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Thursday, December 07, 2006

OK, when did THAT happen?!

I hate to sound obtuse, but when the heck did treppenwitz get nominated for the 2006 Weblog Awards, much less advance to the Finals?!

I wouldn't have even known about this (what with having sworn off checking stats for a while), but Omri of 'Mere Rhetoric' sent me a thoughtful email giving me the good news.

Look, I don't mean to go all Sally Fields on you here but... YOU GUUUUUYS! [presses lips together and fights back tears]

There are about 45 categories of blogs in this thing, with each category containing ten finalists.  Somehow, treppenwitz ended up a finalist in the 'Best Middle East or African Blog' and one of only two Jblogs in the category, along with 'Elder of Ziyon' (and the only Israeli blog).

I feel like a complete poseur waking up here in the finalist box... but it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that I'll end up dead last, since I'm:

a) a citizen of the evil spawn of the Great Satan

b) not able to garner the sympathy vote like bloggers who can wave around an active civil war, genocide, or similar local tragedy on their blogs.

c)  a daddy-blogger who ends up nearly drowning every time I wade into the shallow end of the politics pool.

d) moderately famous among only dozens! [to paraphrase the tag-line from one of my favorite bloggers]

Even if the JIBs (Jewish & Israeli Blog Awards) would have taken place again this year I had sort of decided that I wasn't going to participate.  I figured that besides letting some of the up-and-coming Jblogs out there have their moment in the sun, I really didn't enjoy all the anxiety of watching the voting process unfold.

Yet, here I am in another horse race.  A race that will last 10 anxiety-filled days!

So here's what I propose. 

If you enjoy this site and want to spare me the shame of being at the absolute bottom of the dog-pile, please go cast your vote for treppenwitz. 

If you enjoy this site but don't really mind seeing me humiliated, go vote for Elder of Ziyon so that at least one of the Jblogs gets pulled up out of the mud. 

And lastly, if you don't care that much for either treppenwitz or Elder of Ziyon, go vote for the venerable Sandmonkey since (IMHO) he is one of the few Middle Eastern writers (he's Egyptian) who has the guts to tell the hard truths... ALL of them.

Thank you to whoever nominated me, and to the powers that inexplicably decided I should be a finalist. 

[Update:  It was just brought to my attention that Beth of 'Blue Star Chronicles' was the one who tossed my name into the hat.  Thanks Beth!]

I'd also like to thank the members of The Academy... and my parents... and my manager... and my publicist... [cue the orchestra as the ushers come to guide me gently (but firmly) off stage].

You can vote once a day for the next [gulp] ten days.  The link to the site is on the graphic below.

The 2006 Weblog Awards

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Posted by David Bogner on December 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Shifting Priorities (or maybe it's just this damnned cold)

I think that either my expectations have become considerably more modest in recent years... or perhaps my priorities have simply shifted. 

For instance, when I was about to turn forty I bought myself a shiny new Jeep Cherokee (Sahara Edition) and planned a nice cross-country trip on Route 66.  Back then, a shinny car and the open road were the acme of self-indulgence.

Yesterday I got home from work well after 9PM sniffling under the tail end of a cold I've been dragging around for a few days.  I sat down on the couch to a nice dinner of warm leftovers and a cup of hot tea that was set on a snack table in front of the History channel... and felt like I had won the lottery.

But wait... the evening just kept getting better!

Zahava came up from her office to check on me and handed me a package of three new pairs of socks.

Now, to fully understand the depth to which this gift warmed my soul you'd have to peek into my sock drawer.  There you would find (no exaggeration) well over 40 singletons (socks with no match) that I can't bear to throw away... y'know, in case their mates should ever return from the ashram in India where they've been off 'finding themselves'... and another 6-8 pairs of socks with transparent spots in the toes and/or heels which I hold onto in case of a laundry strike (something Zahava threatens periodically). 

In among all these misfits and walking wounded are perhaps 4 or 5 pairs of marginally-presentable socks (and even some of those are starting to get a bit threadbare).  Maybe I should learn to darn socks (does anyone even do that anymore? ).

The problem is that I hate shopping for clothes in general... but I loathe shopping for socks!  You see, nobody ever seems to have the kind I like: Not too thick and not too thin... earth tones and dark blues (but not too dark)... maybe a little extra reinforcement in the toes and heel.  Too thick and they make shoes fit funny... too thin and they give you that vaguely clammy feeling of 'going commando'.

