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A beautiful version of an old classic

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Barnett, Franklin, Shelton, Ford (Michael Lamont photo)

By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

BURBANK, California–At the time that his most popular songs were put together in a musical compendium called “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” he was.  But just a decade later he was dead of lung cancer at the age of 49, and his emotionally charged ballads had gone on to achieve their own kind of immortality in 25 million sales worldwide.

This month, as the final production of its 35th anniversary season, the award-winning Colony Theatre has mounted a bright and lively version of this extraordinary musical.  Eric Blau and Mort Shuman, credited with translating Brel’s lyrics into English, have provided new material, along with the production conception for this moving and thrilling presentation.

Four superb singers and a marvelous five-piece band are joined onstage by a coffin, to which the singers direct their emotions and their meditations on life and love and loss and aging and death.  Unnamed, the singers (identified as Woman #1 and #2 and Man #1 and #2) take turns singing Brel’s songs, filled with pathos and hope and disappointment and ennui.  Eileen Barnett, Gregory Franklin, Jennifer Shelton, and Zachary Ford are the singers, and each brings a different momentum to the songs.

Brel was known for building tension and an accelerating urgency to his songs, and the four singers more than do him justice.  But Brel himself was given to more plaintive renditions of his music, as evidenced by his many performances preserved on YouTube.  His overall oeuvre, however, anticipates the promise of a similar body of distinctive work by composer Stephen Sondheim.

Other productions of “Jacques Brel” have started with the song “Les Flamandes,” or “Marathon,” which Shuman and Blau translated to encapsulate 20th century America.  The original song, in French, however, was actually a tongue-in-cheek assessment of the Flemish.  (Brel was born in Belgium, of Flemish descent, but lived most of his life in France.)  The Colony production did not include “Les Flamandes,” but began with a rousing paean to the devil, “Le Diable.”

Also included is Brel’s most famous song, “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” (“Don’t Leave Me”), which has been recorded more than 400 times in some 22 languages.  In English it is known as “If You Go Away,” and although it has become a classic it is often criticized as a poor translation, by Rod McKuen, of the original French poetic lyricism.

In the second act, in keeping with the funereal theme and the now-buried coffin, the songs include “Old Folks,” “Funeral Tango,” “My Death,” and “Song for Old Lovers.”  Evocative and melancholy, they feel like songs Albert Camus might have written if he wrote music instead of books.   But under the able direction of Jon Lawrence Rivera and musical director Brent Crayon, the production keeps moving briskly and never bogs down in the painful aspects of the life that Brel explores.

In his own life, Brel moved on from being an international cabaret star to acting and directing, and also became a pilot.  He spent the last few years of his life in the Marquesas Islands, in the South Pacific, and is buried there a few feet away from the grave of Paul Gauguin.

Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris will continue at the Colony Theatre, 555 North Third Street, in Burbank, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m. through May 9th.  Call (818) 558-7000 x15 for tickets.

Yes, 32 years after his death, Jacques Brel is alive and well and living in Burbank.  Stephen Sondheim should live so long!

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Citron is Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World

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Chávez denies US claim that Iranian forces have a presence in Venezuela

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frias has denied an American report that Iranian special forces had an increasing presence in his country. The report was prepared by the US Defense Department and sent to Congress earlier this month and says the élite Qods Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had a growing Latin American presence, “particularly in Venezuela.”

“Look at what they are saying,” Chávez said during a ceremony carried on live television. “If the US applies sanctions to Iran, these forces that are here – something that is absolutely false – could then attack American territory or interests with terrorist acts.” Chávez claimed the accusation was part of a tactic of intimidation against his government, calling it “an open threat by the government of the United States against Venezuela once again, using infamy and lies.”

Chávez and Ahmadinejad, both vocally anti-American, have fostered ever-closer political and business ties between their OPEC member nations. Venezuela supports Iran’s nuclear program.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim paid a two-day visit to Tehran, where he also discussed Iran’s nuclear program with leaders of the Islamic republic. Iranian news agencies reported that Amorim had told Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani that new UN sanctions against Iran would be “negative” and “unfair.”

