Sunday, December 31, 2006

80s Music Video Sunday #4

I love gadgets. Admittedly, I don't have many, aside from my recently acquired mp3 player and my company laptop (a little big for a gadget, but I'm including it since I still get a thrill whenever I "go wireless" in a cafe). Last week, I added a new cell phone to the gadget list. It's a sleek, sexy little number with a camera and quite a few other funky features, and I've been having fun getting it all sorted with my configuration preferences. Thanks to the camera, I've got a charming shot of the Little One in the bath as wallpaper. I've configured my Internet and Message settings, and have started fooling around with the games.

Call me a child, but one of my favorite "new cell phone activities" is configuring the ring tone. I mean, the way I see it, your chosen tone is often a reflection of your personality (so you can obviously imagine what I think about leaving the default Nokia tune). It can be a conversation piece among friends, or bring a smile (or a frown) to the faces of strangers. And these days, the selection is huge! The new phone comes stocked with a large collection of tones, making it easy for nearly anyone to find a ring tone that makes them happy. I could have been happy too, if not for the feeling that I settled. You see, when it comes to ring tones, I'm not just anyone, and I have this bizarre, deep-seated need to be a little different. Welcome to the world of ring tone downloads.

I admit it. I'm a ring tone downloader. I have to have a ring that most people don't have (which is why I opted not to download the once hugely popular "Take On Me", despite my great love for the song and college-girl crush on Morten Harket), and will patiently scroll through nearly all the ring tones that my cell phone service provider has to offer. This is also what made me realize that I must be old, because I'd never heard of most of the "latest hits" they were offering or the musicians who'd created the original tunes. I was chatting with Stephanie while I conducted my search, and she concluded that Cellcom must have made up the songs and groups, but I suspect she was just saying that in order to comfort my aging, wounded ego. How bad was it? I knew more songs in the Latin Music category than I did in the Rock and Pop categories. Ay, dios mio!

Where were the songs I knew? Sadly, relegated to special categories like 90s and 80s. Suddenly, despite the age gap between me and the obvious target audience, my spirits were lifted. Suddenly, life made sense again, as I listened to polyphonic clips of songs like "Big in Japan" by Alphaville, "Enola Gay" by OMD, and "Panic" by The Smiths, to name a few. As usual, I made a list of the top choices, narrowing down with repeated "listenings" to each, as well as questioning how others would respond. Usually, I also bounce my ideas off my friends, but since the regular victims confidants were involved in a flurry of holiday celebrations, I was left to decide on my own. And, since I'm utterly hopeless when it comes to making these kinds of decisions, I ended up downloading two ring tones. The first one was a no-brainer. I've mentioned before that one of my all-time favorite songs is "Mr. Jones and Me" by the Counting Crows, so when I discovered that I could download the ring tone (and it was a decent rendition, which is not always the case), it immediately jumped to the top of the list, and for now, it is the default ring tone, with the other one I've selected as the back up, to be switched to in the event that I feel like a change.

When it came to the second song, though, the list included all the 80s songs mentioned above, as well as one more. And that is the song I've chosen for today's 80's Music Video Sunday. A song that came out in late 1986, released by an alternative dance band out of England. I discovered the song during my first year in college, thanks to Chrissy, the woman living in the dorm room next to mine. Chrissy's taste in music tended to run to the alternative, and I learned a lot from her that year as I became familiar with such bands as The Smiths, Scruffy the Cat and others whose names simply escape me (due to my advanced age, no doubt). It was a heady time in my musical education – a time that I remember quite fondly (at least those parts that I can actually remember. After all, those were the college years...).

I fell in love with a lot of sounds and songs in those days, and today's "winning selection" is one of my favorites. Ladies, gentlemen and others, it gives me great pleasure to share one of my favorite songs from the 80s. New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle".

Bizarre Love Triangle
New Order
(lyrics courtesy of LyricsDomain)

Every time I think of you
I feel shot right through with a bolt of blue
It's no problem of mine but it's a problem I find
Living a life that I can't leave behind
There's no sense in telling me
The wisdom of a fool won't set you free
But that's the way that it goes
And it's what nobody knows
While every day my confusion grows
Every time I see you falling
I get down on my knees and pray
I'm waiting for that final moment
You'll say the words that I can't say

I feel fine and I feel good
I'm feeling like I never should
Whenever I get this way, I just don't know what to say
Why can't we be ourselves like we were yesterday
I'm not sure what this could mean
I don't think you're what you seem
I do admit to myself
That if I hurt someone else
Then I'll never see just what we're meant to be
Every time I see you falling
I get down on my knees and pray
I'm waiting for that final moment
You'll say the words that I can't say

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

As the dialog turns...

It's been fascinating to watch the exchange that's been going on in the comments section from the piece that I posted last week regarding the conference in Herzliya. The comments are still trickling in - both here and on the cross-post over at Good Neighbours - and it's interesting to see how the threads develop differently on each site. For the most part, it has been a true dialog, and I've been very impressed that most of the commenters have maintained a degree of civility and respect, though of course, that hasn't always been the case (especially in comments on other blogs, where I have been referred to as an idiot, my blog has been renamed as nothing nothing, and one person has referred to some of my blogging colleagues as a "sorority of North American aliyah blogger friends" - not sure where that leaves you, Don). Particularly annoying are those who feel the need to explain the situation to us, as if we don't truly understand what's "really" happening, or those I mentioned above who feel the need to resort to name-calling, simply because we do not agree with their opinions.

While following all of the exchanges and directions that the subject of howIsrael's PR should be handled and the role it plays in forming Israel's reputation has taken, I came across the following article written by Larry Derfner, which appeared in The Jerusalem Post Online edition on December 6th. The piece touches upon many of the points I raised in my post, addressing the need for core-level PR policy changes as opposed to simply continuing to intensify a policy that - in my opinion - just doesn't work.

Rattling the Cage: The hype that failed
Larry Derfner,

Dec. 6, 2006

Nobody and nothing in the world has an army of advocates, defenders, PR people, marketers, spin-meisters and image-polishers like Israel has. This army isn't made up just of the government, but of Jews and Judeophiles all over the world, especially in the US. It includes the entire alphabet soup of American Jewish organizations, right-wing "media watchdogs" like CAMERA and Honest Reporting, hundreds of Jewish newspapers and Web sites, Alan Dershowitz, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Republican Party, the Christian Right, FOX News and an assortment of other forces.

Yet despite this incredible mobilization, Israel's image, its "brand,"
couldn't be in worse shape. The latest evidence comes from a polling
organization called Nation Brands Index, which asked over 25,000 consumers worldwide their impressions of 36 different countries, and found that Israel finished 36th, at the bottom - by a wide margin.

Most Jews, I think, would blame these results on anti-Semitism, on hostile foreign media coverage of Israel, and on Israel's incompetence at making its case to the world. The solution, most Jews would probably say, is to redouble the hasbara effort, to find winning personalities and persuasive voices to carry Israel's banner, to come up with fresh angles and arguments, to speak with "one voice," to stay "on message"; and, at the same time, to "rebrand" Israel as a land not of war, but of beautiful beaches, dazzling nightlife, Nobel scientists and violin virtuosos.

I find this to be a self-righteous attitude, typical of the staunchly "pro-Israel" community, and also pathetic because it has led, and will continue to lead, to nothing but failure.

So long as Israel is seen in the media beating the crap out of Arabs,
especially Arab civilians, it will be judged a bully, and nobody likes a bully. So long as Israel inflicts many, many times more damage on its enemy than it suffers at the enemy's hands - as was the case in Lebanon - Israel will come out looking bad. As long as Israel fights by the principle of dozens upon dozens of eyes for an eye - as it has been doing in Gaza - Israel will remind the world not of David, but of Goliath.

I'm afraid that anyone who absorbed the news from Lebanon and Gaza, and who does not believe in the principle of myriad eyes for an eye, has to say that Israel has pretty well earned that image of late.

