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Monday, August 30, 2010

gloomy sunday


The title of this post refers to the name of the movie I watched on Sunday night, not to my mood. It is a German speaking movie, taking place in Budapest. It was a bit weird that the "Hungarians" spoke German, but hey, I can suspend belief on this detail. The movie was released in 2003 in the U.S., and you can get it on Netflix if you decide to watch it.

Gloomy Sunday is the name of a song that many of you may know. It was written in the 1930s and was a big hit. An intriguing urban legend is connected to the song, but I will not reveal it here. I will let you discover it on your own if you are interested. Googling was never easier.

The story is... well, unpredictable in some places which makes the viewing quite refreshing when comparing it to the Hollywood productions that are inflicted on us en masse, where the foreshadowed is foreshadowed again and again ad vomitum. I think this is why I like foreign films, because I can't predict everything that is going to happen, even though I realized that second world war was looming in the background and the Nazis were about to make an appearance. I found myself wanting to know what happens next and i liked that feeling. I remember when I was watching Avatar, very early in the movie there was a scene in which a bunch of dog-looking computer animated creatures attacked the main character in the forest, and I thought to myself, well, it's way too early in the movie for this guy to be killed, so I was like, ok, how long is this scene going to last exactly? I get the point. Scary dogs, big teeth, vicious dogs, barking, sharp teeth, black dogs barking loudly, attacking, I get the point, can we move on? And the scene went on and on until I almost wished the dogs would finish off the guy so I could go to sleep.

But in this Hungarian/German tale, I never got that feeling. I was totally fine with whatever happened on the screen (men in love, Europe in Nazi era, schmaltzy music, and an incredibly beautiful woman who disrobed a few times). I was fine even during some moments when things got a bit kitschy or when hearing the gloomy song for the umpteenth time made me feel I was going to have an epileptic seizure.

The other thing I really liked about that movie was that I didn't know any of the actors. That was so refreshing. No familiar shpiels, no "star power" BS, just some actors doing whatever actors do. I was able to get into the story without getting confused about all the other movies that this or that actor did during his/her amazing career or suddenly be distracted by memories of weird stories I'd heard about that actor and so forth.

So if you feel like watching something a little different, and you don't shy from reading subtitles, try this movie. You might like it. And if you don't, hey, don't blame me. I didn't write the screenplay or directed it.

I read somewhere it has a cult following in ....New Zealand.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Zionist condition


Today I am sick, so I am going to write about something that makes me sick. Not about the virus that infected my body, but a virus that infected someone else.

In one of my previous posts I explained why it was no picnic being an Israeli, so consider this post a second installment. Or third... I kind a' have a feeling it is not the last posting on this issue.

To begin with, let me say that I have no problem with being Israeli. I am completely comfortable being who I am. Been like that long enough to know all the ins and outs, ups and downs of having this condition. But I do have a serious problem with the American self-righteous left. I think that by definition I can be considered as lefty, but I am not a stupid lefty. I am Israeli (and American, too), therefore, more pragmatic in my views. But in America, and in Europe, if you are a lefty, you have to hate Israel no matter what. It is the main litmus test to be accepted into the lefty ranks, and it makes me sick!

I used to watch Amy Goodman on Democracy Now until Sharon was elected prime minister. Now, I am no supporter of Sharon by any measure, not a tiny bit; I participated in every protest against him on the streets of Tel Aviv before I left. But I never once thought of him as General Sharon; whatever his rank was, I never really thought about it. But Amy Goodman did. And every time she mentioned him, she called him General Sharon, as if he were Pinochet. This was the most ridiculous thing to call him, and it showed the total cynicism and one-way thinking of the American Left. No one in Israel referred to Sharon as "general" even when he was one, because as many of you already know, Israeli society is very informal, and many politicians and high ranking military commanders have rather idiotic nicknames. It is also true that Sharon (aka Arik) was a general when he was in the military, but once he was out of the military, no one called him General. Israel is not governed by a military junta, but by calling citizen Sharon "General" Amy Goodman was insinuating something totally sinister about the Israeli government. So I stopped watching her program. But I'm digressing...

