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The Edge of Video

North Korea Insists Leader is Nothing to Joke About

July 23rd 2014

Kim Jong-Un

In the United States, mocking political leaders is national pastime that most Americans enjoy. Even the targets of ridicule usually laugh along or ignore it.

In North Korea, poking fun at the Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, appears to be viewed as an existential threat.

For example, in April, North Korean officials dropped by a London barber shop, which mocked Kim Jong Un’s hairstyle in a promotional poster. The poster showed Kim famous coiffure and read “bad hair day?”

Earlier this month, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ja Song Nam, filed a formal complaint urging the body to force the U.S. block the release of an upcoming movie, “The Interview.”

The comedy, which stars Seth Rogen and James Franco in a plot to assassinate Kim, mocks North Korea’s ruler.

The complaint read that “to allow the production and distribution of such a film on the assassination of an incumbent Head of a sovereign State should be regarded as the most undisguised sponsoring of terrorism as well as an act of war."

Now this week, North Korea asked China to stop the spread of a viral video that lampoons Kim. According to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper, the North says the video, which shows Kim in a variety of silly situations, including being knocked out by President Barack Obama, "seriously compromises Kim's dignity and authority." Read more ..


Book Review

The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party

July 22nd 2014

Black Against Empire

Black Against Empire. Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin. University of California Press. 2013. 560 pp.

The Black Panther Party (BPP) is a growing topic of interest for scholars with numerous dissertations being produced on various party programs and local activities, but in Black Against Empire, Joshua Bloom, a Fellow at the Ralph J. Bunche Center at UCLA, and Waldo E. Martin, Jr., Professor of History at the University of California Berkeley, seek to provide a synthesis of Panther political history—focusing upon the meteoric rise and fall of the BPP between 1967 and 1972. This is a well written narrative and analytical history that does not overwhelm the reader with theoretical references, but it is also a book that may antagonize some readers with its sympathetic portrayal of the BPP and its revolutionary ideology.

Essentially, Bloom and Martin write their history from the perspective of the BPP, relying upon oral histories of the party as well as a close reading of the party newspaper, The Black Panther. The authors also devote considerable attention to the turbulent historical context in which the Panthers rapidly grew and declined. Bloom and Martin argue that the core ideological construct provided by the party’s founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale was the concept that black Americans in the nation’s inner cities constituted internal colonies exploited by capitalism and controlled by the police. Thus, colonized and exploited black Americans needed to make common cause with people of color around the world, such as the Vietnamese, Algerians, and Cubans, who were resisting American imperialism. Based upon their experience in Oakland, California, Newton and Seale concentrated their attention upon the police as tools of state oppression, and seizing upon California’s law allowing the open carrying of weapons, the Panther leaders urged the black community to arm themselves against the police and monitor their activities in the ghetto.

The image of the armed Panther with black berets and trench coats resonated in the black community and terrified the political establishment, resulting in a proposed law to limit the open brandishing of weapons in California. The Panthers gained considerable national press when they entered the California state legislature with their weapons. The law restricting the open carry of loaded weapons passed, but the stature of the BPP was certainly elevated. Bloom and Martin do not make analogies to the current gun debate in America, but it is ironic how the National Rifle Association today often employs coded racial arguments to justify the arming of American citizens. Read more ..


Movie Review

Ida: A Jewish Nun Confronts Personal and National History

July 20th 2014

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Ida. Director: Pawel Pawlikowski. Starring: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza. Length: 90 min.

It’s hard to imagine anything more different from Pawel Pawlikowski’s wonderful My Summer of Love (2005) than his new film, but Ida is just as wonderful in its own way. It is essentially a meditation on and unpicking of a paradox, that of a Jewish nun, as a kind of synecdoche for the Polish experience of World War II and its aftermath. The burden of the past always weighs heavily on those who try, and the victims of those who try, to remake the world, and the past of Poland, subjugated by both the Nazi and the Communist attempts at reinvention of European reality, is particularly burdensome.

Set in 1961 and shot in black-and-white and a 4:3 aspect ratio to make it look rather like a low budget "art film" of the same period, Ida tells the story of eighteen-year-old novitiate Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska), an orphan who has been raised in a convent and is on the point of taking her vows, who suddenly discovers that she is Jewish and that her birth name was Ida. She learns this from an aunt, Wanda (Agata Kulesza), a state prosecutor under the communist regime of Wladyslaw Gomulka.

Wanda has never hitherto wanted to have anything to do with her niece, and it is not entirely clear why she has now changed her mind. It seems to have something to do with preventing Anna from taking her vows without knowing her own background. As Wanda is a heavy drinker and sexually promiscuous, she also asks why the girl should be prepared to promise to sacrifice what she, Wanda, regards as such indispensible experiences without really knowing what they are. Read more ..


The Edge of Music

Blues Legend Johnny Winter Found Dead

July 18th 2014

Music

Johnny Winter, an American blues rock guitarist, vocalist and band leader known for his virtuoso slide-guitar solos and raspy vocals, was found dead in a hotel room outside Zurich, Swiss police said on Thursday. He was 70.

Along with his brother, Edgar Winter, also a well-known blues musician, the Texas-born Winter revered African-American blues tradition and began performing in his teens.

Johnny, distinctive because he and brother Edgar were albino, broke into national fame in 1968, when Rolling Stone magazine dubbed him the hottest musician outside Janis Joplin.

In 1969, he played the Newport Jazz Festival, where he performed with B.B. King, one of his musical idols, and at Woodstock. He also produced albums for his idol, Muddy Waters, in the 1970s, helping to burnish the reputation of the legendary bluesman. Among Winter's best known songs was “Still Alive and Well” -- a blues rock stomper recorded after he resurfaced from heroin addiction in the 1970s. Read more ..


An Edge of Music

Guitars Make Art in Addition to Music

July 14th 2014

Itamar Erez

Artists have created musical masterpieces with guitars for centuries, but at a music shop in Maryland, the instruments became canvases and were transformed into art.

The idea came to the store's owner, Tony Litz, after he bought an artistically enhanced guitar at an auction. He calls it the "Beatles' Guitar."

"We call it that because it got a bunch of Beatles on it and [I] thought on drive home, let's have a guitar decorating contest," Litz said.

Decorating a guitar was a collaborative effort for Jim and Laurie Williams and their daughters Christina and Michelle.

They decorated part of the guitar using an art technique "Alcohol Ink", which allowed them to create very specialized patterns with a variety of colors. They arranged and colorized different images of Jimi Hendrix using a simple modge podge technique. Read more ..


Book Review

Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship Puts and End to Debate

July 5th 2014

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Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. Greg Lukianoff. Encounter Books, 2014.

