That’s right, Johnny Mathis. The third best-selling recording artist of all time, whose open-hearted, sultry voice animated our car rides to Lake Tahoe when I was 10, the eight-track cassette seemingly invented just so my sister and I could say, yet again, “Go back to ‘Chances Are’!”
The New York City Ballet began its winter season last week and, as a ballet fan, I tried, as I do each year, to come up with a Jewish story about it. Alas, I always come up short.
Sure, there are stories you could write about Jewish dancers and the occasional choreographer, and I’ve done my share. But let’s be honest, there is a conspicuous absence of serious Jewish content in ballet. And it’s interesting to consider why.
I had the privilege of spending much of the summer in Israel, meeting with artists and curators and generally re-acquainting myself with the art scene there. While the reopening of the magnificent Israel Museum in Jerusalem was the most noteworthy event of my trip, meetings at galleries, museums and performances crystallized the idea that art offers a window into the soul — and the possibilities — of Israeli life today.
Shortly after Harvey Pekar died last week, at 70, YouTube videos of his infamous quarrels with David Letterman got a dizzying number of views. Pekar was already a cult hero for his underground “American Splendor” comic-book series that began appearing in the mid-‘70s, but it was the Letterman appearances a decade later that catapulted him into fame.
In my 15 years writing this column, which has focused on the connections between culture and community, I’m not sure I’ve ever had as powerful a sense of the transformative power of Jewish ideas as in the creative arc of writer/performer Josh Kornbluth.
A San Francisco Bay Area institution and former TV talk show host, Kornbluth is a renowned writer and monologist, whose autobiographical work includes probing explorations of such inherently undramatic topics as math, taxes and the Berkeley environmental commission.
When the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand released his book “The Invention of the Jewish People” in America a few months ago, journalists here wondered if it would attract the same attention it did abroad. It was a bestseller in Israel upon its initial release in 2008, and later won the French journalists’ highest honor, the Aujourd’hui Award. So far, however, the book has made little impact here.