Friday, August 05, 2016


Will I like this movie?
Yes? No? Maybe? Who knows? That's your opening question? You want to know if you'll like this movie? Here's a better question; should you keep an open mind when going to see this movie, and the answer is, why yes, you should. Rotten Tomato score aside, are you really that conflicted over spending $15 on a summer blockbuster? I mean, c'mon. You gonna see Bad Moms instead?

When it comes to method acting in comic book movies, I prefer less Daniel Day Lewis. Will Jared Leto's portrayal of the Joker annoy me?
Surprisingly, no. And I was prepared to be annoyed. Don't get me wrong--Jordan Catalano for life, but really, 30 Seconds to my Tuchus Hole is more like it. So sometimes, I'm like, yay, Jared! And sometimes, I'm like, noooo, Jared. This time, I was way into it.

First off, despite his heavy presence in the promotional material, the Joker is more of a cameo in the movie as opposed to being a key player. Which is fine. Maybe I liked him so much because it was in small doses. Who knows. But I will say that Leto definitely made it his own. Jack Nicholson gave us the PGA Tour Joker. Heath Ledger delivered on the Pyscho Town population one-Joker. Jared Leto gives us an actual sexy Joker--no, a pansexual Joker--and I was into it. He wasn't hammy. He wasn't brooding. He was menacing, tripolar, unpredictable, chaotic, frenetic, zany, shirtless and seductive. It's wild seeing a character we've known for so long redefined and recreated for a modern time.

High praise. What's with the baby clothes though
No idea. Get back to me on that if you hear something.

Okay, cool. You liked Joker. Now, how did you feel about Harley Quinn without sounding like a creepy, leering, misogynistic adolescent fanboy?
Homina, homina, homina. 

I said, without acting like a creepy, leering, misogynistic adolescent fanboy?
Sorry, you're right. Look, I'm going to acknowledge the exposed butt cheeks in the room. Harley's outfit is definitely on the skimpy side, and I'm not entirely sure why it's so on the skimpy side, but here's the thing, Margot Robbie conjures up all the weird feeling you felt as a creepy, leering, misogynistic adolescent fanboy in a good way (sorry, not sorry) which is feeling some undeniable and weird attraction to a comic book character. Which is a thing that happens to boys all the time. Ayers kinda tapped into that bawdiness which is problematic but undeniably effective.

G-d, writing all that was so awkward.

Anyway, Robbie is a gifted actress and she brings her A game with Harley Quinn. It's a great character with emotional range and an established back story. I thought she did an exceptional job. But more so, she brought the comic book character to life in a way I have never seen any other actor or actress do so before. She almost literally tore Harley out of the pages and onto the screen. And some of that is the weird, sexual undercurrents that comes along with all of it. I'm not excusing it. I am simply stating that it is a thing and also one of the reasons why Harley a fan favorite when it comes to cosplay.

So yeah, she did great. Can I stop talking about this now? I feel like you're looking at me funny.

Yeah, we should move on. What about Will Smith?
I admittedly have a low threshold for him because every time I look at him, I think C'MON MAN THETANS IN YOUR BODY? So it's like, well, if I can tolerate him, we good. This time around, I more than tolerated. I liked him. Forgot all about the thetans.

He is good as Deadshot. No, he's very good. He brings his thespian range to the character and I believe in Floyd Lawton as a conflicted person who's capable of separating his good side from his bad side. He is a daddy who loves his daughter (awww) but he's also a hired killer (uh oh) who doesn't kill women or children (awww).

I just want to say that if he did, however, take up Deadshot again, and they had him break his no children rule to kill his own son Jaden then I would get some schadenfreude thrill from that.

Wow. okay. So it sounds like it's all good here. Suicide Squad is all thumbs up. Which makes me think you're either an idiot or a contrarian. 
Well, here's the scoop. The movie is not without its faults. Obviously. But all the working parts are there. Great actors playing great characters. Flourishes of humor. A simple, direct plot line. Established and believable characters. Great visual POP moments. Good direction.

But there are many factors here culminating into the bad reviews I've been trying not to read: 1) you can only hype a movie so much, and we have been waiting on Suicide Squad for a year already with clip after clip after trailer after behind the scenes after clip. You can't possibly live up to year long hype, especially one that's been so monumental. But this is a comic book/ movie making industry problem as a whole. Anyway...

2) The editing is somewhat problematic in that it feels a wee bit choppy but that's kind of out there as being a studio interference issue which AGAIN is a comic book/ movie making industry problem. For some reason having to do with a billion dollars, studios are super nervous Nelly when it comes to directors actually making the movie they intended to make, and so studios then get super involved in the final product too close to the release date which results in mediocrity. (see; cooks in kitchen).

3) The dialogue has some HE SAID WHAAAAAA semi-whack moments which did elicit the occasional groan or two. Specifically this one scene SPOILER ALERT in which Diablo says something about the people he had just met two days prior being his family. Gag. But whatever. I'm not excusing it, but a lot of this stuff sounds like actual comic book dialogue come to life. Which is bad but also good but also bad.

4) About that plot I mentioned. It's not great. It's not bad. It's just not great. It's fairly linear. And often the Comic Book Movie Defender Society (not a real thing, by the way) always point out that the first movie is set up for a sequel. Look, I hope there's a Suicide Squad sequel. I truly do. But you can't make a first movie based on the presumption that you'll get a second shot at Deadshot (see what I did there?). That being said, I was entertained and it succeeded at being an Effective Summer Blockbuster.