THIS IS not to say, however, that the world sees the Palestinians or
Hizbullah and its followers as a bunch of little Davids, or innocents. The Nation Brands Index didn't measure the popularity of the Palestinian Authority, or south Lebanon, or Syria, or Iran; if it had, Israel might not have finished last on the list. The world's consumers don't want anything to do with terrorists and Islamic fanatics, either. They're sick and tired of Israel and its enemies. They think we're all crazy, and they're basically right (even though I would say Israel is still less crazy than its enemies, and a lot less crazy than the worst of them).

So the standard hasbara approach of insisting that Israel is 100% right
while the Arabs are 0% right, that Arab violence is strictly aggression while Israeli violence is strictly self-defense, and that Israel's hand is perpetually outstretched in peace but the Arabs only want to exterminate us - that approach is doomed. It only works on the home crowd - those who love nothing more than cheering Israel and booing the Arabs - and they, obviously, don't need convincing. To any disinterested, balanced observer of the friction between Israel and its neighbors, the standard hasbara approach is ridiculously one-sided, propagandistic, not to be taken seriously at all.

AS FOR "rebranding" - which means changing the subject from "the conflict" to all the cool and groovy things about Israel - this is insipid. This is an insult to people's intelligence. It's an attempt to airbrush certain little details - specifically, endless war and hatred - out of the Israeli picture in the belief that people are too dumb to notice, and that they will begin associating Israel not with war and hatred, but with dancing in Tel Aviv and hi-tech in Herzliya Pituah.

And in the face of continuous, utter failure, the hasbara army marches on. In her story on the Nation Brands Index, The Jerusalem Post's Tovah Lazaroff reported: "The Foreign Ministry's Director of Public Affairs Amir Gissin said the survey underscored for him the importance of the new nation-branding drive Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni launched this fall."

However, Simon Anholt, head of Nation Brands Index, drew the opposite conclusion, reported Lazaroff: "The most persuasive and memorable facts, unfortunately for Israel, were about the conflict, so the image of Israel as a bully was more likely to stick in people's minds rather than the idea of Israel as an expert in solar energy, Anholt said. These images are 'so negative and powerful that they contaminated everything else in the index,' Anholt said."

PERSONALLY, I don't care that much about Israel's image. I know that
Muslims, on the whole, and hard-line leftists turn everything against Israel no matter what its enemies do, but I find that the Western world, in general, takes a fair view of Israel's role in the conflict. I have no problem, for instance, with the coverage in CNN or The New York Times. And again, regarding those 25,000 consumers in the survey, my strong hunch is that they are at least as put off by Israel's enemies as they are by Israel.

So I am not a soldier in the hasbara army. But if I was, and if I had
sufficient rank to influence that army's battle plan, I'd suggest abandoning the children of light vs children of darkness theme and forget about the rebranding gimmick. Instead, I think the best way to win friends for Israel among the undecided out there is to lay off the propaganda and bullshit and talk like one reasonable, balanced, intelligent adult to another.

In other words, to say to people that Israel isn't as good as its press
releases, nor as bad as its enemies say. To concede that Israel is sometimes in the wrong, sometimes too eager to fight, sometimes steps on its neighbors' toes - but to remind people that the neighbors here include the likes of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah, so it's not as if Israel's fractious behavior comes out of nowhere; there have been, and continue to be, provocations. In all, we should admit frankly that while the Arabs owe us plenty of apologies, we owe the Arabs, certainly the Palestinians, some apologies of our own.

I think people in the world would be relieved to hear an Israeli message
like that - and they do hear it from Israelis like Amos Oz and David Grossman, who, I'm convinced, are much better, much more effective "spokesmen" for Israel than, say, Netanyahu or Dershowitz. They're more believable. Their portrayal of Israel as a country that does wrong as well as right rings truer. It makes Israel seem a recognizable nation of human beings, instead of an impossible nation of coloring-book good guys.

But finally, the only thing that's going to radically change the world's
opinion of Israel is a return to a peace process worth the name, such as the one that went on between Israel and Egypt, and, for a few years, between Israel and the Palestinians. All the rest is hasbara, which, we should know by now, is a losing strategy.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

80s Music Video Sunday #3

Growing up Jewish in the US, come holiday season, it is hard to miss all of the pre-Christmas festivities. As a child, I sat on Santa's lap quite a few times. I've watched the Christmas specials (including the Christmas episodes of all my favorite shows) attended Christmas parties, helped friends decorated their Christmas trees, and even attended Christmas Midnight Mass once with nrg, just to see what it was like (very nice!), though I did stop short "drinking the wine and chewing the wafer", fearing repercussions of godly proportions. And of course, who could escape the veritable plethora of Christmas songs, given that they were played anywhere and everywhere. Like any other American kid, I knew the words to "Rudolph", "Jingle Bells" ("Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..."), and "Mama Got Run Over by a Reindeer".

I'm not sure why, but for some reason, now that I live in a country where Christmas isn't a national holiday (and this is, of course, despite the fact that Israel is where it all started), I feel rather nostalgic for all that pre-holiday excitement. Not so much the piped-in muzak at the malls, but more the Christmassy feeling in the air, the all-encompassing Christmas spirit. It happens every year - I blogged about it last year as well. To remind myself that other parts of the world are currently in the throes of the holiday season, I keep a selection of Christmas songs on my computer, songs ranging from the Bing Crosby and David Bowie duet of "Little Drummer Boy – Peace on Earth", to "Snoopy's Christmas" by the Royal Guardsmen, to The Pogues singing "Fairytale of New York", and many more. My non-Jewish friends are very impressed, while a number of my Israeli friends think it's actually a bit strange (but I am used to that...).

When it come to it, though, I'm still an 80s girl at heart, and if you were to ask me what my all-time favorite Christmas song is, I'd have to say Band-Aid's "Do they Know it's Christmas". I remember when it came out, the heavy airtime it received on my top 40s radio station, the video, which simply showed the song being recorded by such 80s greats as Bono, George Michael, Boy George, Banarama, and so on. Those voices. I love those voices and I love that song. I bought the single, of course, and I believe I even have it with me here in Israel. The song was written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure in order to raise money (and world awareness, of course) for Ethiopian famine victims.

Before we get to the business of the video and the lyrics, I just want to take a moment to wish a Merry Christmas to all of my readers who celebrate, and to those of you who don't but still live in countries where it's just another day off from work (unlike Israel, where it's just another regular work day), have a great day, and watch out for those Chinese restaurants that use MSG...

Do they Know it's Christmas Time

Performed by Band Aid
Written by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure (1984)

It's Christmastime
There's no need to be afraid
At Christmastime, we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmastime

But say a prayer

Pray for the other ones
At Christmastime it's hard, but when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging
chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you

And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life
(Oooh) Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

(Here's to you) raise a glass for everyone
(Here's to them) underneath that burning sun
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Feed the world
Feed the world

Feed the world

Let them know it's Christmastime again

Feed the world
Let them know it's Christmastime again

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stop Being Verbal Vegetarians!

Over the past two days, I've been attending various sessions of a conference disturbingly entitled, "The Media as a Theater of War, the Blogosphere, and the Global Battle for Civil Society". When I arrived yesterday after work, I joined a group of bloggers sitting in the back including Lisa, Yael, Rinat, and Allison. Having communicated with Lisa several times during the course of the day, I had a general idea of what to expect. Nevertheless, I was still shocked – shocked by the bleak outlook being forecasted by the speakers and the negative attitudes they projected. Journalists were described by one speaker as being craven creatures, and Israel was consistently portrayed as the innocent victim. It was all deeply unsettling, but nothing compared to the session I attended before lunch today, entitled "Paradigm Shifts: Radical Reorientations". The whole "Israel as the innocent victim" theme continued to play a large role, but what really made me bang my head repeatedly on the table (not literally, obviously, as my table mate Martin Solomon (that's Mr. Solomonia, for those of you in the know) would surely have developed an instantaneous negative opinion of me, as opposed to those whose negative opinions of me have been allowed to form over time) were the words of panelist Manfred Gerstenfeld, the chairman of the steering committee for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Dr. Gerstenfeld kept referring to the Palestinians as "the enemy", and made statements such as "incitement to murder is an integral part of Palestinian society" and "…fighting a society permeated with genocidal intentions". He suggested that we must "turn the accusers into the accused", and that we should "stop being verbal vegetarians".

