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October 02, 2008 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-10-02

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4B - Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


Events worth a
thousand photos

Forgotten holidays

Hollywood continues to
ignore the possibilities
of Jewish
holiday movies
DailyArts Writer
It's the most wonderful time of the
year - the time for film studios to start
promoting their holiday-themed (read:
Christmas) films. This year will be no
different, judging from the two Christ-
mas-themed movie trailers that have
already been released ("Four Christ-
mases" and "Nothing Like the Holi-
days"). But with Rosh Hashanah (the
Jewish New Year) occurring this week,
and next week's Yom Kippur (The Day
of Atonement, and the holiest day of the
year for the Jews) fast approaching, it's
reasonable to wonder where the Jewish
holiday films are.
When I was younger, I went through
what many Jewish kid goes through:
Christmas envy. I wanted a holiday that
everyone appeared to celebrate, where
miracles could happen (one guy deliver-
ing toys to everyone in one night? Impos-

sible!) and where everyfamilywas always
happy no matter what. Why did I want
this? Well, quite honestly, I saw it in the
movies. Films like "A Christmas Story"
and the unbelievably sappy "It's a Won-
derful Life" reminded me that no matter
what, I was different. I would never get
a Christmas tree or have Santa visit my
Let me clarify - I am not ashamed
to be a Jew in any way, and never was.
It's just that South Park had it so right
when its token Jewish character sang
"it's hard to be a Jew on Christmas." It
can be tricky to hang on to your Jewish
pride when faced with an endless bar-
rage of Christmas images aimed at you
by the media.
Maybe the problem is that Judaism
in the movies has become a joke - liter-
ally. The customs and traditions of my
people are mainly played for laughs -
the beards, the black hats, the "oy vey"
whines. Never have I seen a film that
truly celebrated Judaism and its tradi-
tions without mocking them. In a pre-
dominately Christian society, what's so
wrong about wanting to see films with
Jewish families living, loving and cel-
ebrating what makes us who we are?
If, as Mel Gibson - who I won't even
get started on - once spouted out, "the
Jews run Hollywood," why hasn't there

been a film for us, featuring our tradi-
tions and our holidays? Oh, and "Eight
Crazy Nights" does not, and should never,
count. Admittedly, the Jewish High Holi-
days aren't exactly fodder for big-budget
flicks or box office bucks (and apparently
they're also not important enough to
cancel class for). But why teach Jewish
children that the things they believe in
are any less important than those of their
Gentile friends?
It's an unavoidable fact that cinema
has a powerful effect on the masses.
To demonstrate to Jewish kids every-
where that there are others like them
out there is a powerful thing. Perhaps
fighting to see one Jewish holiday film
seems like a trivial cause, but it's about
more than that. It's about fighting to see
my family up there, to see the rituals I
have been performing since a toddler
portrayed as something magnificent,
not to mention just as important as any
other holiday.
I'm through being forced by Holly-
wood to embrace the holidays of reli-
gions other than my own. The values
of our holidays and the holidays of the
masses are virtually the same: Recog-
nize what's important in your life and
resolve to be a better person. If that's not
"It's a Wonderful Life" material, I don't
know what is.

Daily Arts Writer
Whether we're looking through our
own eyes or at a photographic represen-
tation, we're dealing with images all day,
every day.
On a beautiful day this week, I found
an interesting juxtaposition of images
on the Diag. Madonna's "Like a Virgin"
blasted into the open windows of class-
rooms in Angel Hall as the intro to a stu-
dent's loudspeaker announcement: "That
one goes out to all you voter virgins." To
the direct left of the voter registration/
DJ table was one of Ann Arbor's infamous
sin-haters, a suited gentleman wearing a
maize-and-blue-striped tie, carrying a
sign that read "Jesus Hates Sin."
There were a lot of ideas and ideolo-
gies floating around in the form of actual
speech and dialogue, as well as T-shirts
and signs. The students registering voters
responded with their own image, a sign
that read: "God Hearts Voters." By just
relaxing in the Diag on a beautiful fall
day, one could literally witness a political
dialogue without any (professional) poli-
ticians around.
I was lucky enough to catch this
moment in person, but of course, just shy
of 40,000 students missed it. It's more
than possible, however, that a photo-
graph of this scene in the Diag could cir-
culate among our in-boxes within a few
What would that photograph convey?
It might highlight new meanings and
perspectives to something I watched
through my own personal framework. To
those who didn't attend, their entire per-
spective of what went on would be based
on another person's lens.
. As Susan Sontag wrote in "Melancholy
Objects," "In America, the photographer
is not simply the person who records the
past, but the one who invents it." There is
something of a second reality that is cre-
ated with a photograph.
Among the dozens of e-mails I receive
a day related to the upcoming presiden-
tial election, I recently found a real gem.
Photographs of an "Alaska Women Reject
Palin" rally in Anchorage displayed
creative homemade signs and a sizable
crowd in a state that boasts a population
approximately equal to that of Memphis.
Elections this year and in the past
decade have relied much more heavily on

