R. Crumb, Darshan

MOST REVIEWS OF R. CRUMB’S “The Book of Genesis Illustrated” seem astonished that the man who kept us truckin’ through the ’60s could possibly give the Goode Booke such a serious rendering.

But what astonishes me is that Crumb has added yet another level to the endless depth of serious Torah study.

First, about the art: Crumb is one of those Heavy Guys (like Will Eisner and Moebius) whose art defines comics through mastery of the medium and extending its possibilities. His compositions pull the reader into each panel, where subtle figures express humanity unadorned — crankiness and weird smells along with idealism and tenderness.

Awe and Inquiry

He looked up. “What are you sketching?”

She held out a pad, on which was written:


God is good.

God is.



He frowned. “What’s the point?”

She grinned. “Exactly.”

A Proposal for the Moon of Earth

I HEREBY OFFER ONE MILLION U. S. dollars to the first person, corporation or agency with the vision to proclaim humanity’s name to the cold eternal stars.

To wit: the construction of a suitable solar-powered visual display in the lunar crater Tycho, for the purpose of looping Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A space odyssey.

The display may be black-and-white or color. It must be large enough for resolution by a 90 mm telescope, yet invisible to the unaided eye. A sound broadcast is optional, but must correct for the 1.2 light-second delay.

The location corresponds to the site of the buried monollith in the film, which is why this is so cool.

Full disclosure: My current financial position far, FAR precludes me from providing the promised reward. However, given that the project will generate far more than this sum in acquired skills and spinoff technologies (not to mention sales of telescopes and astronomy media) , I am willling to settle for 10 per cent, payable per annum. Please direct all serious inquiries to scoop at sonic dot net.

UPDATES (5/16/10):

APftMoE goes back to the drawing board: we’re no longer building a MegaJumboTron. Instead, we’re going to do it via rocket-delivered “TVA1” module as detailed in http://metaphorager.net/lunar-update-back-to-the-redrawing-board/. Know anybody with a metal shop?

UPDATES (4/6/10):

Sign APftMoE’s “Lunar Immortality Now!” petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/2001shot/petition.html. (By G?d and George Pal, we’ll get this thing built yet.)

UPDATES (4/15/10):

APftMoE is now listed 413159th (as of 4/16/10) on http://www.goodideas.org/‘s list of 509 Good Ideas. Vote it into reality by going to http://www.goodideas.org/a/dtd/37744-6782.

UPDATES (3/26/10):

– “A Proposal for the Moon of Earth” now has its own Facebook page, with 12 fans at this writing. Click to become one.

– APftMoE is also soliciting donations at http://tinyurl.com/moonbucks. (Donors should probably send an email to scoop at sonic dot net so I don’t spend it on something else.)

Naked Faith

(I DELIVERED THIS YESTERDAY AT my synagogue‘s Yom Kippur morning service, and am posting it by popular post-service demand.)

For the past 10 years, Ann & I have shared a small apartment on Sonoma’s France Street. We have hosted weekly Torah studies, annual Instant Family Passover Seders, and our once-in-a-lifetime remarriage under the chuppah in 2002. But it was also recently the setting for a powerful lesson in the mechanics of teshuvah.

When I say the apartment is small, I mean /small/. The bathroom is just big enough for a shower, sink and toilet, and doesn’t leave much space for the steam which fills it after a nice hot shower. The bathroom opens on a small dining room with a window overlooking the back yard, and as nobody usually uses the back yard I often step out of the bathroom to dry off and cool down — whether or not the blinds are drawn.

You can probably see this coming.

There I was, drying myself off, looking out the window at the finches flitting in and out of the backyard bushes when our upstairs neighbor and her two children walked by, each looking in the window at me drying my hair. A few seconds later, after I had wrapped the towel around my waist, they filed back in the other direction — each shading their eyes with their hands. Neither of us spoke during the encounter, and none of us has mentioned it since.

To me, this is the very model of aveirah and teshuvah.

We all know that teshuvah means “turning,” as in “turning to God.” An aveirah is what you turn /from/. “Aveirah” is usually translated as sin, but the word “sin” carries with it connotations quite alien to its Jewish counterpart. “Aveirah” comes from the same root as the word “Hebrew,” and means “crossing,” as in “crossing the line.” By Judaism, there are three ways to cross the line of ethical behavior — mistakenly, consciously or deliberately. For example — and I’m sure we all have our own examples — sometimes we hurt each other’s feelings without knowing it. Sometimes we know it, but think it’s okay “just this once” (especially if you buy flowers afterward). And sometimes, for whatever reason, we do so intentionally.

But teshuvah isn’t always easy. Asking for forgiveness is scary — just like standing in front of someone while naked. We are vulnerable, we are open, we are defenseless; our future hangs in the balance of someone else’s action and forgiveness.

But it can be just as scary and difficult to forgive! When someone hurts us, sometimes the last thing we want to do is say “That’s okay.” We might be afraid that they’re insincere. Or that they’ll do it again. Or we might want to forgive what they did, but not be able to forget. So we make an agreement — to let the past stay in the past, and try to build a better future starting with the present. We deliberately cover our eyes to the hurtful things, consciously deciding that those hurtful things shouldn’t be so important.

And somehow, someday, suddenly — with the help of God and each other – they’re not.

For Franz Kafka

The old woman sat, softly singing, on a blue wooden chair in the middle of the vast cobbled square, rippling a carpet of birds with each cast of her hand.

Tall jagged buildings loomed on all four sides around her — blocky and black-windowed, granite-yellow in the light of the dying sun, their shadows not quite lengthened to cover her frail red-shawled form. The air was cold and redd’d her cheeks as the birds fought for dried corn and cracker crumbs.

A tall man strode toward her — dark blue and broadshouldered, a cap visor shading all but a dour mouth.



She rolled with the blow which sent her sprawling.



Fluttering clucks roared the birds swept round and round him. He raised his arms, alarmed; they were wings and he dwindled, his voice a querulous chirp among hundreds.

She felt herself, sighed, and satisfied, arose. She shifted her shawl and sat, singing softly and scattering seeds.

And Now, A Word From (One Of) Our Sponsor(s)

AS SOME VERY GOOD PEOPLE have been very good to Ann & I during our Long Medical Night, I’d like to partly return the favor – and, hopefully, benefit the 30 or so people who read this blog.

In addition to being gracious hosts, entertaining guests and generally all-around wonderful folk, Marty and Laura Clein run an online company called Conscious Consignment. Based on eBay, CC specializes in Grateful Deadabilia, vintage art, books, CDs, comics, comix, sports and concert/festival merchandise as well as many one-of-a-kind, am-I-dreaming items. Actual quote (by me):

“You guys sell all THIS? COOOOOOOOL.”

With a score of 4765 (100% positive feedback), M&L are also registered eBay Trading Assistants — meaning that, Should The Need Arise, With Times Being What They Are, they can also help you sell your collectibles if you’re new to (or frustrated with) the online consignment game. (And remember — these are my friends, so please introduce yourselves.)

On eBay: http://www.consciousconsignment.com