On Sunday, Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger had held a meeting with Mottaki in Vienna. At a joint press conference with the Iranian foreign minister, Spindelegger declared: “I hope it will not have to come to sanctions and that Iran is ready to cooperate with the international community.” Outside the meeting venue, the group ‘Stop the Bomb’ held a rally protesting the meeting.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Two major accounting firms cut ties with Iran

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Two major international accounting firms have withdrawn from the Iranian market. The decision by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young means all of the “big four” international auditors have severed ties with the Islamic republic. Losing access to the approval of the major auditors could discourage risk-averse investors.

The US government has been stepping up pressure on major firms to isolate Iran while ratcheting up efforts to force the Islamic Republic to make more transparent its suspected bid to develop a nuclear weapon.

Last week, Congress’ Government Accountability Office listed 41 firms that have invested heavily in Iran’s energy sector. In recent days, senior officials have pressed Russia and Switzerland to intensify Iran’s isolation.

The news agency AP reported last week that Iran would allow United Nations nuclear inspectors greater access to its uranium enrichment activities.

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Preceding provided by World JewishCongress.

Palestinian Authority prohibits purchase of goods produced in Israeli settlements

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has signed a law that bans products made in West Bank settlements. The law is designed to build support for an international ban on settlement goods, specifically among European Union member states. Palestinians found in possession of goods produced in West Bank settlements will face fines and jail terms, according to ‘Reuters’. The law also bans work in settlements, with violators facing between one and five years in prison, al-Ouri said.

Products from Israel within the pre-1967 borders are not included in the ban. Palestinian Authority officials estimate that Israeli-run companies in the settlements sell goods worth US$ 500 million per year to Palestinians in the West Bank. It is also estimated that about 20,000 to 30,000 Palestinians work in the settlements. In recent months, Palestinian forces began intercepting and confiscating shipments of settlement goods to Palestinian businesses. Products range from agricultural goods to cosmetics.
 
As part of the campaign, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad tossed settlement products into a bonfire.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Benefit concert for Jewish Family Service set for May 23

April 27, 2010 1 comment

LA JOLLA, California (Press Release)–Shir L’Chaim Variety Show, a concert to benefit Jewish Family Service Older Adult Centers, will take place on Sunday, May 23 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center.

Cost of tickets, which includes a reception with complimentary Hors D’Oeuvres at Classic Residence by Hyatt, is $20 per person. Tickets are available through the JCC Box Office (tickets.lfjcc.org) or by calling 858-362-1348.

Performers for the concert include a wide variety of talent.  

They include Kavannah, a teen band that was started 11 years ago by Temple Solel’s Director of Youth Programming, Craig Parks.  Kavannah leads teen-only Friday night services monthly that attract large groups of Jewish teens who come to celebrate Shabbat and their Judaism with a spiritual service.  The service includes original and traditional liturgical music as well as meditation and meaningful discussion. 

Joan Kurland will also perform.  This nice Jewish girl from New Jersey is well-known   in the Jewish party and wedding circuit.  She also performs at religious and memorial services, hotels and nightclubs, and has been teaching piano and voice for 25 years. 

Alisha Zalkin is a powerhouse vocalist whose musical strengths range from Pop to Latin to Rock as well as Theatre. A professional performer and studio talent since age 7, Alisha has trained with the industry’s finest and at 22, has earned a slew of outstanding awards and recognition from establishments such as The San Diego Playbill, La Jolla Playhouse, and the LA Music Center.  She was a featured singer at The U.S. Olympic Cup and ensemble member for the National Tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Jasmine and Matt Commerce are a brother/sister duo from Virginia who have been playing music together since 2003. They have a repertoire of hundreds of songs spanning many decades. In addition, they write and record their own original music, and have a quickly growing fan base in San Diego. Last year, Matt and Jasmine each released debut studio recordings and both have sold more than 1,000 copies.  They have been featured in local and national radio stations and magazines, and have performed at some of the top venues in Southern California.  Recently, they flew to New York to record a single with Sony Records and are currently working on completing their second studio releases.   

Yochanan Sebastian Winston has performed as flutist, saxophonist, conductor and composer for audiences throughout the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, France and Latin America. His repertoire spans classical music, jazz, klezmer, new age, contemporary “art” music, rock & roll and pop. Dr. Winston has many international performance credits, including the world’s first solo bass flute recital. Dr. Winston has collaborated on film scores and has participated in the recording of numerous cd’s. Solo concerts with his band Jewazz! have been received ecstatically throughout Southern California and he serves as the Musical Director of three San Diego area synagogues. Dr. Winston holds a Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego.

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Preceding provided by Jewish Family Service

San Diego’s Historic Places: 19th Coast Artillery at Cabrillo National Monument

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment


Woman and 16 inch gun are shown in top photograph. A 16-inch practice shell is shown below

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO—It is commonplace to see elementary school classes walking through Cabrillo National Monument on history field trips. But similar field trips to Cabrillo may also be appropriate for high school trigonometry classes – especially for those students who wonder, “What’s the point of this stuff? When would we ever use it?”

Members of the U.S. Army’s 19th Coast Artillery studied their trigonometry because their lives—and the fate of the City of San Diego—depended on it. In the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, soldiers at Fort Rosecrans (which then included Cabrillo National Monument) kept careful watch on the Pacific coastline seeking to protect San Diego against Japanese naval attack.

The perceived danger was not at all far-fetched. An exhibit in a former radio station building at Cabrillo National Monument makes clear that “San Diego was a prime military target.” The city was home to ship repair yards, supply depots,  and  “served as a principal staging port for troops, supply and naval convoys in the Pacific.” Furthermore, it was home to Consolidated Aircraft which manufactured “B24 bombers, PBY reconnaissance planes and aircraft parts critical to the war effort.”

On the evening of February 23, 1942, “a lone submarine crept close to shore and fired at an oil installation near Santa Barbara, 200 miles north of San Diego,” the exhibit reported. “While the attack caused little damage, the next night jittery troops imagining Japanese aircraft over Los Angeles fired 1,440 rounds at non-existent planes and the morning newspapers reported civilian sightings of Japanese tanks in Malibu Canyon.”

This over-reaction might have been laughable had it not resulted in the U.S. government taking “a drastic and unfortunate step –Americans of Japanese ancestry, many of them enthusiastic patriots, were sent to internment camps for the duration of the war,” the exhibit acknowledged.

Japan had 72,000-ton battleships like the Yamato and the Musashi with guns that could fire shells 18.1 inches in diameter a distance of 28 miles. In comparison, the United States battleships of the Iowa class displaced only 58,000 tons. Their guns fired 16-inch shells a distance of 20 miles. A 16-inch shell weighed 2,300 pounds, “the equivalent of a small car,” according to the exhibit.

At the beginning of the war, the biggest guns in Fort Rosecrans’ arsenal fired only 8 inch shells with a range of 20 miles—no match for the Japanese battleships should they ever come. Eventually, the United States decided to build for Fort Rosecrans a pair of guns capable of firing 16-inch shells 26 miles—artillery that was equivalent to the guns on the Iowa-class battleships and which were capable of challenging even those of the Yamato and the Musashi.

These two guns measuring 68 feet long were installed in 1944 as Battery Ashburn. The exhibit informs that “at 46 tons a piece they were so heavy that when transported to Point Loma the solid rubber tires of the tractor-trailer carved three-inch ruts into the asphalt roadway.”

Artillerymen had to imagine during practice that an enemy vessel was spotted in motion off the coastline. To determine the target’s exact and predicted locations, the soldiers of the 19th Coast Artillery used triangulation—an important component of trigonometry. At two “base-end stations”—which were a known distance apart—soldiers used an azimuth to determine the angles from their positions to the target. Then, with knowledge of the length of the line AB (the distance between the two stations) and the angles A) and B), the artillerymen could compute the exact distance from the guns to the target. They would take these measurements several times in order to predict the enemy ship’s exact course.

Before aiming the guns, they also would factor in such mathematical variables as wind speed and direction, air temperature, pressure, humidity, muzzle velocity and the ark of the projectile. Spotters would watch the shell fall, and if it failed to score a direct hit on the target, would estimate the distance by which it missed – to be factored into the next shot.

San Diego and Point Loma never came under attack but nevertheless artillerymen occasionally became jittery. Fishing boats were sometimes identified as possible enemy vessels and tracked. And, on occasion, repetitive spray from whales was mistaken for machine gun fire.

Although tensions were high at the beginning of the war, as the United States and its allies began to win more and more battles in the Pacific and advance on the Japanese homeland, tensions on the American mainland eased.