It was a truly horrifying experience, and between the waves of nausea I was feeling, all I kept thinking was that thank god Charles was not in the room to hear this racist rant. I was angry enough, and would have been morbidly embarrassed had this utterly charming Lebanese-American blogger and conference participant heard what this man was saying. I was also thinking about Jostein Gaarder, who claimed in his defense last summer that he had only intended for Norwegians to read his article, and had not expected that it would be translated into English and sent around the world. Perhaps Dr. Gerstenfeld didn't think that his words would be transmitted around the world as well, or perhaps he just doesn't care. All I know is that it's words and ideas like his that have contributed to the overwhelmingly negative world opinion vis a vis Israel, and presentations like his that damage our credibility when we are forced to hem and haw our way out of yet another debacle, while at the same time attempting to claim moral superiority.

I came away from this conference feeling rather frustrated. Perhaps the sessions that I missed were more balanced (though my sources tell me that they weren't), but I was given the impression that these speakers essentially felt that there is no hope for peace, and that we would be repeatedly locked in conflict with our "enemies" until the end of time. As I mentioned earlier, a recurring theme was that of Israel as the victim. No one seemed to think that a shift in Israel's policies regarding its neighbors was required, and instead focused on the need to somehow put a positive spin on these policies and try to convince the world that we are the party in the right. I found this concept to be utterly maddening and ignorant. It means that there is no hope for the future, and that our attempts to break down barriers and try to achieve a state of normalcy and mutual respect are futile, which is something that I simply refuse to accept.

The one shining light in the conference was the session entitled "Cyberspace as a Media Revolution: Implications for Israeli Public Diplomacy", which featured presentations given by a number of prominent local and foreign bloggers. Lisa and Charles spoke of friendships forged across borders and the importance of these special, fragile connections, and Michael Totten touched on this subject as well. Charles challenged the audience to start taking a look around the Arab blogosphere, leaving comments and starting dialogs, and part of me hopes that he made these people uncomfortable enough to start thinking outside of their narrow little boxes.

Sessions aside, though, I'd have to say that my favorite part of the conference was having the opportunity to meet so many wonderful bloggers face-to-face, people whose blogs I'd been reading, people I was keen to meet. I finally had the chance to meet the fabulous Savtadotty, whose granddaughter will be marrying my son; Allison, one of the very first Israeli bloggers, and certainly one of the first bloggers to make it onto my blogroll; Idan and Tif of Pixane; Rinat; Don Radlauer, who is as charming and funny as he is intelligent; the lovely Ola Hadasha, whose blog I only recently discovered, though she will surely become one of my regular reads; Charles – who receives the same compliments as Don; and Michael Totten, whose blog I turn to whenever I want to find out about the latest events in Lebanon.

Initially, I wasn't sure that I was going to attend any of this conference, but I'm glad I did. Despite the direction taken by many of the panelists, I feel like I've recharged my batteries, reawakened a long dormant excitement for social causes, taking me back to my student days. I'm sure that must sound terribly cliché, and I'm also relatively certain that I'll come back down to earth with tomorrow morning's battle of the train commuters, but for now, I'm feeling good. I attended an interesting, controversial conference with interesting, controversial people, and I did it just for me. And for the free sushi they served at the blogger reception… ;-)

* This post cross-posted to Good Neighbours.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

80s Music Video Sunday #2

Last night was the second night of Hanukah Hanukkah Channuka Chanukah, and shortly after lighting the candles, the Little One fell asleep. The poor kid was positively exhausted, having not slept at all during the day, so when he put his head on my lap and closed his eyes, we realized (and indeed hoped) that it would be the beginning of his night's sleep. At eight-o'clock on the dot, Husband's brother – aka The Babysitter – knocked on the door. We left a few cursory instructions for what to do in the event that the Little One woke up while we were out (we needn't have bothered, as he ended up sleeping until 6:20 this morning), grabbed our winter coats (it was six degrees celsius outside!), and ran down to the car.

We spent the evening out with a group of friends, celebrating a birthday. We're still waiting for the foccacia to arrive, but other than that, I do believe that a good time was had by all. The service was atrocious and some of the dishes weren't as good as they should have been, but my gnocchi with veal and mushrooms in a red wine cream sauce tasted sensational (though truthfully, the gnocchi was a bit chewy, but the dish still tasted amazing). Hot cider with wine (my new favorite drink) ended the meal quite nicely, and we managed to make it home before midnight.

My friend Z (with whom I split two main courses - the one described above and a seafood fettucini dish, causing much confusion for the waiter, who was slow to realize that the man I'd chosen to twirl pasta with was not my husband) mentioned that he and his family had recently been driving up North, and during the course of the ride, they put on a CD of 80s music. One of the songs was by a-ha, and he and his wife R went crazy trying to remember the name of the lead singer, even going so far as to make a round of phone calls, but without any luck. At this point in his story, I interrupted and said "It's Morten Harket". Everyone who'd been paying attention to the story just looked at me (with what I've chosen to believe was reverent awe). Clearly, they didn't know who they were dealing with. I chastised R and Z for not having called me at the time, as this was definitely my area of expertise. We continued to discuss 80s music, and I told Z about 80s Music Video Sunday and my quandary regarding which song to choose for today's post. A number of options were discussed as we showed off our knowledge of 80s music trivia, and I narrowed it down to two choices. It wasn't an easy decision, as both songs are a lot of fun. One leans towards reggae, while the other is pure 80s, and appears on nearly every 80s music compilation I've ever heard. Somewhere, I believe I've got both singles, unless my parents unloaded them when they moved last year. The song I didn't choose will inevitably appear in another 80s Music Video Sunday post, as it's one of my faves.

The song I did choose was released in September 1982, by a group of four schoolboys from Birmingham, England. It took the world (at least my little corner of it) by storm with its catchy beat infused with reggae, and though we all knew and loved the song, we'd all have been hard-pressed to truly sing along, as the words were completely unintelligible. To this day, I still don't know the real words, but a quick internet search has filled this gaping hole in my life. Not surprisingly, the actual lyrics bear only a passing resemblance to what I always thought they were, so reading through them has truly been an eye-opening experience. Having read them, it's probably best that we didn't know them then, as we'd have made total idiots of ourselves as awkward little white-bread American pre-teens from the 'burbs trying to sing lines like, "Give me little music make me wind up me waist", "You play it on the radio a so me say", or this classic line, "'cause the spirit of jah you know he leads you on." This group remained together for a while, but the boys were never able to match the success of their first and only hit, placing them in that infamous 80s sub-genre of one-hit wonders, many of which, will undoubtedly be featured in the 80s Music Video Sunday series.

Anyway, back to our song. Figured it out yet? Did the lines above jar your memories at all? Without further adieu, I present to you today's 80s music video. Pass the Dutchie, by Musical Youth. The lyrics appear below the video, and now that we finally know what they really are, I expect that we'll all be sleeping much better at night, having crossed another burning musical question off our list.

Pass The Dutchie
Musical Youth
Music & Lyrics : Mittoo - Simpson - Ferguson

This generation
Rules the nation
With version

Music happen to be the food of love
Sounds to really make you rub and scrub

I say: Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
It a gonna burn, give me music make me jump and prance
It a go done, give me the music make me rock in the dance

It was a cool and lovely breezy afternoon
(How does it feel when you've got no food ?)
You could feel it 'cause it was the month of June
(How does it feel when you've got no food ?)
So I left my gate and went out for a walk
(How does it feel when you've got no food ?)
As I pass the dreadlocks' camp I heard them say
(How does it feel when you've got no food ?)

Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
It a gonna burn, give me music make me jump and prance
It a go done, give me the music make me rock in the dance

So I stopped to find out what was going on.
(How does it feel when you've got no food ?)
'Cause the spirit of Jah, you know he leads you on
(How does it feel when you've got no food ?)
There was a ring of dreads and a session was there in swing
(How does it feel when you've got no food ?)
You could feel the chill as I seen and heard them say
(How does it feel when you've got no food ?)

Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
It a gonna burn, give me music make me jump and prance
It a go done, give me the music make me rock in the dance

'Cause me say listen to the drummer, me say listen to the bass
Give me little music make me wind up me waist
Me say listen to the drummer, me say listen to the bass
Give me little music make me wind up me waist, I say

Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
It a gonna burn, give me music make me jump and prance
It a go done, give me the music make me rock in the dance

You play it on the radio, a so me say, we a go hear it on the stereo
A so me know you a go play it on the disco
A so me say we a go hear it on the stereo

Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
It a gonna burn, give me music make me jump and prance
It a go done, give me the music make me rock in the dance

I say east, say west, say north and south (on the left hand side)
This is gonna make us jump and shout (on the left hand side)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Well, whaddya think?

So, after hours of pondering, tweaking, and contemplating tossing my computer (not to mention alternately badgering and complaining to Mr. Anglosaxy), I've managed to create a new look for Something Something. There's still a bit of cleaning up to do, and I'm still trying to figure out how to add photos to the header without everything going totally wonky, but essentially, it's done.

Well, whaddya think? Do we like it? I wanted to add some color without making it look tacky (and the line between slick and tacky is rather thin, dontcha know?). Suggestions are welcome, especially from people who can match colors and create brilliant color schemes. Sadly, I'm not one of them, and relied on the color palette's automatic display of colors that matched whatever color I happened to be using at the time. Truly. If there was a Garanimals line of clothing for adults, I'd be a totally dedicated customer...

Here I go, running at the mouth (running at the fingers?) again. I do have to run, as it's time to start thinking about dinner for the Little One (not to mention his mother and father). I'll be back soon enough, though, and when I do return, I expect to start seeing your comments trickle in. Don't make me come over there...


Greetings and salutations. I've just upgraded to Blogger Beta, so please bear with me as I work out the kinks throughout the day today. Eventually, all original lists, photos, icons, etc. will have returned to their usual locations. Patience is a virtue, so let's see how virtuous I can be during what promises to be a somewhat annoying tweaking session.

For now, though, I'm off to the third lesson of my women's self-defense class, so I'll be back with you shortly. I'm learning all sorts of interesting moves, so whatever you do, don't come at me from behind or try to piss me off to my face. Either way, you're goin' down...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Introducing 80s Music Video Sunday

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of The Beatles. I had albums, singles, and photographs, as well as a funky, velvety poster on the back of my bedroom door, which remained there (along with the a-ha poster over the bed) until my parents moved house last year. Even when I was in elementary school, my account name for our school district's computer network was "Ringo", after Ringo Starr. I watched the movies, read books about The Beatles – anything I could get my hands on, really. I even knew the names of earlier band members like Stuart Sutcliffe (who left the band to pursue an art career, and then tragically passed away from a cerebral hemmorhage in 1962) and Pete Best (who was later replaced by Ringo Starr). And of course, like most other Beatles fans, I was stunned when I heard about John Lennon's murder, even though I was only 12 years old at the time. I don't remember whether or not I cried, though I remember being very sad.

Shortly after the murder, which occurred 26 years ago this past Friday, a new John Lennon song began to receive very heavy airplay. "(Just Like) Starting Over" was released on October 9th – John's birthday, just two months prior to the shooting. I believe I've still got the single somewhere, even though I don't own a record player anymore. Whenever I hear the song, it reminds me of that sad period following his death.

I've decided to start a new, weekly feature here at Something Something. Every Sunday (starting today!) will be 80s Music Video Sunday, and each week I'll be sharing one of my favorite oldies, along with my usual chatty commentary, blasting us all back to the past, when music was fab and hair and clothing much less so. This week's selected music video has been chosen to honor the memory of the incredibly talented John Lennon, whose senseless murder shook up our world and chipped away at my 12 year-old innocence. This song isn't necessarily one that reminds you of the 80s genre, but it seemed rather appropriate as we mark the anniversary of Lennon's death.

The lyrics (courtesy of Lyrics Domain)...

(Just Like) Starting Over

by John Lennon

Our life together is so precious together,
We have grown - we have grown,
Although our love is still special,
Let's take our chance and fly away somewhere alone.

It's been so long since we took the time,
No-one's to blame,
I know time flies so quickly,
But when I see you darling,
It's like we both are falling in love again,
It'll be just like starting over - starting over.

Everyday we used to make it love,
Why can't we be making love nice and easy,
It's time to spread our wing's and fly,
Don't let another day go by my love,
It'll be just like starting over - starting over.

Why don't we take off alone,
Take a trip far, far away,
We'll be together on our own again,
Like we used to in the early days.

Well, well, well darling,
It's been so long since we took the time,
No-one's to blame,
I know time flies so quickly,
But when I see you darling,
It's like we both are falling in love again,
It'll be just like starting over - starting over.

Everyday we used to make it love,
Why can't we be making love nice and easy,
It's time to spread our wing's and fly,
Don't let another day go by my love,
It'll be just like starting over - starting over.

Our life together is so precious together,
We have grown - we have grown,
Although our love is still special,
Let's take our chance and fly away somewhere alone.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Meme Me

Do you remember, as kids, there would always be that one kid who was forever walking around with a sign stuck to his back that read "Kick me"? I think I must have one on my back that says "Meme me", as I'm forever getting meme'd. This time, the culprit is Lisa, whose blog, by the way, has just been announced as the winning blog in the "Best Non-Muslim Blog" category (which seeks to honor the "blog written by a non-Muslim that is the most respectful of Islam and seeks genuine dialogue with Muslims") of the Brass Crescent Awards, which, according to their website, "honors the best writers and thinkers of the emerging Muslim blogosphere". Woohoo! Obviously, I'm biased, but I can't think of anyone more deserving of such an award than our Lisa.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. The meme.

  1. Grab the book closest to you.
  2. Open to page 123, go down to the fifth sentence
  3. Post the text of next 3 sentences on your blog
  4. Name of the book and the author
  5. Tag three people
"Suicide's out of the question... it just doesn't figure. I know everything
there is to know about her. She'd never kill herself."
"Murder on a Kibbutz"

By Batya Gur

Tagging: Beth, Jessica, Anglosaxy.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ministry of What?

Whew! I must have just woken up from a very long, very bad dream. I dreamed that the President was accused of rape and sexual harassment, the Justice Minister was on trial for sexual harassment, and Israel went to war with Hizbullah (I mean, really! I had to dream that! How absurd to think that Israel would conduct an actual war with a terror organization!). I dreamed that Israel went back into Gaza, that Israeli soldiers were kidnapped, that Palestinian factions were firing Kassams at Sderot. I dreamed about strikes at the airport and general public-sector strikes. I dreamed that every time I turned around, Israel was in deeper and deeper, bother domestically and internationally, that poverty was getting worse and worse, that budget cuts were becoming increasingly harsh and once again taking a toll on the weakest sectors of our society.

Clearly, it must have all been part of some bizarre nightmare, and none of those things actually happened. Obviously, our national budget is balancing quite nicely, and we have some extra money in the coffers to play around with. I mean, what other plausible explanation could there possibly be for the government to give the go ahead for the creation of the Ministry of Magic Strategic Threats, a ministry which even the Attorney General admits that, "there exists a lack of clarity on the role of this ministry, and this considering the government's decision that 'the establishment of this office is not intended to reduce the authority of another minister in the domain of his or her ministry." Twenty staff positions have been approved for this new ministry. Apparently, it takes that many pencil pushers to decide what this office is supposed to do (or maybe it's just nineteen, and the twentieth individual will be in charge of taking food orders and making latté runs for the others).

