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Not being a big poetry fan, I’m in no position to offer a critique of Günter Grass’ controversial poem, “What Must Be Said.” I’ve read two different translations of it (here is the one I’ve seen most commonly, and here is another that feels like a very different poem.) The difference in wording of the translations leads to stark changes in the poem’s tone and substance. (More…)

Dear Herr Grass,

Ever since your poem was first published, I’ve been wanting to talk to you. You don’t know me from a hole in the ground. The chances are that we’ll never meet, either. However, I didn’t want the event to pass without you hearing from me, as someone who was touched by your words. (More…)

Rock criticism’s great sensationalist Lester Bangs warned the world about the “Cybernetic Inevitable” that rock was fated to suffer. It was an evolutionary stage where flawless musical machines put human musicians out of work. (More…)

“Mushroom soup, bitter greens with tomatoes the size of peas, rare roast beef sliced as thin as paper, noodles in a green sauce, cheese that melts on your tongue served with sweet blue grapes” — Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen’s first meal in the Capitol is not distinguished by arcane preparation but the availability of high-quality ingredients. (More…)

Car bomb after car bomb. Suicide bombing after suicide bombing. It seems like it was only yesterday that Baghdad was the news. Every day. Twenty-four hours a day. Top of the hour. Every hour. Growing up during the 1980s, watching CNN, I was reared on images of Beirut as the most violent city on earth. In the ’90s, that changed to Sarajevo. In 2003, Baghdad took over. (More…)

It’s been two weeks since the ninth anniversary of the Iraq War’s launch. Watching European news, serious reflection on a conflict that officially ended only months ago seems in short supply. This, even as the fragile, ostensibly liberated nation invaded in 2003, continues to be riven by sectarian tensions that Western meddling remains responsible for. (More…)

Last week, the Park Slope Food Cooperative in Brooklyn, New York had scheduled a vote on whether or not to hold a co-op wide referendum on boycotting all Israeli products, to protest Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. The event drew so much attention, it had to be moved to a larger, 3,000-seat venue. (More…)

The lush Fiagdon Valley in North Ossetia hides the tip of one of the most peculiar icebergs to emerge from post-Soviet Russia. A small medallion portrait of Stalin, solid as granite, clings for dear life to a stunning cliff-face – the work of an Ossetian artist, Daurbek Tsagayev in the late 1970s. The North Ossetian capital of Vladikavkaz has seen a new Stalin monument unveiled as recently as 2009. These are only two examples. (More…)

All of Killing Joke’s LPs have been meditations on the apocalypse. Throughout their thirty-three year career, and with every release, singer and frontman Jaz Coleman has prophesied the end of the world. Ominously titled MMXII (that’s “2012” for those of you who are Roman numeral-challenged) the original lineup of Killing Joke has delivered another sonic missive squarely in this fiery, millenarian tradition. (More…)

No London neighborhood is as synonymous with reggae as Brixton. Immortalized in countless songs (“Guns of Brixton“, “Electric Avenue“) for outsiders, the borough’s musical identity is inseparable from popular music of the late 1970s and early eighties. Residents of San Francisco will find it comparable to the Haight Ashbury area’s identification with 1960s bands like The Grateful Dead, and the Jefferson Airplane. (More…)

He wasn’t fast enough. Just as he was lowering himself into his seat, someone else slid underneath him, to claim it. Why the guy didn’t end up landing on his competitor’s lap remains a mystery. He must have had good reflexes. Just as quickly, he bounced up into the aisle, glaring at the man who beat him to it. (More…)

J Street’s third annual conference featured a very wide range of speakers over three days, some inspiring, some evoking despair. Perhaps ironically, the best aspect for me was one that raised hope not so much for change in the United States, where J Street does its work, but in Israel. (More…)