Friday, March 20, 2009

Do i have to dance all night?

I am not sure why that is, but it is, what it is. I first learned the depth of my deficiency during the poetry components of 4 years of secondary school English. Good thing poetry never counted for more than 15% of one’s overall mark or I might never have got out of high school alive.

My four years of English poetry taught me that no matter what I thought a poem was about I was dead wrong - every single time. Not only was I wrong every single time I thought I had finally encountered a 'eureka' poetry moment, more often than not, I was completely stymied by what the poet was trying to say in 90% of the poems I encountered in the first place. The only exception is Tehillim. Not only do I get it, I actually enjoy it. There is only one other poet which comes close to my experience with Tehillim – Leonard Cohen.

I won’t say I understand what he is trying to say, but his imagery with words always conjures up these vivid pictures in my mind and I tend to relate emotionally to his poems. For example, one of my favourite lines of poetry runs –

I stepped into an avalanche,
it covered up my soul,
When I am not a hunchback,
I sleep behind a hill,
you who wish to conquer pain
Must learn to serve me well,
- Parasites of Heaven

He lost me on the whole ‘hunchback and sleeping beneath a hill', but I know what it feels like to step into an avalanche and feel it cover up one’s soul, and I get the conquering pain bit, well, I think I do. Every where I have gone this week I keep hearing his ‘Hallelujah’ and I grow nostalgic. I found this You Tube video of him singing “Do I Have to Dance All Night” with Laura Branigan on background vocals. Even though recording sound quality is really poor, I relate to it very well and can’t stop singing it under my breath. Apparently, this song has never been released in North America. Shame really.

Lyrics -

I’m Forty-One, the moon is full,
you make love very well.
You touch me like I touch myself,
I like you Mademoiselle.
You’re so fresh and you’re so new,
I do enjoy you, Miss.
There’s nothing I would rather do
than move around just like this

But do I have to dance all night?
But do I have to dance all night?
Ooh tell me, Bird of Paradise,
do I have to dance all night?

You never really have to tell me what
you really think of me - alright.
Let’s say I’m doing fine,
but do I have to dance all night?

Do I have to dance all night? …

I learned this step a while ago.
I had to practice it while everybody slept.
I waited half my life for you, you know,
I didn’t even think that you’d accept.
And here you are before me in the flesh
saying “Yes, yes, yes!”

But do I have to dance all night? …

I learned this step a while ago …

But do I have to dance all night? ...

Friday, March 13, 2009

being porked

I have been travelling and things won’t really settle down until next week but a ridiculous 5 hour flight caught me about 6 hours from the last meal. Usually, I carry something with me rather than dine a la carte on airplane fare but yesterday was an extraordinarily chaotic day and what food I had was inadvertently tucked into my checked luggage. It didn’t help that I ran late, and by the time I got through airport security, I didn’t have an extra 20 minutes to stand in line to pick something up.

Depending on the airline and length of flight one can always request kosher meals but my experience with pre-ordering kosher meals has been at the best of times a ‘sometimes’ experience - as in sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. Anyway, here I am wasting away, when the West Jet sandwich cart comes around, and I think, I’m saved and so is the woman beside me with the extraordinarily horrid cheap perfume; if I can appease my hunger she may well be spared my wrath for the next 5 hours.

This is where I know my higher power has a sense of humor as my choices are Asian chicken/pork teriyaki in a wrap, turkey with tomatoes, mayo and bacon or…. a ham and cheese sandwich with mayo. You could always suggest I put away any religious scruples and scarp it down except I have an allergy to all pork products. It’s been a source of much entertainment to my family for years and they get great amusement recounting all my personal health horror stories from their inadvertently feeding me toxic foods. All except for my grandfather, who took it as a sign personal reproach from G-d, and in a bout of extreme guilt for producing an ‘ethnic’ Jewess granddaughter gave up pork with me.

What is it with you people and your obsession with ruining a perfectly sandwich with pork? Not only is it a personal hazard to me but stories like this one continue to surface. ABC News:

Alvarez, 37, was first referred to the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix with balance problems, difficulty swallowing and numbness in her left arm. An MRI scan revealed a foreign growth at her brain stem that looked just like a brain tumor to Dr. Peter Nakaji, a neurosurgeon at the Barrow Neurological Institute.

"Ones like this that are down in the brain stem are hard to pick out," said Nakaji. "And she was deteriorating rather quickly, so she needed i Yet at a key moment during the operation to remove the fingernail-sized tumor, Nakaji, instead, found a parasite living in her brain, a tapeworm called Taenia solium, to be precise.
"I was actually quite pleased," said Nakaji. "As neurosurgeons, we see a lot of bad things and have to deliver a lot of bad news." When Alvarez awoke, she heard the good news that she was tumor-free and she would make a full recovery. But she also heard the disturbing news of how the worm got there in the first place.

