5 Video Games to Play This Summer

Summer is at its peak, and it is a great time to turn on the air conditioner, sit on the couch or chair, and play games on your favorite platform until the evening.

The PlayStation 4 Console and Xbox One have been with us for a year and a half, and have a great selection of games by now. They both can be found for less than $400. Graphically, the PlayStation 4 is the superior console, but some prefer the Xbox One as they want to play specific exclusives.

If you have a decent PC from recent years, a video card that costs about $200 can make it a gaming machine superior to both consoles, if you know someone who knows how to install the card.

This article will cover some of the best games available for all three platforms right now. [Read more…]

Eclectic Musical Group Gaining Traction

Patricia Lynn, "the Wave," from The Wind and The Wave. Photo: David Treatman

Patricia Lynn, “the Wave,” from The Wind and the Wave.
Photo: David Treatman.

— by David Treatman

:The Wind and The Wave falls in between musical genres — embracing elements of blues, rock, indie-folk and pop.

The group’s catchy melodies, bluesy guitar licks, and lyrics from the heart are fresh. Their eclectic style has several trademarks like their use of swirly guitar strokes as a background for punchy lead guitar. Another signature sound is their complex, tom-heavy drumbeats.

The group’s compositions are starting to successfully cut through the mix of a largely electronic and auto-tuned industry. Signed by RCA in 2013, The Wing and The Wave have started to climb the ladder, playing bigger and better venues. Their debut album, “From the Wreckage,” has climbed steadily in the Spotify charts, and they have been featured in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy with a track off of their sophomore album, “Covers One.”

Last Saturday the group lit up the Forest Stage of Firefly Music Festival in Delaware. The trio: Patricia Lynn, Dwight Baker and Nick Spreigl, managed to draw a strong audience that erupted in applause at the end of every song, despite performing at the same time as several other acts such as “Foster The People.” The energy flowed and, as Baker said, “made the night magical.” This set was their first after an intense week of vocal rest and coaching. Lynn worked hard to beat her laryngitis, which forced the band to cancel their set at Bonaroo last weekend.

Dwight Baker, "The Wind," (playing guitar), and Nick Spreigl, (in sunglasses), from The Wind and the Wave prepare for their set at Firefly. Photo: David Treatman

Dwight Baker, “The Wind,” (playing guitar), and Nick Spreigl, (in sunglasses), from The Wind and the Wave prepare for their set at Firefly.
Photo: David Treatman

I sat down with Baker (“the Wind”) and Lynn (“the Wave”) earlier this year after a concert in Philadelphia. They suggested that new music was in the works, and have since confirmed to their organized fan base, The WRKG, that they have recorded demos in preparation for a third release. You can buy all of their music, and merchandise, and sign up for their mailing list on their website, and can join The WRKG by contacting the band and making your interest known.

Film Chat: A Borrowed Identity

dancing_arabs-629937_full[1]The final selection in the 19th season of the Israeli Film Festival of Philadelphia was Eran Riklis’s A Borrowed Identity, originally titled Dancing Arabs, based on the 2004 novel by Sayed Kashua of the same title.

It is a provocative film that sensitively portrays the alienation of Arabs living in Israel, as they are subjected to legal obstacles, border crossings, and prejudice. It is also discomforting to watch Jews being the oppressor. However, it is a well-crafted piece of art.

The protagonist, Eyad, is a young Arab Muslim boy who wins a scholarship to a prestigious school in Jerusalem, after a humorous incident in which he solves a complicated riddle posed on an Arab show on cable television. The social isolation and public humiliation of being an Arab in a Jewish state impedes his progress. Along the way, he is assigned to visit a disabled Jewish boy, Jonathan, as part of the school’s community service requirement. [Read more…]

Book Review: Subway Love

Subway Love by Nora Raleigh Baskin is a page-turner of a short novel, skillfully designed to encourage both family and classroom discussion of difficult topics such as divorce, abuse, first love, intermarriage, and coping with the end or loss of both casual and important relationships.

For example, is someone you once loved and have not seen in decades being almost unconsciously scanned for by your soul, almost everywhere you go? If that person suddenly emerged out of the pages of time, what would you do?

Do you remember what it was like to break up with a first love, or have that person just disappear from your life?

Has someone’s existence called to you or someone you love in ways that led or lead to risk-taking in order to connect? What if a parent did not appear safe to talk to about what is happening in your life? What if he or she brought a second relationship into your home who abused you, and your safety was not your family’s first priority?

Baskin, known for tackling difficult subjects in her writing, again provides healthy material rich in graphic language and encounters, that is helpful to eliciting inter-generational honesty in the discussion of real relationships. Parents, whether married or divorced, would surely provide a very different narrative about our exhausting struggles to care for our children.

By Baskin revealing a view of the world after divorce, youth and adults have an honest plane for discussion “about the characters” that can help deepen relationships within schools, youth groups, camps and families in potentially life-saving ways.

