Well Versed

Taming Wagner: Or, How Anti-Semitism Made the Composer Likable

Richard Wagner inspires visceral reactions, with listeners tend to either love him or hate him.

The Holocaust and Pacifists: Would Pacifism Saved More Jews than War?

The thought seems outrageous: that pracifism, a principled objection to America's entrance into World War II, would have saved more Jews than fighting Hitler and defeating Nazism altogether.  But that is the argument that Nicolson Baker, the novelist and author of the 2008 pacifist's interpretation of the war, Human Smoke, makes in his month's Harper's.  And his case is compelling.

Who Killed Tupac?: The Jewish Defense League and an Unsolved Mystery

Much like my parents remember the day JFK was shot, I remember the day Tupac died. I grew up a hip-hop fan, and still am, and remember vividly my rapture with the Harlem-born, Los Angeles-based rapper.  For me Tupac had all the qualities I still admire in poets, which have now only been transfigured on to more "respectable" literary models: defiance, brashness, charm, a temerity bordering on recklessness. So you can imagine how I felt when he was murdered in Las Vegas back in 1996.

Hijacking the Holocaust: Or, Did Comcast Emotionally Blackmail Spielberg?

I'm sure Comcast's p.r. people did not mean this to happen: early this week, Comcast, the cable provider sent out a press release that it would give away on its website and to subscribers 10 Holocaust documentaries, free of charge, and selected by Steven Spielberg's USC Shoah Foundation Institute. The press release said the altruistic gesture was meant to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on May 1.  See, corporations aren't so bad, right?

Julian and Juliano: "Miral" and the Death of an Actor

Earlier this week the Israeli-Arab actor and peace activist Juliano Mer Khamis, 52, was shot dead, presumably by Palestinian militants.  The New York Times had a moving story about the funeral for Mer Khamis held on Wednesday, reporting that the Israeli government allowed his coffin to be taken briefly to the edge of a West Bank checkpoint. They made the gesture so his Palestinian supporters could pay their respects, as they were not permitted to go to his burial inside Israel.

The Mighty Walzer Returns: An Interview with Howard Jacobson

New York's nightly cultural offerings are the city's greatest attraction, as well as its most despairing.  Every night there's something enticing to hear, see or do, but the guilt quickly settles in after you realize most of them you'll miss. Thankfully, there are reviews.

Phildanco: Not Your Average Jewish Dance

Last night I went to Phildanco's performance at The Joyce and saw something I did not expect: a dance set to Steve Reich's "Tehillim."  Phildanco is one of America's premier contemporary dance companies, with a heavy African-American influence.  And "Tehillim" is Reich's iconic Jewish chorale. Not there's a necessary contradiction, hardly. But seeing the company's exceptional dancers shimmy to Reich gave me pause.

More Arab Calls for Learning About the Holocaust

On my blog last week, I linked to an excellent review of a recent book about the Arab world's involvement in the Holocaust, written by a Muslim Lebanese scholar.  Titled "The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arabi-Israeli War of Narratives," by Gilbert Achcar, a professor in London, it not only limns many Arab leaders' dubious embrace of Hitler, it also takes contemporary Jewish leaders to task for putting a holy mote around the event--as if any comparisons to the Holocaust are i

Maira Kalman and Jewishness in Art

This week I wrote my Culture View column on Maira Kalman's new exhibit at The Jewish Museum.  I've got a pet obsession with her work, and figured that it would have been near impossible to leave my utterly self-conscious bias behind for the sake of a more "critical" review.  So instead, I used it as an occasion to look at the same illustrations of hers I love--with all their winsomeness, humor, wit, vivacity and even occasional sadness--and simply view them in another light.

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