The Levinarian

Though time, space, and social awkwardness have conspired to separate us, let us not be separated!

"Weeping goes unheard; laughter does not" - Benjamin Franklin

Samuel Adams: "Is that crying yon?"

B.F.: "Nay. 'Tis but a backwards guffaw."

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Brief History of "Merry Christmas"

Some time after the formation of Christianity people decided to celebrate Christmas and they said "Merry Christmas" to one another without batting an eye. Several years later political correctness kicked in, and I wound up attending a university that embraced it whole heartedly. It embraced it so heartedly that when my History of the Pacific War professor wished me a "Merry Christmas" on the library steps at the end of my first semester sophomore year, I was shocked.  What was he playing at? Surely he had gotten the memo.  He was a Dean. But he was old(ish), venerable and Southern and I know it was meant more as a gesture of goodwill than as an invitation to join the Klan. While I absolved Dean Hyatt of his innocent transgression, in years since I have been less forgiving to "Merry Christmas" wishers who are not Dean's of major universities:
"Merry Christmas!" says the grocery clerk. 
"Happy Kwanza!" says I. 
You assumed I celebrated Christmas because I am white, and now I am making assumptions about you, person who is also white.

"Merry Christmas!" says the pharmacist.
"Same to you!" says I.
If you meant only goodwill towards me then I want to wish you that in return, ignoramus.  If however you meant "Jews can suck it!" then I want to wish you a similar sentiment in return.*

This year in New York I've heard so many "Happy Holidays!" from so many people that I almost wonder if they are afraid to say anything else for fear that the "Same to you!" person that they've heard about is me(it is).  It makes me want to hug them and say "I can see you!" like at the end of that 80's Twilight Zone episode 'To See the Invisible Man' where a man sentences himself to 'invisibility' by hugging an 'invisible' woman because he knows what it's like to have been himself invisible.  I don't know what I have in common with these "Merry Christmas" wishers to make me want to hug them, but now I happily say it back.  
Recent exchange in Miami:

"Merry Christmas!" says the latin grocery woman.
"Feliz Navidad!" I say.
"Merry Christmas" repeats the grocery woman.

So at the risk of offending you that have not taken this journey(such as it is) The Levinarian wishes you a very "Merry Christmas" although you will probably be reading this days, if not weeks later.

The following is a Christmas themed edition of "CONDEMONIUM", the never published comic strip my Grandfather Lee Martin created in the early 80s.   He died May 18, 2004.  Enjoy!

I spent today, Merry Christmas Day, at my aunt's god daughter's house. There were ten of us in toto. Below, print agent, I model a gift

And I think we've found next year's Christmas card

That's Orson Welles with his mother.

Buenos noches to another Feliz Navidad, mi amigos

* The verbal jujitsu that is "Same to you!" can cover many bases.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Polish Joke

A Jewish guy walks up to a healthy food store's deli. He wants six buffalo wings. There are no buffalo wings. Disappointed but undeterred he orders a burrito. As the Polish teenager behind the counter weighs and wraps the burrito, a second Polish teenager whispers something to the first, and they both laugh.
"What's so funny?" the Jewish guy asks.
"Nothing," says the first Polish teenager.
"Something was funny. What was it?" the Jewish guy persists.
"It was a Polish Joke," the Polish teenager says.
"The only Polish jokes I know are insulting to the Polish", the Jewish guy says immediately wondering if this was the smartest thing to say.
The second Polish teenager says he'll tell the joke, and another Polish deli worker comes over to listen.
Suddenly worried as to the content of the joke he's about to hear, the Jewish guy realizes that the Polish teenager cannot say anything too controversial without risk of being fired from this Polish store in this Polish neighborhood.
After a moment, the second Polish teenager begins:

A Russian, a German, and a Pole are outside a cave. The Russian has a knife, the German has a rifle, and the Pole has a flashlight. The Russian goes into the dark cave and hears a voice say, "I'm going to pull your skin off, and then I'm going to eat you!" The Russian gets scared, and runs out. The German goes into the cave, and hears a voice say, "I'm going to pull your skin off, and then I'm going to eat you!" The German drops his rifle and runs out. The Pole goes into the cave and the voice says, "I'm going to pull your skin off, and then I'm going to eat you!" The Pole turns on his flashlight, and sees a monkey holding a banana.

