The father says goodbye, smiling and waving, and promises that tomorrow they will be together again. (Poke the screen, and make barbed wire appear, blocking the father from his kids!) The children are herded into a changing barracks and then toward showers. (Poke the screen to make flames shoot up from the crematoria chimneys!) In the barracks, the little girl narrator remembers “the roundup,” when she and her fellow Jews were herded from their town. (Poke the windows, already helpfully graffiti’d with “JUIFS,” and watch them shatter! Touch the people on the street wearing yellow stars, and watch them fade away!) We see the children’s naked backs—the rest of their nude bodies hidden by angry gray brushstrokes and swirls of paint—as they’re sent into a gray smear full of “flakes of soap.” (Poke the flakes! They fly up into the sky, creating a hole in all the gray, a view to heaven with fluffy clouds!)
In SorryWatch news (autocorrect just changed that to SorryWatch Jews, which I guess tells you how often I type the word “Jews”), Susan and I covered TWO EXCELLENT INSTITUTIONAL APOLOGIES IN A ROW, which may be a record for us.
In personal news, my younger kid is doing junior roller derby, which is totally adorable, and my older kid has become Negasonic Teenage Warhead. In media news I am still obsessed with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The whole time I was reading Peggy’s book, I was thinking about this genius musical number from the show.
Since I apparently can’t stop raving about this show, I wrote another thing about it: My feelings about the super-duper-insider-y JAP rap battle. (Props to my editor Jonathan Zalman — JZ — for the headline, “The Notorious J.A.P.”) SO many insular shout-outs to the tribe, with references that will be missed by the goyim! I kvelled. (Autocorrect thinks that should be “keeled.” SEE WHY I NEED THIS SHOW??)
Info about the songwriter of this masterwork got cut, so I share it here:
The Jap Rap was written by Zach Sherwin, who also penned the Minaj-esque “I Give Good Parent,” about Rebecca’s preternatural skill at charming her boyfriend’s Filipino mom and dad over dinner. (Warning: It’s explicit! Take deep breaths!) “I Give Good Parent” also has twisty wordplay (“Every dish is delicious, Michelin Star!/Thank you! Please pass the arroz like I passed the bar!”) as well as Yiddish disses at a rival missus (“This shit’s my business and I’m built for success/Expect to witness a familial lovefest/Valencia? You’re zip, zilch and bupkis”). Sherwin has starred in a number of Epic Rap Battles of History on YouTube (my fave: his Einstein in the Einstein vs. Hawking showdown) and written a number of superb and very Jewy raps (listening to Serial from This American Life and feeling troubled and manipulated — how Jewish is that?) but my fave is his oddball, baked-sounding tribute to Krav Maga, filmed on a roller coaster, which contains the immortal rhyme “Krav, mah, gah, Becky/Look at her butt.”
This week I also wrote a thing about diversity in comic book media, and the simultaneous insider/Other status of the Jews. (What else is new.) It’s about Iron Fist, Aquaman, and Jewish representation. Sadly, JZ is a straight boy and therefore chose the wrong art to illustrate the piece. Here is the correct art: [click to continue…]
I went to a panel on the musical Parade (based on the Leo Frank story), featuring the show’s composer and lyricist, Jason Robert Brown; its book writer, Alfred Uhry; and the author of the definitive book on the case, Steve Oney. It was at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in conjunction with an exhibit (which originated at a Jewish museum in Georgia) about the case. Harrowing and troubling on a lot of levels…I talked about them in the piece I did for Tablet.
And I realize this is utterly frivolous and unseemly, but I have to tell you that one of my colleagues pointed out that Leo Frank looked a lot like Eddie Redmayne, and now I cannot unsee it.
While writing the piece I went down a rabbit hole of Parade-related YouTube videos. I love Jeremy Jordan but I think Brent Carver was a better fit for the part of Leo Frank. At the museum, Sebastian Arcelus sang the role, and holy crap, his acting was tremendous. He’s married to Stephanie J. Block, who ably played Lucille Frank — they just had a daughter in January, mazel tov. (Here they are in Wicked together as tiny babies in 2007 and they have so much chemistry my monitor almost combusted.)
Oh, I see the museum just put the whole panel discussion and concert online; you can watch it here.
But first, another troubling thing. I note that Oney’s book (which he spent 17 years researching) and Elaine Marie Alphin’s spectacular young adult book about the case, An Unspeakable Crime, got some terrible reviews on Amazon from customers who claimed the books were full of factual errors. I review a lot of children’s books, and I was aware that there was discussion among children’s librarians when Alphin’s book came out that it was biased and poorly sourced. I couldn’t figure out why. Now I suspect that those librarians read the Amazon comments. I’d mildly suggest they look at those Amazon commenters’ positively reviewed books (including contemporary texts by the demagogue who called for Frank and the Georgia governor to be lynched!) and consider possible agendas at play here.
Oy, have I neglected this site. The news: I finally handed in the final edit of my book, which God willing will be out in August, ptui ptui ptui. More later on that. For now, please enjoy these links, and I hope Sumac will accept my apologies for not pulling my weight on SorryWatch, which I will rectify ASAP.
So, let’s see, I did a piece on living with a rabid teen Bernie-ite, while being undecided myself about who (whom?) to vote for myself. I looked at some under-reported 2015 deaths of interesting Jews. I reviewed a non-fiction graphic novel (ugh, but what else to call it? “Graphic biography” sounds like it’s full of explicit sex and violence, and “sequential-art bio” is incoherent) by cartoonist Ted Rall, about the hibernation of the left-leaning wing of the Democratic party and the rise of Bernie. I handed in an error-ridden piece about the five Jews who have headlined Super Bowl halftime shows (I mistakenly said that Ben Stiller was half-Jewish, which is part of his schtick but is not actually true, because his mom converted before he was born, and I mistakenly thought Ethel Merman was Jewish, because she wasn’t??), which triggered a thrilling TWO editor’s notes getting appended to it. I apologize for assuming wrongful things and making an ass out of u and me. Finally, I profiled a truly cool 85-year-old Miami arts and human rights activist, Ruth Shack. After I got off the phone with her I felt buoyant.
Here’s a 2016 portrait of Ruth by artist Martin Kreloff.
Now I will feed the Bernie-ite lunch (school vacay!) and write a SorryWatch post about something yet-to-be-determined. I have a huge STACK of crappy apologies to choose from.
This week in Tablet magazine, I wrote about Carl Goldberg, a third generation schmatte man who’s clothed the men of the imminent Fiddler on the Roof revival. (He’s also shirted up School of Rock, Allegiance, Wicked, The Book of Mormon, Beautiful and Therese Raquin…and those are just the shows currently on Broadway.)
I also wrote about the demise of ugly-Hanukkah-sweater innovator GeltFiend, which I see as a metaphor, because I see everything as a metaphor.
This means the last three stories I’ve done for Tablet have been about fashion. I do not know why.