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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Staging Sustainability

Feb13

by: on February 13th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

I spent a chunk of last week in a very cold and snowy Toronto at Staging Sustainability 2014, a conference with the subtitle “People. Planet. Profit. Performance.” It was masterminded by Ian Garrett of the Center for Sustainable Practice in The Arts, who teaches at York University. The University was one of an impressive array of sponsors, reflecting the reality that many scientists took part side-by-side with artists and scholars.

In fact, I began to feel that we are beginning to bridge the gap that C.P. Snow—whose own life braided art and science—wrote about in his important 1959 lecture, The Two Cultures, beginning to achieve a common understanding and discourse. As Snow described the problem more than half a century ago (some of his observations are dated, happily, but sadly not the thrust, I think):

There have been plenty of days when I have spent the working hours with scientists and then gone off at night with some literary colleagues [...] I got occupied with the problem of what, long before I put it on paper, I christened to myself as the ‘two cultures.’ For constantly I felt I was moving among two groups—comparable in intelligence, identical in race, not grossly different in social origin, earning about the same incomes, who had almost ceased to communicate at all [...] By and large this is a problem of the entire West.

I’m extremely interested in the way that artists seem to be building—or perhaps the correct word is “living”—the bridge between these realms.

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The Feminine Divine in “The Monuments Men”

Feb12

by: on February 12th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

When we think of the casualties of war, we think of the physical death of human beings. We think of the physical, psychological and moral injury warriors suffer. We think of the collateral damage of non-combatants killed, thus making the idea of a just war an impossibility. We may sometimes stretch our imaginations to include an injured earth, a wounded natural world where animals die. In the movie “The Monuments Men”, directed by and starring George Clooney, we see other casualties of war – fine art. We see a dedicated quest for a particular piece of art, the Bruges Madonna and Child, a representation of the feminine divine.

The movie is based on the real-life Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Task Force, a group of trained art historians, architects and designers whose purpose was to protect important monuments, buildings, and fine art if possible. They were to also locate and seek to return art stolen by the Nazis. The central question of the movie is whether or not a piece of art is worth a human life. Commanders in the field are loathe to risk the lives of their men over a work of art. If the decision comes down to bombing an important building considered a monument worth protecting and winning the battle, the battle takes priority.

The Allied forces destroyed many monuments during bombing campaigns, even when they were told of their artistic value. This story along with the story of the real-life Monuments Men are told in an excellent documentary “The Rape of Europa.” We see the astonishing number of works of art, religious objects, and everyday household furnishings that were stolen by the Nazis. However, one object becomes supremely important in “The Monuments Men” – The Bruges Madonna and Child.

This work of art depicting the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus was the only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime. Toward the beginning of the movie, we hear Clooney’s character – George Stout – tell his men not to risk their lives for a piece of art. However, as the movie unfolds, we see the Monuments Men willing to put their lives at risk for the sake of art.

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Dylan Farrow’s Regret: Why We Need a New System for Rape Testimony

Feb12

by: Tara Kipnees on February 12th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

The many angles of the Dylan Farrow/Woody Allen sexual assault saga have been dissected relentlessly over the past two weeks. For all the information unearthed, it is increasingly apparent that we will never know what happened between Woody Allen and his adoptive daughter nearly 22 years ago. One thing we do know for certain, though, is that in 1992 the Connecticut state prosecutor Frank Maco found “probable cause” to prosecute Woody Allen, but he did not move forward with filing charges due to “the fragility of the child victim.”

In a November 2013 Vanity Fair article, Farrow told author Maureen Orth “”I have never been asked to testify. If I could talk to the seven-year-old Dylan, I would tell her to be brave, to testify.” Maco, for his part, told the author that he found Farrow too uncooperative to testify. Either way, someone made a decision that it would be too much for Farrow to testify in court against her alleged assailant, and Farrow today wishes a different decision had been made.

