Posted by Danielle Berrin
In what could be a dream match of creative team and quirky literary material, Joel and Ethan Coen will adapt Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union for Columbia, a “noir-style murder mystery in which a rogue cop investigates the killing of a heroin-addicted chess prodigy who might be the messiah” set in a Jewish settlement in Alaska. (Are we allowed to get pre-excited about this one?)
Uh, most definitely!
8.18.08 at 2:26 pm | Hollywood producer/talent manager Joan Hyler. . .
8.15.08 at 7:21 pm | Just when you thought there couldn't possibly be. . .
8.14.08 at 6:37 pm | In town to promote her new book, House Speaker. . .
7.18.08 at 3:03 pm | The new Contemporary Jewish Museum in San. . .
6.25.08 at 10:36 am | Jina, our Calendar intern, is heading to an. . .
6.24.08 at 11:18 am | A clandestine love affair at a girls seminary. . .
February 12, 2008 | 10:41 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
His mother, Susan Sontag was a famous intellectual. But for a woman of uncommon intelligence, her pursuit of truth stopped short of her own mortality—and her grieving son, David Rieff was left to pick up the pieces: “I wanted to write about my mother’s dying in terms of her rejection of death - a war against death - she was a person for whom the notion was intolerable, and she died unreconciled.”
Sontag endured bouts of cancer for decades before an acute form of Leukemia ended her life in 2004. To reconcile his own inner turmoil, Rieff, also an accomplished writer (and his mother’s editor) chronicled his experience of her illness in “Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son’s Memoir.” On Feb. 5, he appeared for ALOUD LA at Central Library downtown to discuss his new work with L.A. Times columnist Tim Rutten.
Amidst a middle-aged crowd as eccentric as Sontag herself - with their streaks of silver hair, fringed suede jackets and French berets, Rutten announced Rieff would not read from his memoir because it was too painful. It mattered little to the present intelligentsia who just wanted to hear Rieff talk about his mom and then, talk about her themselves.
The colorful crowd could not lift Rieff’s spirits. Before a room full of fans, Rieff was transformed from erudite intellectual to vulnerable son. Downtrodden, fidgety and visibly bemused by the probing questions about his mother’s illness and her death, Rieff was even less prepared to talk about her life: “I am not prepared to talk about Annie Leibovitz,” he declared during the Q&A.
Neither would Rieff discuss his relationship with his mother. Instead, the evening was quietly full of remorse: “There was no goodbye,” he said. “She died in inches horribly, but she left as if she died in a plane crash, a car crash - without instructions.” There would be no ‘goodbye,’ no utterance of ‘I love you’ in a certain tone. But that wasn’t the worst of it.
Sontag, “for whom the truth was this sacred center wanted to be told something different,” Rieff said. She refused to speak of death and even after an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant, lived as if she would survive. Her son was conscripted to be her cheerleader: “She needed me to tell her and make arguments for - hope.”
Hope was Sontag’s faith. She possessed an almost diabolical unwillingness to confront glaring certitudes about her death, and in the process precluded her son from preparing to lose a parent. “She really believed she would survive,” Rieff said.
Though she wasn’t religious, her primitive defiance of death, to instead—choose life—reflects that beneath her inconsolability, her instincts were Jewish ones. Among her great legacy, she also leaves behind a disconsolate son, his emptiness lining the pages of a book.
February 11, 2008 | 11:40 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Want a hot bod? Ilyse Baker has the secret and it’s got nothing to do with weight-lifting and treadmills. This is modern fitness for modern people, created by a gal who moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles to bring her beat to the entertainment capital of the world.
Having danced for celebrities LeAnn Rimes, Elton John and Missy Elliot in addition to stints on television, Ilyse distinguishes herself with a self-styled physical workout. Her personalized creation, “I.B. Dancing” blends modern dance technique with rigorous fitness. True to form, her hot moves have set her star on the rise and she was recently nominated for Exercise TV’s “top trainer,” where she’ll compete with a host of dance instructors countrywide. So help a sista out and bag a mitzvah: Vote for Ilyse as she vies for the coveted title.
Wanna see her groove in the flesh? Ilyse, along with fellow dancer Tina Berkett will perform on February 23 at “Shabbat Morning Alive,” a refreshing musical service at Sinai Temple. 8:45 a.m. (but the good stuff will probably start closer to 11am) 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood.
February 8, 2008 | 10:15 am
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Local Jewish producer Greg Reitman won the Audience Award in the documentary competition at Sunday this year for his film “Fields of Fuel.” The film chronicles one person’s crusade to persuade our society to abandon gas-powered vehicles in favor of inexpensive, environment-friendly bio-diesel fuel.
Here is Aaron Kemp interviewing Reitman at his Sundance headquarters:
Many thanks to Aaron Kemp for his insightful commentary and entertaining video coverage of Sundance 2008 on behalf of The Jewish Journal Calendar Girls.
February 7, 2008 | 11:36 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The JJ’s reigning comic documentarian - Jay Firestone - hit the streets of Pico Robertson on “Super Tuesday” to discern the tide of the Jewish vote.
Here’s the scoop on what Raphael Sonenshein dubbed the “Jewish Primary,” straight from the hood:
February 6, 2008 | 4:11 pm
Posted by Dikla Kadosh
Jay Firestone and I were invited to attend a benefit for Hillel 818, a newly formed collaboration between Pierce & Valley Colleges Hillel and CSUN Hillel. The 7 p.m. VIP reception, held on the second floor of the Laugh Factory, was a sweet affair, literally. I’m talking chocolate fountain, dozens of cookies and cakes and kosher wine. The line-up of comedians was also delicious, though the “headliner,” Elon Gold, was a no show (for family reasons). Here’s Jay’s take on the night, with some personal musings on the world of comedy:
Iâm not used to being a VIP, Iâve rarely been treated like an IPâ¦and sometimes people act as if Iâm not even a P (the reality of living in Los Angeles and making less than $100,000/year).
Thatâs why Tue., Jan. 29 was such a nice change as I attended Hillel 818âs Comedy Night fundraiser at the Laugh Factory. For a moderately priced ticket, the comedy of host Lisa Ann Walter and comedians Adam Hunter, Kirk Fox and Wendy Liebman reminded my why I became a VIP in the first place.
For the first time in my life, I was served chocolate-covered strawberries without having to listen to a haftarah portion first.
For the first time in my life, I had kosher wine without feeling bad about not asking my mother if she wanted a glass, too.
And for the first time in my life, I had a false sense of confidence that was appropriately linked to a false sense of being very important.
It was nice, but as I sat and watched the comicsâ superb performances, I couldnât help but think about my own brief encounters with stand-up comedy.
It was the summer of â91â¦I was 6. My parents were pressuring me to tell a joke at the Shabbas dinner table, when I chokedâ¦not just on my chopped-up carrots, but on the pressure of a successful delivery as well. Maybe I was too young or maybe those carrots were just too big, I donât know. But as I sat in the audience on Tuesday night, glancing around at the mix of youthful faces alongside sets of elderly couples, I thought about a path I couldâve taken and a life I couldâve lead.
Imagine how many Hillel fundraisers I couldâve hosted at the sweet age of 6. The event, which ended up raising roughly $15,000 for Hillel 818, was just the spark I needed. Seeing those comedians perform and watching Hillel 818 graciously benefit from generous guests prompted me to do something I hadnât done in over 15 years.
Give stand-up another try…only this time, I think I’ll stick to mashed-up carrots.
February 5, 2008 | 1:56 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
For the first time in the history of our nation, there is a smart, qualified, viable female Presidential candidate in the race but instead of vehemently supporting her, women are deafeningly silent. Why?
bell hooks once wrote that “feminism is for everybody,” and I sincerely wish that were true, but as of late I’m growing concerned that feminism has become a dirty word to females.
As can be expected from a woman who topples boundaries and smashes ceilings, Hillary Clinton is eliciting a relentless onslaught of criticism and condemnation from the media and public. “She’s too experienced.” “Too political.” “Emotional.” “Not emotional enough!” “We need change and she’s part of the establishment!”
Since when did a female President become part of The Establishment?
Why are women not raising their voices to support her? This is a historic opportunity. Complacency is a dangerous state, so if there is ever a time to put principle over politics, the time is NOW.
In a polemic that articulates the postmodern, “postfeminist” conundrum our country faces as two minority candidates vie for the oval office, Robin Morgan writes:
During my decades in civil-rights, anti-war, and contemporary womenâs movements, Iâve avoided writing another specific âGoodbye . . .â But not since the suffrage struggle have two communities â joint conscience-keepers of this country â been so set in competition, as the contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) and Barack Obama (BO) unfurls. So.
Goodbye to the double standard . . .
âHillary is too ballsy but too womanly, a Snow Maiden whoâs emotional, and so much a politician as to be unfit for politics.
âSheâs âambitiousâ but he shows âfire in the belly.â (Ever had labor pains?)
âWhen a sexist idiot screamed âIron my shirt!â at HRC, it was considered amusing;
Goodbye to the toxic viciousness . . .
