Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Here's your sign...
Those of you who know me are aware that one of my pet peeves is people who forward hoaxes, urban legends, bogus virus warnings, and misattributed intellectual property. Anyone who has the ability to commit these transgressions, by definition also has the ability to avoid them. Specifically, if you have e-mail, you have access to the Internet as well!
I know from rereading my old e-mails that I tend to get shrill and strident when dealing with this issue, but I can't help it. With today's robust search engines (google, yahoo, altavista, webcrawler, et al) it takes literally seconds to find out if what you are about to inflict on your entire address book is legit. There is even a great clearinghouse for urban legends called snopes where you can search by keyword or genre for every sort of hoax, e-mail fraud or netlore.
One of the worst offenses (in my humble opinion) though, is attributing one person's work to another. If you forward an e-mail telling me about a bogus phone scam or computer virus, all you have done is waste my time (and perhaps my ISP's bandwidth). If in your haste to send me something funny, sad or beautiful you neglect to tell me who wrote, sang, or photographed it...even that I can almost forgive, since in the process of being passed around it may have become irreparably separated from its creator. There are, unfortunately, a lot of orphaned ideas, images, and music adrift in cyberspace...all well worth sharing.
However, when you forward something attributed to one person that was actually created by someone else - especially if a quick google search would have set things right - well, now you've gone too far.
A famous case that comes to mind is the famous, "Here's your sign" comedy sketch, attributed to Andy Rooney (among others), that has been making the rounds for the past few years. The concept and excecution of this routine was so brilliant, that "Here's your sign" has become a slangy way of telling someone they've done or said something really stupid. The only problem here is that Andy Rooney didn't write it. It is the work of a comedian named Bill Engvall.
Another example closer to my heart is the famous Dennis Miller piece dealing with the concept of news programs that provide a legitimate forum (and by proximity, the kiss of legitimacy) to terrorists. In addition to lampooning Greta Van Susteren, he makes some brilliant observations about the situation in the middle-east. Again, we have a problem because the article was written not by Dennis Miller, but by another talented humorist named Larry Miller.
It is a rare thing to say, do, or otherwise create something worthy of being passed along or quoted. It is rarer still for one's ideas to amass a cult following of sorts. Let's face it...for the few hours, days or weeks that a great e-mail / link makes the rounds, a heretofore unatainable insta-fame is made possible.
In this paperless age, few of us will leave to posterity cigar-boxes full of correspondence. Our great ideas will not turn up in steamer trunks in dusty attics or glued into the back of old picture frames. No...the only shot most people will have at passing along their ideas to the future is if the identity of the creator somehow manages to stay connected with the creation.
Oh...yes, you can feel free to forward this.
Monday, December 29, 2003
Right, left, or buffalo? A question of wings.
Ok...seeing as this blog resides in the public domain...I knew at some point I would be asked to define my 'position'. I just didn't expect that day to come so soon.
Sorry to be so blunt, but asking people how they label themselves (or are labeled by others) - while certainly faster and easier than actually listening to them and forming an opinion - is a lazy way to go through life.
I'm an optimist, though. I firmly believe that most people truly 'listen' when exposed to ideas and opinions that differ from their own. But to others out there, I can already see that I'm going to be a great big disappointment. You see, I don't fit many convenient definitions or labels...I sometimes even [GASP] change my mind!
Then, of course, there are those who take even a shorter view of the world...addressing each issue, out of any larger context (like shooting tin ducks at a carnival), and waiting for others to tell them how to think. This is also a lazy way to go through life. Not only do you not form any of your own opinions...you need some external source to tell you where you are at any given moment (kind of like driving with the GPS navigation system on all the time but gaining no lasting sense of how to get around). There is a great quote that speaks to this concept found in a book by Leonard Stern called "A Martian Wouldn't Say That", (a very funny collection of boneheaded statements made by various Hollywood big-shots), that goes something like this: "I don't know what I think about the script yet...I'm the only one who's read it". This kind of person is also going to be frustrated by this 'blog, since at any given moment, the author (yours truly) is conflicted about the topic being discussed and is writing in order to gain perspective and examine the issue.
In short, don't look to me for answers. However, if you're in the market for some good questions (and there are some GREAT questions out there); I'm your guy!
Sunday, December 28, 2003
It is seldom a 'comic strip' does more than amuse. The medium lends itself nicely to political satire - often through the use of caricature and irony. A good one can sometimes even educate.
But today I saw a strip whose truth and simplicity took my breath away.
Click HERE to see for yourself.
This morning, I read with horror the estimates of the dead in the Iran earthquake. Numbers like 20,000 are impossible to imagine. They become more horrifying when you see the follow-up statements from Iranian officials stating that they don't really know how many are dead or missing...it cold be twice that amount!!! Each one of those people was part of a family, a workplace, a community...and without warning is now part of a meaningless statistic.
It seemed to me that nothing could possibly compound this tragedy...yet while searching the news sites, I came accross something that did exactly that:
It seems that Jahanbakhsh Khanjani, a spokesman for Iran's Interior Ministry, said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran accepts all kinds of humanitarian aid from all countries and international organizations, with the exception of the Zionist regime."
The article went on to say, "Iran refused Israeli help in dealing with its catastrophic earthquake, saying the Islamic Republic would accept aid from all countries of the world, except Israel. "
I had to read this several times for it to sink in. Israel had offered humanitarian aid, including its specially trained search & rescue teams, to help ease the suffering of the earthquake victims and, among all the nations on earth, had been told, "no".
To put this in perspective, there have been documented incidents of wounded Palestinians treated by the Israeli Army medics refusing transfusions of Israeli blood on the grounds that "Jewish blood was always tainted and impure" (an old Joeseph Goerbels charge). In such cases, the IDF responded by having "acceptable" Arab blood flown in from Jordan at NO small expense to transfuse the Palestinians. While wildly offensive...such a refusal from some minor Palestinian Red Crescent official is not the statement of an entire government!
Where are all the Europeans who are always so quick to call Israel racist? Where is the U.N.? The fact is, the world will do or say little about such a statement. There are different rules for the rest of the world, and Israel is held to a different standard.
The article I was reading went on to describe, "Large-scale Israeli assistance following a massive earthquake in 1999 in northwestern Turkey that killed over 15,000 people, and a huge earthquake in western India in 2001 that killed some 20,000 people, helped strengthen ties between Israel and those two countries.
In 1999 Israel airlifted to Turkey doctors and equipment for a field hospital, as well an emergency rescue team comprising 250 persons, sophisticated rescue equipment, and rescue dogs.
And in 2001, Israel dispatched a field hospital and some 150 people to India to assist in rescue and medical efforts following the earthquake in Bhuj. The help Israel provided in these cases is still mentioned often by Turkish and Indian officials when discussing their ties with Israel. "
Say what you want about Golda Meir...she hit the nail on the head when she said, "we will never have peace with the arabs so long as they hate us more than they love their own children".
Friday, December 26, 2003
Reflecting on Terraces
Nearly every day I adhere to a predictable morning routine:
First, I put up the water to boil, and grind some coffee beans. Then I set out the kid’s breakfast (on these chilly mornings, they usually get oatmeal with raisins, cream and a little honey), and a place setting for Zahava. Once the breakfast table is laid out and the coffee is steeping in the press, I go upstairs to wake the ‘big’ kids.
While Ari and Gili wash up and get dressed for school, I pour myself a soup-bowl sized cup of coffee, mix in some fresh cream, and wander out onto the back porch.
Even on these chilly mornings, I can’t help going out onto the porch…the view is just spectacular. We live on the slope of a hill, overlooking a small valley (wadi, in the local lexicon), and the Judean Hills. With the exception of two small communities in the distance, much of the land within my view consists of vineyards...and all areas, whether under cultivation or not, have been terraced.
What fascinates me about these terraces is how ad-hoc they seem to be. There is no order to the level or size of each terrace. It appears that wherever a little topsoil remained on the hillside…somebody threw up a stone retaining wall below to catch whatever could be salvaged.
This manifestation of the ad-hoc race to hold onto things seems to nicely sum up the human condition - at least as it appears reflected in my morning coffee.
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Chri...um, I mean Hannukah vacation
Well, the kids are off from school this week for Hannukah.
We are still getting used to the reality of living in the Jewish state. Having grown up in a country that, at best, pays lip service to the separation of church and state (reality not withstanding), we and the kids are giddy at the realization that our culture...our reality...is not some third column 'also ran' in the big picture.
Hannukah here is not 'the anti-Christmas' that it has become in the states. Sure there is gift-giving (though not a universally accepted custom, and certainly not on the scale we had experienced in the 'states), but the celebration has an unapologetic cultural, rather than religious 'feel'. Malls are full of the smell of freshly fried and powdered Sufganiot (jelly donuts), and supermarket produce sections are dominated by the mountains of potatos and onions - the basic building blocks of the perfect latke (potato pancake).
Last night we took the kids to one of the big malls in Jerusalem. We had some stuff to pick up for the baby, but we pitched the outing to Ari and Gili as a rare opportunity to eat in the mall food court. Though there are literally dozens of food choices at the mall (Thai, Chinese, Italian, middle-eastern, etc.), the stand-alone favorite with our kids is Burger King (kosher, thank you very much). While we ate our Whoppers and fries at a table near the counter, we were delighted to see the BK staff stop taking orders for a few minutes while they gathered to light the Menorah that was prominantly displayed atop the [non-dairy] milkshake machine. Everyone patiently waited for the blessings to be said and the candles to be lit (5th night...my personal fav) before going back to the hustle and bustle that is any fast food counter. The simplicity and total acceptance of the moment is what turned our heads around.
Monday, December 22, 2003
why this? why now?
As the poster child for A.D.D., I have often marveled at my brain's ability to come up with the wittiest observations and snappiest retorts...minutes, hours, or even days after they have ceased to be even remotely relevant. Worse yet...with most of my family and friends half a world away, I usually get the urge to 'chew the fat' well after most of the western world has gone to bed. Naturally, by the time the sun peeks over North America, my muse has taken a powder.
Therefore, I was amazed to discover that there exists a word that neatly sums up my tardy parries and belated ripostes: treppenwitz.
The English language has no handy word for what the Germans know as treppenwitz: literally, the "wit of the staircase," - those clever remarks or cutting rejoinders that only come to mind once it's too late to deliver them (as one is headed down the stairs and out of the house). *
Now that I had a name for my particular malady...it was only a matter of time before I applied the concept to the A.D.D. sufferer's best friend: The Weblog. With the birth of this 'blog, my muse (who seems to travel with neither watch nor bus fare) will be free to dispense inspiration according to its own schedule, and I can share my thoughts, dreams and experiences with more than an empty stairwell.
Stay tuned for family updates, political ramblings, and of course...frequent photo album additions.
Well, here we go: "Tap, tap, tap...is this thing on?"
* Thanks to Snopes for the working definition I have paraphrased here.