To set an appropriately Orwellian, dystopian tone for the true tales that follow, recall the opening moments of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone.” (The young and uninitiated can go to this site: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b5aW08ivHU. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

Okay, you’re back. Now: “Submitted for your consideration…”

On September 17, 2013 (Constitution Day), Robert Van Tuinen, a student at California’s Modesto Junior College, is told that he cannot hand out copies of the U.S. Constitution anywhere on campus except at the college’s tiny, designated “free speech zone,” and then only after getting permission well in advance.

In 2007, Hayden Barnes, a student at Valdosta State University in Georgia, is informed that he has been “administratively withdrawn” from campus because his online collage protesting the university’s plan to spend $30 million on parking garages referred sarcastically to the “Zaccari Memorial Parking Garage” and was thus deemed an “indirect threat” to University President Ronald Zaccari.

Also in 2007, Keith John Sampson, a student and janitor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUIPUI), is found guilty of racial harassment without a hearing because some co-workers are offended by the cover of the book he was reading, Todd Tucker’s Notre Dame versus the Klan. The cover included photos of KKK rallies (in addition to Notre Dame’s Golden Dome). Neither the book nor the cover could reasonably be described as pro-Klan. And even if they could, should it matter? Read more ..


The Edge of Film

To Russia With Love: Muscovites Flock to James Bond Show

June 30th 2014

Drive-In Movie

During the Soviet era, watching a James Bond film could lead to a jail sentence.  Despite the ban, many were able to catch bootleg copies during the thawing of the Cold War in the 1980s.  This developed into a Russian love affair with the foreign agent.

In 1964, when the James Bond movie From Russia With Love was packing theaters in the United States, Moscow and the West were locked in the deep freeze of the Cold War.

Fast forward half a century. Relations between Moscow and West are again in a deep chill - this time over Russia’s arming of rebels in Ukraine.

But disregarding geopolitics, Muscovites are streaming to a new museum show here called “Designing 007.” Five floors and 500 props, sets, gadgets and costumes draw crowds to the Multimedia Arts Museum. “Really huge, a lot of visitors, around 15,000 in three, in four days,” said Katrina Inozemtseva, the curator of the Bond show in Moscow.  Read more ..


Financing the Flames

US Funding Palestinian Terrorists

June 27th 2014

Financing the Flames

Obama administration officials have praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as someone with whom Israel can do business.

See the Video Report

Yet he recently chose to do business with those committed to Israel's destruction, Abbas struck a deal with Hamas making the U.S.-designated terror group part of a united Palestinian government.

Buy Financing the Flames
Learn More About Financing the Flames

Although that unity deal may soon be dead following Hamas's alleged kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, Abbas's initial embrace of the terror outfit raised serious questions about his commitment to peace.

Financing the Flames

"Peace doesn't have a chance because peace doesn't pay," said award-winning investigative journalist Edwin Black. "Because anytime that they want some income, all they've got to do is commit an act of terrorism."

In his latest book, Financing the Flames, the New York Times bestselling author details how the Palestinian Authority rewards terrorists who have killed Israelis.

"As soon as a terrorist commits an act of terrorism against an innocent civilian in Israel -- whether that's cutting the throat of a child or stabbing a man standing at a bus or blowing up a building," Black said. "As soon as that man does that, he goes on a special salary from the Palestinian Authority, under Palestinian law -- a law known as the Law of the Prisoner."

The more Israelis killed, the bigger the financial reward.

"He gets a graduated salary depending on how heinous the crime is," Black continued. "If he kills five people and gets five years, he gets one salary. If he kills double that number and gets double the sentence, he gets double the salary. And so this actually incentivizes the misery, mayhem, and carnage that the terrorists commit." Read more ..


Book Review

The Limits of Partnership: Understanding the Deterioration of US/Russia Ties

June 27th 2014

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The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-first Century. Angela Stent. Princeton Univ. Press. 2014. 384 pp.

In early May 2014 Angela Stent, Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, testified before a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on the United States, Ukraine and Russia. She was a logical choice because the book under review here provides needed background to understand the deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations that we are now witnessing. (I should disclose that I did my graduate work at the center that Professor Stent now heads, but this was before she arrived at Georgetown and we have never met.)

Stent’s book covers more than its title indicates, for it is a history and analysis of U.S.-Russian relations during the post-Soviet period from late 1991 until late 2013. Unlike Stephen Cohen’s Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia (2001) and subsequent writings, Stent’s book is not a strong indictment of U.S. policy toward post-Soviet Russia. Although both approaches have their value, Cohen’s indictment approach is not in keeping with Stent’s style. She is more the prudent, balanced scholar, often presenting contrasting views without revealing, except tacitly, how she feels on a particular subject.

Having held important positions at both the State Department and the National Intelligence Council, Stent is much more a Washington “insider” than is Cohen. Currently, she also acts as a senior advisor to NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

In addition to 34 pages of notes and bibliography (about one-tenth of her book), there is a four-page list of interviewees, among whom are many of the important U.S. government foreign-policy and Russian experts. Among the latter are Strobe Talbott, who served President Clinton, and Michael McFaul, who for two years under President Obama was the U.S. ambassador to Russia. In addition, two former secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, are there. She has also interviewed important Russian foreign-policy figures including two former ministers of foreign affairs, Evgeny Primakov and Igor Ivanov. And she has ample contacts with other Russians. She has taught a course on U.S.-Russian relations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and she has been a member of the Russian-sponsored Valdai International Discussion Club, which holds annual conferences, where President Putin speaks and answers questions. Read more ..


The Edge of Theater

Why Bernard-Henri Levy Wants His New Play To Help Bosnia

June 26th 2014

Bosnia mourner in cemetery

Bernard-Henri Levy is hoping that a two-hour monologue pushes Bosnia-Herzegovina into the European Union.

The French public intellectual is opening his new play, titled "Hotel Europe" and starring the French actor Jacques Weber, on June 27 in Sarajevo.

"Our aim here with this play is not only to give a play, it is to try to use this play in order to help to change something in the terrible situation which Bosnia is still living," Levy told RFE/RL's Balkan Service in an interview, speaking in English. He said his hope is that "this play could be [a] push which helps Bosnia to enter at last [the] European Union before Serbia."

The play is two hours long in real time, according to Levy. The main character is preparing to deliver a speech about Europe to the National Theater in Sarajevo. The speech, set to begin in two hours, is meant to mark the centenary of the June 1914 assassination in Sarajevo of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which led to World War I a month later.  Read more ..


The Edge of Music

Jazz Pioneer Horace Silver Dies

June 22nd 2014

Piano Keys

Jazz pianist and composer Horace Silver, 85, has died in New Rochelle, New York.

Throughout his remarkable career that began in the 1940s, the pianist, composer and arranger always had one goal in mind.

“I try to make people think with my music,” he said in a long, biographical interview from 1981 with jazz writer and photographer Bob Rosenbaum. 

Speaking recently, Rosenbaum recounted the highlights of Silver’s life, which started as the son of an immigrant from Cape Verde. “He grew up in a musical household," he said. "They used to throw parties for the family - you know - on Saturday afternoons - people would come over and play the music that they grew up with in Cape Verde islands.

While he was successful as a pianist, throughout his career, Silver was most revered as a composer and arranger.  His strength was drawing from multiple sources and putting them together in the jazz idiom. “I've always taken a bit of this and a bit of that and blended it together," Silver said. "In the beginning, and I still do dig the Blues, gospel.  I love Latin rhythms.  I love Broadway show music.  Classical music.”   Read more ..


Book Review

Book Review: Jonathan Swift Biography

June 21st 2014

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Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World. Leo Damrosch. Yale University Press 592 pp., 2014

The art of biography, as it is practiced today, nearly always involves the biographer as mediator between past and present, a bridge over the ever-widening gap between the two. As history has more and more become the record of what we feel we ought to be ashamed of our ancestors for, the biography-worthy great men of centuries gone by require new champions to explain why they, at least, weren’t so bad as most of their benighted contemporaries.

The biographical apologia, like the debunking, was already well-established 30 years ago, when Irvin Ehrenpreis completed his three-volume biography of Jonathan Swift after two decades of work. The vogue in the 1960s, when Ehrenpreis began his work, was for psychological, often Freudian, analysis of one’s subject, and the undoubtedly weird figure of the 18th-century dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin and author of Gulliver’s Travels (1726) must have offered one of the more tempting subjects in English literature for such treatment.

Yet, since Freudianism lost favor and patronizing the past in other ways became popular, it has taken another generation for Ehrenpreis’s sometime-colleague at the University of Virginia, Leo Damrosch, now of Harvard, to write a Swift biography in the more up-to-date manner. The result is enlightening and amusing, and it is enlivened by the inclusion of stories and anecdotes about Swift that Ehrenpreis had omitted because they were insufficiently well-attested in his overscrupulous view. But there is no denying the challenge Damrosch has taken on in trying to make Swift a more palatable subject for the 21st century.

Take, for instance, his penultimate chapter, called simply "The Disgusting Poems." Here, his sympathy for his subject is more evident than his conviction in advancing any of the multiple excuses for Swiftian scatology that have occurred to previous biographers and commentators. The reader may presumably pick his own favorite. For what it’s worth, mine is the one separately suggested by two different writers who, though neither mentions the comparison, seem to see the poems of excrement and sexual disgust as ironic anticipations of Winnie Verloc in Joseph Conrad’s Secret Agent, who "felt profoundly that things do not stand much looking into." Read more ..


Book Review

U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century

June 16th 2014

The Limits of Partnership

The Limits of Partnership. Angela Stent. Princeton University Press. 2014. 384 pp.

In early May 2014 Angela Stent, Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies, testified before a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on the United States, Ukraine and Russia. She was a logical choice because the book under review here provides needed background to understand the deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations that we are now witnessing. (I should disclose that I did my graduate work at the center that Professor Stent now heads, but this was before she arrived at Georgetown and we have never met.)

Stent’s book covers more than its title indicates, for it is a history and analysis of U.S.-Russian relations during the post-Soviet period from late 1991 until late 2013. Unlike Stephen Cohen’s Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia (2001) and subsequent writings, Stent’s book is not a strong indictment of U.S. policy toward post-Soviet Russia. Although both approaches have their value, Cohen’s indictment approach is not in keeping with Stent’s style. She is more the prudent, balanced scholar, often presenting contrasting views without revealing, except tacitly, how she feels on a particular subject.

Having held important positions at both the State Department and the National Intelligence Council, Stent is much more a Washington “insider” than is Cohen. Currently, she also acts as a senior advisor to NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

In addition to 34 pages of notes and bibliography (about one-tenth of her book), there is a four-page list of interviewees, among whom are many of the important U.S. government foreign-policy and Russian experts. Among the latter are Strobe Talbott, who served President Clinton, and Michael McFaul, who for two years under President Obama was the U.S. ambassador to Russia. In addition, two former secretaries of state, Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, are there. She has also interviewed important Russian foreign-policy figures including two former ministers of foreign affairs, Evgeny Primakov and Igor Ivanov. And she has ample contacts with other Russians. She has taught a course on U.S.-Russian relations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and she has been a member of the Russian-sponsored Valdai International Discussion Club, which holds annual conferences, where President Putin speaks and answers questions. Read more ..


Film Review

Under the Skin: Scarlett Johansson in Disguise as Herself

June 11th 2014

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Under the Skin. Director: Jonathan Glazer. Starring: Scarlett Johansson. Length: 90 mins.

A friend of mine once described an eerie noise as being "like a spaceship landing." Of course no one — really — knows what a spaceship landing sounds like. But not-really, everyone does know. Spaceships and the aliens who arrive on them are now such familiar parts of our culture, mainly through their representation in the movies, that no one anymore has to bother to make such creatures from another planet appear, as they once were expected to appear, "incredible." Now they are all too credible to a movie audience raised on such fantasy. We are so used through mere repetition — and through living a greater portion of our lives than ever before in the fantasy-land of popular entertainment — to finding them credible that one may even find oneself occasionally criticizing the latest manifestations of their presence among us for being less than entirely realistic.

One of the things that, going back to H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds in the 1890s, we used to take for granted about these wholly mythical creatures we have learned to call "aliens" is that they were warlike and hostile to human-kind. Steven Spielberg, following on from The Day the Earth Stood Still of 1953, began with Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the immortally awful E.T., to explore the alternative theory that they might be friendly or else sent from a higher civilization to warn us to mend our ways. Read more ..


Broken Bookselling

Amazon Spat with Publishers Escalates as Contracts End

June 8th 2014

Amazon Box2

Amazon.com Inc.'s sales contracts with some of the world's biggest publishers, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, are next up for renewal, signaling that skirmishes over e-book pricing are set to spread.

The world's largest online retailer is already feuding with Hachette Book Group and Bonnier Media. CBS Corp.'s Simon & Schuster and News Corp.'s HarperCollins will soon come up for renegotiation, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because the contracts are private. That means best-selling authors such as HarperCollins' Veronica Roth, writer of the Divergent trilogy, and Simon & Schuster's Stephen King could be entangled in the controversy. Read more ..