Fort Rosecrans was considered a “good duty station” during the war because the weather was usually nice and it was possible for soldiers to go into town when they were off-duty. When they weren’t reading manuals or less instructive kinds of material, troops amused themselves with baseball games and other athletic activities at Fort Rosecrans, and one group of 19th Coast Artillery soldiers kept a dog named “Red” as a mascot.

Like his masters, Red protected his base from “enemy” attack—but in Red’s case, the enemy was anyone not wearing the uniform of the 19th Coast Artillery who tried to use the latrines in his unit’s barracks. Although the uniforms of U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army were similar, the story is told that Red never failed to distinguish the two – and woe to the Marine who tried to enter the barracks unescorted.

After the war ended, the guns of Battery Ashburn as well as the smaller guns of batteries that surrounded Fort Rosecrans were dismantled and sold for scrap.

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Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World.  This article appeared previously on examiner.com

Israel divestment campaign moves to UCSD campus

April 27, 2010 1 comment

By Donald H. Harrison

Donald H. Harrison

SAN DIEGO — UCSD has become a campus battlegrounds in the movement by pro-Palestinians to have Associated Student oganizations  divest their funds from companies doing business with Israel.

A resolution that will go before the student Senate on Wednesday, April 28, specifically targets United Technologies, which it says makes Apache helicopters, and General Electric , which makes parts for those helicopters and also provides engineering support and testing service contracts.

The resolution essentially is the same as one that was vetoed by the student president at UC Berkeley, a veto that the  student Senate on that campus thus far has been unable to override.

As justification for divestment, the resolution cites documents from such organizations as the  United Nations and International Red Cross  critical of Israel in the recent Gaza War, for the construction of the fence near the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinian civilians.

The resolution does not criticize nor mention any actions by Palestinian terrorists, yet describes itself as a resolution for peace and neutrality.

Opposition on campus is being led by Titans for Israel, which is circulating a petition online, and by various off-campus pro-Israel groups such as StandWithUS and T.E.A.M.

StandWithUs provided a model email message that members can send to the President of the Associated Students, the Chancellor of the campus, and the President of the University of California system.  It read:

“I urge you to veto the anti-Israel Divestment Bill. The bill violates the rights of thousands of UCSD students, who have no choice but to pay their student fees and are legally entitled to be assured that these mandatory fees are not used to empower the political aims of an extremist and hostile group that seeks to promote one-sided propaganda against Israel.
“Student fees must be invested in a non-discriminatory way without regard to the political whims of a block of students. This could become a legal battle over the rights of ALL students.”

