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It was a typical California evening, in the Fall of 2005. I was driving to a friend’s home in north Berkeley. Sporting a Hebrew-language bumper-sticker that read “Sharon has no solution. End the occupation, negotiations now,” aside from being honked at by the occasional Israeli (the Bay Area is home to a growing expat community,) very few people, including Jews, understood what it meant. This night would be an exception. (More…)

Poland faces a powerful Catholic right promoting a “moral revolution” (rewolucja moralna.) These same conservatives were in power between 2005 and 2007, and may return to government in the coming elections. By the end of the Law and Justice government in 2007, the nationalistic “Poland for the Polish” of this morality was clear. (More…)

In an ideal world, one would be justified in cutting Obama out of this picture. Silvio Berlusconi makes a fine “First Enemy” all on his own. Unfortunately, considering the President’s own failures, as shocking as this pairing seems, he had it coming. (More…)

Visitors to SFMOMA‘s rooftop sculpture garden may notice the infamous Waldo of Where’s Waldo? across the way, smiling from another building. Like the WALK sign, it is a man with a forward gait. Without the camera’s zoom, or prior cognizance, it’s barely noticeable. Isn’t that the existentialist lesson of Waldo? A man lost in a crowd, as seen by a vacant, omniscient entity? (More…)

Although it’s been decades since baseball was as popular as football, proponents still insist that it is America’s “national pastime.” At first glance, this may appear to represent wishful thinking. But as the fascinating new film Moneyball implies, this conclusion fails to account for the peculiar connotations of the word “pastime.” (More…)

In most contexts, it’s an insult. That is, if you’re under forty, into urban music, and uncomfortable around older persons who make a habit out of fetishizing ‘indigenous’ cultures. To an increasing number of persons, popular music from Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East has become so ubiquitous that it’s become impossible to view such idioms as being unique, or exotic. (More…)

In 1947, the fledgling United Nations endorsed the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Since then Israel’s relationship with the UN has become more and more contentious.  Last week, the confrontation between Israel and the Palestinians over Mahmoud Abbas’ bid for United Nations membership added a new chapter to that relationship. But what it means remains to be seen. (More…)

I pedaled leisurely rather than furiously, making no quick turns, hopping over no jutting tree roots, never trying to weave in and out of the other riders. But there I was, on the Helltrack qualifying course, riding BMX with the likes of Eddie Fiola, Martin Aparijo, Kevin Hull and Everett and Beatle Rosecrans. (More…)

Berlin head hunters display their kills. Cafe window installation, Neukölln. August, 2011.

It had been a long time since I’d visited such an unfamiliar country. I came to learn Spanish, but quit halfway through. I spent a day holed up in my apartment reading Fire and Blood and Teaching Rebellion, the book about the 2006 protests that I picked up at La Jicara. I didn’t know whether I was a tourist, a bad student or just a curious visitor. (More…)

Twenty minutes into 1991: The Year Punk Broke, Dave Markey’s ragged documentary of a European tour featuring Sonic Youth, Nirvana and assorted other “alternative” acts, Thurston Moore conducts an impromptu interview with a group of fans. They appear to be in the 18-24 range, what Americans call “college age.” (More…)

The music business is brutal. Even if you succeed – your music gets released by a label, people buy it and fans come to your gigs – there is no guarantee that your career won’t crash and burn. The history of rock and pop is filled with artists that disappeared as suddenly as they arrived. A hit album or two and then the follow-up stiffs. In memorium: Terence Trent D’Arby, Elastica, Kula Shaker…the list goes on. (More…)