So here I am, living in America as you know now, for more than two decades, professing some of my unkosher views in public, and I hear from a colleague at work that she has this interesting friend who was educated in France and got a PhD in literature and so forth. So I tell her I would love to meet him (not for romantic purposes, as you will see from her email to him.)

So here's what she write to him, in French:

J'ai parle de toi, a Galia, ma collegue-copine israelienne (bien plus leftiste que moi) et elle a super envie de prendre un cafe avec toi (comme elle le dit, in English in the text, elle adore bavarder avec des intellectuels europeens..:))

I don't really know how to read French, but here is my attempt at translation:

I told you about my Israeli colleague Galia (who is a lot more lefty than I am), she wants to (unrecognized word) with you in a cafe (as she said it, in English in the text, she would love to (unrecognized word) with European Intellectuals..:))

And here is his answer:

Euh... oui... seulement si elle est pas sioniste!

English: Ehh... yes...only if she is not a Zionist!

OUCH. OUCH. OUCH.

Let me tell you, this was a big huge enormous kick under my bellybutton. And boy, it hurt.

My friend was very upset to read this. I kind of went blank. Then I regained my senses and you should be glad you were not there. My colleague remarked painfully, after she let me see his email: "you scratch a little under the surface and that's was you find." And I said aloud and without apologizing: "Antisemitism pure and simple." And believe me, I am not a paranoid Jewess; I don't see antisemitism in every corner, but when I see it, I say it.

You can argue with me until you are blue in the face that the man is not an antisemite, that the man has serious issue with the way Israel is treating the Palestinians and he has a right to disagree with the Zionist project (whatever you think Zionism is; I realize people have different definitions for Zionism, many of which are quite wrong) and bla bla bla.... And I will tell you, no one can agree with you more. I have very serious issues with the way Israel has turned out to be. Hey, I left Israel not because I thought it was the most beautiful place on earth, and I never once voted Likud or even centrist Labor. But I would never ever judge a person I never met by his/her origin or put any conditions on that person's political nuances before I meet that person. Remember that my friend already said I was even more lefty than she was.

Let me put it this way: Let us assume that a colleague tells me that there is an Austrian guy who has a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and he wants to meet me and talk about stuff, and I say, Well, sure, only if he is not a Nazi (because for the intellectual left the Zionists are equal to Nazis, BTW). Or let's try this: Someone tells me there's a guy from Rwanda who wants to ask me about Israel, and I say, only if he is not a Hutu sympathizer. What kind of person would that make me?

People, where does this crap come from? This is seriously the ugliest shit I came across in all my years in America. This is f***ing unbelievable. This is coming from an educated man, a European intellectual who will argue that he is not antisemitic. Sure, people have to hide their antisemitism, I understand. It is very uncool to declare such abhorrent inclination, especially when you are educated and hold degrees in high-brow thinking about things. But to hate Israel and to blame all the ills of the world on Israel and Israelis and even former Israelis is considered the cool thing to do only by the highly-educated, self-righteous American and European lefties.

Yes, we have problems with the Israeli government and the radicalization of many Israelis (quite similar to what happens here in the States with the Tea Party and the GOP); yes, we should be able to criticize the impotence, short-sightedness, and stubbornness of all the sides involved in the regional conflict; yes we should fight to stop injustice and violence and stupidity in all their forms. But by barring me from civilized discussion just because I might be a Zionist, well, that will not usher peace unto the world any time sooner, I can promise you.

Regardless of the narrative, who is more militant and more blood thirsty, the Palestinian or the Jew, I would say to people like this French intellectual who snubbed me: Look into your heart and dig as deep as you can - if you are truly honest with yourself, you will be aware of your deep-seated antisemitism. It is not a pretty thing to look at, but it is better to know it is there because once you see it, once you become aware of it - it will be much easier for you to start the house-cleaning your soul so badly needs.

We all have our prejudices. The sooner we become aware of them, the sooner we can rid ourselves of them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

mosque


I think it’s about time I break my silence on the so-called Ground Zero Mosque since everyone and his grandmother already spoken up their mind. So now it is my turn....OK, I know I don’t have a huge audience and that my opinion matters very little, but hey, I have a blog, therefore I am!! (In Yiddish it is translated as ergo blogito sum)

So where do I stand on this issue?

Since the crazies were screaming so loudly against it, my knee-jerk reaction was that something fishy was going on. So I started looking around and what I found was very confusing. I thought it was a very bad idea for the Anti-Defamation-League aka ADL to come against it if only because of the organization’s expressed goal to fight bigotry and extremism. At the same time, I was somewhat queasy about the unflinching support from New York’s Jewish mayor, not because I was against building a mosque at that specific spot, but because I kind of felt that some in what is called "the Muslim world" would interpret it as a victory for Islam over the wishy-washy gutless infidels. I think someone may have raised that point somewhere and I don’t think they were too far off. I still remember how some people I don’t want to name danced in the streets to celebrate the carnage that took place in New York and Washington DC on 9/11. Then, when the issue exploded all over the place, Obama expressed support for the mosque and took it back a little the next day because of the noise generated by the crazies. I ended up feeling that this whole mosque mayhem was one big nasty provocation and a test of America’s commitment to religious freedom and pluralism.

So in order to clear up some of the confusion, I read the usual suspects (Harris, Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic, and Frank Rich from the NYT to name a few) and discovered that a lot of the information that was spread around this controversy was simply untrue. And then, by total coincidence, I ran into an Israeli friend who is married to an Egyptian man who is also a devout Muslim, I am not kidding you. Take that for religious diversity. It was a total fluke that I ran into her on the day I started writing about the mosque. As they say, it was life imitating blog.

Anyway, she told me that she has been visiting a local mosque with her husband and son in the evenings because this month is Ramadan, and that’s where her husband was breaking the fast. Then yesterday someone looked at her funny when he saw her eat something on the street and she was like “what’s your problem, man, why you looking at me like that? “ Only to find out that he saw her at the mosque and thought she was eating when she was supposed to fast. Little did he know. She ended up explaining to the congregation that she was Jewish and not fasting, and when they were not sure what the word Jewish meant, she added Israeli. That’s when they began complaining to her about the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and she had to put a stop to it and tell everyone that she did not come to the mosque to talk politics. When she saw my jaw falling off my face she said that they ended up treating her great and all ended well. So there is hope after all.

This Friday evening I am planning to go with my daughter and share some good food with my Muslim friends when they break the fast. Where else do you think I can get real good hummus and stuffed grape leaves in this town?

So here is my opinion of the mosque: Calm down people. Let’s talk it over and find a way to contain all this anger and do something productive. Yes, Sam Harris is correct in his analysis of the very serious ills of Islam and the need to speak out about those problems (jihadists, women-hating, total intolerance for the Other) and find creative ways to correct them, but screaming and kicking and badmouthing everyone will not do it. It will only make it worse and increase the alienation and hatred and violence. Transparency, accountability, responsibility, cooperation, checks and balances, due process, monitoring, education, education, education, all these buzz words were not invented for nothing. We should do something with them. After all this is America, where everything is possible and thinking out of the box is the cool thing to do.

We can protect and support and help progressive Muslims who have a very strong point to make like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Irshad Manji and Asra Nomani and all the other incredible Muslim women who write about their lives and fight for their rights and speak out without fear in spite of the huge risk involved in speaking out their minds.

