Category Archives: Arts and Culture

Artist Injured at 5 Pointz



[Photo by Jim Kiernan]

When you take the 7 train from Manhattan into Queens you can’t help but see the graf on the roof of a warehouse known as 5 Pointz. Passing by on the train, I never realized the interior of the buildings house a variety of art studios until reading of a jewelry designer, Nicole Gagne, who was injured while descending an exterior stair case.

NY Daily News reports initial investigations have shown the stair was in need of renovation and the warehouse has numerous building violations. Some have speculated that the studios and mural space may soon be history. I hope not. I wish Ms. Gagne a speedy recovery and hope she is able to return to her work soon.

Here are two pics of graf that my homees did at 5 Pointz when they were in town [photos by SYRA-1].





Spring Tunes V. 2



[Spring has sprung! Prospect Park, Brooklyn]

Last spring, two of my favorite bloggers hit me with a tag game so now it is my turn to return the favor. As most regular readers know, I am really not into this sort of thing but Spring is here. The trees and flowers are blooming, the bees are buzzing and the birds are chirping. It’s nice to see the parrots (actually parakeets) flying around in the back yard once again.

In case you forgot, here are the rules:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

I’m tagging Bob, Noga, Roland, Mod, Martin, Flesh is Grass and Snoopy.

Here are my selections:

4hero: Golden Age of Life


This is from Two Pages which is a definite departure from their first album, Parallel Universe. One of the first times I heard drum n’ bass with live instrumentation.

Adam F: Circles (Remember this?)

Joyce: Feminina


I love Joyce. Great voice, great guitarist, simply wonderful. Here is the same song live.

Big John Patton: Let ‘Em Roll


Classic groove jazz with Patton on the B3, Grant Green on Guitar, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes and Otis Finch on drums (Song 1 on the link above).

Erule: Listen Up

Dope West Coast true hip-hop.

Pancho Sanchez: Keeper of the Flame


I first heard this on the CD “Bien Sabroso”. This is the same version from his greatest hits CD (Disc 2, Song 4 on the link above).

Visit Venus: Brooklyn Sky Port (download here)


From their first album, “Music for Space Tourism Vol. 1”. If you slept on this when it was first released, check it out. Bonus from the same album: Harlem Overdrive.

Added Song Lists (as they get posted):

Martin in the Margins

Roland (But I am a Liberal!)

Bob from Brockley

Noga (Contentious Centrist)

Snoopy (Simply Jews)

Flesh is Grass


Report Back: Hope Not Fear



[H/t to Flesh is Grass for encouraging me to post a write up of this event]

I recently attended a talk by Edgar Bronfman and Beth Zasloff at Congregation Beth Elohim. The event was held in the sanctuary. Since it has been under construction for a while I had never seen the inside. Take a look:


The focus of the discussion was Bronfman and Zasloff’s recent book, Hope Not Fear. I have not had an opportunity to read the book but the description sounded interesting:

After a lifetime of fighting the persecution of Jews, Edgar M. Bronfman has concluded that what North American Jews need now is hope, not fear. Bronfman urges North American Jewry “to build, not fight. We need to celebrate the joy in Judaism, even as we recognize our responsibility to alleviate suffering and to help heal a broken world. We need to understand Judaism as a multi-faceted culture as well as a religion, and explore Jewish literature, music, and art. We need to understand our tradition of debate and questioning, and invite all to enter a conversation about our central texts, rituals, and laws. We need to open our book anew, and recreate a vital Judaism for our time.”

Through a reexamination of important texts and via interviews with some of the leading figures in Judaism today, Bronfman outlines a new agenda for the Jewish community in North America, one that will ensure that Judaism grows and thrives in an open society. He calls for welcome without conditions for intermarried families and disengaged Jews, for a celebration of Jewish diversity, and for openness to innovation and young leadership. Hope, Not Fear is an impassioned plea for all who care about the future of Judaism to cultivate a Jewish practice that is receptive to the new as it delves into the old, that welcomes many voices, and that reaches out to make the world a better place.

The sound was very low but I was in the third row so I was able to make out what they were saying. Rather than a formal presentation, this was a conversation between the authors and Rabbi Andy Bachman.

Rabbi Bachman’s questions moved between biography, philosophy and action. Why was Bronfman drawn to this topic? How can one be Jewish and not believe in God? How are his ideas received in the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox communities? Why does he think we are experiencing a Jewish renaissance?

I am especially moved by Mr. Bronfman’s perspective on intermarriage:

At one time in my life, I thought that the high intermarriage rate was just awful. Then of course you start to think further, and, slowly, if you meet enough people who are thinking differently, like those I write about in my book, you begin to learn that this could be an opportunity; not the end of the world but maybe the beginning of a new path. We need to change the attitude and education of Jews. Instead of trying to force them to fall out of love with someone, let us try to help them fall in love with Judaism.

As most regular readers know my wife and I are an intermarried couple. She is Hindu. Intermarriage is a big concern in both communities. Not at all Jewish congregations (Rabbi Bachman married my wife and I) nor at all Hindu temples (we had our ceremony in Chennai officiated by a pandit from the Arya Samaj). Nevertheless, it is still a highly contentious issue.

Unfortunately I some of Mr. Bronfman’s answers a bit vague. For example, Bronfman wants to create a more inclusive Jewish community (who would disagree with that?). Yet he provided no concrete examples on how to achieve this beyond a vague call to challenge the divisions of the denominational system. I suspect there is more on this issue in the book but I still wish he had let the audience know of successful endeavors in this regard.

Another thing, in place of the synagogues that exist in America today, he would like to see much more small-scale local synagogues rather than large congregations. While he did not mention it, I think this is how things are in Israel. It seems like every neighborhood has a synagogue and some have more than one. But a big difference between Israel and the U.S. is the majority of the population is Jewish in Israel. Therefore it makes sense to have lots of small shuls. Here in the U.S., the Jewish population is generally spread out. The shul is a place to bring the people together and foster a sense of community. Yes, there are large concentrations of Jews in neighborhoods like Borough Park but that is far and away a minority situation in the U.S.

I still plan on reading the book and may post a review at some point.

Rudresh Mahanthappa


I am reluctant to say anything positive about The New Yorker but I had never heard of saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa prior to reading this article by Gary Giddens. Here is an excerpt:

Jazz musicians have two fundamental goals: creating music that keeps listeners wondering what’s next, and finding a novel context within which to explore old truths. (There are no new truths.) Whenever a musician achieves this synthesis, usually after years of apprenticeship and exploration, a rumble echoes through the jazz world.

Such a rumble was heard last fall, when the thirty-seven-year-old alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa released an astonishing album, “Kinsmen,” on a small New York-based label (Pi), quickly followed by another no less astonishing, “Apti,” on a small Minnesota-based label (Innova). The breakthrough had been a long time coming, and, curiously enough, it justifies ethnic assumptions that Mahanthappa had for much of his career been working to escape.

Later in the article Giddens discusses Mahanthappa’s exploration of the South Indian Carnatic musical tradition. This made things even more interesting. So much of the Indian music we hear in the West is from Northern India. Needless to say I found myself wanting to listen to some of his tunes after reading the article. If you are interested, he has a My Space page and a website.

Live at UMASS with the master of Carnatic saxophone Kadri Gopalnath and the rest of the “Kinsmen” crew:

Cat Shit One: The Animated Series



Cat Shit One: The Animated Series by Studio Anima. I usually dislike computer-generated imagery but this actually looks good.


The original Cat Shit One (aka Apocalypse Meow) was a 1990s manga series by Motofumi Kobayashi about the activities of a U.S. Special-Operations team in Vietnam. Kobayashi replaced humans with anthropomorphized animals–Americans as bunnies, Vietnamese as cats, French as pigs, and so forth–but this was no lighthearted treatment of the war. It was brutal. If you are thinking, “wtf, animals?” Think Watership Down meets Maus or something along those lines (more info here).

The Animated Series moves forward in time and takes the bunnies to the Middle East. Can’t wait to check it out. Here is a video teaser:

Gaza and After: An Interview with Paul Berman


[H/t to ZWord. Michelle Sieff’s interview with Paul Berman is well worth reading. An excerpt is below.]

How have you judged Israel’s actions against Hamas? Do you think Israel used disproportionate force against Hamas?

There is an obligation to live, which means that Israel has not just the right but the obligation to defend herself. Judging the proportionality of the Israeli actions runs into a complication, though – something of a logical bind.

It is now and then noted in the press that Hamas, in its charter, calls for the elimination of Israel – though, actually, the charter goes further yet, which is almost never noted. Article Seven of the charter, citing one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, makes clear that Hamas acknowledges a religious duty to kill the Jews. It’s all pretty explicit. Which Jews in particular must be killed, in order to bring about, as the charter puts it, the “Last Hour?” Article Seven merely stipulates “the Jews” – which leaves open the possibility, I would think, of killing all of the Jews, or at least (judging from other sections of the charter) the Jews who inhabit any place that is now or used to be Islamic. In any case, the Jews of Israel.

What is Israel trying to fend off, then? Two possibilities. First: it’s not so hard to imagine that, if Hamas were allowed to prosper unimpeded, and if its allies and fellow-thinkers in Hezbollah and the Iranian government and its nuclear program likewise prospered, the goal announced in Article Seven could be largely achieved. History has some experience with political movements that proclaim in their founding documents the intention of killing the Jews. And so, a first possibility is that Israel is up against military enemies who have every intention of committing a genocide, and who might conceivably succeed. The possibility that Israel is defending itself against a genocide ought to lead any reasonable person to grant the Israelis a degree of latitude in judging what is a proportionate action – even if, as Michael Walzer points out, an invocation of genocidal dangers could also end up as a justification for doing too much.

However, a second possibility. The Hamas charter is full of wild language – not just the part about killing the Jews, but also the invocation of the Protocols of Zion and of an antisemitic theory of history. But maybe all of this stuff should be regarded merely as an overwrought cry of pain – an expression of powerlessness. Maybe there is a kind of pathos of victimhood and suffering in Hamas’ ideas, and not much more.

[Read it all here]

Winter Music


None of the tunes below has anything specifically to due with the season other than placing me in a winter state of mind. I have been visiting a lot of music blogs in my never ending search for albums lost, sold, and stolen. Some of my favorite for jazz include Orgy in Rhythm, My Jazz World, and Never Enough Rhodes. For the heavier stuff I like True Punk and MetalGood Bad Music and Cosmic Hearse.

Cymande, “Dove”, Caribbean funk by way of the UK (1972).

Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson “Song for Bobby Smith” from the album Winter in America (1973). Follow the link and click “play” on song number six. I would post a video but I cannot locate one for this song. Strange.


JFA’s “The Day Walt Disney Died” from their Untitled LP (1984) should be here.


“Cirith Ungol” from Cirith Ungol’s King of the Dead album (1984). Very heavy metal from from Ventura, California.

Mr. Bungle “Desert Search for Techno Allah” Live in SF, 1995. I’ve seen a lot of Bungle shows but I am still kicking myself in the rear for not making it to this one. Hang on for the ride.

Ulrich Schnauss “Monday Paracetamol” from A Strangely Isolated Place (2003).


Why winter music this late in the season? Isn’t it almost spring? As of Monday it seemed like winter was here to stay. We had a pretty big snow storm. First NYC snow day in years.

I flew back from Los Angeles on Monday morning and by the time we arrived at JFK they only had one runway letting planes take off and one runway allowing planes to land. We circled the airport for about a half an hour at which point the pilot got on the intercom and said “we should be landing in about fifteen to twenty minutes if they get things cleaned up. If not, we will be diverted to Tarrytown, PA because we are running low on fuel.”

We landed at JFK without incident but it was a little hectic for a minute there.