Bob Dylan music video is latest coup for Israeli digital ad whiz Vania Heymann


The first official music video for Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” is making the rounds on the internet. And Dylan’s endorsement is only half the reason why.

The video, produced by media start-up Interlude, includes a novel interactive channel-tuning button, each channel mimicking a different cable channel or news program, featuring cameos by Drew Carey and a matzah-eating Danny Brown. The video was filmed under creative directorship of 27-year old Vania Heymann, an Israeli graduate of the Bezalel Arts school.

In just two years, Heymann’s video portfolio has grown from student film trailer about Yiddish-speaking hitman “Der Mentsh” to a digital shorts series on Eretz Nehederet (Israel’s Saturday Night Live), a Pepsi Max commercial and now a Bob Dylan music video — 48 years after the original release — with the artist’s blessing.

Seems as if Heymann isn’t pacing himself between achievements in digital advertising. As long as he doesn’t tire out, that could be a good development for digital media consumers and brands.

Federation’s Entertainment Division debuts first YouTube video


Here’s how YouTube member EntDiv describes the video:

The Entertainment Division of The Jewish Federation is a dynamic group of entertainment and media professionals who participate in a wide variety of educational, social, and volunteer opportunities to benefit the Jewish community locally and aboard. If you are interested in philanthropy, the Jewish community, networking or simply having fun, the Entertainment Division has something for you. Whether you are a media mogul or an up-and-coming young executive, we hope you will join us in giving back!

 

 

Has your gift list got game?


With Chanukah gift shopping well underway, three video game systems are jockeying for the top position on teen wish lists. Demand for PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii is outstripping the available supply, and analysts predict the shortage could lead to increased demand for Microsoft’s Xbox 360.

But how will you know which system is the right fit for your family?

Arena Interactive Lounge has recently added a couple PlayStation 3 and Wii consoles to the 50-inch HDTV DLP flat-screen televisions that populate its 3,000-square-foot gaming center in West Los Angeles. For $12 an hour, you can test drive one of the two in-demand systems, or for $6 per hour you can give the year-old Xbox 360 a shot.

Arena is the brainchild of 28-year-old Ron Rosenberg, an observant Jew who grew up in Pico-Robertson and attended Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy and Yeshiva University High School. The USC grad opened his modern lounge last year, around the same time as the release of the Xbox 360. Sound-system-embedded Pyramat couches add to Arena’s living-room-away-from-home vibe, and game reviewer Scot Rubin hosts his weekday radio show, “All Games Interactive,” from this 21st century take on the arcade.

Rosenberg said gamers have expressed disappointment with the launch of PlayStation 3, equating its hype to last summer’s film, “Snakes on a Plane.”

“Sony came out with a product that wasn’t ready. There’s maybe three titles worth playing, but then again, there’s no multiplayer format,” he said.

Critics like New York Times gaming columnist Seth Schiesel have faulted Sony’s rush to get the PS3 to market for the holidays, citing the example that its much-vaunted Blu-Ray movie feature requires high-definition cables that are sold separately.

Mounting negative reviews and a glut of consoles on the resale market have weakened enthusiasm for the product since its violence-plagued launch on Nov. 17. A drop-off in demand for the PS3, which retails for $499 to $599, saw Thanksgiving weekend sales on eBay drop from a high of $1,500 to a near-retail low of $650.

Rosenberg believes that savvy consumers will ignore holiday hype and wait for PlayStation 3 to work out the bugs before a larger rollout in the spring.

“In a year the PS3 will be rocking,” he said.

According to a recent ZDNet poll, readers said they would prefer Nintendo’s Wii as a gift over the PS3 or Xbox 360.

“The Wii is a dark horse,” Rosenberg said. “It is fun. I could see my wife, who never touches a video game, and me playing this for two hours together.”

He said that industry insiders initially laughed at the wireless Wii Remote earlier this year at E3, the annual video game trade show held in Los Angeles, but added that few are laughing now.

The Wii’s intuitive controllers shy away from the rows of buttons found on the PlayStation and Xbox controllers. Instead, the Wii Remote — along with the analog joystick add-on, the Nunchuk unit — senses its own position in a three-dimensional space, allowing players to swing it like a golf club or fishing pole and have its motion replicated on screen.

Rosenberg said he broke a sweat as he played “Wii Sports,” one of 34 titles available this month. Building on the popularity of titles that demand more physical activity, like “Dance Dance Revolution,” the Wii is designed to break with the coach-potato status quo and get players up and moving.

“Everybody in the family can get into this,” he said.

Wii retails for $250, and Nintendo is hoping weekly shipments through December will keep pace with holiday demand.

But Rosenberg said that consumers shouldn’t count out the Xbox 360, especially in a market where demand for its competing systems, peripherals and games will keep prices at a premium.
The Xbox 360, which launched Nov. 22, 2005, features more than 100 titles and retails between about $300 and $400.

Rosenberg predicts Xbox 360 will continue to reign supreme at Arena Interactive Lounge until at least next spring due to its plethora of titles and the quality of game play.

“Every game coming out on the 360, which is an inferior machine to the PS3 power wise, looks much better,” he said. “They’ve had time to work with the system. But in a year, the PlayStation 3 will kick the 360’s butt.”

For more information about Arena Interactive Lounge and “All Games Interactive,” visit www.arenalounge.com.

Shlub to Hero: Film Sketches Gehry Life


“He starts out with that,” says Barry Diller, alluding to a squiggle-like drawing in the new documentary, “Sketches of Frank Gehry,” and “he ends up with this,” pointing to a model of the InterActive Corp. (IAC) Building, currently under construction in Manhattan. Although made completely of glass, a material that likes to be flat, Gehry has molded the glass walls to resemble a row of sailboats billowing in the wind.

Even to the architect’s detractors — and there are many — buildings like the IAC offer something new and unexpected, even if a lot of looking is needed sometimes to wrap one’s mind around these edifices. In short, the IAC Building aspires to be a work of architecture that is simultaneously and unapologetically a work of art.

There’s an implicit question in the comments of Diller, the chairman of Expedia and Gehry’s client for the IAC Building: How did that blankety-blank squiggle turn into a really good building?

The film, a rare departure into documentary by Sidney Pollack, director of “Tootsie” and “Out of Africa,” assays the mystery of Gehry, an outwardly aw-shucks guy, who regularly produces some of the world’s most aggressive and attention-getting buildings.

While it is interesting to hear Gehry, 77, describe his formative influences — building blocks during childhood, the images of fish, the architecture of Finnish master Alvar Aalto — this kind of museum-docent talk does not bring us close to the core of Gehry’s creativity. Pollack’s film is strongest when filling in the human, rather than theoretical, background.

The real question here is: How did this lower-middle-class Jew from Toronto become the most celebrated architect in the world, and one of the rare people in the profession, outside of Frank Lloyd Wright, to become a household name? (What other architect is well-known enough to be spoofed on “The Simpsons”?)

Pollack, with his skill in developing character, locates the Freudian threads in Gehry’s life story. A Canadian in Southern California, the young Gehry, then known as Goldberg, struggled in architecture school, believing himself victimized by anti-Semitism in a largely all-WASP profession.

He has the outsider’s simultaneous rejection of, and reverence for, authority, here symbolized by the architectural profession, with its weighty baggage of uptight, exclusionary, backward-looking rules. The young Gehry wonders why architecture must be so authoritarian and rule-bound, as opposed to something akin to the delight he experienced as a child, building imaginary cities on the floor of his aunt’s apartment.

Gehry’s creative solution — his psychoanalytic victory — was to embrace the delight of free-form design, while making sure that his buildings met the needs of his clients. His freedom in designing what appear to be purely sculptural objects that subsequently win rapturous praise must make him the envy of all architects who secretly wish they could find such willing clients. Gehry seems to embody the myth of the artist-hero, a symbol of personal attainment and untrammeled freedom of expression.

Yet self-doubt remains. On the eve of his greatest popular triumph, the opening of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, five years ago, the architect recalls walking around the spectacular complex, shortly to become the most photographed and discussed building of the past 50 years, asking himself, “What have I done?” It is the most touching moment in the film.

That kind of vulnerability and introspection makes “Sketches of Frank Gehry” at times resemble a Woody Allen movie. The plotline certainly sounds a lot like Allen: A sad sack, Jewish shlub who feels excluded from the country club set of architects, turns out to be the designer of amazing buildings that turn the world of architecture on its ear. Meanwhile, the hero, in all innocence, says things like, “Gee, did I really do that?”

Adding to the Allen-like texture of the film is a series of celebrity talking heads — Diller, ex-Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, actor Dennis Hopper, rock musician Bob Geldof, ex-talent agency director Michael Ovitz, artist Julian Schnabel, the late architect Philip Johnson — each expressing his admiration for cher maitre.

And in the archetypally Allen moment, we meet Gehry’s psychoanalyst of 35 years, who acknowledges with a coy smile that “Frank has made me famous,” while adding that he refuses services to other architects seeking to emulate Gehry’s inner transformation. (Question for Gideon Kanner: Is there a statute of limitations on physician confidentiality?)

This enjoyable, undemanding film from the hand of a master director holds no terrors for nonarchitects and others who feel flummoxed by the mystique and technical complexity of the profession. This very much reflects the attitude of Gehry, who seems intent on puncturing a certain kind of architectural snobbery.

What the film does not do is help us understand the process through which a scribbled drawing turns into a finished building. For all the accessibility of Gehry the man, Gehry the creative personality remains a mystery.

7 Days in The Arts


Saturday, February 4

It’s the year of the gay cowboy, so why not the privileged lesbian? Head to the Geffen Playhouse for the Los Angeles premiere of David Mamet’s,”Boston Marriage” titled after the Victorian euphemism used to describe a long-term, intimate relationship between two unmarried women. The play about two upper-class women involved thusly is also directed by Mamet and stars Rebecca Pidgeon, Alicia Silverstone and Mary Steenburgen.

Through March 12. $35-$69. 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood. (310) 208-5454.

Sunday, February 5

Israeli musician Ehud Banai comes to the Avalon Hollywood. Hear songs from the folk/rock/traditional songwriter’s album, “Answer Me” which won Best Album of the Year at the 2004 Israeli Music Awards, and other favorites tonight only.

9 p.m. $45. 1735 Vine St., Hollywood. (323) 462-8900. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Monday, February 6

See “Lady and the Tramp” fall in love again on the big screen this week. Coinciding with the DVD release, Disney screens a digitally restored Cinemascope of the film at the El Capitan through Valentine’s Day, complete with live visit by Mickey and Minnie before every show. Never have meatballs and spaghetti been more romantic.

$8-$9. El Capitan Theatre, 6838 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. (800) 347-6396.

Tuesday, February 7

Valley Beth Shalom and L.A. Jewish Symphony bring piccolos and bassoons to the young masses today. “Linking Our Heritage: Songs of the Generations” is a free educational concert, with special guest artist Sam Glaser, that aims at bringing second- and third-graders and their parents and grandparents together through music. An instrument petting zoo precedes the show.

10 a.m. (petting zoo), 11 a.m. (concert). Free. Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. R.S.V.P., (818) 728-1923.

Wednesday, February 8

The Gerard Edery Ensemble winds Ladino, Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew cultures and languages through their latest CD of songs, “Amid the Jasmine.” Unifying the recordings is the group’s particular sound, as well as Edery’s distinctively deep voice. It is released this week.

$15. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Thursday, February 9

L.A. Jews head south this week for the 16th annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival. Catch up on Jewish films you’ve been meaning to see, including opening night movie “Live and Become” and closing night’s,”The First Time I Turned Twenty.” Bonus: get your parents off your case by attending the singles-aimed Flix-Mixer on Sunday night.

Feb. 9-19. Various locations and prices. (858) 362-1348. ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Friday, February 10

Don the walking shoes for tonight’s interactive entertainment, care of Collage Dance Theatre. You won’t be dancing, but you will be walking through parts of Los Angeles Police Revolver and Athletic Club, for the site-specific dance company’s production of it’s opera: A Dance Opera.

Feb. 9-12, 16-19. (In case of rain, performances rescheduled to Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays.) $25-$40. 1880 N. Academy Drive, Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., ” width=”15″ height=”1″ alt=””>

Proud to Have Guilt


Once Mireille Silcoff had been hired to edit a new quarterly Jewish magazine for young people, she needed to give it a name.

“At one point I just started asking people, ‘What are the first things you think of when you think about your Jewishness?'” Silcoff recalled. “You can’t imagine how many times ‘guilt’ came up. And ‘pleasure’ came up enough to be interesting.”

Guilt & Pleasure — “A magazine for Jews and the people who love them” — hit newsstands across North America last month, offering readers content ranging from long-form essays and memoirs to fiction, comics, photography and archival material.

The magazine aims not only to inform and entertain, its creators say, but to get Jews talking about issues they think ought to be more fully explored.

Each issue of Guilt & Pleasure will revolve around a theme. The first, called “Home & Away,” will examine issues of “place and identity and the nexus between them,” publisher Roger Bennett said. It includes original contributions from novelists Gary Shteyngart, Lara Vapnyar and Etgar Keret as well as graphic artist Ben Katchor. The second issue will look at fights and battles; the third will be about magic.

Each edition will be connected to interactive Web-based discussion guides.

As a “strong proponent” of secular Jewish culture, Shteyngart — who wrote the best-selling “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook” — says typical Jewish newspapers, emanating from a “very organized community basis,” don’t speak to him. Guilt & Pleasure, which he called a Jewish Paris Review, does.

“For as long as there have been Jews in America, there have been Jewish secular cultural enterprises,” he said.

Still, he sometimes wonders what, if anything, binds non-religious Jews.

“What among secular Jews makes us a community? Are we a community? I don’t have an answer for that,” he said.

But he’s hoping Guilt & Pleasure will spur some discussion on the topic.

For more information, visit

Funny, They Don’t Sound Jewish


Laura Bush on Howard Stern; J. Lo waking up with a pimple on her nose; Homer Simpson running for governor of California. No, it’s not a slow day on “Live on E!” It’s a game of “Scenes from a Hat” — one of 40 interactive games that improv comedy troupe ¡The Los Hombres! has in its repertoire. The game, in which audience members write down funny scenes that they would like to see acted out, is just one way the eight-member cast connects with the audience.

“There’s something great about improv that doesn’t happen in other theater,” said Joshua Glazer, the group’s founder. “The audience learns what’s happening at the exact same time you do. So there’s a spark between you and them and it just feeds off it, so everything’s funny.”

Upon graduation from M.I.T., Glazer founded the Los Angeles-based group two years ago. With its founding members consisting of six men and one woman, the group came to be known ironically as ¡The Los Hombres!, because of course, “two articles is funnier than one,” Glazer said.

But aside from their name, for most of the group’s 5 1/2 Jewish members, it is their Jewish background that inspires much of their comedy.

“Jewish humor is, to me, the funniest humor in the world — the rhythm of Jewish humor and that ‘if we don’t laugh about it we’ll cry instead’ philosophy,” Jewish cast member and writer Michael Konik said. “Though we are not an overtly Jewish group, I think our sensibility is a very Jewish sense of humor.”

Cast member Michael Feldman said that the group is simply perpetuating a trend that can be seen throughout Jewish history — dealing with tragedy and sadness with humor.

“It’s about finding some sort of a recourse through humor to deal with the horrible things that life can give you,” Feldman said. “I think that’s what we try to do a little bit…. If there are problems in your life and you face that thing, you can find a way to deal with it and process it.”