Now, look at the picture I attached above. That’s me, pushing a baby stroller, on HaYarkon Street in Tel Aviv, in 1999. It’s my daughter in that stroller. Behind me is, lo and behold, a mosque! This mosque is standing across the street from the Dolphinarium. On June, 1, 2001 at 11:30 on Saturday night, Saeed Hotari blew himself up in the midst of a crowed of teenagers, who were standing in line to enter the Dolphin Disco. 21 people, mostly girls ages 14-18, were obliterated, 132 others were wounded. The Palestinians celebrated in the streets after the attack and the family of the bomber received a chunk of change as a reward.

I don’t think the Israelis erased that mosque from the skyline of Tel Aviv or demanded to demolish it after the attack that took place across the street. The last time I was in Tel Aviv that mosque was still standing there. A couple of blocks from my brother's apartment. This is how it is in the land of the Jews and Muslims and Christians and everything in between. Mosques were built on grounds where Jews lived and died and built their houses of worship, and synagogues were built were Muslims once worshiped and lived and probably died, too, and churches were built next to synagogues and mosques and cemeteries, and some of them were built on top of synagogues and mosques and cemeteries. And now New York is turning into a city where Christians and Jews and Muslims and everyone in between and around are building things and learning to live side by side. Let us not turn this city into another Middle Eastern province. We should know better.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

the political industrial complex

Last Tuesday (8/17) the Dem candidate lost his bid to represent District 15 in the California State Senate. I mentioned his name in my first blog post (5/16) when I first dipped my toes in the blogging waters. It was not a big political splash or a commitment of any kind on my part, just your typical "go vote" nudge to friendly sympathizers.


At the time, I was volunteering at the Dem campaign headquarters, hoping to make a little difference and fulfill my civic duty. Very quickly I realized that there were very few things I could do to help my candidate. The two main activities that the political campaign offered to people like me were not my real cup of tea: one was calling registered Dems and asking-reminding them to vote on elections day, and the other was hanging sleek, colorful fliers with all kinds of graphics on the door handles (or knobs, if you wish) of registered Dems homes.


The first activity intimidated the hell out of me. Making cold calls is something I simply can't do. When I get this kind of phone calls I hang up without worrying about what kind of impression I make on the poor caller. I don't bother to be polite (I know, I'm a bad person). I can tell that people are trying to sell me something the moment they say my name. They don't pronounce it correctly. So I hang up. I'm already on the "don't call" list, so I feel I have a right to do it. Unless it's someone from the Dems headquarters, in which case I speak politely and promise to come help and do whatever they want me to do even if I don't really mean it, because I know I might run into the caller one day and will have to explain why I was so mean.


The second activity made me nauseous. After walking several blocks looking for non-existent door handles on which to hang my fliers, climbing noisy staircases that looked into spacious living rooms and attracted the attention of the people who were sitting inside, avoiding dogs and curious onlookers, and apologizing to the mail delivery lady who caught me cheating and stuffing the colorful fliers in mail boxes - something I learned was unlawful - I needed to go home and hide. I felt sick to my stomach. Not only was I wasting expensive resource (paper!), I was breaking the law.


After I recovered from the traumatic stint as a hanger of campaign fliers I decided to look for a better way to contribute to the campaign. The organizers suggested that the volunteers write letters to the editors of different local newspapers. So I picked up an information flier, wrote a short letter and emailed it to the editor of our local newspaper (which I never read, by the way). It was more like an advertisement sort of a letter, "vote for bla bla bla because bla bla bla, on such day bla bla bla" and so forth. Nothing too deep or informative, just the general superficial slogans. Only the title was kind a' cute. The rest was pure mediocrity. And the paper published it on elections day!!! Or more accurately, it was published on one of the elections days, because we still had another election day ahead of us.


I felt very accomplished for about two seconds and basked in my glory, already seeing my bright future as a political writer. I did it. I can do it. We can do it. Yes we can.


With my new sense of accomplishment, I felt re-energized and ready to get my candidate elected, only to discover that all I was asked to do was... making phone calls or hanging fliers on door handles.


