Zoot Theatre Company, the Holocaust and my family history collided yesterday

Sometimes life has a strange way of colliding. I’ve wanted to see a Zoot Theatre Company production for a long time. A local troupe, run by a looming Englishman with a poetic kindness in his voice, they use puppets to tell the story, with the actors swathed in black from head to toe- including covering their faces (not welcome at the Dayton City Commission meetings). With moving tabletop stages, projected images, and eight puppets and a cast of twelve (many of the times it’s two to a puppet), there is a flurry of bodies moving on stage making the story come to life.

The story yesterday was “And a child shall lead” written by Michael Slade, an emotionally taxing look at the Holocaust through the eyes of children- and the coping mechanisms they created to make sense of a world that made no sense. From the Zoot site:

This is the true story of children coming of age in Terezin, the “Jewish city” established by the Nazis as a way station before the death camps. In the face of unspeakable horror, these children use their determination and creativity — playing, studying, making art, and writing an underground newspaper — all at the peril of being executed. Their actual poems and stories are woven into this fast-paced drama.
On Sunday, April 14, noted Holocaust historian and expert, Renate Frydman, Ph.D. will discuss Terezin and very personal stories passed down through her family and the horrors directly experienced by her late husband, Charles Frydman.

via And A Child Shall Lead.

Today at 2 p.m. is the last chance you will have to see this amazingly thought-provoking play. If you don’t have plans at 2 p.m., I highly recommend it. They are performing in one of Dayton’s gems- the Dayton Art Institute’s incredible auditorium, which was beautifully restored about a dozen years ago. Tickets are still available.

Clara Hirsch, Great Grandmother of David Esrati, Death Certificate, Murdered 04. 03. 1943 Terezín

Clara Hirsch, Great Grandmother of David Esrati, Death Certificate, Murdered 04. 03. 1943 Terezín

But a few hours before the show started, a piece of my ancestry rose up out of the Internet to make the viewing of this show even more personal. My father, 86, who was born in Berlin and left at age 6 in 1933 to escape Hitler, found his grandmother’s death certificate. She died in 1943 in Terezin. The Germans are meticulous in their record keeping, my father had previously found the complete inventory of several relatives’ apartments/homes being emptied, where everything was listed and valued, but he had always assumed that the final indignity of death at the hands of the Nazis wouldn’t be found. With the help of a researcher in Israel, they found the documents in the Czech Republic archives.

Sara Clara Hirsch
Born 06. 05. 1871
Murdered 1943 Terezín

It says she died of “food poisoning” which is like saying a gunshot victim died of blood loss and ignoring the bullet.

This is how humans justify doing the wrong thing and make it palatable. Words are important. Semantics matter.

Of course, some of you are figuring out for the first time, “What? Esrati is a Jew.” The last name sounds Italian, and it’s something I don’t often waste time explaining. I don’t think religion is something that needs to be discussed any more than sexual preferences, but that’s me. The spelling of my last name is unique, there are only three of us on the planet that spell it that way- my parents, and me. It was translated from Hebrew, into the English alphabet by way of German pronunciations by my grandfather. All others have spelled it “Ezratty” or “Isardi” or some sort of variation on the two. But, the name is only three generations old- My father was born “Hirsch”- and it was only once they escaped Germany and arrived in Palestine that they decided to change it to a non-German name. My father liked the name of the washer woman, and they adopted it- leaving the German behind.

And, on the death certificate, you will find another oddity of the Nazis- my great grandmother had no middle name. The Germans added the Sara as a first name for all the Jewish women and “Israel” as the men’s. Just to make sure they knew you were a Jew.

My father sent an email out to his surviving friends yesterday:

My father’s mother visited us twice in Tel Aviv when I was a kid. She insisted on going back to Germany, saying, “Who would hurt an old lady?”

She was murdered in the Theresienstadt ghetto in 1943. At first, I was told she had been purposely starved to death. Today I got the official German death certificate.

(I did not know there were such things.)

It gave the cause of death as enteritis (food poisoning).

She was born in a Dutch-speaking area of Germany, near the Rhine, and loved chocolate. I remember going on walks with her and she always bought Flake, a British chocolate that you could crumble on your bread to make a chocolate sandwich.

Seeing that death certificate, complete with signatures of several doctors, brought the Holocaust home as nothing had ever done before — and I had been in Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, and the South Camp at the Ljubelj Tunnel.

Note, Theresienstadt and Terezin are the same place- “Stadt” is German for city- and the translation spelling is a matter of preference.

I remember him telling me about how she spoke a combination of Dutch and German- very guttural, and that he was always surprised at how he could understand some Dutch- even 40 years later when we were visiting Europe when I was 16. It was on that trip my parents visited the South Camp, I had no desire to walk on the grounds where evil was done and sat in the car and read. To this day, I still am deeply adverse to visiting places where man sank to the unimaginable depths of hell. Even the traveling Vietnam memorial scaled wall causes me to feel distraught. Futility is something that I’ve never accepted well- which may be why I continue to run for office.

Yesterday, I wrote about the teacher in Albany who may be fired for asking his/her students to write an essay explaining to their teacher that Jews were evil. I believe this teacher had succeeded in a teachable moment. The Zoot Theatre company gives you an opportunity to see the horrors of the Holocaust this afternoon, through a lens that makes it more real than any text or film. I urge you to go if you possibly can. I’ve read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s search for meaning” which was recommended to me by Martin Sheen over dinner at his brother John’s house. This play made more of an impression. Go this afternoon.

Tell them Clara Hirsch sent you.

Booty shorts: what product are you selling?

grey goose

“Booty shorts” Creative Commons License JASON ANFINSEN via Compfight

Today I’m trying something new. I’m writing something for my kids. I have 2 girls, currently 9 and 13. The older one (M) seems to have great desire to hang her derriere out of the bottom of her shorts. I’m approaching this from an advertising perspective since that’s what I do to put a roof over her head.

M. I’ve got a friend, Sally Hogshead (whom you met in Orlando at Starbucks before we headed home from Disneyworld) who is one of the most brilliant advertising minds I know. She’s also pretty hawt, just like you. It’s no secret among us in the advertising world that sex sells stuff. It’s one of those things in life that works better than it should- but it’s also intellectually weak, so we tend to try not to use it when we don’t have to.

Sally’s no stranger to doing ads that are risque. She’s done some for Dolce and Gabbana that border on pornography, and work for the Hard Rock hotel people in Las Vegas that try to make them the ultimate “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” sort of place.

Why would advertising do ads like this? To make their products memorable, to make you have some kind of emotional punch in the gut, to ultimately make people lust after whatever it is you’re selling- even if it has nothing to do with sex or sex appeal.

I hope you are smart enough to know that very expensive sunglasses don’t make ugly people look great when you look through them- but that they can make mediocre looking  people look better wearing them. Sally used one of advertising’s tricks to make you think that as long as you’re wearing their shades, you’ll constantly be running into very sexy people because they make you feel sexy- and we know that sex sells.

While Sally can still make ads for a living, that’s not her primary profession anymore. She teaches people “How to fascinate”– it’s a pretty cool gig for her, because she’s a very interesting person from an incredibly fascinating family. Her father is an orthopoedic surgeon (and no I didn’t spell it wrong, that’s the way the Brits spell it and how Dr. Hogshead prefers it) and her older sister, Nancy Hogshead, won 3 gold medals in the Olympics in swimming and is a big proponent of Title IX (making it possible for your little sister to play football if she wants). Her brother went to Harvard and is a really smart guy too- but doesn’t jump in the limelight like his sisters. She even jokes about her last name, Hogshead (on her business card it says “A hogshead is 62 gallons, what’s your last name mean smartass?”) as driving her to stand out as someone other than the girl with a funny name in school- you thought it was a horrible name when you first heard it- didn’t you? Once you met her, you wouldn’t dare think of someone with a hog head on their shoulders would you?

The 7 Triggers for Fascination

Seven ways to be fascinating

But this post is about “booty shorts” not hogsheads. It’s about what you say when your ass cheeks are hanging out the bottom of your pants. I understand you think it’s cool to be “hawt” and have the boys all go wild when you’re around and shaking your butt when you walk- but lets instead take an analytical look at what booty shorts are doing from Sally’s Fascination triggers. Yep, she’s come up with the science of desire- breaking down the ways we get attention and become fascinating to our audience to seven different “triggers”- tools that you have at your disposal to get and hold someone’s attention:

  • Power
  • Prestige
  • Mystique
  • Passion
  • Alarm
  • Rebellion
  • Trust

Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret- when she first wrote the book “Fascinate” two of the names were slightly different. Passion was “Lust” and rebellion was “vice”- so when you see me in my The Next Wave t-shirt and it says “Create Lust • Evoke Trust” you may better understand why Sally and I worked together. We both came to the same conclusions and put them into similar words. When we were still working on the draft, before the title was finalized, there was a focus on goldfish- because research had made the claim that our attention span was now around 9 seconds- about the same as a goldfish.

Boys your age are a lot like goldfish btw, as we start exploring my rationale for “hating on” booty shorts,

So which triggers do you think you use in wearing booty shorts? Well, you can use a bunch of them at the same time – but it’s pretty easy to analyze that there are some you aren’t using: Power, and trust are both out- and although teenage boys may think you are using mystique- arousing their curiosity, you are actually doing the opposite- there is nothing left to the imagination other than seeing you with your shorts off- you’ve taken away any reason to be curious about you in a meaningful way.

Now- as to Passion- remember it used to be called lust- there is a big difference between those two terms. To be passionate about something is noble- deep and strong. To be passionate about saving the world is a lot different than to lust after everything in the world, right? It’s why Sally had to refine her thesis (a thesis is her way of explaining her ideas) so that people didn’t go off in the wrong direction. So when you’re wearing booty shorts- you aren’t using passion- you’re using lust- and it’s off the approved trigger list.

You think you are using Rebellion- because you know I don’t approve. But, it’s not from my position as dad, but from my position as an advertising guy. Remember, rebellion used to be called vice- but isn’t anymore. Being truly rebellious is defined by me as an act of courage. For the people in the Arab states who fought against their countries’ rulers- was rebellion. Showing up with a slingshot at a gunfight takes bravery- and a willingness to risk your life to make a point and try to change the world. Vice on the other hand, means doing something you know you shouldn’t do- like smoking dope, drinking to excess, gambling money you can’t afford to lose or having sex for the wrong reasons. Wearing booty shorts is a shortcut to vice- not an act of rebellion.When I was growing up, wearing jeans was consider rebellious- funny huh? And the rebel in blue jeans was James Dean, and the jeans of choice were Levi’s. But, by the time I was wearing them- everyone was. We weren’t rebelling anymore- we were just saying we wanted to be like him, because the rebellion was already over- suit and tie or slacks and dress shirts had already given way to jeans and t-shirts. To be a rebel now- booty shorts don’t really work anymore. They’ve become the Levi’s of the wannabes. Anyone can wear them- and so most of your friends in school are. That doesn’t mean they are fascinating- it means that you are all conforming and competing with each other for the vice vote.

There is the alarm trigger left. “Create urgency and need” as Sally defines it. Originally, Sally wouldn’t let “Alarm” be a primary trigger in her test that I helped her implement. Over time, she’s refined the test so it can be a primary- but it one of the hardest to use effectively- without backfiring. Politicians like to use it – coupled with fear, to get people to vote for them. It’s the trigger that can make people do things they normally wouldn’t do. Like it or not- booty shorts’ use of this trigger is like fireworks on the 4th of July- especially to boys your age- and even to men my age. They scream “look at my nearly naked butt” and tease at seeing the rest of it. This isn’t advertising- it’s pandering. It’s saying I’ll let you have a peek, a taste- it’s like giving away a free sample at Cinnabon  (one of Sally’s favorite vices) where they just know that if you have a taste you’ll want to buy a whole one.

Of all the triggers you’d want to attract boys with- is this the one you really want to use? Wouldn’t you rather use prestige, mystique, passion or trust? With Alarm- it only works until someone comes with a louder siren- a thong- and then, naked. This isn’t very difficult- any of your friends can top you in a minute on the alarm scale, it’s as easy as taking off their shorts. I would hope at this point you are starting to understand why I cringe when I see you competing for fascination with this trigger.

There are so many things to love about you, to be fascinated by, to attract boys with. All I’m asking is to ditch the booty shorts and try using a more sophisticated trigger. You want to attract boys who will stick around for more than nine seconds, don’t you? Booty shorts are goldfish bait, you on the other hand- are worthy of a lot more respect and interest.

Let’s try another trigger to fascinate, one that says you’re a unique, interesting, wonderful young woman. Because that’s how I, and the world would see you- unless you’re wearing those stupid short shorts.