Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lady Gaga vs Sarah McLachlan

A few days ago, the music section of the New York Times carried a piece by Jon Caramanica entitled "Girl Pop's Lady Gaga Makeover." To me, it makes for pretty depressing reading. The basic theme, if you don't mind me oversimplifying somewhat as I paraphrase, is that songs and singers who feel something and have something to say are being replaced by entertainers for whom such motivations are anathema. In other words, we're going post-modern yet again. Except now we're post-post-modern, or perhaps even post-post-post modern. It's so hard to keep track of the trends these days, especially when trendiness if often all that popular culture seems to be able to offer us.

Caramanica makes the point that Sarah McLachlan, who a decade ago seemed to be heralding the end of endless inventing and reinventing as the way to success in popular music, is now in retreat, having had to cancel a third of the concerts in her current revival of the Lilith Fair tour while Lady Gaga is raking in the money and the attention (actually, again, I am paraphrasing what I take from his piece, but I think this is the basic message.)

Don't get me wrong, I often find Lady Gaga entertaining, for no other reason than that the real secret of her popularity--the vicarious thrill she gives to wannabes who want to identify with her ability to make a great deal of money with very little talent and nothing to say that hasn't been said much better many times before--forces her to be reasonably clever about the way she goes about doing it. And she seems to have good progressive politics, although how brave she will be if the Tea Party goes after her in a big way remains to be seen (I would hope more brave than Commander-in-Chief President Barack Obama was in the face of the right-wing smear of Shirley Sherrod.)

But you know, there's a lot of sadness in the world, and like many people, sometimes I want to feel it. And I know Sarah will always be there for me. Lady Gaga, on the other hand, will probably be old news this time next year--unless she reinvents herself as someone who has something to say. One never knows.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sheikh Jarrah: A Just Struggle for a Just Jerusalem

If you want to keep up with the struggle against Israeli attempts to drive Palestinians out of Jerusalem with evictions, house demolitions, settlement building, and other measures illegal under international law, please check out the Just Jerusalem blog. Among other things you will learn what you need to know about the mythology of a "united Jerusalem" created by Israeli leaders, a myth directed in large part at gullible American Jews whose support Israel needs more desperately than ever--support that is rapidly waning as more and more Jews put Judaic values of justice and tolerance before primitive tribal bestiality.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Goddess and the Bull: Kindle edition

For those very few of you out there who have not yet read my book about Neolithic Catalhoyuk and the dawn of civilization, the Kindle edition is now published by the good folks at the Free Press. You can purchase it by clicking at the link above or this link right here.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Religious bigotry intensifies in Israel

One of the most outrageous aspects of the so-called "Jewish state" is the monopoly given to Orthodox Judaism in deciding not only matters of religion in the country, but also issues that should be strictly civil, such as marriage and divorce. This has long been an embarrassment to American defenders of Israel, the great majority of whom are not orthodox.

According to an article in today's Washington Post, a bill is advancing in the Knesset that would sidestep an Israeli Supreme Court decision that conversions to the Reform and Conservative branches of Judaism must be recognized in terms of eligibility for Israeli citizenship. This is the equivalent of an "Islamic state" recognizing only the most fundamentalist branches of Islam. A few details from the Post article:

Representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements, which have been battling for years for more rights in Israel, saw the committee vote as a threat to their efforts to strengthen their legitimacy in Israel. The chief rabbinate already holds a monopoly on such rituals as marriage and divorce.

"It sets us back 20 years in terms of the advances that were made," said Rabbi Steven Wernick, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, an umbrella organization of Conservative Jewish congregations in the United States, who spoke by telephone during a visit to Jerusalem. "The practical implication of this bill is one that we are very, very concerned about and angry about."

The article reported some additional news about religious bigotry in the country:

Also on Monday, police detained for several hours a woman who carried a Torah scroll to the women's prayer section of the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism.
Police said that Anat Hoffman, a leader of Women of the Wall, a group that challenges the limitations put on women's prayer at the Western Wall, had violated a Supreme Court ruling that says women cannot read from the Torah in the area.
People who witnessed the confrontation said Hoffman was not reading from the Torah in the prayer area and had only brought it with her. Hoffman was ordered not to pray at the wall for 30 days.

Photo: Women of the Wall ((Anat Hoffman, rt.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

By Hook and By Crook: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank

This is the title of a report issued earlier this week by B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization. The group claims that settlers effectively control 42% of the West Bank. The full text (pdf file) is available here.

From the introduction on the group's Web site:

Some half a million Israelis are now living over the Green Line: more than 300,000 in 121 settlements and about one hundred outposts, which control 42 percent of the land area of the West Bank, and the rest in twelve neighborhoods that Israel established on land it annexed to the Jerusalem Municipality. The report analyzes the means employed by Israel to gain control of land for building the settlements. In preparing the report, B'Tselem relied on official state data and documents, among them Attorney Talia Sasson’s report on the outposts, the database produced by Brigadier General Baruch Spiegel, reports of the state comptroller, and maps of the Civil Administration.

Israel Holds Firm in Banning Gaza Residents From Studying in the West Bank. A report in the Chronicle of Higher Education on this brutal Israel policy.

The firing of Octavia Nasr. Glenn Greenwald on the hypocrisy of the so-called "Liberal Media." Funny, the UK's ambassador to Lebanon saw things in a similar way.