourmet restaurant feeling satisfied; the portions are tiny yet the plates are almost as huge as the bill.

Maybe that’s why gourmet food hasn’t really taken off in Israel. Ask an Israeli to pay an exorbitant amount of money for a thimble’s-worth of  “milk-fed veal on dehydrated tomato confit” and they will likely walk out before the consommé has been served. In Israel, food is about substance.

Which brings me back to these Israeli family dinners. It’s not just the food that’s amazing – it’s the atmosphere. This is going to sound schmaltzy, but I really think that food tastes the best when it’s made with love. And my mother in-law puts her heart and soul into the meals she makes. Not every dish comes out looking like art. But you can bet your sweet shekels that it tastes like a masterpiece. Is it experience, the right blend of ingredients, and a flare for culinary creativity? Sure. But the poet in me maintains it’s something more, something contingent upon the symbolic act of breaking (homemade) bread with some of the best people on the planet.

To me, that’s a truly gourmet experience. The icing on the cake? I always have leftovers to take home, tasty remnants of those beautiful meals. Yet another reason for me to feel so much more at home in this land of chocolate poppyseed, date and honey-pie paradise.

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Tim Nobel and Sue Webster Trash Art

From Left to Right: Fucking Beautiful, 2002 (Snow White Version), The New Barbarians, 1997-99, Kiss of Death, 2003, all by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

From left to right: Fucking Beautiful, 2002 (Snow White Version); The New Barbarians, 1997-1999; and Kiss of Death, 2003

Their works range from effervescent, large-scale light installations to graphic art illustrations, to jaw-dropping sculptures made from materials like taxidermy animal parts, scrap metal and peanut butter. Even their website is decidedly nontraditional, in the deepest sense of the word: “Welcome, Motherfuckers!” is the greeting that welcomes visitors upon entry. They’ve successfully done away with false politesse and formality, and remain staunchly unapologetic about this fact. Suffice it to say, everything about their multi-faceted artwork grabs your attention, and heaven help us, we just can’t stop looking.

We’re talking about British collaborative artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster, who first took the art world by storm nearly fifteen years ago, and the two show no signs of slowing down (nor would we ever want them to). Their creations play both literally and figuratively on the juxtaposing relationship between ‘light’ and ‘shadow’, so it’s fitting that these are the titles of their two main bodies of work. “Our work is incredibly unsocial,” Webster has said. “There has to be complete darkness because you need to give the light and then to take it away again.“

Electric Fountain, 2008 3390 ice white diamond caps, LED bulbs and holders, 256 meters blue Intenso neon tubing, hot-dip galvanized steel, brushed stainless steel, rolled & folded sheet metal, concrete by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

One of the pair’s stellar large-scale light installations: Electric Fountain, 2008.

Their pretty, crowd-captivating light-installations explore a common thread that connects all of their varied masterpieces: investigating how people interpret abstract images through applied meaning. This is most evident in their cutting-edge “rubbish” sculptures (part of the shadow work), where the old adage “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” rings especially true. Works are made from discarded objects and later assembled into innovative sculptures that leave audiences scratching their heads in “how do they do it?!” disbelief. Which, according to Webster, is one of the duo’s goals. “The main challenge is to find a way to maintain the suspension of disbelief,” the artist told MutualArt in a recent interview.

 Dirty White Trash (With Gulls), 1998 6 months' worth of artists' trash, 2 taxidermy seagulls, light projector by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

What’s so awe-inspiring about their work? These are collaborative pieces with manifold meanings. They please the eye two-fold, like optical illusions: there’s the sculpture itself and then the image it projects. And no, we’re not just speaking metaphorically here. Case in point: Check out their  tantalizing fruit sculpture. The fruit tempts the audience in what looks like a stone obelisk of sorts, with the The original Sinners, 2000 replica fruits and berries, bark and moss, plastic ornamental bowls, fishing wire, cooking oil, electric pump mechanism, metal, MDF, light projector by Tim Noble and Sue Webstertop and bottom halves of the piece connected by cable wires. But shine a light onto the piece, and you’ll see there’s more there than meets the eye – the fruit transforms into a silhouette of a man and a woman, back to back, seemingly imprisoned in a cage, as “milk” and “honey” pour freely from both bodies. And the sculpture’s apt title, The Original Sinners (pictured left), certainly makes us think of Adam and Eve, tempted by the forbidden fruit and subsequently punished for it.

