Crossposted from Haaretz
Singer Avigail Roz has spent many hours with Yoni Bloch, who produced her albums “Milchama Yomyomit” (“Daily War”), which was released three years ago, and “Hetzi Nehama” (“Half a Consolation”), forthcoming at the end of the month.
But when it comes to technology, they are on opposite sides of the barricades. While Bloch, the head of the startup Interload, defines himself as a computer geek, Roz says she finds it difficult to keep up with technological developments connected to the music world.
“I would like to know how to produce [music] at home, that’s important to me, but I’m not there yet, which puts me behind somewhat,” she says.
Once Hosni Mubarak is liberated from his heavy chains of office, he’ll have time to kick back and appreciate some of the new classical CDs on offer. And, as many Egyptians have taken time to point out, he’s a big fan of Yiddishkeit.
If he decides to take up American hospitality he might be especially interested in the gifted young ensemble, the Claremont Trio which has a new CD, “American Trios.” It includes works by American Jewish composers Leon Kirchner and Paul Schoenfield, the latter is an ex-kibbutznik who maintains a part-time residence in Migdal HaEmek with probably a soft spot for the Arab leader who presided over 30 years of peace with Israel. Schoenfield’s 1986 “Café Music,” especially as played by the Claremonts, is a rhythmic delight.
When I entered Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church in Greenwich Village on a recent Sunday afternoon to see the play “In Between,” which explores the cultural identity of a Palestinian-Muslim/Jewish-Israeli man, I suddenly felt hyper-aware of my own Jewish identity. It seemed telling to me, and surprising, that the only current New York performance of this show was being held at a church (the play is also being staged February 9 at Nichols College in Dudley, Mass). While I’m sure there were Jews in the audience (I overheard an Israeli woman speaking with the performer after the show in Hebrew), the crowd was indeed mixed. Many attendees were members of Pax Christi, the organization that hosted the event and which is a part of the national Catholic peace movement.
“In Between” is an autobiographical one-man play created by Ibrahim Miari, who was born in Akko, Israel, to a Palestinian-Muslim father and a Jewish-Israeli mother (Miari’s mother converted to Islam in order to marry his father, though both were not religious at the time). The circumstances of his parents’ meeting are shrouded in mystery, as they were elusive about it with their two children, so Miari conceives a fictional account in which his dad spots his mom walking on the street as he drives by in a VW Beetle, blasting the Beatles song, “All You Need is Love.” Throughout the play, Miari seems to imply that while the “love-conquers-all” veneer of cross-cultural romance may appear simplistic, a sweet approach to such stories, combined with a touch of silliness, is sometimes necessary in the face of serious political conflict.
Crossposted from Haaretz
The story of “Labrador Labratories” (sic) should be taught in workshops for developing creativity. A year and a half ago, after the unknown Makolet band broke up, soloist Tom Gottlieb found himself suffering from a creative block. “In Makolet there was a very critical atmosphere,” he says. “We would sit a lot in the rehearsal room, think about every song for a very long time, play it for others, correct, change and correct again, until I reached a point where I was simply sick and tired of it. Music is supposed to reflect a moment, an atmosphere, a mood, a specific experience, and all that talk about what’s working and what isn’t working simply wipes that out, at least for me.”
Gottlieb, 27, sat at home and tried to write alone, but his increasingly sophisticated self-criticism made that impossible.
“Simply nothing came out,” he recalls. “And then I read somewhere about an exercise for someone who has a block and is unable to write songs. The exercise was to record one album a week, no matter what emerges. The main thing is to get rid of the sense of criticism and do something.”
A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here
The modern period in Yiddish prose began with Yisroel Aksenfeld’s novel “Dos Shterntikhl” (“The Headband”), written some time in the 1820s, which opens with a detailed description of the shtetl “Loyhoyopolie.” The name, which can be translated as “Nosuchville,” is a neologism, made up of the Hebrew words meaning “never was” and the Slavic geographical suffix, “polie.”
Aksenfeld’s artistic intention was to create a literary portrait of a shtetl that was both general and concrete. Loyhoyopolie, which incorporates features of real places, represents a typical shtetl in the Podolia region of Ukraine in the first half of the 19th century. In the decades that followed the publication of “Dos Shterntikhl,” Aksenfeld’s device was taken up by the classic Yiddish writers Mendele Moykher-Sforim and Sholom Aleichem, in the form of Glupsk and Kasrilevke, also symbolic Jewish towns.
This is one source of Forverts editor Boris Sandler’s new novella, “Keynemsdorf.” The other comes from Yiddish folklore, namely, the tales of the Wise Men of Chelm. Putting the two together, Sandler tells the story of Keynemsdorf, a shtetl located “in a forgotten corner of Arizona.” It’s inhabitants, who call themselves the “Free Citizens of Keynemsdorf,” speak a language similar to Yiddish, made up of archaic Daytshmerish and vestiges of Galician or Bessarabian dialect. The book is provided with a short glossary, ironically intended, since almost everything is understandable anyway.
Male midlife crisis is apparently a cross-cultural phenomenon. The television comedy “Traffic Light,” an Israeli import, is enjoying critical acclaim on the eve of its February 8 debut on the Fox network. Sitcom humor just may be able to cross the Israel-U.S. divide.
The show centers around three 30-something buddies, each of whom is at a very different stage of life when it comes to relationships with women. One has just moved in with his girlfriend, another is married with a toddler, and the third is a swinging bachelor who can’t commit to one girl but who has a very meaningful relationship with his dog. The comedy has enjoyed two successful seasons in Israel and its creator and star Adir Miller recently won an International Emmy award for best comedy.
The Skirball Center, a sober cultural institution on Los Angeles’s ritzy Westside, was unusually alive on January 27. Music journalists, record executives and South American diplomats with an array of Spanish accents — from Argentina to Spain to East Los Angeles — bounced about the room. Along with the requisite contingent of L.A. yentas and Hollywood types, the event brought out an eclectic crowd.
They came for Jorge Drexler. When examining the life and work of the Oscar-winning musician, it becomes clear why such a diverse audience would show up.
Born in Uruguay to a German-Jewish family, 46-year-old Drexler grew up practicing classical guitar. But like others in his family, he studied medicine, eventually becoming an otolaryngologist. Yet music still beckoned, and at the urging of Joaquin Sabina, a Madrid-based singer-songwriter, Drexler left medicine — and Montevideo — for Spain.
Crossposted from Haaretz
A few weeks from now, a new fringe theater center is slated to become home to a number of experimental groups now working in temporary spaces around the Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Theater Group, Psik and Incubator (the local branch of the Nisan Nativ Studio), will all use the new space.
The center will operate in the historic Mazya House, a beautiful urban villa located between Mordechai Eliash and Mesilat Yesharim streets near Nachlaot and the city center, which has recently undergone comprehensive renovation and preservation work.
The building has a considerable Jewish and Palestinian heritage and is characterized by fine period architecture, but over the years was left abandoned and neglected.
Does the Coen Brothers’ “True Grit” draw on ancient Indo-European myth?
Israeli musician Avi Avital has become the first mandolinist to be nominated for a Grammy award in the classical music category.
Four less admirable Israelis were caught trying to steal Judaica from a synagogue in Milan.
Gabrielle Birkner watches Yossi Madmoni’s “Restoration,” the only Israeli selection at the Sundance Film Festival.
Pianist András Schiff talks to the Forward about growing anti-Semitism in his native Hungary.
Gordon Haber reflects on integration and re-segregation in his native Los Angeles.
Eileen Reynolds goes to see Yoav Gal’s biblically inspired space-age video opera “Mosheh.”
David Biale reads through the new crop of second-generation Holocaust memoirs.
Like Homer’s “Odyssey,” the film “Anita,” which screened in January at the Las Vegas Jewish Film Festival and is showing until February 8 at the New York Reelabilities film festival, is the story of someone trying to find her way home. During the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association building in Buenos Aires, Anita becomes separated from her family. On her voyage back, Anita doesn’t encounter any gods, nymphs, or Cyclopes, but rather a disgruntled drunk, an uptight shopkeeper, and a lonely nurse.
Anita, played by Alejandra Manzo, has Down syndrome, and therefore lacks the king of Ithaca’s cunning. She knows what a phone is, but doesn’t know how to use one; she longs to be reunited with her family, but doesn’t know her home address. Like Odysseus, however, Anita must quickly bond with strangers if she hopes to survive. And what she lacks in street smarts, she makes up for in compassion. She is patient. She is kind. She is loyal to the point of relieving herself on a woman’s couch instead of disobeying a command to stay put. Anita’s gentle devotion and humble tranquility eventually win over everyone who takes her in.
Earlier this week, Saul Austerlitz wrote about his recent author tour and five not-as-terrible-as-you-think movies. His blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:
One of the trickiest aspects of writing my book was figuring out how to structure it. After tinkering with a variety of approaches, I settled on 30 chapters, each dedicated to a single filmmaker or performer whose body of work I considered to be significant to the history of American film comedy. These 30 selections were joined by about 100 additional short entries on comic figures significant enough to deserve a mention, if not quite meritorious enough to earn a chapter of their own. 130 directors and actors seems like a lot, and I got to include most of the people I wanted, but as I expected from the outset, readers and reviewers have often been most interested in discussing the exclusions. (That is, after all, a significant part of the pleasure of assembling a list, and what is a book about film other than a bulked-up list of movie suggestions?) I’ve enjoyed the discussions, kept them in mind, and pondered who else might deserve inclusion. (Second edition, anyone?)
Here, then, are a handful of performers and directors who just missed the cut.
Crossposted from Haaretz
The young Maria Kong dance troupe shines in its professional production of “Miss Brazil.”
It is unlike other independent dance groups, and seems more like an offshoot of the Bat Sheva Dance Company, with the same style of movement and high quality but without Ohad Naharin’s choreography.
This is Maria Kong’s second program and it is even better than its first. Meanwhile, the company is still searching for its own path and its artistic potential has yet to be exploited.
In the first piece, “Miss,” the dancers look like the remnants of an apocalypse, figures that have undergone a metamorphosis and built a new life. A lovely metal construction sits in the middle of the stage, in this case at the Suzanne Dellal Center, a sort of moving sculpture that folds and unfolds into apartment-like spaces, of which only the metal remains. Avi-Yona Bueno’s beautiful lighting colors the structure and creates a magical atmosphere.
Each Thursday, The Arty Semite features excerpts and reviews of the best contemporary Jewish poetry. This week, Jake Marmer introduces two poems by Eve Grubin.
“I am certain of nothing but the holiness,” writes Eve Grubin in one of the poems published in her 2005 debut collection “Morning Prayer.” Both uncertainty and holiness are key ingredients in her writing, intertwining co-dependents, often sharing the space of a poem’s single line. As the book’s title implies, prayer — or failed attempts at it — is among Grubin’s chief concerns, and morning is the recurring setting for it, where leftover bits of dreams are lifted against the morning light in a moment of encounter with the divine. Writing is also an extension of the poet’s prayer, a religious practice of persistent observation of the life of the soul. Moments of piety often mingle with the voice of desire, yet the work is not about sensationalist juxtapositions or paradoxes — it is more about quiet meditation on the totality of human experience. It is religious poetry at its best.
This week, we’re featuring two of Grubin’s works from “Morning Prayer,” both of them re-imagining the poet’s biblical namesake, Eve. Although the first poem explicitly references verses from the Tanach, it is hardly hermeneutics or even midrash, but rather a mythic, archetypal mirror held up against the poet’s deeply personal inner world. The second poem achieves its poignancy in the two final lines, where amnesia meets the unspoken and yearning ripens into frankness.
Those of us who have participated in the Jewish poetry scene in New York City over the last decade might argue that the journal Mima’amakim invented it. Though Jewish women and men have been performing and publishing poetry for many decades as part of a thriving New York poetry scene, Mima’amakim established the first readings and performances that featured not only poetry written by Jews, but also poetry with specifically Jewish content. On February 5 at the Sixth Street Synagogue, Mima’amakim will hold a publication party celebrating its last issue and 10 years of publishing innovative Jewish poetry.
Meaning “from the depths,” Mima’amakim took its name from Psalm 130: “From out of the depths I called to You, God,” and was initially positioned as a forum for publishing Jewish poetry and art with a religious orientation. Founded by Chaim Strauchler in 2000 at Yeshiva University, the journal arose out of an Orthodox milieu that envisioned the artistic process as a culmination of the divine act of creation. Its first mission statement narrowly defined the journal’s purpose as a place for “creative artistic expression of the Jewish religious experience within the confines of Halachah,” even limiting the content to exclude “profanities and sexually explicit materials.”
Is literature being dropped from Israeli curricula?
Simon Sebag-Montefiore writes a “biography” of Jerusalem.
After a 45 year retreat from the public eye, Abstract Expressionist painter Abraham Yurberg has a new exhibit.
Woody Allen’s new film “Midnight in Paris” is set to open this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Liel Leibovitz ruminates on the legacy of Lenny Bruce on the 50th anniversary of Bruce’s performance at Carnegie Hall.
Crossposted from Haaretz
Near the door of Andreas Meyer’s home in Kfar Vradim hangs an old photograph of trees alongside a stream, Nahal Ga’aton, which cuts through the city of Nahariya. Opposite is a photo, from 1908, of Meyer’s grandfather and two uncles. Both images serve as a window into 90-year-old Meyer’s life and home, as well as the history of Nahariya.
Meyer immigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1937, arriving directly in the northern coastal city of Nahariya, which had been founded two years earlier. He made his living as a welder, a profession he had acquired as a boy in Germany.
“It was difficult in school for Jews during that period,” he relates. “My father had a small factory and one of his workers took me on as an apprentice, even though it was forbidden to apprentice Jews. When we immigrated [here], my father was wise enough to take some of our work tools on board the ship, and when we arrived in Nahariya we had an advantage. My brothers and I later opened a welding shop.”
Turn-of-the-century German Jewish artist Max Liebermann is still not a household name despite a major 2006 Jewish Museum retrospective. Further international attention may give him the acclaim he deserves.
Liebermann was recently featured in an exhibit, “German Impressionist Landscape Painting” which after being seen at Cologne’s Wallraf-Richartz Museum from April through August, 2010, traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where it was on display from September 12 to December 5, 2010. A lavish catalogue remains, from Yale University Press, showing how hard work and love for French painters such as Manet and Millet allowed Liebermann to evolve his own visual synthesis.
Each year at Passover we gather together, crack the door a bit, and break bread of the unleavened variety. It is a celebration of freedom, of tradition, and a reminder of those ties that bind.
While the Seder depicted in Matthew Lopez’s play “The Whipping Man,” which opened February 1 at New York City Center, serves its usual function, it does so in a haunting and powerful way that only America’s most tumultuous era could create.
The year is 1865 and we are in the nearly destroyed Richmond, Va. home of the wealthy DeLeon family, a setting that gives new overtones to the age-old celebration. The war has ended, the South has fallen, and just a day ago Abraham Lincoln drew his last breath at Ford’s Theater.
Saul Austerlitz is the author of “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy.” His blog posts are appearing this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series please visit:
In writing my book “Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy,” I spent a lot of time concentrating on the greatest films in the history of American comedy: your City Lights, your Shop Around the Corners, your Annie Halls. But often, the most pleasurable films I watched over the course of researching my book were the ones that were surprisingly decent. The mediocre films that turned out to be pretty funny; the supposedly terrible movies that I found myself, to my surprise, enjoying.
In their honor, I’d like to single out five pleasant surprises from among the ranks of American comedies. These might not be movies you’d want at the top of your Netflix queue, but you might find yourself pleasantly surprised if you happened to come across them, anyway.