Two Thousand and 13. And my adieau to social media.


I wonder if there are those who play the keyboard (the computer kind) the way others play music. Their fingers typing, not just their thoughts, but their emotions. Writing with soul. No, not with soul, that seems as if one employs his soul as a tool. More like the soul itself is writing, the hands and fingers moving to an inner song.

I've been listening to "If It Be Your Will" by Leonard Cohen on repeat. It's the lone occupant of my iTunes library and is enjoying endless loopage.

This is doing three things to me. A. It makes me want to just type out the lyrics, as there is nothing I can write that comes close to the raw beauty of his words. B. It makes me want to play music with my fingers, type with rythm, and C. Puts me in a slightly morbid mood. Though I do find his music oddly uplifting.

I'm writing to say goodbye (well I'm actually writing because my posts need words). And Hello.

When embarking on my blogging voyage and subsequent entrance into social media I was greeted with:

Hello World!

Such are the words knighting those embarking on the holy mission of bloghood.

Hello World.

A new world, built on the rubble of the first, greets you joyfully.

"Hi!" with a showing of bright #fffff teeth, it joyfully proclaims.

Hello World.

Little did I know that this voyage would lead me to where I am now.

I feel as if I am that figure in "The Scream", my face being pulled by an invisible force. That force is social media. And it's eating my face off. Beard and all.

Social media has been slowly draining my life, this giant blue and white vacuum sucking my energy, slurping my time. It's time to say goodbye.

I refuse to play the game. I will not post meaningless questions to which I do not care the answer in order to get people commenting.

"Which photo do you like better?" As smug as it sounds I do not care which photo you like better. I put an enormous amount of thought into photography, and gosh-darn it I have an opinion. A strong one.

"If I get 100 likes I'll post more!!" No. No. I will not play the game.

Addicted to the high engendered by strangers' praise. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

The endless stream of time wasting links and videos. Look here! No, Look here! Wow! Dogcathorsebaby doing funnyweirdamazingthing.

And the more insidious sharing, commenting, and making friends all with an undercurrent of selfishness. It scares me.

Of course, social media isn't intrinsically evil. I'm just not at a place where it's good for me now (notwithstanding the many, many benefits it brings).

So I'm saying goodbye. Goodbye meaningless internet browsing. Goodbye mind-numbing visits to the computer. Goodbye to the 86% bad and the 14% good. Goodbye snarky commenting and late night chats. Goodbye noise.

Goodbye World. It's been real (#irony).

It's a bit scary. I have gotten wonderful feedback, a fan base, and clients through Facebook. Much of that will be gone, and I don't even know where to start looking for other ways to advertise. But I know this: Never again will I make decisions based solely on money. I believe in divine providence, in fate, karma, whatever you want to call it. If I do what is right for me and my family, then it will be good.

Hello World.

Hello wife. Hello Kids. Hello G-d. I'm back.

First we take Manhattan. Then we take berlin.


What does this all have to do with my 2013 in review? No seriously, I'm asking.

I could make up something but it would be just that.

It's just what's on my mind and while I was waiting to post this with my personal year in review, I still have something around 40 rolls to develop and scan and Facebook needs quitting before then.

For all those wonderful people I met on Facebook, please email, call, send roses (code for beer), or just come over for some pancakes. That's what we do in the real world (I think, it's been a while…).

The past year has been great to me. I 've had wonderful clients, and seem to be getting better at this while photography thing. Most importantly I've thought. About stuff. More than I think I've ever thunk before. And that's a very good thing.

So I raise my glass (Redtail Ale) and wish myself an amazing year in the real world.

Bring it on!!


Practical speak. I'll be keeping my Facebook account active and all messages will be forwarded to my email. All updates will be posted on my photography page (which will be run by my lovely wife). I don't want to cut out all the wonderful people and friends I met on Facebook so please, if you want to chat, have a question, comment etc. just shoot me an email.

Peace, love, and quinoa brownies.

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Organic, (relatively) Healthy Cookies

Quite often our neighbors can't come over to play because they are doing homework. And my daughter thinks that just isn't fair. "Why can't I have homework?" She asks. If something holds someone back from coming over to our estate, it must supersede it in the fun category. What is this magical thing called "homework" that rules others' lives, she wonders.

"I know math" declares my oldest. We were doing some "learnin", and every time I brought up a possible subject, he was suspicious. "Is that called learnin?" he asks.

Formal learning is not something we do too much with our kids. If they get interested in a subject we'll go to the library and get a few books about it, talk about it, maybe watch a youtube video or two about it. We learn by doing, by living. But sometimes they want to "do learnin". So we'll go over some writing, some math, some Jewish history or theology.

Over Chanukah, my kids got a good amount of Channukah gelt (which, contrary to popular opinion, is not a chocolate coin). Zusha, when getting his second dollar, looked it over, turned it around a couple time, "I, I, I, I, I, don't want any more monies" (this was during his stuttering phase). Mendel got a bit more and just gave them to me, didn't care too much. Chanaleh was a bit excited, counted her money, and promptly misplaced it (we found it later, after many tears). Zevi was over the top. He loved getting money, kept on comparing how much he got with how much the others ones did. Over the next couple of weeks we learned a lot about money. How change works, where money comes from (well, we tried talking about that, it's complicated), how to save, how to spend, what costs how, and how costs who, and most of all, how he could get more monies.

29 hours, 98,217 questions later, mostly asked during telephone conversations and late Friday afternoon, Estee and the two older kids decided to make an Orange Juice and Cookie stand. The kids made the OJ (fresh squeezed, it turns out there's a reason people sell lemonade, it's waaaaaay easier and cheaper), and made a large part of the cookies. We made some signs, put them up, set up our little stand, and waited.

We started late, on a chilly (for Southern California standards), afternoon. $.50 for a cookie, 5 for $2.00, $1.00 for a cup of orange juice. They learned how to make cookies, what goes into making money, how to talk maturely to adults, semi-complicated math ("How much could I get for $5.00", "If I want 6 cookies and 2 cups of orange juice, how much will that be", "$4.50? I have a $10, how much change do I get?"), tithing, and customer service.

During the hour and a half they were out there (we had to close shop when it got dark), they pulled in about $30 dollars (minus the 50 cents they gave to someone who needed some extra change for the bus). Which sounds pretty darn good for a chilly afternoon, though after coating the hour and a half of prep, 45 minutes of clean-up, and the cost of the ingredients, the hourly rate drops into the low twos. But I can see some serious income in the Summer…

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The Courage to be Free

photo-1.jpg Passover just passed. I tried to get it to stay, I really did. We even conveniently forgot to put blood on our doorpost this year so maybe it would stick around for a bit. It didn't.

(For the record, we never put blood on our doorposts, and neither does anyone else.)

The story of the exodus from Egypt is fairly well known (though the details are most often a bit misconstrued): Hebrews go down to Egypt; have many, may kids; Egyptians freak out; Enslave the Hebrews; Moses tells Pharaoh to let the Jews go; Ten plagues; yadadada.

A lesser known aspect of Passover is the fact that only a small portion of the Hebrews left Egypt. Eighty percent didn't want to leave Egypt, and were killed during the plague of darkness.

Which begs the question: HUH?!

Why would anyone want to stay as slaves in a land where you were hated.

In my community here in Long Beach, on the seventh day of Passover we have a little gathering were a bunch of people go up to the podium to share something interesting they learned about Passover.

In addition to learning that Manschewitz's biggest customer is McDonald, I also heard a wonderful explanation of the above question.

Chassidus explains that leaving Egypt isn't something that only happened way back when, but it's a constant process. The Hebrew word for Egypt is "Mitzrayim" which can also be read as "Meitzarim" which mean borders, or boundaries. Leaving Egypt means going beyond ourselves, our habits, addictions, personalities. It begs us, and allows us, to break out of any shackles, be they physical, mental, psychological, emotional, physiological, or spiritual.

There's a saying, something to the like of "You can take a nation out of Egypt, but you can't take Egypt out of a nation". Being a slave is not just a physical bondage, it's a mentality, and when G-d took us out he allowed us to break free from the slave mentality, and he allowed us to be free, to be truly free.

Yet paradoxically, freedom is hard, and takes tremendous self-courage and self-sacrifice. It's easier to remain as one is, with all his habits, vices, and reliances. Yes, I have to work from 14 hours a day making pyramids (I have no clue if the Hebrews made them or not), tombs, and storage cities. I only get some moldy bread and a bit of beer, and I have to sacrifice half my kids. But look on the bright side, I know where my food and drink are coming from, and I get to keep half my family… Is it really so bad? How do you know what will happen if you break free? Who will take care of you? What will you do with all your spare time? Won't you miss your addictions and obsessions? Aren't you scared?

The truth is I'm terrified. I'm scared of what I know I can accomplish if I just leave Egypt. But I'm also excited. Excited to go out there and change things. To dare not just to dream, but to act on those dreams. Even at the expense of lesser dreams.

I've been reading an amazing book titled The Power of Starting Something Stupid written by the inspiring Richie and Natalie Norton. It speaks about chasing your "stupid" dreams and achieving meaningful success. One of the first and most important steps mentioned is humility. Pride in who we are, what we've become, what others think of us, holds us back from changing and going after the life we want.

Humility can come from without and from within, though it's much more sustainable if it's from within. When the Jews left Egypt there was such a huge revelation of G-d ("not through an angle, nor through a Seraf, or a messenger, rather I myself") that any pride was left behind. For who can hold himself great in the presence of absolute truth?

We eat Matzah to commemorate the Jews leaving in such a haste that their bread didn't have a chance to rise. In the (paraphrased) words of the Haggadah (the text we read at the Seder the first two nights of Passover) "This here Matzah we eat for when the Jews Jews left Egypt the bread did not have time to rise until the king of kings of kings revealed himself and redeemed them".

The rising of bread symbolizes pride, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. But when making such a huge leap from bondage (all types) we need absolute humility to leave all our baggage behind. The Matzah has no pride, no taste. Back then, we were so sunk in the ways of Egypt and slavery that we couldn't muster up the humility all by ourselves, so G-d helped us out. But nowadays, once the Egypt was taken out of us, we must chase away our pride on our own. And the physical embodiment of that is making and eating Matzah.

So I'll raise a toast (currently Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Ale, I just keep going back to it) to the courage to be humble and the courage to be free.


There's a Rabbi here in Long Beach by the name of Sender Engel who goes around Long Beach and Orange County before each major Holiday with his Model Mitzvah Series. Before Passover he travels to different Hebrew Schools, Synagogues, Libraries with his Model Matzah Factory. He tells the story of Passover (with great props and all), and goes through the whole process of making Matzah. From the planting and growing of the wheat, to the threshing, winnowing, sorting, and grinding. Then the kids get to (quickly) mix the flour and water well, roll and flatten out individual Matzos, make holes, and pop them in the oven all within 18 minutes.

There was a last minute Model Matzah Bakery set up at the school, there was an email that was supposed to go out from a popular organization here, but that never happened. So it was just me, Zevi, Chanalah, and one of the Engel boys. I though he would just call it of, but he went throug the entire shpiel, (awesomely corny) jokes, history and all. I wish I had photos of the kids mixing the dough, and actually baking and eating the Matzah, but I'm a dad first, photographer second.

To be honest the Matzah wasn't too great tasting :), but that's not the point. And a Pizza oven isn't really the best (or the most Kosher) place to bake Matzas.

For a great (hilarious) video on the Matza baking process, check out this video. It's worth it.

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Milk, knives, & 5 year olds

We drink raw milk. We can only get it every other week, it costs around $8.70 for half a gallon, doesn't really freeze well, and it has more of a chance of having bad bacteria than the pasteurized, homogenized versions. It's also much healthier. The cows and milk have to live up to much higher standards (regular milk doesn't need to come from healthy cows, they just kill (pasteurize) any bacteria. It has all the good bacteria still there, and tastes a bit richer. In fact most "lactose intolerance" (as in my daughter's case) is only in relation to pasteurized milk. They do fine with the raw stuff. Yes, there's always the fear of some sort of E. Coli situation (although very rare) but I'm okay with that.

If kids didn't play there'd be less broken bones. If we protected them from all sorts of danger they'd be less mature, have less self esteem, and less equipped to handle the unsurities of the world. And in regards to food and medicine they'd be much less healthy.

We don't vaccinate (for the most part) or get anti-biotics "just in case". Because in insuring yourself against possible future harm you are subjecting yourself to a definitely less healthy present (and future).

Here is Zevi wielding a ridiculously huge knife. It's actually his job to cut up the melon on Shabbos and before we go to the park (in the Summer. In the winter it's mostly apples and cheese). Is there a chance of himself cutting himself? Of course there is, and it scares me a bit too. It also scares me when he zooms down the sidewalk on his bike, and I'm sure I'll be freaked when he starts to drive. But we know our kids. And Zevi is a very responsible one, obsessed with rules, structure, and order. He is way more careful with that knife than most adults (look how far his left hand is from the knife). He knows never to use it when we're not around and not to use it on smaller items (such as apples) where there isn't much room for his other hand.

I doubt we'd let the other kids use knives when they get to his age. My Chanaleh is in a different universe most of the time, and Mendel just loves to make trouble, but they have other responsibilities and jobs. And they thrive on it.

Why am I sharing all this? Well firstly, because I'm want to post these photos and don't want y'all to freak out :). But mainly I want people to realize that when it comes to your own life and family you are the expert. No one knows more than you do what each kid needs, and how to discipline, reward, teach, and love each individual member of your family. There will always be the judgers (yes, I know that's not a word, but it works better than judges here, or "those who judge"), the naysayers, and the social normers. Ignore them. Do your own research, trust your gut, and live fully.

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Let us rejoice and be glad in it

In the past year I have dug four holes (not counting the figurative ones). The first is way back in the backyard. Zevi planned on planting a tree so I helped him dig a nice large hole back there. This was almost 10 months ago. We just filled it in last month.

The next two were under the swings so my kids wouldn't constantly hurt their toes (there isn't much yummier than little toes).

And the fourth was on the beach.

Each one was physically exerting and mentally exhilarating. Which is slightly embarrassing, I mean, why should a full grown adult (albeit a slightly short one) so enjoy the simple task of digging a hole?

I very much want to go on a rant right now. About the value of manual labor and the fallacy of making all economical decisions based solely on a time/money merit basis. But I won't. Not here. It's coming though.

I read a great blog post by a great woman who lost her infant and today would be celebrating his third birthday. She mentions "seizing each day". Looking back, what do we remember? For me it's the simple times with my family. None of them really costing much or needing a "high quality of life" (a ripe topic for another rant). Yet we live day by day, just wasting time. Worrying. Over-working. Under-praying, and definitely under-learning. Under-playing.

You have an hour or two (if you don't, then make some)? Grab a kid (preferably yours, or at least one you know), drive to the beach, and dig a hole. It's worth a heck of a lot more than an expensive movie, restaurant, and possibly even more than one of those fancy theme parks. And it's free. Like Pandora.

And just because I like sharing; Samuel Adams Octoberfest. Not worth it. Lagunitas Little 'Sumpin Ale. Very, very worth it.

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