While the troupe members hope that their show can offer the same therapy for their audience as it does for them personally, their primary goal is to inspire laughter.

“Who knows if laughing cures cancer,” said Nickie Bryar, the group’s Jewish mother (she just had her first baby), one of four women in the troup today. “That would be fantastic. But I think it’s really important that people have a good time.”

The Los Hombres! performs every Friday in September at
the Second City Studio Theatre, 8-9 p.m. 8156 Melrose Ave. Admission $10. For
more information, visit

‘On_Line’ Takes Byte Out of Cyberspace


While obsessing over an ex-girlfriend in 1997, Jed Weintrob, then an Orion vice president of interactive media, turned to the Internet for distraction. “I got hooked peering into the lives of strangers,” said Weintrob, a self-described Jewish “techno geek.” “It was both calming and mind-blowing to log on and see Jenni on Jennicam.org who was also awake at 4:30 a.m., but in the end it was also kind of alienating…. You’re watching this person do the most intimate things, yet you’re never going to know them or touch them.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by John Roth (Josh Hamilton), the Internet-addicted lonely-heart in Weintrob’s acclaimed directorial debut, “On_Line.” Like Lynn Hershman Leeson’s “Teknolust,” the gritty but stylish film is among the first to probe relationships in cyberspace.

Weintrob shot his actors in separate rooms connected by Web cams so they felt like they were alone with their computers.

The message is that “we all need human contact, so eventually you have to get off line,” he said.

Weintrob, 34, first learned about the importance of human connections growing up in a close-knit Manhattan Jewish family where Israeli relatives often crashed on the couch. His introduction to the Web (and to cybersex) was the early PC model he received for his bar mitzvah.

Sex ed part II was researching “On_Line,” co-written with fellow Harvard alumnus Andrew Osborne; one inspiration was the man who learned of his wife’s infidelity by reading her Web journal.

“He never spoke to her again except via e-mail,” Weintrob said. “That started me thinking about the intimate things people were willing to reveal online and how messed up that could make you in real life.”

The fictional Roth evolved as Weintrob wondered what would have happened had his heartbreak-induced Web addiction escalated. “We’ve all felt desperate and depressed, and that the computer is our only friend,” said the director, now dating a nice Jewish girl from Long Island. “But as personal as it feels, it’s completely impersonal.”

“On_Line” opens June 27 in Los Angeles. For moreinformation, visit www.onlinethemovie.com .

A Matter of Opinion


Rabbis to your corners. We want a clean fight, a fair fight, and no hitting below the beard. It’s not the WWF Wrestling Smackdown — it’s the JSI rabbinical smackdown, brought to you live by the Jewish Studies Institute (JSI) Talkback Series.

The series, held at the Museum of Tolerance, invites panelists from clashing Jewish camps to debate controversial topics in a TV-talk-show format. Rabbi Ari Hier, JSI director, plays a Jewish Jerry Springer, and moderates the intense discussions. He comes with a prepared set of questions, but as with every good talk show, members interject their opinions, and ask some questions of their own.

The series evolved from Hier’s desire to create a more interactive learning experience. "When a person hears a rabbi’s lecture or listens to a sermon, they don’t play much of a role," Hier said. "This series allows the audience to get involved with the discussion," he said.

Hier encourages seminar audiences to question panelists during each program, and the crowds delight in this opportunity to engage in debate.

Joel Levy of Beverlywood, a regular Talkback attendee, found a home in the series. "I really started exposing myself to Judaism 14 months ago. I’ve been to all different synagogues, but somehow felt left out. It’s these nights, these topics, that really hit home to me," Levy said.

The deliberated topics have included "Almost Famous: A Jewish perspective on ethics in rock ‘n’ roll Culture," "Spiritual Center or Social Club: Why do we go to synagogue?" and "The Art of Religious Enticement: The highly competitive means used to bring Jews closer to Judaism."

