One of the more surprising moments in recent music history comes midway through the celebrated 1998 indie rock album, "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea," by the band Neutral Milk Hotel. Hiding in an otherwise understated tune are some startling lyrics:
I know they buried her body with others.
Her sister and mother and five hundred families.
And will she remember me fifty years later?
I wish I could save her with some sort of time machine....
It is, as many a hipster could tell you, an album about Anne Frank. Its singer and lyricist was a shaggy-headed 27-year-old named Jeff Magnum. As far removed as his native Louisiana was from Amsterdam, his songs give the unmistakable impression that he is a man in love with a 15-year-old girl who had been murdered more than five decades earlier.
Here's a marketing nightmare: You have your biggest and most captive audience of the year, and rather than dangling the kind of well-packaged, enticing tidbits that might draw people back for more, you offer up several hours worth of weighty and complex theological ideas wrapped in obscure ritual.
Welcome to the High Holidays, where twice-a-year attendees get their primary one-on-one time with Judaism, meeting up with a God and a tradition that don't necessarily reflect what goes on behind the main sanctuary doors the rest of the year.
Many young Americans know comedian Alan King's work -- they just don't realize it.
Tevye, Tzeitel, Golde and all the other memorable characters of "Fiddler on the Roof" graced the big screen at the University of Judaism (UJ) on Sunday, April 25, but it was the audience who stole the show.
Laura Bush on Howard Stern; J. Lo waking up with a pimple on her nose; Homer Simpson running for governor of California. No, it's not a slow day on "Live on E!" It's a game of "Scenes from a Hat" -- one of 40 interactive games that improv comedy troupe, The Los Hombres, has in its repertoire. The game, in which audience members write down funny scenes that they would like to see acted out, is just one way the eight-member cast connects with the audience.
The moment former Sen. Gary Hart told the audience at the Milken Institute's Global Conference that America is "at a cross roads," Abe Zarem leaned over to me and said, "He's wrong."
There were 1,500 people sitting in the audience listening to a panel tussle over the United States' role in the world. For a conference that annually attracts the world's financial and academic elite, the seating at the Beverly Hilton was refreshingly democratic: no place cards, sit almost anywhere you like. So I found myself between Charlie Woo, the innovator behind downtown Los Angeles' Toy Town district, and Zarem, inventor, professor, entrepreneur, thinker.
"Crossroads is not the right word," Zarem told me, correcting Hart, "because at a crossroads you pick a direction and you know where you're going. We're at a cloverleaf. When you turn off a cloverleaf you don't know where you're going."
'I'm a ham," said legendary actor-writer-director Carl Reiner.
"When you're a showoff, you've gotta get on that platform."
Which is why 80-year-old Reiner is eager to regale the audience with tales of his life in a speaking engagement at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on Dec. 9. He'll cover everything from working on Sid Caesar's TV shows to playing straight man to Mel Brooks' 2,000-Year-Old Man to writing semi-autobiographical novels such as "Enter Laughing."
Chabad of California's 22nd annual "L'Chaim to Life Telethon," hosted by Dennis Prager, was humming along nicely with a long roster of talent that included classic actors James Caan and Elliott Gould, comic actor Dom DeLuise and Israeli singer David "Dudu" Fisher. Then 10:30 p.m. rolls around and the KCET soundstage -- where the telethon is broadcast -- went amok. Enter the Sand Man.
Rabbis to your corners. We want a clean fight, a fair fight, and no hitting below the beard. It's not the WWF Wrestling Smackdown -- it's the JSI rabbinical smackdown, brought to you live by the Jewish Studies Institute (JSI) Talkback Series.
Monty Hall is guiding a visitor past the fine artwork in the foyer of his Spanish-style Beverly Hills home, where you don't see a single memento from the game show that made him a TV icon.