You have a lot to say about this movie.  
That's not an FAQ, but I'll respond to it anyway. Look, I liked this movie. I think it deserves a chance. I think this hyperbole-slinging critical mob gnashing their teeth and sharpening their knives is weird and disproportionate. Do they resent the Hollywood super hero movie initiative? Maybe. No. Yes. I don't know. Some of them? That's unfair to dismiss all critics as one thing and also it does a disservice toward improving the super hero movie genre. There are very valuable things David Ayers can learn from some of the criticisms if or, again, when he is given the chance to do this again. So let's read reviews with a grain of salt. Sure, Rotten Tomatoes has a 27% (ouch) but Independence Day has a 32% and I literally think of that movie as two hours of turd. Like watching someone poop on a screen. So, whatev.

Why is a movie titled Suicide Squad rated R?
Unclear, but it was very apparent to me that Ayers was purposely holding back on the bawdy talk and the violence and that, to me, was an issue. I wanted this to be DC's response to Deadpool as it should have been. And there's no question in my mind that it would have benefitted from being "harder."

But of course this was a studio decision to scale larger, but when you make narrative decisions based on how many people you can stuff into theater seats, the narrative suffers. And to be perfectly honest, I would even go so far as to say that Warner Bros unintentionally sabotaged its own bottom line by pandering to teens. GODDAMN TEENAGERS!

Any other standout moments from the movie?
I liked Jai Courtney's take on Captain Boomerang a lot and wish they gave that dude more to do. And considering that his name in the movie is Captain Boomerang, I commend him for taking it seriously because, well, Captain Boomerang. Killer Croc, also, bad ass.

Oh, and not a huge Joel Kinnaman fan. I want to want to like him, but I dunno. Whenever he talks, he sounds like he's doing a John Wayne imitation solely based on someone describing what John Wayne sounds like. It's off to me like milk that could go either way.

So, it's not a movie without its problems...?
Absolutely not. Would never claim that to be the case. But I liked it because I want to like things more than I don't want to like things. I approached this movie as a fan looking to be entertained.

Here's the thing. I was an active music critic for a long time and I listened to music in an effort to pick it apart and describe it and analyze it and find reference points and be all PHD on it because I was being paid (or not, in most cases) to be the opposite of being a fan. That's just the reality of being a critic. So you see things way different than they see things. That's a fact, and also a reason for the huge discrepancy between critic score and audience score.

How's Viola Davis by the way?
Pretty fierce. I dug her. Nice to see an African American woman in charge for once, which, by the way, Amanda Waller is kind of a big deal history-wise in the comics, and even better, in the movie, she's portrayed by an incredibly competent actor.
But here's more on that.

Did you like this better than Batman V Superman? Because I think I heard that you liked it, which is also kind of contrarian. And wrong. 
Look, I acknowledge all of BvS's faults. But the larger problem with that movie is explained better in this wonderful lil' video here. And I'm not going to go off on a tangent about my feelings on that movie because it's over and done with.
Ultimately, Suicide Squad is better than BvS for many reason, a lot of them mentioned above. But the primary reason is that last night, I felt an undercurrent of joy in the movie that many people may not see or feel. This is for me personally what I walked out with. I got the sense that everyone pretty much believed in the potential of this franchise and wanted to make it work and had fun trying to accomplish that. And this is primarily because each individual actor made his or her respective role their own. I can't say the same about Ben Affleck or Henry Cavill.

And Gal Gadot?
Homina, homina, homina.

Will you stop that? It's making me uncomfortable. 
Gal's wonderful. I'm all in. Best part of BvS as far as I'm concerned. And there's a lot riding on that movie coming out next year and I am so hopeful it hurts.

If you were to give Suicide Squad a Rotten Tomato score, what would you give?
Not sure I want to answer this one because I hate that we have scores and that's how we assess whether we should see a movie or not. I love going to the movies. Often times, I'll go see one on the Thursday night it comes out just so I can make my own assessment. So, no. No score for you. Go see it. You hate it? Okay. I'm sure you've done worse things with two hours of your time like when you did that thing with the mayonnaise jar and the skateboard.

You saw that?
I'm going to finish up here even though I have a lot more to say about this movie. And I want to end it on this hopeful note. I am so happy to be alive in a time in which all the things I loved so much as a child are now coming to life. I can't begin to describe to you the joy I feel whenever I hear about a new super hero/ comic book project green lit. And no matter how many times I have been let down, I will still recognize the special thing that is happening. The fact that these things in of itself exist is a wondrous thing. The very notion that my insular, introverted adolescent experience is now a widely accepted mass experience resonates with me in a profound way. To think that my oft misunderstood outlet, the escapism from the harshness of the day-to-day is now being embraced by so many around me. I am happy for them. I feel privileged to witness their exposure.

It's sappy, but it's real. I'm happy they made a Suicide Squad movie. Unequivocally.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


My mother thinks the future of Israel is very important. I think the future of the United States is very important. These two things are not mutually exclusive. It's just a matter of immediate focus.

And because of this focal shift, I feel like I'm losing her and people like her more and more to Trump. Which is a very weird thing to me, because it's not like Trump has been so explicit about his support of Israel. And a presumption otherwise is based on just that; presumptuousness.

But before we even get to this point of discussing the liberal vs conservative scale and all points in between, I'd like to understand what I'm thinking versus what they're thinking. This is an intellectual exercise I must partake in to alleviate the frustration and anxiety I'm feeling about the current political landscape. Of which I am feeling a great deal of deep within my soul.

