Sunday, February 26, 2006


"I liked their first album better.

By now, the dismissal by sophomore slump is already a preemptive cliché. The temperamental New York hipsteratti falls in-and-out of love faster than the band can record the follow-up's demos. Whenever a local group finds worldwide acceptance, the honeymoon ends and home team pride fades away like backlash on fast-forward. It happened with the Strokes' Room On Fire, it happened with Interpol's Antics and it will assuredly happen with countless other examples from hereon in. Instead of supporting the city pride through a misstep, we shoot them down like Dick Cheney on lawyers.

It's just a few weeks away from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' own sophomore release Show Your Bones and there's much speculation as to how the album will be received. The first single “Gold Lion” features the polished Gwen Stefanish vocals of lead singer Karen O singing over Love And Rockets' "No New Tale To Tell." The song, while still frisky, is definitely more tempered than any of the tracks off of the debut Fever To Tell and also less memorable. And the milquetoast pre-buzz hasn't helped the case. While in the past New Yorker's Sasha Frere Jones has generally written about artists he's felt very strongly about (i.e. Emiliana Torrini, The Mountain Goats, the then-unknown Keren Ann), his write-up of Show Your Bones read like impassive review. And from what I've heard of the record thus far, Bones plays like the Yeahs’ mid-life crisis album, the dentures to Fever’s sharp incisors.

On Saturday Night, Karen O walked out on the stage of New York's Bowery Ballroom to an eager crowd. This was reportedly a fan-only gathering--the label had a small-to-no guest list--and the anticipation amongst the audience confirmed this. Sporting a cabaret hair-bob, the maniacal frontwoman glowed in a golden mini-dress and bronze shawl wrapped around her neck. Soon thereafter, the thundering drums of Brian Chase pounded forth from the back of the stage. While Karen gets most of the attention, it should be noted that Chase is a secret weapon drummer playing throughout the night like Bonham, relentlessly hitting the cymbals like beating a tree branch to the ground. Guitarist Nick Zinner and guest fourth member Imaad Wasif joined Chase on the song by filling in the holes of "Gold Lion." For the rest of the night, the triple Yeahs focused on new material like "Phemonena," "Dudley," and "Honey Bear," slipping in an old favorite intermittenly throughout the set. “Maps” and “Y Control” will never lose their potency and “Tick,” the night’s closer sounded as urgently deranged as it did when I saw the then-unknown band in Austin three years ago.

The trio, while epitomizing cool, does so in a very different way that the aforementioned bands. Chase, Zinner, and O have never embraced the cooler-than-cool rock star aura. They're not particularly or conventionally attractive. Chase is bookish looking, Zinner is a small-bodied Anime character brought to life and Karen's giddy/misplaced affect shtick is not sexy by any means. If anything, it’s unsettling. There's something so defiantly arty about the YYY's refusal to compromise their oddness for the mainstream. It’s also telling that Fever To Tell sat on the shelf for nearly a year before the record took off thanks to the fluke hit “Maps,” because it took that long for the press to digest the meaty thirty-minute-plus debut. And while the band's authenticity throughout their five-year career is admirable, it doesn't mean I will rave about their catalogue regardless. Bones sounds like a misstep in comparison to the high expectations left by their blistering Fever. I’ll be happy if after more time, I’m proven wrong but if I’m not, that too is okay. Despite a sophomore slump, I'll be more than glad to champion the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in the future. Unlike many other New Yorkers, I’m supportive like that.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


So, you're familiar with the time-zone concept, right? Like, California is a three-hour difference from New York. England is like six hours ahead from the East Coast. Well, based on my Canadian exposure thus far, I'm pretty sure Canada's time difference is like four years. So, if it's 8:30 PM when you call your friend in Toronto, it will most likely be 2002 for him. So be considerate of the time and year that you pick up the phone to reach a bud up north. And whatever you do, do not tell him how The Sixth Sense ends.

It seems that everyone here, man or woman regardless, somehow reminds me of Alanis Morisette.
They also say "mobile phone," instead of "cell." Which as far as I'm concerned is using a superfluous word. Canada, it seems, is quite liberal but nevertheless, irresponsibly anti-brevity. Now, isn't that ironic? Nope. That isn't, either.

So, I'm in a hotel in Canada and I'm watching TV and I just want to say that as often as I make fun of Canadians and their accents, I always thought I was just over-doing it for comic effect. Turns out I wasn't. They really do say "aboot." Sometimes with, like, seven O's.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


I am now one step closer to meeting Jessica Alba.
Which is still very, very far away.

Totes exciting! Twice a day, every day from hereon in, your Sincere scribe is music-blogging for Jane Magazine on their new daily blog. I am touched. I am honored. But most importantly, I am here.

