Category Archives: parenting

Going green.

God and Moses in "The Comic Torah"Moses is black and God is green — and a she — and both bear a strong  resemblance to their real-life creators in “The Comic Torah,” a graphic reimagining of history’s enduring bestseller.

Husband and wife Aaron Freeman and Sharon Rosenzweig have written and illustrated a biblical midrash that is colorful, deep, funny and mind-blowing — just like the original.

And just like in the original, holy business is a messy business. And no one in the Torah is more contradictory and unfathomable than God herself, known here as YHWH.

“Vain, opinionated, wrathful and flirtatious, her larger-than-life personality impresses itself on followers and enemies alike,” Kent Worcester wrote in a review in The Comics Journal.  “[The Comic Torah] doesn’t censor the source material but instead revels in its strangeness and perversity.”

As the Five Books unroll — with each Torah portion presented in a sumptuous double spread —  the relationship between God and Israel develops in all its glory and chaos.  What caught my imagination was the shifting relationship between God and Moses, sometimes like parent and child, other times like mistress and servant, and still others as mismatched lovers, even as Moses dreams of the Promised Land.

Those dreams are not so innocent and holy. Rosenzweig and Freeman depict the Israelites’ ultimate quest as a blonde bombshell called Honey “The Land” Milkand.  Other characters include an oily Jacob, with a suit, narrow tie and pencil moustache, and a dreadlocked Aaron. Other gods, dwelling in the etymological mists of the biblical text, make an appearance,  including Zeus, who God turns to for advice. “You have a pantheon of support,” she complains. “I’m a single parent.”

“The Comic Torah” doesn’t disparage the tradition that has grown up around the Torah. Freeman and Rosenzweig have clearly wrestled with the text. But they have also tapped into one of the secrets of the Torah’s resilience, it’s weirdness and primalness. “The Comic Torah” reads like a strand of tradition that never made it into the canon.

And it’s often sharply funny. As God reveals to Moses her plans for a Tabernacle in the desert she conjures the image of a unicorn. “To cover the ceiling — Tachash skin!” she says. “Wow, it’s beautiful,” Moses says, gazing at the creature whose non-existence has broken every child’s heart. “Can I have one?” “No,” God says, “I’m only making one. But you can kill it for me.”

I wonder how some of the jokes will hold up, particularly popular references such as “Jew Tube” and to the Obama presidential campaign. (Joshua is a ringer for the president.) On the other hand, the Torah comes around every year, and is new every year, as Freeman and Rosenzweig acknowledge. “The Comic Torah,” they write “is a snapshot of the arguments we had this year. Next year, different arguments.”

And let us say: Amen.

Disclosures are in vogue. I’m never quite sure if the people who disclose really need to disclose, or if they get some sort of ego rush from doing it. While I’m sorting that out, I’ll tell you that I’m a big fan of Ben Yehuda Press, which published “The Comic Torah.” I wrote about another one of their books here. Also, I was a member of a group that helped fund the printing of “The Comic Torah.” So go now and read.



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A present for Jack.

Gotta be something better than a gift card.Jack’s 11th birthday party is in a couple weeks. And as with every birthday party my son is invited to, we’re wondering what to get Jack for a present.

When the kids were younger, it was easy to pick out a good book to give, or at the least some kind of interesting toy. But now it’s harder to be guided by what led our decisions in the past: what we think is good for them. And what do you give to kids who have more electronics than you do?

As the years passed, gift giving devolved into gift-card giving. They’ll do in a pinch. They’re shiny and plastic and branded. But they leave you with an awareness that they aren’t personal enough to give to a someone you actually know. Gift cards lack the creativity and the rip-off-the-wrapping-paperness of a real present. And with a brand comes limits.

Cash comes without some of those drawbacks, of course.  But it also conjures up those checks from Grandma, or some dirty, crumpled bills stuffed into an envelope. What the world needs now is something that combines the glitz of plastic with the perfect liquidity of cash.

To do that, we need to rebrand cash.

It’s time for: The Cash Card.

Each credit card-sized Cash Card would come stamped with an easily recognizable logo on one side and, on the other, the following ad copy targeted especially at children:

This cash can be used at Target, Barnes and Noble, Borders or wherever gift cards are accepted. You can also use it anywhere American money is welcome. You can break into smaller amounts (change). You can even give it to a charity. This cash will not expire. And if you put it into a bank account, it will pay interest. That’s right! This gift can make you money!

