Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Joyous Song...

I'm co-leading Kol Zimrah Friday with a very talented cast of characters, including Shamirpower and someone who wrote such an awesome tune for Veshamru I often refer to it as "the rockstar veshamru". I'm doing so on Sax and some singing (just like the good ole days).

For those that don't know, Kol Zimrah is an independent minyan that meets on the UWS once a month. The name is key to the praxis, as at KZ, all prayers are sung or chanted silently, there's no plain speaking, except for announcements and brief dvar torah. The other key component is that musical instruments are played as part of services. For some, this means our services are not "shabbat observant". Please note the quotes, if I could find some icon to denote hand quotes, I would.

I may be going to simple child route here, but my thing is this. G-d gave me this musical gift. Without getting melodramatic, music has saved my ass in this world a few times. So praying through my horn on Shabbas seems justified and necessary to me, because if I can honor G-d's name better through music than my hebrew (which ain't that great, I assure you), I'd rather do the best I can with the gifts I've been given. I'm just saying.

So, if you want to check out an awesome service with great prayer and great tunes, come to SAJ (15 W 86th St) at 6:30pm on Friday. Bring something vegetarian and stay for dinnah!

Sign our contract, or we'll be back.

The Writer's Guild strike continues on to day 115. Mitchell Kriegman is a successful writer and producer, gets a lot of things accomplished as a member of the Writer's Guild America East... then, what does he do once he gets a 10 million dollar deal from Sony and PBS? He tells his regular writers that they will receive a 66 percent paycut, which of course affects their health benefits, pension, and residual payments. Check the link and send him a letter!

In other "you're a backstabbing anti-union asshole news" NYU President John Sexton issues a not so thinly veiled threat to the grad students. Short version: we will start suspending you from teaching for two semesters if you don't return to your posts. You have principles; it was cute. Now go back to work. My favorite part gems are:

"For my part, I will not repeat the challenging history that contributed to the University’s decision to work directly with our graduate students rather than through the intermediary of a union."

You won't repeat the history? Okay, how about 85 percent of the GRADS voted to strike. This "intermediary" is an organization ran by the Grad Students of NYU. Can't you get that through your greazy head?

"For those who will be satisfied with nothing less than a union, I know it will be a disappointment that the University will not recognize GSOC/UAW as the collective bargaining representatives of NYU’s graduate assistants. I nonetheless hope that we share a goal to make graduate education at NYU better, even if we differ about the vehicle for achieving this, and that we can come together around this goal. "

A lot of things disappoint me, John. But when you figure out that you can't run your little purple machine without the Grad Students, it's a matter of time before you recognize the union.

Oh, and Mr. Mayor? There's one local union you seemed to forget when you went on your contract splurge. And you thought the musicians getting locked out of Radio City was bad for the city holidays, how about if public transit shuts down? 17 days to go.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

You win 'em over

Could the Kid from Massachusetts take on the four man Wrecking Crew from New Orleans? Two incredibly different shows, vibes, crowds, but the same result: an unbelievable show. Props to Melissa Ferrick for putting on a set peppered with new songs, and a great mix of older ones we don't hear as often. Along with Antibalas, she's among of handful performers that's not afraid to put on a show with shit we just plain haven't heard yet, and its so good, it doesn't matter that we can't sing along yet.

AAAAAAAAAAAND Props to her again for her decision to go with her gut on Drive. For those of you who don't know Melissa Ferrick (WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! GO BUY HER CDS!!!!), she's got a song that's really popular, a ranuchy ditty called Drive. It's a great tune, funny, funky, and as a song that openly talks about lesbian sex, it can be liberating (yes, even for a straight dude. everyone has the right to rock out to a raunchy song, even people that don't fit into the hetero world view). But for last year or so, the few times I've seen her, Melissa seemed, well, not that psyched to do the song. So last night, amidst the shouts of people to do Drive as an encore, Melissa told folks that she hadn't been feeling it and that she wasn't going to perform it for a while... she felt like it had turned into a parody, and she didn't like that. I thought it was fantastic that she did that, because she's got a wealth of amazing material, and while I love the song, I'd rather hear her do what she feels.