Nakaji said someone, somewhere, had served her food that was tainted with the feces of a person infected with the pork tapeworm parasite. "It wasn't that she had poor hygiene, she was just a victim," said Nakaji.

Please, enough with the victim stuff, if she avoided eating the pork she would have been fine.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Raising a new generation of civil servants

Stuck finding the perfect present for a 4-7 year old child with authority issues? Amazon offers the Playmobile Security Check Point. Although, at US$62.00 is doesn’t come cheap but what civil servant ever does?

The most priceless review comes from Loosenut:
I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger's shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger's scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said "that's the worst security ever!". But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital.

The best thing about this product is that it teaches kids about the realities of living in a high-surveillence society. My son said he wants the Playmobil Neighborhood Surveillence System set for Christmas. I've heard that the CC TV cameras on that thing are pretty worthless in terms of quality and motion detection, so I think I'll get him the Playmobil Abu-Gharib Interogation Set instead.
Absolutely priceless.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

The NY Times ongoing and obviously desperate search for relevance, is now reduced to turning out copy like this in their ‘politics’ section.

WASHINGTON — Well, that didn’t take long. Just 44 days into the job, and President Obama is going gray.

It happens to all of them, of course — Bill Clinton still had about half a head of brown hair when he took office but was a silver fox two years later, and George W. Bush went from salt and pepper to just salt in what seemed like a blink of an eye. But so soon? “I started noticing it toward the end of the campaign and leading up to inauguration,” says Deborah Willis, who, as co-author of “Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs,” pored through 5,000 photographs of the first head over the last year.

Mr. Obama’s graying is still of the flecked variety, and appears to wax and wane depending on when he gets his hair cut, which he does about every two weeks. His barber, who goes by only one name, Zariff, takes umbrage with bloggers who alternately claim Mr. Obama, 47, is dyeing his hair gray (to appear more distinguished) or dyeing it black (to appear younger). “I can tell you that his hair is 100 percent natural,” Zariff said. “He wouldn’t get it colored.”
Hope, no one has their heart set on getting a Pulitzer for the Politics desk.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Open Borders are fairy tales Palestinians tell themselves

This Ynet News article caught my eye because it sounds like a first.

As the world's top diplomats pledged billion of dollars for war-ravaged Gaza in Egypt on Monday, ordinary people here, from merchants to housewives, said they'd rather have open borders than handouts. Even some tunnel smugglers who profit from Gaza's blockaded borders say they'd rather import legally through open crossings than risk Israeli bombing raids and shaft collapses.
"I want a ceasefire and open borders. Crossings are better than tunnels," said 22-year-old smuggler Abu Mahmoud, leaning over a shaft as workers tried to clear a 100-meter stretch of tunnel that had collapsed under a recent Israeli air strike.

The closure of Gaza, imposed by Israel and Egypt after a violent Hamas takeover in June 2007, has deepened poverty and fostered militancy. A three-week military offensive in Gaza by Israel wreaked considerable destruction but left the militants in power. Now donor countries have to find a way to rebuild Gaza.

On Monday, donors pledged a total of $5.2 billion for Gaza and for the government of Hamas' main rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas had sought at least $2.8 billion in new aid from the donors' conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

Aid officials say reconstruction is only possible with open borders. But Israel and Egypt have set conditions that include a complicated prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas, and reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas. But ordinary Palestinians say there will be no real success until the borders are opened.

In Gaza City, car parts dealer Nayef Masharawi, 60, said the blockade has been bad for business. He noted that a gallon of Egyptian motor oil bought from tunnel smugglers costs nearly twice as much as the superior product he used to import from Israel. His last shipment from Israel arrived in May 2007, a month before the Hamas takeover. The elderly shopkeeper said he had fond memories of the 1970s, when he would drive from Gaza City to his Mercedes supplier in the Israeli port city of Haifa without borders or checkpoints.

You know what I find extremely odd? The largest expense of most reconstruction efforts is often labour, and yet, the Gaza Strip has almost unlimited market of cheap labour. Second, (or in this case) the first largest expense would be materials but materials are certainly to be had on the cheap in Egypt. So why is so much money really necessary for the so-called reconstruction? I sincerely doubt the backwater of the Gaza Strip had assets of $5.2 billion before the Israeli offensive but apparently it now costs $5.2 billion to replace assets well under a billion – which I should point out were not all destroyed by the Israelis.