For as long as I can remember, the Jews have been convinced of the fact that the Republican party will support Israel regardless of potential conflicts. They do not have the same faith in the Democratic party. The reason for this, from what I can tell, is that the Republican party has aligned itself with the Evangelicals of which there are an astoundingly 95 million in the United States. And it's no secret to any of us that Evangelicals support Israel not because they believe in a Jewish homeland for the sake of it being a Jewish homeland, but rather, they believe that the Jews must have possession of Israel in order for Jesus to return. Which has always felt to me like that fairytale we were told as kids about the witch who fattens up the lost child so she can eventually cook him for dinner. And that obviously makes me feel uncomfortable.

But if we're looking at the right here and the right now, there is a growing fear amongst my friends that a) the Liberal agenda is consuming the Democratic party b) that same Liberal agenda is dangerously and ignorantly progressive when it comes to Middle East politics and c) Hillary, if elected President, will adopt those left leaning philosophies as her own. And no matter how much you try to contest it, there is an unwillingness to accept it. Because, ultimately, that presumption is based on faith.

Which brings me back to Donald Trump. I can't remember a time prior to this in which I have been so viscerally affected by current events. I can't recall ever experiencing this burrowing sense of doom in my stomach. This is in a literal sense. I wake up in the mornings unsure of literally everything. The economy, foreign policy, racial tensions, an overall feeling of our collective safety at risk. And maybe it's because I have so much at risk with my wonderful family and home, thank G-d. The children who I would sacrifice anything for just to assure for them a stable future. Right now, I am worried for America more than I was when Sarah Palin was nominated as Vice President. More so than when Bush ran for a second term. More so than--and I don't use this comparative lightly--after 9/11. This is just how I feel. And no one can contest that.

This is why when it comes to considering my nominee, I choose Hillary. Hillary Clinton who first visited Israel 35 years ago. Hillary Clinton who has had a relationship with Yitzhak Rabin. Hillary Clinton who posted a prominent article on her website titled Hillary and Israel: A 30 Year Record of Friendship, Leadership and Strength. 

I have yet to see any of that blatant articulation from the Trump camp. Aside from the insistence of his son-in-law. And his advisor on Israel Jason Greenblatt with zero political experience whose only qualification for the job is that he's an Orthodox Jew.

But now with the recent addition of Tim Kaine as Hillary's VP pick, we're experiencing a plot twist. The extreme conservative crowd asserts that Kaine is bad for Israel based on the following facts: he is supported by J Street. He boycotted a Netanyahu speech. And in 2007 picked a controversial Muslim American to Virginia's Immigration Commission. My response to these points is foremost, the Vice President rarely if ever affects foreign policy. That is unless he's Trump's Vice President. But in a hypothetical world, let's say that you're genuinely concerned about Hillary dying, then let me quote from the J Street website: "Kaine speaks of himself as a Truman Democrat, committed to making Israel a lasting home for the Jewish people that is safe, secure and at peace with its Palestinian neighbors. Kaine is also supportive of an active role for the United States in achieving a two-state solution." I see nothing controversial there.

Now regarding his Netanyahu boycott...this one isn't so simple. But then again, nothing Netanyahu is involved in or with is simple. The man is not an unequivocally likable person. In fact, in Israel itself right now Netanyahu is at a 29% approval rating. So he is not without his critics. Kaine's boycott came at a complicated time and involved circumstances that require bigger comprehensions other than an immediate gut reaction. "I'm sad that the Israeli ambassador and the prime minister went along with this They went with the notion of "we've got to keep this quiet and not tell the Democrats," Kaine told the Forward about Netanyahu's speech to Congress. "Our party has a long tradition of being pro-Israel and being pro-Israel doesn't mean we agree on everything. We're friends, we're allies, we're partners to the extent that we have disagreements we try to work them out productively," he added. And he wasn't wrong. There were many other critics of Netanyahu's polarizing political maneuver.

And as for the last issue of concern: I could not find anything substantive on this aside from Breitbart articles or "Unofficial Megyn Kelly" blogs (yes, there is a fake Megyn Kelly blog), so I truly don't know how to respond to it.

Ultimately, though, I want to clarify my opening statement. My mom's focus is not paradoxical to mine. And it's not necessarily a semantic thing either. It's simply a comfort level discrepancy. I'm way more comfortable with a Clinton administration than with a Trump one because simply enough she is not the wild card. And he so very much is.

I would warn every single Jewish person I know to not fall victim to the desperate conservative agenda which harbors and feeds off of fear and panic. I encourage every single one of you to Google search things and to critically determine whether or not you feel those things are hyperbolic fear mongering. But most importantly, I urge you--and I can't emphasize this enough--to not just blindly share or forward a panicky clickbait link to everyone you know without understanding the implications of this forward. Because in many instances these fine purveyors of truthiness have the singular goal of getting you to their website. Not to understand the truth, or to approach the fraught nature of things with delicacy. But bling bling ad dollars.

Now it was never my intention to write this whole thing to educate others. It's my way of processing. It's how I cope with so many conflicting emotions. Fear, love, anxiety, hope, anger. All of it rolling up into a ball bouncing around my consciousness. And I have to believe with a full heart that if you care about America (of which you should) and Israel (of which is your prerogative) then Hillary Clinton is way less unpredictable than Donald Trump.

And if that's the comfort I'm given, that's the comfort I'll take.

UPDATE: Please see former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren's Facebook post. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Elvis Costello famously once said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, which is a lyricist's way of saying something that years later has even more relevance; Music criticism is redundant. 

