Pop culture from Southern California and beyond.

"Songs for the Jewish-American Jet Set" celebrates a swingin' lost era

Somewhere between the start of the sexual revolution and the advent of J-Date, those in the Jewish singles scene had a few denominational issues to address. At the forefront was a question a suitor might ask any intended: orthodox, conservative or reformed?

For singer Bernie Knee, though, it wasn’t a question. It was a menu.

The song “Orthodox, Conservative or Reformed” is a lusty testament to intra-faith non-discrimination, written by Tin Pan Alley veterans Moe Jaffe and Henry Tobias and voiced with carnal delight by New York singer Knee on his 1965 album Songs for the Jewish-American Jet Set. And now it’s a centerpiece of a CD package using the same title spotlighting the incredibly wide range of Jewish-themed music put out by the Tikva Records label, which was ambitious as it is obscure in its 168 albums released between 1950 and 1973, all under the watch of an idiosyncratic visionary named Al Jacobs. The anthology, with detailed booklet, is being released Nov. 22 (just in time for early Hanukkah shopping) by the also-ambitious Jewish culture reissue label of the Idleshohn Society for Musical Preservation.


Tumblr protests potential censorship, gives users heart attacks


Tumblr dashboard gets censored, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011

This morning, anyone who logged onto popular blog site Tumblr saw a feed that looked something like the screenshot above. Rather than animated GIFs and the other usual fare of Tumblr, text and photos were greyed out and had censored stamps on them.

While this left many users befuddled, judging by outrage both on Tumblr and Twitter, you could click to get past it. Once you did, you were taken to this page, with Tumblr urging its users to call their representative about the PROTECT-IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which Tumblr called "two well-intentioned but deeply flawed bills."

Tumblr goes on to compare the censorship that would be possible thanks to these bills to that of China and Iran.

The bills in question would allow the government to block websites that perpetuate copyright infringement, particularly foreign sites which the U.S. government has currently had difficulty combating since they're beyond their physical jurisdiction. The law would also add penalties for users who violate copyright.


Bitter Lawyer delivers attorney comedy, new Web series

As a comedy nerd, I sometimes come across some very specialized comedy, and the example of that I'm enjoying today is Bitter Lawyer. It's a comedy site created by, well, bitter lawyers.

Bitter Lawyer just posted the first episode of their new Web series, "The Bottom Rung." It focuses on the lawyers who, rather than signing to a big law firm, end up graduating from law school and doing the grunt work of document review.

It gets into the weeds a bit of the experience of law school graduates, but its also relatable enough for anyone who's ever had an office job they didn't enjoy. The first episode also sets up a relationship story, so it's got elements of romantic comedy. Writer/producer Matt Ritter stars as Dave, opposite Jess Garvey as love interest Paige. You can read Ritter's story of leaving law and moving out to L.A. that ultimately inspired the series.


Jackson Browne spikes the guacamole in Hermosa Beach concert

“How do you know?” shouted a fan at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse Theatre on Monday night as Jackson Browne swapped out one of the baker’s dozen acoustic guitars on stage for another. Browne was making the switch to accommodate a song request that someone else had shouted from the audience, and the questioning fan just wanted to know how he could tell so quickly which axe went with which song.

Well, Browne explained a bit mystically, “There are songs in the guitars.” Each one has a different sounds, a different feel, he said. The array allowed him to have a selection of different tunings at hand. And while he could retune on the fly and make a go of it with just a couple guitars, he admitted that he’s guilty of a materialistic pride of possession over his collection (there are many more at home) and wanted to “bring enough out that I win.” 


Wu Man's Ancient Dances Will Bridge Chinese Centuries at Royce Hall

Wu Man

Liu Junqi

“I haven’t seen other pieces like that,” says Wu Man of Ancient Dances, the suite that will be the centerpiece of her concert Saturday at UCLA’s Royce Hall

Normally we’re dubious about such declarations. And given Wu Man’s career and credentials, it’s hard to imagine there’s anything she hasn’t seen, musically speaking. She’s arguably the world’s leading virtuoso of the pipa, the mind-bogglingly demanding Chinese lute. She’s certainly the most famous and wide-ranging practitioner of the instrument. 

No one is even close, given her collaborations with composers and artists including Philip Glass, Terry Riley, Lou Harrison, Tan Dun, the Kronos Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, jazz innovator Henry Threadgill and English folk guitarist Martin Simpson, to name a handful. Her 2010 album Immeasurable Light, featuring Kronos, mixes original, very modern classical approaches with intensely-researched reconstructions of tunes dating form the 8th to 12th century, uncovered in caves in Western China. In contrast, her 2005 album Wu Man and Friends she applied her towering talents to music from Appalachia and Uganda -- and various points in between, whichever direction you would go to make that trip.