Tuesday, May 31, 2005
I have a friend... he's actually one of my heroes... who never seems to sweat the details of life.
His wife is also quite relaxed about many things, but is much more grounded when it comes to the kid's schedules and the routines/day-to-day management of their household.
For his part, my friend just assumes that if he creates the framework for something, then all the little stuff will fall into place. I'd love to call his approach to life 'childish' or even 'dangerous'... but somehow things just always seem to work out for him.
Almost always, anyway.
The difference in their parenting styles has manifested itself primarily when one of them goes to the states on business or for a short visit. And this is the setting for one of the rare instances when things didn't exactly work out quite the way my friend had hoped.
You see... unbeknownst to my friend's wife, whenever she would fly to the US to visit her family (taking with her the only shred of discipline the household ever knows), pandemonium would break out. Bedtimes would be set aside... dishes would pile up on every horizontal surface and overflow from the sink. Pizza deliveries would arrive at roughly two hour intervals... and each night everyone would fall asleep in the master bedroom after watching countless movies into the wee hours of the morning.
The day before his wife would be schedule to return from abroad my friend would hire an industrial cleaning service to come in and set the house back on its foundation. Popcorn would be vacuumed out of the sheets in the master bedroom, and dozens of movies would be carried back to the video store. A fortnight's worth of dishes would be washed and put away... and countless bags of trash would be hauled up to the dumpster.
When my friend's wife would walk through the door, she would be greeted by a pristine home and clean, smiling children wearing freshly laundered clothes.
For years nobody was the wiser.
Until, that is, my friend was recently packing for a business trip of his own... and their youngest child inadvertently spilled the beans.
As this little girl sadly watched her father packing his suitcase she asked her mother a perfectly reasonable question: "Mommy, why don't we have parties when daddy goes away like we do when you go away?"
Just like that the cat was out of the bag.
What followed couldn't very well be called an interrogation because the little girl had no idea she was being cross-examined. She also couldn't see her father's desperate attempts to 'shush' her because her mother had positioned herself strategically between the two of them.
My friend's youngest daughter told her mother in great details about the bedlam that reigned while mommy was abroad... fully expecting that her mother would sensibly adopt these measures during her father's impending trip.
I'm not sure who was sillier here; the little girl for thinking her mother would agree to a week-long bacchanalia... or my friend for thinking he would never get busted.
It's a good thing that Zahava and I see eye-to-eye on all aspects of parenting! [Looks around while whistling]
Monday, May 30, 2005
Just when you thought you couldn't muster more contempt for the French...
I read an article yesterday about a Japanese security expert being held hostage somewhere in Iraq having (apparently) been killed by his Sunni Muslim captors.
As cumbersome as that sentence may have been to read, it was necessary for me to write it that way so that everyone would be clear about all the roles and responsibilities.
Not so much? Here, let me parse it for you:
An article - A news source. This means the information may or may not be factual, but it sure is fresh.
Yesterday - OK, maybe not so fresh anymore.
Japanese - A citizen of a nation that has a constitutional prohibition against sending it's nationals abroad to participate in a military conflict. For those of you keeping score, this means he was, by definition, either a soldier serving in a humanitarian capacity, or a civilian.
Security expert... in Iraq - A person who was not only in Iraq by choice, but presumably knew a thing or two about protecting himself. In short, no babe-in-the-woods... deep, deep in the woods.
Hostage - OK, if the media has taken the unprecedented step of calling the victims hostages, then why do they continue to call the perps 'militants', 'insurgents', 'freedom fighters', 'combatants', etc.? If the masked guys in the snuff videos were any of these things than the blindfolded folks on their knees would be POWs. Full Stop. However, when you finally give in and start calling the people kneeling on the shower curtains 'hostages' you sorta, kinda, hafta make a shift in your entire lexicon to reflect reality, mmmkay?
Iraq - One of the easiest places on the planet to get kidnapped. So much so, that it boggles the imagination that people who are not under direct military orders to be there continue to go.
Killed - Well, in that part of the world you really do need to define this word because they have so many new and imaginative ways to make someone dead over there. Go on, tell me with a straight face that you don't read about a death of a hostage in Iraq and wonder to yourself if this time it was a beheading, a hanging, a gunshot to the temple, a knife to the heart, etc. I thought so. Just so we're all on the same page here.
Sunni Muslims - This is a surprisingly important distinction for the journalist to have made since most of us watching this little horror show from afar have been led to believe that it was the Shi'ites that are the bloodthirsty ones and the Sunnis who are the moderates. Hmmm... does anyone have some White Out?® ... I seem to have messed up my score card.
Captors - I hate this word. As I said before, it conjures mental images of POWs, Geneva Convention protection and International Red Cross inspections. What's going on in Iraq is actually big game hunting under the guise of political activism. If these people had a little more class and a lot more money, they'd be bagging endangered species in the rain forests and Jungles of the world instead of taking human hunting trophies out of the desert. There is no rhyme or reason to who gets taken in Iraq... or who gets executed. The only hard-and-fast rule seems to be that if a foreign national gets grabbed, the first thing his family needs to do is contact their home country's highest ranking Muslim Cleric because these robed and turbaned goodwill ambassadors won't even have the good graces to put on a show of having no connection to the 'captors'.
OK, so now that we've properly parsed my opening sentence I feel as though I'm still missing something.
Oh right! [slaps forehead] In the title of today's post I promised you a new reason to heap contempt upon the French. My bad!
For this we need to skip down to the 'oh, by the way' portion of the article where the journalist stashed the details that have nothing whatsoever to do with the story:
"Saito [the dead Japanese hostage] served in the French Foreign Legion for 21 years, but legionnaires said they could not help free him because he was not a French citizen."
I know most of you got that on the first pass, but I feel as though I should go over it again for the wrestling fans in our midst:
We now know from this sentence where this Japanese national earned his bonafides in the security field... he had a 21 year career in the French Foreign Legion! For those of you whose knowledge of the Foreign Legion comes exclusively from watching films set in the deserts of Algeria on the late, late show... I suggest you take a moment and bring yourselves up to speed on the Légion Étrangère.
The Foreign Legion was created in the early 19th century as a tool to support France's foreign conquest and colonialism (dual charges that France is very quick to level at others), and it has been a respected (or at least feared) part of the French military ever since. A member of the Foreign Legion can request French citizenship after only 5 years of service... but if you are wounded you can ask for it right away! Yet here is a retired veteran of 21 years in the Foreign Legion, and the best les imbéciles in Paris could come up with was "He's not a French citizen".
We'll leave aside for the moment the value French citizenship held for such distinguished veterans as Captain Alfred Dreyfus, and go right to the big question:
Why say anything at all?
The French have raised saying nothing to such an art form (think mimes) that I can't imagine why they chose this particular occasion to speak!
Better they should have said, "It would be more appropriate for you to direct your questions to the commanders of the forces in the region"... or, "Out of respect for the privacy of the family and so as not to endanger any security operations that might be underway, we would prefer not to make a statement at this time".
One of my kids could have come up with a less offensive excuse for inaction than the French provided!!!
It would seem that the only thing more shameful than the way France has acquitted itself in its many wars is the lack of honor / respect it shows for the people who have served in it's military.
Beating a dead horse
This past week I wrote a journal entry about the issue of stealing Intellectual property. The trigger for this topic was a website that is being set up to sell Jewish Ringtones for cell phones. Obviously this was a hot button topic because so many of you weighed in with thoughtful comments.
Well, today the owner of the website in question weighed in as well by leaving a comment of his own:
"I was very amused by your blog. While I appreciate your defense of artist rights and intellectual property, there is also a basic tenet in Judaism of "giving someone the benefit of the doubt." As you can see from our web-page we have listed artists who will appear and sell on our site. We have contracts in place or pending with ALL of them. In fact, our first contract we signed was with the Estate of Shlomo Carlebach. Thaat[sic] being said, we are a legitimate and kosher operation and NO ARTIST's material will be posted until we have finalized an agreement with them. I appreciate your concern for the artists.
Andrew Lanter Koltones Inc."
Mr. Lanter makes a good point in saying that I made certain presumptions about him and his enterprise without talking to him.
However, I would like to draw your attention to an important phrase in his comment:
"As you can see from our web-page we have listed artists who will appear and sell on our site. We have contracts in place or pending with ALL of them." [my emphasis]
See, here is where I stop feeling too bad about not giving them the benefit of the doubt. He basically comes right out and says that he has pictures of artists on his site with whom he does not yet have agreements!
That is problematic on two levels:
1. It gives the consumer (who has given them the benefit of the doubt and assumes that everything here is kosher and above board) the impression that all of the artists depicted have agreed to participate in his enterprise.
2. By placing the picture of an artist with whom he has not finalized an agreement he is transgressing copyright laws in exactly the manner I originally suggested.
UPDATE: I spoke with a friend whose image and name is shown on the Koltone site and he has not signed a contract to allow his music to be sold as ringtones. He has been approached by the people behind the ringtone site, but has not signed anything. So here I made one phone call and was able to prove that this company's business practices are shaky, if not unethical. They are promoting a product to which they presently have no legal rights!
In business law there are no such things as good intention or almost. You either have rights to something or you don't. If I want to use the Pepsi logo on my next album cover I need to get their permission! I can't release the album and then begin negotiations with PepsiCo.
I accept Mr. Lanter's criticism because I really didn't give him and his website the benefit of the doubt. But I am sorry to say that he has proven without any help from me that his end of the business world has done nothing to earn the presumption of innocence.
In Jewish law there are complex justifications for assumption of guilt or innocence based on past performance and the present likelihood of something occurring. If a person gets caught serving traif (non-kosher) meat in his/her restaurant, that person can no longer be assumed to be reliable. If an industry has a track record of ignoring halacha and civil legal norms, they too forfeit the right to the assumption of innocence.
If an entire industry has a long track record of trampling on intellectual property rights and ignoring all aspects of copyright law... then they can no longer demand that I (or anyone) give them the benefit of the doubt.
[Note: this was not my regularly scheduled post for today, so if you check back later I may have something else up.]
Sunday, May 29, 2005
That's just ... wrong!
This sort of thing is just bad for the game!
I'm referring, of course, to the 17 - 1 trouncing the Red Sox gave the Yankees yesterday.
I can't imagine how embarrassing it must have been for those nice boys on the Yankees to look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see such a lopsided score. I imagine that many of the players had parents and family in the stands... and this sort of thing could easily result in serious long-term self-esteem issues.
While surfing around, I stumbled upon a logical solution to help avoid having this sort of thing happen in the future. I found it on the website listing the official rules for the Encino, California Little League:
Rule 5. EXCEPTION: 10 Run Mercy Rule: Mercy Rule applies to when one team is leading its opposition by ten (10) or more runs and at least four (4) innings have been played. It should be noted that if the home team has scored more runs in three (3) or three (3) and a fraction half inning than the visiting team has scored in four completed half innings, the game is officially a regulation game. If after four (4) innings, three and one-half (31/2) innings, and the home teams is ahead, one team has a lead of ten (10) runs or more, the manager of the team with the least runs or more, the home team must bat in its half of the inning prior to calling a regulation game. If the home team scores enough runs where the score difference is less than ten (10) runs, play will continue.
Now this seems very sensible to me! Nobody wants to see a bunch of kids embarrassed in front of friends and family, right? If the Commissioner of Major League Baseball would consider adapting this small change to the rule book I'm sure it would be best for everyone involved... not to mention the game.
I'll bet if the mercy rule had been in force yesterday, the coaches might still have elected to have the kids play out the game for practice. And afterward they could have gotten together for pizza or something... y'know, just to keep everyone's spirits up.
Friday, May 27, 2005
Photo Friday (Vol. XXVII) [L'ag B'Omer edition]
Today is L'ag B'Omer (it actually started last night). I'll let those who aren't familiar with the observance of this day follow the link I placed.
Last night my big kids went off to make bonfires with their friends. Adults and little kids invariably end up together... and the kids from about 8 and up make their own fires. Zahava and I were very American about making sure there was sufficient adult supervision at Ari and Gili's respective bonfires, and we sent them off with strict warnings to come home if the adults wandered off. I know... we're so not Israeli! :-)
Amy over at Postcards from Israel writes eloquently about what she hates about this holiday (if one can call it that), but she and I have agreed to disagree on this.
All around our town - and of course all over Israel - people (religious and secular) gathered around medurot (bonfires) with family and friends. Looking out from behind my house I could see a long line of bonfires already burning:
As I walked to the big Medura (bonfire) that the families on my street all make together I passed a very sweet scene. A bunch of very young boys were sitting huddled together while a teenager (maybe an older brother of one of the little boys) stood telling them scary stories. I didn't hear the set-up, but just after I took this picture he delivered the clincher and all the boys shrieked like little girls!
Yonah had a rough day yesterday. He took a dive off of the couch and gave himself a bloody nose (and gave my wife a heart attack!). As a result, we put him down early and Zahava decided to stay home with him. I had wanted us both to attend our street's medura, but I ended up going alone. As I approached the spot this is what it looked like:
Everybody has their own idea of what food to eat at a medura. The kids like marshmallows (a relatively recent addition to the Israeli L'ag B'Omer scene), but the traditional foods are potatoes and onions roasted in the fire. Here one of my neighbors demonstrates the proper way to put them in the fire so that they can be retrieved later without a problem:
Several mangels (BBQs) were set up nearby to cook hot dogs and hamburgers for the kids. But when the kids had had their fill, the adults got ready to eat some real food. Here are some steaks that have just gone on the grill (the coals were shoveled directly out of the bonfire!):
I had wanted to take some pictures of the chicken wings that went on after the steaks, but I didn't want to handle the camera with greasy fingers. :-)
On the way home I saw some friends from the center of town who had built a medura on the area behind our backyard, so I stopped for a little while to chat with them. Gilad showed up there on his way back from his own bonfire and I managed to catch a shot of him as he told me how he and his friends had put out their fire with p... well, imagine the funniest way a bunch of little boys could extinguish a campfire and you probably won't be far off.:
Thursday, May 26, 2005
But everyone's doing it... right?
A couple of days ago I was over at Life-of-Rubin and read with interest his take on a website hawking Jewish ringtones for cell phones. This site (no, I'm not going to provide a link and give free traffic to a criminal enterprise!) isn't yet functioning, but it already has a front page up.
Life-of-Rubin suggests that the Jewish Ringtones site will probably get sued, since they are unlikely to even go through the motions of securing permission to use the artist's names or music. But I disagree. The site owners are on pretty safe ground there. By choosing to carry only ringtones of Jewish artists they are infringing on the rights of people who, as a group, have proven themselves to be as lazy about protecting their rights as their listening public has been aggressive about trampling them.
Anyone who knows me is aware that one of my (many) pet peeves is the rather, shall we say, casual attitude my 'religious' coreligionists have towards intellectual property rights and copyright infringement.
Walk into any Judaica store in the world and you will find bins full of kippot (yarmulkes) bearing the logos of every major sports franchise and sneaker company... Hannukiot (menoras) and dreidles (tops) painted with characters from the latest Disney or Pixar film... and other miscellaneous tchotchkes emblazoned with every conceivable proprietary image.
The problem is that most, if not all of this stuff was created without bothering to get (i.e. pay for) rights to use the images and logos.
Whenever I have pointed this out to the store owners I have invariably gotten the old,
"Oh c'mon now... everybody does it."
When I have tried to use terminology that should carry more weight with these guys such as 'G'nivat HaDa'at' (the term in Jewish law for stealing someone else's ideas or intellectual property), they wave me away with lame excuses such as,
"You think the Yankees really mind if some kid walks around with their logo on his kippah? Puleeeze, I'm sure that not only are they me'ayesh (a technical term meaning to relinquish all claim to something) any money they might have seen from this kind of thing... but they probably like the exposure!"
Yeah... that makes sense. If sales of Yankee tickets and Nike sneakers are up this year, it's because of all the free publicity they are getting on the heads of Yeshiva kids!
Getting back to the Jewish singing artists... within minutes of any album of Jewish music being released it is being copied and handed around yeshivas and seminaries throughout the major Jewish population centers. The artists and distributors just shrug, saying "What can we do... this is the price of popularity!"
The few Radio stations that continue to broadcast this genre of music reinforce the 'anything goes' attitude towards copyrights by not paying royalties to the artists or copyright owners whose music they broadcast. For their part, the artists wouldn't dare ask for royalties from the radio stations because that would get them blacklisted from the programs they need for exposure!
This attitude that everything and anything is in the public domain is so antithetical to Jewish law that I can't get my head around why the religious community continues to tolerate it. I can't tell you how many times I have gotten e-mail from friends who have seen my content on other people's sites with no attribution or link. I guess these people think the Creative Commons license over in my site's gutter is just for show!
No... I'm afraid this 'Jewish Music Ringtones' site is safe... they won't be sued. They are counting on the implicit 'honor-among-thieves' attitude that allowed almost the entire Jewish population of Boro Park to run their computers on a single pirated copy of Windows 95 throughout the mid-to-late '90s.
Nothing has changed since then.
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
I [heart] socialized medicine!
I don't like to use my journal to complain about the symptoms my aging carcass is throwing my way. In fact, I've actually stopped reading a couple of blogs because the authors spent way too much time cataloging and describing their various medical problems (not to mention the excruciatingly detailed progress of the treatments).
I can't even get that interested in my own medical issues, so you can bet that I'm not a very sympathetic audience for someone else's aches and pains.
However, I'm going to share a little bit of my pain today... if for no other reason than to let you understand how much I love living in a country with socialized medicine.
For almost a week I have been suffering with sever lower back pain. Over the course of my adult life I've had various episodes of back problems... but most of them had been in my middle/upper back or neck.
Lower back pain is a whole 'nother animal!
It started last Thursday or Friday, and has been getting steadily worse since then. Yesterday my lovely (and patient) wife called up the local branch of our Health Service (Maccabi) and asked them what I should do. They gave her the number to one of their 'Natural' clinics in Beer Sheva (not too far from my office), and told me to call for an appointment.
With everything I'd heard about the snail's pace of socialized medicine, I was prepared to be given an appointment sometime in 2007. But to my surprise the very helpful young woman on the phone said I could come in first thing in the morning. She asked if I wanted traditional or natural treatment. When I asked about the difference she explained that many people with back pain opted to explore natural medicine first since neurosurgeons tended to see solutions as surgical.
When I quickly opted for the 'Natural track', she explained that I would be seeing a physician in their 'Natural Medicine' department who would determine the nature of my injury and direct me to the proper course of treatment (if necessary). She also assured me that if the doctor thought I was a poor candidate for natural treatment he would send me to the other side of the building to see a neurosurgeon the same day.
I have to tell you, I wasn't thrilled about going to a clinic in Beer Sheva because, well, I'm a spoiled American and Beer Sheva is, even by Israeli standards, a backwater town.
I walked into the Clinic promptly at 8:15 this morning and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
The office was tastefully appointed in blond-wood furniture with lush plants and nicely framed copies of impressionist artwork adding a soothing accent to the setting. The receptionists were wearing crisp white lab coats over earth-toned scrubs, and the air was lightly scented by the aroma-therapy candles burning here and there throughout the reception area. The final touch was lent by the soft new-age music playing over the speakers hidden in the ceiling.
I felt as though I had walked into a spa rather than a medical facility! The spa perception was enhanced by the receptionist gently asking me to turn in my cellphone. As she accepted the phone, turned it off and placed it in a drawer, she explained that they wanted to minimize the stress-inducing noise in the treatment areas.
The medical history that I had to fill out was the only somewhat stressful part of the process... but that was really my own fault. It goes without saying that it's hard to provide accurate medical information when you understand only 60-70% of the words in each question.
A couple of examples:
Have you ever had [mysteryword] or suffered from [mysteryword]?
Is your pain [mysteryword] like [mysteryword] , or more like [mysteryword] ?
Do you have a family history of [mysteryword]?
To her credit, as soon as the receptionist noticed me struggling over the questionnaire, she called me over and did a wonderful job of pantomiming the meaning of the mystery words. The most inspired of these gestures entailed twirling her index finger around her ear and then jabbing her thumb over her shoulder. This was a brilliant way of helping me complete the third example I gave you, above. The question was asking me if there was a history of mental health problems in my family. Although I could have had some fun with that question, I just smiled and said 'no'.
After a short wait I was shown into a pristine examination room where a doctor proceeded to go over my questionnaire and ask me more specific questions about my back pain. He was very patient about my spotty Hebrew, and deliberately chose simple words while asking his questions.
Besides the standard thermometer, blood pressure cuff and stethoscope trifecta, I was subjected to an extremely detailed head-to-toe examination (although I thankfully dodged the dreaded rubber glove). He was clearly looking for referred pain or other medical problems that might be related to/causing the back pain. After a very careful scrutiny of my spine from various angles and postures, he took me into a well-appointed x-ray suite and explained to the technician in great detail exactly what poses he wanted for the films. Within a short time he was able to call up the images and point out the things he found significant.
I won't go into too much detail about what he saw... but he said that he didn't feel a CT-scan would be necessary at this point, and that he wanted me to start an 8-week course of treatments that would combine acupuncture, deep massage and chiropractic manipulation of the spine. I would have two treatments per week of the acupuncture and massage, and one session per week with a chiropractor. He also explained that I would be given a detailed exercise regimen and that I would be seeing him once a week to monitor my progress.
When I went back out to the receptionist, I was prepared for the proverbial 'other shoe' to drop. I fully expected:
1. The treatments wouldn't begin for months.
2. The treatments would cost a small fortune.
To my surprise she explained that:
1. I would be receiving my first round of treatments this afternoon.
2. The total bill for the eight weeks of treatments (a combination of 24 total treatments) would be just over 1000 Shekels (about $250).
When she saw the look of shock on my face, she mistakenly assumed I was angry about the expense and rushed to reassure me that I could spread the fees over as many as 12 monthly payments on my credit card!
I'm not looking forward to becoming a human pin-cushion (especially after recently poking fun at the practice on someone else's blog)... but at this point I think I would probably agree to Santeria or Voodoo rituals if there was a glimmer of hope that they might make the pain stop.
All I can say is, 'I [heart] socialized medicine'. I sure hope the treatments are as pleasant as my experiences thus far.
Monday, May 23, 2005
There's no talking in ... baseball!
Sorry yesterday's topic was such a 'buzz kill'. Let's face it... nothing takes the fun out of a discussion like juxtaposing sharp objects and genitalia... whether in theory or real life.
I'm sorry to say that today's topic may be a bit lighter, but we haven't left some of the more 'base' topics far behind. :-)
I've been putting off writing about this for over a year now because I've been secretly hoping that I was mistaken... but I can no longer ignore the overwhelming evidence! I don't know the best way to say this so I'll come right out and say it:
Everything you've ever heard about the rugged, macho, combat toughened Israel man is a big fat lie. In fact, I am convinced that all Israeli men are actually a bunch of panty-wearing sissies!
They talk in the bathroom!
Men are not a complicated species to figure out. We don't come with big owner's manuals because there are really very few mysteries. If something itches, it doesn't matter where we are... we will scratch it. If we are sitting quietly... despite all appearances, we aren't thinking deep thoughts... we are probably just in 'stand-by mode'. And most importantly, I don't care what the circumstances... we DO NOT talk in the bathroom. Ever.
Yes, I'm well aware of how women can go into a public bathroom and come out chatting with a new best friend. How wonderful for you!
Men don't do that.
Once we walk through that swinging door, we don't even make eye contact with anyone (although if absolutely necessary we might grunt an acknowledgment once we are finished with our 'at bat' and are washing up at the sink).
I didn't make up the rules of the game... I was simply raised to respect them.
Which is why it has been freakin' me out to no end that my Israeli coworkers come waltzing into the bathroom and strike up cheerful conversations with me in the morning. They lean back against the sinks while I am, y'know, 'going over the scouting report', and say things like, "Good Morning!", and "How was Shabbat" and "How's the family?" They sometimes even commit the ultimate sin: They slap me on the back!
THERE'S NO TOUCHING IN THE BATHROOM!
Even accidentally jostling somebody's elbow is an unpardonable transgression... but to actually reach out and intentionally touch someone who is 'on deck' or [gasp] actually 'in the batter's box' is unforgivable!
DON"T DO THAT!
There are plenty of good bathroom etiquette sites that discuss these (and many other) rules that I have always taken for granted. I haven't found the time to translate any of them into Hebrew... but when I do, you can bet that every single man in my office will be getting a copy!
In the mean time, I can only hope that they are starting to clue into the fact that I don't respond to them (or in any way acknowledge their presence) while I am trying to keep my mind on the game.
Sunday, May 22, 2005
Dangerous Fantasies of Revenge
Treppenwitz isn't what one might call an issue-driven site. In fact, I usually leave the sharp, shiny issues and fresh political wounds to those who are better qualified to offer commentary. But occasionally I stumble across something that so outrages my sensibilities that I'll willingly take the risk of sounding like a complete idiot.
This is one of those posts.
A friend recently forwarded a link to a site about a Swedish (I think) anti-rape device called FemDefense. As a man, I have to admit that rape hasn't occupied a very prominent place on the list of things I've worried about during my life. With the exception of a prison environment, the typical man lacks the basic equipment that would logically bump this topic up his priority list.
However, as a son, a brother, a husband and a father, I have thought about rape the way a man might think about breast, uterine or ovarian cancers. By this I mean that I would be horrified to contemplate one of my loved ones being attacked... but I have no first-hand experience with what that kind of vulnerability must feel like.
This link I mentioned took me to a site which tried to force me... shock me, actually...into contemplating feminine vulnerability. But it just ended up making me angry.
The FemDefense device itself can be described simply as a tampon with a spike. While the device was obviously the result of someone's horrible (and probably justifiable) revenge fantasies, the informational film on the site did nothing but depict horribly wrong-headed personal choices in order to justify and promote their product.
Go watch the film and then continue reading.
Scene One: Two women dancing drunkenly at a club with bottles of vodka clutched in their hands. The female voice-over asks: "Do you like to get drunk?" The scene switches to the women kissing a drunken goodnight on one of their doorsteps as the voice-over asks, "Do you like sexy clothes?" The final scene shows the remaining woman walking tipsily home through a deserted underpass as the voice-over asks, "Do you hate being scared?". The scene closes with the camera approaching her rapidly from behind... and then cuts to a picture of the FemDefense device.
My Problem: To my way of thinking, this scenario advocates tossing good judgment to the wind. It seems to be saying that if you dress provocatively, get sloshed and then choose a sketchy route home... everything will be just fine so long as you arm yourself with their device for the inevitable rape attempt. Certainly, women have every right to dress, imbibe and walk as they please and without restrictions... but the makers of this film seem to be telling us that this silver spike is some sort of silver bullet against an attack. I don't believe in blaming the victim... but I also don't condone lulling the victim into a false sense of security.
Scene Two: The second scene is thankfully free of voice-overs, but it continues along what seems to be a developing theme of throwing all personal responsibility to the wind. The scene opens with a woman waking up groggily in what could easily be any of the following: a) a crack house; b) a frat house; or c) a brothel. There are flashing lights and loud anxiety-producing music playing in the background, as well as random people either passed out or stumbling drunkenly through the shadows of the place. It is hard to tell if the screams we hear are from the soundtrack or from one of the squalid, noisome rooms. The camera follows the woman as she walks through the trashed apartment and comes to a closed door. When she pushes the door open the flashing light inside the room reveals a scantily clad woman cowering against a wall... and a fully clothed man in the fetal position on the floor clutching his genitals. Cut to a picture of the FemDefense device.
My problem: Again we seem to be hearing a subtext from the film's makers saying bad judgment is not the enemy here... only the man is! I can't help thinking that if a woman has the presence of mind to slip this little defense weapon into herself, she should have the good sense not to place herself in the kind of scenario we have just witnessed! Just as men frequently get rolled (and even killed) when they get smashed and pass out in such an unregulated environment... women who do so put themselves at risk for the worst sort of abuses.
Scene Three: The last scene is by far the most troubling (at least for me). Again, we are spared the voice-over, but the lack of verbal communication seems to emphasize the bit of sound one hears. The scene takes place in a bedroom where a woman lies facing the camera with her eyes open...and her back to the door. We hear the bedroom door open, and the sound of someone moving around in the shadows. All the while the woman's eyes remain unblinking, so one can assume the visitor is not unexpected. We then see a man in underwear approach the bed and slide in next to the woman. It is only now that the woman feigns sleep. The man caresses the woman's shoulder in an attempt to get a reaction and is rewarded with an annoyed shrug. He then roughly grabs her leg, rolls her over and forces himself on the woman who we now assume is probably his wife. As he forces himself on her, he makes one more token gesture of affection by caressing her cheek, but there remains no question that she is not a willing participant in what is taking place. Cut to a picture of the FemDefenese device.
My Problem: Having volunteered in a shelter for battered women during college, this was a scenario where the correct course of action was crystal clear... and was ignored by the film makers. Simply put, if a woman has reason to believe that she is likely to be raped by her husband, she needs to get out... not use her body as a bear trap! The scenario in the film scared me badly because in the real world the best possible outcome would be her arrested for assault... and the worst case would probably end with her being bludgeoned to death by her angry (and injured) husband. What were these people thinking? Here is a woman who knows she is in danger. She knows her assailant, and she has decided the best course of action is to inflict a non-lethal injury on a man who has presumably already demonstrated many times that he will abuse her without hesitation. If a wife is certain enough that her husband is going to rape her to take the FemDefense route, then she should already be in a shelter, not waiting for him in bed. The marriage is DOA... what possible reason can there be to join it in the morgue? As far as I'm concerned this last scene is a lawsuit waiting to be filed on behalf of some dead rape-victim's estate.
