Posted by Ryan Torok
Adam’s paparazzi, and he’s photographed the likes of Brad Pitt, Michael Jackson and the Kardashians. He works for a small agency that buys his photographs and distributes them to publications like People magazine. I met him in Beverly Hills, where he was “roaming” – a paparazzi term for wandering from hot location to another hot location – for celebrities.
A couple hours before I met him, Nicky Hilton was photographed in the neighborhood, but Adam wasn’t around for her. He did catch her mother though, Kathy Hilton, coming out of a nail salon, and he shot some photographs of her.
I spoke with Adam (Adam isn’t his real name and he was reluctant to say where he lived) about the business of being in paparazzi, the reputation of paparazzi versus the reality and what it’s like day-to-day. Adam explained it’s not as a lucrative as it once was.
“It was big money in the middle of the 2000 decade and then it sort of simmered down a bit, maybe waiting for its next big story, like a Britney Spears melt-down kind of story or something. Maybe it’s just the economy, like everything else. But then there’s big-name agencies and shows, like Access Hollywood and TMZ that are still big consumers of it. The international market is still very strong…the British tabloids and magazines and TV shows. The average photographer works for an agency and um, submits media constantly day and night and that immediately goes around the world to whoever wants to purchase the rights to use it.
JJ: Why did you get into this field?
A: I’ve shot documentaries and TV and film for a long time and it just didn’t – especially in L.A. , it’s hard not to be interested in celebrity culture, so I added that to my repertoire of what I do. Um, about three years ago [I got into the business of paparazzi].
JJ: What’s your proudest moment as a member of the paparazzi?
A: Ah, proudest moment? It was hard to say it was a proud thing, but, um [he decides not to share it].
JJ: Least proud moment as a a member of the paparazzi?
A: I don’t have many. I, uh, follow the rules and have some morals. My hands are clean.
JJ: Does one develop his or her own moral code? Or are there are a set of rules that everyone is aware of and has to abide by? I imagine both maybe are true?
A: Well, there’s definitely CA law and most of us follow it. and some people…sometimes they don’t, and usually that has to do with traffic and people chasing celebrities and getting into accidents, which most of us have nothing to do. Most people they know to be in public places, shooting photos of public figures, that are of public interest, and that’s what we do. So sidewalks and shopping on rodeo drive, or uh, that’s pretty much public domain where celebrities are expecting to be seen and noticed and photographed and that’s what most paparazzi do.
JJ: Is there anything you are allowed to do but you choose not to because you’re not comfortable with it?
A: Um, I keep it pretty clean. I do what celebrities expect would be done when they go out. Ill shoot red carpet parties, ill shoot events, ill shoot Christmas shopping on Rodeo Drive. That’s what I do, that’s me personally. There are people who do other things I guess. But mostly there’s a law, a set of laws, there’s trespassing laws, there’s privacy laws…these days, people pretty much know what they’re supposed to do.
JJ: How old are you?
A: I’m in my forties.
JJ: What do people in your life think about your job?
A: Most think it’s really cool, especially those that are not in Los Angeles. They think it’s the most glamorous and interesting thing…people that don’t know us, some have a problem with it, some think, uh, it’s not really a job, but, then again, a lot of them might be miserable at their desk jobs, so, a little jealous of somebody that’s hanging around and talking to celebrities all day and being in magazines and on TV.
JJ: Run me through a typical day for you.
A: A typical day would be in the morning get my coffee, look for who’s also getting coffee that might be an interesting subject or story. Um, walk around Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, into shopping areas, observe who might be shopping; um, I’ll be with my family for a little while, take an early day – not leavin’ early if I were at a desk job – spend some time with family, have dinner and usually in the nighttime look for news stories around restaurants and night clubs.
JJ: How late do you usually work?
A: About 9 or 10. Some people shoot all night, but people who shoot in the day or night have to have some personal time. So I set my own schedule. I work – I set a 40-hour schedule. I spread it out and I have a lot more flexibility. It’s like any freelancer, spread it out and just be flexible.
JJ: How did you get into it?
A: I just shot a lot of things for TV and photography before. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for a long time and know what’s been going on with celebrities a lot, where things are always happening and who are interesting celebrities. I’ve always been following all of entertainment news, so I know who are the interesting stories that would make money and what wouldn’t. So it made sense being close to it all to start making money at it.
JJ: Where do you live?
A: In the 3-1-0 area code.
