A Berg Above The Rest

yet another jewish controlled media outlet

Friday, March 31, 2006

Possibly One of My Favorite Commercials of All Time

And I don't even like whitefish!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Warhol Gives Some of Us Our 15 Minutes

London's National Portrait Gallery is having an exhibit that features ten Andy Warhol portraits of well known Jewish personalities

The paintings showed in London date from 1980 and display in brilliant color portraits of Jewish personalities from science and psychology (Einstein and Freud) through literature (Kafka and Gertrude Stein), the arts (Gershwin and Sarah Bernhardt).

It also includes the pictures of Golda Meir, Israel’s fourth prime minister and Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Warhol referred to the collection as his “Jewish geniuses”. Among the eminent personalities he also decided to place the Marx brothers, Chico, Harpo and Groucho, who added their mischievous and irreverent take on life much as Andy Warhol did himself.

The exhibit looks pretty cool actually. Check out what the Gallery's website says about the show.

Thanks to Jewlicious for the heads up.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

On the other hand...

JDub Records recently signed the band Golem to their label.

Golem is a klezmer/rock band out of where else but New York. They take the music that your Eastern European grandparents listened to in their youth and turn it to music more suitable for Lower East Side Hipsters. In other words, they are shtetl fabulous.

For those of you who don't know, Golem comes from the story of what many call the Jewish Frankenstein (though with a name like Frankenstein, you have to wonder how the original wasn't Jewish in the first place). I'm too lazy to get into it myself, so here's the Wikipedia explanation.

Lead by the multi-talented (accordianist and singer) and multi-lingual (five languages to be exact including Yiddish and Russian) Annette Ezekiel, Golem (the band) is a motley crue of musicians from various backgrounds. Similar in that respect to fellow Eastern European punksters Gogol Bordello, Golem brings together a long history of music from the old country and modernizes it to the tastes of tastemakers. Like a Jewish version of the Stray Cats.

Since 2001, the group has released an EP and two full albums. Their most recent album, Homesick Songs is apparently great. While I haven't heard the whole thing, the tracks I have listened to only make me want to go out and buy the album. And then have some matzah ball soup.

Here are a couple of tracks from Homesick Songs:

The title of the album is definitely on point. The music can make you feel homesick for a time long gone.

Matisyahu Breached Contract?

I missed this....

According to an article in the New York Times last week, Matisyahu has broken his contract with the non-profit JDub Records (with whom Matisyahu has been with since the beginning of his career) in favor of former Capitol Records prez Gerry Gersh.

But a few days before "Youth" was released, [Aaron] Bisman and his partner, Jacob Harris, received an unexpected phone call from their prize talent, telling them their management services were no longer required. "He was in Kansas," Mr. Bisman said. "He said, 'I don't know if you guys are old enough or have enough experience.' "

For Mr. Bisman, 25, and Mr. Harris, 26, it was a shock from an old friend and a potential blow to their business. They had shepherded Matisyahu through his early career, setting up gigs and handing out fliers and the like — with the added duty of defining just what a pro-Jewish act would do. "He was the embodiment of what we thought was possible," Mr. Harris said. "Proud, authentic Jewish artists."

Ouch. It's one thing when you leave a label because they aren't doing anything for you. It's another to just ditch the people who have been supporting you since before you even started a music career. Not a good look.

Jewlicious has more on the story.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

BenLaVain's Come On People

Another old post from Blogcritics:

BenLaVain’s album Come On People is a look through the eyes of the displaced ex-patriot. The “brainchild” of producer/composer Oren Barzilay, BenLaVain’s music is influenced by rap lyrics, rock guitar and punk attitude. Barzilay, an Israel-to-New-York transplant, got two other New York-Israelis (Avital Uri and Keren Bar-Nir) and together to create the group. Now on tour, the trio have been making people notice.

Their album is a nice combination of anxious punk-ness and Americana pop. They are going through culture shock, yet seem too jaded to really be affected by their “new” surroundings. Their songs show influences from various musical genres and styles: 1950’s sing-song pop (as on the track “Jubilee”) to Queens of the Stone Age’s style of drawing out lyrics to almost a whine (as on “It’s Been Too Long”). There is even something reminiscent to the California band Everclear (the song “Big Apple Sun” especially).

While their songs show signs of influence from these other styles of rock, the group does have a style all their own. While their own style is not half bad, they still have a long way to go. Barzilay’s lyrics, while being the sincere words of a man feeling displaced in his own surroundings, at times, sound too much like the whiney scribblings of an angst-ridden teen. Musically, their style becomes a little repetitive (in the same way many other punk/hard rock groups become repetitive)…after a while all the songs sound the same.

Still this debut is not a bad one. BenLaVain has promise. And in the end, tf they don’t get national or international, they can always become and remain highly popular in the ever-fussy New York hipster scene (because really, isn’t that was truly matters?)

You can find this cd at CDBaby or at BenLaVain's MySpace page

Two Matisyahu Videos: King Without a Crown and Youth

King Without a Crown
For PC or for Mac

For PC or for Mac

Check out more Matisyahu updates at JDub Records

Review: Everything Is Illuminated

This is a post I originally did for Blogcritics

The Holocaust film is a difficult one to master. It means taking a subject that holds so much emotion and pain for so many people and cramming that into two (give or take) tightly packaged hours of entertainment. Yet, there are so many who try, and few who accomplish this seemingly tremendous feat.

Everything Is Illuminated is a Holocaust movie without being a Holocaust movie. It does not focus on the actual event but rather what was left behind. The memories. The forgotten traditions. The ghosts of the past that survive through personal belongings.