And for the long-time readers (hi, Mom): Remember this? Ahh, the good ole days.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Three more years! Three more years!

Thursday, February 09, 2006


I have been dreading this for quite some time. Every time I consider what I should write on the day commemorating the three-year anniversary of my father’s death, my mind wanders elsewhere.

Where are you going? I ask myself.
Elsewhere, I say back.
And why are you going Elsewhere?
It just seems like a decent place to go to.
But why couldn’t you just stay here? I persist.
What qualifies you to ask such questions?
You are avoiding something.
I thought that was obvious.
What are you avoiding?
I thought that too was obvious.

Time flies when you’re having fun. Time also flies when you are focused on forgetting. The memory of my father feels faint and distant like a friend you think you recognize from afar. You squint and squint but the squinting brings them no closer.

I do exercises to help myself remember.
How would you describe Dad’s voice, I ask my sister.
Sweet. Sweet like honey, she says.
I visualize the taste of honey and then try to imagine how that sugariness would sound. I transform the sweetness into a pronouncement.

Hey Ar, he would say. Shortening a name was the way he showed affection.
I try to recall his Boston accent, so subtle, yet so distinct, like a man on the cusp of losing his distinctive pronunciation, yet desperately holding onto it because that accent, saying "cah" and gahbahge", that was his childhood.

I try to remember his walk. Deliberate and graceful despite his lack of coordination. When I saw my father dance at weddings, I was almost certain he was drunk. Except for the fact that he never drank.
I never liked the taste of alcohol, he would tell me.
Although, I say back, you would take a shot of Slivovitz at synagogue with the "boys," who, in actuality, lost their boyhood status nearly a half-century before then.
Yes, he would say, but it made them feel younger.
How did you help yourself feel young? I ask.
Ha, I'm certain he would say. You helped me stay young.

And I did. It's true.
I wanted him to live forever.

When I think about my father, I suddenly realize how much I've forgotten and frankly, it doesn't seem fair. Someone as close as a would think the memories associated with him were yours to keep. You assume they would be eternal even outlasting the physical person. But in truth, both are fleeting. When I think about my father, it frustrates me why I don't think about him more often. With just three years gone by, how time passes--moments, hours, a whole day--without thinking of my father.
Do you feel guilty about that, he asks me.
Of course I do, I say back. How could I not?

I remember when I was even getting older how my father would occasionally try to hold my hand in the car. I always found this intruding. I'm too old for this, I thought. I would fight it by pulling away. And if it persisted, I would jokingly chide him, I'm too old for that.

Now, in retrospect, it doesn’t seem that bad.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


These are abnormal times. Today's news almost sounds like a sitcom plot, something out of an absurdist, surreal movie. A religion en masse is inspired into a raging furor over a comic strip. People are being killed, buildings are being destroyed, an age-old tradition is embarrassing itself by abandoning its true value and ideals. Leaders are over-reacting with threats of decapitation. The stereotypes are simply reinforced into truisms, unfounded generalizations into vivid life. These are abnormal times when religious leaders, supposed men of God, are asking for their people to seek violent revenge on political comic illustrators. Perhaps hundreds of years ago, when civilization was not as civilized, behavior like this was acceptable. But this is 2006. We simply cannot encourage such barbaric behavior and even more, America should not whither in fear, as it is, acting as a spineless, apologetic government criticizing the nature of the illustrations. Rather, this country was founded on the principle of freedom of speech and we should stand by it (especially considering that our politicians who have been vocally dismissing the "offensive" drawings, certainly, in private, would admit that the sobering messages behind the punchlines are somewhat accurate).

In a letter printed in last week's New York Times, Abe Foxman, director of the ADL wrote:

To the Editor:

The widespread anger across the Islamic world and in Muslim communities in Europe over the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in the European press is ironic considering that newspapers in the Arab and Muslim world have no moral scruples when it comes to demonizing and stereotyping Jews in editorial cartoons.

In the Muslim and Arab press, Jews are routinely depicted as stereotypical hook-nosed, greedy and manipulative killers.

Moreover, leaders of regimes like Egypt and Saudi Arabia have virtually ignored appeals from the United States and Jewish organizations to put an end to incitement in the media, excusing it in the name of "freedom of the press."

One would hope that Muslim and Arab leaders would turn all of the anger being aimed at the European press into a larger lesson for their own people about the power of images. Those incensed by the portrayal of Muhammad should turn a mirror on their own press before assuming the moral high ground in a discussion of press freedom.