Carl Bernstein’s disgust at Hillaryâs âthick ankles.â Nixon-trickster Roger Stoneâs new Hillary-hating 527 group, âCitizens United Not Timidâ (check the capital letters). John McCain answering âHow do we beat the bitch?” with âExcellent question!â
Goodbye to the most intimately violent T-shirts in election history, including one with the murderous slogan âIf Only Hillary had married O.J. Instead!â Shame.
Goodbye to Comedy Centralâs âSouthparkâ featuring a storyline in which terrorists secrete a bomb in HRCâs [female anatomy].
Goodbye to the sick, malicious idea that this is funny. This is not âClinton hating,â not âHillary hating.â This is sociopathic woman-hating. If it were about Jews, we would recognize it instantly as anti-Semitic propaganda; if about race, as KKK poison… PETA would go ballistic if such vomitous spew were directed at animals. Where is our sense of outrageâas citizens, voters, Americans?
Goodbye, goodbye to . . .
âan era when parts of the populace feel so disaffected by politics that a comparative lack of knowledge, experience, and skill is actually seen as attractive, when celebrity-culture mania now infects our elections so that itâs âcoolerâ to glow with marquee charisma than to understand the vast global complexities of power on a nuclear, wounded planet.
As for the âwoman thingâ? Me, Iâm voting for Hillary not because sheâs a womanâbut because I am.
February 3, 2008 | 10:42 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
There was something about Emma Forrest’s vulnerability that drew me to her the first time I heard her read at Book Soup. She was wearing a purple mini and red lipstick, and she read a story about falling into deep lust with a tattoo artist.
It was a germane taboo for a Jewish Journal reporter and intrigued, I read more of her work. Then I invited her to tell her story at Friday Night Live’s discussion salon.
Her novels skim the surface of her distinctly feminine experience: teenage angst, immature love, beauty and celebrity are major themes. Her journalism deals with similar subjects, peeling away the fluff of stardom to reveal the dark underbelly of fame, and how its ascendancy is glamorous and dominating, but with powerful consequences.
She also reveals herself. This pretty writer is the guardian of a tragic emotional past.
This week, Emma relates to Britney Spears, writing how her own demons left her unhinged, self-mutilating and suicidal.
She writes in The Guardian:
It was Spears’s appearance at the MTV Awards in September, with her spray-tanned skin, bright blue contact lenses and blonde extensions - as if to say ‘this is not my hair, these are not my eyes, this is not my skin, I don’t know who I am’ - that started my flashbacks.
I don’t like relating to Britney Spears and I’m grateful for the ways in which I don’t. I haven’t given birth to two children in two years, I’ve not been through divorce and I don’t have multiple-personality disorder. People ‘out to get me’ because they think I’m chubby or rubbish at my job have posted those opinions online, but they’ve never followed me with cameras and then plastered the web with upskirt shots of my menses-stained underwear. I have, however, earned a living in a glamorous arena - writing journalism and books - since I was 15, had a massive nervous breakdown and ended up, in my twenties, committed to a psychiatric hospital.
I was 22 in 2000, living in New York on contract to this newspaper and about to have my first book hit the shelves. What I could write wasn’t good but, basically, I couldn’t write. I didn’t have the words. Beginning as writer’s block, it evolved into a profound self-loathing made visible around my studio apartment by a knee-deep mess of newspapers, magazines, books, clothes. Many of the clothes were bought but never worn, just dumped on the floor - inky black Rorschach tests that always looked like doom to me.
Cutting always came like a fever, so I’d be looking at my arm or my thigh or my stomach, a surprised spectator. When, eventually, I tried to kill myself, my suicide note wasn’t anything to do with despair; I was mentally divergent, sleepless from mania. I’d come from a showing of Jim Jarmusch’s film Ghost Dog and thought that I, too, was a samurai and that my family needed protection, but for that to happen I needed to die.
I accept that I will be on medicine for the rest of my life and I have no problem with that because the quality of my life is so vastly improved. And, far from dimming my creativity, medicine has only helped. I also know now that there is mental illness on record as far back as the Bible. Rabbi David Wolpe, who held a mental-health conference at the synagogue I attend, explained: ‘If you read the first book of Samuel, it’s clear that King Saul has a mental illness. He becomes paranoid, draws him close and then tries to kill him.’
And still it remains the last taboo. If you can no longer make fun of someone for being black or gay or even disabled, you can laugh at them for being ‘wacko’. Perhaps Heat magazine or TMZ.com would argue that once you know all there is to know about a celebrity’s life, all you can be interested in is their death. ‘To lose your humanity in the face of celebrity,’ says Wolpe, ‘is still to lose your humanity.’