I used to write album reviews all the time. And I hated it. It always felt to me both patronizing and egocentric, and that was during a time in which albums didn't leak early. The reader, more often than not, hadn't heard what I heard. Hadn't formulated an opinion yet. 

And no matter how long I did it for, I never felt like I gained anything from it. Never felt fulfilled. I would even consider it for myself to be the lowest form of a creative outlet. Assessing an art form based on personal preferences and taste? Knowing not enough about the process? Trying to condense someone's soul into 150 words? It's a daunting task. It's also a pointless one.

I've never felt more positive about my conscious decision to not write music reviews than I did this past weekend. Because there were three different music criticism-related links shared on social than reinforced my belief in the futility of it all. Not like everything in the world-all. Just the writing about an album aspect of things. 

The first instance of my irk monster being roused from its slumber was an article titled "Here Are 41 Reviews of Kanye West's The Life of Pablo So You Don't Have To Read Any Others." The implication here is that you're already going to be online looking for reviews because you need help formulating your own thoughts. Because you're a dummy and you can't process a record with your feeble non-critic brain. 
But Vice never does anything conventionally, so it does it in such a way that irreverently mocks itself for posting a review by not delivering one review.

Because everyone has an opinion of all cultural contributions hours after it's reached sunlight, here are forty-one  "informed" cultural opinions. 

But then again is it also mocking reviews based on, say, one submission titled "A Quick Review Written On a Phone While Out of the Office and Barely Hearing The Record, by Eric Sundermann?" Probably? Possibly? Who the hell knows? Because some of those contributions are written by real music critcis...or maybe I've thought too much about this already? All I do know is that nearly every single review, if not every single one (I couldn't get through all the millenial cuteness) shared one identical thought; that whatever Kanye does, it's probably great. And that's what you get when you ask forty-one goddamn critics to weigh in on an album. Good thing we did that. 
We are all individuals. I'm not. 

The second instance is also Yeezy-related--I mean, was anyone talking about anything else this weekend? Ironically this one also kinda proves my point which is weird because a music critic shouldn't be highlighting the redundancy of her job. I like Lindsey Zoladz's writing normally, but her article this weekend left me scratching my Jew-fro. In "Reviewing Yeezus in 2016 To Better Understand Kanye West and the Life of Pablo" is exactly that. It's an album review of an album that came out in 2013. 

"A couple of nights ago, at a party, I was trying to explain to someone the very odd thing that I do for a living," Zoladz writes. “I am a pop-music critic,” I said. That title means something a little different than it did a few years, or even months ago. A lot of the time, especially in the current era of the “surprise album,” a critic is hearing the music at the exact same time as the general public." She then proceeds to talk about the Life of Pablo and how her article would be better served reviewing his previous album Yeezus with the hindsight and perspective one can only get from living with an album for three years. 

But that's not the job. Sadly. And I admire the effort, but the article just amplifies the pointlessness of writing a music review. 

The final example is a perfect example of why music criticism is at a bad juncture. Tom Breihan's "Macklemore's "Spoons" Is The Worst Song Ever Recorded" isn't really a criticism, per se. It's a clickbait piece of narsty. And I feel like at this point in the game, that's the only way you can get people to truly care about what you're saying about music. Which is something I want nothing to do with. 

I am by no means a Macklemore fan. Let me just clarify that. I don't even care enough to write a whole article to defend the guy. He's an easy target. A white guy rapper who takes himself very seriously. Hilarious, right? Here's the thing: I admire Macklemore's efforts to rap about something substantive unlike, say, almost anything Kanye says on Life of Pablo. He cares about gay marriage within an art form where "no homo" is really the only instance in which you address homosexuality. He recorded the divisive track "White Privilege II" which I have listened to twice and each time I have found it affecting. The dude who makes rap music for white people made a lot of white people a little uncomfortable for listening to a dude who makes rap music for white people. 

Anyway, about Tom's article. "Spoons" isn't genius. I know. Understatement. But here's the thing: Breihan attacks the lyrics. Again, see anything Kanye says on Kanye's new album. So let's just say lyrics and hip-hop should not be a uniform qualifier for what's good and what's not. 

But that music. It's dorky, yes. Tho the song is not the worst song recorded in history. You can't make that qualification. It makes anything written by you from that point on therein ridiculous. Say it's awful. Say you don't like it. Say it fails, but kudos for the effort. Say anything starring John Cusack. [BTW side note: if Rivers Cuomo had recorded this song with these exact lyrics, it would have been "hilarious."]

The thing is when you're a music critic in 2016, a) you're saying the same thing everyone else is already thinking, b) you're questioning your role in the world of art, or c) you're making angry hyperbolic statements to get "people" "talking" about your blog posts. I don't blame any of the people above for what they're doing, and again, for the most part (at least the latter two), most critics are strong writers with great ability.

But if I could give any advice to anyone, or if I could be presumptuous enough to offer advice and assume people will listen to it, my thoughts are you're wasting your talents. In 2016, there's more merit in talking to the artist and get a deeper understanding of who they are before you judge their very being. Which is why I will only take on music journalism related assignments that involve direct involvement with the artist, like a profile or a collaborative piece. This is also why Genius is so popular--people want to understand the songs more than they want to know about a overinformed critic's take. 