Abraham H. Foxman
National Director
Anti-Defamation League
New York, Feb. 3, 2006

As reported in the news yesterday (and I think this is the reason why this whole fiasco has finally stirred a strong reaction from me), Iran is retaliating to the comic "injustice" and insensitivity by being equally insensitive. Hamshahri, their popular country-wide daily newspaper is organizing a contest for the best Holocaust-themed comic. Yes, you read that correctly. A comic illustration that somehow involves the mocking of the Holocaust. Therefore because some European countries (with a minimal, if any, Jewish population) decided to print a few drawings that were offensive to the Muslim people in their local papers, a portion of the Muslim community has decided to test the limits of our tolerance by mocking genocide. How is this a proper exchange? Shouldn't the contest call for a satire involving Moses or Jesus? Wouldn't that seem more appropriate for a nation that believes in the literal sentence of an eye-for-an-eye?

Now ask yourself this: why are we buying oil, never mind, anything from this region? Why would we financially assist a country that manufactures as much hate as gasoline?

In an article in today's Times, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted to say, "In this freedom, casting doubt or negating the genocide of the Jews is banned but insulting the beliefs of 1.5 billion Muslims is allowed." As an aside, no one is banning their choice to run the Holocaust comic because the rest of the world believes in freedom of speech. What I find so eerie about this contest is how prophetic Abe Foxman's letter was. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the Iranian newspaper was inspired by his letter.

Considering the last week of events, I wonder if there's ever any chance of peace or resolution with the Muslim world. Maybe we have to consider that with all our progress in this world, they're just simply regressing.

Please enjoy my newest column on the Big Takeover site. This one is about Neil Finn, who I could easily write a book about but TBO asks that we limit our postings to about 600 words. Like, total bummer.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Why?'s Elephant Eyelash was one of the best albums of 2005. Too bad we only got around to realizing that in 2006.

Elephant Eyelash

One of the first things you learn in social work school is to never pose a question to a client starting with the word “why.” According to Susan Lukas, author of Where To Start And What To Ask: An Assessment Handbook, “why” is a confrontational word, an antagonistic word that seeks accountability. So it’s telling that Yoni Wolf, a Berkley, California eccentric chose Why? (complete with the question mark) as his moniker because, essentially, Yoni and his music is one big, collective question posed at the apathy of the indie rock scene. And with every record that Wolf releases, we get closer and closer to a satisfying answer.

“It’s a profound word,” Wolf tells me. “At once, “why” asks all the questions that remain unanswered but it also reveals to everyone how little the asker knows.” The 27-year-old Cincinnati, Ohio native is amicable, thoughtful and flattering (he compliments me on a story he read of mine in another magazine, even calling it “inspiring”) His speech is like that of a suburban skateboarder using words like, “dope,” “yo,” “and "stoked” all throughout our multiple conversations. In fact, during our last discussion, Wolf discloses that he is currently in the state of stoked-ness. Both the freethinking Wolf and his band have just been asked to tour as the opening act for the Silver Jews, one of his favorite groups, on their upcoming, limited tour. “I’ve always been a big Dave Berman (head Silver Jew) fan,” Wolf reveals. “In fact, I sent him one of my albums a while back—I wanted to put my music on his radar—and weeks later, I got a postcard back that read, “I like your music. Thanks for sending it.” I mean, I assume it was from Berman because it wasn’t signed by anyone.”

Wolf’s newest masterpiece Elephant Eyelash (Anticon) is heartwarming and unusual, trying it’s hardest to defy categorization or genre identifying. The second record is an artful, Dada-influenced sound collage, simultaneously embracing simple pop sensibilities while giving conventional song structure a middle finger. Moreover, his distinct, nasal voice is quirky and vulnerable perfectly complimenting the songs that straddle both the accessible and the absurd. And although, his music is aurally appealing, many gravitate to Wolf’s challenging lyrics, which are part-head scratches, part brilliant poetry. “You act like a slut, but you’re really a freezer/We love and hate like the tattooed fists,” or “unfold an origami death mask and cut my DNA with rubber traits/ Pull apart the double helix like a wishbone.” The latter line comes from his current single “Rubber Trait,” which, believe it or not, is a hit in Latin America. “That doesn’t really make sense to me but it’s totally cool,” says Wolf. But when it comes to considering Why?’s music, logic shouldn’t even be involved.

When we talk about his upbringing, Wolf’s uniqueness finally makes more sense. Growing up in the house of a Messianic Jewish rabbi, Wolf spent his youth listening to religious music like Stryper, “I was always an outcast to someone. I wasn’t really Christian, nor was I really Jewish. I was somewhere in-between.” Despite the religious environment of his youth, the defiant Wolf has since given up on his own religious observances. “I will always respect religion because it inspires people to do great things but I realized that it wasn’t for me. I get my inspiration from other sources.” Just add religion to the list of things that Yoni Wolf has challenged.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Bad news.
Are you sitting?
Are you sure?
Okay, good.
Can I get you something?
Well, I'll just come out and say it. I'm still losing the Jewish And Israeli Blog Awards.
Oh, c'mon. Don't make a scene.

