by: Annie Pentilla on October 15th, 2013 | Comments Off
Artists at Youth Sprit Artworks learn a variety of artistic mediums. Here a YSA youth uses paint to create her design.
Youth from Youth Spirit Artworks present the brightly colored traffic bollards they meticulously tiled.
If you’ve ever walked along Ashby Street between Shattuck and Telegraph in Berkeley, you might have noticed the colorfully tiled bollards lining the street. Busy commuters who travel Ashby everyday can easily overlook the mosaics on these cement posts, but those who do are missing out on a powerful artistic display of the thoughts, histories, emotions, and ambitions of Berkeley’s homeless and “at-risk” youth.
The tiled bollards on Ashby are just one of the many community art projects created by Youth Spirit Artworks, an interfaith job-training arts program co-founded by Sally Hindman. Hindman – who’s also responsible for the Telegraph Avenue drop-in center for homeless youth and Street Spirit, the Bay Area’s homeless newspaper – created the organization in 2007 in order to provide training for young people in need.
According to the program’s website, Youth Spirit Artworks began “as a response to the enormous employment challenges of older homeless and low-income youth.”
Homeless youth can have a very difficult time finding employment and getting an education. As the National Coalition for the Homeless points out, many youth “leave home after years of physical and sexual abuse, strained relationships, addiction of a family member, and parental neglect.” Once they’re on the streets, they face harsh challenges:
by: Ian Hoffman on October 8th, 2013 | Comments Off
(Credit: Creative Commons)
At the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, I met and later dated a Swedish woman. She was tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and older than me, but none of this mattered much in the giddy and stuffed atmosphere that was the festival’s after-party, at the Swedish American House (actually, she had gotten her tickets through a friend working at that house). Like me, she was delighted to be at a party that was in many ways an imitation of a big Hollywood bash – standing in line, for instance, next to the actress we had just watched onscreen.
A hundred years back, none of this would have been possible. Jews were mostly living in fringe communities spread across Europe or, if not, we were relegated to second-class citizenship within cities plush with anti-Semitism. This is all old hat, but sometimes being a Jew in the twenty-first century makes it easy to forget how lucky we are.
We can meet and date Swedish women who might have once thought us anathema. We once would have thought them untouchable.
That’s why the movie I most enjoyed at the film festival – Nono, the Zigzag Kid – was not particularly Jewish. Rather, it was about how Judaism has faded into the background of life; for so many of us, it is not a distinguishing mark anymore. And yet that does not mean that we’re not Jewish.
by: Josh Healey on August 22nd, 2013 | Comments Off
American Heroes: The #Dream9 activists (left) and the Dream Defenders (right)
A Dream Detained
(after Langston Hughes)
For the Dream Defenders, occupying the Florida state capitol for Trayvon Martin and racial justice
And the #Dream9 immigrant activists, who were detained at the border and won their freedom
what happens to a dream detained?
does it wilt like a rose
in the Arizona sun?
does it sink into the ocean
as water fills its lungs?
or does it fight to come home,
cross borders and spread hope
until it has won?
by: Frank Rubenfeld on August 12th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
I saw this movie on a cool, bright August Saturday in my neighborhood theater at the foot of Solano. Playing in both auditoriums, and filling them. As I looked around for a seat, I noticed what has become a common phenomenon: I couldn’t spot anyone under fifty in the crowd. We have aged with Woody, and the audience seems to have aged well.
Before the “approved for this film” previews, and the announcement by the officious (he played his part well) theater manager about putting away all instruments “that may beep or ring during the performance,” we were treated to a trailer by Tanqueray that was cool and exciting. It featured a bartender at a trendy NYC watering hole plying his trade. His enormous schnoz; lithe, athletic frame; and outstanding savoire faire–be it in mixing a drink, comforting a sad debutante, or ejecting an unruly customer–marked him as an outstanding model for creating a life built on skill and people smarts. Next time I have a gin martini (which is never), I will ask for Tanqueray.
Well, now that my review previews are over, let’s get to the meat of the matter. If I want to follow up on that metaphor, we do have a steak dinner here (a rare tenderloin, although to compare Cate Blanchett to a slab of meat is not the whole story for sure). The problem is the setting, the sides, and the service. Context, context.
Like many artists, Montreal writer and multidisciplinary artist, Taien Ng-Chan sees her work as an opportunity to interrogate the world around us, to reach the public, and to work towards a more progressive society. Although she questions whether or not art can actually make an impact in our collective cultural consciousness, or change anything politically, she’s willing to try. As she says, “looking back, historical art movements do seem to end up gaining traction in ways that seem important in hindsight, so we’d better keep doing it, just in case.”
Indeed, Ng-Chan was part of last year’s massive student uprising in Québec, a movement that saw thousands mobilize–first in response to the provincial government’s plan to raise tuition at post-secondary institutions, and then in response to the same government’s oppressive strategies to keep the protests under control. Ultimately what happened in what was called “le printemps érable,” or the “maple spring” (in keeping with the name the Arab Spring), resulted in a provincial election that brought down Québec’s Liberal government. At first it seemed like the incoming Parti Québécois would bring new hope; instead they wore the red square – symbol of the student movement – and at first cancelled the tuition hikes, but they also cut the province’s education budget, and then ended up imposing tuition hikes anyway. Ng-Chan comments that it’s easy to grow cynical when politicians can be so duplicitous; however, she also suggests that it’s important to keep building community to affect change in small ways, and art is just another way to accomplish this.
by: Jana Norman on August 1st, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Human beings seem to come with certain built-in spiritual inclinations, and gratitude is chief among them. Parents and teachers think we have to be taught to say thank you, but maybe it just comes naturally. Gratitude is both accessible and enlivening.
Accessible because it is as easy as paying attention to that which we might otherwise take for granted. So when our lover holds our hand for the umpteenth time it feels like it’s the first time and we’re grateful for them all over again. Or when we sit down to a plate of something humble and home-cooked it suddenly transports us to all those other meals in all those other places where we felt loved, accepted, welcomed.
Enlivening because once we pay attention to one thing, and we’re thankful for it, we can’t help but be thankful for this other thing, and that other thing. Allowing for even a speck of gratitude can set off a chain reaction that bursts our complacency bubbles, leaving us exposed to a fresh and immediate awareness of all the good that is, and that we might be and do.
Though gratitude is built-in and doesn’t necessarily need to be taught, like any spiritual inclination it can be cultivated into a more fulsome flowering. How appropriate, then, that someone as experienced at gardening as she is at spiritual practices would offer us a guide to nurturing this part of us.
What makes Donna Schaper’s book Grace at Table so delicious is that it is both accessible and enlivening, like what it seeks to nurture.
by: Shloimie Ehrenfeld on July 18th, 2013 | 6 Comments »
Oil lamp found in cistern during excavation in Jerusalem. Photo by Vladimir Naykhin.
Israeli archaeologists have recently discovered artifacts that give us a vivid sense of how destructive and merciless extremism of any sort and an eagerness for war can be, as reported earlier this month by the Israeli Antiquities Authority.
You wouldn’t expect to find a cooking pot – let alone three of them – inside a cistern, which is a tank, usually underground, used to collect rainwater.
Photo by Vladimir Naykhin.
But when archaeologist Eli Shukron and his team were excavating a cistern associated with a first-century building near the Western Wall in Jerusalem, they found three intact cooking pots and a small ceramic oil lamp (pictured) dating to the time of the failed Jewish revolt against the Roman Empire in 66-70 CE.
These inhabitants of Jerusalem – who were most likely innocent, peace-loving people – were forced to eat food in hiding, at the risk of persecution – from other Jews. Both the eye-witness testimony of Josephus and a story recorded later in the Talmud report how a group of Jewish extremists known as the Zealots (or the Sicarii or Biryonei) were so bent on getting the rest of the Jewish community to fight for its independence by revolting against the Roman Empire that these Zealots intentionally caused a devastating man-made famine to force the people into war.
by: Isabella Ohlmeyer on June 26th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
"Sambadarosa" by Talita Suassana.
A deep love for Brazilian culture runs throughout the paintings of Talita Suassuna. Growing up in São Paulo, Suassuna listened to Brazilian music everyday. The rhythms of bossa nova, ijexá, and capoeira soon began to structure her artwork.
“Sambadarosa,” for example, is a unique, colorful piece inspired by the bossa nova song “Samba da Rosa” by Brazilian artist, poet, and composer Vinicius de Moraes.
“All the lace, flowers, and nature in ‘Sambadarosa’ symbolize women and female-related handicraft work and jobs,” Suassuna says. “I like to use bold and round shapes and mix it with straight lines and also drips to break up the art a little bit. Shapes, colors, and moods of songs and poems help create my art masterpieces.”
by: Ralph Seliger on May 29th, 2013 | Comments Off
Barbara Sukowa as Arendt in press room at Eichmann trial
Two years ago, I published an analysis of Hannah Arendt in Tikkun (“Hannah Arendt: From Iconoclast to Icon“). As I had suspected, the new film (“Hannah Arendt”), which debuts commercially in New York today (May 29), lends credence to the simplistic notion that her controversial portrait of Adolf Eichmann at his Jerusalem trial was a mark of great insight. She didn’t merit the abuse that she suffered as a result; she was not intending to be hateful or to excuse the Nazis, but her most significant conclusions were drawn from the very limited range of Holocaust scholarship available to her in the early 1960s.
Arendt is something of a heroine among many, a lone figure who stood her ground in the face of fierce criticism on the New Yorker magazine articles that formed the basis of her famous book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Since that time, most of her conclusions have been challenged on the basis of more research and knowledge as the field of Holocaust studies advanced:
- The behavior of members of the Nazi-appointed Jewish councils was more varied than she had indicated (and their options were horrifyingly limited), but there certainly was collaboration and self-interested behavior by many if not most;
- Himmler’s brutal deputy, Reinhard Heydrich, did not have Jewish ancestry as she had alleged;
- Eichmann was not simply the dutiful amoral bureaucrat as Arendt had portrayed (and her notion, brought up in the film, that he wasn’t personally antisemitic, seems ridiculous to me).
Nevertheless, I liked the film; I found it intelligent overall and absorbing. But it reinforced my view of her cold abstract intellect, and the ways in which her book failed factually.
by: Danielle Luaulu on May 2nd, 2013 | Comments Off
With all the negativity directed toward the Middle East in the United States, it’s easy for those with no personal connection to the Middle East to develop ill-founded prejudices and lose sight of the similarities between North American and Middle Eastern culture. Certain similarities go unnoticed, such as a love of family, music, good food, or even a belief in a Presence greater than ourselves. One of the major cultural similarities that we tend to forget we share is a love of story telling – a cultural tradition that we should celebrate as something we can all relate to.
How do we bridge this cultural gap? Maybe we could start with something as simple as a comic book?
Someone is already taking that step.
Unveiled by Jabal Entertainment at the 2012 Middle East Film & Comic Con and later picked up by major comic-book publisher IDW, Jinnrise by Sohaib Awan attempts to bridge the gap between East and West. By carefully and respectfully integrating stories from the Middle East with the Western art of comics, Jinnrise is the start of something beautiful and a definite step in the right direction.