Monday, 30 November 2009

Being Jew-ish

What does it mean to be, like, Jewish? On the one hand, it seems straightforward enough - matrilineal descent and all that. On the other, it does seem at times a rather complicated matter. Certainly, I for one would struggle to find anything in common between the nice young men (only men, mind - women stay at home and do the dishes) who've been chucking stones at the Intel Building over the last couple of weekends, and the very nice young women (there are men too, but they don't immediately concern me) who spend the Sabbath soaking up the sun on Tel Aviv's beaches.

More seriously though, it is obvious a vexatious issue, as the Jewish brethren in England have found out recently, prompted by - of all things - school admission policies.

Perhaps one way around it is by creating a sub-group - people whom identify as Jew-ish, rather than Jewish, as the journalist Jonathan Margolis expounds on at length in today's Guardian.

Margolis is, in some ways, whom I'd like to be when I finally get round to growing up - an engaging and perceptive writer with the capacity to soften provocative opinion with wry humour. He starts off light, with a bit of self-deprecating stuff:

"For us, the cool thing about being born a Jew is you can do it as much or as little, as well or as badly, as you like. You can be professional, amateur or pro-am. This understandably pissed off the pros, who marry a fellow full-timer, know all the stuff in the manual and keep up with the latest fads."

...before dipping into deeper territory.

"I don't pretend any of what I've experiences is more than an inconvenience, an irritant in the scheme of racist things, but at school in the 60s and 70s I was still physically beaten and tormented by larger boys...the reason for the violence was, apparently, that we Jews were at the same time unacceptably rich and flashy and unacceptably poor and miserly. It was, I see now, a writ-small version of the confused Nazi paradigm of the Jew as both arch-capitalist and arch-communist."

There's a link to the full article here.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Flight plan

I have to fly through Ben Gurion International Airport next week. Oh Joy...

Quite seriously: The security checks are little more than an irritation these days - if nothing else, I find it vaguely amusing (albeit, if I am to be honest, also a little troubling) that the pre-pubescent security officials see fit to waste as much time as they do on me. One day, they may get to understand that crude ethnic profiling doesn't work...

A friend sent me this the other day. I'm not entirely certain that it is based on the Israeli Airport Experience, but it isn't far off...

1983 from Modi on Vimeo.

Why 1983? Because it is one year away from 1984, I suppose...

Elsewhere: Wired Magazine, via the blog of a young woman called Lily Sussman, report that the MacBook's hard drive is capable of withstanding gunshot damage. How do they know? Because the nice fellows in charge of the Israel's security decided that it was a security risk and put three bullets through it. Charming...(there's another report in The Marker)

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Macheads, the Movie

I've used a Mac for about three years. I switched from PCs mainly because of the iPod, a hypothetical gadget come to life, a toy that I'd had wet dreams over about since I was about 8 years old. The Mac family of lifestyle/productivity tools are cool toys; they also attract an unlikely, unwieldy community of smug 'uns too.

It wasn't always thus, mind. For a long while, Apple Computers were kept afloat mainly by the devotion of dedicated tech-heads who actually cared about what went on inside a computer, rather than what it looked like or the assumptions one could make by association...

Apple computers thrived on this community - until they discovered that there were better profit margins in nice gizmos like the iPod, the iPhone and the soon-to-revolutionise-the-world-iTablet. So they dropped the word 'computer' from their corporate name and ditched the weirdos whom had kept the flame burning...

Filmmakers Kobi and Ron Shely made a interesting documentary about the story of the cult of Mac, MacHeads, a year ago. It premiered at Mac Expo last January, and has broadly speaking been reviewed quite warmly. I quite enjoyed it too. (Full disclosure - The Brothers Shely are related to Mrs Goy).

It's surprisingly sensitive - it would have been very easy to turn the film into a freak show -underpinned by a serious consideration of Apple's corporate strategy. Anyway, MacHeads is on at the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv this Tuesday at 10. Worth a peek. Here's the trailer.

ps - my hard drive died on me three weeks ago. Nonetheless, I still love my (newly refurbished) Mac. The whole Windows Vista argument had passed me by until I tried to use Mrs Goy's PC...

Friday, 27 November 2009

Talk Show Blues you have a bit of time on your hands, it's late at night, perhaps you've had a drink or two. The radio is on and some angry men (they are usually men - women write letters) are shouting at each other. They think they're having a rational, lucid conversation. They're not, of course: it's entertainment. Welcome to the world of late night talk radio.

But then you get carried away. Someone says something you don't like. And before you know it, you've picked up the phone and you're dialing away...

Radio talk shows thrive on controversy, testosterone and the complete incapacity of man to hold his fellow man in anything other than the deepest contempt. Without these shouting heads, the format would be dead. It thrives on provocation and overstatement.

So pity poor Eli Barak of Ramat Gan, who thought he was playing by the rules when he called Nissim Cohen, of Bnei Barak, a "bum who didn't serve in the Army."

Unfortunately for him, Cohen, a 'rightist' (whatever that means) did serve in the Army. And Cohen decided to sue Barak (obviously, a 'leftist') for libel. the result? NIS 40 000 in damages, plus a written apology. The full story is here.

I actually found the article rather fascinating, opening up an illicit new world that I scarcely knew existed. Of serial talkbackers (incidentally - someone tells me that 'talkbacker' is a uniquely English-Israeli word, or at least originated here. Can anyone confirm or refute?), radio show participants/provocateurs and the like. The penultimate paragraph of the article seems to sum the phenomena up quite succinctly.

"The respective talk show hosts are tired of airing the same speakers again and again. the participants, who want to talk a lot, all the time, are forced to seek other outlets, such as talkbacks or Big Brother."

The article then quotes a chap called Zur, described as an "obsessive radio listener":

"I've been to two auditions," says Zur. "I told them people talk nonsense on those radio shows. I want to talk politics, to blast people (I didn't realise the two activities were mutually compatible, but there you go). They took me for a four-hour simulation with 16 other people. You won't believe what morons were there. What ignorance. There's no one to talk to."

Frankly, it sounds like they all deserve one another.

Have a good weekend, post-Thanksgiving and/or Eid.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


They were on at the Barby last night. Couldn't make it, sadly - someone was picked (against his will) to be childcare for the evening.

Their music is worth checking out IMHO: their website is here

Oh dear

From the Ynetnews website: Alert civilian at Tel Aviv Port spots government agent planting dummy bomb near vehicle as part of training course. Panic ensues as alarmed police officials unaware of exercise evacuate area; three employees suspended over incident.  

The full comedy of errors is here.

A slight digression: I wonder whether Khaled Mashaal's feet dragging over the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap might in some way be connected to the fact that Bibi once tried to have him wiped out. It didn't work out as it happens, mainly because the Mossad agents sent to do the deed were as competent as the fellow above...

Enforced absence was the result of my Mac's hard drive dying on me. I had no idea it was possible to form such a close relationship with an inanimate object...

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

And if you thought that the newspapers were bad...

Shahar Golan posted this on his blog a couple of weeks ago.

It is an interview with Ada Yonath, Professor of Chemistry at Machon Weizmann, and who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry last month.

Or two interviews with Prof. Yonath

Or one.

As you'll see from the clip, Yonath was interviewed on Channel 10's evening news programme by Miki Haimovich. The interview was then lightly repackaged, and rebroadcast as new the next morning, making it seem that she was being interviewed anew by the breakfast show hosts, Haim Etgar and Sivan Cohen.

It might seem like a small thing. It is Channel 10's content, after all?

I disagree. Nothing would have been lost by re-broadcasting the original interview, Haimovitch and all, the next morning. Except the veneer of 'exclusivity'.

More to the point, I think that this is only a small step away from creating subtlely different questions to fit the answers that Prof. Yonath had helpfully provided earlier.

Which is only a short hop and skip away from creating radically different questions to fit Prof Yonath's answers - and misrepresenting her in the process, of course.

I don't think it is a small thing. If I'd wanted entertainment of this nature, I'd go take out a Woody Allen film. To be honest, I find it rather patronising. Perhaps the editors at Channel 10 rate their viewers so lowly as to think that they can only engage with the news if it is live and direct? It's that 24 Hour rolling news thing again...

Okay, I'm being a grouch this morning. I promise that my next post will be more positive.

Again, hat tip to for pointing out the chicanery on the part of Channel 10.and setting up the clip. I didn't notice it. I mean, it isn't like I'd be paying attention to the news in Hebrew...

Monday, 2 November 2009


I read a lot, but I stopped getting a daily newspaper quite a while ago: I no longer see the point, to be quite honest. For one thing, newspapers lost the battle against 24 hour news channels quite a while ago,

(incidentally, I loathe rolling news channels...well, that's not entirely true. I have a love/hate/hate relationship with them, I suppose. I always come away from half an hour with Sky News or BBC feeling slightly less informed than I was previously. Maybe it's just me, grey cells corroding and all that...)

and for another, the wonders of the World Wide Web mean that I can get pretty much anything I want, gratis

(although Mr Murdoch seems determined to change that)

but this aside, the truth is that - in the news sections, at least - there is rarely anything worth reading. Straightforward news accounts are generally rather scanty, and more often than not are not followed up, leaving the curious reader with the duty to go get his detailed stuff elsewhere. Opinion and thinly-veiled partisan commentary generally trump sober analysis and fact; and, a lot of the time, new reports are plucked from the same general sources - Reuters, AP, AFP - and gently recycled and spun according to the whims and inclinations of the outlet.

(On the last point, it's worth reading Nick Davies' excellent Flat Earth News. You'll never look at a newspaper the same way again, I promise you...)

A couple of contemporary examples from Eretz Yisrael:

Goldstone: Has effectively become a football game, with the press merely keeping score. The fundamental questions have been lost beneath what is charmingly referred to as the PR War.

The Amnesty report on the (mis)use of Palestinian water resources: Even if one accepts every word to be just ain't news. It hasn't been news for years. As proof, I recommend reading Bernard Wasserstein's Israel & Palestine, particularly pp 80 - 97. Covers pretty much the same ground, in cool and coherent language...and was published six years ago.

Maybe I'm just getting cantankerous and crochety as I ease belly first into middle-age...

Anyway, these days I get a paper just at the weekend, which keep me happy for the week. The supplements, thankfully, run to different deadline priorities; write ups tend to have more of a consistence and narration-al coherency to them, I think. It's pretty easy, I think, to bullshit with 500 words, but it becomes much more difficult with 2500.

And I subscribe to a couple of magazines...

There's an interesting piece in this weeks New Yorker about Gaza, Gilad Shalit and the Guys in Green. Long enough to remind us of the historical antecedents to the sorry state of affairs down south at the moment. No one comes out of it looking good. Worth reading.

On a completely unrelated note: Is there any chance of someone getting the rain to, like, stop? I know I sound ungrateful and all, but my clothes are all wet, I can't do the laundry and I have to dash out for a cigarette between breaks in the rain that's been thundering down since Friday. Most inconsiderate.

On the good side, the Sukkah has come down. Not quite sure how - perhaps the wind dismantled it - but frankly, I don't care. As someone said once, Mission Accomplished.

Somehow, I think I'm going to regret saying that.