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Theaster’s Way

Feb6

by: on February 6th, 2014 | Comments Off

Photo credit: Studio Museum of Harlem

Theaster Gates has been dubbed “the real-estate artist,” “the opportunity artist,” “an anthropologist, urbanist, activist — the 21st-century artist,” “the poster boy for socially engaged art,” #40 in Art Review’s “2013 Power 100, A ranked list of the contemporary art world’s most powerful figures,” and even “the Mick Jagger of social practice.”

His works include his signature Dorchester Projects, 12 Ballads for Huguenot House and numerous others. In 2012, he was awarded the WSJ innovator of the year art prize. In 2013, he was named a United States Artists fellow and also received the inaugural Vera List Center Prize for Arts and Politics. There are many more accolades than I can name.

So when I went to the Studio Museum of Harlem on January 16th for the activation of See, Sit, Sup, Sip, Sing: Holding Court (2012) — tables, chairs and desks salvaged from a now-closed public school on Chicago’s South Side, I believed the hype but still wasn’t sure what to expect.

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Four Years After the Earthquake, Lessons in Debt and Development

Feb6

by: Andrew Hanauer on February 6th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Timothy Fadek/Polaris

Last month marked the fourth anniversary of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, an event CBS News labeled the “worst natural disaster in the history of the Western hemisphere.” The extent of the devastation is well chronicled at this point, as is the fact that Haiti was hardly a prosperous nation before the ground shook in 2010. After the quake, aid money and help of all kinds flowed in to the country from caring people and institutions around the world.

But even as money flowed in, other money flowed out. At the time of the earthquake, Haiti owed roughly one billion dollars to international creditors despite having just received roughly an equivalent amount in debt relief prior to the quake. This meant that in the aftermath of the earthquake, Haiti was sending money in debt payments each month that could have been spent rebuilding the country, providing clean water, and mitigating the cholera epidemic that followed soon after. Today, a sadly similar situation has presented itself in the Philippines, which has now sent almost $2 billion in debt payments to creditors in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Much of the Philippines’ debt is derived from the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos regime, which spent borrowed funds on repressive instruments of the state, a nuclear power plant built on an earthquake fault at the foot of a volcano that did not produce a single unit of energy for the country, and, of course, on a spectacular collection of shoes.

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Zimmerman versus DMX: No Matter Who Wins, We All Lose

Feb5

by: Kristin McCandless on February 5th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

(DMX / Credit: Creative Commons- Wikimedia)

The first couple of times I heard a celebrity boxing match between George Zimmerman and the rapper known as DMX was in the works I thought the idea was a joke.

But this match is not a joke – it is actually on its way to being contracted. And I’m terrified of what this means for us as a society.

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator who shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin back in 2012 was acquitted of the murder and manslaughter charges against him, so on a legal level, no more can be done to hold Zimmerman to account.

There is, however, much that can and should be done to change the system that allowed that verdict to happen. The way to bring about justice is to use this horrible case and its powerful, emotional backlash to change what is wrong within our system, to make it reflect the peoples’ desire to move forward past racial disparities and unpunished hate crimes.

People are against Zimmerman because they are against his raw, blatant display of hate, violence, and discrimination.

So let me ask: why are we letting him stoke these exact same sentiments through a high-profile boxing match on TV?

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Keystone XL has a Job for You! (video satire)

Feb5

by: on February 5th, 2014 | Comments Off

When Keystone XL’s top job recruiter comes to town, he reveals just what types of jobs the controversial oil pipeline would really create.

Oil executives like to claim that the Keystone XL would create thousands of jobs. But in a project fueling so many environmental and health risks, only one man is honest enough to say exactly what those jobs would be. Hint: they’re not in construction.

It’s true, Keystone XL has a job for you! But the question is: do you really want it?

[Note to readers: This is a satirical video. Please do not call Keystone XL about these job openings. Do not send in any applications or letters of recommendation. Instead, we recommend asking the good folks at Keystone XL one question. How's the wig business going?]

When Did “the 60s” Begin? Here’s Why It Matters.