 Instant Gratification, 2001 US 1$ bills, bulldog clips, MDF, formica, perspex, 3 electric fans, slot machine mechanism, plastic tokens, light projectorby Tim Noble and Sue WebsterIt’s a triumvirate of meaning – the sculpture itself, the projected image, and the relationship between the two – eliciting a lot of gasps and ‘wow’s from even the most articulate art critics.

So just where in the world did Noble and Webster come up with this idea? We learned about their unorthodox artistic approach when we spoke with one half of the dynamic duo – Sue Webster was initially inspired to use nontraditional media after a particularly harrowing experience she had while in art school. Webster had intended to pursue a career in painting; at least, that was the plan when she enrolled in the fine art program at Nottingham Trent University in the late 80’s. Fate, it seemed, had another idea in mind. While visiting a music festival with her then-boyfriend, she had what can only be described as a very bad trip. “I consumed a very tiny and innocent looking pill called a micro dot, which turned out to be an extremely strong hallucinogenic,” Webster candidly explained. “I lost sight of [my] boyfriend, and so those terrible twins – ‘fear and paranoia’ – decided to take me by the hand and lead me on a 14 hour ‘fun’ ride.” The artist vividly remembers every detail of the ordeal:

Dirty White Trash (With Gulls), 1998. The work was composed from 6 months of artist’s trash, 2 taxidermy seagulls, and a light projector. Even the double-entendre title alludes to the dual meaning of the work.

“The ground melted beneath my feet and I thought I was being swallowed up by the earth; my shoe laces turned into writhing fluorescent green snakes that began to wrap themselves around my legs; my pupils dilated to the size of two goldfish bowls and it seemed that everybody was peering knowingly at me through my inflated goggles. The apples on the trees that wore little Michael Jackson faces were talking to me, and I remember seeking refuge in the Samaritan’s tent (which was full of other acid casualties), and I became aware of every single molecule in the Earth’s atmosphere being like a three-dimensional paisley-patterned curtain. I paused for a moment to consider if this was Heaven or Prince’s Paisely Park…My peripheral vision narrowed, and I was aware of traveling down a dark tunnel with a bright light at the end that was calling to me.”

While terrifying, the experience had a profound impact on Webster’s artistic approach. Upon returning to art school after the summer, she switched media and transferred from painting to sculpture; as she says, “I started to see things in 3D. That’s where I met Tim – he was trying to take a plaster cast of a live fish in his studio space which was underneath the staircase, and being a poor student, he took the fish home and ate it for his dinner.”

Soon after, the two began collaborating and the duality of their partnership is reflected in their art. In terms of their shadow works, we were curious to know which came first: the actual piece or the projected image it created? Webster isn’t sure of the exact moment of epiphany, but she says the idea stemmed from challenges the duo faced while working on one of their light sculptures. “I remember being frustrated whilst wiring an early work, Toxic Schizophrenia, as I had to wait for a shipment of bulbs or something, and the idea for the shadow sculptures came out of the desire to

Miss Understood and Mr Meanor, 1997 Trash and personal items, wood, light projector, light sensor by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

Miss Understood and Mr Meanor, 1997 Trash and personal items, wood, light projector, light sensor by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

keep making,” she says. “While experimenting with the assemblage of personal items and household rubbish in the studio one day, we shone a spotlight onto one of our gestating forms and were fascinated by the shadow formed on the wall. With the kind of conceptual leap that can only be achieved through the trial and error of studio practice, we began sculpting the mounds of rubbish so that our own silhouettes could be read in the shadows.” What came from this experimentation was the team’s first shadow sculpture, Miss Understood and Mr. Meanor (pictured right). (Above: Instant Gratification, 2001. Made from US $1 bills in a slot-machine mechanism with 3 electric fans, complete with plastic tokens).

This innovative approach spiraled into a series of other “rubbish works” that played off of their light sculptures, and explored a subject that both Noble and Webster continue to address in their art – redefining how abstract forms can be transformed into figurative pieces and examining how people process these relationships. The artists use materials like scrap metal and cable wire, as well as less traditional media such as animal parts, cooking oil, and even urine. (Not for the faint of heart, animal parts are also the favored media of another innovative artist, Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva. Read our interview with her here.) Webster is undecided about which media she likes best. “What’s nice about working with different materials is that there is no direct way in which to join things together, so every new method is a totally new experimental experience which keeps the work fresh,” she explains. “I guess it’s obvious that one joins metal together by welding, but there exists no textbook explanation of how to join the body of a rat (something soft and furry) to the wing of a Rook.”

 Metal Fucking Rats, 2006 Welded scrap metal, light projector by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

Metal Fucking Rats, 2006; Metal Fucking Rats with Heart-Shaped Tails, 2007

HE/SHE (Diptych) 2004  Welded scrap metal, 2 light projectorsr by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

He/She (Diptych) 2004. Welded Scrap Metal, 2 light projectors.

Webster says the core relationship between the works and the projected images are the same, regardless of whether the medium is stuffed squirrel or sterling silver: “It’s the realization of one of the most avidly pursued artistic goals in modern and contemporary art – the fusion of representation and abstraction.” This fascinating fusion is explored pictorially in the appropriately titled British Rubbish, an art book recently released about Noble and Webster’s work from the past fifteen years, with essays by Jeffrey Deitch, Michael Bracewell and Nick Cave. (Below Left: Double Header Double Pleasure, 2000. Made from sex toys, wood and a light projector. Below Right: The Gamekeeper’s Gibbet, 2011. Solid sterling silver gilded in pure gold, metal stand, light projector.)

If you look at their extensive and varied oeuvre, there are some unifying threads: The husband-and-wife team are celebrated for mixing elements of punk and counterculture into their unique art. From their “anti-monuments” to their light works and their parallel shadow pieces, nothing about their art is business as usual. Much of what they do plays off of dichotomies and a strangely seamless marriage of opposites. This is reflected by the relationship between the artists themselves. “We have a polemic relationship,” WebsterThe Gamekeeper’s Gibbet, 2011 Solid sterling silver gilded in pure gold, metal stand, light projector by Tim Noble and Sue Webster says. “A polemic is a fDouble Header Double Pleasure, 2000 Sex toys, wood, light projector by Tim Noble and Sue Websterorm of dispute, wherein the main efforts of the disputing parties are aimed at establishing the superiority of their own points of view regarding an issue. Along with debate, polemic is one of the more common forms of dispute. However, unlike debate, which may seek common ground between two parties, a polemic is intended to establish the supremacy of a single point of view by refuting an opposing point of view.” Opposition, in this case, seems to work in the artists’ favor, as the polar aspects of their pieces compliment each other, fusing images of gender and sexuality, violence and consumerism – all the ills and issues of the modern world in a smart, decidedly provocative manner. “I always find that the brain is continuously unfolding the next idea whilst attempting to finish the last,” the artist stated at the end of our conversation, leading us to the happy conclusion that Noble and Webster have more slyly subversive creations on the way. We can’t wait to see what surprises will emerge from the shadows…

Bloody Forever, 2011 325 UFO reflector caps, lamps and holders, stove enamelled aluminium, DMX driven sequencer, analogue chaser unit by Tim Noble and Sue Webster
Whatever media they choose – whether in light or shadow – Noble and Webster keep us captivated. Bloody Forever, 2011.
Images courtesy of the artist’s website.

Written by MutualArt writer Lauren Meir

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The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I’m a web content editor. Like you, I live in the 21st century. I have a facebook page (of course), and a semi-useful Blackberry. Due to my job, my blog, and the fact that I live overseas, I’m constantly using these devices to work, communicate, and generally entertain myself. I am, like many of you, attached to the computer. I write and I look at stuff online.

Smartphones have replaced the need for human interaction…and having a personality. Who needs one of those when you have cool Apps?

Out on the street, waiting in line at the store, on the bus, even at family dinners… everyone’s absorbed in their iPhones. It’s especially obvious at night. In the dark,  all that’s visible are the little illuminated boxes of their smartphone screens. They are taking pictures of random crap to send to their friends, or watching a youtube clip or using some app that makes your face fat and belch. Hours and hours of endless fun!