JJ: What are some of the most giving spots around town?
A: Um, Rodeo Drive; Robertson Blvd.; The Grove, although sometimes I don’t know if people are allowed to shoot there – I don’t go there. Um, let’s see, this is all daytime interesting things. Um, certain stores – like Fred Segal is an interesting store. Barney’s is an interesting store. And at night there’s just a lot of restaurants that are well known restaurants.
JJ: What’s something that you don’t think most people know about the paparazzi business or world that they people should know?
A: Um, that there’s a lot of really good people. Men and women, interestingly enough, that are making a good living doing something interesting and I think that that’s kind of missed sometimes when people see a whole group of people standing around, apparently picking on someone. But I think what people need to remember is that someone makes tens-of-millions of dollars of year for being famous and popular, and this is all part of what they do. And they are very well aware of it. those celebrities are very well aware and quite often work with us to get the photos done.
JJ: Favorite Jewish celebrity and have you ever photographed him or her?
A: Okay, I have no idea. Um, is Megan Fox Jewish?
JJ: Not that I know of. Natalie Portman’s Jewish.
A: Okay, so that’s my answer right there. Natalie Portman, sure.
JJ: Have you ever photographed her?
JJ: How religious are you? How observant are you?
JJ: Do you go to temple?
JJ: Is it against the rules to go – how do you feel about photographing Jews who are going into temple for the High Holy Days?
A: Oh I don’t do that. I don’t do churches either. Except weddings. Weddings are a monumental celebrity event. They are not the same as a religious ceremony.
JJ: What Jewish values or lessons from Torah can you apply to your job as a paparazzi member?
A: Not ‘Honor your parents.’ Let’s see. Just all around – just in general keep-you-in-check-be-a-good-person helps because it really doesn’t get you very far to cross moral or legal lines, doing anything like this. It gets you nowhere.
JJ: Do you know other Jewish paparazzi?
A: No, we’re a loosely-knit group. We don’t hang out at each other home’s everyday.
Too bad, I thought, and I left my new pal to his work.
12.28.11 at 1:38 am | A member of the paparazzi, Adam’s a freelancer. . .
12.19.11 at 6:01 pm | Last weekend, I met Elaine and Lee, an older. . .
12.16.11 at 11:54 am | I woke up this morning to a text message from my. . .
10.19.11 at 5:22 am | Eli Lipmen, communications strategist for the. . .
10.15.11 at 6:21 pm | Yesterday, I was at Occupy L.A., asking people. . .
10.14.11 at 3:04 am | Brain cancer survivor Judi Kaufman has suffered. . .
2.19.11 at 4:38 am | Who would’ve thought? The new Radiohead album,. . . (5)
12.16.11 at 11:54 am | I woke up this morning to a text message from my. . . (4)
3.19.10 at 5:33 pm | Comedian Joel Chasnoff sits across from me at. . . (2)
December 19, 2011 | 6:01 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Last weekend, I met Elaine and Lee, an older retired couple, in a Starbucks in the Santa Monica area. They were talking about Robert Reich, the former U.S. labor secretary to President Bill Clinton.
I saw Reich speak not too long ago at an Occupy L.A. event, so I decided to strike up conversation with Elaine and Lee.
If nothing else, brief conversations with strangers always distract me from my personal issues.
Turns out Elaine and Lee are Jewish, and liberal. Very liberal. And big believers in education.
Elaine, who was sitting with an abridged guide to Chanukkah in front of her, and Lee both think that education is the key to solving this country’s problems and that democrats understand why and republicans don’t.
Lee pointed out that if you ask republicans why education is important, they’ll tell you that it’s so you can get a good job when you’re older.
If you ask a democrat, he or she say it’s so that they can become active citizens, Lee said.
It reminded me of something I read by Rabbi Sharon Brous—a High Holy Days sermon, entitled “Spiritual State of the Union,” which emphasizes the importance of empathy.
What Lee was saying, basically, is that democrats are empathetic.
I thought about this some more: obviously, democrats don’t have a monopoly on empathy. There are Republicans who are empathetic (although HBO’s Bill Maher might disagree with me), but this idea that democrats care and republicans, well, don’t, is a prevailing view in pop culture. Where does this come from?
Well, for starters, people like Bill Maher. And bands like Radiohead, whom I named this blog after. They espouse rhetoric about the unfeeling-ness of Republicans, their callous indifference to the suffering of others, their preoccupation with helping the wealthy. Every political article in Rolling Stone magazine, it seems, is about this topic, the greediness of Republicans.
Hollywood, too, is responsible for the caricature of Republicans as pink-faced dummies who just care about money and hunting. There’s a scene in “The American President,” a movie I’m not ashamed to say I love, starring Michael Douglas as the president of the United States. Richard Dreyfuss plays Bob Rumsfeld, a Republican candidate running against him for office. In one scene, Rumsfeld and his aides are in a meeting in a room that looks like a cigar parlor, talking about hunting in-between plans to take down the president on the campaign trail. They’re made to look pretty stupid.
More proof of Hollywood bias: In 2008, a film called “An American Carol” was released, a David Zucker film that spoofed Michael Moore and liberals. The movie came and went, didn’t do much business.
Hollywood, I remember reading, wanted nothing to do with “An American Carol,” which probably hurt the film in the end.
It’s a cliche that liberals dominate Hollywood, but maybe it’s true.
Maher, Radiohead, Rolling Stone and Hollywood mislead, of course. There have to be some republicans who care.
Elaine and Lee care a lot about the future of this country—specifically, education. Elaine said that school is nothing but standardized tests that don’t teach students how to become engaged when they’re older. My own education experience was somewhere in the middle.
The middle—that’s where things need to go. We need more people who believe in empathy and self-interest. Those people might put this country on the right track.
Lee and Elaine think so too, although they don’t seem to think anyone but democrats are capable.
Lee also said it’s the rare person who has both, the empathy and the capacity to take on endeavors where the primary goal is personal gain.
This past weekend, my friend and I had a conversation about personal balance, about people who are charismatic and intelligent. My friend said this balance is rare. Practically nobody has it – President Bill Clinton being the exception, my friend said. The coincidence between him saying Clinton and my conversation with Elaine and Lee starting because of Reich didn’t occur to me until now.
Anywho, maybe it’s something to strive for. This New Years, maybe we should make a related resolution. Maybe we should all work toward balance, whatever that may mean for each of us individually.
December 16, 2011 | 11:54 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
I woke up this morning to a text message from my father: “Christopher Hitchens died.”
The writer and public intellectual died on Dec. 15 at the age of 62 from esophageal cancer. Hitchens was 38-years-old when he found out that he was Jewish.
“He had an output to equal what he took in,” editor Graydon Carter wrote in a tribute to Hitchens in Vanity Fair yesterday. Hitchens wrote regularly for the publication. He also wrote for Slate.
Jeffrey Goldberg has written about him as well. Today, Golbderg wrote, “I don’t think he would mind me saying that I thank God for the privilege of knowing him.”
It’s true. Hitchens, who, as strong as his convictions in his beliefs, was committed to having a sense of humor about himself and, well, life, probably would not have minded this statement. From what I’ve read by Hitchens, he seems to have respected, more than anything, intellect and honesty. Goldberg appears to committed to that the way Hitchens was, so it’s no wonder the two had a relationship.
Reading “Hitch-22,” his memoir released in 2010, I most enjoyed the section about him aligning with Salmon Rushdie in the wake of the controversy that emerged after Rushdie published “The Satanic Verses.” Rushdie’s book upset radical Muslims—Rushdie went into hiding, in fact, as a fatwa was issue against him, and Hitchens – or Hitch, as he was called – helped Rushdie during this time.
As I read “Hitch-22,” which I picked up not along after I started at the Journal to prepare for an event put on by ALOUD, a local lecture series, for which Hitchens was scheduled to appear – he cancelled at the last minute, as this was during the onset of his sickness (the event was in June 2010, and Hitchens announced his sickness in 2010) – I underlined phrases that resonated with me. One of my favorites happened to be in the acknowledgements section at the end of the book: a writer’s “promiscuous mandate is to be interested in everything.”
In his tribute to Hitchens, Carter reinforces that Hitchens’ mind was wide open it came to taking on assignments. From going overseas and writing about nations entrenched in violent conflicts, putting himself in the middle of the action, to writing about a spa treatment in an article about self-improvement, Hitchens lived up to the task of being interested in everything.
“He’d also subject himself to any manner of humiliation or discomfort in the name of his column,” Carter said.
As a writer, to be interested in everything is something I aspire to, and it’s advice that would behoove anybody – regardless of their career, I think – to take.
October 19, 2011 | 5:22 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
Eli Lipmen, communications strategist for the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in Los Angeles, was raised in Bermuda, the island and British colony in the Atlantic Ocean.
“I used to wear Bermuda shorts,” said Lipmen, 28, in an interview, wearing a business suit—proper attire for his job at AJC, an international Jewish advocacy organization.
Born on the East Coast, Lipmen’s father is an oceanographer and moved the family to St. George’s, a town in Bermuda, when Lipmen was six-years-old. Lipmen spent his childhood on a biological station, growing up in a place with plenty of surf. In fact, when he was 17- and 18-years-old, he worked as a scuba dive instructor in a dive shop.
Despite the lack of Jewish life in Bermuda, there were moments of real Jewish-ness, he explained, recalling when Chabadniks visited and went around on a motoped.
“Tzizit blowing in the wind,” he said nostalgically.
Living on an island that “99 percent Christian,” he was apart of a Catholic youth group, “because that was the only youth group I could join,” and he was president of a Christian drug-free organization.
After high school in Bermuda, he traveled in Israel – where he met his future wife – and afterwards, attended University of Pennsylvania, as well as University of Southern California and the London School of Economics and Political Science for graduate school before coming to Los Angeles.
His mother was a layperson for the Jewish Community of Bermuda – a community known as JCB - and eventually became a rabbi.
“She got the calling,” Lipmen said.
What’s the difference between an epiphany and a calling? I asked.
He laughed. “One’s for atheists and the other is for religious people.”
October 15, 2011 | 6:21 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Yesterday, I was at Occupy L.A., asking people what that they were doing there, why’d they come – and I got the predictable responses: corporate greed, the income gap between the rich and the poor, rising unemployment, the endless, fruitless bickering between the right and left.
Late in the day, I met Jeff, a former New Yorker in his fifties with a penchant for quoting Talmud. What’s this all about? Why are people here?
Do you know the story of Aw-dawm and Ḥawwāh, he said, referring to Adam and Eve of the Book of Genesis.
Of course. Who doesn’t?
Okay, he said. If you know the story of Adam and Eve, what happened after they ate the apple?
They lose their innocence. I felt good about this response. If only my father, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Jewish education for me, could hear me.
Wrong, Jeff said.
Yes, wrong. That’s an analysis. But that’s not what happened. What happened afterwards?
They were suddenly aware of their nakedness.
I thought of ‘Dude, Where’s My Car,’ the scene when Ashton Kutcher and Stiffler are trying to order food in the drive-thru.. And then? And then? And then?
Refocusing my attention on Jeff, What did they do after they became aware of their nakedness? They covered up with clothes, I said.
Clothes? Jeff said. What clothes? They didn’t have clothes then.
Leaves. They covered up with leaves.
Okay, this was becoming annoying. I thought hard, tapped into the inner depths, trying to remember. Remember, remember, remember.
Oh, I know, I exclaimed. After Adam and Eve ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, God told Adam that he would now have to work for a living, and He told Eve that she would have to feel pain when she conceived.
You said you went to Jewish school? Jeff said.
I was about to punch him.
They hide, Jeff said. After they eat the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve hide. They hide from God.
That’s right. I’d completely forgotten.
And God says, ‘Ey-foh.’
A few people had walked over to us and were listening, including a skinny anarchist-looking guy with a mohawk and torn skinny jeans. I’d seen him earlier lightly playing drums with brush-sticks next to a group of about twenty people, a committee of indigenous rights, convening next to a large fountain in the center of Occupy L.A., where dozens and dozens of shanty camp tents had been set up.
The anarchist guy was holding a tape recorder, toward Jeff’s mouth, recording what Jeff was saying.
God says, ‘Ey-foh,’ which is Hebrew for ‘where.’ He says to Adam and Eve, ‘where are you?’
Why would God say ‘where are you?’ God knows everything, Jeff said. God sees everything. God has a GPS system for the entire universe. God knew where Adam and Eve were hiding, so why would he say ‘ey-foh.’
I was stumped.
God says ‘ey-foh’ because he wants to know where Adam and Eve think they are. He isn’t asking where they are physically. He wants Adam and Eve to reflect on where they are in relationship to the world that is changed forever, now that they have this knowledge, now that they have this consciousness of all things. He’s asking where do they think they are and how do they expect to return to paradise.
Everybody here at Occupy L.A. is aware of the good and evil in the world, Jeff said. They’ve eaten the fruit, and they’re here trying to figure out their place in the world. Trying to return to paradise.
Deep stuff, the anarchist said. I agreed. It was the best answer I’d gotten all day.
Watch my interview with Jeff below.
October 14, 2011 | 3:04 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
Brain cancer survivor Judi Kaufman has suffered through three brain tumors – yes, three. Her first diagnosis, back in 1997, was that she’d suffered a stroke, but the neuro-oncology department at UCLA identified it as a tumor, which might have saved her life.
That’s why Kaufman, who Journal contributor Jessica Pauline Ogilive highlighted in the Journal’s 2010 annual mensch issue, founded, in 2001, Art of the Brain.
The nonprofit, earlier this month, raised $500,000 for the UCLA Neuro-oncology program, as a result of the nonprofit’ 12th annual gala event on Oct. 1.
It’s not that much money, Kaufman, said to me in a recent interview.
Although, it’s good in this economy, she added.
Since Art of the Brain’s inaugural event, the organization has raised “more than $5 million,” Ogilive said.
I met Kaufman following her reading of a poem she’d written. Kaufman participates in the Los Angeles Poets and Writers Collective, “which sponsors readings, publications, classes, seminars, and workshops,” according to jackgrapes.com (Grapes is the instructor at the weekly writers workshop that Kaufman attends, located in a non-descript brick building next-door, incidentally, to the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, on mid-Wilshire Blvd.).
Called on to read her poem, Kaufman - stylish black top hat with her long frizzy blonde hair coming out of it, a black vest and a white blouse – went to the front of the room.
“I had a dream about you last night,” one attendee, the only male in the room, said.
“I dream about you every night,” said another workshop attendee.
The room, with comfy sofas, carpeting, coffee and snacks, the approximately 20 attendees sitting in a close circle and looking more awake than most do at 9 a.m., is haimish, a Yiddish word.
Kaufman smiled, seemed grateful, and she began reading.
“How ‘bout that Mitt Romney running around in circles? And what about that John Huntsman?” she read out loud, presenting her poem to a group of approximately 20 people…. Unsung heroes, those new tea party people. They sure know how to hate. They were hating Jews in Pasadena in the 1950’s, calling us pinkos and sinkos.”
Medical treatment, including chemotherapy, has affected her speech, and in a typed-up copy of her poem, which she gave to me afterwards, there are huge spaces between some of the words, alerting her to pause. She says that she does exercises, physical movements, with her yoga teacher that help with her speech, including rolling back-and-forth and from right to left on the ground. Before her surgeries, she was a good public speaker, she said.
People laughed with pleasure throughout Kaufman’s reading, enjoying Kaufman’s shouting out of the Republican candidates, who Kaufman had watched the night before during a Republican debate.
The assignment had been to write a sarcastic poem, one with a tone recalling the way people speak.
“‘A rodeo of relief pitchers of milk for the poor to let them all eat cake and hot crossed buns…all that mayonnaise and marshmallows.’ God, I don’t know where you pluck this stuff from, Judy, but it’s just, wow,” Grapes said, reading over an extra copy of Kaufman’s poem.
“She’s a poet - that’s where it stems from,” said a workshop attendee.
Looking over it some more, “Wow, this is great. This is great,” Grapes said.
Kaufman was raised in Pasadena and lives in Los Angeles. She attends these workshops because the left side of her brain, the analytical side, was taken out during surgery – she has trouble with time, with numbers, and so she’s turned to art, she explained.
As she said to Ogilive, “When I found out I could write well, it turned everything around. Art can give you something for nothing.”
In addition to raising funds for UCLA, Art of the Brain – which is run entirely by volunteers – refers brain cancer patients to places like L.A. Poets, so that they can use art as a healer.
For more information on Art of the Brain, visit artofthebrain.org.
June 17, 2011 | 11:59 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
Like a lot of comedians, Scott Gairdner, who has achieved online celebrity via YouTube and comedy sites, is self-conscious—and he admits it.
“The internet is great for someone like me, who is far too nervous to get ahead by working the standup scene or something like that,” Gairdner, a staff writer-director for funnyordie.com, said during a recent interview.
As explained in this Huffington Post piece, Gairdner’s latest sketch, “Staying Positive with Jesse Eisenberg”—featuring him impersonating “The Social Network” star—has gone viral. In the video, seven tweens ask Eisenberg about “life, love and growing up in the 2010s,” as Gairdner-playing-Eisenberg says in the sketch’s introduction.
Gairdner skillfully mimics Eisenberg’s condescending-robot tone and caffeinated speech pattern, completing the Eisenberg look with sleep-deprived eyes.
Video courtesy of Funny or Die.
The video’s cheesy-eighties vibe was inspired by a video found a thrift store, Gairdner said.
“I watched this terrible ‘talking to girls about their problems’ VHS I found at a Goodwill, and I thought it would be hilarious to throw the blunt, awkward Jesse Eisenberg persona into a show like that,” he said.
It’s the second time Gairdner has impersonated Eisenberg, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and whom the Journal interviewed prior to the 2011 Academy Awards.
Gairdner previously took on Eisenberg in a fake audition tape of Eisnberg trying out James Franco’s role in “127 Hours.”
Gaidner said that he hasn’t heard from Eiesnberg or the actor’s camp about the good-humored videos.
“I’m really hoping we do at some point,” Gairdner said.
Gairdner, a relative newcomer on the comedy scene, is doing well for himself, landing a full-time gig with Funny or Die, Will Ferrell and director Adam McKay’s comedy video website, and racking up more than 14 million views of the sketches he’s featured on his YouTube channel.
Among the channel’s many videos, there’s the sitcom-mocking “Chicago and Me,” about a nine-year-old boy who is adopted by legendary band Chicago, and “Juggalo News,” which Gairdner, as a news anchor named Krazee Thug Nutz, says is the only news network “specifically for fans of Insane Clown Posse.”
The Insane Clown Posse video is a must-see, and it’s what scored Gairdner the position at Funny or Die—a coveted job, I imagine, if you’re an aspiring comedian. McKay, who helmed the Ferrell comedies, “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” saw “Juggalo News,” asked Gairdner to make more installments of it and eventually asked Gairdner to join the “Funny or Die” staff.
“It was a great series of events that I’m still tremendously thankful for,” Gairdner said.
While the web and Gairdner appear to be a good match, “Having lots of million view videos doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll get a TV show,” he said. “But it certainly helps to get audience feedback to your work.”
June 5, 2011 | 5:12 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Over the weekend, I stumbled onto “Why Jews Laugh at Themselves,” an article written by Hillel Halkin that was published in Commentary Magazine in 2006. (Unless you purchase the article for $4.95, you can only read the abstract.)
In the Commentary article, Halkin, who has also translated Yiddish short stories by Shalem Aleichem (“Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories,” 1987), points to an old skit by Jack Benny that skillfully plays on Jewish stereotypes for laughs:
Benny is accosted by an armed mugger who threatens, “Your money or your life.” The comedian takes his time answering and, when prodded with a gun, protests: “I’m thinking. I’m thinking!”
Harkin says that Benny’s joke relies on two stereotypes about Jews: that Jews love money and that they “over-intellectualize.”
While steroetypes, as everyone knows, are often negative generalizations about groups or individuals, as a Jew I’m proud of our peoples’ tendency to over-intellectualize – which is Harkin’s point: that while self-deprecation is thought of being a primary characteristic of Jewish humor, real Jewish humor is both self-deprecating and self-praising.
“Are we not also forced to admire the person who refuses to be rushed even by a threat to his life,” Halkin says, of the Benny joke, “and insists on his right to rational reflection?”
“A stereotypical Jew,” Halkin says, “thinks before acting.”
Yes we do.
March 3, 2011 | 3:29 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
Before speaking at the Levantine Cultural Center on Wednesday night, Mark LeVine, a history professor at UC Irvine and the author of “Heavy Metal Islam,” discussed the unusual plane ride to Egypt during the revolution there. Watch below for segment from the interview.
The event, a fundraiser for the nonprofit, Free Tunisia, also featured Egyptian and Tunisian speakers, who spoke about their countries histories and their revolutions – propelled by youth determined to oust their longtime autocrat leaders. Levantine Center co-founder Jordan Elgrably, whose recent opinion piece in Al Jazeera says, among other things, that “Israel should be integrated into the mosaic of the Middle East. It is time to end the conflict that began with the belief that Arabs and Jews are historic enemies,” helped organize the event.
February 19, 2011 | 4:38 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
Who would’ve thought? The new Radiohead album, “King of Limbs,” released on February 18 as a digital download, is a singer-songwriter record.
Aside from the sultry lead single “Lotus Flower,” the strongest tracks are the slowest ones: “Codex,” which is mostly singer Thom Yorke and his piano, and “Give Up the Ghost,” which is Yorke and his guitar.