I don't know what the alternatives are. I get it. It's a job. I'm just saying that some guy sold fax machines awhile back. And I'm sure he figured out what else he could do next. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


There are two types of noteworthy actors; the ones that truly disappear into a role. Your Michael Fassbenders. Your Christian Bales. Then there are the actors that are reliable and dependable in the art of acting, but ultimately, there isn't a discernible core difference from movie to movie. Your Matt Damons. Your Samuel L. Jacksons. Both serve a greater purpose, the former provides the audience with unpredictable entertainment. The latter is analogous to comfort food.

Brian Michael Bendis is one of the greatest comic book writers alive today. Undoubtedly. When he is on, he is awn. And after an impactful and influential streak of published work, I am finding myself frustrated and disappointed by his recent output. This is because Bendis, while exceptionally capable, is comfort food.

I want to make two clarifications first:
1. I am not insulting or belittling his work. Comfort food carries with it a negative connotation that is not intended. I mean it simply as a qualifier for how his work always tastes good.
2. Bendis, like comfort food, has perfected his recipe in a way that, comparatively to his early work, feels lazy but also dependable. Tasty, but not adventurous. Palpable but lacking in provocation. Like sweatpants.

I've thought about this a great deal because I value his contributions. His work on Alias (or Jessica Jones), Goldfish, Torso, Ultimate Spider Man, Daredevil, amongst a few others were, for the most part, revelatory. However, his run on the Avengers, X-Men and especially Guardians of the Galaxy all read as non-essential contributions. Especially Guardians which has the potential to be a flagship title for Marvel in light of the titular movie's success, but instead it reads as a mish-mash of afterthoughts. And I truly care for this title. I want it to work so badly because it has crazy potential for depth and emotion and significance.

Because I genuinely care, more than a middle-aged father of three should, I've thought about why this is happening. Why is it that a marquee name like Bendis that was once synonymous with quality storytelling has reverted into a churning quip factory? What has happened to this once uncontested superstar of the comic world?

[Full disclosure: I once had an idea for a limited edition series starring the Israeli mutant Sabra. I think in light of Marvel's progressive initiative, it would be interesting to see how they would handle a superhero from Israel. But instead of relegating this thought to daydreaming, I wrote a draft of the first issue, and upon completion, I sent the draft to Bendis who still has his email address inexplicably posted on his personal website. I never heard back, which is understood.]

After having analyzed recent issues, I've come to a very simply conclusion for why Bendis hasn't been "killing it" of late. I'm almost disappointed by how simple it is.

Bendis excels when he's focused on one singular character. His tonality and voice is wholly distinct in a way that when it comes from one focal point, it's always entertaining. It's his distinctive mix of jaunty humor, the dark undertones, the humanity of the characters, which is a significant achievement when you'll consider that for nearly half a century comic books ostensibly served as escapism from humanity.  You could almost say that Bendis is the Tarantino of comic book writers; a perfect amalgamation of sharp storytelling and winking self-awareness.

The problem is that when it comes to an ensemble cast, the characters all share one singular voice, and reading a comic in which a talking rodent sounds exactly as a half-Terran isn't much fun. There's too much dialogue. Too much "character." Everyone has a line. Everyone needs to banter. There's very little development, and even when there is, you don't care much about said development because as a reader, you don't feel connected to the characters.  The connection is lacking because when nothing is distinctive, everything is a mess of affected blather. Generic is the enemy of empathy.

Or it could be the workload which has relegated Bendis into a story arc generator who feels like he has to provide on schedule with less and less opportunity to live with these characters in his mind. My proof for this is that the current Iron Man series, while not quite quality, is still an improvement over the disappointing Guardians.

One need only look at the year end lists which compile the great titles of the previous year. New Marvel series like Vision, Squirrel Girl or Dr. Strange make it. Even Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman is getting a tempered yet respectable nod. But nowhere have I found mention or hosannas for Bendis' 2015 contributions.

In order to restore his legacy, as far as I can tell, there are two solutions. Bendis needs to focus on a series that features a starring character. This is when he really shines. He also needs to soften the Disney touch on his current series and instill more of the noir element he was once known for. Guardians doesn't need to get darker necessarily, but it has to feel less non-essential. As it stands, it's a disposable space fantasy which features all the right ingredients but when it's cooked together, it's comfort food. Which, when you think about all the quality storytelling hitting newsstands now week after week, doesn't feel as enticing as it once did.

It's a great time to be a comic fan, but it's amazing to consider how much greater it could be with some quality Bendis work.

Monday, January 11, 2016


Shana has been challenging me recently about the notion of legacy. Especially after Steven came home from school one day and summarized me as a guy who "buys a lot of collectibles."
And in light of the news today that David Bowie has passed away, I have been thinking about legacy more so than I would normally. The notion that you can contribute to the world so impactfully in such a meaningful way, and to do so on your terms without any blaring compromises. Nothing Bowie did was normal or expected--you could never have said at any point what his next album would sound like because you would have no idea what genre was inspiring him or turning him on at any given time. 

It was obvious to me that Bowie did things for himself, but not in a selfish way. But in an honest way. And sometimes that honesty backfired. Not everything he did was commercially viable, or critically acclaimed. There were some truly and unsettlingly weird moments in his career, even those that posthumously in retrospect still seem questionable. But again, they were so honest. 

A friend of mine posted on Facebook today that she was not the aspirational quote kind, but there was something that David Bowie once said that she found so wholly inspiring that she asserts to have thought about it every single day since she heard it."I forced myself to become a good songwriter," Bowie said. "And I became a good songwriter. But I had no natural talents whatsoever. I made a job of working at getting good. I wasn't one of those guys who danced out of the womb."