As luck would have it my phone is a defective Blackberry. It is not “smart,” by any means – it is severely mentally challenged. So I’m a bit out of the smartdevice loop. And I feel….sort of superior to the rest of you. I AM NOT IN THE MATRIX! Admittedly I feel a little smug about this.

I find myself frequently overcome with the urge to take all of your smartphones, iPads, tablets, laptops (wait, do people even use those anymore!?)…I.V. internet implants (If that doesn’t exist, I’m sure someone will invent it soon) and I want to drown them all in the deepest, darkest part of the ocean where they will die a cold watery death and not ever come back, not ever.

And then we will be forced to talk to each other again.  To walk around and observe trees skies and scenery not created by a  sim program.  To look at things, at buildings and dogs and babies and art, to taste food and READ BOOKS. Real books, made from paper and print.

Not that I haven’t benefited tremendously from the mobile world – aside from my job, there’s my beloved Kindle – the perfect device for a serious bibliophile. When I came to Israel I was hard pressed to find a good (and cheap) supply of English-language books. I really wanted to bring my entire library with me, but obviously was impossible. So I broke down and bought a Kindle and now I can download anything I want for cheap, and I can bring it anywhere, a vast library full of everything from Henry James to the comedic stylings of Chelsea Handler. And I can make notes! I can look stuff up. I can find out the definition of perspicacious and fibromyalgia. Joy!

But it’s not the same. I miss the smell of books, of falling asleep with several books piled around me, of waking up in my little book

Books…yes, they’re just as you remembered them.

fortress. Words literally imprinted on my face from pages left open and pressed into my skin. The feel of the pages, the smell and sound of libraries! (Dork alert). And then there are the memories – tear splotches on page 46 from reading Sexton’s “The Break;” the tomato sauce stain from the solitary dinner I had with Kafka ‘s “Metamorphosis” in a Prague cafe…writing things in a journal, on notepads, on scraps of napkins. I miss ink stains! I even miss that weird calloused indentation I had on my index and middle fingers from gripping the pen too tight.

Doesn’t anyone else long for, you know, tangible things? And by tangible, I do not mean your easily navigated touchscreen. Yes, technology has made everything so much easier, but now it’s almost too easy. All  human experience has become simplified and reduced to the point where we can no longer express ourselves except via texting and emoticons.

Really? 🙂 says it all?

I say we all boycott this smartphonewired internet connected digital solution mobile on the go-ness and learn to experience the world again with our less-than-perfect, flawed human senses. Even just for a day. An hour maybe? One step at a time.

Still not convinced? Do you see kids riding bikes anymore, or playing outside with other kids? Where are the children, you ask?

They’re glued to the screen like the rest of us, playing with a new reality tv app that let’s them customize Kim Kardashian’s butt size.  Their eyes are always glazed, their skin glowing  a sickly LCD hue. WHAT WILL BECOME OF THEM!?  I’m terrified my children will be born with flatscreen faces and will only be able to communicate in HTML.

So if nothing else, let’s do it for the children.

It starts now! The revolution will not be televised, because there won’t be any TV’s! The streets shall run black/chrome/plastic with the bodies of smart-devices, and we shall reclaim our connection to life  The pen hath mightier than the keyboard! Who’s with me!?*

*Yeah, I know, I’m a hypocrite, typing this away on my wordpress blog. If I had any dignity, I would be publishing this myself with my very own printing press, handing out my tangible tomes of wisdom to the masses! But that sounds like an awful lot of work.  So I guess what I’m saying is: I hate the information age…except when it’s convenient for me. Otherwise, yes, down with technology!*

**If my employer is reading this, I am totally kidding.

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What I do

I’m a web content editor.  In the simplest of definitions, this means I create, edit, and modify content for different websites. These can be high-tech companies looking to market products or services, information databases or social media platforms. That all sounds very boring, but it’s actually pretty cool, because no job is ever the same. Content creation means everything from writing articles about topics that range from art to economics, or product descriptions for the latest tech advancements. The job may involve creating marketing slogans and press releases, managing blogs or updating the website homepage.

Every job I’ve had in the field has been completely different, and the best part is the tasks for each vary daily. One minute you’re editing a blog, the next you’re creating a slogan for the site or brainstorming a product description. The position sort of requires you to be a jack-of-all-trades who can easily adapt to the constantly shifting demands of both your employer and your target audience.

