Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with the old and in with the new

Greetings to all, and Happy New Year! Traditionally, the passing from one year into another has been a time for resolutions, a time for change. As such, I've decided to make a big change. This is (probably) the last post you'll see in this space. I've decided to move the blog to a new platform and give it a whole new look. All posts (except for this one) and comments have been imported to the new location, and while this "old" version isn't going anywhere, it probably won't be updated anymore.

The new blog can be found here, and the first new post goes live at 12:01am (Israel time) on January 1st, ringing in the New Year with a bang. Don't forget to update your blogrolls, bookmarks, and favorite links!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The funniest terrorist is a dead terrorist...

Tears of laughter came pouring down my face in torrents when I saw the clip below, performed by American stand-up comedian Jeff Dunham, so I just had to share. Try not to eat or drink while watching...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What will you be eating on Christmas Day?

I once told an Israeli friend of mine who relocated to the US about some of the Jewish traditions that I grew up with, and he later admitted to me that there was one he hadn't quite believed, until he saw it for himself.

So, what will you be eating on Christmas Day?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

80s Music Video Sunday #47

Life wasn't easy when I first went off to college in Boston. I had just spent a year abroad in Israel and, having already gotten used to living away from home without having my parents around, I found it more than a little disconcerting to find myself surrounded by people undergoing a rite of passage that I had gone through one year previously, in a foreign country, no less. It probably didn't help matters that I wasn't much of a party-person, and certainly wasn't a big drinker. It took me a while to find the friends who would remain as such for the duration of my years at BU, as even though I was being dragged (not kicking and screaming, but certainly not with any degree of wholeheartedness) to parties with my floor mates, the realization that the people I needed to meet couldn't be found at those parties I disliked so much was a long time in coming.

Fortunately for me, I had a fabulous RA (resident assistant) that year, a first-year graduate student whose quirky sense of humor matched my own, who apparently sensed that I was having a hard time finding my niche. Not only did he make me laugh, but he also managed to keep me relatively sane. While I did eventually find my place, I owe him a great debt of gratitude for helping me to get through those first few months in such a big, strange place.

And, I also owe Tim a debt of gratitude for introducing me to one of the greatest bands ever – The Pogues. I'd never heard of them before meeting Tim, and thanks to him, I not only now have a small collection of Pogues albums, but I found that I can impress nearly any Brit or Irishman (or at the very least, I can impress Anglosaxy, who is, anyway, easily impressed ;-P) by making them aware of my musical tastes (at least with regard to The Pogues – I tend to shy away from mentioning that I've also got a few Andy Gibb tracks, but that's neither here nor there…).

So, in the spirit of the season, today's entry for 80s Music Video Sunday is The Pogues' charming little Christmas song, " Fairytale of New York".
Merry Christmas!

Fairytale of New York
The Pogues

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won't see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in AT eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So Happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They've got cars big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas Day

Thursday, December 13, 2007

We're going on a witch hunt

While both the mainstream media and the blogosphere have been buzzing about the interrogation of three Israeli journalists following visits to countries defined by Israel as being "enemy" countries, I have remained silent. I chose to remain silent, as anyone who reads this blog is aware of my close friendship with one of them, and while she is certainly aware of my unwavering support, I wasn't sure that I'd be able to write a post that would sound supportive, yet unbiased. Now, following days of frustration and disgust over some of the pieces that have been written as well as some of the comments I've seen, I find that I just can't keep quiet any longer. I'm horrified by the (usually incorrect) assumptions that people have made, involving everything from her journalistic ethics to her motives, and shocked by the number of individuals who seem to think that Lisa Goldman and her colleagues simply woke up one day, tossed a change of underwear and a toothbrush into their laptop bags, and popped across the border to visit with "the enemy", without thinking of the possible ramifications.

While I can't personally vouch for Lisa's colleagues, I'm going to make an educated guess and assume that these are intelligent, knowledgeable individuals who were well aware of where they were going and took necessary precautions – just like Lisa. And, as opposed to being unable to vouch for her colleagues, I CAN personally vouch for Lisa. I know how much thought went into her trips, how much preparation. I know how she was feeling and what she was thinking, her excitement and her concerns, her expectations. Going to Lebanon was not something she took lightly – if anything, I'd say it was quite the opposite.

