Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Wandering Arbitrator

Just a head's up to Arbitribe readers: Aliza's got a new blog (an offshoot from this one, thus the title. Read it here: http://wanderingarbitrator.blogspot.com/

Thanks, guys! And yes, all the artwork in this particular post is my previous Arbitribe work. But don't worry, I give credit where it's due.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jewish Stars: Madeline Kahn

So here's my announcement. Due to Tzvi and my having to take on double duty, and due to my insanely busy schedule nowadays, I'm going to have to cut back on the long, detailed, full-cartoon blog posts. I know, I know. Half of you are clicking the "x" button on this blog already. But bear with me. 

Instead, I will be alternating between my full-length, drawings-included articles, and shorter pieces I have decided to title Jewish Stars. Quite simply, this is where I talk a little bit about someone, be it an author, an artist, an actor, a scientist, who I think is awesome for one reason or another, who also happens to be Jewish. The person can be contemporary or historical. One thing I will guarantee is that it will not be someone every single reader knows about already. No Rambam, Golda Meir, Woody Allen, or Albert Einstein. Hey, they might be super famous. But if I think I've read tons about them in every book or website known to man, I won't be covering them here. So let's get started with one of my very favorite actresses (yes, I'm starting with an actress and not an author or artist. Atypical for me, but whatev). 

Madeline Kahn (1942-1999)

If you've ever seen a Mel Brooks movie, you've probably seen Madeline Kahn. Super (multi)talented and gorgeous to boot, Ms. Kahn managed to steal every scene she appeared in as Lili Von Shtupp in Blazing Saddles and Elizabeth in Young Frankenstein. 

The source of my personal admiration for Ms. Kahn is twofold. First, this was a woman who shattered two insulting stereotypes. The first, that Jews aren't good-looking or pretty, and the second, that women can't be funny. Please. Have you seen this woman act? (Heads up, some foul language/crude humor in this vid. Don't watch it with your kids.)

I'm sure most of you have seen Blazing Saddles and are therefore already familiar with that clip. But if you weren't, let me just let you know that this performance not only landed Ms. Kahn an Oscar nomination, but also hid one of her most incredible talents. You'd never know it from "I'm Tired," but she was an operatic singer. 

And that brings me to the second source of my admiration for Madeline Kahn: I grew up singing along with her. She once guest-starred on Sesame Street, where she sang an adorable number with my all-time favorite monster in the world, Grover. It was and remains one of my favorite Sesame Street songs ever. Let me tell you. The woman had pipes. 

So yeah, she was pretty, funny, super-talented, and Jewish. I'd recommend giving her movies a look. And just because it's hysterical, allow me to present one more example of Madeline Kahn being awesome, with fellow awesome Jewish comedienne Gilda Radner. 

My Top Five Madeline Kahn Performances (in no particular order):

1) Young Frankenstein (1974)
2) Blazing Saddles (1974)
3) What's Up, Doc? (1972)
4) Clue (1985)
5) The Muppet Movie (1979) (yes, it was a cameo. But it was an awesome cameo!)

and a bonus from my childhood:

6) A Bug's Life (1998)

* Let me know what you think of this column as an idea. If you don't like it as much as the cartoons, I'm sorry. Until we get another writer or my schedule frees up, I've got to space them out a bit. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Call to Arms

That awkward moment when it's post day and you have no post... but there is something else.

Time to make that announcement I hinted toward at the end of last month's post, and I'll keep it short and sweet. People, Aliza and I are having a hard time keeping up with the posting schedule as it stands now. After the departure of Daniel almost a year ago and the recent stepping down of Arbitribe co-founder Joanna, it's down to just the two of us. The bi-monthly rotation we're currently running on is extremely difficult to keep up with given the time demands of work and school, and it will not get any easier just because the semester ends in three weeks. I'm working and going to school in the summer and Aliza will be working full time. In the fall, she'll be starting her Master's at NYU (YAY!!) and I'll be finishing up my Bachelor's and preparing for/taking the GREs. The way things are now, we'll have to choose between keeping up with the regular schedule, and writing posts that are up to our usual par (music choices and cartoons take time and thought, you know). However, we do take pride in what we do and we would like to continue running this in a professional...ish manner.

So, general announcement: we're looking for some regular contributors. Two would help us get back to our original numbers, which would be preferable, but even getting one more would be awesome. To that end, we have devised a process to help us do that. We've sectioned every third week off as Guest Post Week, and anyone who is interested in writing something can send it in. If it is deemed relevant and appropriate, we will put it up on Guest Post Week.

In addition, we've created a sort of audition process for anyone who is interested in becoming a full-time contributor. The long and short of it is that you'll be featured on Guest Post Week several times and, given a positive response, consistently good product, and timeliness, you could be the newest member of Arbitribe, which will lead to happiness, appreciation, and maybe some actual perks once we get on that expansion we've been working toward for so long.

Seriously though, if you want an open forum to express ideas and engage in thoughtful discussion, get in touch with either one of us personally (if you know our contact info) or via our email, arbitribe@yahoo.com.

Write for us. It's fuuuuuuuuuuun :)

And, because I can, Song of the Day: Move Through Me - In Flames

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Crisis of Connection

Heaven help us, I have a theme.

Normally I have no idea of what I’m going to write until the week I’m going to write it, and even when there are exceptions it’s usually only a week or two in advance. However, I was introduced to a piece of literature over the weekend that has given me ammo for at least the next year of posting. The story goes as follows:

Last weekend I was made aware of an online journal that launched its maiden issue last fall called Klal Perspectives. There have thus far been three issues, the third of which came out a week ago, ranging from 76 to 150 pages apiece. The journal’s mission statement, as stated on its website and in its first issue, is to provide a forum for discussion by both rabbinic and non-rabbinic leaders to address the greatest problems deemed to be plaguing the modern Torah community. The twist is that the contributors are asked not only to discuss the problems but also to provide possible solutions.

The procedure is simple: the editorial staff of the magazine comes up with three or four questions on a specific topic and sends them to the contributors along with a brief introduction. The contributors then write articles answering the questions to the best of their ability and then the responses are published one after the other. The introduction and questions that were sent to the contributors precede the articles, and a forward written by the editor briefly outlining the issue and introducing its contributors precedes that. The whole thing is capped off by a cover page sporting the title, the names of the contributors and their articles, and the tagline, “A Forum for Discussion of Challenges Facing the Torah Community.”

The first issue, titled "Challenges Facing Modern Orthodoxy: A Symposium,” is pretty brilliant in that the questions asked to the contributors all boil down into the basic query, “What do you think are the major challenges facing the modern Torah community?” The editors don’t presume to know what the problems are, and that modesty is endearing. It is far too often that people assume that they know why the Jewish community as a whole is going through a crisis of faith, and usually their suggestions are based on their personal biases. Rabbis that blame everything on the legalization of gay marriage, the internet, and secular education, I’m looking at you. However, as much as I despise that kind of behavior, those guys are at least a step ahead of those that refuse to acknowledge that we as a community have a problem to begin with. On that note, I give major credit to managing editor Rabbi Dovid Goldman and Co. for going right out there and basing this entire endeavor on such a controversial thought. The idea of Jews actually confronting their demons is such a novel idea as to make the concept of this publication exciting, which, come to think of it, is a pretty sad commentary on the state of Jewish introspection. However, all things considered, I'm thrilled that this thing even exists.

The second issue came out sometime during the winter (they organize these by season, so I have no idea when they actually came out) and is titled “The 21st-century Orthodox Jewish Family: The Role of Breadwinner.” Its overall theme is the changing role of women in the Orthodox Jewish family now that they want to work full-time jobs and are often required to due to financial problems, a situation totally unheard of as recently as the 1950s. That’s an extremely sensitive subject and I’m not going anywhere within 100 miles of it. I’m not even going to offer an opinion; you’ll just have to guess what I think.

With approximately 200 pages of rich, well thought out dialogue on interesting and oft ignored topics, I highly recommend you go look up issues #1 and #2 on the Klal Perspectives website, which I have linked to again for your convenience. I have not done so yet, but I plan to as soon as I have the time. However, first I want to tackle issue #3, the issue I discovered last week and the focus of the not-so-miniseries that this post serves as an introduction to. There are two reasons I’m skipping straight to #3. The first is pretty simple: it’s the issue that introduced me to the journal and I’m already halfway done reading it. Understanding the second reason takes an understanding of what those 150 pages are about. The title of issue #3 is a short and powerful “A Crisis of Connection?” and the issue explores the idea of whether we Jews are, as a global community, experiencing a crisis in the degree of our religious fulfillment and, if so, why that is and how to fix it. Anyone who knows me personally or reads this blog regularly knows that this is a subject very close to my heart and one that I’m very passionate about. Until as recently as 2 years ago, I lived in a crisis of connection, so it makes sense that of the three existing issues of Klal Perspectives, this would be the one I would first want to explore in detail.

I propose this: There are 20 “chapters” in the Spring 2012 Klal Perspectives issue if you include the foreword and the introduction, and I’m going to take Arbitribe through all of them; each time I post from now until I'm done, I’m going to opine on one of those chapters. Now, since that some articles are 15 pages and some are 5, I might not be able to work every single one into its own post, and I am leaving open the possibility that something could come up that I'll feel I’d rather post about in a given week, so I aim to have completed this series somewhere close to the end of the year. I think it would be a good running topic and it definitely could create some interesting conversations. Speaking of which, the way this is going to run means that it will be much more impactful and meaningful if there’s a back and forth generated. I see great potential for some amazing discussions in the comments, so if you have something constructive to say, say it. On that note, I’m off. In three weeks, I begin to tackle A Crisis of Connection by taking a look at the editor’s forward and introduction and some seriously loaded statements contained within. Till next time folks, GET EXCITED!!

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