I think this is why his loss resonates so strongly with so many people I know. It's also a good reason for why he has inspired me today to further consider what my own legacy will be. He did things, a great many things, but it was not effortless. No, none of it was easy for him. Nor was it natural. Yet he was true to himself throughout the whole process. It would be impossible to argue that--how could you contest the authenticity of his career when he never did anything at any point that reeked of compromised commercialism? 

Thinking about all the things that I myself wish to accomplish, I can't help but analyze his life and what it was that pushed him to live his as a shining example of pure creative expression. And I think the one singular factor that made Bowie what he was to so many was his unabashed lack of fear.

He wasn't a calculating man. That would have resulted in a very different kind of career, one that most of us would not spend the time admiring. It also wasn't the hard work because a lot of people work hard and don't ever come close to achieving this weirdly amorphous achievement of equal parts admiration, credibility and influence. Bowie wasn't afraid. 
He wasn't afraid of looking weird. Because he did. 
He wasn't afraid of failing. Because he did.
He wasn't afraid of flying in the face of complacency. Because oh hell yes he did. 

If I had to admit anything to myself, it would be that I am afraid. Of failure. Of complacency. I embrace it. Sometimes I even retreat to it. I worry about how life would be if it wasn't exactly how it is. And today, on the day of David Bowie's passing, I lament. I mourn. I am saddened by his untimely loss. But most of all, I am jealous. 

I am jealous of his lack of fear. I wish I could embrace the Great Whatever and embark on the legacy I've been ruminating on for so long. 

"My entire career, I’ve only really worked with the same subject matter,” Bowie told The Associated Press in a 2002 interview. “The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I’ve always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety — all of the high points of one’s life.”

Monday, January 04, 2016


It's silly and naive.
Yet here I am again, with another fresh start, looking toward another 365 days wondering how and if this one will be any different. I'd like to be idealistic and consider all the things that this year will be for me in all the ways last year wasn't, but I wonder if, in some way, that's counterproductive.

I put too much pressure on myself to discover something profound and revelatory, eager to check things off my two ton to-do list like "find meaning," "discovery the thing you really want to do in life" and "write every day," but these are things I say to myself year after year.

This morning, I thought about how to do things differently. This morning, I sat on a crowded commuter bus and wondered how I could somehow figure out a way to not take that commuter bus. But I know the answers. They're simple answers.

It's not laziness. It's restlessness. It's fear of failure. It's not wanting to disappoint myself above disappointing all others. After all, only I know all the ideas I've had left unfulfilled. Only I know about this overwhelming mental storage closet of stories, concepts, projects, what have. There are so many. So, so many.

But all those things are so cliche. I feel even weird admitting to myself that my lack of motivation or the inability to find creative fulfillment is because of these things that are so asinine. These are the sort of things you explain to people and they laugh at your ridiculousness, respond with encouragement. They always say something nice.

There's a mental block so palpable, it almost feels literal. That there's a concrete slab in my brain so formidable that it won't allow ideas to travel through. Like a border without possibility of entry. I hear what people say and appreciate their faith and their kind words and their want to be helpful, but the effort in a phase of my life when effort is in short supply. The physical and metal demand to make an effort may seem small to some, but the demand of life is...and this is how it works.

Excuses. Aren't the contributions I can potentially make more powerful that the fears holding me back from making them? I don't know the answers yet. But I do know that this morning, I am writing here in my space after not having done so for a long while. But the thing that prevents me from continuing is that I don't necessarily have the time to belabor on thoughts and musings as I once did. I have to tell myself that that's acceptable.

