Amir Gutfreund, Writer of Wit and Power, Dies at 52

I first met Amir Gutfreund at the Pierre Hotel in the spring of 2007. To inaugurate the biggest Jewish literary prize ever, in honor of multi-millionaire Sami Rohr, literati, journalists and organizers had been gathered to one of Manhattan’s glitziest hotels. Gutfreund’s firm no-nonsense manner and even firmer sense of the absurd was in full force.

Read more: Forward, Culture

8 Whiskies for 8 Nights

Enough with the oil. Cut the grease of the festival of “lets-celebrate-religious zealotry-by-inducing-heart-disease.” Its time to talk about eight nights of truly miraculous golden liquids — ones that are indeed flammable, but ones that would only confirm your insanity were you to put a match to them. Give the kids their toys and retire to a comfortable chair to sit with friends and family and sip one of these nectars, which will, miraculously, transform neurotic in-laws into charming raconteurs and bigoted relatives into kindly old uncles.

Sderot: Israel in (Rocking) Microcosm

Everyone should be able to agree on Sderot. Leftists, rightists, Jews, non-Jews. A small settlement of folks — unwanted by the countries they’d lived in for centuries, and thrown together in an inhospitable land within internationally accepted boundaries by the will of the central government — have combined to make a vibrant community whose musical output has transformed the region’s culture.

All the Yiddish That’s Fit To Print, in Northampton, Mass.

Who knew that we loved to listen to the air? Until the death of analogue music we never realized we craved the warmth of vinyl’s atmospheric cracklings, but in 2014 record sales spiked 49%.

And so it is with printing. Once we no longer rely for our news on swathes of newsprint hurtling through factories of machines in Chicago, New Jersey or California, we grow nostalgic. We sit at our silent, infinitely changing computer screens and yearn for the comforting splash of print on plush paper: the reassuring finality of the linotype and its products.

Hunting for Tears For Fears

I was heading to Portland, Oregon — America’s hipster haven — to take in the inaugural Project Pabst, a weekend-long music festival from the makers of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Despite Pabst Brewing Company’s recent sale to a Russian owner, PBR, the post-ironic beer ne plus ultra, seemed perfectly suited to Portland. Home of semi-constant rain, famed locavore cuisine and an unparalleled density of bearded baristas, Portland is no bland Anywhere, USA to be experienced from the tedious safety of a chain motel. With notebooks, recording equipment and research in hand, this middle-aged, tea-drinking Yorkshireman was ready for his ethnographic adventure.

 

Part 1 — where I ate shungiku: Souciant, Music
Part II — where I arrive at the unicorn: Souciant, Music
Part III — where I discover Wyatt Earp’s brother: Souciant, Music
Part IV — where I devour a cock ‘n’ balls (rest assured, SFW): Souciant, Music
Plus, a surprising epilogue, featuring Curt Smith: Frontier Psychiatrist, Music