[sigh]

Anyway, last night while I sat sniffling on the couch, watching TV and eating leftover comfort food from shabbat, my wife handed me three specimens of sockdom so perfect that if I had personally supervised their design and manufacture they could not have possibly been more to my taste!

Um, yeah... I think maybe my priorities in life might have shifted a tad over the past few years. 

[sniffle]

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Posted by David Bogner on December 6, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (21) | TrackBack

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mesmerizing

This morning, when I should have been writing down all the stuff running around in my head, I was otherwise engaged.

"With what?", you may ask.  What could possibly have been more important than churning out a post for you lot to read?

Well, this

I watched the artist work his/her magic several times in a row... and if I didn't have to get the kids up for school and make the coffee I would have watched it again.   

Watch it all the way to the end because there are multiple revisions.  You can control how fast the artist works with the 1X, 2X ,4X, 8X and 16X buttons.

Absolutely mesmerizing!!!

[note:  While this link is totally work safe, those whose religious ideas on viewing the female form - even in abstract renderings - are significantly to the right, may want to sit this one out]

Hat tip: Heshy Max

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Posted by David Bogner on December 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Monday, December 04, 2006

What gift do you give to a man...

... who has traveled (tfu tfu tfu) 75 times around the sun?

... who, a child of the depression, raised himself from modest beginnings to be a man of letters, learning and culture?

... who has borne with silent reserve the pain of losing his only sibling during his most formative years?

... who served his country when called upon, and as a value lesson to his progeny, returned from Korea without war stories but with many beautiful canvasses he had painted?

... who selected wisely among all the eligible women in New York the only one who could possibly have been his life partner and perfect helpmate in creating and rearing four such unique and, um, challenging children?

... who imbued his home with such an atmosphere of erudition and culture that even those of his children who eschewed the fruits of formal education [looks around innocently] emerged from childhood miraculously steeped in the classics... and anything but provincial?

... who, despite having been raised essentially without a father, created an enviable example of fatherhood for his sons to feebly emulate?

... who, during many 'lean years', never once allowed his children to feel anything but absolute security?

... who conspired with his wise and patient wife to raise four children so different as to be like points on a compass... yet successfully made each feel that he/she was the one that 'turned out right'?

... who waged, and ultimately lost, the battle against vision loss in the prime of his life, yet never once allowed partial blindness to limit or define him?

... who, despite having been raised without a grandfather, instinctively knew how to become the perfect mentor, friend and confidant to each and every one of his many grandchildren?

... who, together with his wife, learned in retirement how to indulge in, and enjoy the relative prosperity with which they had been blessed?

Yesterday was his 75th birthday and I felt terrible that I didn't have the answer to these questions.  My sense of personal indebtedness to the man sometimes weighs me down and makes me feel unworthy... like someone shopping in the 'Five & Dime' for a gift suitable for royalty. 

What could possibly be good enough?  What could he possibly want or lack?

In the end, I decided to bring him my family. 

I brought him one of his daughters-in-law and three of his grandchildren to dote on him and lavish him with hugs and kisses... and love.

I brought him a punch bowl full of 'well-spiced' eggnog and a dish of Zahava's sinful triple-layer brownies to satisfy his sweet-tooth.

And at the end of the evening, when it was time to go, I slipped him a butterscotch candy and a familiar kiss.  But in truth, the candy was a trifling down-payment on the countless butterscotches he has given me over the years... and the kiss was simply a crafty excuse to feel the evening stubble on his cheek and inhale his familiar paternal pheromone.

I left their Jerusalem apartment (which already feels like home) feeling that, once again, I had taken without giving.  On the drive home, while the kids watched a movie in the back of the car and Zahava sat beside me silently watching the roadside lights slip by and by and by, I realized that what I really should have given him was my heartfelt thanks for being my father and for helping to make me who I am today. 

Maybe when he reads this he'll know.

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Posted by David Bogner on December 4, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Playing our role again?

Maybe it's just my liberal upbringing blinding me to something obvious, but I can't seem to get my head around recent events going on in my area that seem, at best unfair... and at worst, downright illegal!

First a little background:

During the beginning of the Palestinian uprisings (intifadas) the Israeli government decided that having Israeli (Jewish) motorists driving directly through Arab towns and villages was too much of a temptation/provocation, and quickly set about building a network of bypass roads.  The rationale was that the Arabs would continue using the existing roads that bisected their communities, while the Jews would go around them on these new bypass roads, thus removing what had become too-tempting a target for rocks, fire-bombs and gunfire.

However, as soon as these bypass roads were completed there arose cries of 'Apartheid Road' from the Arabs, from the Israeli left and from useful idiots civil libertarians and human rights-niks throughout Europe.  Having been raised on a steady diet of liberal politics, I have to admit I too was somewhat bothered by the idea of certain roads being 'Jewish only', and was relieved to see these new bypass roads 'integrated', even though it obviously made the security situation significantly more complicated for those who had to patrol them.   

So, that was that. 

But not really.

You see, not far from where I live there was yet another proposed bypass road that was to be constructed from the eastern part of Gush Etzion, connecting it to the Har Homa neighborhood of Jerusalem.  The road was many years in the governmental planning and approval process, but its completion was eagerly anticipated by all as it promised to cut a 40-60 minute drive (sometimes as much as 90 minutes during 'rush hour') to as little as 8 minutes!  And best of all, like the other 'bypass roads' this new road would eliminate the need for cars from the affected Jewish communities to drive directly through the center of Arab communities.

This should have been a win-win for all involved.  With the concept of 'Jewish Only' roads long ago set aside as legally untenable, this new road would end up serving Arab and Jew alike... Arab sensibilities would be protected from 'offensive Jewish traffic' in their midst... and a new, safer road would provide quick access to Jerusalem for all.

It's all good, right?

Yeah right.  Nothing is ever that simple in Israel!

You see, this shiny new road was recently completed and opened... but only to Arab traffic!

Yes, you read that right.  Jews living in communities such as Tekoa and Nokdim are barred from using this new road, and still have to drive almost an hour on winding roads through Arab villages to reach Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, Arabs whose communities are in the same area are given free access.

Look, I'm sensitive to moves that might smack of heavy-handed ethnic discrimination against the Arabs, but what could possibly be the point of excluding Jews from this new road (other than deliberately making their lives more difficult/dangerous)? 

Additionally, these two settlements would seem, at first blush, to be unlikely targets for governmental ire directed at religious settlers since both Nokdim and Tekoa are 'mixed' communities (meaning they are made up of both religious and non-religious residents), a relative rarity in Judea and Samaria.

Over the past few years I have gotten pretty good at figuring out the real reason behind some of the more baffling governmental moves... but I have to admit that this time I'm stumped.  Some of my neighbors have offered the fairly logical conclusion that the decision to exclude Jews from the road is intended to isolate the communities in eastern Gush Etzion in advance of their eventual destruction in some future 'realignment' plan.  But I don't know...

If at some future date a decision is reached to abandon any communities in that area, it would be a simple thing to simply block the road and declare the area a closed military zone. But barring that, I can't help feeling that this is the sort of move that would instantly draw fire from the Israeli left, and even the U.N., if it were directed against the Arabs instead of at settlers.

With no realignment plan even on the table, I honestly can't understand how deliberately inconveniencing/endangering Israeli motorists hasn't drawn even a whisper of protest from anyone outside the settler community. 

Where are the human rights organizations?  Where are the civil libertarians?  Where are the legal scholars.  If this were about excluding Arabs from the roads there would be a pile of Amicus briefs a mile high stacked outside the Israeli supreme court  building!  But since it's 'only' against the interests of the settlers... nobody seems particularly bothered. 

I brought up the concept of 'selective outrage' (meaning taking issue only with legal issues that cut across your political turf) during the disengagement when visibly religious people, as well as those who had orange ribbons on their cars, were routinely subjected to illegal restriction of movement without so much as a peep from the left.  I noted at that time that the pro-disengagement camp's fervor for the 'rule of law' didn't seem to extend quite that far.

Well, once again Jewish settlers are being given the opportunity to play the role of 'The wicked son'... and once again, the civil libertarians all seem to be asleep or on vacation.

Note:  I know that for many of you this post will be the first you have heard on this topic, and I welcome your questions and comments.  But my hope is that those who are more 'in the know' will also weigh in with their insights and opinions.

However, this is not an invitation to flame the government, supreme court, Arabs, settlers, religious people, secular people, rightists, leftists or the police.  If you can't present your point-of-view/opinion without resorting to ad hominem arguments... please sit this one out.

Posted by David Bogner on December 3, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack