9. Sandy Photosets: Disaster Porn?

Nov-09-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: A powerful set of photos documenting the effects and recovery from Sandy. The Big Picture ends the storm set with a rainbow, and starts the recovery with an American flag, but the pictures make vivid the power that we’ve unleaded. Meanwhile Tikkun Blog explores the morbid fascination we have with disaster porn.

* Hurricane Sandy: After Landfall - In Focus – The Atlantic

* Hurricane Sandy: The Superstorm  The Big Picture 

* Hurricane Sandy: Recovery   The Big Picture

* Sentiments on Sandy Tikkun Daily Blog 

I’m a little concerned at the particular way in which we’ve all been watching the news, trolling every weather site for new photos and videos of sensational storm coverage. Though initially it comes from a place of concern and awareness, it can also border on selfish– as if we’re using serious damage and danger for entertainment. I know it’s “exciting” to be in the middle of things—I felt the same way, with the whole country’s attention on New York (to which I’ve recently relocated)… Receiving text messages and emails of concern every five minutes from friends and family around the world is actually quite touching, and shows genuine care in a way that we don’t often grant one another.

But when I step back and check myself, I realize that to continue watching dramatic mass-media news from a place of fascinated pornographic greed seems excessive, wrong, and unjust. As if we’re doing “our part” by gluing our eyes to the weather channel and marvelling the destruction. Why did nobody (including me) pay this level of attention– or even know– when Sandy hit Cuba (see photo below)? And where are the practical articles telling us what we can do to help with the relief efforts, or how we can raise awareness about climate change and extreme weather for the upcoming elections?

9. Impeccably Styled Music

Oct-05-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Start with the Girls’ Generation video, which will show you what K-Pop is about. Then you can decide if you need to read a wonderful (but long) New Yorker piece about the history, style, and merchandizing of K-Pop. A wonderfully creative Amanda Palmer video of her latest single (some nudity), and for contrast, a crashingly punk/grunge blast with Neil and friends bringing it all home.

* 소녀시대_THE BOYS_Music Video (KOR ver.)   Girls’ Generation YouTube

* Cultural Technology and the Making of K-Pop   The New Yorker

K-pop is an East-West mash-up. The performers are mostly Korean, and their mesmerizing synchronized dance moves, accompanied by a complex telegraphy of winks and hand gestures, have an Asian flavour, but the music sounds Western: hip-hop verses, Euro-pop choruses, rapping, and dub step breaks. K-pop has become a fixture of pop charts not only in Korea but throughout Asia, including Japan—the world’s second-biggest music market, after the U.S.—and Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. South Korea, a country of less than fifty million, somehow figured out how to make pop hits for more than a billion and a half other Asians, contributing two billion dollars a year to Korea’s economy, according to the BBC …

“Listen, boy,” Tiffany coos at the outset of “Gee.” “It’s my first love story.” And then she tilts her head to the side and flashes her eye smile—the precise crinkle in the outer corner that texts her love straight 2U. Why was watching “Mr. Taxi” such pure audiovisual pleasure? Why did my body feel lighter in the chair? It wasn’t the music—bright, candy-cane-sweet sounds, like aural Day-Glo—and, while the dancing was wonderfully precise, the choreography had a schematic quality. “They look like cheerleaders,” my twenty-one-year-old niece hissed over my shoulder one day as I was watching “Gee” again. “Uncle Pervy!”

…Good looks are a K-pop artist’s stock-in-trade. Although some of the idols are musicians, K-pop artists rarely play instruments onstage. Where K-pop stars excel is in sheer physical beauty. Their faces, chiselled, sculpted, and tapering to a sharp point at the chin, Na’vi style, look strikingly different from the flat, round faces of most Koreans. Some were born with this bone structure, no doubt, but many can look this way only with the help of plastic surgery. Korea is by far the world leader in procedures per capita, according to The Economist. Double-fold-eyelid surgery, which makes eyes look more Western, is a popular reward for children who get good marks on school exams. The popularity of the K-pop idols has also brought Chinese, Japanese, and Singaporean “medical tourists” to Seoul to have their faces altered to look more like the Korean stars. Some hotels have partnered with hospitals so that guests can have in-house procedures; the Ritz-Carlton Seoul, for example, offers an eighty-eight-thousand-dollar “anti-aging beauty package.” Women come to have their cheekbones shaved down and undergo “double jaw surgery,” in which the upper and lower jawbones are cracked apart and repositioned, to give the whole skull a more tapered look.

* Amanda Palmer’s awesome stop-motion music video [NSFW]   Boing Boing

Amanda Palmer’s just posted her latest video for a new song called “Want it Back,” and it’s a fabulous piece of stop-motion animation in which the lyrics are calligraphed across Palmer’s body, sheets, companions, books, and some nearby graffiti walls in Melbourne. The inking here is nothing short of inspired. Palmer provides extensive notes on the production, which sounds like a real bear.

* “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World”  YouTube

Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach joined Neil Young on stage last night (September 29) at a free concert in New York.

The Global Citizen Festival, which took place in Central Park, was a five-hour concert featuring performances from Foo Fighters, The Black Keys, Band Of Horses and K’naan, with Neil Young & Crazy Horse capping off the evening.