I took a step back and looked at those two activities and realized that I had a serious problem. I didn't believe that personal phone calls or robocalls and fliers could help my candidate get elected. Call me crazy, but there must be a better way to do it in the twenty first century, the century of ipods, iphones, email, text messaging, twitter, facebook, popups ads, youtube, and all the other social media out there in cyberspace.


I mean, if I hang up my phone so rudely in people's face, I bet others do it, too. Especially when they get 3 robocalls and 2 personal calls a day. And worse, some people become resentful of all the phone calls. Even I, a volunteer for the cause, get totally irritated when Dem volunteers call me. Come on guys, don't you think I would vote for a candidate I volunteer for? Why are you bothering me on a Saturday morning? Get a life.


And the fliers, those really get under my skin. I can't imagine how much the candidate pays to design them and then to print them. I am sure the graphic designer and the print shop did not volunteer their hours and material for the cause. So why waste the money? And all that paper? How many people really stop to look at those fliers? They probably assume it is another pusher from the local Chinese restaurant or pizza parlor and dump them in their recycle bin on their way upstairs. Who has time to look at these fliers with all that boring information and pictures and then process the images, evaluate them, analyze them, and make a decision? No one!!


"But some people do take these calls, and some people do read those fliers, and the form letters which we send by snail mail (with a real stamp that has to be licked by... who else, volunteers). So what do you suggest we do?" That's a cool response, I agree, but I think that the people who take the calls, and the people who read the fliers and open the licked envelops are those who will vote for the candidate anyway. Like me.


What we need to do is persuade those who don't care about politics and elections. Those who don't read fliers or letters to the editors. Those are the voters who make the difference. Everybody who follows political campaigns knows it. The political machine and its industrial complex is so sophisticated by now, they can tell you how many hours each voter sleeps and where they shop and what magazines they subscribe to, and how they voted in 1958, and what the name of their cat (or dog).


It's the quiet ones and the super busy ones that we need to reach and awaken to a possible reality that they might not like if the wrong candidate wins; and the young ones, and those who care about one issue... let's say.... NO OFF-SHORE DRILLING, for example. It's California central coast after all, and we have all these cute seals and otters and whales and birds and butterflies who would die if we have an oil spill, need I say more?


So here I am, driving on the freeway, noticing huge signs planted on the dunes with the names of candidates printed on them. And that's all. One sign is dark blue with gold letters and the other is light blue with green letters. And I'm thinking to myself, hey, I like light blue, I'm gonna vote for the light blue sign, because it's prettier. So I have a bunch of people who vote dark blue and a smaller bunch who vote for light blue, because that was all the information we get on that sign, beside the name of the candidate, but who ever remembers those names anyway. It's not like they are really sexy or have the coolest video on youtube...

Or maybe they do????


If you have a better idea how to get out of the grinding orbit of campaign action, please let me know. I'll be more than happy to share with my friends at the Dems campaign headquarters. Remember, we will always have November.

And to all the volunteers who put so many hours into this campaign I say: Thank you!

related stuff:

This article was sent to me by one of the Dem's campaign managers just before the mid term elections, Oct 2010.

From the Onion: Yard sign with candidate's name electrifies congressional race


























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Monday, August 16, 2010

25 years and counting


Last weekend I welcomed my 25th year in the United States. It was midnight. I was sitting in the parking lot of a gas station right off highway 46, next to my Thai friend, hoping the men who stopped to refuel and buy snacks at the well-lit Foodmart would not notice the two women resting in the parked car. My friend fell asleep almost right away and I tried to sort out what it meant to live 25 years in the United States.

25 years. That sounds like a very long time.

After 25 years in this country, I still mop the floor the Israeli way. With a squeegee and with water, not that abominable moppy thingy that spreads the dust and hair and crumbs around and makes the floor even scummier. I still eat shkedei marak right out of the box, pour them into my mouth like beer. I never got used to the obscene American cucumbers and was utterly happy when the first normal cucumbers showed up in my produce store and then at Trader Joe's. Why they call them Persian cucumbers is beyond me, but I don't want to mess up with Ahmadinejad, nuclear bombs and all, so I let them call my cucumbers "Persian."