There are those who complain about her selfishness, about endangering national security by her actions, and so on, just so that she could do a non-newsworthy "fluff" piece. What these individuals are overlooking is that it was not Lisa's intention to file some hard-hitting scoop. Anyone who reads either her blog or any of the other articles that she's either written or been interviewed for knows that Lisa is drawn to human interest stories, and this is precisely what she reported on for both Channel 10 and Time Out Tel Aviv. Whenever people ask me about living in Israel, talking about how dangerous it is or how scary it must be, I've always responded by saying that daily life here is different from what they show on the news, because you don't see reporters filing stories about regular life, and if nothing is happening, there's not going to be a story about it. Until now. Until Lisa went to Lebanon, and returned to share her impressions, to provide Israelis with a picture of "normal" life in Beirut. Not every story needs to be earth shattering, and frankly, I found these scenes from Beirut – a city just a few hours to the north, one that I will probably never have a chance to visit – to be invaluable.

I am both saddened and distressed as I watch this entire episode unfold. As I've been writing this post, I've learned that Daniel Sharon will soon be indicted for his recent trip to Lebanon, and who knows how many other journalists (and politicians) may soon be caught up in the same web as Lisa and her colleagues. Why is there a witch hunt, and why is it happening now, when these kinds of trips have been made for years? As an Israeli, I am worried about our country's current state of affairs, our misplaced priorities. As a person, I am worried about my friend. I want this to go away. Lisa has said that had she realized that what she was doing was against the law, she never would have done it. I believe her. I'm sure there are those of you who will belittle my stance because I'm biased. And you're right. I am biased. Lisa and I wouldn't be such close friends if I didn't admire her so much as an individual – her intelligence, her warmth, her sense of humor. I'm impressed by her innate ability to connect with people, and how she will always go out of her way to do so. One of her primary reasons for visiting Lebanon had to do with her constant desire to build bridges – to learn about her neighbors and to, in turn, share her newfound knowledge with her countrymen. Yes, a law was unknowingly broken, but the intent was neither criminal nor malicious, and if anything, it was the opposite. The police have made their point by publicizing the interrogation, and unless they are planning to go after every other person who's ever made such a trip, I cannot help but question their motives in making an example of these three individuals, and I cannot help but wonder about the direction in which our society is going.


See Lisa's post on the subject here.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

80s Music Video Sunday #46

In the middle of last week, I went from being closer to 39 years of age to closer to 40 years of age, and while I no longer get excited about the half-birthday (and haven't in a very long time), these mini-stones do get me thinking about the past, and make me wonder what the future has in store for me. As people get older, memories from years long gone by become dearer, and frankly, despite the fact that I can't stop it, there's definitely a part of me that wishes I could go back to certain points in my life, taking the knowledge and confidence that I've acquired over the years. There are things I'd like to correct and clarify, episodes I'd like to somehow improve upon or fix. Like everyone, I have regrets – things I've done or haven't done, said or haven't said. Some are long forgotten, while others have occasionally caused me to lose sleep over the years. I've even had the good fortune to clarify and repair two such friendships (and two important ones at that), but still relish the thought of being able to go back and do some things differently.

I must admit that I'm not too keen on the idea of growing older (though it is, quite obviously, better than the alternative), and I definitely agree with the old saying that "youth is wasted on the young". Sometimes, I just want to be forever young

Forever Young

Let's dance in style, let's dance for a while
Heaven can wait we're only watching the skies
Hoping for the best but expecting the worst
Are you gonna drop the bomb or not?

Let us die young or let us live forever
We don't have the power but we never say never
Sitting in a sandpit, life is a short trip
The music's for the sad man

Can you imagine when this race is won
Turn our golden faces into the sun
Praising our leaders we're getting in tune
The music's played by the, the madman

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, or never

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever young

Some are like water, some are like the heat
Some are a melody and some are the beat
Sooner or later they all will be gone
Why don't they stay young?