What none of these scenes depicts is the fact that a rapist who has just been jabbed by the FemDefenese device is likely to kill the rape victim in a fit of rage. Another point that is glossed over is that for the device to work, the woman does indeed get raped. And lastly, even if the device works exactly according to plan and allows the woman to escape with only the momentary violation of her body... she will now have to undergo months of medical testing to see what kind of blood-borne 'gifts' her assailant may have left behind from his wounded weapon!
The tag-line for this product is:
FemDefense: A protection against rape.
However, in my opinion it should be:
FemDefense: If you're only going to make one semi-rational choice this evening... choose the most pointless and potentially dangerous revenge fantasy ever contemplated by a rape victim.
Friday, May 20, 2005
Photo Friday (Vol. XXVI) [local buzz edition]
I received a Photo Friday request from my friend Rahel this week, asking for some pictures of my bees. I told her that it would probably have to wait a few weeks since I already had photos ready to post this week and next. However, as I was leaving with Ariella to check on the bees this morning I decided, what the heck... why not grab the camera and make Rahel happy? That's me... I'm a giver. :-)
A few people have asked how the bee wars are progressing with my neighbors. I won't go into too much detail except to say the following:
a) An empty beehive is still sitting in West Turdistan, and the crazy neighbors think it is full of bees (I even periodically go out and look at it in my bee suit).
b) I found a wonderful place for the real beehive on Migdal Oz, a neighboring kibbutz.
c) The new setting is so picture perfect that I am tempted to bring a picnic lunch along each time I go to visit the bees.
This first picture is of my able assistant Ariella. The big kids take turns helping me with the bees, and are both quite knowledgeable about them already. Not only that, but they are completely unafraid of the bees. The trees behind her are part of one of the kibbutz's cherry orchards. The netting over the trees is to keep the birds from eating the ripening fruit.
The next picture should give you an idea of the breathtaking setting... as well as how close to home the new location really is. The trees in the foreground with the netting are the same cherry orchards from the previous pictures. The houses in the background are part of Efrat.
The hive itself is made up of several wooden boxes (painted white) that
each have 10 frames inside. Each of the frames can be removed, and
because of the way the frames are spaced, the bees build their
honeycomb only on the frames.
The way the bees get in and out is through a small slot at the bottom of the hive. There are guard bees that check each of the workers that return from foraging flights with nectar or pollen to make sure they are from this hive (they recognize each other by smell). Something must be in bloom because the workers were going in and out in very large numbers!
This is a picture of me inspecting a frame to see how the bees are doing (i.e. are they storing honey?... is the queen laying eggs?... do they have enough pollen and nectar for their own consumption?).
Notice how calm the bees are (they aren't flying around). Many experienced beekeepers don't always bother with the bee suit, gloves and veil... but I like to err on the side of caution. The new beeswax comb is naturally white (like near the lower right corner) but much of it has been stained yellow on this frame by the bees tracking pollen over the white wax.
Here's a close-up of a frame with the perfectly formed honeycomb... and of course my gentle Italian honeybees! So as not to disturb the hive more than necessary, I timed my visit during the middle of the day since that's when most of the workers are out on foraging flights.
Well, that about wraps up this week's Photo Friday.
I will leave you with a picture I shot yesterday on my way home from work. Several months ago I got a request from someone for a sunset picture, and I don't remember if I ever came up with one. As I was passing an Arab village about half way home, I noticed that the sun had turned into a beautiful orange ball as it sank behind the hills on which the village sat. I didn't want to stop for too long, so this is what I was able to come up with:
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Really... It's not you, it's me.
I know it's been awhile, but I guess if something's worth saying, it's worth saying over and over:
People... there are a lot of wonderful blogs and journals out there. The fact that your blog is not on my Good Readin' list (what passes for a blogroll here at treppenwitz), is probably not a reflection of how I feel about it.
To employ an analogy, I have a stack of books on my night table that I am trying to find the time to read. All those other shiny new books that call to me from the bookstore window shouldn't feel bad that I haven't brought them home! I'm one reader... and a slow reader at that!
See? Same difference! [to use one of my least favorite expressions]
Some time ago I wrote a post that explained how some people came to be on my reading list... how one was likely to get tossed off my list... and why there were a few people on my list who had achieved a sort of tenure (meaning they would probably have to publicly insult me in order to get thrown off). Go read it and then come back. I'll wait.
Alrighty then... feeling a little less ruffled at not being included? Good.
Now, just to make sure you understand that "it's not you... it's me", feel free to read this post in which I describe how my blogroll is constantly evolving... like a poorly-tended garden... and that I am often as surprised as anyone to see the trends develop in who and what I read.
I know... I'm just a puzzle!
Another thing. If you've ever left me a comment and included your blog's URL... I've absolutely read you. If you've commented frequently, chances are I have read you frequently. This isn't a quid pro quo thing. I just like to refresh my memory of who you are and what's going on in your life before I respond to your comment. If I liked what I saw when I clicked over to your site... chances are I also added you to my list of favorites in my browser. Many of the folks on my Good Readin' list first came to my attention because of their consistently thoughtful (and though-provoking) comments.
Even though I touched on some of the etiquette about how to get onto someone's blogroll last year, perhaps it's worth exploring again.
Please don't send e-mails asking me to link to your blog... it just sounds needy. I wouldn't come up to you at a party and whisper, "Hey, would you say something nice about me to all your friends?"
Just say hello and contribute to the discussions once in awhile and chances are people (myself included) will seek you out on their own.
A perfect example of this is my latest 'blog crush' Mirty. I haven't gotten around to adding her to my 'Good readin' list yet, but I love the way she thinks and writes. Her ongoing story is as compelling as they come, and it doesn't make a bit of difference that she and I look at the world from very different perspectives. Mirty just walked up to me at this party called treppenwitz and had some very bright and insightful things to say for herself. Had she never joined the conversation, I would have missed out on 'meeting' a truly wonderful person.
Also, please don't say things like, "I'll add you to my blogroll if you add me to yours". You are free to do with your blogroll as you see fit. I can only think of one or two sites that I started visiting entirely based on seeing them in someone else's blogroll. The couple of exceptions to this rule were blogs that caught my eye because they seemed to be on everybody's blogroll! I'm pretty sure they didn't achieve such broad readership because of impersonal, mass-emailed requests for reciprocal links.
Oh, while we're on the subject of e-mails... I enjoy getting emails from readers every bit as much as I enjoy reading your thoughtful comments. But please don't add me to your political action e-mail lists. If you think I share your political views then there is no need to continue preaching to the choir. If you think my political views need changing, I can assure you that no amount of e-mailed political catechism is likely to lead me towards the light.
OK... that's pretty much everything on my mind at the moment. Everyone feeling better?
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Ranting and Raving
First, how not to make my day:
I like a good meme, quiz, gimmick, questionnaire, joke, etc., as much as the next guy.
On rare occasions I am even tempted to share one that I found particularly compelling. But please, please don't 'Pass me the stick', (the phrase du jour for trying to publicly shame someone into participating in what is essentially an on-line chain letter).
There is nothing wrong with bloggers who use most of their bandwidth to share these entertaining diversions. Just as every office and school has a few people who are sought out for their seemingly endless supply of good jokes and stories... so too I know exactly where to surf if I want a good meme.
However, if you are ever tempted to 'pass me the stick'... please go lie down until the urge passes.
If you really want to keep one of these things circulating around the Infobahn, don't announce to the world that you will be sending it to me. My wife can tell you that about the best way to ensure that I don't do something is to make me feel like I have to.
'Have to' brings out in me the worst combination of stubborn and bone-lazy that you are ever likely to encounter!
Think about this; that guy in the cubicle next to you didn't have to say, "OK, now you have to go tell 3 people!" after telling you that dirty joke, right? The good jokes and stories somehow manage to grow legs and get around on their own!
All I can say is that if a meme is really worth passing along it will be passed along without any 'passing of sticks' or 'tag-you're-it' crap.
Okay, so where were we? Oh I know... I wanted to tell you how you can make my day!
I've mentioned on many occasions how much I value the conversations that take place in the comments section here on treppenwitz. This morning I woke up to find that a charming young woman from Spokane Washington had left a comment on a post I wrote this past September. The post was one of those rare ones that wrote itself while I feverishly tried to make my fingers keep up with my emotions. If you write you know what I'm talking about.
Anyway, here is the thoughtful comment that made my day:
Wow, I am 21 year old without children and this brought me to tears. It makes me want to call my father and tell him how much I love him. The comment you made about daughters growing up into womanhood and crossing a line where they are a mystery to their fathers; I totally understand what you mean by that. I can see the "fear" in my fathers eyes. I remember what it was like when I was little and was my daddy's little girl. I lost something in my relationship with my father the older I got. I am not able to talk to him like I used to. I am also not as affectionate as I would like to be. I am not sure why, maybe some sort of stubbornness that developed. Your blog made me want to be that little girl again just to know the innocence of love one has for their parents when they are children. Sappy... I know. lol
People, this whole blogging/journaling thing is done publicly for a reason. Otherwise we would all be writing in leather diaries that would never see the light of day, right?
I can't tell you how good it feels to find out that my thoughts and ideas struck a chord with a perfect stranger half-way around the globe.
I'm just as guilty as anybody when it comes to treating people's blogs and journals as my personal library. The truth is, it's a rare thing when something I read online inspires me to respond. However, when I do read something that inspires me or makes me a better person (even if it's for just a moment), I will try to remember how today's thoughtful comment made me feel... and I will try to take a moment to leave a comment of my own.
Thank you Tracey.
Monday, May 16, 2005
OK...Nobody's happy! Are you happy now!
[PG - Parental guidance strongly recommended]
There's an old joke that goes; What do electric train sets and breasts have in common? The answer: They're really for the kids... but dad likes to play with them too.
Now that I've gotten that bit of juvenile humor out of my system, let me tell you about a very unhappy little boy, and how so long as he's unhappy... nobody's ever going to be happy again.
Israel Independence day this year marked the beginning of another sort of independence: This was the day that Zahava declared her independence from nursing Yonah. To say that he was not happy about this turn of events would be the worst sort of understatement.
Yonah was actually down to nursing only once or twice a day - first thing in the morning and sometimes right before bedtime, but these time slots were when little Yonah was most emotionally delicate (read: apt to break into heart-breaking, ear-shattering shrieks).
For the past few days Yonah has been lodging formal protests with the umpires each time he has been put to bed without nursing. And mornings... oh my yes... mornings are something to behold. Instead of waking up slowly with his usual soft cooing and fifteen minutes of happy gibberish, our angry little rapper goes straight to the toddler equivalent of bellowing 'where's my breakfast, b*tch!'
Like I said... nobody is happy with the current state of affairs.
First off, I'm not equipped to comfort him. If I try to hold him he angrily pinches my nipples (no fun, let me tell ya)... and if I try offering him his sippy-cup full of milk he slaps it out of my hand, tilts his head back and treats me to his personal rendition of primal scream therapy (picture Charlie Brown screaming with a clear view of his uvula wobbling in the back of his throat).
Zahava isn't in any mood to comfort him. She has been in agony since tossing the little hooligan out of the milk bar, and each time he screams the front of whatever she is wearing turns wet from leaking milk. For the past couple of days I've been getting that special look that says, "See these? You're never coming near these again! You and Yonah are both sh*t out of luck!!!"
The big kids are two floors above us when the twice-daily festivities begin so they have no first-hand knowledge of the chaos down below. However, they get the trickle-down effect in the form of two very pissed-off parents who would quickly ground them for life for the most microscopic infraction!
Even Jordan (our usually empathetic black lab mix) is skulking around in a state of shell-shock. In fact, instead of sleeping in her comfy dog bed in our room she has elected to make herself scarce from our part of the house until such time as the blood-curdling screams cease and Yonah's head stops spinning around.
Also, this may seem petty in light of everyone else's discomfort... but I miss having my quiet early morning writing time before everyone gets up. I seriously think the local Rooster's Union is going to file a grievance over the unfair competition that Yonah is giving them.
There's a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, though.
This morning was the first time since last Thursday that Yonah has allowed himself to be comforted in the morning before he'd finished singing the entire 'Ring Cycle'. I'm cautiously optimistic that this means he is starting to turn a corner and make the transition to full fledged little-boyhood (as opposed to manhood when the fascination with breasts returns in earnest).
I'm not sure if there is a typically Israeli way of handling this transition. For all I know these hardy sabra women simply put blocks of ice in their bras and send their newly-weaned brood out to drain swamps. But for her part, I think Zahava is being an extraordinarily good sport. Her folk-remedy of placing green cabbage leaves inside her bra (I sh*t you not) seems to have helped temper some of her physical pain, but I sense that all this discord has taken an emotional toll on my lovely bride.
After the birth of each of the kids I adhered to a longstanding family tradition (or so her mother told me) of rewarding the exhausted mother with a substantial piece of jewelry. With all the tears and trauma Zahava has endured over this whole weaning process, I'm starting to think that perhaps some sort of reward might be called for here as well (suggestions are welcome).
In the mean time, nobody is particularly happy.
Sunday, May 15, 2005
Yak Butter Tea
The cover story of the January 2005 issue of National Geographic was "Why we love caffeine". You can just imagine how seeing that cover made my heart go pitter-pat!
I have been reading NG since, well, since I was old enough to read. In all those years... I can honestly say I don't think I've missed more than a handful of issues.
Although I've made it clear that I don't always enjoy the political bias that exists in many of NG's articles... every month my kids and I completely devour the current issue and then retire its tattered remains to our storage room upstairs.
The January '05 issue has proved to be the exception to this routine.
For almost 5 months this treasured issue has held a place of honor in one of the smallest rooms in the house (hat tip to Doctor Bean for that euphemism). The reason for this issue's longevity is a single picture* that has completely captured my imagination.
The picture shows a group of maroon-robed monks sitting on the floor of a Buddhist monastery somewhere in Tibet. It is early in the morning and the monks are being served hot Yak butter tea by neophytes running among them with steaming pitchers of this high-calorie/caffeine beverage.
I can't stop thinking about hot Yak butter tea!
Every time I sit down (has everyone figured out which room we're talking about yet?) and flip through this well-thumbed issue, I inevitably end up staring at this one mesmerizing picture.
I can't explain why this picture fascinates me so much.
Perhaps it is the misty early-morning quality of the image.
Perhaps it is the urgency with which this hot drink is both anticipated and served.
Perhaps it is the idea of some as-yet-unattained caffeine nirvana that I've been missing all these years!
I dunno... take your pick. ;-)
I've found a few promising recipes for Yak butter tea on the Internet... but the ingredient that has me stumped is, of course, Yak butter.
If anyone has any idea...
a) ...if Yak butter is kosher
b) ...if there is a place in Israel to find Yak butter
c) ...if I'm setting myself up for a huge disappointment
... I would be indebted to you for your input.
Now please close the door and leave me to my reading.
* I could have had Zahava scan the picture, but National Geographic is justifiably possessive about their images, and I didn't want to run afoul of copyright laws.
Friday, May 13, 2005
Photo Friday (Vol. XXV) [Yom Ha'Atzmaut edition]
Today's edition of Photo Friday will be short on the verbiage and long on the images. It's not that I have nothing to say, but rather that the pictures speak volumes.