Also, opener Natalia Zukerman was fantastic! I was kinda mad, because an opener for a set at Joe's Pub is a pretty ridiculous concept. The sets already going to be short, why do it? But she was fantastic. Unfortunately, my two favorite songs of her set are not out yet. MAAAAAAN!

The Meters
Melissa Ferrick
Natalia Zukerman

find their music, support them, listen to them, and love them.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Or rather, they bite me. THE DRAGON! I'm sure Knucklehead may have something to say about my grammar, but no one can deny that The Meters are back with a vengeance. Wow. 2.5 hour set, 20 minutes of encores, and damn, are my legs sore. He Bite Me has been in my head all week, so it was awesome that they played it (and it was FIYO!). Of course, Fiyo, Cissy Strut, Hey Pocky Way, Look a Py Py, Ain't No Use all were dropped, and, my personal favorite movement of the night, when they took their classic track, Africa, and made New Or-Leans the chorus instead of Africa.

Not only was this concert amazing sonically, not only did it live up to expectations, but it was moving, as it was pretty obvious the audience was dominated by Nawlins expats staying in NY and around.

The show sold out. And tix were not cheap. Which says to me, hey, Meter men, you could do this part time. This is not to say Brian Stoltz and Russell Baptiste are slouches, they are incredible players in their own right. But whether its "The Funky Meters", or Leo with an all star trio around him jamming away, its not the same. I'm still waiting for Leo's solo album, he dropped a monster track at the big apple unity jam in '01. Anyway, my point is, I'd see them once a year. At least. and I know I'm not the only one. Hell, they could do a charity tour in the spring, call it: The March to Jazzfest. We'd love to see you put aside whatever it is that split you up in the first place. And hey, face it, it's a different world than when you started. There's a whole generation solely living off your vinyl. You have bands doing their own labels, their own tours. Its easier for indy artists to spread the word...

Schedule1 says Melissa Ferrick was great tonight, has some new songs... but the boys from Nawlins will be a tough act to follow.

Recommendation: Please find their stuff and listen to it.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Why I love music (another reason)

I just figured out that the melody to Yedid Nefesh that Shamirpower and I are doing next friday starts off with the same tone progression as the first phrase of Blue Train by John Coltrane. Wow. Those Sfardi Yids who came up with that tune were apparently on to something.

T-Minus 10 minutes to the doors opening for the Meters!!! Off to the subway I go!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

If young people dig this, we're alright....

I'm doing Thanksgiving Headless Horseman stylee, sans Knucklehead who's in Big D with her family of liberal Jews (who knew there were so many of them in Texas?!). Ah well, they stole my baby from me, so now they get to watch their football team lose in overtime! AHAHAHAHAHAHA! While I miss her a lot, I'm excited about what's already gone down, and what's going down Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday was an amazing concert with Knucklehead, Blackalicious and G. Love. Or rather, G. Love with Blackalicious. I was there to see Gift, Lateef, and the crew, and seeing G. Love was a cool bonus. I've always liked G. Love, going back to the college days, but not listened to his albums over and over again in a row. Whereas (and General Morcilla did not believe this) when I had a choice between The Craft and listening to two of the greatest musicians in history , I bumped The Craft for several days straight.

What gave the title to this post was being at that wednesday night show... Knucklehead and I seemed to be two of the oldest people at the show, by a lot. And it was filled with these high school and college kids, most of 'em definitely too young to be drinkin (in the legal sense, anyway). But when Blackalicious was on, they were tuned in, dancing, and listening. I'm guessing most of em heard about G-Love in college. Or maybe... well, truthfully I don't know. I always feel like a lot of my favorite groups out these days simply do not get their props. The Coup and the Lifesavas show in Manhattan was VERY POORLY attended, and these are two hip hop groups that have a lot more skills than what you hear on the radio. But, there was Gab and Lateef, rockin the mic, with a couple thousand people in the audience gettin down. Maybe there's hope after all.

Friday is a show I've been waiting for for a very long loooooooooong time. The Meters are reuniting. Art, George are being rejoined by Leo and Zigaboo, and I can't tell you how psyched I am for this show. Brian and Russell are incredible, no doubt, and I've grown to love the Funky Meters over the years, as I've been able to see this lineup and not the original band.

Let me tell you something. Funk music, and music as we know it today, does not exist without the Meters. They are one of the 20 most important bands of the last 50 years. They are on equal footing with James Brown and George Clinton in my mind.

Saturday is another show I've been excited for... Melissa Ferrick returns to Joe's Pub. Actually, she's back tomorrow, too, but I HAVE TO SEE THE METERS, DAMNIT!

Today's recommendation: LISTEN TO THE METERS. Find their albums, their mp3s, whateva. If you ask, I'll give you track recommendations. But they've changed your soundscape and you don't even know it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

And I thought...

... Rosie the riveter couldn't get any hotter:

First POEM POST!!!

Since the other day, I've been feeling this new poem. It's still in early stages, but the frustation of being too Jewish for the activist world and yet not Jewish enough for the Jewish activist world is starting to mount.

Which way to Zion?

I see me on the tv
or at least,
it could be me.
knitted yamulka unable to contain
the massive locks escaping from underneath,
smiling in the desert, holding a gun.

I see me
on the tv
or at least, it could be me,
bellowing chants and holding signs
one says "Israel out of Palestine"
with swastikas equated to magen davids.

Worlds I lurk just beyond,
one foot in each,
learning niggunim from the man on channel one, or
comparing organizing tactics on channel two.

I'm tired.
Tired of trying to settle a familial grudge,
always defending, demanding a place at the table.

Tired of peers who normally see eye to eye
staring like I have a fifth on this one.

walls crumble in the wake of my presence,
I've scared dictionaries into re-ordering words,
Ruby K Ben Pinchas HaCohen

punctures fools like faulty logic.

I'm too fat to squeeze into your skinny definitions ofLeftist Zionist.
Too substantial to fit any "Traitor/Apologist" titles onto,
your labels aren't wide enough to cover one strand of my hair.

The machitza between Bad Jew and Bad Activist haa been demolished
so you can unify in telling me how wrong I am.
so you can unify in telling me how wrong you are,
because you're both missing the point.

Organizers who fight for justice
because they're Jewish,
who see Palestinians as people
because they're Jewish,
love Israel
for the same reason.

I see me
or at least,
it could be me,
standing outside places I love
places that are as much a part of me as my heart and lungs,
still looking for a way in

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Maimonides Eight Degrees in NYC...

As a Jew obsessed with social justice, I wonder alot about Maimonedes's "ladder of tzedakah", an eight level list, given in descending order, of the best ways to give tzedakah (charity). The eighth level, doing something to help someone become self sufficient, is the highest one and the one I usually think about. Walking a picket line to help on a strike, helping someone build a union for themselves, working in solidarity with international labor struggles are all ways to help people becocme self sufficient.

But being in my home, NYC, has made me think about level 7 the past few days. As translated on My Jewish Learning, the seventh (and penultimate) principle is:

A lower standard of charity is one in which the benefactor has no knowledge of the recipient and the latter has no knowledge of the individual source of charity—matan b’seter [“giving in secret”]. This is practicing the mitzvah of charity for the sake of the mitzvah [since the benefactor has no benefit, social or egoistical]. Such charity is like the courtyard in the [ancient] Temple where the righteous used to place their donations secretly and the poor would benefit from them in secret. Similar to this secret courtyard is the act of one who puts his money into the charity box [or funds].