Yesterday, I began investigating who my competition was and found that I can be, if the circumstances warranted it, obnoxious and sarcastic. But let's not allow this realization to prevent us from further investigating.

Next blog in the competition for Best Personal Blog is Mirty's Place.

Mirty is forty-five and is "your fairy blog-mother" whether you like it or not. I assume this means that whenever a your blog loses a tooth, she slips something under your blog's pillow. I think.
Anyway, let's ask Mirty if she has any blog postings about the wallpaper on her desktop. As luck would have it...she does! In a posting entitled "What's Your Wallpaper," Mirty says:
"My current wallpaper is this picture of Red Rock Canyon. We visited it during Thanksgiving vacation. Up on the rock are two of our family members. At first, I thought it was my husband's uber-competitive older brother and his son. But looking more closely, I see that abundance of black hair. I believe this is Ted's older sister and her husband up on that rock. Quite an impressive climb for them."

Fascinating stuff.
We move on.

Now, I have a bone to pick with the Orthodox Anarchist who's name is Mobius, which, yes, you're right, sounds like a character from The Matrix. Mobius is a frequent blogger on, like, seventeen blogs and writes often on Jewschool. You would think that someone as heavily involved in the Jewish community as I am would be linked somewhere amongst his blog publishing empire (is Mobius the Jewish blogging Donald Trump: discuss). I am the Music Editor of Heeb Magazine, as well as the Music Columnist on Bang It Out. I mean, what else do I have to do to finally get linked? Jesus.
Oh, man...did that just ruin my chances?

And now, pleased to meet you, Orthomom. Loved your movie. I'm a huge Michael Keaton fan.

When you go back to Orthomom's first posting, you'll find out the compelling reason for why Orthomom started a blog. She had to! She was urged! It was urgent! It was important! It was compelling! She was compelled!

"Hi out there. I figured there comes a point at which the number of comments an individual leaves on other blogs hits critical mass. It is at that interval that said individual officially becomes a frustrated blogger. I think I hit that classification, oh, about 300 comments ago. So here we are."

Oh, Orthomom. Was that your reason? Was this your raison d'etre? It couldn't be that this is all....there's gotta be something else.

"I am a 30-ish, orthodox Jewish, suburban, working mother of 4. I'm opinionated, sometimes cynical, fairly political, decidedly overworked, moderately sleep-deprived and generally happy with my lot in life (Thank God). And I'm jumping on the blog bandwagon."

The blog bandwagon? "The blog bandwagon"?!?! That's your reason? And pray tell, who's making Shabbos dinner while you're riding this bandwagon, young lady? Just who is preparing the gefilte fish for the children while you type your fairly political thoughts away? How can you sit there and reflect on your sometimes-cynical (shame on you!) musings when you know that the challah is not being baked? Stop this bandwagon, driver. Stop it before another apple crunch goes unmade.

Speaking of insane rebels: Renegade Rebbetzin is not what you think. She's not the wife of the Rabbi selling marijuana to her congregation, although that sounds like a promising television series. Note to self: Rebbetzin pot dealer series. Look into it. Pitch it to Showtime.

The Rebbeztin, which means the wife of a community Rabbi, is writing her blog anonymously. She has assigned herself the name "Phil," because Phil is, you know, a woman's name. RR is smart. She knows the only way to get a book deal is to post anonymously. Kudos, Rebbeztin. Shrewd tactic.

"I do have children, but I am no more a "baby machine" than any other creature with a uterus."

Ewww. She said "uterus."

"Here I am, ready to shout, be heard, and (I'm sure) be shouted at. I look forward to trying to find my "voice" in this Internet world where I may attempt to navigate the complexities of who I was, who I am, where I am going, and who and what I am attempting to be."

Who you were? Who you are? Where you're going? Who and what you're attempting to be? I'm not sure, hon, but I'm in Social Work School. We should talk for a 50-minute hour some time.

Seraphic Press is in the lead. And to be honest, he's not bad. He's a screenwriter writing a script for the Lifetime Network, so obviously he's in touch with his feminine side. But his blog is predominately about the loss of his 22-year-old son. Considering how far his lead, I can assume Seraphic Press will be the Best Personal Jewish Blog. Which will definitely get him that big cash prize they're giving. What? No cash prize?, why am I asking people to vote then?

Now, Superfluous Juxtaposition is, um, how do I say this? She's kinda in last place. Maybe next year?