6. Happy New Year

Sep-21-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Shana Tova! Two New Year’s treats: a powerful sermon from Rabbi Brant Rosen, and the video of a man wandering the streets of L.A. blowing his shofar. Shofar, so good.

* Judaism Without Tribalism: A Sermon for Rosh Hashanah 5773  Shalom Rav

I also wonder if Jewish tribalism is starting to come at a cost.  I especially wonder what it means for the Jewish community to be tribal in this day and age, when we are experiencing openness and freedom in historically unprecedented ways.  Given the global realities of our 21stcentury world, I wonder if there might be new models for Jewish identity – ones that value tribalism less than a deeper sense of engagement and kinship with the world outside….

I know personally how hard it is for many of us to challenge our tribal Jewish legacy.  But as for me, I believe to my very core that whether we like it or not, our collective future will depend upon building more bridges, and not more walls, between peoples and nations.  I believe the most effective way for us to survive – the only way we will bequeath our traditions to the next generation –  is to affirm a Judaism that finds sacred meaning in our connection to mol yoshvei revel – all who dwell on earth.

I also believe this because I know that while Judaism certainly contains tribal and parochial teachings, it also has also a strong tradition of religious humanism – mitzvoth that demand we love all our neighbours as ourselves.  After all, one of the first – and most powerful – teachings in the Torah is that human beings are created B’tzelem Elohim – in the image of God.  From the outset we learn that all human beings are equally worthy of respect, dignity and love – and, I would add, equally worthy of one anthers’ allegiance and loyalty.  Moreover, a key rabbinic concept, Kavod HaBriyot, demands that we ensure all people are treated with honour and dignity.  In a famous verse from Pirke Avot, Rabbi Ben Zoma teaches: “Who is honored?  The one who honours all human beings.”

All are created in God’s image.  Honor comes to the one who honours all people.  To my mind, these are the strands of Judaism we must seek out and and affirm in no uncertain terms.

* Street Shofar featuring IKAR’s Sexy Shofar Man  Boing Boing

IKAR is a progressive, egalitarian Jewish community, driven by a passionate belief in the relevance of the Jewish tradition and its power to infuse our lives with meaning and purpose. We believe that Jewish religious practice challenges us to wake up to our responsibilities as Jews and as human beings, and that the upcoming High Holy Days are nothing short of a call to transform our lives, our city and our world. So we sent our Sexy Shofar Man to hit the streets with his sweet shofar blowing to beckon the people of Los Angeles to wake up and think about what’s possible in 5773.

8. Books (and Magazines)

Sep-14-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: The Guardian, in a hilarious conceit, is having a showdown tournament of the top 32 American writers. Read the way they were selected, and see the full list, and the four novels that represent them. If you enjoy books by, or about musicians, this is going to be a good season. Bikinis that are similar to book covers is as bizarre a concept for a website as I’ve seen, and the 15 magazine covers are interesting, though some are not controversial. But it’s a fun trip down memory lane.

* The Great American Novelist Tournament: The Final 32 Matthew Spencer The Guardian

The original list was debated, dissected and reassembled several times over. Here, at last, is the final list of 32 competitors for the title of Great American Novelist

I read and digested your comments. I agonised and I performed sweeping U-turns across the American canon. I have re-jigged the novelists to produce a final list that still does not include David Foster Wallace, Marilynne Robinson, Harper Lee or anyone short of the four novel minimum. For shame, but this single elimination tournament demands a novelist must have four possible “greats” to bring to the party. It is a wide sieve through which many notable writers have fallen, but there it is: I’m looking for an American, writing within the last 100 years who went back to the well again and again and continued to find it wet with novelistic inspiration.

* Autumn’s 10 best music books  The Observer

Blame Bob and Keith – and Patti too. If it weren’t for the runaway success of Dylan’s Chronicles (published 2004), Richards’s Life (2010) and… Just Kids by Patti Smith (also 2010), the shelves this autumn would not be heaving under the weight of recollections by rock’s big beasts. Between now and Christmas, autobiographies are expected from Neil Young and Pete Townshend, Rod Stewart and Peter Hook, not to mention the biggest beast of them all, perhaps – Steven Patrick Morrissey. In between, we have high-profile biographies of Leonard Cohen and Led Zeppelin, an appreciation of Prince and an account by Mick Jagger‘s accountant. Rarely have the half-remembered recollections of artists, many au fait with recreational chemistry, been more in demand.

The celebrated memoirs of Dylan, Richard and Smith ramped up expectations for the rock autobiography. Pre-Keef’n'Bob, rock memoirs were specialist titles, sold in comfortable numbers to fans, music journalists and sensation-seekers, thumbing the index for names and dates. Then, perhaps, they radiated out to the wider circle of autobiography junkies. … But these three very literary books broke out of their reservation with elan, escaping into the wider-reading wild, chased by critical acclaim and garnering huge sales. It helped, of course, that Dylan was an enigma who remained an enigma even when setting the record straight; it helped, too, that when Richards was commenting on the size of Jagger’s member, his own memories of discovering the blues in bomb-scarred postwar south London were so beautifully drawn. With Smith, you got the bang of a poet and a famous artist for your buck.

Bikinis Meet Their Match Matchbook

Matches between bathing suits and books.

* 15 of the Most Controversial Magazine Covers in History Twisted Sifter

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