Art and Science

Scientists Rush to Save Vanishing Iconic DaVinci Self-Portrait

June 4th 2014

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One of Leonardo da Vinci's masterpieces, drawn in red chalk on paper during the early 1500s and widely believed to be a self-portrait, is in extremely poor condition. Centuries of exposure to humid storage conditions or a closed environment has led to widespread and localized yellowing and browning of the paper, which is reducing the contrast between the colors of chalk and paper and substantially diminishing the visibility of the drawing.

A group of researchers from Italy and Poland with expertise in paper degradation mechanisms was tasked with determining whether the degradation process has now slowed with appropriate conservation conditions -- or if the aging process is continuing at an unacceptable rate.

To do this, as they describe in Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing, the team developed an approach to nondestructively identify and quantify the concentration of light-absorbing molecules known as chromophores in ancient paper, the culprit behind the "yellowing" of the cellulose within ancient documents and works of art.

"During the centuries, the combined actions of light, heat, moisture, metallic and acidic impurities, and pollutant gases modify the white color of ancient paper's main component: cellulose," explained Joanna Łojewska, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. "This phenomenon is known as 'yellowing,' which causes severe damage and negatively affects the aesthetic enjoyment of ancient art works on paper." Read more ..


Book Review

How UNRWA Perpetuates the Palestinian Crisis

June 2nd 2014

David Bedein

Roadblock to Peace. David Bedein. Beit Argon International Press. 2014.

UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, was created in 1949 after the Arabs rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine, and five Arab armies attacked the nascent State of Israel and lost. And yet, its role in enabling the ongoing Arab War on Israel is not readily understood nor publicized, but is the essence of David Bedein’s new book, Roadblock to Peace, How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNWRA Policies Considered.

Bedein, a prolific Jerusalem-based investigative journalist, author, and director of the Israel Resource News Agency, who hosts a blog, www.israelbehindthenews.com, is eminently qualified to report first-hand on the workings of this unique United Nations agency whose exclusive mandate is but one ethnic group. This stands in sharp contrast to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which works on behalf of millions of refugees from the rest of the world. The book is extensively documented with sources, citations, graphs, photographs, and footnotes. Read more ..


The Edge of Arts

Alleghany Meadows Offers Creative Workspace for Artists in Colorado

May 31st 2014

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Justin Donoforio and Brooke Cashion, residents of Santa Cruz, Calif. moved to the Roaring Fork Valley after they heard about Alleghany Meadows through their ceramics community. The pair contacted him to see if they could be a part of the shared workspace they’d also heard rumors of; both were looking for Colorado residency before applying to school. They’ll soon ship off to Fort Collins, but have high hopes of returning to the artists’ enclave they found in Carbondale.

“We wanted to be in this area, and because we were able to get studio space, we came here,” says Cashion. Their story is not unique for S.A.W. (Studio for Arts and Works), but it’s not the only story between its walls either.

Inside the 6,500-square-foot building in Carbondale, which used to house a mechanic’s shop, are 20-plus studio spaces for working artists — from ceramicists and sculptors to jewelers and painters. They can come and go as they please, simply paying a monthly rental fee to the building’s owner, Alleghany Meadows, who is also an artist. Read more ..


Book Review

A Story of Protest and Prison During the Vietam War

May 30th 2014

Resister

Register. Bruce Dancis. Cornell University Press. 2014. 384 pp.

“On December 14, 1966, at the age of eighteen, I stood before a crowd of three hundred people at Cornell University, read a statement denouncing the war and the draft, and tore my draft card unto four pieces.” Bruce Dancis, a college freshman, then dramatically walked to a mailbox and sent the mutilated card to his draft board. He was the first Cornell student to do so. “I made a stand against the war and the draft. I became part of a tiny minority of young men ---an estimated three thousand—who went to federal prison instead.”

Resister, Bruce Dancis’s absorbing portrayal of the tumultuous sixties from his vantage point as leader of Cornell’s Student for a Democratic Society, describes what it was like to challenge the world’s most powerful nation in the midst of a war that saw millions of Asians and 58,000 U.S. troops die, a failed war for which no-one at the highest level of our government has ever been held accountable.

Dancis and anti-war opponents like him were widely praised but also damned. Inspired by hatred for the war, the draft, black liberation and sexual freedom, the emergence of the New Left and Catholic Left and the possibilities it presented seemed a golden opportunity to seriously change the country’s direction. Many of their opponents believed the SDS and similar rebel groups symbolized the decline of order, stability, tolerance and civil patriotism, a frontal assault on values where people knew their place and politics stopped at the water’s edge.

Dancis was a Jewish kid from the Bronx and schooled at the Ethical Culture Society in Manhattan. His father had been a WWII conscientious objector and both parents, politically active, were ardent anti-Communists. By the time he arrived in Ithaca in 1966, the idea of student power was already alive on some campuses. But the more the war expanded, the more dead and wounded soldiers, the more the government fought the protestors, the more did Dancis become active with Cornell’s SDS branch. Kirkpatrick Sale’s definitive history, SDS, recognized Dancis’s role. “Inspired by SDSer Bruce Dancis’ draft card destruction,” Sale wrote, the SDS called for a controversial “burn-in” in Central Park's Sheep Meadow for April 15, 1967. Sale went on to depict the event as “an important symbolic moment for the anti-draft movement [because] combined with the beginnings of the West Coast group called Resistance, which was launched this very same day with a call for a mass turn-in of draft cards in the fall, this was to reverberate throughout ivied halls around the country.” The New York Times’ Tom Wicker went further, suggesting that, if the U.S. “had to prosecute 100,000 Americans in order to maintain its authority,” it would be more difficult to pursue the war since “It would then be faced not with dissent, but with civil disobedience on a scale amounting to revolt.” Read more ..


Book Review

Jewish Resistance: The Big Picture

May 27th 2014

jewish resistance against the Nazies

Jewish Resistance Against the Nazies. Catholic University Press. 2014. 640 pp.

What more is there to say about the Holocaust that hasn’t been said before?

Herded into concentration camps, one-third killed far from the death camps, dragged from their homes in the Baltics, Ukraine, Poland, Belgium, France, Greece, Croatia and every other country under Nazi and Fascist control, one- and a half million of their children slaughtered, their women and girls raped, and still far too many people believe that they didn’t fight back. But if anyone resisted and fled where could they find sanctuary? Who would hide them? How could my Ukrainian Jewish aunt and her family and neighbors in the small town of Lyubar have defied the einsatzruppen, Christopher Browning’s “ordinary men” and their homicidal Ukrainian and Romanian henchmen before she and others were hung and shot by them? Who actually believes that otherwise peaceable civilians could successfully battle an enemy who by 1941 had conquered much of Europe? Yet, in spite of all the obvious limits, many did fight back as best they could.