Feb4

by: on February 4th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

When, exactly, did the era of radical ferment we remember as “the ’60s” begin? Exactly one half-century ago, PBS tells us in its recent documentary titled “1964,” kicking off a year when we’ll celebrate the 50 anniversary of a host of memorable events:

  • Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty, pushed the Civil Rights Act through Congress, and got a blank check from Congress (the Tonkin Gulf resolution) to send troops to Vietnam.
  • The Mississippi Freedom Summer saw civil rights workers murdered and hundreds of white students going back to their campuses in the fall radicalized.
  • Some of those students, at Berkeley, created the Free Speech Movement.
  • African Americans “rioted” in Harlem.
  • America began to hear of Malcolm X, and Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali.
  • After Republicans took a sharp turn to the right and saw their presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, get 40% of the vote — buoyed by the rhetoric of political newcomer Ronald Reagan — right-wing politicos began planning a “New Right” movement.
  • The Beatles came to America, and Motown’s biggest hit was “Dancing in the Streets.”
  • TV viewers were spellbound by an immensely strong, totally independent woman on the season’s biggest new hit, “Bewitched.”

Connect the dots, the PBS show’s talking head historians all say, and you’ll see a year that changed America forever. “The 60s” had begun!

There’s just one problem with this story:

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Photo Gallery: Surviving Genocide in Sudan and Congo

Feb3

by: Janice Kamenir-Reznik on February 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off

Ten years ago, the first genocide of the 21st century started in Darfur. It was another in the long list of 46 genocides since the Holocaust, when the world first promised “Never Again!” Despite that promise, we’ve heard a deafening silence from the world as each of these genocides unfolded.

refugee camp

Tea: Miada and her mother share solar-cooked tea in the Iridimi Darfuri refugee camp in Chad. Credit: Barbara Grover.

During Rosh Hashanah in 2004, Rabbi Harold Schulweis challenged the Valley Beth Shalom Congregation in Encino to not stand idly by as another genocide happened in front of our eyes; he asked that we found Jewish World Watch, through which we could bring the lessons of Torah to bear on the horror being inflicted on humankind by perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities.

The Valley Beth Shalom community responded en masse, calling upon Southern California synagogues to unify and raise their collective voices in outrage over the events in Darfur. Over the last ten years, more than 70 synagogues have answered that call; together we have marched, rallied, and advocated – locally, nationally and internationally. We sent delegations to travel to the regions we work in to bear witness and bring survivors the message that they are not alone.

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B.D.S. and the Attack on Liberalism

Feb2

by: on February 2nd, 2014 | 27 Comments »

A person angry at Israel, now angry at Starbucks too. Credit: Creative Commons

Back in 1995, while studying abroad in Jerusalem, an American Jewish friend and myself were invited by a Palestinian friend to go to a pop music concert at Bethlehem University in its outdoor arena. The female Arab singer was fabulously talented and charismatic, and of course she sang all the songs in Arabic. At one point, she led a song with her fist high in the air, repeating a rhythmic chant, with the impassioned audience repeating the chant, fists high in the air. Again, all in Arabic. Because it was so rhythmic, my Jewish friend and I joined in. When there was a break in the music, I turned to a Palestinian next to me who spoke English and said to him, “That was really great! Oh, and by the way, what were we chanting that whole time?”

He said, “Kick the Jews out!” Of course, that meant all of the land, not only the 67′ lines.

Memories of that Bethlehem episode came flooding back after reading Omar Barghouti’s op-ed in The New York Times today titled, “Why Israel Fears the Boycott.” It seems that at least some of those who reject Israel as a Jewish state for the Jewish people – a people who have endured milennia of persecution that culminated in the Holocaust – have finally seen the limited public relations range of fist-pumping exhortations of ethnic cleansing, and have instead gone all Madison Avenue on us. In fact, tobacco companies still holding out hope that they can get 5th graders addicted to cigarettes through all manner of subliminal messaging ought to read Barghouti’s op-ed. They could use some new pointers.

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