Arts and Culture

Waiting for the Monsoon: Howe Gelb Leads Us Through the Desert

January 25, 2010

Whether as a solo artist or as the leader of the long-lived alternative band Giant Sand, this self-proclaimed “Meanderthal” from Tucson suggests that the safest distance between two points is probably not the shortest.


January 25, 2010

Taltie by Ken Goldman


January 22, 2010

Sick-Amour is a project by Joel Tauber.


January 15, 2010

Originally appearing in Pipelines, this ironic, disturbing and oddly romantic short story has been newly revised by Etgar Keret for Zeek.

Never Mind the Email

January 13, 2010

When was the last time the postal service played a positive role in your life? For the lonely, letter-writing protagonists of Mary and Max, when it comes to true friendship, home delivery is still the only game in town.

Scavenging in the Ghost Town: Hyperdub Comes of Age

January 12, 2010

With a two-disc compilation celebrating its fifth anniversary, Steve Goodman’s Hyperdub label honors the musical identity that fans have come to expect from its products while foraging for a different future. The rare example of popular culture that manages to politicize aesthetics without making its art suffer for it, Hyperdub’s best releases explore the predicament of postmodern identity and then show their audience a way out.

Hamsa For Cameron

January 10, 2010

Hamsa For Cameron, by Judith Joseph

A History of Israeli Cinema

January 7, 2010

In 2009, director Raphaël Nadjari produced the first documentary history of Israel’s most celebrated cultural idiom. Reviewing the film in advance of its premier at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, Shai Ginsburg celebrated Nadjari’s focus on Israeli cinema. In honor of the documentary’s January 26 screening at New York’s Jewish Museum, Zeek is re-running Ginsburg’s essay.

A Fitting End? The Ex's Latest Record Testifies To a Remarkable Career

January 4, 2010

Heard from start to finish, 30 doesn’t suggest a detour from The Ex’s original goal so much as a widening of the route leading there. From the spare punk feel of “Rules” through the more tonally varied performances on “State of Shock”, “Frenzy” and “Ethiopian hagere,” the band’s sound has consistently foregrounded rhythm over melody. Most tracks, here and on their studio albums, give listeners little time to rest. But despite that insistently propulsive character, they are curiously refreshing, a reminder that moving forward often takes less energy than standing still.

The Timing of Transformation: A Record Makes Its Way Back To the Top of the Stack

December 28, 2009

There’s something about Oren Ambarchi and z’ev’s Spirit Transform Me that makes ad hoc montage curiously appropriate. One way to think about a work of this nature, with its lack of melody and wariness of regular patterns, is to regard it as an invitation to tear down the walls created through the division of mental labor. The spirit, in this interpretation, manifests itself in the urge to experience it’s components as a singular whole.

Poems: A Crown for Yiddish

December 28, 2009

Jacqueline Osherow is one of our best-known contemporary Jewish poets. We are pleased to offer here a cleverly woven sonnet sequence in which the poet visits Antwerp to find the mama loschen pristine, and is rewarded not only with “Yiddish cellular” but a new urge to daven, to find the diamond that is really hidden.

Everything is Local: Benny Torati's Desperado Square

December 23, 2009

Israeli film may seem more “Israeli” than ever. However, Israeli directors look as much abroad for their inspiration as they do at home. As unsurprising as that sounds, the cultural tourism of the exercise is worth the price of admission alone. Especially if you have an ethnic conception of Israelis.

Fiction: The Engines of Sodom

December 22, 2009

Skinhead then straightedge, a young hardcore fan makes his way through Toronto’s punk scene in order to come to terms with his family’s ties to the Holocaust.

Personal Best: The Decade in Music

December 21, 2009

An idiosyncratic list of the past decade’s best albums – scroll to the end of the piece – with meditations on why idiosyncrasy may be all music criticism has left to offer.

Poetry: Amidst Oranges

December 20, 2009

Set in Israel, a new olah adjusts to an old land

Amulet Ethan

December 20, 2009

Amulet Ethan by Judith Joseph.

An Offensive Culture

December 17, 2009

A willingness to embrace the Jewish tradition of offensiveness, of awkwardness of refusing to fit in, safeguards the interests and dignity of those across the Jewish communal spectrum. If Jews see themselves as troublemakers, then perhaps the sterile debates about who has the right to speak for Jews will be replaced by a democratic and tolerant community of debate.

From Yaz To Yas: Arabology Fleshes Out Dancefloor Dreams in a New Idiom

December 15, 2009

This record translates – and in a carefully pre-meditated way – the infectious pop sensibility of New Wave icons like Yaz into an Arabic idiom. Songs like “Get It Right”, “Mahi” and “Yaspop” have all the right moves for the dancefloor, but also remind us that the opportunities for someone like Yasmine Hamdan to strut her stuff are largely confined to the experience of exile. This is music for an Arab Diaspora missing the comforts of home, in a musical language it can only indulge publicly in hostile foreign lands.

Jewish Illustrations

December 14, 2009

Metrodox Comics by Loren Wells

My Year in Consumption

December 11, 2009

One of the great things about culture is that despite the occasional hiccup, you can always maintain your faith in it. When music starts to suck, films get better. When blogs start to read the same, we get to to shorten the experience with Twitter. 2009 was no different. In no specific order, here are the ten categorical imperatives which, for a brief moment, helped me make editorial sense of it all.

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