Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mode Support - a Passover gesture

"Mode Support" Haiti Relief Fund from Kayak Media on Vimeo.

We managed to collect about 30,000 new garments from Montreal manufacturers/importers in our first clothing relief campaign for Haiti. The shipment should be on the water within a week. We're hoping to collect another container or more next week. Seems like an appropriate Passover gesture for a country that had the first and only successful slave revolt in modern times. Major thanks to all the companies that have and will contribute, especially Mark Edwards Apparel.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Shtetl on the Shortwave

New link. Tune in. Great logo.

The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff

An altogether enjoyable read that treads the line between adult and YA fiction. Yes, Joshua is that Braff's brother. And although Jacob Green was published in 2004 it bears re-visiting since the author's second novel is due out this coming spring. Jacob Green might have been the conventional 1970s-era suburban coming of age story of a sensitive boy on the cusp of adolescence dealing with the dissolution of his family, if not for the overtly Jewish religious component, which adds a certain freshness. Braff's writing moves at a good clip with lots of snappy dialogue, crisp descriptions and clever narrative devices (for example, Bar-Mitzvah thank-you notes that provide some of Jacob's funniest and most revealing visions). The writing is a little too tight, and part of the reason I see this novel as possibly YA more than adult fiction. I was waiting for the voice to loosen up, become more ruminative, with more of those "unthinkable thoughts" promised in the title, so something would stick. Admittedly, the terseness may come with the territory of telling a very tense story about a narcissistic, frustrated father always on the verge of rage (and frequently erupting), an oppressed, personally unfulfilled mother, and rebellious older son. The enraged terrorizing religious father reminded me of Shalom Auslander's memoir. I wonder if the association between religion and domestic violence has arisen as a motif in the Jewish American narrative as a legacy of 9/11. Okay, that may be stretching it. But the brutality we've been reading about is a far cry from how Chaim Potok depicted religion in the home, and ratchets up the angst-level way past the typical Philip Roth household. Here is a Jewish family of the me-generation, post-feminism, post-hippie, and to put in mildly, in shambles. The ideals of the sixties have given way to a harsh, misguided, desperate conservatism inspired by observance to Jewish law; the dad, Abram Green, pathetically tries to maintain order and instead ends up the bumbling babbling Queeg at the helm of a mutiny. It rang painfully true to me. This is not to say that this novel doesn't have lighter moments. There are plenty of laughs - the aforementioned thank-you notes being highlights. And when Jacob's older brother Asher liberates him from Hebrew school to go on a sexy, drug-filled joyride to celebrate the elder's acceptance to art college, I was in the car with them and remembered that feeling of hope and possibility available only to youth. Also, what it felt like to grow up too soon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Modes of Support

I know, I know, my minions ... I've been remiss. But have a good excuse. You see, I've been trying to do my bit to make the world a slightly better place. Seems a more meaningful and valuable use of my time than filling cyberspace with my inane thoughts.