Friday, March 31, 2006

Elections and a Big Fat Doobie

Speaking of the devil! Here's Etgar Keret's op-ed in the NYTimes. He always talks about his family's relationship with marijuana which is quaint. C'mon, Etgar, we're not in middle school anymore, talking about your dad smoking pot is about as shocking as realizing your parents actually had sex in order to conceive you. But he does offer an insight into Olmert's stunningly un-dynamic approach to politics.
Listen, we've had so many Rabins and Pereses and Begins, people who tried to galvanize everyone with their charisma and energy. None of them ever really managed to bring us peace. I'm telling you, what this region needs is Olmert — someone who'll bore us and the Palestinians so much that we fall into a kind of stupor. A stupor that's a kind of co-existence. A co-existence that's a kind of peace. Forget all that 'peace of the courageous' stuff Barak and Arafat tried to sell us. Even a child knows that courageous people go into battle, they don't make peace. What this region needs is a peace of the tired, and Olmert's the man to put us all to sleep.
It's true - Olmert really is a yawner. The other night we caught a PBS special on him and his family. It was asurprisingly intimate look into the Olmert clan with Papa Olmert doling out fish to a long table of his scandalouslyy left-wing children and artsy wife.
But when he talks it'
If boring = peace then bring it on, Ehud, bring it on.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ocean Drive Speedo Party @ The Palms Hotel

T'was an enchanting evening done up Ocean Drive style with copious amounts of well-branded liquor, abundant trays of nibblings, and each white table garnished with several fat issues of Miami's premiere lifestyle bible.

A delightful breeze cooled us while we sipped Peroni beer under the stars while rubbing elbows with almost-stars (the "Real World" cast from Key West - ahem!), while the DJ remixed Jim Morrison classics. Soon the music faded, the catwalk glowed, and cast-members of the MTV show strutted their chiseled "real" bodies while sporting Speedo's finest.

There are few items that require processing for this picture. Firstly, yes, this woman is brandishing a cartoonishly large bandage on her thumb. That's comical. ALSO, how incredibly short are those shorts? Guess I missed the Daisy Dukes memo at the nightlife gear meeting because all the gals were revealing their upper-thighs like it was a pilates convention.

And of course, no party would be complete without an appearance from the Scull sisters and son Michael. He's the one in the pink shirt in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

New Writing from Israel

Here's recent story from Etgar Keret, one of my favorite Israeli writers. He's basically the forerunner of the cluster of young, hip, Tel-Aviv writers who are creating buzz and attaining recognition by the literary world. And it's well deserved, but you can judge for yourself. I had the privilege of interviewing Keret a few summers ago and found him absolutely engaging in person. He often does readings for groups of young Americans on free trips to Israel and they are almost always engrossed in listening to him and his stories. Probably because the stories are simultaneously accessible and indecipherable. They are super-short, oftentimes wryly funny, full of ideas, and yet inexplicably enigmatic. It's as if he is trying to capture a feeling or a moment and you don't get there until the very end. This is particularly true in his first story "Pipes" or in "Halibut" which I love for its description of the economic recession brought on by the Intifada - how life was a little fatter for those who had money to spend.

Ira Glass of This American Life fame does a great job reading and chatting with Keret about his stories. Hear it here on Nextbook.

According to Keret's website, "Wristcutters: A Love Story," a film based on his novella played at Sundance this year. I'm salivating to see it because it features Will Arnett (who played Gob on "Arrested Development and who is irresistible) and Tom Waits. And it's about the after-life. A surreal sandwich, anyone?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Miami Dining Discounts Secrets Revealed

I will not divulge ALL my secrets at once. The Coupon Queen must maintain an air of mystery when it comes to dining deals. But check back regularly for more culinary comeuppances.

Today's deal involves a helpful website called whereby gift certificates to dining establishments are offered a low price. Enter coupon code "87539" for 60% off the already reduced certificate. You can get a $25 GC for 900 Novecento for $4. Need I say more? The site also has plenty of GC's for other cities including New York City restaurants, so get clicking.

Another Miami dining deal I have enjoyed on many occasion is the "Beat the Clock" offered at 3 Lincoln Road restaurants, Le Bon, Spris, and TiramesU. From 5:30-7:30 everyday (including weekends) you pay whatever time you order. So if you're an old fogie like me and order at 5:45 you pay $5.45. And at Spris that includes a delicious Moretti beer. Brilliant.

