Thursday, August 30, 2012
Maybe it's because I grew up watching Casper
File this under strange things that you really didn't need to know about me, but...
As some of you know, I'm a bit of a history buff. Not in any organized manner, mind you. My interest doesn't focus on any one period or place.
There are periods and cultures that hold less interest for me, but I can honestly say that if I have an hour or three to kill at an airport or between meetings, nothing is more enjoyable than going into Wikipedia, entering the current date, and reading up on what happened around the world throughout history on that date.
Such an endeavor is like a rabbit hole for me. One link leads to another... and another. A famous person associated with a historic event has his/her own link, which leads to other events... until three hours later I have to say a reluctant good-bye to the Barbary Pirates or General Longstreet because I hear my flight being called.
You get the idea.
Some of you may also know that I've had the privilege of traveling quite a lot in my life. First as a musician, then in the navy, and then even more for business and pleasure.
Each of these trips was proceeded by research into the culture and history of the places I'd be visiting... and quite often, while visiting a locale where something 'big' had happened (a battle, a famous speech, an assassination or execution, etc.), I'd wonder about the whole ghost thing.
Do historic events leave behind some sort of imprint or echo of themselves in the places associated with them? Do we?
Theology aside, I've always come down squarely on the non-believer side of the ghost question (at least as described by those who claim to have seen ghosts)... but for an odd reason:
I could probably be convinced that souls or spirits of living beings might, under certain circumstances, revisit places associated with their former existence, and maybe even communicate with the living.
But man-made objects (e.g. clothes, hats, weapons, glasses, false teeth, wigs, make-up, etc.) have no spirit/soul... so why would those items be able to come back to haunt us?
Simply put, I think it is theoretically possible for the ghost of the Captain of The Flying Dutchman to haunt the high seas. But the ship was nothing but wood, iron and canvass. Ghost ships sailing around the high seas? Not so much.
Maybe it's because I grew up watching 'Casper the Friendly Ghost' on TV, but my take is that if by some chance spirits do walk among us here on this plane... common sense suggests they are either naked, or take on some form that doesn't require the material trappings of their former lives.
Hey, you knew I do most of my writing at 5:15 AM. If you were looking forward to Wordsworth or Shelley, you might need to manage your expectations a tad! :-)
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Even if you don't have a dog...
... you must make this site part of your daily web slog.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver! :-)
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
First Day of School; Israeli Style
So Yonah - our little one (not so little, truth be told) - just started third grade yesterday.
It's sort of an Israeli tradition that the Prime Minister and many of the Knesset bigwigs fan out to schools across the country to welcome elementary school students to the first day of the academic year.
Early yesterday morning after most of our neighborhood had been hermetically sealed off by an advance security detail, a helicopter set down on the playground of Yonah's school, disgorging Israel's Prime Minister who spent part of the morning welcoming our community's children back to school.
As if this wasn't enough to bring home just how tiny our country is, while Zahava and I were talking with Yonah last night about what it was like to meet the country's Prime Minister, I couldn't help notice that he kept referring to the PM as 'Bibi' (Benjamin Netanyahu's nickname).
Only in Israel would an eight year old be (justifiably) excited about having just met the country's Prime Minister... yet refer to the country's leader as if he were a schoolyard buddy!
Monday, August 27, 2012
An Oddball Italian Destination
Long before I ever considered buying an Italian scooter or visiting Italy, I became a bit obsessed by an iconic photograph by a woman named Ruth Orkin entitled "American Girl In Italy 1951".
According to the Ruth Orkin website (where her daughter acts as curator of her mom's photo archives) the backstory for the famous photo is as follows:
"In 1951, Life [Magazine] sent my mother on assignment to Israel. From there she went to Italy, and it was in Florence that she met Jinx Allen (now known as Ninalee Craig), a painter and fellow American.
The two were talking about their shared experiences traveling alone as young single women, when my mother had an idea. “Come on,” she said, “lets go out and shoot pictures of what it’s really like.”
In the morning, while the Italian women were inside preparing lunch, Jinx gawked at statues, asked Military officials for directions, fumbled with lire and flirted in cafes while my mother photographed her. They had a lot of fun ... my mother’s best known image, “American Girl in Italy” was created as part of this series."
Here's the iconic image:
The subject of the photo - Jinx Allen / Ninalee Craig - who is now 84, still insists that she did not feel threatened by the glances and, um, attentions of the male bystanders. I guess we have to take her at her word.
The photo's composition and complexity is such that to this day I can't look at it without finding some new architectural detail, cultural cue or facial expression.
But aside from the classic old scooter off to the right, the part of the picture that always grabs my attention is the guy closest to the girl who seems to be making kissy noises, and may or my not be making an obscene gesture with his hands.
I'm not sure why, but once this picture had gotten under my skin, I always hoped that if I ever visited italy, I'd be able to track down the location and see what it looks like today.
As you know, Zahava and I spent a very nice vacation in Northern italy this summer (tourist photos to come in the next few posts, I promise!), and a little research gave me the approximate location of where the photograph had been taken (Piazza della Repubblica in Florence).
A little playing around with Google Earth and Google Street View brought us to a corner of the Piazza that is not only home to a historic cafe called, of all things, Gilli's... it is also the place where the famous photograph was taken.
After Zahava and I had finished seeing Michelangelo's statue of David (among other incredible works of art), the Great Synagogue of Florence and the Ponte Vecchio... we strolled over to the Piazza della Repubblica and had a beer at Gilli's.
Afterwards, I snapped a photo of Zahava on the famous corner:
And in case you can't see what I'm doing, yes... I'm making kissy noises at my wife (and resisting the urge to complete the moment with accompanying hand gestures):
[Observation: Doesn't the stone-faced guy next to 'Mr. Kissy-noises' in the Orkin photograph look exactly like Ray Liotta?]
Sunday, August 19, 2012
A good excuse
As much as I would have loved to share what's been going on over the past couple of weeks, discretion required that I keep a lid on things.
You see, for the first time in more than 18 years Zahava and I took a vacation... no kids... just the two of us!
We were in northern Italy enjoying the beautiful scenery and getting to know one another again. And as much as I wanted to share some of our experiences in real time, I was worried about letting the world know we were away while the kids were home alone.
That, and the fact that Zahava would have been justified in tossing me into one of Venice's scenic canals if I were to start blogging instead of enjoying the time with her.
Stories and pics to follow.
Friday, August 03, 2012
Eight or nine flights and four countries in five days. So good to be home!
Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom!