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If the title of this post catches your eye, then you might want to have a look at my latest blog post. If you like it, please share it with your friends and perform it with me on November 5th/6th. As always, I'm open to constructive criticism in order to help improve it.

The ritual is here.
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The movie, silly, not the actual mental health practice. Have a read here.
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I finally wrote an actual Jewish blog post on my new blog. It's entitled "On Being Gay and Jewish (Or: Why YHVH Isn't a Homophobe)". Comments welcomed and appreciated - though putting them on the blog itself would be more helpful than putting them here, if you don't mind terribly.
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I've started a blog about Jewish mysticism, magic and ritual; tikkun loam; and GLBT issues as they relate to Judaism. It's called "Boundary Crosser", which one of my favorite Jewish authors says is the meaning of the word "Hebrew". I hope you'll all read it and follow it, and please tell any friends who might be interested. My first post is directly relevant to Occupy Wall Street, so passing it on is particularly important.

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So... my roommate just moved out. With about 5 hours' notice. I'll let the text messages speak for themselves. We were talking about other things, so I'm starting at the relevant part. (Note the cleverly-worded curse at the end. I'm particularly proud of it.)

This stuff is long. And surreal. )
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Today I received the following voicemail message from a client who's probably in my top 3 least favorite clients ever. It went as follows:

"Jason, [name] here. I haven't been using the computer - I never have, since you came in here, when you were having lunch here in my office that one time. So I wanted to get on to check my email, I can't get on, it says my password is - 'login failed because your user password is not entered correctly' - and I thought it was the same password that I had. I can't get on the Internet either, I don't know why. I guess you have to be able to log in correctly. So I need your advice here. I don't know what my password is, except for what it used to be. So give me a call. I need to get this done, cause I know you were paid for this already. All right, thank you, [phone number]."

This probably seems fairly innocuous, except perhaps the part at the end about being paid. But it bears pointing out that the time he talks about, when I was eating lunch in his office while working, he demanded that I leave immediately because I had dared to do so. I was pretty furious at the time, and thinking about it still leaves me upset. I spoke to a former employee of his who's also a client of mine - the lady who originally referred him to me - and she said I should write him a letter. So I did. And also got an email reply from him, and wrote one final reply back.

So here it all is. )
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Some of you may remember some of my previous humorous Craigslist posts. I just found another doozy. Have a look:

Cut for length and NSFWness )
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This is the first piece of fiction I've written in I'm not sure how long. I'm going to be posting it here as I add to it. Comments are definitely welcome, but please bear in mind that this is a first draft. The title is yet to be determined, so for now I'm just going to name it after the characters. Like the rest of my journal, you can feel free to share this piece as long as you credit me as the author (including a link). My thanks to Rachel King, for coming up with the writing prompt that became the first line of this piece.

Sven threw up his hands in exasperation after searching the apartment for the fourth time that morning; where had Camilla hidden the can of peaches? He knew Izzy would be upset if she didn’t get her peach fix pretty soon. Rummaging through the cabinets above the fridge and stove had netted him nothing, and he was starting to run out of places to look.

From the leather armchair in the far corner of the kitchen, Ezmeralda (“Izzy”) the iguana eyed Sven with her familiar expression of suspicion. While she was clearly annoyed, Sven wouldn’t quite call her look a “death stare” yet, but her narrowed eyes did at least seem to say, “If you don’t get me my peaches soon, I’d be glad to bite off your finger instead.”  For a second, he considered rubbing her head to see if it might calm her down, but quickly decided that might be a bad idea

Read more... )
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Wow. I really need to be careful about letting this journal lie fallow. I know LJ is "dead" for most people, but I refuse to give up on it entirely.

I got an email from a client today who I hadn't seen in years, and who didn't seem to realize we had met before. There were some things I needed to say to him. Very honest things, possibly unprofessional things, but things I needed to say nonetheless. Here is the letter. If anyone has critiques, I'd welcome them.

Just for the sake of clarity, the message I was replying to said he had contacted me recently and hadn't received a reply. I received no such message, by email or by phone, so I sent him back this email.

A Letter To a Bad Orthodox Jew )
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I recently posted something on the Xbox Live Forums about how I think avatars should be allowed to cross-dress, since currently they aren't. I realize that Xbox Live isn't the most gay-friendly place, so I wrote the following as a prepared response if someone came out trying to spread hate on religious grounds, which is really a pet peeve of mine as both a practicing Jew and a gay man.

If a friend or debate partner has sent you to this page, it's because he or she cares about you and wants to help you become a more considerate person. Take a few minutes, read what I have to say, and see what you think of it. It may even inspire you if you let it.

First: the bible isn't meant to be taken literally. Take it from someone who comes from a culture that's been analyzing and interpreting it for thousands of years: The most disrespectful thing you can do with the bible is to read it like it's the daily news. The only way to treat the text with genuine respect is to look for all the different layers of meaning that are in there. The surface layer is the least important, and in many cases was only directly relevant to the time in which it was written. For example, homosexuality is a problem if you're wandering in the harsh desert for 40 years, because your number 1 priority should be to have as many babies as you possibly can, so that your people will survive. The bible is one of the greatest works of history, literature and mythology that we have, and it forms the basis for our entire culture... so please try not to read it like it's a laundry list.

Likewise, it's silly to try to pretend the world was created in seven literal days. The people who wrote the bible didn't have anywhere near the science or astronomy that we have, so they did their best trying to explain how the world came to exist. Proverbs 24:3-4 tells us, "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures." This means we should value scientific knowledge in all its forms, because it comes from our God-given intelligence and reason, and it's given us all kinds of miraculous cures and technology. It has a different creation story than the bible does, but that should be no surprise, because science is rational and the bible is spiritual. They're describing the exact same thing, but the authors have very different understandings of what science is and how the universe works. The biblical creation myth isn't very different from the Greek creation myth: beautiful, poetic, and interesting, but not meant to be taken literally. The point of our creation story isn't the seven days, it's that you should listen when God tells you to do something.

Secondly: the bible is all about treating people decently and with respect. Matthew 7:12 agrees: "Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the Law and the Prophets." If you want to be a good Christian you need to listen to Matthew, instead of spreading hate in the name of a loving God.

What happens if you don't? Have a look at Matthew 6:15 : “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Or look at 1 John 4:20 : “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” "Brother", there, means “your fellow humans” as it frequently does in the bible.

But the most damning passage on hate – literally – is this one. John 3:15 : “Anyone who hates his brother is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don't have eternal life within them.” Pretty harsh, isn’t it? When the bible effectively says, “People who hate other people will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” that’s really its way of saying, “Let go of your hate, because it will ruin your life and then destroy you.”

It's really important to be able to express your feelings, though, so also remember Leviticus 19:17 : “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.” The entire 19th chapter of Leviticus is very important in Judaism, and is sometimes called “The Holiness Code” because it's a large collection of ethical commandments. What this one means is, “If someone is doing something you think is sinful, you shouldn’t hate him. You should go to him and tell him what you think, so that he knows you're not going to help him sin.” A good way to do this in conversation is to say something like this: “I want you to know I’m a devout Christian and I believe your lifestyle is sinful. I also want you to know that this isn't a personal judgment, and that I value you as much as anyone else, because only God can judge a person's sins.”

Remember, Genesis 18:25 tells us that God is the only true judge, so judging other people is really the same thing as telling someone, “I am God.” That means judging other people is the same as blasphemy. Matthew agrees for different reasons. In chapter 7, verses 1 to 5, he says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment that you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.”

The log in your eye is homophobia. And make no mistake, homophobia is just one particular form of hate. Hate is incompatible with being a good Christian – with being a good member of any religion, really – and it will destroy you if you cling to it. It may even turn into cancer, a heart attack, or any one of dozens of diseases that are linked to stress. Everyone knows hating someone can be stressful and draining… so think about how stressful and exhausting hating millions of people must be.

There must be something more productive you can do with all the energy you've been spending on hating people you don't even know. Maybe volunteer at a shelter or at your church. If you really want to help people that need all the love and care you can give them, consider children with cancer or terminal AIDS patients. Or read, or play video games, or find a new sport you like. It really doesn't matter where you put that energy, because by spending it on doing things you love instead of holding on to hate, you're making your life better, and that means everyone who gets to spend time with you has a better life too. Hate is destructive and contagious, and having it out of your life is better for you and for everyone around you.
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For those who enjoy in-character Vampire writing, I think this is some of my finest yet.

Good evening, my esteemed harpy colleagues. Here I present a consolidated report for the month of July, which includes some juicy rumors and background information about both our city and others. I have no doubt that it will satisfy your rarefied taste.

A most scathing and delicious harpy report... )
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President Obama,

I've already signed a petition, but this issue is important enough that I decided to write a personal letter also. I sincerely hope it reaches you, or at least someone who can bring it to your attention.

As I'm sure you're aware, the Defense of Marriage Act has been law since President Clinton signed it late in his second term. Because it empowers the federal government to ignore lawful marriages performed in states with legal gay marriage, it is clearly unconstitutional and always has been. Now a federal judge has ruled it as such, and I understand you are considering having the federal government appeal that ruling.

I am writing to ask you, please, to reconsider. I am a gay American, and like most gay Americans I supported you in the election because of your very progressive positions on gay rights. I applaud your extension of domestic partner benefits to federal employees and your support of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." but if you decide to appeal this judge's ruling, all of that will mean very little.

You were a law professor - a friend of mine was in your class at the U of C in fact, and spoke very highly of your teaching - so I know you understand the legal implications here. The "full faith and credit" and "equal protection" clauses of the Constitution must be upheld as sacrosanct, else we are no longer a Union. I am sure you can explain why far more eloquently than I ever could.

Beyond that, you seem to me to be a man of integrity, a man of your word. At times the realities of national politics have forced you to compromise, but now must not be one of those times. Please don't betray the trust and faith of the millions of gay Americans who supported you in the election with our donations of time and money. Please consider: If you don't take a stand now, like you promised you would, against gay Americans being treated like second-class citizens, who will? No one with any ability to cause real policy change, that's for sure.

This is a great opportunity: an opportunity to emphasize that separate is inherently unequal, that in America we do not stand for discrimination of any kind. As our nation's first black president, you are a living symbol of that fact. Fundamentalist Christian religious beliefs have no place in our secular constitutional government, and to affirm that all you have to do is nothing.

Just don't appeal the decision. Please. Allowing the DOMA to fall is the right thing to do; you said so during your campaign, and it is still true now.

Jason Louis Feldstein

The 4th

Jul. 3rd, 2010 01:13 pm
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If anyone knows about anything interesting or unusual going on in / near Pittsburgh for the 4th, I would love to hear about it. :)
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I'm looking to start an '80s cover band. I already have a male singer (me) and possibly a female singer (Ruthi), but still need a guitarist, bassist, drummer and keyboardist. Being able to sing also would help, as would being in the Pittsburgh area.

So come on, let's do this thing.
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Just by way of explaining... there used to be a "rant" page on the White Wolf site, one that was pretty hilarious. And the writer's guidelines for Vampire: the Masquerade were similarly hilarious in a rage-filled way. I hope you all enjoy, courtesy of the Wayback Machine.


Writer's Guidelines
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This is part of a thread from the Camarilla masquerade-ooc list from today. I hope you all enjoy it.

Ben (a player):
I was wondering if this ritual [Escape to a True Friend] was/going to be sanctioned? It is in
the Dice revised book, but was left out of the MET one?
Are we considering re-including it?

David (the AMST Masquerade):
I have no current plans to include it.

P. Smalley:
I just makes sense, when you think about it. Someone had to be able to research it originally to invent the ritual, and everyone knows Tremere aren't allowed to have true friends. :)

Sure they can.

It's a gargoyle in a flannel bathrobe.

P. Smalley:
There's right, and there's wrong, and then there's Mike.


I had a Tremere once that wore a bathrobe to a gathering.

I was thinking a Rutor's Hand would make an okay best friend. Or a
homunculus. Who can really tolerate like you like yourself?

If Rutor's Hand's is your best friend, do you go blind? or does it
just grow hair?

Hey, I could have said "black leather thong and biker's hat".

PS: Or a feather boa.

I'm pretty sure that's the standard uniform for Sons of Discord. Or
maybe Blood Brothers.

Hey, it was someone else who said "Rutor's Hand".

What you do with your Rutor's Hand is between you and your Regent. ;)

oh my.. I'm not high enough rank for this conversation...

P. Smalley:
What happens at the Vegas Chantry, stays at the Vegas Chantry.

Don't you have to be *real* friendly with your Regent for that? Or is
that how you advance in the Pyramid?

Rank advancement = Happy ending?

A Rutor's Hand is like the Dutch Rudder... it ain't gay because it's
still your hand.

Put a bow on it and it becomes a fashionable date.
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Lately my life has begun to feel like an endless string of work and television. Work I haven't been appropriately withholding tax money from, that is, and television that in many cases I've seen before. This is a symptom of a larger problem, namely indulging addictive behavior to distract myself from the fact that I'm not really very happy with how my life is.

These days, my life pretty much lacks an element of accomplishment or spiritual fulfillment. Watching TV, smoking, spending money, overeating, surfing the web, etc., can all help to distract me for a while, but I've had to be high or watching TV pretty much all the time I'm not working in order to maintain the illusion that I'm actually happy. For all my high-minded rhetoric about how all people choose to value either truth or comfort - with the implication that those who value truth are somehow better or more noble - I come down pretty squarely in the comfort camp the vast majority of the time.

This disturbs me greatly. What disturbs me more is that even at such a young age, I worry that this pattern might be so pervasive and well-established that I may not be able to break it. It's been years since I've even been successful at sticking to a diet.

I don't think that cold turkey is the solution, either. I need to be able to develop the willpower to be around things I enjoy without overindulging, or demonizing the thing rather than my lack of self-control. So here is a draft of some new personal rules. Please comment if you feel so moved.

1. No old TV shows, except when entertaining friends, and even then in moderation. It's okay to watch things that are currently on the air, but if I've already seen it, I will Just Say No.

2. I will smoke no more than three times a week. If I'm high, drinks are okay, but absolutely no food unless I was already hungry for a meal before smoking.

3. Every hour of TV I watch must be matched with either an hour of reading or half an hour of writing. This can be either before or after, but the debt has to be paid each week before I can watch next week's new episodes.

4. The projector screen always goes up when I'm done using it. Having to pull it down makes watching TV more of a conscious choice.

5. Video and computer games count as TV for the purposes of other rules, unless I'm playing them with friends who don't live here.

6. Go to bed by 2 AM at the very latest. By midnight or 1 is better. Otherwise I'm useless / cranky / irritable / late for work the next day, and probably won't end up taking a shower before work either.

7. No lying down on the couch. I never want to get up again. Seriously.

I'm really not sure what to do about exercise... I know I need it, but I lack the motivation to actually do it. Suggestions would be very welcome. I should probably also meditate or do magic or pray or something. Suggestions also welcome there.
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This is an exchange I've had with a woman who contacted me about a recently purchased eBay item. It was purchased two days ago, and the item description clearly stated I would mail it within 5 business days. and also had a cheaper shipping option for those who wanted a Priority Mail envelope instead of a box (less padding possible, but cheaper).

Cut for long insanity )
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I'm looking for a 3rd player for a game of Unknown Armies, a role-playing game of modern magic and horror. It's most likely going to be set in a group home for young people (age 18 - 25) recently released from mental hospitals, so your character will need to have some reason he or she was in there, but otherwise you can play whatever kind of person you want. I'd like to run the game about twice a month.

Anyone from Pittsburgh interested?
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Today, while I was working in Shadyside, someone smashed my front passenger-side window and took my GPS and my laptop case, which had all my work tools and CDs in it. Thankfully, my laptop was at home, so I still do have it and all the data that's in it. However, it looks like all or almost all of what happened today is not going to be covered by either my auto or renter's insurance, because both have $500 deductibles.

Some of you may remember a few years ago, when my friend [ profile] evilkitchenware got really badly screwed over and had some major overdraft on her bank account, and I took up a collection on her behalf from my LJ friends. It helped her a lot. I'm doing this again, but this time, it's on my own behalf. I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important... my official insurance has pretty much failed me here, and I need my GPS and tools to be able to work so that I can cover these repairs and replacements as quickly as possible.

If I'm able to get $5 or $10 from even 20 or 30 people, that would be probably be enough (I hope) to replace the window. With more people, it might even be possible to replace some of the more important adapters and CDs that I lost today, and go on working almost seamlessly.

If you can help, please Paypal whatever amount you can afford to my email address. (If you don't have it, I'll give it to you privately.)
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