Be that as it may, let’s play a little game of suppose – imagine there is peace between Israel, Egypt and the Gaza Strip. No kassams, no weapons, no smuggling. Hamas and the Palestinian people have decided to contend themselves within the Gaza Strip but there is one thing which will not shape the peace and that is ‘open borders’. The freedom of movement and the free flow of goods without controls or tariffs are a thing of the past and belong to a time before the second infatada when Israel still occupied the Gaza Strip and Gush Katif was flourishing. It was in Israel’s best interest to maintain the economy of the Gaza Strip, and therefore, Israel needed to integrate the Gazan economy with its own.

But withdrawal and disengagement are not just military terms for the physical leaving of an Israeli administration. It also means a complete break with any vestiage of concern for the prosperity of the local economy and a complete divorce from caring about the welfare of Gazans. Gaza is not Israel, and therefore, Israel has no interest or concern.

In theory, ‘open borders’ will not allow the free flow of trade between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Stop and think sensibly for a moment. Why should the Israeli state allow Israel to be flooded with cheap produce from the Gaza Strip – the only industry Gaza was able to develop beside kassams? It will only undercut and threaten the livelihood of the farmers of Israel. And what need has Israel of kassams or kassam specialists – its not like the Israelis have a shortage of rockets, engineers or scientists. Open borders will not mean Gazans will be allowed to flood Israel with cheap labor. Unions are powerful organizations in Israel, and the last thing any union wants is an open labor market driving down their member’s wages.

So let the Gazans go seek their fortunes in Egypt, you might be thinking, but Egypt has its own concerns. The average income in the Sinai is lower than in the Gaza Strip and Egypt has a population of at least 80 million to contend with. The Egyptians don’t want cheap produce or kassams crossing their borders and flooding their markets. Egypt already has a surplus of cheap available labour.

Again, why would the Egyptians give free rein to Gazans when the strip is run by the Hamas, the Palestinian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization with which the Egyptian government is conducting its own special militant dance with? This is the sole reason why the Egyptians have been trying to so hard to reconcile the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. It needs the Gaza Strip to be run outside of the direct control of Hamas. Can it be done? I sincerely doubt it without a common enemy to unite them. Furthermore, the needs of the Gaza Strip could potentially threaten to wreck the economy of the West Bank and disproportionately tie up resources which in turn would lower quality of life for most West Bank Palestinians. It also denies the reality of West Bank-Gaza relationship. While the West Bank and the Gaza Strip share a common enemy which unites them only temporarily - neither side particularly cares much for the other. Take the Jews out of the equation and all they have in common is a mutual hate on for each other.

Well then, have the Gazans look to the markets of Europe and beyond, and yet, how can either Israel or Egypt allow open skies and open ports be controlled by the Palestinian chapter of the Muslim brotherhood? Even if the Israelis wash their hands; don’t be surprised to find the Egyptians take an active part in any refusal without a Palestinian Authority controlling the borders. And really why should Hamas turn over control back to the Palestinian Authority and lose any hard fought advantage towards furthering their own charter and aspirations? Besides, revenge is the mother’s milk to the Palestinian psyche and Hamas cannot afford to believe Fatah will not seek compensation for every Fatah operative’s execution.

Then, what about developing of tourism? Firstly, one needs to ask why the Egyptians would allow anything to threaten their tourist economy in the Sinai – the only real industry developed in the Sinai. Then you have to ask what would bring tourists with dollars into Gaza – an Islamic run state? Gaza has no Mecca or Medina and a dry tourist resort holds no interest for most of the world to play in.

But even more importantly, Gazans at peace with their neighbors means no more hand-outs or greatly reduced international aid. Suddenly, all the ‘special’ reasons for the free flow of international welfare will come to any end – or at least will put the Gaza on equal footing with all the other third world backwaters and no more deserving than any other nation state.
So what are the viable options for a perpetually failed state in the making? Only three which I can see – join with Egypt and lay aside aspirations of a Palestinian statehood, lobby Israel to take them back (highly unlikely) or a continued state of war. I vote the Gazan leadership picks war because far too many profit from it ranging from an international payday of aid to the international merchants of war. Face it, war pays and peace costs.

There is one lesson the Palestinians need to learn from the Torah. When Moses led the ancient Hebrews out of bondage in Egypt; they learned there is no freedom from responsibility. This wasn’t just a special handcrafted message for the ancient Hebrews and only applicable to them but a life lesson for the entire world.