Following is the text of the resolution:
Resolution in Support of PEACE AND NEUTRALITY THROUGH UC DIVESTMENT FROM U.S. CORPORATIONS PROFITING FROM OCCUPATION
    1. WHEREAS, the Associated Students of the University of California, San Diego
    (ASUCSD) is an institution dedicated to promoting peace in all aspects of student
    experiences; and
    2. WHEREAS, the Principles of Community of the University of California, San Diego
    (UCSD) state that UCSD “is dedicated to learning, teaching, and serving society
    through education, research, and public service;” and
    3. WHEREAS, the University of California (UC) has already made significant efforts
    towards ethical and peaceful investments by divesting from tobacco companies,
    companies contributing to the Darfur conflict in Sudan, and companies contributing
    to the apartheid system in South Africa; and
    4. WHEREAS, on 13 January 2010 the ASUCSD passed a “Resolution in Support of the
    Victims of the 12 January 2010 Earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti” stating that the
    ASUCSD “as global citizens are obliged to play a role in concurrent world events”;
    and
    5. WHEREAS, on 6 May 2009 the ASUCSD passed a “Resolution in Support of UC-Wide
    Corporate Social Responsibility Practices” urging the UC to “significantly limit asset
    allocations to non-socially responsible corporations”; and
    6. WHEREAS, UCSD student fees contribute financially to United States corporations
    (see clause 11, 12, 13) that support military occupation; and
    7. WHEREAS, the ASUCSD notes the complexity of international relations in all cases,
    including the Middle East, and recognizes the inability of a body such as the ASUCSD
    Council to adjudicate matters of international law and human rights law, or to take
    sides on final status issues on wars and occupations throughout the world; the
    ASUCSD does, however, note its own ability to abstain from investing in corporations
    that are furthering international conflicts and violations of human rights; and
    8. WHEREAS, the following findings from the United Nations and other leading human
    rights organizations regarding the conflict in the Palestinian Territories (West Bank,
    East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip) provide the context for an ASUCSD divestment
    effort; and
    9. WHEREAS, prior and subsequent to the 2008-2009 Gaza bombing, the occupying
    force has engaged in collective punishment of the Palestinian population, in the view
    of the human rights community,1 exemplified by the ongoing 32 month blockade on
    Gaza, of which the regional branch of Physicians for Human Rights has written, “the
    prolonged siege imposed… on Gaza, the closing of its borders, the tightening of
    policies regarding permission to exit Gaza for medical purposes, and the severe
    shortage of medications and other medical supplies, all severely damage the
    Palestinian health system and endanger the lives and health of thousands of
    Palestinian patients,”2 and of which the Red Cross has said, “the whole strip is being
    strangled, economically speaking”, making life in Gaza “a nightmare” for the civilian
    population, with essential supplies, including electricity, water, and fuel, being denied
    to the 1.5 million inhabitants, 90% of whom depend on aid to survive;3 and
    10.WHEREAS, within the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the occupying
    force continues a policy of settlement expansion that, according to the United
    Nations Security Council, Human Rights Watch, and the International Committee of
    the Red Cross, constitutes a direct violation of Article 49, paragraph six of the Fourth
    Geneva Convention which declares that “an occupying power shall not deport or
    transfer parts of its own civilian population into territories it occupies.”4 and
    according to United Nations Security Council Resolution 446 “determines that the
    policy and practices of [the occupying power] in establishing settlements in the
    Palestinian and other Arab territories occupied since 1967 have no legal validity and
    constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace
    in the Middle East”5; and
    11.WHEREAS, according to the most recent UC investment report6, within the UC
    Retirement Program fund and the General Endowment Program fund, there exist
    direct investments in United States companies that materially support the occupation
    of the Palestinian territories, specifically the U.S. corporations General Electric and
    United Technologies; and
    12.WHEREAS, General Electric holds engineering support and testing service contracts
    with the occupying military and supplies the propulsion system for the Apache
    Assault Helicopter fleets which, as documented by Amnesty International and Human
    Rights Watch, have been used in attacks on Palestinian civilians, including the four
    January 2009 killings of Palestinian medical aid workers7; and
    13.WHEREAS, according to Amnesty International, United Technologies supplies the
    occupying force with Blackhawk helicopters, F-15, and F-16 aircraft engines, which
    have been used in the bombing of the American School in Gaza, the killing of
    Palestinian civilians, and the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian homes;8
    1. THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the ASUCSD will ensure that its assets, and will
    advocate that the UC assets, do not include holdings in General Electric and United
    Technologies because of their non-neutral financial stance in the occupation of
    Palestinian territories, nor does this delegitmize any country and their right of any
    peoples to be living in the region; be it further
    2. RESOLVED, that the ASUCSD will further examine its assets and UC assets for funds
    being invested in companies that a) provide military support for/or weaponry to
    support the occupation of the Palestinian territories or b) facilitate the building or
    maintenance of the illegal wall or the demolition of Palestinian homes[], or c)
    facilitate the building, maintenance, or economic development of illegal settlements
    on occupied Palestinian territories; be it further
    3. RESOLVED, that the ASUCSD will not invest, and will advocate that the UC divests,
    all stocks, securities, or other obligations from such sources with the goal of
    maintaining the divestment, in the case of said companies, until they cease such
    practices. Moreover, the ASUCSD will not make further investments, and will
    advocate that the UC not make further investments, in any United States companies
    materially supporting or profiting from occupation and human rights violations in the
    above mentioned ways; be it further
    4. RESOLVED, that this ASUCSD resolution takes a neutral stance in the conflict, and
    also stands as a principled expression of ethical and peaceful investment practices
    supporting universal human rights and equality;
    5. BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the ASUCSD will recommend additional divestment
    policies to keep UC investments out of companies profiting from human rights
    violations throughout the world in other places as determined by the resolutions of
    the United Nations and other leading international human rights organizations.

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Harrison is editor of  San Diego Jewish World