I like hard-boiled-egg sandwich with tomato and green olives even for dinner, just like in the kibbutz. Not much has changed in this department. I also never got used to drenching my food in ketchup and I shudder in horror every time my daughter covers her fried potatoes in this red goo. I never got used to eating cold cereal in the morning, or drinking soda instead of water, or eating left-over cold pizza for breakfast.

I once said that in order to become a true American I needed to do two things: I had to make out in the back seat of a car at least once, and learn to order something to eat in a fast food joint without looking at the menu. I am sorry to say that even today, 25 years later, I still don't qualify. I never eat fast food, and making out in a car... well, the jury is still out on this one.


I did learn to drive and be polite to strangers. As many of you already know, Israelis don't dwell on the small things like saying thank you and please or wait for their turn to speak. I learned to do it the hard way. Shortly after I came to the States I started waiting tables in a popular 50s style diner. One day the manager called me into her office and told me someone had complained that I was rude to them and that she was going to suspend me. I asked her to describe the offense and when she finished, I told her that it was probably not me because it simply didn't ring a bell. She refused to believe me. When the story became public, one of the Irish servers confessed to the misdeed. When I asked the manager why she assumed it was me she said, "Well, they said the server had an accent and was rude, who else could it be?" Truth be told, I have not perfected my American manners, yet, but I am improving, and maybe in 25 years I'll be almost there.

I am sure there is a lot of Israeli left in me even after all these years. It is not something I can dispose off, like a moldy shower curtain or an old pair of shoes, as they say. Those Israeli traits follow me everywhere, giving me an added edge and a different perspective on things whether I want to or not. Sometimes they get me in trouble, rarely do they open a door. Cultural differences are very difficult to bridge, even for the most conscientious and keen observer of human behavior. There are so many subtle nuances, shades of white and black and gray. Being an American is a life-long learning process. Sometimes I get a good grade, sometimes I am very mediocre. My only hope is that I don't fail too many times.





Tuesday, August 10, 2010

elena kagan

Sonia Sotomayor, U.S. Supreme Court justiceImage via Wikipedia

I am afraid that soon I will have to give up my Other title (just kidding). Having a single woman from the Ashkenazi Jewish tribe on the the U.S. Supreme Court makes me feel almost mainstream.

It's a good day for America when a progressive woman is being confirmed to the highest court of the land. And it was an eye feast seeing Obama introducing her to a crowd of suits in the White House. Now we have three women sitting on the bench.

Compare that to the women of Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and Somalia.

We still have a long way to go. But we are getting there....

S-L-O-W-L-Y


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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Prop 8 - what a' great feeling

Wedding cake of a same-sex marriage, photo tak...Image via Wikipedia

I was asked by a reader of my blog to comment on the August 4th ruling on Prop 8 (the anti-gay marriage proposition which passed in California by a large margin in November 2008), or more accurately, he was surprised I didn't write about it. To this I answer, I was caught unprepared when the ruling was announced, and I was sans computer for a few days. But now, I have no excuse. So here it is.

My perspective on this issue is not very "other" because I am sided with Judge Walker's ruling which overturned Prop 8. However, if you count all those who voted for this abomination, then I might be considered as "Other," since I was in the minority vote, and that makes me feel very proud of my otherness.

However, I have one confession to make: When gays started campaigning to legalize same-sex marriage I was dumbfounded. Why would anyone want to get married if he or she can get away with not getting married and still have a family?

My view on marriage was quite grim. I always asked myself what marriage was about: Love? Not really, check out Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen, India, and many other places on this planet where girls are forced into arranged marriages without having much say in the matter. Even in this country, many women marry for financial security and social status, look up the women who married Donald Trump. Procreation? Not really. Today anyone can procreate without getting married, look up Bristol Palin, the latest spokesperson on sex moratorium. And check out divorce rates, not too encouraging for someone contemplating marriage.