Monday, March 2, 2009

ah, perchance to dream

Last night I had a dream. While this is not unusual, more often than not I rarely remember my dreams. Even rarer is the dream which provokes an emotional response that stays with me long after waking.

I was invited to a public mixed gathering of some kind. Not every one present was Jewish but there a number of Chassidic Jews present. In the course of the evening I was introduced to a man, a widower of many years, and a Lubavitcher. We chatted and I was surprised at often he looked directly into my eyes, and when he did, I was totally disarmed by the kindness which shone out. I had not felt such warmth since my grandfather’s passing. He asked how long I had been widowed and for the first time I was comfortable to say not only how long but how many times. I told him I had not been in the company of so many Chassids since my grandfather’s death, over a decade ago. He asked if this bothered me and I said no. Then he asked me by what Hebrew name my grandfather gave me and for the first time in a decade someone living called me, Shoshanna, and it became hard for me to breathe after he said my name.

He asked if he could see me again. I stood there weighing this over in my mind. I gave much thought to what he asked and understood full well the implications of seeing him again. This was not some causal modern undertaking with dinner and a movie but a full courtship ritual. To say yes, meant stepping way back into the past and all that it implies for me. And so, I for once in my life, I stepped back, took a leap of faith, and answered, “Oh, yes, please.”

Our date was not a dinner and a movie but a wedding celebration for another. He arrived in a car full of people and I was squeezed into the back beside him. At first, I felt incredibly awkward and embarrassed to be seated so close beside a man who was not a relative and it gave a sense of danger - this indulging in the forbidden pleasure. Never had I been so consciously aware of the presence of a man beside me, and when he spoke, I could his breathe on my check. This disarmed me and gradually I found myself relaxing for the first time in years. For once, I felt like I was exactly where I was meant to be and a great sense of peace washed over me.

On the way to the wedding, we stopped at a diner for coffee. He took me round and introduced me to everyone. The last person I was introduced to was the oldest man present. I asked him, if was a Shliach of the Rebbe. He answered yes, and asked how I knew. I answered my grandfather was a Lubavitcher. He said it was good that I came home and he would talk with me some more at the wedding. My nameless date seated me among the women and then went off to join the men. I was listening to the women talk while my eyes were busy feasting at the sight of my date across the room when just as suddenly I found myself all alone in the diner. They had gone on without me and then I woke up wishing it was more than just a dream, and if that was not to be, than I wished I could spend a lifetime, night after night, dreaming such dreams.

In real life, I have made a commitment to another, and if this dream means anything at all, I suppose it means this – dump the goy.

go yea into the streets of Jerusalem and see if yea can find a man

It is no secret to those who know me that I am a big Battlestar Galactia watcher. I watched it the first time round with my mother. It was our only real time together during my teenaged years and remains one of my favourite memories. Every Sunday night without fail we would gather together to watch Battlestar Galactia at 8pm and I, Claudius at 9pm on TVO until both shows had run their course.

So having grown up with the old Starbuck it took a while for me to accept the new Starbuck as a woman. I wasn’t particularly fond of the transition and it wasn’t really until the second season got underway that I warmed up to the new Starbuck persona.

Dirk Benedict, who played the original male Starbuck character, is interviewed in National Review and has this to say about his cinematic remake of Starbuck.
“They castrated the character from that show who is the most male,” he says, referring to how Starbuck was reborn female, the most telling detail in the new show’s surrender to Hollywood’s regnant sexual politics. “They came up with the idea to remove his balls, his humor, his gallantry, and make him an angry, pissed-off woman with a cigar. That is a reflection of our society. What Hollywood couldn’t do to me in 25 years, the producers of this show did to me with a delete button.”

One real source of dissatisfaction I have had for the new series is just how unappealing most of the young male characters are. They run the gauntlet of whiny, petulant and overtly emotionally needy. I cannot help feeling none of these ‘new men’ of Caprica hold any real appear to me as men. I still cannot understand Hollywood’s love-in with the ‘metrosexual’ persona of male characters – far too tiresome in real life and even more tiresome to watch on the big screen. I admit I cheered watching Gaeta be executed and thank the writers for finally killing off the whiny little worm of a man. There is a kind of ugly ring of truth to what Benedict says, but the thing which really hit home for me as a mother of teenage sons, was this:
“Even up in Montana I’ve spent the last 20 years defending the right of my boys to throw a frickin’ snowball, to climb a tree, to jump off a little cliff, to go out in the canoe off my dock without a life jacket,” he says. “All the little boys that refused to give into that were put on Ritalin. The future warriors of America are all on Ritalin in the second grade.”

Can I get an Amen? About fracking time someone finally said it. Here I was thinking it was just me.