It's so hard to get old without a cause
I don't want to perish like a fading horse
Youth like diamonds in the sun
And diamonds are forever

So many adventures couldn't happen today
So many songs we forgot to play
So many dreams are swinging out of the blue
We let 'em come true

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, or never

Forever young, I want to be forever young
Do you really want to live forever?
Forever, or never

Forever young, I wanna be forever young
Do you really want to live forever?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Why they really went to Annapolis...

I was very skeptical about last week's Annapolis conference. I didn't expect anything to come out of it, and I was rather dubious with regard to some of the participants (and clearly I had good reason to be, as Allison points out here).

In his severely weakened state, Ehud Olmert was forced by various members of his coalition to water down his declared goals until almost nothing was left. Dogged by scandal after scandal, his mandate going into the conference was shaky at best. On the Palestinian side, Mahmoud Abbas is clearly floundering, carrying barely half of a mandate in his pocket and maintaining a fairly solid record vis a vis his inability to contain terror or lead his people.

I, along with many of my countrymen, were simply not impressed, and nor were we very interested. We've heard far too many words, witnessed far too many committees. Frankly, when it came down to it, I couldn't understand the real reasons for holding this conference now, at a time when neither side seemed capable of delivering promises that could actually be kept. I was especially frustrated by Olmert, who hopped across the ocean to attend a useless conference, stopping only to meet with Jerry Seinfeld before grabbing his passport and jumping on a plane, leaving behind a crushing teachers' strike that threatens to render this academic year as being a complete loss. "Why", I thought. Why now? What could you all possibly gain by going to the US now?"

And then, with a blinding flash of intuition that only a shopaholic could understand, I knew. Peace shmeace. With Thanksgiving safely behind us and gift giving holidays on the horizon, there could only be one reason why our leaders were so anxious to be in the US at precisely this time...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

You're spending Chanukah where?

Chanukah – the festival of lights, begins this evening at sundown. At work, we had a company candle lighting ceremony, where I managed to scarf down an outstanding, obscenely calorie-ridden sufganiya filled with caramel, while at the same time explaining the holiday and the ceremony to a visiting colleague from Korea (who was already acquainted with said sufganiya, following a trip last week to one of the local bakeries with my officemate, who had an insatiable craving).

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I am a big fan of Tom Lehrer, so it seems only fitting that I wish all of my celebrating readers a happy Chanukah with Tom Lehrer's fabulous little holiday ditty…

Happy Chanukah to all, and to all a good night.

Chanukah in Santa Monica

Tom Lehrer

I'm spending Channukah in Santa Monica
Wearing sandals, lighting candles by the sea
I spent Shavuos in East Saint Louis
A charming spot but clearly not the spot for me...

Those eastern winters, I can't endure 'em
So every year I pack my gear and come out here til Purim

Rosh Hashona I spend in Arizona
And Yom Kippah way down in Mississippah

But in December there's just one place for me
Mid the California flora I'll be lighting my menorah
Like a baby in its cradle I'll be playing with my dreidel
Here's to Judas Maccabeus, Boy if he could only see us

Spending Chanukah, in Santa Monica, By the Sea!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Promises promises...

One of my favorite bloggers (not to mention one of my closest friends) has made me a promise. Lisa is a finalist in the "Best Non-Muslim Blog" category in the Brass Crescent Awards (which she won last year). The organizers write that "Past winner Lisa Goldman's posts about encounters with Palestinians, Lebanese, and other members of the Arab world "are always excellent," and frankly, I'm inclined to agree. Of course, I'm biased, especially given "the promise".

If Lisa wins, I get a smoked salmon sandwich, latte and dessert at Cafe Noach (only in Hebrew - sorry) in Tel Aviv. And, if you've tried their smoked salmon sandwiches, you'll understand how much I want Lisa to win! So, if you really love me and want me to eat well, or if you just think that Lisa happens to have a blog that is not only awesome, but also meets embodies the criteria for the category in which its been nominated, head on over to the web site for the Brass Crescent Awards and vote for Lisa. And, as long as you're already there, be sure to check out some of the other finalists in the other categories. Some of them are really excellent, and will soon be added to my blogroll.