Throughout the British quintet’s now-eight album career, Yorke’s vocals have always been a deal-breaker for many. People who have admired the art rocker’s musicianship have not been able to get into the band more seriously because of York’s sometimes off-key singing.
The band became famous in 1992 with the inescapable complaint-rock hit, “Creep,” which, incidentally, was popular in Tel Aviv before anyplace else.
Thom’s voice may be the strongest instrument on the new album, which is filled with gorgeous ambience and glitchy percussion, but he doesn’t always sound great. His harsh singing in the chorus of “Little by Little” makes the song unlistenable - which is a shame as it has an inventive country-influenced guitar strum in it - and the bass-heavy “Feral,” an instrumental (thus, without vocals) is a song people can skip over once they’ve gone through the album a few times.
“Open your mouth wide, there’s a universe inside,” the opening lyric on the album, sets the stage for an album throughout which the voice is the most important instrument.
November 23, 2010 | 11:06 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
“PASTA! A Pop Ups Puppet Musical” follows around two wannabe-chefs (Jacob Stein, Jason Rabinowitz) who scour Brooklyn in search of the best pasta ingredients.
The show comes to Los Angeles for several performances between Nov. 23 and Nov. 28.
In “PASTA!” Stein and Rabinowitz bring out the acoustic guitars and sing songs from their recently-released children’s-rock album, “Outside Voices,” drawing from a diverse range of genres, like alternative rock, dance and indie, and featuring lyrics about food, animals and more.
During a recent interview, Stein emphasized his and Rabinowitz’s intention to make a show that appeals to all ages. “If you can straddle the line between entertaining both the kids and the adults, it’s a real success,” Stein said.
The new set of shows marks the duo’s return to Los Angeles, after several dates in the Venice area last summer.
“We decided to come back to L.A. because the fans out here have great energy,” Stein wrote in a recent email. “Once the show ended in July, we received emails asking us when we were bringing the show back to LA.”
In real life, Stein and Rabinowitz met in Brooklyn while working together on another puppet show—one for Passover.
“We hit it off,” Rabinowitz said, adding that when they rejoined to record “Outside Voices,” which eventually inspired their “Pasta” musical, “we both wanted to make a record that was sort of our own personal unbridled fun project. And we did.”
Their love of other well-known shows with puppets, such as “Sesame Street” and “Avenue Q,” influenced their decision to turn their record into their very own puppet show.
“When someone asked us to put together a different show,” Stein said, we thought, “let’s go with something we both love doing…puppets.”
“We have the puppet gene,” Rabinowitz said.
The show sees Stein and Rabinowitz juggling multiple tasks, including, of course, manning the puppets, at one point attaching them to the tongues of their Converse, playing live music and providing a live drawing demonstration.
The show features eights songs along with puppet characters whose names, such as Mr. Clunkhead and Fruta Di Marme, a mermaid, Stein and Rabinowitz hope will appeal to kids.
“I think that everybody can have a lot of fun with puppets,” Stein said.
Tue. Through Nov. 28. All shows at 3:30 pm. (except Sat., Nov. 27 at noon). $15. MiMoDa Dance Studio/Theater, 5774 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. thepopups.com/pasta.
November 3, 2010 | 5:44 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
On Tuesday, November 2, author Nicole Krauss discussed her new book, “Great House” (a 2010 National Book Award finalist), in front of an intimate audience at the Los Angeles Central Library.
Following an interview with KCRW radio host Michael Silverblatt, Krauss answered questions from audience members.
“I think for me, the great opportunity of writing a novel is to step into the inner life,” Kraus said on Tuesday. The event lasted approximately one hour.
The Los Angeles Central Library routinely holds readings, lectures and discussions with writers. The series, known as ALOUD, recently featured novelist Jonathan Franzen. On Nov. 30, Salman Rushdie will appear in conversation with Reza Aslan.
“Great House,” a work of fiction and Krauss’ third novel, explores the importance of objects in peoples’ lives.
Toward the end of the discussion with Krauss, Silverblatt appealed to the audience to support public libraries. He spoke of city budget cuts that forced L.A. libraries to close on Sundays and Mondays.
Kraus’s husband, Jonathan Safran Foer, writes novels, nonfiction and short stories (“Everything is Illuminated,” “Eating Animals”).
To listen to a podcast of Krauss’ interview and discussion, click here.