The film, based on the best selling book by Johnathan Safran Foer, follows the journey of a young man (also named Jonathan Safran Foer and who is played by Elijah Wood) as he travels through the Ukraine in search of the shtetl (village) where his grandfather once lived. All he has to guide him is a photograph of his grandfather as a young man and a mysterious woman named Augustina. He is looking for her because she saved his grandfather's life during the war.

Accompanying him on his search are Alex (Eugene Hutz), Jonathan's translator, Alex's Grandfather (Boris Leskin) who believes he is blind and also happens to be their driver and Sammy Davis Jr Jr, Grandfather's seeing eye bitch. They are from Heritage Tours, a travel company that helps Jewish Americans find the towns where their families came from. The four begin their search for Augustina and together they make discoveries not only about the town they are looking for, but about themselves as well.

Liev Schreiber, for whom this was a debut in directing, did a good job when writing the screenplay for this film. He stays very much on the same path at the book and yet makes it accesible for those who haven't read the novel. Between the majestic footage of the sprawling Ukrainian countryside and the exchanges that take place between the various characters, the film is delightfully heartwarming.

Elijah Wood's coke bottle glasses and stiff demeanor are amusing, if even a little annoying and his performance as the nervous, quiet Jonathan is subtle at times and beautifully candid at others. But his character it seems is not the main character of the film. Alex (played by the hilarious new comer Eugene Hutz) is the true star of the movie. With his side-splitting malapropism and his elaborate outfits, Alex is the narrator and the hero.

Alex's Grandfather is also a character who shines in this film. His gruffness and apparent dislike for Jewish people is offensive even when it is amusing. But he too holds secrets from his past, ones that begin, at first, to reveal themselves to the audience, and eventually to Alex and Jonathan. The search for the past is not just for Jonathan to find out his history, but for Alex and his Grandfather to learn a little more about theirs as well.

The film is more about the duality of history. There is the history that happend and the history that did not. We all have these two histories within our own families. The film simply questions who we would be if our ancestors had not left the countries they were from and who would be if they had.

Everthing is Illuminated is now available on DVD. You can get it at Amazon.

The Neverending Party: Bar Mitzvah Disco

I posted this review a while back at my other blog The Couch Sessions. Being the token Jew there, anything Jew-related was almost immediately forwarded to me. So when my co-writer forwarded me an email from a mysterious Enrique Goldfarb, who was claiming to be Northern New Jersey's #3 in Bar Mitzvah Entertainment, I was immediately intrigued. The email in question was advertising the new book and website entitled Bar Mitzvah Disco. A book with a tagline like "The Music May Have Stopped, but the Party's Never Over", is hard to resist.

Bar Mitzvah Disco is a collection of writings, musings and photographs--a sort of catalogue if you will--of, about and on the topic of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. For those of you who didn't grow up with a Jewish person in your class, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the point in every Jewish person's life when, at the age of 13, he or she becomes a man or woman. Back, back, back in the day, it meant you gained all the responsabilities of being an adult. For women, you could get married off the day after (at least that's what my mother threatened to do to me). Nowadays it more likely means you get a huge party where a celebrity impersonator gives you a lap dance. Or if you are of the Beverly Hills variety Jew, you might give all the guests tickets to movies premieres and have real celebrities giving lap dances. Or if you're really dedicated, you'll go to Israel and have your Bar Mitzvah at the Wailing Wall.

The book feels like you raided the keepsake box your Jewish grandmother kept for you: The photos of you wearing clothing we now define as "Retro". Young teens slowdancing...arms length distance apart of course! Family portraits in which Mom is wearing the most hideous dress. The sign-in boards where all your friends can tell you how cool you are. The pic of you and the token black guy. The pic of you breakdancing...

Except these pictures aren't of you. They're of someone else. But there is something reminiscent, something about these personal photographs that speak to everyone, Jews and non-Jews alike. They speak to a time, not so long ago, when you could have a blast doing the Chicken Dance in your Pretty In Pink styled dress or your powder blue tux. Unlike now where Bar/Bat Mitzvahs (like weddings) have to be over the top.

The book divides itself into song-titled chapters, each describing a different aspects of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Each song is a song from the 80's or 90's that you would also most likely hear being played on the dance floor: "It's a Family Affair," "Losing My Religion", "Man in the Mirror," "99 Red Balloons", "Ebony and Ivory," "Red Red Wine"...the list goes on. The forward is even written by The Village People, who's song "Y.M.C.A" is quintessential to any and every Bar/Bat Mitzvah party, even though none of the actual Village People are Jewish (and the YMCA is a Christian organization). There is the topic of party themes, whether it is "Safari" or "Madonna". There are stories of heartbreak, first kisses and DJ playlists. The written sections boast names of well known writers, comedians, pop culture commentators (Sarah Silverman, Jonathan Safron Foer, Gideon Yago, Mark Ronson) as well as people who aren't so well known. Their writing connects through the experience of this shared Bar/Bat Mitzvah event and with the snapshot photographs as illustration, the book creates a personal yet general narrative. Anyone can enjoy this book. Just make sure you remember to shine up your dancing shoes and be ready to get down.

Welcome to A Berg Above The Rest

In less than a year, I've been a writer for about four different blogs. The one I worked on the hardest would probably be The Couch Sessions. Being on of the founders, the site is kind of like my baby.

But unfortunately because I wasn't the only writer and we ended up trying to cater to a specific audience, some of the things I wanted to write about weren't really good for the site. Let's just say that when you are writing so much about someone else's culture, it's easy to forget about your own.

So I'm starting A Berg Above The Rest, a tribute to all things kitschy, pop-culturey and most of all Jew-ey. I know I'm not the first to do this, but I really could care less. If some of my posts are a little behind, bare with me. I'll get on the ball eventually. And just remember...I post it as I see it.