Just say yes to smoked salmon! And, all kidding aside, I wouldn't be promoting her if I didn't believe that she truly deserves to win. I never cease to be amazed by her words, her efforts and her actions when it comes to bridge-building and reaching out to others, no matter how many obstacles are thrown in her way, no matter how many people try to provoke, discourage, or dismiss her. She always gets back up, dusts herself off, and jumps straight back in, and all because she's acting on what she believes in. The description for the "Best Non-Muslim Blog" category reads "Which blog writen by a non-Muslim is most respectful of Islam and seeks genuine dialogue with Muslims?", and in my opinion, nobody does it better than Lisa.

Plus, just thinking about those sandwiches...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

80s Music Video Sunday #45

Boys, consider yourselves warned. This week’s entry is for the girls…

Ok, ladies, please raise your hands if you didn’t fantasize about replacing Jennifer Grey in the movie Dirty Dancing, especially during those scenes when Patrick Swayze was teaching her how to dance. Just as I expected. I don’t see any hands raised. Not a one. Well, obviously. We all wanted to be the one who “carried a watermelon”. We all wanted Patrick Swayze to teach us that leap in the water. Admittedly, I don’t know anyone who actually wanted to be called “Baby”, though I do have one friend “attended Mount Holyoke in the fall”, after the movie was released.

I loved this movie, not only for the obvious bits mentioned above, but also because I was a child of the Catskills, where the movie took place (though it was actually filmed in North Carolina and Virginia). While we didn’t go there for summers, a lifetime of Passovers was spent at various hotels in the area, and aside from the fact that the wait-staff that had once been comprised of smiling, young college kids was now mostly comprised of native Spanish and Portuguese speakers from Latin America, our experiences there could have come straight from the script of Dirty Dancing, from the plethora of activities (I still have half a backscratcher from the Fallsview, which I won playing Bingo), to the evening shows, to the copious amounts of food served at every meal. The schedule of activities was printed up on a daily basis and available at the front desk, and we would pore over it every morning, seeking out the activities that caught our fancy (miniature golf competitions with prizes), groaning when they conflicted other desirable activities (trivia contests for prizes). There were dance lessons, fashion shows, and endless rounds of Simon Says (more often than not led by the gentlemen described in this article). There was the arcade (“can I have more quarters, Grandma/Grampa/Mom/Dad?”), the swimming pool and the ice skating rink, and one hotel even had a bowling alley. We were busy from the moment we woke in the morning until we fell into bed at night, which was probably a good thing, given how much food we were packing in at each meal.

When my mother, in her youth, would go away to the Catskills with her entire extended family, they were encouraged to fraternize with the aforementioned wait-staff, who were, as I mentioned, young college kids, and most of them, I believe, were Jewish (as were many of the guests). Friendly relationships were welcomed, and waiters and daughters were introduced. By the time we were going to the Catskills, the situation had changed. You’d have been hard-pressed to find a young, Jewish college student among them, and it wasn’t much easier to find a native English speaker. Relationships were no longer encouraged, but me being me, I was fascinated by the young, shy Spanish speakers, and while I carried no watermelons and went to no parties, I did manage to make a few friends along the way.

Between my mother’s stories and my own annual pilgrimages, I truly felt that the Catskill experience was my own, and needless to say, Dirty Dancing resonated with me in a way that other movies did not. Whenever I see it, old, long-forgotten memories are dredged up, exciting, childhood memories from a more innocent time.

And of course, those dance scenes were really hot… Check out the dance sequences threaded into Eric Carmen’s video for “Hungry Eyes”, and you’ll see what I mean.

Hungry Eyes
Eric Carmen

I've been meaning to tell you
I've got this feelin' that won't subside
I look at you and I fantasize
You are mine tonight
Now I've got you in my sights

With these hungry eyes
One look at you and I can't disguise
I've got hungry eyes
I feel the magic between you and I

I want to hold you so hear me out
I want to show you what love's all about
Darlin' tonight
Now I've got you in my sights

With these hungry eyes
One look at you and I can't disguise
I've got hungry eyes
I feel the magic between you
And I've got hungry eyes
Now I've got you in my sights
With these hungry eyes
Now did I take you by surprise

I need you to see
This love was meant to be

I've got hungry eyes
One look at you and I can't disguise
I've got hungry eyes
I feel the magic between you
And I've got hungry eyes
Now I've got you in my sights
With those hungry eyes
Did I take you by surprise

With my hungry eyes