Isn't it?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


My father passed away nearly thirteen years ago, and while I think about him on a daily basis, there are moments every so often when I miss his presence to a heightened degree. This resonant pang is fresh in my mind only because it happened yesterday.
While perusing my Facebook feed, I belatedly came across the Rabbinical Council of America's June 26th press release in which the Orthodox organization weighed in on the Supreme Court's ruling on same sex marriage. You don't have to be intimately familiar with the RCA to know that this press release included the word "protest." As if this were an issue--a secular issue--in which religious institutions--Orthodox jewry, in this instance--needed to issue press releases about.
But the reason why this pronouncement made me miss my father so was that my father was not only a respected rabbi, but also the EVP of the Rabbinical Council of America, and up until his passing in 2003, my dad held a position that impacted and influenced the overall day-to-day of Modern Orthodox jewry. This is not an exaggeration nor is it hyperbole. Even twelve years later, I meet rabbis all over the world who are still pining for his insight, humor and diplomacy within the clergy profession. He was a man with a King Solomon- like wisdom equal only to his genuine open-heartedness.
And so last night, lying in bed, I imagined what kind of press release my father would have drafted in light of the gay marriage equality ruling, or if he would have done so at all. And in truth, I couldn't tell you definitively one way or the other. I'd like to think that he would said nothing about it because my father, a ba'al teshuvah, had great respect and admiration for the many levels of observances particularly in an age when just about every single Jew observes in his or her distinctive way.
But let's say hypothetically, he was pressured into doing so, I considered. Even though we were very close and spoke daily, I couldn't resolve on what he would say. One of my greatest issues with contemporary Judaism is the way we create false narratives. The way we presume to know how the deceased would think or feel. And even though my relationship with dad was incomparably close, I still couldn't conjecture on this behalf. I'm sure, however, there are many who still attempt to do so.
Still my imagination got the best of me and I found myself envisioning a conversation in which he and I would discuss the truly historic ruling from last Friday. I would sense his conflict because his care for the individual was true, and he would sense my urge to advocate for--let's be frank here--an oppressed group that collectively yearns to be culturally accepted.
This isn't a religious issue, I would tell him. This is a secular one. This country was founded on the basis of separation of church and state, which means as practicing Jews, we should have nothing to say about this. Besides the First Amendment isn't necessarily an amendment with the sole purpose of protecting religion. It serves as a panacea against the religious fanatics, which means it protects your right to live an absence of faith and belief. Let's tend to our own garden, I add. Not landscape the whole block.
Interesting, he would say back. Or at least, I hope he would. I wouldn't know either way; When my father died, I had still not fully developed my intellectualism and most conversations between us weren't so heady. But I imagine he continues, But what about gay marriage being a threat to our traditional way of life? If we acknowledge this legal binding union, how will it not affect the Orthodox community?
Well, Dad, are we really so concerned about threats to our institution of marriage? If so, why isn't the RCA issuing press releases about divorce and it's drastically increasing numbers? Why aren't we troubled about infidelity ? Or the premarital sex crisis impacting our youth and young professionals? Why do we perceive the homosexual community as a threat when that community isn't even welcome into ours? Are we so weak in our faith that a perceived threat--your words, not mine--unifying outside of our fortressed walls is a cause we must speak out against?
And lets say that for the sake of argument that, and I quote, "marriage is an institution defined by the Bible and subsequent religious codes and it is upon the foundation of traditional family life that our society has been built for millennia," I think it's problematic in more ways that one. The Bible also speaks about polygamy, so really our contemporary model of matrimony is not exactly based on the Old Testament. Also, what of concubines? Or women captured in war? To not acknowledge that things have changed over the years would be wrongful. To say that whatever we call marriage now is exactly as it has been since the beginning of time would be like saying since Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, we have always been wearing clothes. Let us all don fig leaves.
My father is thinking. He is torn. He can empathize with the dilemma because unlike so many years ago, the homosexual constituency is not hiding in the closet. They are even sometimes sitting in our pews. We've witnessed the pain associated with the denial of rights firsthand. We've seen the impact of homophobic vitriol as its slung about by our leaders. We've heard the cries from conflicted and torn men and women as they look ahead to a pained life alone.
And so I ask the question for him. How do "we" deal with gay marriage? How can the Orthodox community, of which I am still proudly a part of, respond to the court ruling from June 26th? Do we say things like "no court can change God's immutable law," or "We stand committed not to lose faith in faith itself, and hope that others who cherish God's teaching will join us" as the RCA has?
It hurt me to read that last night. It hurt me that the organization that allegedly represents my leaders and clergymen is presumptuous enough to be on the wrong side of history. It saddens me that an issue of this great complexity is met with a broad stroke, a superimposed black and white filter.
But most of all, it pained me that my father wasn't here to address this issue, or as I suspect, possibly by means of revisionism, to not address it all. Which I would have respected him greatly for. Sometimes silence is more powerful than the loudest proclamation.

Monday, March 09, 2015


Last year, the New York Times ran an editorial titled "Why You Hate Work." I must have missed it when it first ran, but I had seen it posted on Facebook recently and clicked on the link. After all, the title alone resonated strongly with me.

Since then, I have re-read the first paragraph alone at least a dozen time. Because it speaks to the sensation I feel in my stomach, like a festering, bubbling pit of bile. "The way we’re working isn’t working," authors Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath wrote. "Even if you’re lucky enough to have a job, you’re probably not very excited to get to the office in the morning, you don’t feel much appreciated while you’re there, you find it difficult to get your most important work accomplished, amid all the distractions, and you don’t believe that what you’re doing makes much of a difference anyway. By the time you get home, you’re pretty much running on empty, and yet still answering emails until you fall asleep."

I often think about my intended purpose and what it is I am ultimately meant to do. I also consider my family and demands that must be met like eventual tuition for three, food on the table, clothes in the closet, and the extra things like toys and comic books. I then try to convince myself that I'm entitled and that the very notion of liking your job is as fantastical as unicorns and fairies. Who truly likes their job? How many of us say that we're happy doing what we're doing? That we enjoy being subjected the cruel whims of our superiors without their regard for our personal lives? 

Over the last five years, while I have been employed at the same job, I have struggled with finding creative fulfillment while also fulfilling my obligations as a family man. This has been a tricky intersection between idealism and practicality. Compromise and even greater compromise. The days pass even faster than before, and with each passing twenty-four hours, the responsibilities increase. What can I do, I ask myself? Sometimes I look in the mirror attempting to penetrate my soul in an effort to find the hidden answer. I'll interview myself as if I were the subject for a freelance assignment. I still haven't reached resolution. 

But the thing I find most offensive is the way we harass and bully one another into perpetuating the stereotype of "working hard," as if the hours spent in the office somehow reflected on your passions, your talents, your worthiness. But ironically, I find the opposite to be true. I'm often able to provide quality work in the typical hours provided. And if I'm not, I am fully capable of doing that from home. I have never not been able to deliver.

Yet right now, I am dealing with a "superior" who feels as if you have to sacrifice your family life and "be here" whether it's necessary or not. It's facetime on steroids. And while I could stop resisting and give in to it, I refuse to do so. I am intent on not sacrificing. I have prioritized my family, my personal life, I am holding on to the one thing that makes me happy in this world. Because they are what I can take great pride in. That's the thing I am excited about, and I feel appreciated there. I believe that what I'm doing does in fact make a difference.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Nothing can be as it was, which is why nostalgia is so palpable and potent. There's something impossibly unique about events in the past but we still try too hard to replicate how we felt, or rather how it made us feel.