And I just discovered Restaurant Place which lists various South Florida restaurants along with menus. While it leaves much to be desired in terms of scope (and could never compete with my beloved MenuPages) it still covers some new ground and makes dining research for Miami eateries a bit more thorough. And isn't that what we all need? To make simple decisions infinitely more complex. Yes indeed.

Monday, March 27, 2006

New Urbanism = Cool Party

Stopped by the Aqua B-B-que yesterday. Lotsa pretty people hanging out in an architectural oasis. Anyone looking for a unit starting at a million five? Craig Robbins is really onto something here...

Friday, March 24, 2006

And Iran, Iran So Far Away

This hip TV station in London just did a "News from Iran" week including a series of picture galleries and blog posts from Iranians in the UK and elsewhere. There's also a report on the Jews of Iran, who predictably, are feeling the pull of Israel in a post-Danish cartoon world.

While you're out there doing some Persia-surfing, I'd like to wish you a happy "Noh-Rooz," or Iranian New Year. Seven foods beginning with "S" for everyone!

Jews in Vegas, Not So Strange

According to the Forward, Jews are moving to Las Vegas in droves, a trend I observed my first time there in 2003.

First off, yes it's true Vegas is Jewtown. They can't build those pristine strip malls fast enough to accommodate the influx of bagel fiending members of the Tribe. Avery's brother moved out there 4 years ago (he's a doctor, not a croupier) and since then their community has developed into a full-fledged Jewish destination. And yes, the juxtaposition of a large Jewish community developing parallel to the world's debauchery epicenter is odd, but no one said Jews are attracted to wholesome cities - has anyone ever been to Colorado Springs? You can't find decent lox anywhere! In fact, the Vegas development fits neatly into the trends of American Jews since an influx of Eastern European immigrants to Manhattan's Lower East Side in the early 1900's, namely that Jews are drawn to opportunity. Low real estate prices, plenty of entrepreneurial prospects, and the chance to promote cultural continuity are reasons that play into Jewish community development.

But you know you're not in the Borscht Belt anymore when Jewish high schools start mandatory drug testing.
In a city known for vice and excess (to get "free" drinks at any casino, simply play the penny slots until a cocktail waitress takes your order) the Jewish community is making strides to educate its youth about drugs and alcohol. Multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson — principal owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corp, which runs the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino — and his wife, drug-addiction expert Dr. Miriam Adelson, have pledged $25 million for the construction of a Jewish high school and a Jewish community center. The high school, which will be located in Summerlin as part of the already existing pre-kindergarten through eighth grade Hebrew Academy, will test students for drugs and alcohol. While the details are still being sorted out, parents would sign permission slips for high school students to submit to a hair or urine test. All grade levels will learn about the dangers of drugs and alcohol through an integrated curriculum.
That would NEVER have happend at my high school. We got high off the fumes from SAT prep books.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Thoughts on Jamaica

The NYTimes had a piece on Port Antonio, Jamaica, a lush wonderland that we visited last November. While I liked this piece, I actually recommend reading this other travel essay also published by the Times from last year. It's more fun and really captures the spirit of the place better than this recent snapshot. (This also begs the question of why the Times repeatedly does the same articles on the same topics over and over again. Gawker makes fun of them all the time for doing this, but it's really lazy journalism. If anyone was around during Christo's "Gates" project in Central Park last year, you remember - every frickin day there was a mandatory Gates article - we get the picture, orange fabric in the park. Pretty. Isn't there something going on in Darfur?)

As for Port Antonio - if you ever get the chance - go! The article says it's a more "authentic" Jamaica, and while one could argue with that, (I'd say the all-inclusive resorts are pretty authentically Jamaican as well. I believe the island pioneered the concept, brilliant beast that it is.) I do believe it is probably one of the last strongholds of laid-back tranquility in the Caribbean. It's also the wackiest place we've been (and we've both been to the Sinai, so we know what it's like to get served by stoned waiters). It rained a lot when we were there so instead of languidly lounging in the Blue Lagoon beach we drove our little rental car - driver on the right side, British-style - through the flooded mountainous street (there's maybe 3 streets in the whole Parish) dodging little kids in their various school uniforms on their way to class, and taking in the local culture because there's not much tourist infrastructure there.
Some highlights:

-Chang's "No-Fresh" convenience store.
That's the nickname we gave this rather spacious convenience store located halfway between Port Antonio and Boston Bay. Basically, the Asian guy running the store sold every possible thing that was preserved, canned, dried, pre-packaged, dehydrated, bottled, etc. Nothing fresh. Fruit? Nope. Vegetables? Uh-uh. Nuts? In a vacuum-sealed bag. This was Jamaica, my friends, land of fruit stands on every corner, men with banana clusters chillin by the beach, yet this store owner shunned all matter of comestible unpreserved. Remarkable.

-A machete is a necessary accessory.
We're not phased much by seeing weapons up close, after all we live in Miami, and we've both been to Israel where accidentally grazing a young soldiers rifle as you find your way to a seat at the shwarma shack is a commonplace occurrence. But nothing prepared us for seeing so many people carrying around large, comically exaggerated, machetes wherever we went. I guess it makes sense if you're a freelance banana salesman, but it seemed like the locals considered a machete a household essential, kind of like a can opener... Crocodile Dundee-style. So at first it's shocking, especially when you're hiking in Reich Falls and there's no one else around except for some Rastas with Machetes. But then you realize it's an accessory like anything else. Like a Bluetooth. And I find THAT more frightening.

-Port Antonio is a great place to open up a Surfshop/Pizzeria
We met a guy who was starting this restaurant our last night there. He had a great white beard, bright blue eyes, and a Native-American wife who was getting over the loss of their son by painting in the rooftop studio. We spent the night drinking warm Red Stripes because his fridge was not fully working and talking about the wonders of the Nonni fruit, a medicinal plant whose extract the Jamaicans at the table insisted cured most ailments. There was also a man who could survive for days "in the bush." It was a calm night and we had a view of the beach across the street. Port Antonio may have "potential" but frankly, they're doing just fine the way it is.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Miami is a Playground for Grown-Ups

March is where it's at in Miami. Yes, December may have Art Basel and February has the boat shows but March is really the last hurrah for this city before all the snowbirds leave town, the humidity sets in, and people decide that eating al fresco is akin to "sauna dining." So before we crank up the air conditioners and retire the pashmina shawls for those chilly 70-degree nights, enjoy this month and the plethora of things to do before it's all over and we wonder where all the culture went...

First, a rundown of some of the hectic fun things we've been doing.
Saturday night we did our Wynwood Galleries walk, which was enhanced by a delicious wine tasting courtesy of Vine Wineshop in the courtyard of Locust Projects. If you get a chance, check out the show at Locust - our friend Jacin is in it with some kick-arse paintings. We enjoyed Brian Reedy's show at Dorsch Gallery, social satire in woodcuts, full of whimsy and just the right combo of cynicism and goofiness. One of those shows where you walk out chuckling and thinking. And isn't that what art should be about anyway? Someone needs to tell that to the Whitney Biennial curators but that's a whole other post.

Moving on, we experienced the magic that is Vizcaya Monday night for the launch of Norma Quintero's Social Affairs Magazine. Ok yes, the mansion and gardens are beautiful, fairy-tale like, and the stuff all Boca McMansions aspire to be, but let me just say that Lady Quintero knows how to throw a party - there were about 6 open bars (Roberto Cavalli vodka gets my seal of approval) and plenty of food stations - seared tuna tacos, delectable dumplings, mini-caviar blinis, and marinated black cod over what a waiter termed "tropical mash" are just a few of the highlights. Let's hope the magazine lives up to its grand opening....

Tonight our friend Lulu is hosting a music showcase at the Hotel Victor in an effort to revive the local live music scene. I hear the daughter of one of the Bee-Gees will be performing. Don't miss the chance to partake of live music by the offspring of Disco rock royalty. And of course Winter Music Conference starts this weekend! Can you keep up! Can you!

And don't forget Ride for the Tribe this Sunday!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Young Givers Just Wanna Have Fun

The NYTimes has a piece on innovative fundraising among young folk. There's some good ideas in there I may replicate - Mustaches for Ethiopian Jews? Anyone? Anyone?