I love this job because it’s given me the opportunity to expand my skill set and learn things I never thought I would understand, like marketing strategies and the inner-workings of the web.  I’ve learned a ton about a whole host of subjects I never would have known about otherwise. Everything from the inner-workings of the art world to mobile device apps to proactive task management. I’m now pretty confident I can write about anything!*

Mostly, I’ve learned how to adapt. I learned how to write for, and appeal to, a specific audience. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that people – no matter if they’re hipsters, business executives, or hipster business executives – want to understand what the heck it is you’re trying to tell or sell them. Sure, you want to be knowledgeable, but you don’t want to bore or alienate your audience with jargon. Write as though you’re speaking – be informal and engaging, and your audience will be captivated regardless of the subject.

*Except maybe principles of distributed algorithms in calculus, but I’m not ruling that out entirely

 

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The Carried

My mother was born sad.

The tender arms
that embraced her in infancy
were engraved with a sorrow
she would carry
for the rest of her life.

An only child
of holocaust survivors,
she learned the nature of suffering
before she could tie her shoes
or even count to ten.

Even at six,
she stares out of photographs
solemnly, her eyes full
with a terrible understanding.
She is nearly indistinguishable
from the placid-faced dolls
she clutches, mute companions
who share her silence.

In later photographs
She smiles carefully,
her mouth flawlessly painted
for the cameras’ probing eye.
She smiles
trying to reassure the world
that time heals all wounds,
that sorrow cannot be passed
from parent to child
like some nameless disease,
flawed DNA
or a birth defect.

But her eyes
betray her every time.
The sadness she holds there
is so ancient
that only the prophets,
their own eyes
heavy-laden with anguish,
would understand.

My mother was born sad.
But when she laughs,
It is like a crack in the door
as though the sky has opened,
and God – who carries it all
and says nothing – sighs
so deeply even my mother hears.

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Jews on Christmas

A very Jewy Xmas

Jesus would be with the rest of the Jews on Christmas Eve – eating Chinese food.

Every year it is like this:
On Christmas Eve
Jews creep into the silent night
prowling the streets like giddy thieves.
All the gentiles are tucked safely
in bed, presents like bright gems
glittering under the tree.
They sleep smiling, comforted
by the knowledge
that someone else died for their sins.
There’s nothing left to atone.

Beneath the sky adorned
with its endless string of lights,
we move quietly. No one speaks.
From time to time
A Jewish mother can be heard
reassuring her Aaron or Avi,
her Rachel or Ronit,
that there is no Santa Clause.
Relieved, Jewish children
resign themselves to eight
nights of dreidels spinning
in the same, tired circle.

Like the red sea we move
in waves, claiming the streets
a temporary Jerusalem.
Tonight the world
is a brightly wrapped gift
we tear through  like children,
eager to claim something our own.

Later we’ll go see a movie,
some light comedy that’ll make us laugh
so hard we’ll cry, choking on butter-soaked
popcorn, the salt sharp in our mouths.

But soon we’ll grow restless,
We’ll whine, we’ll say
it’s the weather, the stale candy, the wilting
holly hanging from the doorway. In truth
We are tired of wandering,
forever searching for the roots we’ve lost
like that miraculous oil, buried beneath
the remains of a ruined temple.

We, too, want to sit by the fire
underneath a glittering tree;
tired of being defeated
by the endless dreidel game,
sick from too many latkes
with globs of sour cream.

Even Jesus was bored by that festival.
Even Jesus did not leave cookies for Santa.
Even Jesus remained a Jew, eternally:
he didn’t get to decorate his own tree
or wrap presents for Mary Magdalene.

If Jesus were alive today,
he’d be with the rest of the Jews
on Christmas Eve: eating Chinese food
at the Golden Phoenix, quietly contemplating
his almond boneless chicken.

We would tell him this is what it means
to be chosen; and he would smile,
understanding, perhaps
better than anyone.
And as he marveled at all the sparkling
lights, we would dance in the streets.

For once we could pretend
we are no longer so serious,
throwing our laughter into heaven
like chocolate Chanukah gelt,
golden-wrapped prayers to God.

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