Richard Middleton-Kaplan, professor of English and Humanities at Harper College, has wisely observed, “Given the evidence that exists to disprove the myth [that Jews did not resist], a historian might consider the issue to require no further discussion. But if Jewish resistance has been amply demonstrated to specialists, public perception remains unaware of the proof.”

Patrick Henry’s masterly collection of cerebral and quite readable essays in Jewish Resistance Against the Nazis, proves that Jews fighting the Nazis and their allies, violently and nonviolently, was fairly common. Frequently relying on unfamiliar sources, Henry’s essayists depict all kinds of resistance, from futile skirmishes with a handful of axes, hammers and rocks as in the late 1944 revolt at Auschwitz, then the last remaining death camp, to the larger revolts in the Bialystok, Vilna and Warsaw ghettos. Read more ..


Book Review

A New History of American-Japanese Relations

May 25th 2014

The Currents of War

The Currents of War. Sidney L. Pash. University of Kentucky Press. 2014. 372 pp.

In recent decades the study of social history has superseded the investigation of more traditional topics such as political and diplomatic history. This trend has also been encouraged by the end of the Cold War. Nevertheless, the recent crisis in the Ukraine and Crimea re-emphasizes the significance of international diplomacy and how diplomatic failures and misunderstandings may lead to war. Within this contemporary context it is well worth taking a look at diplomatic historian Sidney Pash’s new book on the relations between Japan and the United States leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Pash, a former Fulbright Fellow in Japan and an associate professor of history at Fayetteville State University, argues that war between Japan and the United States was not the inevitable clash of two expansionist empires in the Pacific. Instead, Pash maintains that diplomatic miscalculations and assumptions, especially on the part of the United States, produced a conflict that might have been settled at the negotiating table.

Observing that following the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 the victorious Japanese emerged as the greatest threat to the American Open Door in China, Pash asserts that beginning with the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt the United States developed strategies to contain Japanese expansion. According to Pash, this containment policy was based upon four pillars: maintenance of the balance of power, military deterrence, diplomatic engagement, and economic coercion. In the final analysis, Pash believes that the decision to abandon diplomatic engagement in favor of economic sanctions culminated in the Pacific War. Read more ..


Book Review

Extraordinary Women Who Shaped America's Environment

May 22nd 2014

RC and her Sisters

Rachel Carson and Her Sisters. Robert K. Musil. Rutgers University Press. 2014. 328 pp.

Despite the central role of women in the environmental movement, surprisingly little is known about them. Furthermore, what is known is usually limited to the work of Rachel Carson, whose powerful call to action, Silent Spring (1962), is widely credited with jump-starting the modern environmental movement. But, as shown by Robert Musil’s new book, Rachel Carson and Her Sisters, Carson is merely the most visible of numerous women who have had a powerful impact upon how Americans have viewed the natural environment and sought to preserve it.

Musil, who is senior fellow at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University, first became intrigued with Carson’s life in 2007, when, 43 years after her death, rightwing talk show hosts launched vicious attacks upon her. “I wanted to know more about the roots of such venom,” he recalled. He soon “realized that there had been other Rachel Carsons long before she was born, and that many women have built on her legacy since her untimely death.”

Musil points out that, as the nineteenth century progressed, increasing numbers of American women obtained better education and the ability to travel, write, and take action. They hiked, explored, and botanized, while observing the encroachment of manufacturing and urban life on the countryside. Although restricted by gender discrimination from playing top roles in academia, the professions, and publishing, they nonetheless produced a flood of books, magazine articles, journals, and children’s stories, many of them about nature. In addition, Martha Maxwell began the development of natural history museums, while Susan Fenimore Cooper became active in the movement to stop the slaughter of birds for fashionable women’s hats. Read more ..


The Edge of Film

Hollywood Company Deals in Gruesome, Ghastly Props

May 19th 2014

Human Skull

Skulls, skeletons and severed body parts - they are staples of horror movies. A Los Angeles company has found success making and marketing ghastly props for Hollywood studios and lovers of ghost stories.

Workers pour liquid foam rubber into molds to create the grisly products, including hands, heads and bloodied legs, says B J Winslow of the Hollywood business called Dapper Cadaver.

“You can come right in and grab body parts right off the shelf.  Or we can do custom project, custom fabrication for you," said Winslow.

Major movies, including the sequel to the adventure film X-Men, used these props. So did the the original and the sequel of the fantasy film 300. 

Dapper Cadaver also works with TV shows about crime, medicine and forensic science. It rents skulls and skeletons and scientific specimens in jars. But it specializes in rubber body parts.

“We work with pretty much anybody who needs a dead body.  It doesn't really matter.  We do a lot of stuff for film and television shows, stunt bodies, victims, stuff like that.  We also work with Halloween parties and events, haunted houses," said Winslow.

It takes about three days to produce a full body, after the cast is made. “A lot of times, we'll be working with a crime show where they'll send us very specific cause of death and we've got to do our gruesome research.  And some stuff is more just for fun," he said. Read more ..


Financing the Flames

New York Jewish Groups Hear Edwin Black on the New Israel Fund and BDS

May 18th 2014

Edwin Black

American Jewish groups concerned with the anti-Israel BDS movement, as well as other issues surrounding agitation NGOs in Israel, have scheduled lectures by renowned human rights author Edwin Black. The groups have summoned Black to hear revelations from his latest bestselling investigative book, Financing the Flames. That book has ignited international repercussions about the role of tax-exempt and taxpayer monies, as well as the human rights movement, in creating a culture of violence, confrontation, and paid terrorism in Israel.

Black’s previous works include the million-copy international seller IBM and the Holocaust and the award-winning JTA series “Funding Hate.”

In Financing the Flames, Black spotlights American taxpayer-supported monies funding salaries of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons, as well as the organic connection of the New Israel Fund to the BDS movement, and the NIF's robust funding of “agitation human rights NGOs.”

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Black kicks off a three-event New York scholar-in residence beginning with a presentation May 19 at 7 p.m. at the StandWithUs-New York headquarters. StandWithUs is the lead sponsor of the tour. The next day, May 20, Black addresses a group of attorneys in a lunch-and-learn session co-sponsored by SWU and the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, and other groups. He wraps up his visit with a school-wide assembly lecture to Ramban Mesivta High School in Lawrence, Long Island.