Perhaps I'm the naive one who doesn't understand how politics works (hey, I thought the government was supposed to serve the citizens, not themselves!), but it seems to me that creating an entirely new ministry (especially one with such a bogus-sounding name) in order to show appreciation to the head of a large party for his role in strengthening a weak, corrupt, dysfunctional government is, hmmm, how shall I put this – a bit out of line. It would be out of line under any normal circumstances (though what passes for normal in this country stretches way beyond anything that my imagination can muster), but given that the politician in question is Avigdor Liberman, well, shit! The man and his party practically advocate transfer of the Israeli Arab population (offering financial incentives for them to leave qualifies, does it not?), and their platform is nothing short of racist and divisive – not really a recipe for success when society is already falling apart, I should think (but then again, what the hell do I know, anyway?). With this snarky little move, our politicians have proven once again that saving their own (very expensive) seats is more important than ensuring the integrity of our government. How do these people sleep at night, how do they look themselves in the mirror every morning, knowing that they're wasting funds that could be spent in a thousand different ways to improve the lives of regular Israelis?

How do the Labor politicians sleep with themselves, knowing that they're also sleeping with Liberman? To be honest, I never expected that Olmert would amount to much as Prime Minister. I never had high hopes for him (little did I know just how badly he would manage to botch things or how quickly he would manage to do so, but that's an entirely different kettle of fish). I sort of had a feeling that he would fly in whatever direction the wind took him, never letting his principles get in the way of his political career. As a result, while I am disappointed in his behavior, I can't say that I'm surprised. He's an opportunist who got lucky beyond his wildest dreams when Arik Sharon was struck down, and he's damned if he's going to give up his seat without a fight. Then there's the Labor party, associated with the political left and a proponent of workers' rights and welfare issues. I didn't vote for them, but considered doing so. I essentially agreed with their platform issues, and for the most part, liked their key politicians. Despite their relative appeal to my sensibilities, the idea of voting for them just didn't feel right, and in the end, I went with my gut and felt good about doing so. Thank bloody god! Apparently, unlike the majority of the Labor party members, my principles are important to me, and I'd have been quite perturbed if I'd voted for a party that forsook its ideals and instead opted to get in bed with the devil, just so they could keep the bed.

What I want to know is, why is it that when all of these people start playing around in bed together, I'm the one who wakes up with a bad taste in my mouth...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Been there, done that...

Thanks to Beth for posting this funky little meme... If I've done it, I've bolded it.

Things I've Done

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said “I love you” and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper

21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse of the moon.
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Played touch football
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
(starting a free women's self-defence course being offered at work, thanks to an escaped rapist being on the loose)
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party

75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert”
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Kissed on the first date
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Touched a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart
111. Helped an animal give birth
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Touched a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ
148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident
150. Saved someone’s life

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Why would I consciously decide to take myself to a mentally bad place?

It's interesting to see the way this blog has evolved. In the beginning, I wrote extensively about current events, throwing in the occasional personal (or at least non-political) anecdote mostly when my former blog partner cajoled me into doing so. I reveled in writing serious, controversial posts, going on about the topic du jour whether it was politics, disengagement issues, railroad issues, etc. My posts ranged from serious to humorous, with healthy doses of sarcasm and cynicism thrown in for good (or bad) measure. Living in Israel provides enormous amounts of fodder for blogging, and it's often just a matter of picking which of today's news stories you want to write about the most. Some days have so many noteworthy events taking place that you just can't decide which one to choose. Other days, you "make do", so to speak, with a personal piece.

As many of my faithful readers have probably noticed, for the past few months, my writing has overwhelmingly taken a turn towards the personal and away from the political. There's a part of me that's disappointed in that, as I'd never really intended to change the focus, but to be honest, lately, I seem to have lost my passion for current events issues. The war this past summer sapped a lot of my energy, and I think I haven't completely recovered. It took a huge emotional toll in so many different ways. It affected my relationships, often forcing me to accept certain, difficult, truths about people in my life. Some rifts were reparable while others were not. It affected my feelings about this country, especially those in power. Feelings of great anger intermingled with feelings of frustration, fear and disappointment, all directed in so many different directions. I felt weak on so many levels, weak and disenchanted.

Since the end of the war, we've been forced to deal not only with our failures vis a vis Lebanon, but also the gross dysfunctionality (is that even word? I don't care – it works for me) of our government and our society. Between the many politicians in various stages of investigation (whether it be fraud, accepting bribes, shady real estate deals, sex-related charges, etc), to military and political leaders failing to take responsibility for their actions, to escaped violent sex offenders, to public-sector strikes, life is just too depressing, and quite frankly, I simply don't have the energy to write about it. Our beloved country is slowly but surely falling apart on so many different levels; it is rotting from the top down, and I often find myself utterly astonished by just how badly things are going for us lately. The people in power seem to be more concerned with saving their own asses than with saving the country, and like many other people I know, I'm tired of watching their pathetic games and power plays.

What is perhaps even sadder than being witness to these political antics is having to admit that as disillusioned as we are by our current leaders, there is absolutely no one out there who can replace them, no one who can set us back on the right track. We are, in a sense, stuck with what we've got, and there are no viable alternatives. Judging by how quickly our society is unraveling, I have very little hope for our future. Life goes from bad to worse on a daily basis, and when you think it can't get any worse, somehow, we manage to go even further downhill, sort of like a snowball that goes faster and faster, gathering speed and size as it hurls towards the bottom, only to crash and fall apart.

These days, I don't really have anything good to say about what's happening in my country, which is why, I suppose, I have chosen to say almost nothing about it at all. I'm burned out, and cannot be bothered to tackle so much negativity. There are just so many critical posts I can write without starting to sound redundant, or without depressing myself even more about our current state of affairs, and why would I want to do that? Why would I consciously decide to take myself to a mentally bad place? I want to enjoy my writing, not feel as though it's a chore, that my heart's not in it. What would be the point? I mean, I'm glad you're all out there, but when it comes down to it, I'm writing for me, and doing what makes me feel good. So for now, whether I intended for it to happen or not, my focus seems to be shifting.

Of course, that could all change tomorrow or next week. We'll just have to wait and see now, won't we?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Test results...

No time for a "real" post, though I do have one brewing. Perhaps I'll manage to write it up during the next few days. In the meantime, some test results I'm rather proud of...

You are 62% Bittch!

Wow! You really are becoming a real Bittch! Has anyone ever told you that? I think you need to calm it down! Before you can't turn back from being a big Bittch! Being Cruel isn't that fun!

How much of a B*tch Are you?
Create MySpace Quizzes

Monday, November 20, 2006

Crossing the language barrier

As you all know, we have recently been entertaining the American grandparents, who came to Israel for a brief visit with the progeny. I think one of the hardest aspects of raising a child in a distant culture is that my son is missing out on getting to know the American side of his family. At age two-and-a-half, he has had five extended visits with his grandparents – three here in Israel and two in the United States. We have pictures of them around the house, and talk to them on the telephone every week. We look at the photos of family and friends from far away and practice their names – I want him to understand that even though we don't see these people everyday, they are still an important part of our lives.

It's not easy explaining to a two-year old why he can't see his grandparents more frequently, especially given the fact that we live in a society where extended family plays such a significant role in day-to-day life. Here in Israel, it is not uncommon for families to live relatively close to one another, or for grandparents to pop in for an afternoon visit or to babysit. Over the fifteen years that I've been living here, I've grown accustomed to seeing friends and family abroad only once or twice a year (if that much), and to missing out on special or sad events. It hasn't been easy, but it's something I've learned to live with. The old wounds were opened anew with the birth of our son, however, knowing that I was depriving his grandparents of the chance to watch him grow, wishing they could be there more often, instead of having to rely on photos and scattered moments on the telephone, when he randomly decides whether or not he feels like talking.