Marriage, I concluded in an uncharacteristic pragmatic fashion, was really a (business) contract between a man and a woman cloaked in some binding social-financial-contractual obligations. Check out child custody, joint tax returns, inheritance rights, alimony, credit card debt, where to spend Christmas/Hanukkah/Thanksgiving, how to cheat without getting caught, and the list goes on and on.

In short, I felt that marriage was totally overrated and that gays were being silly for buying into the Cinderella myth. Then I realized it was really about equal rights, and I felt quite stupid that I didn't get it right away. But once I got it, there was not a doubt in my mind or heart that if anyone wanted to try out marriage no one had the right to stand in the way. Furthermore, I think marriage is included in the U.N. declaration of human rights, check out article 16. And I'm all for human rights.

We all know what kind of privileges married couples have in this country. Gay-rights activists already listed them for all to see. But what irked me the most about Prop 8 was that many gays have an invisible problem when it comes to marriage rights, which those who voted for Prop 8 seemed to not realize (or maybe they did, which makes them look even worse). Civil unions, as far as I know, don't help foreigners get permanent resident status in this country, so without the option of marriage, gays who have partners from other countries are totally screwed. So basically gays have no choice: if they want to live with a partner from another country they HAVE to get married even if they don't want to get married. That's the law of the land.

So I am very, very happy about this victory and what it says about this country, and I will hold my fingers crossed until it gets its final approval by the Supreme Court. Can't wait to see how Chief Justice Roberts will explain his surprising ruling.

And to all the other Justices and Judges who will rule on Prop 8 I say:

Let them eat [wedding] cake!



related reading:

Slate: The conservative defense of marriage

another article I found after I wrote this post

Politics Daily: Bi-national gay-spouse rights





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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Avatar

'CoverCover via Amazon

Yes, I know, I am very behind on my movie list. I have just seen Avatar on my flat screen TV, medium sized from Best Buy, nothing too fancy, so it was not the all encompassing experience it should have been had I seen it in the movie theater with those 3D glasses. Henceforth, I had the unique opportunity of watching it from the outside rather than the inside.

I have to add one more note: I haven't read one review of the movie, yet. So the opinion expressed is all mine, uninfluenced, uneducated, and free of any previous notions. All I know about this movie is by osmosis, and a short glimpse of someone talking about the movie on a talk show long ago. They said something about having cameras attached to their foreheads. That's all I know about Avatar, and the poster. So here it is:

After dedicating two evenings to the movie, I arrived at the following opinion: Avatar is Dances With Wolves on acid meeting Star Wars on steroids!

You have got to be kidding me!!!!!!!!

Ok, I know, many of my friends loved the sensory explosion/experience, appreciated the technological savvy of the animators, and reveled in the beauty of the scenery.

I, on the other hand, found myself thinking about fifteen minutes into the movie, WTF, blue Indians with tails riding on weird horses, and John Wayne is a Marine guy on a wheelchair, trying to save who? The Indians?

I guess I am not a very sophisticated viewer. I don't get sucked in enough, I can't suspend belief when I sit in my own bed watching the Indians running in the forest and jumping from tree to tree like Tarzan. Can you add more stuff to this movie soup?

Yes, indeed. But before I get into this, and remind me if I forget, let me talk a little about evolution and human imagination. Those of you who read anti-god literature are probably familiar with the writings of Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and my currently most favorite blogger/biology Professor PZ Myers. Some of the anti-god movement is led by biologists, i.e. people of the evolution persuasion. And they show us where evolution messed up, like Hitchen's description of the human ear and the knee, to prove that if god was so everything he was supposed to be, we would have had a much better designed ear, for example.