Now, here in the five boroughs, a likkel while after this was originally written, it seems a little odd to me. I don't know if Maimonides was considering a world in which hundreds of thousands would live together, that the person in the street that needs a hand would not be a stranger to us, so it would be better to give in secret... but to me, when I see someone who needs something, it seems to me to be more dignified, respectful to know that person. A lot of us in this big town spend a lot of time lost in our own world. in our own thoughts, not necessarily wanting to speak. As someone who's done social justice activism and political work, I know how people try so very hard to avoid my gaze, to avoid that eye contact that might encourage me into believing I can engage them. I can only imagine what someone who's stuck asking people for money or food or a swipe of their metrocard must feel. For every person that actually engages them, there must be dozens that look away.

And its easy to give a quarter, a dollar by rote. It's a lot more difficult to acknowledge that person as another human being, because doing so forces to consider so many questions: how do we live in a world where this can happen to another human being? why am I blessed to have a warm bed and a cute girlfriend to go back to? do I have enough money to get through tomorrow? could this be me tomorrow?

So I try to introduce myself. And get the other person's name. Because to some people, that person is just a bum who needs a job. To me, that person is another human being with a piece of G-d in them, like all of us. They deserve a fair shake just like all of us. And they deserve to be recognized as another human being. So giving to that person without them knowing you and vice versa results in the very shame Maimonides wished to avoid.

Something to think about as I climb into Knucklehead's bed. And we all climb into our beds.

Monday, November 21, 2005

It's safe to watch scantily clad Santas again...

Coming four days late from an labor activist musician, it seems the radio city lock-out was settled. It's now safe to celebrate Christmas by spending 250 dollars to watch kicklines by the manger.

(note to folks who think the Times has a liberal bias: a lock out is when management tells you you cannot work. a strike is when you leave voluntarily. if you show up to work and are escorted from the building by security, that's a lockout. Musicians were thrown out of the building by security, told they couldn't work the opening day, that's a freaking lockout. Not strike. Even the "liberal" times is calling it a strike, they need some basics in labor history)

Perhaps more importantly, it's now also safe to watch this guy, who's got more than half the goals he had all last season already. Yes, last season was 03-04.

Goblet of Flame-out...

Okay. Let me preface this by saying I'm not the biggest Harry Potter fanatic in the world, though I must be in the top million or so. I don't get dressed up for the book premieres, though I do read them for 10 hours at a time. I don't own any Harry Potter shwag (aside from the books, of course), but I do read Mugglenet and did lead a text discussion at the National Havurah Institute's Summer gathering about book six.

I'm sure the five of you that read this will all throw things at me when you find out that, despite what the newspapers may say, I thought Goblet of Fire was not that good, at all. I blame myself, really, for staying up Thursday night and re-reading some of GOF in anticipation. Without going into details that may ruin it for you, I'll simply say that if you're borderline Potter obsessed and you like the movies that are closer to the books, you won't enjoy this. However, if you like the movies, and half read the book once, you'll like it.

SO THOROUGHLY DISAPPOINTED. See Good Night, and Good Luck instead.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

yeah, they come to snuff the Rubester....

so drained right now. And disappointed.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Dali-Hava: Parsley Sage, Rosemary and Thyme...

Back from the nation's Capital, where I got to feature at the DC JCC Literary Festival. It was a tremendous experience, I got to do a nice full 20 minute set, and since the other feature poet, Matthue Roth, was on right after me, I went from being a likkel nervous about scaring away first timers with a heavy set to feeling my oats. New poems Why 2K and Which Way To Zion will be up shortly.

Also had a tremendous time with my Knucklehead, BZ, a bunch of other New Yorkers that squeezed into Brain for a tightly packed trip... saw a bunch of great folks from the Institute, some old college buds and two of the folks that used to be "the guy on the couch" back in Astoria.
Got to do some great Yidden stuff including KZ style services lead by BZ and Knucklehead, and Havdalah complete with the Scarborough Fair Herbs. Ah yes.

The most intense moment of the trip, though, was stopping at a 7-11 in Maryland for a bathroom break and a slurpee on the way back when about 10-15 college age men in army uniforms walk in. I'm wearing my 41/43 Dumb and Dumber teeshirt, and I see these kids. I could've baby-sat for them when i was in high school. So I'm on line with one of them, and I turn to him and say: Listen, I don't know if you're going over there, but we want you and all of you to come home to us in one piece, and as quickly as possible." He thanks me. But it's not enough. I drag Knucklehead along with me to this van full of these kids, and say the same thing to them, adding, "I know people see this shirt and may think that because I don't respect the assholes on it that I don't respect you. Nothing could be further from the truth. We just want you to come back to us alive." They thanked me.

I went back to my car with Knucklehead. I start bawling. These kids. If they were 19, i'd be surprised. but they're training to go over and fight a war we should've never started. they're being put in harm's way on this clown's whim. They're going to be sacrificed. And I hope to G-d we can stop it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Friends in danger, postponed budget

I had about ten minutes of absolute terror yesterday, when I was out on the Writer's Guild picket on LI when I got a phone call like this:

my friend: Hey dude, are you near a computer
me: no, why?
my friend: 3 hotels in Amman were just hit with bombs.
me: oh shit. OH SHIT! NO, i'm not. CALL ME WHEN YOU HAVE NEWS.

A dear friend of ours is out in Amman, writing and creating. Got a call later that he's alright. So alright, that he had this to say. A sometimes different political perspective than mine, but one of my favorite reads:

It's funny how much more one feels something when it hits home. I would still be sad if I didn't know someone in Amman, but now I'm just relieved it's not him.

So after GOTV and a picket at the end of Long Island, I'm a little beat today. Ran some errands up Freshchester and saw my Mom, who wasn't feeling all that great. Psyched for the shindig, which should be plentiful of great people, junk food, bourbon, and more bourbon.

Also psyched about this:

Seems that massive cuts to medicaid and student loans is not a good encore after dawdling your way through a natural disaster. Did you guys know we're still paying Michael Brown, by the way? What a crock of shit. I guess if they'll pay a member of the House a Rep's salary and benefits for life, they'll pay that freaking idiot.

Is it me, or does it seem like after sleepwalking through the last 12 years, the Dems are showing signs of life?

Recommendation for today:

For the comic book/fantasy/space geek in all of us. A friend made one for a bunch of us, including the one that's my blogger pic. Think I would've made the sledgehammer normal scale instead of making it smaller.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Am I my brother's governor?

Well, if you're Tim Kaine, it looks like the answer is yes, yes you are. He and Rob's boss Senator Corzine moving up in the world give me some hope today.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A notice to the would be Mayor...

If Mr. Ferrer wins, it will be on the strength of the Bronx turnout. If he wins, I have a recommendation. The people most excited about his candidacy live in places like 8 floor apartment buildings in Hunts Point that are falling apart, and wouldn't be walk ups except the elevator's busted. ask me how I know? I doorknocked Fort Apache and Hunts Point today. It was kinda nice being in the point, almost bounced to say hello at the Point Community Center. Now I can focus on the reading in DC, the Writer's Guild picket tomorrow, the grad students strike at NYU, and the lockout at Radio City.

Today's recommendations:
Keep informed, as New York has more picket lines than 1930s San Francisco:

Musicians locked out at Radio City!

NYU Grad Students on Strike!

Writer's Guild striking Big Big Productions!


I'm in the office, and there are two 12 year olds playing Stickmania on the computer in front of me. No, they have to be 9. It's chaos outside, but in this mini corner of the county, you'd think it was just another day. a few interns on the computer, looking at myspace...

the polls i heard this morning had us down 30 points. I had to tell Gustavo point blank I was here because of him and Angie, and he said, "I know, thanks man." I mean, I can't believe we're going to be creamed by 30 points, but I still don't think it looks all that good. How can we have a republican mayor for 16 years straight?

Recommendation: Get out there and VOTE! and read my page, dammit, i'm getting spam comments, but no love from my people.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Callin' on Sunday...

So, birthday passed with not much hoopla, but a great girl and fam and friends have I. Got a few calls and emails from the reliables and the occasional surprise. Worked my ass off in the Boogie Down for Freddy (and by Freddy, I mean Gustavo, Angela, Sunshine, Jeremy, Dorcas and Fleming), and Baby took me out to a sumptuous Italian feast at my favorite Italian place, Positano's.

If you act now, you can still remind me that 28 isn't that old.

Introducing Marisa to the Glory that is Mash-Ups, and today's recommendation goes out to she who makes my life all sortsa great.

Party Ben takes two favorites of mind and puts them together seamlessly. This dude is pretty serious.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Another year (almost) over

Chances are, by the time I post this, it will be my birthday. Last year, at this time, I was speeding towards Baltimore, Maryland, pushing Brain as fast as he could go so I could finally be out of all those ridiculous East Coast redstates and return home. Figured after the four months I had, spending my birthday with my baby, my parents, and my two closest friends was the best birthday I could have.

I find it funny that an organizer who occasionally fights a political battle has a birthday that's always around the election. Always a reminder that it could be worse. Hey, you're 23 birthday wasn't 11/7/2000, was it? BZ was kind enough to point out that, if the Israeli election is held when it's supposed to be, that my birthday will be the mid term elections and the Israeli elections. Makes me want to start some shit with all those July 4th birthday people. "Oh, you think you're so patriotic, well, every year the country's fate is decided on my birthday. Suckas!"

Today's recommendation: a belated thanking of George Miller.

I fumed at the suspension of wage standards for people getting money to rebuild a disaster ridden region. Somehow, paying the people who need jobs to survive less than area standards seemed, well, a bit off to me.

E-Day is 30 hours away. Vote people, it's a good habit to get into for next year.

Philosophical question...

Is it better to help friends in a fight they seem destined to lose, or pick a fight where you can make an impact? One of the things that's gotten me through this life is my loyalty to my people, but it just feels weird to be up here in the Bronx, working on a race because my friends asked me.

Today's recommendation:
Wallace and Grommit and the Curse of the Were-rabbit

Good shit, and most excellent vegetable carnage.

Welcome back to the Riot Act...

What up, my people. Been a minute. And so much has transpired since the last one. While I realize the Riot Act, in its original form, involved an open mic at a cool bar, I figured why not bring it back in the virtua-world.

We're on the precipice of another election, and I'm helping my buds toiling away thanklessly in the Bronx for a mayoral candidate that no one thinks has much of a chance. While it probably makes me less of an organizer, I'd like to think it makes me a better friend.

You should look forward to poetry, music reviews/critiques/recommendations, political news, and general rantings and ravings on life in general. All the cool kids are doing it...

Here are your first recommendations:
Blackalicious-The Craft
What an album, from top to bottom! Gab is just bananas, and the Chief's beats fight in my head about which one is going to be stuck there.

Pharoahe Monch-Book of Judges
Single, mostly floating around the internet. I've been clawing at the walls for a new Pharoahe track since he penned one of the best anti-war songs of the last fifty years, "Agent Orange" and Book of Judges doesn't disappoint, except that I'd like a third verse, dammit.

and, my favorite:
The Coup, featuring Black Thougth and Talib Kweli- My Favorite Mutiny:
Move, if you got the nerve. Amazing amazement, as my guy Amayo from Antibalas says. The beat sounds like 70's soul theme music, and all three verses are tight as hell. "I'm Boots Riley, it's a pleasure to meet you. Never let they punk asses EVER defeat you."

Welcome back to the Riot Act.