When he does decide to talk, we never know what language will come out of his mouth. Earlier on, his primary language was English. As he grows older, however, more and more Hebrew creeps into his daily chitchat. He understands perfectly when addressed in English, but will often respond in a baffling combination of the two languages, at times using English sentence structure and Hebrew words. Eventually, his language issues will sort themselves out, and it is fascinating to watch our son develop his language skills. For the time being, however, it can sometimes be rather challenging as we translate his speeches into whatever language happens to be required by his audience. This was often the case while my parents were visiting, and as a result, we now find ourselves actively working on the issue of bilingualism, trying to make him realize that he speaks and understands two distinct languages, and starting to teach him the to distinguish between the two. We have introduced the concept of "English", and when he says something in Hebrew, we will often ask him what the word would be in "English". So far, it seems to be working. On the flip side, when we ask him in English to say something to someone else ("please", "thank you", and so on), if the other person is Israeli, he will carry out the request by translating and responding in Hebrew. Sometimes, when he says something in English and receives no response, he switches to Hebrew, so clearly, he seems to realize that there are two sets of words.

When our son was born, I started an internet forum for bilingual families in Israel. I was concerned about the language issues, and wanted to hear how other parents had approached the hurdles we were facing. I queried people in the forum, I queried friends who were in similar situations. I came across the words of supposed experts, who claimed that it was essential that each parent speak to the child only in his or her respective language, and I assumed that this would be the route we'd be taking as well. My husband's English is quite good, and I liked the idea that we would both speak to our child in English, but felt that I would be asking a lot by requesting that my husband speak to our son in a language that was not naturally his own. I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when he suggested that we both use English, believing that it would help to ensure that our son felt equally comfortable in both languages, that he would be totally bilingual. Occasionally, we are both guilty of lapsing into Hebrew when speaking to our son, but for the most part, we address him in English. We read to him primarily in English, teach him children's songs in English, and encourage him to choose videos and television shows in English. He loves "Dora the Explorer", watching videos of the American version that switches between English and Spanish as well as the more relevant Israeli version, which switches between Hebrew and English and shows him that it is natural to speak in both languages. Of course, it's still early days yet, but so far, our "hard work" seems to be paying off. He may be an Israeli little boy, but his immersion into the English language can only work to his benefit, allowing him to connect with friends and family across the ocean and enabling him to be a citizen of the world.

*This post cross-posted to Brio.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I'm a good neighbour!

Because I've got far too much free time on my hands that I simply don't know what to do with (note the witty sarcasm), I've decided to join the growing list of excellent contributors over at Good Neighbours, a site that is "dedicated to increasing dialogue and understanding between Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Lebanese, Egyptians, Saudis, Iranians, Iraqis, Libyans, Sudanese, and Syrians on a cross-country level, as well as to increase understanding, respect and dialogue among the various strata of society within our individual countries."

This site is Yael's brainchild, and quite frankly, my hat's off to her (metaphorically speaking, of course, as I don't actually own any hats). This woman does more in one day than I do in a whole month, and for the life of me, I can't understand how she always seems to have the energy to take on even more. I'm honored that she asked me to join the Good Neighbours community, and look forward to following the channels of dialog that develop between the contributors and the readers. Just doing my bit for world peace...

My first contribution can be found here.

Yael, you rock!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Does she have her own blog yet?

There are a number of blogs that I read daily. One of the main ones is Anglosaxy, written by my dear friend and former blogging partner. He's the one who got me into blogging in the first place, and I'm really glad he pushed me to into it (most days, anyway!).

Over the past few days, I noticed that his blog had gotten rather quiet, and he hasn't appeared online on either of our mutual chat applications. Most unlike him, so I figured that something must be up. According to the SMS I received less than an hour ago, something has definitely been up. The message reads:

"I'm a Dad again!!! She's a cutie!"

He writes that mother and daughter are doing well. The question remains - does she have her own blog yet?

Congratulations to all the Anglosaxies, especially the newest member of the family! The something something family can't wait to meet her. Do we have a boy for her...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Scenes from a visit with the parents

The parents have been and gone, and despite the whirlwind nature of their visit, we managed to take in quite a few interesting activities. Here are some of the highlights - in photographic form, along with some fabulously scintillating commentary...

The picture below was taken at an Arabian horse show, held on the grounds of an agricultural boarding school in the south. Something about this scene just grabbed me, so I decided to play photographer. Coincidentally, this is also the boarding school where Husband and I met, when he was a counselor to a group of rather unruly 11th graders, and I was an American volunteer. Husband and progeny are in the background...

Lots of animals at the school. Not terribly unexpected for an agricultural school. I've always had a fondness for cows (though I'm not terribly keen when it comes to eating them), and am teaching the Little One to follow in my footsteps. He enjoyed the petting, but seemed rather put out once the young calf began to lick him. I, on the other hand, couldn't care less, having been licked by many a young calf while living on a moshav many years ago.

I love penguins. Is it me, or do they always look like they're watching television? Here's a tip. If you're ever in the London Zoo during penguin feeding time, stand well clear of the pool area. The penguins swimming around to catch a meal are cute. The birds that circle overhead are not cute. Especially when you notice that one of them has left a little souvenir on your arm (bless your little wet wipes for cleaning me off, nrg!). This shot and the other animal shots below were taken at the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem. If you're ever in the area, it's definitely worth a trip. Amazing!

We were all charmed by this lion couple, who seem rather satisfied with their lot. I don't know if these are the same lions, but when I saw them, I couldn't help recalling a story I'd read several years ago about a lion at this zoo named Liza, who was having fertility problems. I was both amused and alarmed, given that I was going through something rather similar, as I alluded to in this post. Just one of those "too close for comfort" moments, I suppose...

"One, two! Tell me who are you! The Bears..." Gold stars to the first person who can tell me what that quote is from.

You pick little bits off my back, and I'll pick little bits off yours. Gotta love those primates! I've always liked monkeys, and even had a remarkably life-like monkey puppet in college named Sherman. Don't ask... The Little One was rather enamored of Sherman, until I inadvertently left him in Ben Gurion Airport's domestic terminal.

We had a wonderful time at the zoo. Grandma's time at the zoo was marginally less wonderful upon discovering that one of the local birds had left her a rather large souvenir on the side of her jacket (we're not quite sure how it happened, since none of us actually saw the bird, only the, erm, package). Grandpa and the Little One diligently wiped down all the markings, and when they were finished we asked the Little One "who made doodie on Grandma". His response? "Daddy".

On Friday, we drove up north. We took a long and winding road to the Druze village of Kifra Samea (and I'm not quite sure why the link refers to Kisra, but it's the same place), heading straight for the village's olive press. It's olive harvest season, and we stood by watching as the residents brought in their bags of olives, poured them into the press, and watched as they were turned into oil. We left with a five-liter container of fresh olive oil and a large jar of olives.

We made our way through a series of twists and turns, ups and downs, and found ourselves at the Rock Park, where the Little One ran around the rocks, skipped through small caves, and generally presented us with many photo opportunities. I'd never heard of this place before, but it was well worth the trip. The shot below shows the view from the Rock Park.

We had lunch at the restaurant below - the originally named Rock Park Restaurant. Don't let the simple name fool you. The owner was utterly charming, the Tabbouleh among the best I've ever eaten, and thoughts of the Kubeh in yogurt can still make me drool. It's right across from the park. The interior of the restaurant is decorated with Israeli flags, photos of soldiers and pro-IDF slogans.

A sated father and son head towards the car...

Following a brief playground stop with views similar to those in the shot above, we drove to the village of Peki'in, which is populated by Druze, Christians and a small number of Jewish families. We stopped in a small bakery and bought this tray of Baklava, which is one of my all-time favorite desserts (along with the Belgian chocolate truffles from this restaurant, where Little One did his best impersonation of the famous Meg Ryan scene in When Harry Met Sally after taking a bite of one of the truffles). The tray was full when we bought it less than a week ago...