Our attempt to recreate magic is definitely a huge motivational factor in pop culture. This explains Hollywood's fixation on sequels, or our ever-present reboot efforts. The music industry, too, is guilty of this strategy but it's not as blatant. Take Weezer's recent re-teaming with producer Ric Ocasek--this was bandleader River Cuomo's effort to placate the old school fans.

This morning, I got wondering about comebacks, recreating the magic that once was, but still finding room to innovate and progress. In my mind, I paired up some of my favorite musicians with producers who could probably inspire greatness after years of inconsistency. It's a geeky mental exercise, granted, but I'll share my results regardless.

Peter Gabriel produced by Nigel Godrich
Imagine pairing up one of the most soulful and artful songwriters of the last few decades, and a producer known for engendering celestial beauty.  Gabriel's work has been weirdly spotty full of non-committal electro-misfires ever since he released 1992's US. A producer like Godrich could pull Gabriel back into the zone of evocative warmth and potentially encourage him to try incorporating more woundedness into his quirkiness.

Beck produced by Ariel Rechtshaid
Beck hasn't been much fun since, say, Midnite Vultures. Sure, there was The Information and Guerro, but both albums sounded less like where it's at, and more like where it's been. Retreads of Beck's presumed idea outtakes. Nothing special, nothing offensive.
But a few sessions with do-no-wrong'r Ariel Rechtshaid could result in wondrous funtimes. Look what Rechtshaid did for Haim and Vampire Weekend--he made them both sound sophisticated and accessible, but also limber and bold. Sure, he's played the trendy producer card before with Danger Mouse on Modern Guilt, Brian Burton doesn't necessarily produce--he makes a Danger Mouse record which features the same guest vocalist on all songs. Rechtshaid is more reverent. He has a signature (wet, shiny, smooth) but doesn't impose too much of himself. Make this pairing happen.

David Bowie produced by James Murphy
This one is a no-brainer--nearly a year back, Murphy produced Bowie's best song in two decades. "Love Is Lost" was a one-off, but was also a fair indicator of how magical this collaboration could be.  Besides anything Bowie has done of very recent has been both weird and depressing. I know he's getting old and he's feeling introspective, but seriously..."Sue?"  That track is a mess.
Bowie needs to go out with a bang, a real party reminiscent of "Let's Dance" and "Dream Genie." And the only person who could bring that out of him is definitely Murph.

U2 produced by Rick Rubin
The last U2 album is flaccid and limp. This is because Bono and crew worked with the young'uns, and the young'uns like Paul Epworth, Danger Mouse (guilty again) and Ryan Tedder are all too reverent to tell this legendary band what to do. Instead they probably patronized bad decisions and sat outside the recording booth giving the thumb's up when the only exposed digit should have been a very strong thumb's down.
Rubin and U2 have worked together beforehand during the recording session of 2008's No Line On The Horizon. None of those tracks have made to the light of day. Yet if the band is sincere and true about its desire to sound like it did back in the day, only one man can accomplish that. It's the proverbial time traveler Rick Rubin. Set those old tracks free so we can properly gauge whether this union was meant to be.

Lady Gaga produced by Roy Thomas Baker w/ Jack Antonoff
Gaga needs help. If she's going to come back and be reclaim her throne as the reigning queen of P-O-P, she better bring it. Which is why I give you Roy Thomas Baker, the man responsible for the first half of Queen's catalog, the Cars, and the Darkness should be able to GLAM IT UP THE ARSE. But admittedly, Baker is old and potentially out of touch which is why I'm suggesting that maybe we have Antonoff on deck for support and rejuvenation. Antonoff is a great songwriter and supplier of hooks. He can also bring heart to a project and perhaps with all of Gaga's thick shtick, she's in some need of sincerity. It's a bizarre team up, but it could result in capital "f" fun.

Any suggestions of your own?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


The thing about moving to a new community is that you start thinking about friends. Old ones, new ones. Close ones, the ones you thought you were close to, the friends who stick with you irregard of location. There are the friends who disappear completely, and there are friends who will always feel close no matter how long the gap between catch-up sessions. 

I have spent many contemplative hours on the notion of friendship. What it means. Questioning whether its real, or if it's simply a brand name given to people of convenience. And in truth, I vacillate between the two alternatives. There are times when I feel extremely fortunate for having so many friends, but then there are time when I wonder whether I'm deluding myself. I'll sometimes wonder, what are my friends thinking? What do they say about me when I'm not around?

The other day, Jerry Seinfeld conducted an interview in which he revealed that he believes himself to be somewhere on the autism spectrum because "basic social engagement is really a struggle." There was somewhat of a backlash coming from the the autism advocacy community, but while they say controversial appropriation, it comforted me to hear this from someone so successful. 

While basic social engagement has never truly been a struggle for me, I do suffer from a deep-rooted and well hidden insecurity which makes me question just about every relationship I have ever had. It's an exhausting especially when it happens in real time, during those very moments of engagement. My hyper-analytical mind is not only devoting resources to the conversation in progress, but it is also wondering over the organic nature and potency of the connection.

Being in a new place, in new surroundings, will truly fray the nerves of this already fragile structure, throwing this dizzying centrifuge of self-doubt into a chaotic vortex. I would be lying if I did not admit that it's a weird time akin to the way you felt when you were a high school freshman, and I decided that as awkward as it is to articulate this vulnerability, I would still do so in an effort to understand it better. And perhaps even conquer it.