Ironically, the Orthodox Hier, who expressed disapproval of religious enticements during the last panel, employs those very means to lure Jews into learning. "I really want to bring Jews into textual, Talmudic study. I think it’s what Jewish adults really crave, deep down. But I created the Talkback programs to get people in the door," Hier said. "People talk about these issues behind closed doors, and now we have a format to discuss them in public," he said.

The format has been well-received. On a drizzling February night, over 50 attendees, ranging from their 20s to their 60s, fill the museum hall. And while many Talkback fans attend multiple programs, JSI program director Emma Barron says the audience shifts with each new topic. "We had tons of parents and educators at the session about the high stress level of Jewish day schools, and lots of kabbalahists and Speed Daters at the religious enticement program," Barron said. "So we’re really reaching a broad range of people," she added.

Talkback is as popular with its panelists as it is with its audience. Past panelists invited to dispute the heated issues hailed from Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist congregations. Organizations such as Jews for Judaism, The Chai Center and even Rolling Stone magazine have also sent representatives.

Daniel Greyber, rabbinic intern at the Conservative Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, found his participation in the Religious Enticement panel beneficial.

"There’s great value to this format, to people having a sincere discussion, and agreeing to disagree on topics that affect all Jewish people," Greyber said.

For Greyber, the Talkback format seemed particularly useful in flushing out distinctions between various Judaic schools of thought. "There are substantial differences between the movements that have real consequences for kol Yisrael. This is an important forum, because people can ask questions and learn where different organizations stand on these issues," Greyber said.

Audience member Levy echoed Greyber’s opinion. "The most enticing and informative format is this — an actual learning exchange."

The next Talkback series, "The L.A. Jewish Singles Scene: Can you ever meet Mr. or Ms. Right?" will be held Wednesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. at The Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. Admission is $4 (members) and $5 (nonmembers). Dessert reception follows. For more information call (310) 552-4595 ext. 21.

Virtual Shabbat


Within minutes of my opening the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP) Virtual Shabbat CD-ROM, people gathered around my desk. Klezmer music was coming from my computer, and kitchen cabinets, appliances and refrigerators were all dancing on my screen.

After an introduction by Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald, founder and director of NJOP, I clicked on a picture of a kitchen and started this lively revue; other choices could have been a dining room, a synagogue or something labeled Hebrew crash course.

You can’t help but be intrigued by this interactive multimedia product. Click on one of the cabinets, and its doors open and out fly dishes, rimmed in blue; a drawer with blue-handled flatware opens simultaneously, while a voice-over explains that a kosher kitchen has separate utensils for dairy, for meat and often for pareve (neutral). Clicking on other spots prompt similar visual and verbal lessons about kashrut and the Shabbat kitchen.

Playing around reveals a few quirks. There is no foolproof way to know what will open when you click on it; the prompter arrow sometimes changes when you are over something to open and sometimes doesn’t. The person who does not know what points are relevant might miss significant information.

Those criticisms noted, I wax more enthusiastic each time I pop in Virtual Shabbat. The CD-ROM covers no topic in depth, since its intended audience is unaffiliated and marginally affiliated Jews, but its breadth is impressive and it includes an admirable bibliography for anyone who wants to explore more deeply. (Click on the bookcase in the dining room for a literary menu.) The CD-ROM packet includes a paperback bentscher — a book that includes prayers and songs, with explanations and transliterations, to be used on Shabbat, holidays and other special occasions. With information provided on where to find each song in this particular bentscher, which is published by the National Council of Young Israel, a user can follow along and see how the Hebrew words fit in each tune.

For the person with some Hebrew skills but not much fluency, the CD-ROM offers a way to practice the prayers and zemirot with an infinitely patient teacher. For the person with no Hebrew, it provides a crash course on reading Hebrew. A motivated user can improve synagogue and home-observance skills dramatically with Virtual Shabbat. And with that added proficiency can come the confidence to “turn Friday night into Shabbat.”

To preview the CD-ROM, go to www.njop.org or call 1-800-44-TORAH. The cost is $19.95, with discounts for some NJOP program participants. — Deborah N. Cymrot, Washington Jewish Week