imagery - conventions are televised and
speeches can be watched online. E-mail
and YouTube have brought national
politics to a new level and a lot of politi-
cal dialogue takes place through these
means. For the one protest you may expe-
rience firsthand, there are dozens more
that you will only experience through
images and photographs. A photograph,
it can be argued, is a limited view of a
whole network. Were there anti-Obama
demonstrators in Anchorage that day?
What was the feeling in the air?
French philosopher Roland Barthes
believed that photography could act as a
"shelter from reality." By living in Ann
Arbor I have a holistic idea of the various
ideas and thoughts of residents here. But
I have very little concept of what goes on
4,000 miles away in Alaska other than
this one "Women Reject Palin" protest.
It's clear that as governor, Sarah Palin
was not rejected by a majority of Alaskan
residents. Photography can, as Sontag
believes, invent a story. But even thoughI
was not present in Anchorage, and know
The importance
of considering
different viewpoints
through photos.
little about it, I'm still able to infuse the
images with a greater understanding of
social interactions by looking at various
The reality invented through imag-
ery is not an individual task. Photos do
unfold an existence beyond what we see
on a day-to-day basis because we are
looking through someone else's view-
finder. I saw what happened on the Diag
firsthand on Tuesday but what did I miss
that the group sitting next to me saw? At
the same time, what am I missing outside
the frames of pictures from the anti-Pal-
in protest? There is no camera frame or
vision that will fully represent physical
reality, but we have the ability to com-
pound images and perspectives to form a
greater understanding of what the world
looks and feels like.


From Page 1B
the company's precious few spots. Imagine
trying to get a job as a Supreme Court Jus-
tice - one who happens to be partial toward
Italian arias - and you're on the right track.
Still, the challenge of breaking in hasn't
stopped 81 University students from trying.
For most Michigan students, the opera
department probably flies far under the
radar. This is not particularly surprising;
in fact, there is no opera department. It's
part of the School of Music, Theatre and
Dance's Voice Department, which itself has
only 15 faculty members. Although much of
the training is classical, only a few profes-
sors are focused on opera. The whole of the
concentration's resources are hidden away
on North Campus in that stronghold of the
fine arts, the Moore Building. And despite
the program's lack of presence on campus, it
is one of the nation's best, regularly sitting
near Julliard at the top of the list.
That hasn't made it much easier for Mich-
igan students; it's still an uphill battle, and a
critical one. Unlike most degrees that allow
for several career paths, a concentration in
opera gives essentially one option: opera.
This makes the competition especially

fierce. With every opera concentrator audi-
tioning for the same positions with almost
no alternatives, the battle can escalate into
an all-out war. This has forced students like
Vocal Performance major Wes Mason to
think ahead - way, way ahead.
"I've been working professionally since I
was 16," Mason said. "But I really got start-
ed with the Virginia Opera. They took a big
chance with me, handing out roles to an
18-year-old kid."
At this, Mason cracked a wide smile, and
with good reason. According to him, getting
roles at a young age is very important for
developing as a singer.
"Working in a professional environment;
you gain experience you can't get in class,
and that experience really makes a differ-
ence," Mason said. "If you want to do well,
walking onstage has to be second nature." In
this, Darren Woods agrees with him.
"The prepared singer, the one who knows
the whole opera and has a feeling for the
part onstage - he's just head and shoulders
above everyone else. He's so prepared for the
opportunity to sing for me."
It's fitting, then, that Mason was recently
awarded a role with the Fort Worth Opera's
world premiere production of Jorge Mar-
tin's "Before Night Falls." Mason and Woods
worked together at the Seagle Music Colony,

and Woods's focus on thorough prepara-
tion and dramatic interpretation must have
rubbed off. Mason described the audition-
ing process in measured terms, like someone
who'd clearly given it great thought.
"Well, you walk onto a stage - sometimes
it's a small room, sometimes an auditorium.
There'll be a panel of people, at least three.
Sometimes they're really great, like Darren. If
he knows the person who's auditioning, he'll
get up and give them a hug. Other panels never
look up - that's just the way they are." Even
speaking about it, Mason was alittle tense.
"Your first song should be short and
impressive," he said. "You want the panel to
get a feel for you, and hopefully they'll ask
you for a second piece, or even a third."
On the other side of the desk, the panel is
thinkingthe same thing.According to Woods,
the panel is hoping to request another song as
much as the singer is hoping to be asked.
"The people behind that table want to like
you. They're dying to like you." Opera is a
tough gig, and perhaps nothing is as natu-
rally terrifying as the audition, but Woods
urges students to remember one thing above
"As a listener, when you see someone come
up to audition, the one thing you're thinking
is 'Please, God, let them be the person I'm
looking for.' "




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