The card would be inserted into its own branded sleeve, with enough room for the giver to slide in a sizable wad of cash.

Wrapping paper is optional.

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Your puberty is sponsored by Old Spice.

My son is finishing a six-session unit in his 5th grade public school class called “Family Life.”  They called it something different when I was his age, but I have to admit this new name saves adults and kids from the embarrassment of having to use the S-Word around each other.

Actually, it would be inaccurate to call what my son and his classmates are learning “sexual education.” They’re learning about the male and female reproductive systems. They’re learning about HIV-AIDS. They’re learning about stereotyping. Somehow, though, they aren’t being taught about sex. Don’t ask me how this is possible, but it’s true.

What my son and the other boys are learning is that, no matter which cards puberty eventually deals them, they can count on the support of Old Spice  deodorant. This, I’m now convinced, is a crucial difference between my son and me and a chief reason he will sail cleanly through adolescence, while my teen years were such a tattered mess.

I know all this because after the first session he brought home a booklet called “Always changing and growing up,” made available to him by his new friends at Old Spice. Each colorful page of “Always changing” is full of crucial information on body growth, voice change, acne and healthy hair. At the bottom-right corner of each two-page spread is the Old Spice logo.

And an Old Spice ad on page 15.

Well, you can’t blame Old Spice  for touting its products, can you? It exists to make money, not to see to the education of children.

But public schools are supposed to teach. Among other things, they’re supposed to promote good judgment. And they belong to the public. They’re not supposed to be malls where businesses can peddle their wares.

Actually, in a real mall, or store, we wouldn’t be stuck with Old Spice. In a store I could decide that my son will learn how to be a man from Mennen Speed Stick.  Or Brut. Or Arrid Extra Dry. Or Tom’s of Maine. Or maybe even Trojan.

Would that be in poor taste?

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Let me be Frank!

Anne Frank

It’s Holocaust Remembrance Month at Scholastic, the Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Google and Bank of America of book publishers. And I say this with an exclamation point, so you know how important I think you should think it is!

In the edition of Scholastic’s Arrow catalogue that came home from school with my son last week, I found the familiar face of Anne Frank smiling at me from a spread called “It’s Time To Celebrate!” which also included books for Poetry Month,  Mother’s Day, Earth Day and April Fools’ Day. In addition to Anne’s own “Diary of a Young Girl” (The World-Famous Autobiography! as Scholastic informs us), the Holocaust Remembrance Month offerings include the “Holocaust Pack” (3 Stories of the Holocaust!).

I don’t know which is the most offensive, the continued romanticizing of the Holocaust and sugar coating of Anne Frank’s life and terrible death; the clueless placement of the Shoah alongside mundane and even trivial “celebrations”; the grotesquely named  Holocaust Pack, which sounds like it should come wrapped with a slab of bubble gum inside; or those damned exclamation points!

Beware when exclamation points are confused with periods. It means the writer has no clue as to how to create emphasis or focus, or doesn’t believe the reader will be able to draw the proper conclusion from a sentence, or fears the reader might somehow miss the sentence altogether, and so decides to say “look at me, look at me” by punctuating with an exclamation point.

But emphasize everything, as one of my university professors taught, and you emphasize nothing. Anne and her family hid from the Nazis for two years! Scholastic tells us, not far from Fool your friends with these hilarious jokes and pranks!

In that case, doesn’t Anne at least deserve two exclamation points?!

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Signing off.

Mr. Holzel was my father. To me, he was Daddy. Who am I to my son? That’s up to him.

But who am I to me?

And who are you, for that matter? How do you sign the note you put in the lunchbox, or the birthday card? What do you inscribe in that book, a gift that your child might reread 40 years from now?

Dad? Too Ward Cleaver.

Daddy? Possibly infantilizing.

Father? Too Eudora Welty.

Your Father. Manages to sound over-earnest and ironic.

Pop. Too Louis Armstrong.

Pa. Not unless you’re a rancher or a small farmer.

Papa. Sounds like an ironic reference to “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Abba. The Hebrew word. Could be mistaken for the Swedish pop group.

Me. Who?

That’s the problem: no choice is quite right. Who knew that the owners manual you don’t receive when you become a parent includes a chapter on writing.


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