In February, Black embarked upon a parliamentary tour of four legislatures in four weeks: The House of Commons in London, the European Parliament in Brussels, the Israeli Knesset in Jerusalem, and the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington, D.C. At each stop along the way, Black astonished lawmakers with details of donor nation funding for specific terrorists under a Palestinian law called the Law of the Prisoner under the aegis of the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners. The author also spotlighted how the New Israel Fund has marshaled hundreds of millions of dollars to help establish the BDS movement and to finance confrontation NGOs, which, according to Israeli Knesset leaders and a broad swatch of Israeli military men, seem devoted to destabilizing the Israel Defense Forces and erasing the Jewish identity from the State of Israel. Read more ..


The Edge of Film

For Veterans with PTS, Battle Is Just Beginning

May 14th 2014

Troops in IED Training

Veterans can spend an entire lifetime dealing with the trauma of war.

While those with severe physical injuries can get help rehabilitating into society, those with emotional trauma often suffer in their own darkness.

Two films, one a documentary, the other a drama based on a real story, showcase the pain and loneliness of veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTS). But the films also illuminate how this darkness can be lifted.

Not Yet Begun to Fight
Steve Platcow's documentary Not Yet Begun to Fight follows Elliott Miller as he slowly heals from the physical wounds he received in Afghanistan.

“Yes, I do have some goals that I’m working towards," Miller says in the documentary, "and one is that I am working on improving my verbal communication abilities and two, I’m presently working towards getting able to legally drive again and three, well, that one I’m just going to save for myself.” Emotional healing will take longer. Read more ..


The Edge of Music

The Morning After Eurovision, Russia Gets Up On Wrong Side Of The Bed

May 11th 2014

MTV Music Awards

It was Austria's first Eurovision win in 49 years. But as dawn rose over the glitter-strewn living rooms of Europe, Russia was in no mood to offer congratulations.

"Fifty years ago, the Soviet Army occupied Austria.... We should have stayed there," harrumphed Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the voluble head of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party. "It's the end of Europe. It has turned wild."

Russia, which first joined the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994, has long been one of its most enthusiastic members, embracing its ethos of kitschy pop like a natural.

But this year, as its relationship with Western Europe founders over its annexation of Crimea and separatist referendums in eastern Ukraine, it has suddenly found much to dislike in Eurovision. For one thing, its own contestants, the dewy-eyed Tolmachevy Sisters, finished a mere seventh, despite their upbeat calls for the "world to show some love." Read more ..


Film Review

The Other Woman: A Revenge Comedy that Takes Itself too Seriously

May 8th 2014

Click to select Image

The Other Woman. Director: Nick Cassavetes. Starring: Lesley Mann, Kate Upton, Cameron Diaz, Nickloj Coster-Waldau.

There are a few implausibilities at the heart of The Other Woman, Nick Cassavetes’s female revenge fantasy to a script by Melissa K. Stack. Everything depends on the appearance by Carly (Cameron Diaz) at the front door of the home in Connecticut shared by Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his wife, Kate (Leslie Mann). Carly is Mark’s girl-friend and, having no idea of Kate’s existence, has arrived from Manhattan to surprise him by helping, as she believes, with a household emergency.

To that end she has dressed herself up as a sexy plumber, which is in itself a fine comic idea as well as being a great set up for a funny film about the two women, later joined by a third in the scarcely believable shape of a second Mark-girlfriend, Amber (Kate Upton), teaming up to take their revenge on the love-rat. But if you’re anything like me you may be wondering how on earth did Carly know where Mark lived?

Obviously, that is, he has had to arrange his life with great care in order to keep a wife and multiple girlfriends — we later learn that there are others besides Carly and Amber — without giving any of them an opportunity to find out about the others. Is it remotely likely that he would have made the elementary, boneheaded mistake of telling Carly where he lived in Connecticut or, if she engaged in some sleuthing to find out for herself — and there’s no indication in the movie that she has done this — of telling her he was going there for the weekend? Read more ..


Iran on Edge

Iranian Takes Novel Approach To Publish Book

May 8th 2014

Facebook page

After trying and failing for years to obtain a publishing license for his novel, Iranian writer and journalist Mohammad Motlagh finally had enough. 

Instead of taking the Culture Ministry's no for answer, on April 28, Motlagh began posting his novel -- one chapter at a time -- on Facebook.

"A book is like a child to [a writer]," Motlagh explained in an interview with the semiofficial ISNA news agency on May 2. "One loses the motivation to write when it is considered illegitimate and it is not being issued a birth certificate. The writer cannot work on their next work."

The 42-year-old said he decided to post the novel, "In The Land Of White Eglantines," on Facebook so that he could move on and start working on his next book. As of May 7, he had posted six chapters. He described the novel as the story of a journalist who travels with his wife to Tehran, "where he faces a series of family problems and is banished by his wife to the basement." Read more ..


The Battle for Ukraine

Russia Jeered, Ukraine Cheered, But Both Advance To Eurovision Finals

May 7th 2014

MTV Music Awards

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have dominated headlines for months, and May 6 was no exception. The only difference was the battlefield: not Mariupol or Odesa, but the blue-lit Diamond Stage in the Danish capital Copenhagen.

It was there, before tens of thousands of fans, that Ukraine's Maria Yaremchuk and Russia's Tolmachevy Sisters met with cheers and boos as they advanced to the May 10 final of Eurovision 2014.

The Tolmachevys, 17-year-old identical twins, were the first of the two to perform. Balancing atop a giant see-saw and clutching clear plastic tubes of indeterminate function, their blond tresses intertwined, the sisters performed a flawless version of "Shine," their Filip Kirkorov-penned anthem calling on the world to "show some love." 

Minutes later, Yaremchuk took to the stage for her upbeat love song, "Tick Tock." Not to be outdone by the twins' balancing act, she came armed with a substantial prop of her own -- a human-size hamster wheel, kept in motion by an admirably fit dancer throughout the length of the 3-minute song.   Read more ..


Destination America

Hollywood-related Exhibits Give Museums a Boost

May 6th 2014

Wizard of Oz

For years, audiences have flocked to museums to see exhibits of film props and iconic pop culture artifacts.

For example, Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz are a major draw at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History. Some museums are going a step further, capitalizing on audience interest by creating exhibits around new movie releases to tell real-life stories. 

That's the case with the 2012 political thriller Argo, which won four Oscar awards last year.  The film tells the story of a covert operation led by CIA agent Tony Mendez, who created a phony Canadian film crew in a scheme to rescue six U.S. diplomats who were in hiding at the Canadian Embassy in Tehran after the Iranian revolution. Argo is the subject of a recent exhibit at the International Spy Museum, where visitors can see authentic photos and documents about the operation. Read more ..


Book Review

The Life Of Jimmy Carter

May 5th 2014

Redeemer

Redeemer. Randall Balmer. Basic Books. 2014. 304 pp.

As Rodney Dangerfield might have put it, “Jimmy Carter gets no respect.” He has always had plenty of critics since it appeared that from the time he entered the White House he preferred an administration dedicated to making a few genuine changes. In a recent TV  interview Carter told Andrea Mitchell of NBC that President Obama has never called on him for advice as had other presidents because, he said,  “the Carter Center has taken a very strong and public position of equal treatment between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And I think this was a sensitive area in which the president didn’t want to be involved.” Indeed, some American Jews have shunned him because the title of one of his books included the word “Apartheid”  supposedly describing Israeli-Palestinian relations.

His emphasis on human rights deeply offended conservatives and reactionaries here and abroad, especially in dictatorial Argentina and apartheid South Africa. Few can forget the searing Iranian hostage crisis where he bore unfair blame for “weakness” in responding effectively after a botched rescue attempt. Some of the criticism was in part justified given his holier-than-thou moralizing.  For too many, then and now,  Carter as President, somehow lacked the charisma that, we are told,  many voters demand from their admired politicians, such as Ronald Reagan, for example. 

In Carter’s losing 1976 presidential re-election  campaign his fellow evangelicals and fundamentalists, including  Billy Graham, Nixon’s close friend and religious counselor, turned against him in favor of the divorced, non-churchgoing Ronald Reagan.  “His [Reagan] life  seems to be governed by a few anecdotes and vignettes that he has memorized,” went a sour entry in  Carter’s diary about his rival. “He doesn’t seem to listen to anybody who talks to him.” That’s the popular verdict among liberals, yet  despite the disapproval of many in his party Reagan chose to meet Mikhail Gorbachev halfway and thus helped end the Cold War. Read more ..


Book Review

The Currents of War: How America and Japan Talked their Way into WWII

May 2nd 2014

Click to select Image

The Currents of War: A New History of American-Japanese Relations, 1899-1941. Sidney Pash. University Press of Kentucky. 2014. 372 pp.

In recent decades the study of social history has superseded the investigation of more traditional topics such as political and diplomatic history. This trend has also been encouraged by the end of the Cold War. Nevertheless, the recent crisis in the Ukraine and Crimea re-emphasizes the significance of international diplomacy and how diplomatic failures and misunderstandings may lead to war. Within this contemporary context it is well worth taking a look at diplomatic historian Sidney Pash’s new book, The Currents of War: A New History of American Japanese Relations, 1899-1941, on the relations between Japan and the United States leading to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Pash, a former Fulbright Fellow in Japan and an associate professor of history at Fayetteville State University, argues that war between Japan and the United States was not the inevitable clash of two expansionist empires in the Pacific. Instead, Pash maintains that diplomatic miscalculations and assumptions, especially on the part of the United States, produced a conflict that might have been settled at the negotiating table.

Observing that following the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 the victorious Japanese emerged as the greatest threat to the American Open Door in China, Pash asserts that beginning with the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt the United States developed strategies to contain Japanese expansion. According to Pash, this containment policy was based upon four pillars: maintenance of the balance of power, military deterrence, diplomatic engagement, and economic coercion. In the final analysis, Pash believes that the decision to abandon diplomatic engagement in favor of economic sanctions culminated in the Pacific War. Read more ..


Books and Authors

The Magical Realist Contributions of Gabriel García Márquez to Latin America

April 30th 2014

The death of Gabriel García Márquez, on April 17, 2014, of pneumonia, probably the consequence of his long struggle with lymphatic cancer, brought a period of Latin American and, perhaps, world literature to an end. García Márquez was best known for One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), the work that popularized magical realism—a style characterized by the presentation of fantastic events as if they were ordinary.

This novel told the story of the jungle backwater town of Macondo, ‘a village of twenty adobe houses’ and of several generations of the Buendia family, and was redolent of the bizarre, stagnating world in which the writer grew up, one which he loved despite all but which he saw desperately needed to change. He was also the author of other widely admired novels, like Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981), a story of honor killing told with such intensity that we read on even though the outcome of the story is revealed at the beginning, and Love at the Time of Cholera (1985), a moving and dignified story of love regained in old age. Autumn of the Patriarch, (1975) was the ultimate ‘dictator novel’ which is both riveting and strangely horrifying, an elegy for a despicable state of political being. Read more ..


Architecture as Art

Frank Lloyd Wright's Architecture Continues to Inspire in Arizona

April 28th 2014

smart exterior building panels

 Frank Lloyd Wright is known as the father of modern American architecture.

Two historic properties in the state of Arizona show the grand expanse of his designs. One is Taliesin West - Wright’s rustic winter home and architecture school. Half-an-hour away is a Wright-influenced hotel that’s filled with eye-popping luxury. 

The splash of fountains is a refreshing counterpoint to the dry sagebrush foothills that surround Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, Taliesin West. Wright broke ground on this 200 hectare property in 1939. The buildings include an airy theatre for live performances, an underground “kiva” for movie shows, and the residence where Wright lived until his death in 1959.  Read more ..


After the Holocaust

Edwin Black at Yom HaShoah Ceremony Links IBM's Methods in the Holocaust to Ukraine Outrage

April 25th 2014

Edwin Black

New York Times bestselling Holocaust author Edwin Black will keynote the nation’s oldest Yom HaShoah Holocaust commemoration, April 27, 2014, at a community-wide ceremony at Shomrei Torah, the Wayne Conservative Congregation in Wayne, New Jersey. In what is expected to be a riveting presentation, Black will not only explain how IBM consciously co-planned and co-organized the Holocaust, but he will link the methodology IBM invented for the Nazis to the recent headline-grabbing anti-Jewish events in the Ukraine. The event is sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey.

For the first time, Black will allow more than a dozen smoking-gun documents proving IBM’s culpability to be used as a poster display. The enlarged documents include examples of IBM punch cards, the secret codes IBM used to quantify the pace of gas chamber murders, as well as examples of Big Blue’s “Extermination by Labor” program. The commemoration committee requested the documents as a public service.

In an interview in the New Jersey Jewish Standard, Black stated, “The methodologies of the Holocaust that I document in ‘IBM and the Holocaust’ — including registration and property itemization — instantly come flooding back to our collective consciousness the very moment unrest subsumed the Ukraine,” he said. “I intend to remind the Wayne audience of this event as a prelude to my more specific revelations about IBM’s role in the Holocaust. And what was that role? A prime mission of IBM was to register all the Jews of Europe for the Nazis. You see that the impulse never dies. In this century, it would be accomplished not with punch cards, but with computers; not with a painstaking 1940s clerical process, but in the twinkling of a digital eye.” Read more ..


Book Review

My Promised Land: Deeply Disappointing Tour de Force

April 25th 2014

Click to select Image

My Promised Land. Ari Shavit. Spiegel and Grau. 2013. 464 pp.

I have just finished reading Ari Shavit’s tour de force “My Promised Land”. It left me deeply disappointed and angry.

Shavit is one of Israel’s most talented and erudite columnists. He is a passionate Zionist and proud Israeli whose patriotism cannot be challenged.

His superb portrayal of history and life in Israel has received extraordinary acclaim which even extended to the anti-Israeli orientated liberal media. His book was selected as one of the Notable Books of 2013 by The New York Times Book Review.

To qualify for this endorsement he paid a regrettable price. He included one chapter which is so far out of kilter with his otherwise laudable book, that one suspects it was deliberately written to achieve endorsement from the liberal glitterati for whom debasement of the Jewish state has become a key component of their liberal DNA.

As the Yiddish expression puts it, Shavit attempted to dance simultaneously at two weddings in order to ingratiate himself with all parties. To achieve his aim, he compiled this dark chapter which implies that the Jewish state was born of the sin of military victory and inflicted needless brutal suffering on the indigenous Arab population.

Titled “Lydda 1948”, the chapter effectively endorses the core of the Palestinian narrative of dispossession. It describes, inaccurately, the battle of the Arab town in central Palestine that would become the city of Lod and the expulsion of the Arabs from that town. In summary, it argues that the events which transpired during and following the battle prove that the Jewish state was born in sin. Shavit alleges that we are now obliged to come to terms with the misdeeds (“The Black Box of Zionism”), that our forebears inflicted on the indigenous Arab inhabitants in the course of our birth. Read more ..


The Edge of Music

Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

April 24th 2014

Music

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called Easy Gone with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe.

Bonneville's musical presentations are spare and focus on the mood, sentiment or story. Many of his songs have a blues quality, but he says he picked up all kinds of styles playing small clubs and bars across America.

“People call me a blues man, but really what I am is, I am influenced by blues music, but not just by blues music. I am influenced by country music and rhythm and blues,” Bonneville said. Bonneville’s music also reflects a life that began with his French-speaking family in Canada, where he first picked up a guitar. When he was 12, his family moved to the United States where he later worked as a cab driver among other things, playing music mostly for himself. Read more ..


Financing the Flames

NIF Parade Fracas Pushes Outraged Jewish Groups to Define Mainstream

April 23rd 2014

Edwin Black

If a small group of grass-roots Jewish organizations have their way, more than one hundred protestors will assemble in New York City on April 29, 2014, each carrying a shofar. On cue, at 5:30 in the afternoon, rain or shine, all will raise their curved rams' horns, long and short, and wail to the heavens in visceral unison producing a piercing spectacle of protest. The cacophonous alarums will continue their outcry until the shofar blowers feel they have made their point.

What are they protesting? It is their communal leadership.

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The dissident shofar blowers will assemble in front of the 59th Street headquarters of the UJA-Federation of New York. The Federation's beneficiary, the Jewish Community Relations Council, is the chief organizer of the Celebrate Israel Parade scheduled for June 1. The upbeat procession of floats, runners, and marchers is normally a public show of Jewish unity in support of Israel. But this year, the parade has become a maelstrom of disunity over the participation of the controversial New Israel Fund and other groups which recent revelations now link to the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement and the campaign to delegitimize Israel internationally.

The outrage in some American, Jewish, and Israeli circles over the NIF's inclusion in the highly visible parade, formerly known as the Israel Day Parade, may be more than just a passing horn blast. The discontent may be energizing a historic decision among American Jews. Just what constitutes the Jewish mainstream? Is American Jewry about to set limits on its open tent of inclusion, a precept the community wears as a badge of honor?

More than a few American Jews feel their community has been hijacked from within by such groups as the J Street lobby, the New Israel Fund, and other organizations that constitute a powerful, well-funded minority able to wage war against Israel seemingly in the name of the Jewish people. "These groups are anti-Jewish," says Judith Freedman Kadish, special project director of Americans for a Safe Israel, "and they are funding groups that are anti-Semitic. They just veil their actions by saying they are trying to influence public policy and an occupation." The accused organizations and their defenders in the Jewish media and within the Jewish activist community vigorously insist their activities are simply democratic dissent aimed at solving Israel's problems. Read more ..


The Edge of Theater

Synetic Theater Celebrates Shakespeare Anniversary with Historic Hamlet

April 21st 2014

Shakespeare

April 23 marks the 450th anniversary of the birth of famed playwright William Shakespeare.

A Washington-area theater company recently marked the occasion with a revival of its original wordless version of Hamlet from its well-regarded “Silent Shakespeare” Series.

Synetic Theater Company's Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili kicked off their independent career in 2002 with this silent version of Hamlet - which earned several major local awards.

The immigrant couple from Georgia -- Director Paata Tsikurishvili and Choreographer Irina Tsikurishvili -- started the Arlington, Virginia-based company 12 years ago. The husband and wife team starred as Hamlet and Ophelia in that first production. Paata Tsikurishvili says that is how Synetic’s critically-acclaimed “Silent Shakespeare” Series started.

“Hamlet opened the door for us in a theater community and brought us many awards and recognition. That was a start for Synetic Theater that spread the word about the theater company that we are doing Shakespeare without text which is unusual and the same time very accessible,“ she said. The company uses music, dance and pantomime to tell the story.

This time, Irina appeared on stage as Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother.  She says that Shakespearian language is universal -- and allows for a lot of creativity. “We’ve done Shakespeare in many different ways: we’ve done Shakespeare in ((the)) Twenties in Twelfth Night; we had also Shakespeare on the sand, it was King Lear; and we’ve done The Tempest in water," Tsikurishvili said. Read more ..


Arts of the World

Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

April 19th 2014

fruit basket

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. One artist lucky enough to be selected said sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.

Basket artist Jackie Abrams began making traditional, functional baskets in 1975. Today, she makes two lines of contemporary baskets using non-traditional materials.

“One are [is] coiled baskets using a very traditional coil technique where it’s stitched… and for that I use recycled fabric,” she explained. “I also weave other baskets with a heavy cotton paper and wire to make a form…reminiscent of a woman’s form,” said Abrams. She describes her coiled baskets as her "Spirit Vessels." "The exposed cores represent their essential beings, their solid inner cores, giving strength, always visible. Each stitch connects and reinforces the rows that came before. The frayed edges are a part of their lives," she said. Read more ..



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