Here's a close-up shot. How yummy does that look? I had Knafeh too! Mmmm...

Lots of food and lots of animals - how could anyone possibly ask for anything more?

And now I leave you with one final Little One quote that my parents are undoubtedly sharing with all of their friends. When asked if he was heavy, he replied, "I'm not heavy. I'm little." It doesn't get much better than that folks. Out of the mouths of babes...

If you'll excuse me, I'm going to finish off the baklava now...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A victim speaks out

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about crazed mobs of Egyptian men who ran through certain streets in Cairo attacking any female who had the terrible misfortune of being in the area at the time.

Thanks (once again) to the Egyptian Sandmonkey for alerting his readers to the existence of a new blog written by one of the victims of these attacks. Wounded girl from Cairo shares her story with the world in a stark, no-nonsense way, describing in horrifying detail what she went through that night. Despite her anonymity, I think it takes a lot of courage to not only relive the experience, but also to open herself up to criticism from readers (and she's taken quite a bit of criticism from people who negate her assessment - which I believe to be accurate - that Islam played a role in what happened).

Definitely worth checking out...

Monday, November 13, 2006

Shameless self-promotion

Sorry it's been so quiet around here. I've just got so much going on lately that I haven't been able to focus on one of the few enjoyable things - blogging. I've got quite a few ideas for entries swirling around in my head, and hopefully, I'll get myself sorted out enough to actually write them (lots of pictures too!). In the meantime, I'm going to leave you with a bit of shameless self-promotion.

A few months ago, I was contacted by the editor of an Italy-based publication - Here - Notes from the Present, which is published in both English and Italian, and comes out in a web-based format as well as a print format. He'd found my blog and wanted to know if he could include excerpts from some of the entries I'd written over the course of the summer. I agreed, and the edition in which the excerpts appear came out at the end of October. I'm expecting to receive print versions in the mail any day now (one for us and one for my parents - seems only fitting since Dad has always told me that I write well, and I never quite believed him), and the latest online version can be found in English here, and in Italian, it can be found here. If you want to find a little bit more about me than I've revealed on the blog, check out the Contributors section.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A most striking visit

Blogging may be lighter than usual during the next week, as we entertain my parents, or rather, the Little One entertains his grandparents while we watch and periodically translate from the sidelines.

They arrived safely, though not terribly soundly, given the strike at the airport that caused massive delays in luggage removal from planes in the best-case scenario, and a worst-case scenario where luggage was not actually removed from the planes prior to the planes taking off again, as happened to Adrian - our local Expat Egghead. By some miracle, Dad managed to come out into the Arrivals Hall, and by another miracle, I managed to spot him from one level up, race down the stairs, push through the crowds, scoot around the passengers' only area, and have a quick conversation with him, arguing with a security guard who tried to make him go back inside before we were done talking (I won). To make a long story short, we picked up my parents - sans luggage, drove through Thursday evening rush hour traffic to Azrieli Center to grab some dinner and kill a few hours, before making our way back to the airport to discover that contrary to what my parents were told, their luggage had not been taken off the plane within two to three hours. It was a total, chaotic nightmare. Passengers were not told about the strike (Mom even grabbed a luggage cart), and once they did find out, there was no one around to provide information, answer questions, etc. Upon returning to the airport, they were told that "no one knew when their luggage would be available", so we headed for home, opting to return the next afternoon, and finally retrieving their luggage.

It's rather maddening and insane to see an entire airport held hostage by the whims of temporary workers (and may I emphasize the word "temporary", which is what these workers are?). As one of my office colleagues pointed out, in hi-tech, an employee can be fired from one day to the next, and he or she has almost no recourse. Can you imagine hi-tech workers going on strike because some of their colleagues were being fired? It is a travesty that these actions are repeatedly carried out in Israel, and it's frightening that the government is too wrapped up in itself to do anything. Why should port workers, electric company employees, and so on, be immune from such "routine" activities as redundancy, when no one else is? How can the government allow these workers to shut down essential airport passenger services for several days, causing total disruption and chaos, not to mention the effects that this will have on Israel's image, given the number of tourists who arrived in Israel for the first time were met with utter confusion and complete indifference to their plight. I can't help but wonder how many of them will be anxious to donate money to Israel in the future, and how stories for the folks back home will be clouded by not being able to retrieve their luggage before leaving the airport.

All of that aside, though, now that they are both fully kitted out with their own belongings, I believe that my parents are having a nice time, and have been completely charmed by their grandson. We've been to a horse show, visited family, and worked our way through Ikea, looking for a bed and closet for the Little One. I'm also pleased to mention that my mother is now addicted to cake from Roladin (sorry, the English link doesn't seem to work), pronouncing their cakes to be just as good as, if not better than, the cakes from Flakowitz, which, if you are at all in the know with regard to either NY or South Florida bakeries, know to be among the best there is.

The Little One ran up to them immediately at the airport, allowing both of his grandparents to cover him with hugs and kisses, and then making them (and everyone else watching) laugh as he wheeled their carry-on bag out to the parking lot. He babbles at them in both English and Hebrew, so we are doing quite a lot of translating. He also makes us watch his new Dora the Explorer and Bob the Builder videos. Repeatedly. I should be grateful, given that these characters are infinitely more palpable than a certain big purple dinosaur who's popularity has risen dramatically in our household lately (would you believe that he's just as annoying in Hebrew as he is in English?), but if I hear "can we fix it?" one more time, I'm thinking the "it" in that sentence is going to be a certain Bob the Builder video.

There's not much more to share at this point, and given that I've got to run over to Roladin in order to get Mom her fix and feed her habit, I'm going to cut this short. Have a good week, y'all, and I'll try to pop in periodically to say hi. Regular blogging to resume next week, though one never knows. I might just surprise you somewhere along the way.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What a frightening world we live in...

I just read a horrifying post written by the Egyptian Sandmonkey. It seems that large mobs of men in Cairo, angered by the fact that they couldn't get into a sold-out film on the first day of Eid ul Fitr, went on a rampage, first destroying the movie theater's ticket booth, then running through the streets attacking women in a sexual frenzy. Apparently, no woman in the area was safe, and the police stood by and did nothing.

Sadly, this isn't the first time that a blind eye has been turned under such circumstances in Egypt. Earlier this summer, female activists and reporters were sexually harassed at the hands of government supporters, while again, the police did nothing. It's no wonder these men show no concern for possible consequences resulting from their actions.

A quick search of internet news sites for this hair-raising story produced no results, which I found rather shocking. How is it possible that such an event received no news coverage? For more on these attacks, please read this blog entry by Forsoothsayer.

Some of the comments I read regarding this incident placed the blame squarely on Islam, but I don't think that's the case. Many Americans will remember the incident that took place in Central Park following the 2000 Puerto Rican Day Parade, when mobs of men accosted and sexually harrassed women in the park, groping them, tearing their clothes off, and dousing them with water, beer, etc. I can't even begin to imagine what causes these men to act the way they do, how this crazed mob mentality manifests itself by turning people into such vicious sexual predators, separating them from their sanity. It is beyond frightening to think about hoards of males roaming the streets led solely by their penises, driven by their frustrated sexual appetites and callous indifference to their victims, treating these living, breathing human beings like objects to be touched and violated, and thinking that these acts are totally acceptable and unpunishable. And it seems, with regard to these last two, they wouldn't be so far off the mark.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All sorts of stuff

Life has been hectic lately. My parents are coming on Thursday for their annual visit, and we've been busy getting the house ready. Exciting stuff, as not only am I looking forward to seeing them and having them spend time with their grandson, but I'm also looking forward to the items that will be accompanying them, such as a CD with nrg's pictures from Amsterdam (at which point I'll do a post showing all of our best pictures - she took far more than I did, hence the wait), which will reach me via a rather circuitous route (nrg gave the CD to her parents when they were visiting her in Norway, they brought the CD home, my parents picked up the CD, and will bring it with them to me), my new mp3 player, ordered from Amazon, and a variety of toys, books, videos and clothing for the Little One (and even a few articles of clothing for me).