So here I am, sitting on my bed, thinking, these guys who created Avatar with all the technological wonders available on their magical computers and fantastic programs, all they could come up with was blue Indians with a tail and funky ears? You guys could have come up with an improved version of evolution, show us where evolution could have taken us had god really existed. For example, plant some eyes on the backside of the head, or the top side to see the stars at night, and get rid of the ears all together. What is it with space aliens and ugly ears anyways? And imagine if those space Indians had eyes on the feet or additional arms on the back? I am not an evolutionist expert, but I'm sure there are better ways to be a human-like creature. And the horses, why do they gallop and not float or slide on their side or something?

I know, I know! We have to identify with all this crap, so they have to kind of look like us, I guess. Psychology of the masses from movie makers.

"But it was so pretty, the forest and those little fairy jelly-fish," I am told. Yup, Disney's been there too. And a Bruce Willis wannabe also gave a Die Hard cameo in the form of a crazed violent commander who refuses to give up until Pocahontas shoots him with an arrow to the heart.

Yes, dear movie lovers, I am a total party pooper.




related article:

just found this one: The new ledger and liked it a lot. (8/11/2010)



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Friday, August 6, 2010

people of accents


I am a person of accent. Although I’ve lived in the U.S. for more than two decades, I still have a prominent accent. People who know Israelis recognize my accent in a flash. People who have never met a native Hebrew speaker before running into me usually think I am French because I have a soft ‘r’ which they assume to be French, but really is a Hebrew ‘r’. Some people assume I am not very bright because I have an accent. Many people think I'm a tourist.


I used to think that being perceived as a French person was a much better deal than being Israeli. The French appear to be a lot more sophisticated than the Israelis, at least when it comes to food and fashion. The Israeli stereotype conjures up in most people's mind images of terrorist attacks, desert, and Hasidic attire, none of which can be attributed to me since I come from the northern part of Israel and am a devout secular. When I told my French colleague about my French preference, she said that being French in America is just as annoying, because people usually assume a French person is either a chef, a restaurant owner or an antique furniture dealer.

While I sympathize with my colleague's predicament, I'd take that over any Israeli stereotype. It is so much sexier being a chef than being perceived as a supporter of West Bank settlers or a right wing fundamentalist. It really doesn't matter how much lobster I eat or how many times I express opinions that don't fall under the usual headlines from Israel, people assume I am kosher and trigger happy to some degree.

In California, when American-born "natives" think about people of accents they usually think about "ethnics" and illegal immigrants. But many people of accent don’t look much different from the general Caucasian population and blend in pretty well when they venture out... until they open their mouth, and then they have to deal with the general stereotypes, comments, and questions.

One of my "favorites" is the comment, "you speak English so well." Well, maybe I have an accent, dude, but I've been speaking English longer than you do, is what usually pops into my head. Sometimes I can't help myself and say, "you, too." Sometimes I swallow the expletive that wants to come out of my mouth and thank the offender.

Here's a sample of questions I still deal with on a very regular basis:

Are you visiting? Do you like it here?
Where are you from? (People usually assume I'm from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, as if these are the only two inhabitable places in Israel.)
What brought you to the U.S.?
Do you have a family here? How long have you lived here?
What do you think about the conflict, Netanyahu, Sharon, Golda Meir?
Do you eat sushi?

Waiters add their tip to my bill because they know that Europeans don't tip and they think I am from Europe (France or Croatia or the Czech Republic). Some of them give me an attitude because they think I'm going to stiff them, because I am ...European. When I was pregnant with my daughter people started speaking to me in Spanish the moment I opened my mouth, I guess because only Latinas dare to be pregnant and walk on the street at the same time. Some people just go blank after they ask for directions and I start talking. And job interviews were never a fun experience, either.

Sometimes I wish I didn't have an accent and I imagine what my life would have been like if I could speak American and be one of the crowed. Then one of my friends would say, "Please, don't lose your accent. You can read the phone book on NPR and you'd make it sound like poetry of a political prisoner who has written their life's story on toilet paper with bug juice."

I think I'm going to take this as a compliment and keep my accent for the time being.