"It's funnier in Polish", the second Polish teenager says.
The Jewish guy takes his burrito and walks away.
On the way to the checkout, the Jewish guy grabs the last container of Chocolate Chunk 'One Smart Cookie's, and a bag of Guiltless Gourmet Baked Chili Lime Chips to go with the mild garden organic salsa he has waiting at home. He already has a bag of Guiltless Gourmet Baked Chili Lime Chips at home, but they've been opened and there might not be enough large chips left with which to eat the salsa. At home, the Jewish guy eats the burrito and cookies, but has yet to open the new bag of Guiltless Gourmet Chips.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sex Advice from Movie Extras on EXPOSED! recently asked me(by way of my friend Misha[thanks, Misha!]) to participate in their "Sex advice from..." column. They sent me a list of questions and chose some of the answers to include on their website below to the accompaniment of this picture

Or if you can't login, you can just read them here:

I love having my toes sucked, but I'm scared my girlfriend won't be into it. Any advice on introducing the topic tactfully?

Watch The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and during the post-movie talk ask, "What about that girl who liked toe-sucking? Have you ever tried that?"

I'm not the most well-endowed guy. How can I make up for what I'm lacking in size?

There should be many solutions to this in your spam folder.

My girlfriend lives with her parents. I'm homeless and couch surfing. We're getting tired of having sex in my car. What's the best way we find some alone time?

Try a $15-an-hour rehearsal studio at Champions Rehearsal Space, and please let me know if this works.

I have a big crush on someone who works as a movie extra. How can I bag him?

Just ask him, but when you do, substitute "extra" with "background artist."

What do you tell potential hookups about being an extra that helps seal the deal?

If the deal-sealer is that you're an extra, something's definitely wrong.

Have you had any good on-set hookups?

Delroy Lindo once patted me on the shoulder.

Pretty tame stuff. And with good reason: had they printed the unedited answers, my life would grind to a halt for all of the sex I would be having. While that may sound like a good thing, the editor warned me that it would, in fact, be an unmitigated disaster. So run for the hills, because the box is now open, and much of what has spilled out below is in poor taste

I slept with my roommate's boyfriend. I was drunk and don't remember,but he swears it happened. Do I have to tell her?

Good for you, and shame on him for taking advantage of you while drunk. Spin this.

I've been out with a new girl three times. I don't want it to go on any longer because I think she's a little unstable. She keeps calling. How can I let her down easily?

Does she still wanna bang? What's wrong with you, Cassanova...?

I love having my toes sucked, but I'm scared my girlfriend won't be into it. Any suggestions on how to introduce the topic?

Watch '40 year old Virgin' and then in the middle of post-movie talk insert "What about that girl that liked toe-sucking…? Have you ever tried that?" Eh?

Say you're not the most well-endowed guy. How can you make up for what you're lacking in size?

There should be many solutions to this in your spam folder. Become an expert at everything that doesn't involve penetration. Consider a 'shopping date' at 'Toys in Babeland'. This is what my 'friend' suggests; my friend with a small penis who is nothing like me, OH!

I want to have sex while I'm on my period, how can I make my boyfriend feel less weird about it?

Watch the unedited edition of 'Angel Heart' with him and then in the middle of post-movie talk insert "What about that dream sequence where Mickey Rourke has sex with Lisa Bonet while they're covered in blood…? Have you ever tried that?" Eh? But seriously, baby, I'll bet he'd do anal given the chance. Compare and contrast the humours. OR tell him you're asking only because you feel THAT comfortable with him, and that it'll help his favorite football team win the Super Bowl World Series Cup.

I accidentally read my boyfriend's email and found out he's having dinner with an ex and didn't tell me. Should I bring it up?

Ask him if he's looking to spice things up with another parnter. If he says "maybe" say "Is it that bitch you're having dinner with?" and then bang'em like there's no tomorrow.

My girlfriend lives with her parents and I'm couch surfing. We're getting tired of having sex in my car. What can we do to find some alone time?

Try a $15/hour rehearsal space at Champions. Please let me know if this works. I heard they shot a porn there once. So make less noise than that... unless you need some extras, AY!

I have a huge crush on a girl, but until now I've only been with guys. How can I make a move without seeming like I don't know what I'm doing?

In the parking lot at the 'Enchantment Under the Sea' dance, wait until I'm being a jerk to her, and then knock Biff out cold, BING!

What's the best movie to watch with someone you want to bed?

Why a movie of you bedding someone else, of course. Nothing gets people hotter than seeing other people in action. It works on their 'sneak preview' instinct. That's the best part of going to the movies, right? Only it ain't the best part of this movie, baby.

I have a big crush on someone who works as a movie extra, what's the best way to get him to go out with me?

Ask him. Possibly substitute the word 'extra' with 'background artist', and the words 'go out' with 'bang'.

How has working as an extra made you better in bed?

After many hours of waiting around, I can concentrate on a moment's notice, although I believe many people are capable of this. It's what I do when I concentrate that's gonna make you dump that drawer full of pop guns, baby.

Is there anything you tell potential bedmates about being an extra that helps to seal the deal?

If the deal sealer is that you're an extra, something's definitely wrong somewhere, so let's get down till we make it right.

Years ago, I was a naked extra in a film. My girlfriend of two years is pretty conservative and I'm scared to tell her. Do I have to own up, or will what she doesn't know not hurt her?

Don't worry, I'll mention it to her the next time we're bangin', OH!

Have you had any good on-set hook ups or sexual encounters?

Is sex all you think about, baby?

Is there anything you won't do on screen, or for your job? Where do you draw the line?

Baby, why aren't we bangin' right now?

No matter what effect the above has on your life, sexual or otherwise, I hope it helps assuage what Joseph Conrad told us during the opening screen shot of the 1984 C64 game 'ALIEN':

Monday, October 29, 2007

TRAINWRECK... where plays collided!

Sunday night October 28, 2007 at the Magnet Theater was the fourth installment of


Five scenes from four plays were performed in the first half of the show. Like the audience, the actors didn't know what the other scenes to be performed were until the night of the show. In the second half, the actors came back as their characters and improvised new scenes with the characters from the other plays. Like the first three shows, this one was a blast. All pictures were taken using my Motorola camera-phone. Thanks for being there, Verizon.


Jack Goes Boating by Bob Glaudini

Jack (Shawn Wickens) and Connie (Mary Archbold)

The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh

Dave Koenig as Ariel, Tim Wersan as Karturian, TJ Mannix as Tupolski

TJ Mannix as Tupolski(back), and Tim Wersan as Karturian

Assassins book by John Weidman

Desiree Nash as Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme and Ashley Ward as Sara Moore

Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee

Justin Zell as Henry Drummond and Adam Nowak as Matthew Brady

And then there was a second short scene from Jack Goes Boating which is actually depicted above.


Shawn is "tied up" on the floor here.


Can you name the plays from which the dialogue above was taken? Can you even read it? If so you probably know a lot about plays and have pretty good eyesight. See answers below.

What did I have to do with this? Well, I directed the scenes in the first half, and more or less put it all together. It's a lot of work and rehearsals for a one night show, but they were a talented cast which made it more than worth it.

Thanks to everyone who came out, and the Magnet for all of its support.

Until next time.... CHOO-CHOOOOO!

(Answers left to right: Martha - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Ricky Roma - Glengarry Glen Ross; Jessie - 'night Mother; Stanley - A Streetcar Named Desire)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


For four months I’d eaten Louis Rich Turkey Sandwiches sometimes loaded with Guiltless Chili-Lime cornchips, sometimes not, while I waited in a hot room in Greenpoint for a mission, and for my sins they gave me one, and it was a real doozy: active duty VietPfizernam. Closer to the VietPfizernam of ‘South Park’ than the VietPfizernam of 'Aliens' I actually welcomed the job and the subsidized cafeteria of plenty it would bring. Before bed that night, I made a list of things I'd need:

_Metrocard, 10/24 exp.

_anti-Pizza4lunch pills

Famished, I lay in bed, waiting.


My contact's name is Sun Hoo. She's going away on medical leave, something about a calcium deposit, and take a big fat guess who’s taking her place: that's right, yours truly: me: David Levin, the guy writing this. It's a new department I don't really understand, but I know the lingo, every good temp does, and the cafeteria’s only two flights down. In the hallways I run into a few ghosts of adminpast:




Somewhere a Blackberry moans.

At lunch, I get ambushed. Someone's being promoted and they're sending her off in style and take a big fat guess who's going along for the ride: that's right, still me. Eight of us(down from 13, and I don't ask what happened to the other five) hump four blocks of exhaust and asphalt to the Delegate's Cafeteria at the United Nations. Never thought I'd see the inside of this place, but Sun Hoo's arranged everything and three security checks later we're in.
Here's the thing about the UN: everyone looks like they're from someplace else. But they've all come together for one purpose: to unite nations, and occasionally eat food from them. In the Delegate’s cafeteria this week they're celebrating food from Portugal. I've been to Portugal and I make sure everybody knows it. According to the AAA guide book Portugal is still very much a poor country but I guess they went all out to impress their fellow UN countrymen with this buffet spread. In the dining room we join people who wear their eccentricities with an ease I can only assume comes from owning the bomb.
At our table, Kofi Annan brings us bread, and Kruschev serves us coffee. While we butter and eat the bread I think "Did you people not see the buffet we passed? What are you waiting for!?" but as the greenie, the low guy on the totem-pole, the one no one knows and everyone expects won’t be around much longer, I keep quiet and look out the window. The view across the East River is as diplomatically idyllic a one as mankind could hope for with equal views of Long Island City, Queens, and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with Staten Island and the Bronx floating conveniently out of sight. Finally someone from our table gets up and we get to explore and judge what the conquistadors of Brazil have to offer:

'Churchyard's Rose' Salted Portugean Cod – meh

Portugean Pork pieces – meh

Portugean Jugged Chicken - this is pretty good

Portugean Sauteed Broccoli Rabe – not too shabby

Baked Sea Bass from off the coast of 'you guessed it'– delicious! And they serve it out of a fish!

Portugean Chickpea and Watercress Soup – many of my new comrades went ga-ga over this and it was pretty good for a Radisson.

Venison prepared Portugean-style – not too shabby

Portugean Pinenut and raisin rice - many of my new comrades went ga-ga over this and it was pretty good for a Radisson.

Portugean Mesclun salad w/honey mustard vinegarette – I believe I could get this almost anywhere

Octopus arms, Portugese-style – about the length and diameter of two index fingers. This is pretty good.


Maria's Portugean cookie cake – Maria, marry-a me

Portugean Lemon bar cake – Mrs. Langberg, your lemon bars have been supplanted. You may now die.

There was a lounge in the men’s room should synchronized urination lead to diplomacy. The lounge was empty. I exited the restroom to find my company on their way out of the Delegate’s Cafeteria, me already forgotten. On the walk back, I thanked everybody for lunch and wished the woman leaving the group good luck. No one said her name(it was Amy).


Sun Hoo didn’t come in today. Maybe that calcium deposit took a turn for the worse. Maybe it’s all up to me now, sooner than I expected.
There’s left over fruit from a morning meeting in the pantry. Embarrassed, I can’t remember the last time I ate fruit and wonder what effect this has had on my body. My great uncle said when he got back from WWII he ate an entire head of lettuce. With a coffee stirrer I spear honeydew, watermelon, and pineapple, and think of my Great Uncle Rabbit.
For lunch I have a soggy salad and a slice of turkey and sun dried tomatoes on wheat crust pizza with ranch. The pills are with me, I just didn’t take them.
They say I’m here four to six weeks. What will I eat next...?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt V and Me

Born in Indianapolis in 1922, Kurt Vonnegut grew up during the Great Depression. On his way to serve as a POW in World War II, his mother committed suicide. But they don’t let you out of the BIG ONE for things like ‘dead mother’ so during his POW stint he survived the firebombing of Dresden which is estimated to have killed as many as 200, 000 people. His experience with suffering spawned a simple philosophy which I occasionally, sadly choose to ignore: “Be kind to one another”.

The following is a timeline of how Kurt Vonnegut has affected my life. Some dates have been approximated for fun.

July 30, 1974 – The words “Kurt”, “Vonnegut” and “Jr.” appear nowhere in my name.

October 15, 1988 – Read ‘Harrison Bergeron’ in a short story anthology for high school English Class. Its accompanying illustration is a little too literal for my taste. Let’s leave something to the imagination, shall we, Mr. Norton?*

May 30, 1996 – After college at Emory in Atlanta, Mitch Perlman becomes my roommate bringing with him an extensive Vonnegut collection.

June 15, 1996 – One of the web designers at iXL video where I’m interning puts a trivia question on a site which probably should have read as follows:

Question: “How many times does the phrase ‘So it goes’ appear in Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Slaughter House Five’?

Answer: You are a nerd.

September 6, 1996 – Read Mitch Pearlman’s copy of ‘Slaughter House Five’. Somewhat disappointed.

September 20, 1996 – Read Mitch Pearlman’s copy of ‘Breakfast of Champions’. The great Vonnegut Binge of '96-97 begins.

December 27, 1996 – Find copy of ‘Deadeye Dick’ at used bookstore in Miami. Feel slightly guilty that he won’t profit from the purchase.

March 1, 1997 – Bored and possibly unemployed, head to Decatur Public Library and read literary criticism of Vonnegut. I don’t remember anything, but the gist of it was they like him.

March 5, 1997 –Luke Anderson recently recounted the following anecdote which took place around or about the date posted. The following has been edited for in-jokes:

“Briefly, I really did bump into Mr. Vonnegut standing in the hallway outside of a St. Louis college or high school theater that was doing a world premiere of his play. But it was he who was coming out of the play. I was already in the hallway because I'd come late. I'm going to have to re-remember everything about it and get back to might very well have been exactly 10 years prior to last month's "brain injury"...give or take a month or so. Can't rightly say.”

The Levinarian:
“But the bookstore you were working at was selling his books at the performance, and you had to leave early because you were hosting movie night.”

“We weren't selling his books, but I was working at the bookstore, and I was hosting movie night… Anyway, I arrived late, and/or knew that it was sold out and that I couldn't stay long so it wasn't worth buying a ticket, or something, and I missed the part where he was introducing the play, or maybe I couldn't hear it b/c I was outside in the hall... The lights went down, the music/sound effects started, I watched through the little windows and noticed him in the back of the house, not far from me, and he seemed agitated and grouchy, and I stayed outside for the first few minutes of the play, going over in my head what I could possibly say if I had the chance... I looked away or something, and then suddenly the door was swinging out into my face, and maybe I put out my hand or foot or whatever and stopped it, and it hit him right in the implant-- I mean, in the forehead, or forearm, or something, and in that irreparably awkward moment of eye contact, I managed to mumble, "What do you think so far?" I thought that was pretty good, under the circumstances, considering it was the premiere for this particular music/text combination and so on, but he waved me away, grouchier than ever, and said something like, "I don't want to talk!" but I have the sense that it was shorter, like "Shh!" or "Oh, never mind!" or whatever. I saw him a few minutes later, outside having a smoke, and hung around for a while trying to think of what to say or do next. I couldn't come up with anything and left to go host movie night, but I breathed his secondhand smoke, which is something not many people can say. Well, actually, judging from the mentions of Manhattan cocktail parties in his obituaries, a lot of people can say that... “

Delighted, I go on to tell this anecdote many times at cocktail parties and car shows.

April 30, 1997 – On the way to my editing internship at ‘Whoa! Films’ I listen to panel discussion on NPR featuring Kurt Vonnegut. Upon arrival find radio inside and continue listening.

I do not become a video editor.

June 6, 1997 – Notice Kurt Vonnegut’s name in the credits of Ken Burn’s ‘The Civil War’ listed under ‘Other Voices’. Despite having seen this documentary many, many times, unable to identify which character he plays. Even today the internet offers no clue.** I guess that’s one mystery he’ll take to his grave since everyone else who worked on the film will most likely die before I get a chance to ask them.

November 5, 1997 – A film crew from New York is making a documentary in Atlanta and I as intern go to the airport to pick up the production manager.

“So you all live in New York?”
“We sure do.”
“I’d like to live there someday.”
“Oh, it’s stupid…”
“No, what?”
“Kurt Vonnegut said in this graduation address that everyone should live in New York for a year.”
“No, that was a hoax, he never said that. It was this writer in Chicago. See?”

I am not invited back to the crew’s hotel room for pot smoking.

October 5, 1998 – Meet friend’s roommate Becky(?) who is reading ‘Sirens of Titan’.

Me: “Oh, you like Vonnegut?”
Becky: “Yeah, I’ve read a bunch of his stuff.”
Me: “Yeah, I went through a Vonnegut phase.”
Becky: “Yeah, I think most people go through a Vonnegut phase.”

Yeah, Becky and I do not go through a sex phase.

January 5, 1998 – Someone, somewhere, possibly on television, mentions Kurt Vonnegut’s story about a chess game that uses human pieces which are killed when ‘captured’. I think, “Hey, I’ve read that.”

December 15, 2001 – During Chess scene in ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ I shake my head at how J.K.Rowling totally ripped off Vonnegut, and that millions of children will never know how well read I am.

September 1, 2002 – Move to New York and realize Kurt Vonnegut lives somewhere around here….

And then he died. I didn’t know him, of course, but some authors say that all you need to know about them is in their books. I don’t know if Kurt Vonnegut ever said that so no help there.

Below are some of his lines that I committed to memory:

In this era of big brains, anything that can be done, will be done. So hunker down.

It wasn’t like he was going to write Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

A man who is tired of chicken is tired of life.

So it

*A google image search has failed to find the illustration and so the internet fails us.
** AGAIN with the internet failing...

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Captain America Finally Dead

Stever Rogers, better known to the world as Captain America died today, felled by a sniper’s bullet. He was old.

Forged in the bowels of World War II, Captain America would become the living embodiment of an American dream by proving that a scrawny kid from Brooklyn can(with the help of a government super-serum) live a long life crushing his enemies between two garbage can lids.
BONG! “Can you hear me now?” became his battle cry that would echo across a thousand battlefields around what he liked to call “Battlefield Earth”. With his blond hair, blue eyes and white skin “Cap” proved to be the perfect weapon against the enemy he was created to defeat: Captain Hitler. Defeat him he did, but Captain America is probably best known for raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi over Iwo Jima. The government later used Captain America’s immense popularity to sell war bonds to the Japanese... in Japan. He is credited with making the ‘Manhattan Project’ financially possible.

After the war, when others went home, he remained vigilant, and had a kind of passive-aggressive thing going with his former ally Captain Soviet Union. While they never fought each other directly, Captain America never turned down an opportunity to fight Captain Soviet Union’s friends: Captain North Korea, Captain North Vietnam, and Colonel Omar Qaddafi. The turning point came in 1989 when Captain America used his garbage can lids to smash Captain Soviet Union into a lot of smaller Captains. The largest of the Captain Soviet Union chunks, Captain Russia, soon became close friends with Captain America ... or really more like acquaintances, I guess….things are actually a little weird right now.

And now that decades of combat experience have been erased by a single sneaky sniper’s bullet, the world wonders: “Really, a sniper…? What took them so long?”

Government buildings will fly garbage can lids at half mast tomorrow, and no doubt their familiar BONG! will ring long through the night.

Cap, we can hear you now.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a funeral to attend. I think I’ll bring a friend.