The book debuted just as New York's mayor refused protection to Five Pointz, an empty commercial building that had become a community gathering point for community musical events, local meet-ups and some of the best examples of the art of graffiti in the U.S. (Photo: Barry Bub.)

The book debuted just as New York’s mayor refused protection to Five Pointz, an empty commercial building that had become a community gathering point for community musical events, local meet-ups and some of the best examples of the art of graffiti in the U.S. (Photo: Barry Bub.)

Graffiti is a metaphor that travels throughout the book, set in 1973:

Mayor Lindsay had declared war and…well over fifteen hundred New York City youths had been arrested for vandalism. He called the graffiti ‘demoralizing,’ and he said the graffiti writers were ‘insecure cowards’ seeking recognition, though nothing could have been further from the truth.

The book debuted just as New York’s mayor refused protection to Five Pointz, an empty commercial building that had become a community gathering point for community musical events, local meet-ups and some of the best examples of the art of graffiti in the U.S.

While such sites often become protected in Canada and England after a period of festivals held on the site, the ultimate message of graffiti and the book, of life’s impermanence, was realized. The buildings were white-washed to abruptly halt the efforts at advocacy and adulation in the press of the art, and then expediently demolished to make way for high-rise rental apartments.

Perhaps impermanence is necessary to define both graffiti and life. The opportunity to reflect upon this reality, as afforded to us by the book, is another important entry point provided by the author.

The question of whether the main characters are intent on breaking the law at points, doing a mitzvot, or simply engaging in self-expression, is likely to be one of many riveting discussions based on the book to hold with teen readers. The book dovetails beautifully with Jewish topics such as our core ethos of mitzvah-centered living, and core challenges such as our struggles with victimization.

In this age, adult personal struggles are typically supported in therapy behind closed doors, leaving youth clueless of how to cope in their own lives. Our youth are too often supported through the peer alternative of immature “wise guys” than mentoring by truly wise guides. Training programs such as those of Reclaiming Judaism are emerging to ensure Jewish educators, understandably reluctant to serve in this way until they are trained, become skillful in guiding young lives.

Baskin’s writing highlights the importance of community-based mentors who are truly available to listen deeply to our youth and mentor them on the journey called life. Subway Love is an honest, important short novel best used in settings of skillful dialogue and safe rapport.

Theater Review: “Bad Jews”? Bad Play!

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Although Sofie Yavorsky gives an energetic performance as Daphna Feygenbaum, a Vassar student who is grieving the loss of her grandfather, the play relies on caricatures, not characters.

The overbearing, dominant, kvetchy Jewish woman is alive and well in Joshua Harmon’s comedy, Bad Jews, playing at the Walnut Street Theatre’s Independence Studio until November 30.

Directed by David Stradley, the play is set in a studio apartment on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, immediately following the funeral of the characters’ poppy. We meet Jonah and Liam Haber, their cousin Daphna, and Liam’s stereotypically-blonde girlfriend Melody as they engage in a family squabble about who is to inherit their grandfather’s necklace.

Although Sofie Yavorsky gives an energetic performance as Daphna Feygenbaum, a Vassar student who is grieving the loss of her grandfather, the play relies on caricatures, not characters. Listening to Daphna yell at her cousin Liam, who brings home his shiksa girlfriend Melody, that he is not a real Jew and that he can go ahead and “f*** an ethnic free bush,” did not pack the punch that was presumably intended in this kind of dialogue.

Listening to Liam accuse Daphna of being a purist, even a “Nazi,” who is interested in preserving the integrity of Jewish blood line, when she argues he should not marry a shiksa, sounded like a familiar, schematic and wooden rendition of the old particular-universalist, ethnic-assimilationist debate. We have heard these debates before, and this particular tale of family inheritance, grief and familiar strife adds nothing new to the story in its language.

What does it mean to be a Jew is a perennial question that “Bad Jews” attempts to answer, but is far too in enamored by its easy “shocking” repartee to even being to engage this question in a complex, serious way. A particularly low point is when Melody, an opera major in college, sings an embarrassing version of “Summertime” for Daphna, to cheer her up. It is a cheap moment that goes for an easy laugh that feels out of place in the play.

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If such misogynistic stereotypes of women pass as “brave comedy with tragically high stakes” (The Financial Times), then something is seriously wrong with theater reviewers.

 

Harmon’s writing has neither the comic timing and wit of Neil Simon, nor the intellectual weight of Tom Stoppard. The highlight of the show is perhaps Liam’s use of “Holocaust” as a verb: “Don’t Holocaust me” he warns Daphna.

Other than that, the play has little original writing, little story, and a lot of yelling by a clearly hysterical Jewish woman who is mean, vindictive, and self-righteous. If such misogynistic stereotypes of women pass as “brave comedy with tragically high stakes” (The Financial Times), then something is seriously wrong with theater reviewers.

Bad Jews had its world premiere at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Roundabout Underground in the fall of 2012 and was nominated for three Outer Circle Awards. Sitting through the 90 minute (no intermission) family brawl among young cousins made me long for a good 25-minute episode of Larry David’s creative, quirky, whimsical sitcom, “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

Book Review: The Resolutionary War


As the Jewish New Year approaches, The Resolutionary War and its premise make for an interesting model to contemplate in contrast to Jewish New Year practices.

This debut novel by Sandy Chase and Violet April Ebersole involves a group of individuals intending to meet monthly in support of fulfilling personal resolutions.

Judaism advocates a process that advances healing and intimacy. This involves undertaking a fiercely honest personal inventory of our behavior and relationships across the year (heshbon hanefesh), making appointments with those we have hurt to our regret, a plan of action for how to avoid repeating negative behaviors, commitment to non-defensively support healing within the relationship (teshuvah), which is further sealed by giving charity to support healthy developments within the greater society (tzedakah).

By contrast with Jewish New Year spiritual practices, the book brilliantly reveals profound flaws in the personal resolutions model. Social workers often say that the presenting problem is rarely, if ever, the real problem. This is one of the problems with resolutions: They usually belie the necessary process and guidance to uncover the work that most deeply needs doing.

This novel will easily provoke discussion about family dynamics, because it is rife with painful, often superficial interpersonal dynamics, long-held secrets, and an almost total absence of authentic intimacy grounded in meaningful empathy between the characters. So many relationship skills are missing between these characters that one yearns to jump right in and start coaching each toward the capacity to have a “we.”

A popcorn-style of dialogue gives this debut novel a soap-opera- or graphic-novel-like sensibility. The co-authors chose this approach well, as it serves well to underscore the different social classes depicted among the families. A wide array of true-to-life tensions about life’s essential topics such as marriage, addiction, infertility and adoption give the story weight, character and energy.

The Resolutionary War gives its readers fodder for reflection upon the need to realign their own relationships during this Hebrew calendar month of Elul, which in itself is an acronym for ani l’dodi v’dodi li, “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me.” May each and all be so blessed.

Israeli-Born Trombone Artist to Perform on Franklin Parkway

rtimeReut Regev has owned and made music with her trombone since she was 13 years old, when her parents gifted it to her.

Regev will perform with the R*Time trio Friday, August 8, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia (free after admission). The concert is a co-presentation of the Museum of Art’s “Art After Five” series and JazzPhest, sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel in Philadelphia.

The concert will be performed in two sets: 5:45-6:45 p.m. and 7:15-8:15 p.m.
[Read more…]

Join Legendary Comedians for “Lunch”

Have you ever wanted to join a group of legendary comedians for lunch at a deli?  Donna Kanter, a writer, producer, and director, takes you along in her film Lunch.  This movie records a 40-year old institution: the biweekly lunch.

The camera takes us into Factor’s Famous Deli in Los Angeles.  Sid Caesar, Hal Kanter, Gary Owens, and Carl Reiner are already at the table, eating matza ball soup.  We get to be flies on the wall as the men catch up, practice jokes, and share a lifetime of wisdom.

Lunch

For the past 40 years, a group of writers and directors has been meeting for lunch every other Wednesday. The members and their meeting places have changed over the years, but their appetites for the ties that nourish their friendships have remained. LUNCH goes beyond a single meal, and into the lives and successes of each comedy legend.

Book Review: “Culinary Expeditions” Are Always Appropriate

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By Ronit Treatman

The members of the Women’s Committee of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology were inspired to collaborate on one of the best books I have had the pleasure of acquiring this year.

Culinary Expeditions introduces its readers to culinary artifacts from around the world, culled from the Museum’s amazing collection. Each artifact is accompanied by a recipe that reflects the culture of its provenance. All proceeds from the sales of this book will directly benefit the Museum.

In our increasingly internationalized world, this book is the perfect gift for any occasion. Learning about each others’ cultures and foods helps us all connect with each other.

[Read more…]

Book Review: The Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History

In his new book, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking facts, as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, popularly referred to as the “Rebbe” by his followers and admirers worldwide.

In a span of 92 years the Rebbe traveled from his birthplace, the city of Nikolayev, Ukraine, studied in the cosmopolitan cities of Berlin and Paris, where he earned degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering, and finally settled in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. It was there he reluctantly donned the mantel as the Seventh Lubavitcher Rabbi and humbly assumed the title of the Rebbe.

Prior to his “coronation” he had already attained the stature of a spiritual magnet who attracted into his sphere of influence a warren of world leaders, as well as ordinary people who sought his wise counsel and blessings. More than a biography, this book relates historic events bonded with personal insights and coupled with private moments, which bring the reader to yichudusim, private moments of consultation, with the Rebbe.

[Read more…]