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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Jeez... lighten up, Dave!

No need to point out the obvious...

<Understatement>
Yesterday's 2nd post was a bit on the heavy side.
</Understatement> 

I didn't like writing it and I'm sure nobody enjoyed reading it. 

Here's something mindless light for you today:

Even though I HATE being 'tagged' for stupid memes, I feel like I need to do this one because it was Dov Bear who 'passed me the stick'.  Some of you may remember that I gave DB a hard time (oh who am I kidding... I sorta spanked the boy) over something pretty trivial, so I really owe him a free pass. 

Here you go Dov Bear:

The instructions:

a) turn on the iPod
b) set it to shuffle
c) post the name of the 1st 15 songs that come up (no cheating)

1.  'Round midnight (Miles Davis)
2. Fantasia (Gabriella Anders)
3. JS Bach - Goldberg Variations (Glenn Gould, early recording)
4. House at Pooh Corner (Loggins & Messina)
5. Beds are burning (Midnight Oil)
6. Walkin' after midnight (Patsy Cline)
7. Troika (from Lieutenant Kije - Prokofiev)
8. Goodbye to you (Scandal)
9. Get Busy (Sean Paul)
10. Stuck in the middle with you (Steeler's Wheel)
11. Pata Pata (Miriam Makeba)
12. Rondo (Hummel Trumpet Concerto - Maurice Andre)
13. M.T.A. (Kingston Trio)
14. Angel from Montgomery (John Prine)
15. Someday my prince will come (Dave Brubeck)

So DB... are we OK now?

And no... I'm not going to saddle 'tag' anyone else with this.  If you want it, it's all yours.

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Posted by David Bogner on December 7, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Busy living... not dying!

<Rant>

I'm sorry to have to post this update, but I feel like the emails and comments I get after nearly every terrorist attack are getting a bit out of hand.

Just for the record, the best way to ensure that I delete your emails and comments is to breathlessly inquire why I haven't written a post about the most recent terrorist attack.  I sometimes feel compelled to comment on this troubling aspect of life here... but I reserve the right to think and write about the rest of my life as well.

This is a basic disconnect that I can no longer ignore.

I get the feeling that there are some people out there who experience morbid jubilation... or even something approaching righteous ecstasy each time Israelis are maimed or slaughtered in large numbers.  And as hard as this may be to believe, I'm not talking about our enemies here, but rather about people who profess a deep love and admiration for both Israel and Israelis.

For some reason, these horrible events become the only conduit for their sympathy and connection to Israel/ Israelis... and when they can't seem to wring enough agony out of the media coverage, they invariably start to look longingly at bloggers and journalers to prolong their emotional connection to the carnage.

If this sounds like I might be talking about you, here's a news flash:

We who live, work and study here do not have the luxury of allowing the conflict to define us.  We have families, jobs, shopping lists, religious beliefs, car troubles, work deadlines, social lives, schoolwork, political agendas, hobbies and a million other things that effectively combine to define who we really are.  We don't want or need the attacks of our enemies, or the sympathy of our friends, to define us.

I can see where countries that are unaccustomed to living under attack might fall into the trap of being at least temporarily defined by shared pain and outrage.  For instance when the World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed, Americans encountered a rare moment of unity... mostly because of the shared sense of outrage and victim-hood. 

When two men and a hunting rifle were able to paralyze almost the entire Eastern Seaboard of the United States for several weeks, again there was that shared siege mentality that allowed a huge cross-section of the American public to unabashedly abandon a personal identify and assume the shared status of foxhole dwellers.

Unfortunately, Israel experiences the statistical equivalent of a 'Beltway Sniper' attack sometimes two or three times a day... and a 9/11-scale event every month or two.   At a certain point a nation full of people has to either climb out of its emotional foxhole and re-engage with individual hopes, dreams and identities... or risk abandoning them forever.

A society whose only semblance of cohesiveness stems from its perceived mantle of victim status runs the risk of never being able to reengage with the real world.  I feel this accurately describes what our adversaries are going through far better than it does Israeli society.  And this victim-inspired torpor has left our enemies with neither the motivation nor the means to climb out of their foxholes and think about who and what they really want to be. 

The reason Israel retains any semblance of an economy, a political system, a complex social fabric... the reason we retain any identity at all after all these years of living under siege... is that we force ourselves to walk outside at the first sound of the 'all clear' signal.   

The terror attacks are what occasionally happen in the midst of our rich and rewarding lives here... not the other way around.

So please, please, please don't try to force us back into the shelters just because you can't figure out a way to relate to us as anything other than victims.

</Rant>

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Posted by David Bogner on December 6, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Notoriety

Regular visitors to this site may have noticed that over the past couple of days I haven't responded to comments in my usual timely manner.  The reason is that I was 'away' for two days of training  with our town's kitot konenut (emergency response teams). 

This entailed two full days at a nearby army base... and sadly, they didn't provide us with Internet access.  :-)

Despite having to pop Aleve, Advil and aspirin like M&Ms just to keep my aging carcass in motion, I think the two days of intensive training went relatively well.

I won't bore you with a long litany of what we did, or the bumps & bruises I received... but I would like to recount a funny story from Sunday morning:

As Sunday was the start of the training, and we were scheduled to begin promptly at 7:55AM, we were naturally still sitting around in a semi-vegetative state at 8:30 waiting for all the participants to arrive. 

Finally the instructors called us together to take a roll-call, pass out IDF insurance forms and begin our safety briefing.  As we were gathering into the loose formation, a guy standing next to me from one of the other neighborhoods in my town turned to me and said, "Hey, you're treppenwitz, right?".

Huh?

I was pretty sure I had seen this guy before at previous training sessions, but had never actually spoken to him.  I had no idea how he would have made the connection between my on-line journal and the stoop-shouldered old man standing next to him in the dusty firing range... so I just nodded and gave him my best puzzled expression.

After I'd confirmed that yes, I was the author of treppenwitz, he went on to tell me that he'd seen the serialized version of treppenwitz in the Jerusalem Post.  I thought this was odd, since the Jpost version doesn't have any pictures of me and rarely, if ever, makes mention of the fact that I live in Efrat... but he didn't elaborate.

Over the course of the next few hours, while we did our run, warm-ups, dry firing drills and the first of the live fire scenarios, I kept glancing over at this guy and wondering how the hell he knew who I was. 

Then it hit me. 

One of the frequent commenters here - a guy calling himself 'Jameel Rashid' - had mentioned a few weeks ago that he was friendly with someone from Efrat.  During a break in the training I wandered over to the guy who had 'recognized' me and said, "Let me guess... you're friends with Jameel Rashid from The Muqata, right?"

He smiled and nodded yes.  But what he didn't notice was the odd look a couple of guys standing nearby were giving us after having overheard my question. 

I was about to explain that 'Jameel' is actually the 'nom de blog' of a Jewish guy from a settlement north of Jerusalem... and that 'The Muqata' was the ironic name he had given his blog.  But that would probably have just opened up the whole 'what's a blog?' can of worms. 

Totally not worth the effort.

Anyway...

I just wanted to share this neat example of the notoriety a person can gain after spewing every passing thought onto the Internet for a couple of years.

I'm topped off with pain killers now... my M16 is cleaned, oiled and locked away... my blisters and bruises have been 'ooohed' and 'aaahed' over by my kids... and it's now time to fill a hot water bottle so my back and bed can coexist 'til morning. 

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Posted by David Bogner on December 6, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Sunday, December 04, 2005

In which David buys an express ticket to hell

This past Friday the paperboy (or perhaps girl... I've never actually seen the person who tosses my newspaper deep into the bushes every morning) dropped off the weekend edition of the Jerusalem Post as usual. 

The weekend edition consists of the two main sections of the paper... plus the Billboard section... a travel supplement... several assorted fliers... and the Magazine section.  I know this probably doesn't sound like much to you New York Times subscribers, but it's just about perfect for my Friday and Saturday reading needs.

Friday was an unusually busy day so I didn't even get to take the paper out of the plastic sleeve until Saturday morning.  Since the two news-related sections were no longer particularly timely anymore, I went straight for the Magazine section.

Splashed across the cover of the Jerusalem Post Magazine were four pictures of arguably the most influential female Knesset members.  Here are the four of them as they appeared together on the cover:
Jmag
We'll leave Limor Livnat and Yuli Tamir alone for today because their head-shots are well, if not flattering... then at least pleasant.

Dalia Itzik's photo, on the other hand, is just plain scary! 

No wonder she's so damned influential!  If someone gave me that scowl from across the aisle in the Knesset I'd vote any way she told me to just to keep her from turning me into stone!  I mean, holy crap... is that the only picture the Jpost archives could dig up of this woman???

But that wasn't the worst.

I spent all of Shabbat trying unsuccessfully not to look at the picture of Tzipi Livni.  I tried... I really, really tried.  But no matter where in the room I was relative to the magazine cover, I couldn't avoid her baleful gaze. 

And G-d help me... it finally occurred to me that what was bothering me was the fact that she looks exactly like another famous person... albeit in drag:
Tl

Yes I know... I'm going directly to hell.
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Posted by David Bogner on December 4, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack

Friday, December 02, 2005

Photo Friday (Vol. XLVII) ['anticipation' edition]

People have been complaining for as long as I can remember about how Xmas decorations (at least in the US) start appearing earlier and earlier each year.

When I was a kid the wreaths, light and tinsel would show up at the beginning of December.  As time went by, Thanksgiving fell as the date before which it wold be unthinkable to display holiday decorations.  These days the Halloween decorations are barely swept away before Santas and reindeer make their appearance in store windows.

It's nice to know that Israel has a bit more patience in such matters.

True, in recent years bakeries seem to have been introducing sufganiot (jelly donuts that are a traditional staple for Hannukah) earlier and earlier... but hey, who doesn't like sufganiot?

No, Israel is fairly level headed when it comes to anticipating holidays.  Here it is the beginning of both December and Kislev (the Hebrew month in which Hannukah starts) and the stores are just starting to put out tiny teasing hints in anticipation of the holiday:

The first hint, as I mentioned, is the omnipresence of sufganiot:
Sufganiot

The second hint is that the potato bin in the produce section starts to get bigger (it will double in size by the end of the month in anticipation of the potato latke (pancake) demand.
Potatoes

Of course, along with the potatoes, the oil section swells with new and exotic selections (especially of olive oil).
Oil

And of course the inevitable first sighting of candles and hannukiot (menorahs).
Candles

I like it when holidays are allowed to sneak up gradually on me. 

Anticipation is fun.

Shabbat shalom.

Posted by David Bogner on December 2, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Life, death and arguably the worst 'gaydar' on the planet

          Kirk_1
Kirk Cashmere A"H (1955 - 2002)
[Photo (c) Honolulu Star-Bulletin]

Tomorrow, December 2nd will be the 3rd anniversary of the passing of Kirk Cashmere. 

If you Google his name you will quickly discover that Kirk was a prominent civil rights attorney who argued several landmark cases that set the stage for legalized same-sex marriage in Hawaii.  The Google results will also tell you that he was both the Legal Director, and a tireless advocate for The American Civil Liberties Union.

If you scroll down a bit you will even find that Kirk was both an historian and pioneer of organized Judaism in the Hawaiian Islands.

What the Google results won't tell you is that Kirk was one of the most influential people in my life, and that we spent a year as housemates in a big rambling mansion overlooking Honolulu that we, and our other two roommates called 'The Honolulu Bayit'

I was in the navy at the time and spent a fair amount of time out at sea.  But when I was in port I was a charter member of this quirky Jewish commune/cooperative, modeled loosely on 'bayits' (or more correctly 'batim') located in Berkeley and other college towns.  The four of us, all single and traditional-minded Jews, set up housekeeping together and conducted open shabbat and holiday programs for the Honolulu Jewish community.

The household included (scroll down for photo):

Kirk - The motivation behind the venture.  He approached each of the other members of the 'bayit' and sold us on the idea.  At the time Kirk hadn't yet finished Law School and was working as a paralegal for the Hawaii Legal Aid Society.

'The Architect' - A bright, attractive young woman who's architecture career was just getting underway.  Arguably the least traditional of all of us, she (like me) viewed the communal living arrangement as a nice, no-pressure learning opportunity.  The last I heard, she was married and living somewhere in Northern California.

'The Handyman' - A scraggly-bearded Aikido master about my age who came from a local family of NY Jews who had moved to Hawaii to become anything but Jewish.  While still relatively new to traditional Judaism, 'the handyman' embraced ritual observance and all the outward trappings of orthodoxy from the very start.  I call him the handyman because he could build or repair anything under the sun.  He made his living restoring old Saabs and selling them to collectors. He is now living in a 'black hat' orthodox community in New York with his wife and (I've lost count of how many) kids.

Me - The wandering (navy) Jew, I was still trying to find my level of observance back then and was casting about for a mentor.  Kirk, with his traditional Sephardi background and his degree in Jewish studies from Brandeis was more than happy to fill that role. And, well... you know how I ended up.

There was also a nearly constant stream of house-guests including traveling Hasidim, Israeli post-army vagabonds, and students / tourists from around the world.

During the time that I lived in the Honolulu Bayit, I learned about daily, weekly and yearly Jewish rituals and observances.  I learned the content and tunes for prayers and shabbat songs... and discovered a world of holidays and traditions of which I had been previously unaware.

In all that time, it never occurred to any of us at the Bayit that Kirk was gay.  He was this tall, confident guy who always seemed to be at the center of a large group of male and female friends.  But much later, when I was discussing his death with some others who had been friendly with him, it occurred to us that he had never seemed to date or 'pair off' with anyone in particular. 

Such is the nature of self-absorbed youth... I never once questioned the fact that he didn't seem to have any non-platonic relationships.  Just as we rarely think of our parents or teachers as having a life outside their interactions with us... so too I never bothered to think about Kirk outside his roles as my friend and mentor.

After I got out of the navy and moved to Israel, Kirk and I pretty much lost touch.  We had dinner in New York once when I was finishing off my degree and he was on his way to Washington to argue a case before the Supreme Court.  But in the days before IM and casual email relationships, neither of us entertained the idea of staying in close touch from halfway around the world.

I read about his death quite by accident when I stumbled across a tidbit in the newspaper about the passing of a well-known civil rights attorney in Hawaii (how many could there be?). I immediately got in touch with a couple of old friends from my Hawaii days and we reminisced on the phone about our relationships with Kirk.

As often happens, only after he was gone did I really get to see a relatively complete picture of the man.

Yes he was gay.  I asked myself 'how could I not have known???'  Well, that would be simple... I have what many would call the worst 'gaydar' on the planet.  Some of you may remember that I had been reading several of my favorite bloggers/journalers for months before I realized they were gay.  OK... perhaps I'm simply not that quick on the uptake. 

I even spent a summer during college sharing an apartment in Manhattan with a friend who, after going on to become a well known Rabbi/educator in New York, would end up 'outing' himself (or being outed) and ultimately leaving orthodoxy.  Again... not only did I have no clue, but it was irrelevant to our relationship at the time. I suppose that's really the point... unless you are looking for a romantic relationship with someone, their orientation doesn't really register, and shouldn't really matter.

If Kirk were still alive I doubt that even the modern conveniences of computers would have allowed us to remain particularly close.  Our lifestyles and politics had led our adult lives down very different paths.  Ever the champion of those he perceived to be the underdog, Kirk authored several scholarly articles about the plight of the Palestinians... while I ended up on a trajectory towards life in a 'settlelemt' where he believed Jews had no business living. 

But ironically, I have become the person I am today largely because of Kirk, and because of that brief moment in time when he and I were young and intellectually flexible enough to build a friendship based on shared values, while ignoring (or remaining willfully ignorant) of our potential differences.

Though no mention was made in the media about a cause of death, We assumed amongst ourselves that he had succumbed to AIDS.  Like any other aspect of his life, this small final fact has no right to define him.... it is simply the final little tile in a large, human mosaic that was rushed to completion before its time.

Thanks for helping me to become the person I am, Kirk.  I'm sorry I never thanked you in person.
Bayit
l - r: Me, 'the architect', and Kirk ('the handyman' took the picture)
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Posted by David Bogner on December 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (30) | TrackBack