Just like last year, we spent our Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence day) volunteering at the local Pina Chama.
'Pina Chama' literally translates as 'warm corner', but is actually a small canteen where any soldier can stop in year 'round and have a cold/hot drink, homemade cake & cookies, popcorn, etc. The building, and everything in it, were donated by people who care deeply about the welfare of soldiers... and all of the food and drink is prepared and donated by local families (or sponsors living abroad). The Pina Chama is staffed full time by local volunteer 'dodim v'dodot' (aunts & uncles) who make sure there is always a friendly face waiting to greet the tired, dirty soldiers who come in from the field to relax for a few minutes.
Every Independence day, there is a big all-day mangel (BBQ) for the soldiers, and hundreds of them stop in for a little 'home hospitality'. Many of them take packaged meals back to soldiers in the field who are not able to get to the Pina Chama.
Gilad carried the fresh meat out to the grill and brought the cooked burgers, hot dogs, sausages, kabobs, chicken wings and chicken schnitzels in to the serving tables for the soldiers to eat.
Ariella worked in the kitchen making sure the cakes, cookies and pastries were cut up and arranged nicely on trays for the soldiers to eat... and offering cold drinks to everyone who came in.
Zahava spent the day running after Yonah! (OK, so maybe not everyone had fun!)
My job was to work the grill throughout the day.
Inside the Pina Chama one of the more popular attractions is the cold drink machine. It was a full-time job keeping these dispensers (there are three of them) filled with lemonade and fruit punch. Note the unit flags behind and above the soldier. The ceiling and walls of the Pina chama are covered with flags (with inscriptions of thanks) from the soldiers who come in:
Here is another view inside the Pina Hama (flags, flags everywhere!). For some reason most of the soldiers who came in for the mangel were paratroopers (they are the only ones who wear the red boots). I suppose that different units rotate through various areas:
Which is not to say that long hair was confined to the women soldiers. It wasn't hard to spot the reservists who were spending the holiday away from friends and family:
Another view (just in case the hair wasn't clear in the last picture):
Although we had a nice selection of food, I was shocked to see soldiers coming back for seconds and thirds of the hot dogs. Israel has a space program, a world class scientific community, and is a leader in a wide range of technical fields. But for some reason they can't produce a decent hot dog! Oh well, there's no accounting for taste:
We were there from about 10:30 in the morning until after 4:00 in the afternoon. During most of that time I was so enveloped by smoke that I should have been earning Marlboro Miles' (no, I don't smoke!):
When we got home we were all bone tired, dirty and suffering from mild sunstroke... but I can't think of a better (or more meaningful) way to have spent the holiday.
If any of you would like to support the Pina Chama (either as individuals or through an organization) your checks will go a long way towards making sure there is always a comfortable, welcoming place for Israel's soldiers to come for a few minutes and enjoy some home hospitality.
Here is the info:
The Pina Chama
8/2 Rechov Haziporen
The soldiers who come to the Pina Chama throughout the year come from every segment of Israeli society; Religious, non-religious, right wing, left wing, big city and tiny settlements, etc. They are kids away from home who are doing their national service and deserve our respect and thanks for the hardships they endure on behalf of their country.
I hope everyone who celebrated Yom Ha'atzmaut had as much fun as we did!
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Today is a day to be reminded.
I was reminded as we sat down for our last big family breakfast together... with my parent's luggage stacked neatly near the door.
I was reminded when we got to the airport and the flags were flying stiffly at half staff against a lead-gray sky... lest happy vacationers forget the steep price paid (in blood) for the privilege of an Israeli airport.
I was reminded as I said goodbye to the criminals of Turdistan (who were being extradited to the US). They really weren't as bad as I made them out to be... and Jordan will miss her American playmates.
I was reminded when we stood silently at attention for two minutes with the other travelers as the siren's heartbreaking note echoed throughout the terminal... and around the country. Some people studied their shoes... and others dampened them with tears. Few are the families in this country that hasn't lost a father, son, daughter, relative or friend to one of the country's wars.
I was reminded when the time came for our goodbye at the security gate. The fact that they'll be back (G-d willing) in January didn't keep the tears from any of our eyes. Why am I always reminded so late what these two special people mean to me.
I will remember.
"...try to open up your heart to beauty;
Go to the woods someday;
And weave a wreath of memory there.
Then if the tears obscure your way
You'll know how wonderful it is
To be alive."
(last stanza of a poem found among the personal belongings at the Theresienstadt concentration camp)
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
A few things that have had me scratching my head lately:
1. I understand that communicating on-line often lacks the range and nuance of expression we enjoy in face-to-face encounters... but who thought that there might be a chance in heck of actually getting me to plunk down cash money to buy animated emoticons (those little smiley faces people use at the end of sentences to let people know if they are kidding or not)? I mean seriously... I would love to have seen the business plan that called for saturating the entire Internet with ads for these hokey little crying, laughing, sneering, leering, pouting, shouting little animated heads!
2. Yerushalmi kugel (Jerusalem Kugel) is a heavenly concoction of noodles, brown sugar, pepper, salt, oil and other magical ingredients... baked until the whole mess is nicely caramelized into a yummy soft brick-like substance. Who decided that a slice of yerushalmi kugel could not legally be served without a small pickle next to it? This is a serious question I'm asking here... has anyone ever been handed a plate of yerushalmi kugel that didn't also contain a pickle?
3. About six months ago I made the colossal mistake of posting about Schn*ppi the little Krok... er, alligator (take that, Google!). Treppenwitz is still getting nearly eight hundred hits on a slow day from people looking for this stupid song. What's more... these breathless krok fans are still leaving comments! Am I the only one who thinks it's odd to leave comments on a 6-month-old journal entry?
4. I get a lot of people landing here from very odd search engine queries. I occasionally check to see what brought these seekers to treppenwitz... and I jot down the more, um, interesting search strings. One day when I have nothing better to offer (like this entry really qualifies as blogging gold), I will probably devote a whole post to these searches. But in the mean time, I've been up the past couple of nights wondering about the tortured soul who landed here by doing a Google search for 'How to have sex with a cow'. Besides the obvious 'eewwwww' factor involved (and thanking G-d that there were 3 more relevant results before mine!)... it occurs to me that there probably aren't more than one or two ways to, um, y'know... do that. Which begs the question, what exactly was this lonely person looking for... dating tips?
That's all... nothing to see here... g'wan home folks... show's over!
I was just wondering out loud...
Monday, May 09, 2005
Gentleman... start your engines!
In the US, traffic lights employ the following pattern:
Red... green... yellow... red...
Having grown up with this system, I never gave much thought to whether or not it made sense... or whether it could be improved upon.
Here in Israel they have added the following convention:
Red... combination yellow & red... green... flashing green... yellow... red...
If you think about it for a moment, the Israeli traffic light cycle makes perfect sense on several levels.
When sitting at a red light it is helpful to have a moment's warning when the light is about to turn green. The combination yellow/red serves this purpose admirably, and ensures that the first cars in line don't waste precious seconds taking their feet off the brakes and getting their car moving (thus causing the 'accordion effect' as traffic moves forward in a staggered line).
Also, having this short warning helps avoid the phenomenon of people using ESP and other less-than accurate forms of prophesy to anticipate the exact moment that the light will change to green. Just as in a drag race... everyone knows precisely when to stomp on the accelerator pedal, fair-and-square.
The other place where the Israeli traffic light sequence makes sense is at the end of the cycle.
Just before the light is about to turn yellow, there are first a few seconds of flashing green. This double warning before a red light helps eliminate that terrible moment of indecision when one has to figure out whether to try to make it through the intersection or not. I have yet to meet an Israeli who felt he/she couldn't make it through in time. The addition of the flashing green seems to have helped dampen this optimistic spirit somewhat.
