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.
12.28.11 at 12:38 am | A member of the paparazzi, Adam’s a freelancer. . .
12.19.11 at 5:01 pm | Last weekend, I met Elaine and Lee, an older. . .
12.16.11 at 10:54 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. . .
4.26.10 at 1:21 pm | After a panel session featuring Ellis (“Less. . . (12)
6.5.11 at 5:12 pm | “Why Jews Laugh at Themselves,” an article in. . . (3)
10.14.11 at 3:04 am | Brain cancer survivor Judi Kaufman has suffered. . . (3)
February 19, 2011 | 3:38 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 | 10:06 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.
October 18, 2010 | 11:38 am
Posted by Ryan Torok
A profile on Big Sunday founder David Levinson, author of the new book, “Everyone Helps, Everyone Wins,” which blends memoir with handbook - offering useful advice for any person, family, school, faith group or business interested in giving back – appeared in the latest issue of the Jewish Journal, the week of Oct. 15-21. Read below for an excerpt from the interview.
Jewish Journal: You use the phrase, ‘It’s all good,” a lot in the book.
David Levinson: I wanted to call [the book] that actually. But someone else had already used that title, for something else. But I actually do believe it’s all good. I think people get…sure some things are more valuable than others, like it’s more worthwhile if you’re clearing landmines in Cambodia than if you spend an hour talking to an old lady to keep her company, yes. But it doesn’t mean there’s no value in spending time with the old lady who needs a visitor. And I think people get moralistic and judgmental, and I have no idea why.
JJ: Were you hesitant about writing about your friend who comes up to you and says, “I just can’t deal with Darfur…I’m overextended already, and it just doesn’t speak to me.”
DL: No, I applauded her for it. It was honest.
I really wanted to write a book that said, ‘You know what, if you can’t do Darfur, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.’ We always see Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King. Yeah, sure, they’re amazing. But I’m not going to be Martin Luther King [laughs]. I’m not going to be Mother Teresa. These are extraordinary people, but most people can’t do that.
JJ: Actually, reading the book, I saw you as a mix of Mother Teresa and The Dude.
DL [laughs]: Alright, if that works, I’ll go for it. That’s very funny. I don’t think Mother Teresa was ever quite as cranky as I was. But maybe she was.
JJ: Well, who do you look at as role models?
DL: Um, that’s a really good question. I’m trying to think of a non-political example. I always thought Paul Wellstone was an incredibly cool guy, the senator from Minnesota.
I try to be non-political when I have my Big Sunday hat on. Although I will say, I really admire Jon Stewart. He’s a smart guy and despite his couching it all with a lot of humor, he really is outraged by some of what he sees in the world and is trying to make a difference in a positive way.
Q: How was the writing process? Was it ever like 3 a.m., you pulling your hair out?
DL [laughs]: When you get to my age, you want to leave as much hair on your head as you can—no, it easy and fun to write. It was just sort of jogging my memory. If I have any regret about the book, there were certain people I wish I could have told their story more because they inspired me. I’ll tell you one thing, can I go back to something else?
JJ: Yeah, absolutely.
DL: I’ll tell you something I found really inspiring. I thought that after the tsunami, when Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. hit the road together, to raise money for people, I thought that was incredibly inspiring. Because it was my impression that these guys really didn’t like each other personally. And that they put that behind them, presented a united front—I thought that was really cool. I really admired them both for doing that. I think that made a big difference for people to see something like that.
JJ: On another topic, do you don’t think that there’s sort of an issue of self-absorption with twenty-to-thirty-year-olds? Do you think they’re getting our there, volunteering?
DL: You know what, people have complained that twenty-to-thirty-year-olds are self absorbed—it drives me crazy. People talk about kids now, how they’re only on Facebook and texting—I have three teenagers, two teenagers now, one of them is twenty—these guys are so much more involved and committed than people in my generation were. I think this generation is incredible, actually.
David Levinson will read from and sign copies of “Everyone Helps, Everyone Wins” at Barnes & Noble at the Grove, Third Street and Fairfax Avenue, Oct. 20, 7 p.m. Free. (323) 525-0270.
August 6, 2010 | 5:36 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
The footage was taken in Jerusalem and posted on vosizneias.com on Aug 5, 2010.
To see full article, click here.
From nkusa.org, “Neturei Karta opposed the establishment of and retain all opposition to the existence of the so-called ‘State of Israel’”
Read more on the group here.
June 21, 2010 | 12:31 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
A sold-out audience of approximately 500 people, either by invite or by coughing up dough for a pricey $250 ticket, attended “Knock out Addiction,” a fundraiser featuring live celebrity boxing between actor Tom Arnold and Rabbi Mark Borovitz of Beit T’Shuvah.
The event, held on June 16, 2010 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA, raised funds for Beit T’Shuvah, an L.A.-based residential treatment center for various addictions and a full-service synagogue.
Beit T’Shuvah treats its residents for addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling and more. 125 people currently live there, between the ages of 18 all the way up to 70.
Nina Haller, major gifts director at Beit T’Shuvah, joked that there were people in the audience – Beit T’Shuvah residents mostly – who “wouldn’t mind seeing a punch thrown at Rabbi Mark” due to his confrontational methods of speaking with residents of the rehab center. “He’s controversial in his approach, sometimes too real for people to handle and it makes people uncomfortable,” Haller said. “But it’s very effective. Many people will you tell that Rabbi Mark saved their lives.”
Other celebrities at the fundraiser included prolific boxing figures Sugar Shane Mosley and Jackie Kallen and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” star Kristen Bell.
Late in the evening, the main event featured “overweight” class fighters Tom “The Hebrew Hammer” Arnold and Rabbi Mark “The Holy Thief” Borovitz (Borovitz’s memoir of late in life rabbinical redemption after years of a life of crime is called “The Holy Thief”) squaring off in the ring for three rounds—gloves and proper boxing attire and all.
Borovitz, though, wasn’t allowed to punch his friend Arnold in the face since Arnold is currently filming a pilot. Maybe that’s why Arnold, who was coached by comedian buddy Dax Shepard, won the sloppy but nevertheless entertaining match, which had its share of bear hug-like grabbing and panting and, some might say, a sucker punch from Arnold.
Arnold and Borovitz in the ring:
Arnold’s pre-fight interview:
Pre-fight interview with Borovitz:
May 20, 2010 | 6:06 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Susan Polis Schutz is a filmmaker, poet and greeting card writer. Her new documentary, “The Misunderstood Epidemic: Depression,” aired recently on PBS. The film explores the lives of 12 people who suffer from depression, a clinical disorder which affects approximately 20 million Americans each year. During a phone interview, Schutz explained the filmmaking process and opened up about her own struggle with depression.
Jewish Journal: How did you find the people who you featured in the documentary?
Susan Polis Schutz: I went to 300 support group meetings all over the country and most of these people I found at the support groups—mood disorders groups.
I was looking for diversity and for people who could really explain what depression was and what affect it had on them and their relatives. It was very easy to see who could speak very well and the people who were emotionally involved in what they were saying.
JJ: Everybody who appears in the film is either somebody who’s been living with depression or a family member of the depressed. Why were there no therapists, doctors or scientists interviewed in the film?
SPS: Because I wanted a grassroots depiction of what depression is like and I think the people who suffer from it really have a better view of it.
JJ: Did you struggle with the decision of asking people to open up on camera and be forthcoming about an issue that’s private?
SPS: Yes, I was afraid at the beginning. But other than one woman, a Japanese woman whose face I had to black out, everyone wanted to help people to understand what depression is and they also wanted to help alleviate the stigma. After I got such a great response, I wasn’t afraid any more.
JJ: Peter Yarrow, of the folk trio Peter Paul and Mary, participated in the documentary and spoke about his own depression, how it’s a disease that has been with him for years and that performing was one of the only acts that helped. Was Yarrow eager to be featured in the documentary?
SPS: He was. He’s a very good friend of mine. I talked to him about my depression. He opened up about his own. I told him about the movie I was making. His whole life is about helping others. He immediately said he wanted to be in the film.
JJ: The people being interviewed in the film referred to depression as a mental illness and a biochemical imbalance in the brain. This is one of the take-home messages of the documentary and most of the interviewees are on medication. Can people beat this disease without medication?
SPS: Absolutely. I have one person in the movie who refused to take medication and got better. He says in there that it was through therapy, through knowledge, though support groups and people in his life who were positive and could understand him.
What works for one person may not work for another. Everybody has different reasons [for becoming depressed] or possibly a different trigger – if they have a trigger.
JJ: In the film, you interviewed the Spielmans, Jewish parents whose depressed daughter tragically took her own life. Being Jewish, did you purposely set out to find a Jewish family affected by depression? Was it important to you, on a personal level, to include a Jewish family?
How did you find the Spielmans?
SPS: I met the Spielmans at a dinner party for [Attorney General] Jerry Brown. They told Jerry their story and the circumstances of their daughter’s death in hopes that he would help the cause of mental illness. I approached them later during the dinner and asked if they would be in my documentary because of our shared goal to increase depression awareness. Although their religious affiliation wasn’t my primary reason for wanting to include the Spielmans, it was important to me that a very diverse group of people tell their stories in my film.
JJ: In 2010, you published a book of poetry about your own experience with depression. This may be surprising to people who know you for your optimistic greeting cards.
SPS: It was most surprising to me. My whole life I have been very, very positive.
JJ: When did you become depressed?
SPS: I became depressed about four or five years ago. I can’t remember exactly. I had severe depression and a mental breakdown. I have no idea what happened what to me.
JJ: You can’t identify what you were depressed about?
SPS: I wasn’t depressed about anything. I just had a total mental breakdown. I did not have a specific trigger. The only possibility of a trigger is that I was very tired. I had a genetic basis for depression. My father and most of his relatives suffered from depression and something just cracked my foundation. Being tired and exhausted was the only thing I had. I have a beautiful marriage, a beautiful family, a good career. There was nothing in my life that was sad or troubled, which shows you that anyone can get depressed.
JJ: There was an Indian gentleman in the film, Russ Irani—he said that “you have no interest in life and nothing at all interests you” when you’re depressed. Another interviewee described her depression as a “prison in my mind.” Can you relate to those quotes?
SPS: Absolutely. The dominant feeling I had was an incredible numbness. I had a lot of anxiety and confusion and panic. Being totally numb, not being reactive to anything was how I felt. I couldn’t even talk. When people spoke, it kind of went in and out. That bad lasted only about three months. Being in bed was only for three months. At first I didn’t know what hit me, and I went to a regular doctor. Somebody told me I better see a psychologist. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I went and was immediately diagnosed with clinical depression.
Little by little, I got better. I had a change in my medicine—I went through about eight medications. Going to the support groups, I guess very gradually I started to get better. I was seeing my therapists three times a week back then.
JJ: What medications were you using?
SPS: I don’t really want to push medications because I’m not really for them. I had such bad side effects. I was in a complete fog. I didn’t realize it until I started getting off my medications. I couldn’t converse with anybody. I was very sluggish. That was the main thing for me. It’s very hard because there are a lot of medications and it’s kind of hit or miss.
JJ: Your poetry book is called “Depression and Back: A Poetic Journey through Depression and Recovery.” Do you feel like you’ve recovered?
SPS: No, I definitely haven’t fully recovered, but I’m totally functional. This may be as good as I’m going to get. I don’t know.
JJ: What do you suggest for people living with depression to do?
SPS: First of all, learn as much as you can about depression. Be very, very honest about it. See a therapist as soon as you can. And then consider what they tell you to do. There is also behavioral therapy. Most people have thought patterns and aren’t healthy. The therapist or the books can teach you how to have a healthy approach to life.
JJ: Can you sum up that healthy approach?
SPS: No, I don’t think I could. I’ve had a lot of therapy about it, but I don’t think I can sum it up. I guess: Don’t worry, because it doesn’t help. And think positively.
Visit misunderstoodepidemic.com for a complete schedule of TV airings of Schutz’s documentary, “The Misunderstood Epidemic: Depression.”