In the event that I can't think of where to take them, I'll be sure to peruse my very own fabulous (and slightly puddle-damaged - my fault!) copy of City Guide Tel Aviv, written by the incredibly talented (not to mention charming!) Lisa Goldman. I'd definitely recommend this book - get it for yourselves, get it as a gift. You won't be sorry! I know I can't wait to try out some of the restaurants that are mentioned, and I've even been to a few of them already, trendsetter that I am.

Since I'm feeling rather scatterbrained at the moment, between the upcoming visitors and work, I'm just going to mention a few more bits and pieces, and then be on my way.

If you take a look at my sidebar (go ahead, I'll wait...), you'll notice a few things. One, I'm reading a new book - A Tale of Two Sisters, by Anna Maxted. I discovered Anna Maxted several years ago, and haven't looked back. She writes brilliantly, and I love the way she has her characters deal with very real problems, instead of the usual chick lit fluff. I've always found myself drawn to writing and to people who write well, and Ms Maxted is no exception. I'd definitely enjoy a friendly chat over lattés in a cafe with this woman.

Two, I've added quite a few blogs to my blogroll in the Further Afoot section. In addition to discovering a number of new (to me, anyway) blogs written by expats, I now check in daily with the hilarious Craigslist Curmudgeon, where our blogger shares some of his (her?) better findings for freelance writing gigs from the infamous Craigslist, as well as the thought-provoking blog Warrior of Light, written by one of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho.

And finally, I've recently become a contributor to a site called Brio, which deals with the subject of parenting in a global world. My first post is here, and originally appeared on something something earlier this year. It promises to be an exciting project about a subject that's very close to my heart, so I'll be sure to keep you posted. Check it out!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Caught with my umbrella down

I admit it. I have a fault. I know, I know. Be still your beating hearts and all that jazz. You thought I was perfect. Oh, and those of you who know me for real, you can stop snickering now, especially you (you know who you are!). Actually, I have two faults. I do not like to be caught unprepared, and I have a low tolerance threshold for stupidity, ignorance and shallow conversation (does that one count as three faults? I mean, it's not like they're mutually exclusive or anything, and often go hand-in-hand!). For this entry, I'm only going to address the former, as the latter is no less deserving of its own entry, and actually, if I were to combine them, I have a feeling that I'd somehow manage to incriminate myself in a really outstanding way...

When I say that I don't like to be caught unprepared, it means that I don't like surprises. And when I say that I don't like surprises, I mean that I'm actually quite anal about it. Take the weather in Israel, for instance. Once autumn hits, I begin my assessment of the local umbrella situation. I have two – one small red one that fits in my bag quite neatly, and one large stripey, purply one that does not. As soon as there's a mere hint of rain in the air, the little umbrella goes into the bag, and stays there for the duration of the season. The large umbrella is kept by the door, saved for occasions when a forecast of rain is actually announced, at which point the little umbrella is taken out of the bag, shunted aside for one with more firepower. You see, the little one, while being extremely convenient due to its size, is also rather ineffective, due, strangely enough, to the same reason. Given my fifteen minute walk between the train station and my office, the thought of being caught without an umbrella when it rains sends me into a bit of a tailspin. Quite sad, really, but absolutely true. As such, the small one is for emergencies, so that I will always be prepared for unexpected rain shower.

Then there's the second umbrella. Having tragically taken the lives of two attractive, but clearly lesser quality umbrellas last year, both at the same location (crossing over a busy road leading over a highway that lies between two tall buildings, effectively creating a massive wind tunnel), I finally came to my senses. I walked into a store, prepared to pay whatever it took for strength, quality and peace of mind. I walked straight up to the counter and asked for the strongest umbrella they had (which, fortunately, was also quite attractive, for there's no reason to sacrifice aesthetics for quality, is there?). One tidy sum later, and I was testing my new purchase, which indeed proved itself to be quite strong, if not somewhat inconvenient.

"The bigger they are, the harder they fall," would seem like an appropriate sentiment, as the new umbrella, while triumphantly standing up to even the nastiest of winds, was rather unwieldy, to put it mildly. I became unnecessarily dependent upon the words of our meteorologists, lest I be unprepared when the storms hit. And therein lies the crux of the problem. These folks can't be trusted! For the last two days, I dragged my industrial-strength umbrella to and from work, working on the assumption that it was going to rain. Have you ever tried walking while carrying a large umbrella, a jacket slung over your arm, one laptop in what must be the biggest, bulkiest laptop shoulder bag ever created by man, and a large latté, which you struggle to raise to your lips intermittently, taking careful sips while trying not to spill, as a few drops inevitably manage to escape somehow? Not easy. Let me tell you. If I wasn't so talented, I'm not sure I could pull it off. But did it rain? Of course not! It threatened to, and there were even a few big fat drops of rain on my window yesterday afternoon, but certainly nothing that warranted my drastic umbrella measures. Once again, they got it wrong, and once again, I tripped my up and down the street so that I would be prepared. I think that I would probably be more successful at predicting their success rate than they are at predicting the weather. Then again, I imagine that I will continue to take them at their word, lest I be caught unprepared with my umbrella down.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Almost passing for trendy...

Finally. Finally, after a long, harsh summer, it seems that fall is starting to put in an appearance. The days are no longer oppressively hot, and nights are sublimely chilly – perfectly conducive to getting a good night's sleep. Not to say that I am getting good nights of sleep, as the little one seems to be trying his best to thwart my intentions. But still, I'm used to being perpetually tired, so while a bit frustrating, it's certainly not a tragedy on a grand scale, as grand scales go.

I just wish that the days would start to get cooler! I'm getting tired of wearing the same old clothes day in and day out, and am really looking forward to switching over to the winter wardrobe. I've pulled at the shirts with the ¾ sleeves and begun wearing regular shoes with socks, instead of the sandals that I've worn nearly every day since June. I'll miss my capris, to be sure, but having forgotten a substantial number of pairs of trousers at my parents' house several months ago, once I finally get them back in just a few weeks' time when my parents arrive for their annual visit, it will be almost like having a few new pairs.

Most of all though, I can't wait for jacket weather, and the reason why is this:

Do you remember how I went on and on about the beautiful Nepali fleece-lined jackets I purchased in Amsterdam? That's right, folks. I cannot wait to start wearing this jacket (or its fraternal twin – the purply hooded Nepali fleece-lined jacket) everyday. I love this jacket. I love this jacket! I LOVE THIS JACKET! Do you understand what I'm saying? Am I making myself clear? I love the colors. I love the style. I can almost (though not quite) pass for trendy in this jacket. It was love at first site, in the funky Waterlooplein market, and our excitement over such a find was palpable. Not only was I in love, but my best friend approved of the match. You see, she'd been after me since seeing the contents of my suitcase and the obvious lack of color, and given that she'd also been privy to the descriptions of my clothing purchases in the US (I still don't know how it worked out that a significantly high percentage of the shirts I'd acquired were black, brown, or a swirly combination of the two), she'd taken it upon herself to add a little color to my wardrobe, in addition to the color that she added to my life in general. Searches in some of the shops around the city proved fruitless, but our new find fit the bill perfectly. How excited were we?

But I digress. The jackets. Almost as much as I can't wait to wear mine, I'm also chomping at the bit to dress the little one in his. How awesome is that little jacket? How awesome will we look traipsing about town in our Nepali fleece-lined jackets?! Unfortunately, it seems that the weather is going to remain decent for the foreseeable future, despite the teasingly cool mornings and the tantalizingly chilly evenings. For now, the little one is still wandering around in shorts and sandals, and looking (almost) trendy will have to wait.