Another innovation that has taken some of the indecision out of intersections... those without traffic lights, that is... is the relatively recent introduction of the round-about.
It has been obvious for decades that a four-way stop is incomprehensible to most Israelis. A four-way stop requires that everyone at the intersection employ a small degree of etiquette and tacitly agree upon who arrived at the intersection first... and who has precedence to proceed.
There are no words in Hebrew for 'ettiquette' and 'tacit' (at least none in current use).
Every single Israeli driver who ever approached a four-way stop arrived there first.
Moreover, every Israeli who ever approached a four-way stop is the only driver to have ever arrived at the intersection! If you question them under truth serum, torture or threat of death, every single one of them will insist that they clearly had the right-of-way.
It's a cultural thing.
So, to deal with the over-developed Israeli sense of entitlement, the round-about was imported from Europe and points north.
The basic rule of the round-about is that the car in the round-about has the right of way over any car waiting to enter. This arrangement also requires a small degree of awareness that other cars exist... but the fact that one car is in motion and the other is not lends a certain, shall we say 'significance' to the decision of whether to proceed or not.
Israelis may be somewhat self-absorbed on the road, but they are acutely aware of how the laws of physics will effect their mostly-stationary car if they creep out into the path of another vehicle already very much in motion.
Now, if only we could come up with a few equally effective innovations to deal with the the Israeli fascination with passing.
I've written a few times about how Israelis will do nearly anything to avoid being a 'freier' (sucker).
One of the ways this manifests itself is through the need to constantly move forward in traffic. The person at the front of the line is the clear winner... and everyone else is a freier!
If you leave a safe distance between yourself and the car in front of you, the car behind you will take this as an invitation/challenge to pass you.
I was talking about this phenomenon with a coworker and he explained that most Israelis can't comprehend the concept of defensive driving. To their way of thinking if you leave a safe buffer zone in front of your car, someone will inevitably pass. If you slow down to create a new buffer zone someone else will also pass. Before you know it you will be stopped... or even traveling in reverse! You'd never get anywhere!!!
It's hard to argue with that kind of logic!
For a few years now there has been an organization called Ohr Yarok (Green Light) whose sole mission is to change the driving culture in Israel. I wish them luck... because in my limited experience the only innovations that have any chance of success in changing any Israeli's driving habits are those (such as the traffic lights and round-abouts) that are difficult or impossible to ignore/bypass.
Anyway... I'm off to work now.
Gentlemen (and ladies), start your engines!
Cross-Posted on Israelity
Sunday, May 08, 2005
The other side...
My friend and fellow blogger Rahel is a bit of an animal nut.
Before anyone gets the wrong idea about that statement, let me assure you I use the word 'nut' in the most positive possible sense. You have to understand, Rahel would probably throw herself in front of a bus to save a cat without a moment's hesitation (my parents are also nutty this way...albeit about their dogs).
With this in mind, I was a bit surprised that she posted about PETA's (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) recent 'Holocaust on your Plate' ad campaign (no I won't offer a link... you can 'Google it' if you aren't sure what I'm talking about)... and came down firmly against PETA.
Rahel's one unanswered question in her post revolved around what to make of the unprecedented apology PETA issued over the ad campaign.
As many of you already know, I'm a giver (no need to thank me)... so I feel honor-bound to step up and offer my well-considered opinion on the subject.
First a little background:
PETA is an organization that wrote a letter of complaint in response to the PLO strapping explosives to a donkey with the goal of killing a bunch of real-live human beings. PETA never mentioned the intended Israeli targets of the exploding donkey... but rather requested from 'His Excellency' President Arafat, to please consider sparing the donkey next time.
As media-savvy activist organizations go, PETA is arguably the biggest media whore that has ever existed. No cow is ever too sacred to slaughter (so to speak), and no imagery is ever too shocking to present to the public.
However, the rule most deeply engraved in PETAs tablet of commandments: 'Never Apologize!'
Their well-thought-out PR formula posits (correctly IMHO) that shocking / offensive images generate strong reactions... strong reactions generate lively discussion... and lively discussion generates publicity. Since their goal is to garner maximum publicity for their agenda, it stand to reason that the more shocking the ad; the better.
So when PETA recently issued its latest ad campaign entitled 'Holocaust on your Plate', they naturally lapped up the predictable international outcry it generated.
Of course the usual suspects from the Jewish community reacted in predictable knee-jerk fashion (despite their own unwitting role in watering down the historic lessons of the Holocaust by using its iconography and terminology to support an endless string of unrelated agendas). But interestingly, even typically unsympathetic commentators such as CNN seemed to express rumblings of 'now they've gone too far'.
This was just the kind of media circus on which PETA has always thrived... so I was more than a bit annoyed when everyone began falling over themselves to see who could go public with the most extended public demonstration of rightous indignation. The free publicity generated by all that outrage seemed like it would never end.
Finally, the din began to subside, and I had high hopes that we would be rid of these clowns until they came up with a new and unique way to slaughter someone else's sacred cow.
Clearly I was counting my [hickory-smoked] chickens too soon. PETA had one more trick up their sleeve.
The final shot of their Holocaust on your Plate' campaign was fired predictably on International Holocaust Remembrance Day (how did we not see that coming?!).
By issuing an unprecedented apology on a day when the world's attention was nominally focused on the Holocaust, they offered the talking heads of the media the elusive 'other side'. By this I am referring to the media's inexplicable need to present the other side of absolutely every story... even those without a logical 'other side'.
One of the real conundrums of reporting on Holocaust Remembrance ceremonies is that one can't end the segment with lines like, "But it is worth noting that nearly as many Germans perished during WWII as were allegedly killed in the concentration camps." That would be too far for even CNN to stretch its 'even-handedness'.
But along comes PETA, with arguably the smartest marketing strategy in the history of the world, and suddenly Xmas comes early for all the talking heads! They were handed that elusive 'other side' to one of the few stories that truly doesn't have one.
As I flipped through the various international news coverage of the ceremonies, I was horrified to see many of them end their coverage with the announcer looking straight into the camera and saying something like, "In a related story, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals today issued an apology for their 'Holocaust on your Plate' ad campaign which featured images of ...".
Just like that, PETA was able to simultaneously solve a dilemma for the various media outlets, generate countless new viewings of its intentionally shocking ads... and actually ended up looking like the good guys in the process.
Or I could just be full of sh*t. Your call.
Friday, May 06, 2005
Photo Friday (Vol. XXIV) [Detective Edition]
A new client approached me to look into some suspicious activity in the neighborhood... and to gather information on a couple of shady characters that had recently started hanging around East Turdistan.
Like any good detective, I started poking around... and collecting evidence.
Exhibit 'A' is a section of the house's foundation which you can clearly see has been deliberately exposed. It would seem someone, or something, has been trying to tunnel under the wall. My assumption is that I wasn't dealing with a very bright bulb since someone would have to tunnel under the entire house and back yard in order to reach freedom. Or perhaps it was just a red herring to throw me off the scent:
I questioned a tough-looking character who seemed to know a lot about the unusual activity in the neighborhood, but he was non-responsive. Maybe he had information... and maybe he didn't. But he wasn't saying. The thought bubble over his head seemed to say, "Are you talkin' to me?":
Luckily, the judiciary in the Republic of Turdistan isn't too picky about the rules of evidence or the need for reliable witness testimony. The judge threw the book at both suspects (which they promptly chased down and chewed into tiny shreds).
Until next time... Here's saying Shabbat Shalom!