I'm relatively new to this fundraising game and my job is not really about amassing high numbers but more about getting as many young people involved in the community as possible but there's a lot that the older fundraising organizations could learn from this stuff. Some salient elements of this article include the fact that younger givers want to give collaboratively - smaller amounts that when pooled together are significant, the idea that event-based fundraiser that are NOT black-tie are big sellers, also that young donors like to know where the money is going and want to give to smaller charities where smaller gifts are noticed and appreciated.

So with that in mind, I urge you all to "Ride for the Tribe," next Sunday. It's a community bike ride in Shark Valley and all the money raised goes towards helping resettle Ethiopian Jews who are waiting to move to Israel. You can learn more about it here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Is this Becoming a Food Blog?

Here's a helpful list of vegetarian restaurants in NYC. Using this site combined with MenuPages transmogrifies me into a menu/location spouting culinary cyborg processing infinite dining possibilities block by block. Remember how the "Terminator's" interior view was just lists of numbers and letters - essential data - rather than seeing actual images? Sometimes that's how I feel.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Edge-a-ma-cation on the Streets

I've mentioned before how I ride my trusty Citizen bike to work. There are a few things I've learned on my erratic adventure-filled mornings in the Miami urban jungle. I will share them with you now.

1. Biscayne Blvd. is a great place to shatter glass.
Got some empty beer and liquor bottles lying around? Too lazy to throw them in the recycle bin? Then come on down to Biscayne Blvd (preferably between 79th and 42nd st) and break those pesky glass bottles in the street. Yes, there's plenty of nice glass-shattering concrete available to satisfy even the drunkest crackhead on his way back from renting a motel room at the hourly rate.

2. Moms in minivans are the worst.
Enough of all this talk about minivans being so safe. Maybe for the passengers, but certainly not for your friendly neighborhood bike rider. Each time I see a minivan pull out of a parking space or try to turn onto the street I make sure to make eye-contact with the mother load otherwise you know that they are gonna heave themselves out there without looking in both directions because they are going nuts with junior in the backseat smearing chocolate all over the velvet seats and you know they wish they were driving an Audi but no they had to buy the minivan because of carpool and AND AND!!! Believe me, I know, my own mumsey owned a Ford Windstar ("Windstaah" for us Bostonians) and being a passenger was like riding in an unwieldy barrel that's been tossed down the hill in a Loony Toons cartoon.

3. Crossing Guards are the sweetest.
The nicest people. Really, take a moment to thank your crossing guard next time you see him or her.

4. The silence when the bridge goes up is sublime.
Recently when I ride across the causeway the bridge has been up and rather than get annoyed with the minimum 6-minute wait until the bridge resumes its position, I take the time to enjoy the silence of all the cars being forced to wait patiently until they can roar over the bridge's metal grilling. I catch my breath, walk my bike up to the drawn gate and look out over the sparkling Biscayne Bay. Beautiful. This is why people live in Miami. It's nice to be reminded of that sometimes...Maybe I should take a jet ski to work...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Don't Mess with the Persian Jewess

Happy Purim Everyone!
Time to get tipsy, spin some noisemakers, and remember why Persian Jews are the fiercest mo'fo's on the block. Read Roya Hakakian's thought-provoking piece about Iranian Jews "coming out" in America. My provoked thoughts soon to be divulged here...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Product Placement Time

We just spent too much time at Sabon but that's only because we love the store so much. The adorable Israelis working there are actually nice! And they encourage you to roll up your sleeves and scrub your hands in their big copper sink! Why can't the people who work at the Sabon stores in Israel proper be this nice? Well, you can always order online and get a free bottle of massage oil. I lurve the ginger-orange salt scrub. Deelish.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

NYC Culinary Adventure

So we're in New York (or the Big Crapple) this weekend. And today's bad weather is to your advantage dear reader as I take some time to run down a few of the places we've been satiating ourselves. Before I get into the details I will make a confession - I am addicted to MenuPages. I kid you not, I've probably logged a good 12 hours on that site in the last week. I suppose it appeals to the academic in me - it is pure research, and it is infinite. There's also the slightly obsessive quality that I possess whereby I will immerse myself in something only to subsequently purge myself of the interest entirely. So for now, perusing NYC menus is the most interesting thing ever. This website it fantastic - there are complete menus available, tons of detailed user reviews, and basic info needed to plot a gastronomic adventure. It's also fun to read a Frank Bruni review and then go look up exactly how expensive and interesting the restaurant looks on paper.

So after all the research is said and done, where have we been eating? Well, Del Posto and Ninja and all those mega-restaurants sound nice and all, but we decided to go low-key but high style.
I finally made it out to Pastis with my friend Suze and yes it was the scene we were looking for. Lots of Heath Ledger look-alikes, but alas, no Heathage. But I certainly enjoyed my dainty "frites." Though I know Pastis is not the new hot tattooed kid on the meat-packing block, it has by now established itself as a frenzied, fun, trendy, place where the food is good and the people watching super-absorbing.

Next for dinner was Republic, the futuristic Asian communal-eating warehouse where orders are punched into a hand-held computer by a friendly but curt waiter and where the food is reliable, inexpensive, and satisfying. The green tea ice cream for dessert, though not innovative, was superb.

We're off to the Armory show (which will probably be just like Art Basel but grittier) so stay tuned for more wacky mad-cap antics!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

To Be in Debt or Not To Be

Anya Kamenetz's Generation Debt: Why Now is a Terrible Time to be Young gets the negative treatment in Slate. Actually, the writer also pans another book that similarly complains about how hard it is for recent college graduates to simultaneously acquire wealth and maintain a bohemian lifestyle. But Kamenetz's book bears the brunt of the criticism:
Kamenetz complains that: "No employer has yet offered me a full-time job with a 401(k), a paid vacation, or any other benefits beyond the next assignment. I have a savings account but no retirement fund. I can't afford preschool fees or a mortgage anywhere near the city where I live and work." Of course, Kamenetz doesn't have kids to send to preschool. And chances are, by the time she does, she'll be able to afford preschool fees. Most people in their 20's don't realize that their incomes will rise over time (none of the people I know who have six-figure incomes today had them when they were 25), that they will marry or form a partnership with somebody else, thus increasing their income, and that they may get over having to live in the hippest possible neighborhood.
He continues with this difficult to ignore piece of bravado.
But someone like Kamenetz, who graduated from Yale in 2002, doesn't have much to kvetch about. In the press materials accompanying the book, she notes that just after she finished the first draft, her boyfriend "proposed to me on a tiny, idyllic island off the coast of Sweden." She continues: "As I write this, boxes of china and flatware, engagement gifts, sit in our living room waiting to go into storage because they just won't fit in our insanely narrow galley kitchen. We spent a whole afternoon exchanging the inevitable silver candlesticks and crystal vases, heavy artifacts of an iconic married life that still seems to have nothing to do with ours." The inevitable silver candlesticks? Too much flatware to fit in the kitchen? We should all have such problems.

Truthfully, I have yet to read Kamenetz's book but I don't plan on it (the title is such a downer). My impression of this book (and the other mentioned in the article) is that they imply that debt is an unavoidable outcome of a certain lifestyle and entering the workforce with a set of unrealistic expectations. There is no agency in that equation. I have always believed that going into debt is a personal choice and not an economic inevitability. We all make decisions about how we make and spend our money and whether it be paying off credit cards or opting to carry a balance, there is always a choice in the matter, especially when you are a healthy, well-educated, socially mobile member of society. They don't call me the "coupon queen" for nothing.

At the other end of the spectrum, there's always the anarchist lifestyle. Who knew supermarket dumpsters held such treasures?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Fun With Words

Courtesy of my friend Adina, I found a way to generate a word cloud based on my blog.
Considering my blog is fairly young, it's nice to see a healthy usage of certain words - "art", "good," "love," "friend," "film, "read," "write." Then of course there is a plethora of Yid vocabulary - every form of the word "Jew" and "Israel" is in attendance here. As a snapshot of what I'm thinking, reading, and writing about these days, I'm quite satisfied with this. Can't wait to see how it changes!

Scientologists vs. Kabbalists - Who's Got the Bigger Celebs?

Just finished reading this absorbing Scientology expose in Rolling Stone. Man, Tom Cruise is kuh-razy to be a part of that posse. Reading it reminded me of what a high school teacher of mine once said about religion: the less logical the faith, the stronger the pull. Hmm. Perhaps.
After you finish that 13,000 word opus, compare and contrast to Radar's 4-part series on the Kabbbalah Center and its millions. There are many disturbing things contained in these stories, but the one singularly unsettling revelation is that BOTH these articles begin with a scene in Florida involving some aspect of these mad cults. I know I've already covered this, but Florida is obviously a very attractive place for these wackos to flourish. Once again, I come to appreciate the Sunshine State, a land of loons.
Here's a list of Scientology celebs.

When Falafel Won't Cut It

A friend who will be visiting Israel later this month with his family (aka Parents picking up the check) asked for my recommendation for the best restaurant in Jerusalem. I suggested Arcadia because it’s a crowd pleaser and chef Ezra Kedem has mastered the culinary style "Mediterranean Rim," using flavor palettes reminiscent of Provence or Italy and local ingredients combined in provocative ways — watermelon and Bulgarian cheese soup, grilled foie gras with figs. (By the way that watermelon-and-Bulgarian cheese combo has really taken off in Israel - it was on every platter of any public event I attended this summer.) Plus, Aracadia is located in a charming overgrown courtyard behind the produce market, and right across from a new super-cheap Ethiopian restaurant that I highly recommend.

I know many of my Jerusalemite chowhound friends would disagree with Arcadia's distinction citing many other creative, beautiful spots where your meal will set you back far fewer shekels. Upon doing some internet research I've found Daniel Rogov's list of best Jerusalem restaurants, albeit a few years old, but pretty accurate to my knowledge. I can vouch for Darna; our "business lunch" experience there was decadent and exotic, a true splurge. Friends who have dined at Fink gave it almost the exact same review as Rogov - old school charm, decent food, very European. I haven’t tried the others but there’s always next time in Jerusalem…

Sufi Food, So Good

Free breakfast at Pasha's! All you have to do is pick a location, register, print the confirmation, and show up at the aforementioned appointment slot. Sheesh! I'm exhausted just writing about it. But of course I'm going to do it. I'll take a free "simit" pastry and tangerine juice any day.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Real Reason People Go to Art Openings

Last night we attended the opening of Tobi's Kahn's Avodah show at the Jewish Museum in South Beach. The exhibit is great but I was distracted by the abundance of super-Jewy passed hors d'oeuvres, I mean we're talking kishka on platters, slippery little meat kreplach, chopped liver spread, mini-reubens, in addition to the usual franks in a blanket. And the Baron Herzog vino was a-flowin'. It was also surprisingly easy to get to the food, given the fact that we were the youngest people there, I figured there'd be a mad rush to get at the nosh like the Darwinian struggle for a cracker at a mega-shul in my 'hood (old people can be wily at kiddush), but this was a calm crowd. They were actually interested in the art. How quaint.

Tastes Like Chicken?

So there's this thing called "chicken sashimi" and apparently it's a delicacy in Japan. Read a New Yorker review of the stuff here.

Persian Bloggers has an extensive article about Iranian blogs, territory I already covered in my post (do I get points for scooping Salon?). Also, Iranian youth may want freedom of speech and Western culture, but they are still frighteningly tolerant of fanatical leaders:
But young Iranians also appear to have absorbed the hard-line views of the president, even among the educated and tech-savvy Internet users. E. Haddadian Moghaddam, 32, an Iranian translator and journalist currently pursuing post-grad work in Sweden, sees merit in Ahmadinejad's suggestion that the Jewish homeland be moved to Europe, America or elsewhere. "I see his view of moving the land of Israel somewhere outside the present land as a possible solution," Moghaddam said. "As for his opinion [denying] the Holocaust, I would prefer to see it just as a personal opinion that is open to criticism.

Wow, scary stuff. But this guy is over 30. It's the under-30's that are going to save that country. At least, I hope.

Matisyahu: Former Chassidic Reggae Superstar

Chassidic reggae superstar Matisyahu gets a not-so-positive review from Rolling Stone. We gave his new album "Youth" a listen in the car the other day and were thoroughly unimpressed. While I'm no connoisseur of chassidic reggae, I find it unexciting that all Matisyahu has to offer the world is reggae music that incorporates lyrics about Moshiach and Jerusalem. Is that so creative? Cultural production is not about appropriating established genres and tweaking them to fit one's personal identity. Whenever I listen to his stuff, I can't help but feel this is some Lubavitch guy who can rap and thinks reggae is cool. But there's nothing particularly Jewish about his art. And he's not brining anything new to the regaae discourse. Reggae music is already chock full of references to Zion, the Israelites, Jerusalem, etc.

Would Matisyahu be considered so fascinating if he put Jewish-themed lyrics to country style music? I'd be more interested in someone who looked deep into Jewish tradition and discovered music that has Jewish history ( like, say prayer chanting or cantorial styles) and gave it a contemporary spin. Like a Fischerspooner version of "Adon Olam." Put that in your I-pod and smoke it.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Natalie Portman Raps

I have yet to watch this with sound (why do the cublicle gods deny me speakers, why!!) but watching the silent version was entertaining enough.

Some Escargot with your Wall?

The French are in love with Israeli Filmmakers according to this article. That doesn't surprise me given the fact that most Israeli films these days grapple with tough issues are not dogmatically pro or anti Israeli policies or they ignore the political situation altogether focusing on intimate character studies. A lot of the critically acclaimed films that came out during the initifada (films like "Broken Wings" or "Late Marriage") were characterized by the absence of any sign of politics in the film - no radio in the background, no newspaper props, no dialogue acknowledging "the situation." So it was easy for the French to embrace these heartwrenching narratives, because they blended so seamlessly into the European movie melting pot. Cannes-festival darling Amos Gitai does approach politics but usually with a predictably left-leaning uber-critical stance. And his films are so self-consciously artsy that the French have no choice but to love him. Anyone who makes me sit through 15 minutes of Natalie Portman crying deserves the adoration of a country that still lists "philosopher" as an employment designation.

I Miss Bjork

Missed the Oscars last night but instead enjoyed a lovely evening screening our movie and eating Chinese food with friends. This morning shall be spent perusing E!'s fashion police. What was Charlize Theron thinking?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More Chick Pea News

My friend Eytan, the "Shagrir," had high hopes for concocting the world's largest plate of hummus. Unfortunately the mega-blizzard a few weeks ago dashed all hopes of creating positive media buzz about Israel, a place of wacky dips and the need to have large platters of said dips. His account of dealing with the Guinness record people sounds like more effort than it's worth...Maybe I'll rethink that guacamole pool I was planning out back.

The Right-On Album

If you have never read Joan Didion's essay about living, loving, and leaving New York, do so now. Then kick yourself for not having written it first. Or actually, I'll just do that.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The New Yorker Loves Facts!

If you sift through the clunky writing in this Haaretz interview with New Yorker editor-in-chief David Remnick you'll be amply rewarded with a view into the inner-workings of one of the most anal-retentive magazines on the planet.

Here Remnick describes how each interview subject must relent to being the asked the same questions twice if they want to be quoted by the monocle'd mag:

"When I go to interview, for example, Sheikh Naif Rajoub, one of the leaders of Hamas, I go with a translator, because I do not speak Arabic. I don't want to record too much, because that is double the work. I write pretty fast, and I know what to omit. But that's okay. Because afterward, at the office, our Arabic fact checker - a very talented Lebanese-American woman - will call Sheikh Rajoub and go over it with him, fact after fact. She will ask, 'You said that you will never recognize Israel - is that true?' And he will confirm or refute. 'Is it true that you were born in 1948?' 'Is it true that you have three children?' Every fact found in my article is checked and confirmed. As editor of the magazine, it is embarrassing to be caught with mistakes, and I hope that there will not be any, but I feel very good when I know there is someone checking up after me."

Remnick then describes the magazine's squad of fact-checkers as "about 20 young employees in their twenties, who specialize in a variety of fields and who care." I remember those fact-checkers from back when I was an intern with the magazine's covers editor. They were mostly awkward hipsters from wealthy families in New England who drank too much at the holiday party, but that, unfortunately, just made them more deadpan.

This article also brings up the question of why Haaretz English articles so often leave much to be desired in the writing department. Israel is overflowing with educated Anglo-Jews who can write and translate and who are willing to do this for very little pay. It's a shame because the Hebrew version of Haaretz is incredibly difficult to read if you're not an Israeli academic that it makes the English look like it's written by a thesaurus-happy high schooler.

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New York magazine has a fascinating article on the business of blogs. There is a lot of money to be made sitting in your pajamas chompin on baby carrots and posting celebrity gossip. As it should be!