Wednesday, October 29, 2003

why do i go off on half-assed tirades about things i dont really feel like talking about? i dont know, maybe i'm jealous of all those bloggers that can write intelligent things. but i really dont feel like keeping a blog like that. i just dont have anything that interesting to say, unlike, say Bernard Lewis and James Woolsey. Lewis is one of the most prominent scholars on middle eastern history and current affairs, and Woolsey is a personal hero of mine. Why you ask? I'll tell you why.

School started on monday. I'm taking "selected topics in Islamic history" which is taught by a british professor who is absolutely hysterical, and very very sharp. This basically covers everything from (roughly) 622 - the beginning of Islam - to 1517 - the start of the ottoman empire.

then there's "History of the Ottoman Empire" which covers, well, the Ottoman Empire, from 1517-until the end of WWI. (I wont put down that date, if you dont know it, you should. go look it up, now).

and then "Selected topics in middle eastern history" which is everything from WWI until today, more or less.

There's also my Arabic class, which is a lot of fun. i'm shitty with languages, but i'm trying hard. The professor is really funny. He sounds just like doctor evil. Seriously. It's the funniest fucking thing in the world. He's also got that funny sinister streak, where he'll occassionally pretend to yell at someone. The language is really beautiful, and if you've never seen what it looks like printed, you should. If anyone sees Brett in the near future, ask him to write something to you in Arabic. I hear he's gotten an A in the class. Not too shabby, hope i can say the same thing in a few months. So far i've learned about a dozen letters. It's very hard, because it looks nothing like any language i'm familiar with. there are lots of similarities between hebrew and arabic (they're both semitic, so that's how it should be), but so far i havent seen it in the writing style (although i learned that the word for hell in arabic is "gehenna" and in hebrew it's "gehennom"...and since we're talking about religion, i'll throw out that the name "Allah" was a very common name for God in the M.E. around Mohammets time, used by christians and jews as well.)

I've started reading the Koran. It's very scary. It speaks directly to the reader, so after a few chapters you begin to feel very very humble, what with god knowing everything you think and do, and how all the unbelievers will burn in a fiery pit of hell. It's beautiful, but very scary.

there are too many people in my program. This is both good and bad. It's nice that so many people want to be a part of it, but for a graduate program, 30 people is just too large. A seminar is only supposed to have, maximum, 20 people in it. you can't have a significant discussion with 30 people. The british professor is an instant favorite because he's both willing and able to seperate the class into two parts, and teach twice. Considering he just added 4 more hours of teaching a week, i'd say he's really really generous. The other professors, apparently, have bigger problems with this. Whether it is unwillingness or inablity due to university regulations, i'm not sure. i'd like to believe it's the latter.

I was quite disappointed that the university hadnt compensated for this, as was everyone else. after all, they'd had months to prepare. Turns out though, they had a similar situation last year. But a few weeks before classes start there had been a bombing at a uni. in Jerusalem. So a bunch of people decided not to go, and this problem didnt exist. Why are there so many people studying here now? I really can't tell you. A lot of Americans and Canadians....maybe 70 percent? The rest are German, French, Dutch, Romanian, Russian....i think that's it. No arabs, unfortunatly, but someday that'll change. There have been arabs in the program in the past, however, so i'm optomistic it'll happen again. Perhaps some Iraqi's? i hope i hope...

back to the topic of class size....i still think they should have come up with a contingency plan. the major obstacle being that the university is very much in debt. somewhere around 100 million dollars. so money is, to say the least, tight. For example, they fired all of the hebrew teachers and are supposed to have teachers coming in from outside the university system. this, i assume is cheaper. i hope the quality is good. unfortunatly, i wont know until next week (assuming things go as "promised").

Im quite happy today because Katy says she's seriously considering staying and finishing her masters here. she's actually coming from a german university, and was supposed to be here for just one year. she wants to drop the arabic class though, because she hates studying languages, and wants to work really hard on her hebrew. i'm trying to get her to stick with the arabic though. especially since you need it to get the MA, and if she drops it for a year, she'll have to spend ayear just working on arabic (although i suppose she'll find other things to occupy her time as well).

There are a lot of germans in Tel Aviv. Dont ask me why or how. Most of them arent jewish. A bunch of them came here and just really like it. They say it's just a lot less oppressive then germany. i guess they mean socially. strange. i mean, no one comes here to make money. it's not like the US where people can come for a year or two or whatever and then go home with a shitload of cash. it's also just not very easy to live here period. still, it's nice to see people coming to live here.

i think there's going to be a halloween party tomorrow or over the weekend sometime. Probably on the beach. the argentinians are planning it, which should be funny, because they seem totally disorganized, and generally very stoned. But it's a garunteed good time. Plus, i get to pretend i know spanish.

it's my sisters birthday today, so i have to go call her. i've so far managed to forget my cousins birthday, my brother in laws birthday, and my nieces birthday (all in october) so i figure 1 out of 4 wont be too bad.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

I came to the realization long ago that i am not a leftist. It happened at one of the anti-IMF/World Bank protests, the big one in Wash. D.C. in 2000 to be exact. It wasnt as nearly as rowdy as Seattle, but it was certainly an experience. I was 18, and feeling the rush of being an "activist" for "social justice"...fighting, marching, cheering.....what a load of shit.

I came to realize quickly that the vast majority of people were out there for all sorts of causes. They were promoting communism, socialism, stalinism (for christ sakes, stalinism), leninism....ism ism ism (to paraphrase john lennon)...there were the always prominent anti-israel, "death to zionazis" activists (i wont call them pro-palestinian, because they're as much pro-palestinian as the KKK is pro-american). Many were there just to protest the GOP, a lot of old burnout hippies that just never stopped going to these things. doe-eyed college students, fresh from their well mannered ivy league campuses, enjoying the day mixing with the riff-raff of society they so long to be a part of. the true proletariate, if you will.

what a load of shit. the proletariate couldnt take the day off of work, and is trying to make it home on time for start dinner.

dont get me wrong, i'm not an avid fan of the right either, i just see it as being less hypocritical. if you're ready to sit down and actually listen to what Bush says, and watch what he does, you know what his plan is regarding, say, the environment. Gore, for example, much more tricky. The majority of mainstream media is also willing to play along quite nicely, as most people will be surprised to know that Gore had quite a stake in Occidental Oil, half a million to be precise. Occidental was also a large contributor to the Clinton campaign in the early ninties (50K, to be precise). Not that i'm agast at such discoveries. These things are only natural. It's just the conservatives are more upfront about it. Or perhaps the media is just more vigilant of their investments. After all, there's a good reason why Democrats will go along with the critcism of Haliburton, but wont go so far as to recommend that all public officials investments and contacts be invested. Senators make a LOT of money, but from all sorts of places.

But that doesnt bother me. Most people who get to high levels of government get there by being smart. Smart people know the value of money, and they know how to make money. Money is just money, a way of getting from point a to point b. the more money you have, the nicer the trip. that's it.

But my money is my money, and i want to make sure that i get to keep as much of it as possible. Fiscally conservative, that's me. greedy? sure, but only because i dont necessarily like the way the government wants to spend my money. Take the possibility that civil unions will become legal throughout the country. i'm totally opposed to civil unions. they're going to be a beaurocratic money-sucking nightmare, and worse, it truly is a deterioration of the institute of marriage. Civil unions, for those who dont know, is the only option for homosexuals to get "married." It exists in New Hampshire, Hawaii, and several European countries. (not surprising, liberal yet staunchly stupid as always)

If homosexuals want to get married, let them get married! marriage is a specific union between two people, who plan to live together for the rest of their lives, intertwined physically, emotionally, financially, politically, and socially. It is the most common building block of families and to expropriation of morals, values, history, politics, social structure, and emotional support for the next generation.

In other words, two people are so connected, they have decided to promulgate this connection, have kids, and pass everything on to them.

Doesnt matter to me if these two people are opposite sex, same sex, or something else, so long as the values espoused are in line with the values of a democratic liberal society. i.e. not raising little fascists.

Civil Unions create a heavily blurred line, distorting marriage entirely. It is like a proto-marriage. You dont actually have to want to be married, you have to want the tax benefits.

Now on the Democratic side, the only ones supportive of gay marriage are Jessie Jackson, Carol Mosely Braun, and that nutty little guy from Ohio, who is like a walking fruitcake. Dean is from New Hampshire. Lieberman is against it.....the rest are either for or against civil unions.

Well, i'm just not ready to side with the far left fringe. These are people who support gay marriage not because they see nothing wrong with it, but because they like to promote "minority rights" if you will. These are folks that feel there are different sets of rights for different people, rather then accept that everyone has the same rights. Also, quite frankly, they're well aware they have nothing to lose.

Civil unions are a nice arrangement for the Dems. They cover their bases pretty well. The average american is opposed to gay marriage (take a look here, so i dont have to repeat facts). But they're also opposed to not allowing gay marriage at all. So civil unions are nice and cushy. No real stance is made. The liberal image is maintaned. The Dems march on.

The Republicans arent much better. Let's face it, the religious right has been a significant constituancy for the GOP for over a quarter century. These are not my favorite people. Nice folks, but not the sorts of people i'd want to live with, since, well, i'm just not interested in talking to/about/for/with jesus.
Also, i'm very very much for seperation of church and state. the Dems tend to waffle on this issue, while with the Republicans are pretty easy to see where they lean.

Bush will probably try and keep as quiet on this issue as he was on abortion during the first election. That of course depends on the outcome of the trial up in Mass. So we'll see.

But there are your fiscally conservatice, socially liberal Republicans. Your Governor Arnolds if you will. Your Pataki's. Those conservatives living in fairly liberal minded states, where they can get elected without relying on the far right, and shut out the far left. In other words, politicians who understand that people just want to live their lives quietly, and not worry about where their money is going so they can get from point a to point b as nicely as possible.

Friday, October 24, 2003

wow...three posts in one day...well, this one is all links. if you've never read Victor David Hanson, you should start now. His articles are published on the National Review Online every friday, and today's is excellent.

also, there's andrew sullivan's idea of a Bush-Rice ticket for 2004. i like it.

ok...very cool....props to Zeyad, who put comments on his site through Haloscan....free service which i have no taken advantage of. woo! comments!

Went out with Pablo last night to hang out with all the argentinians. it's quite a trip. they live in this totally weird neighborhood. definatly doesnt look like the place you'd like to walk around alone, but im sure it's pretty safe. it's just weird cos the streets are really old and narrow, the buildings are low, lots of stores there, but they have metal gates that seal them up, so it just looks really cold. there's 8 or 9 of us in the room. a lot of spanish is spoken. my spanish is for shit, but sometimes i can pick out stuff. we'll talk in hebrew also. i tell a few funny stories. they're a really funny crowd. everyone is very laid back. earlier, pablo had been telling me what weekends are like in madrid. the streets are crowded unitl 5 or 6 in the morning. everyone just stays out all night. goes home, sleep for a few hours, eat, take another nap, then go out again. i need to go live in spain for a while. i'll work on my spanish.

there's a couple of little candles lighting up the room. it doesnt look kitschy though, it looks really natural. there's a lot of smoke in the room. i watch some of it whisp towards me. swimming, twisting around the green and red can of polish beer (it was really black and red, but the light reflecting off the green glass of my bottle of Tuborg makes it look green), moving across the candle flame, and over the broken rubix cube.

the air feels like marshmellow. it's like i'm moving my head through a bag of sand. there's more i wanted to remember, but i've forgotten it. i managed to write down a bunch of stuff before going to bed. i'll try and read my own handwriting:

**I know why they love San Francisco fog. it lets them forget, makes them forget. like tonight. Barely getting up the 3 flights up to home. The cabbie was a normal guy. Decent, but an asshole. He managed to stick with hacking coughing and sneezing. Pablo and I certainly werent up for a chat with this psycho, although once we thought he said something. We just looked at each other, slightly concerned, then went back to our respective windows. Pablo got out. we drove on. the fog magically lifting as i was pulled closer to home. "all the lights," he said, "you have to stop at all the lights." he said it like it was an almighty revelation from a minor god. My eyes felt like they were slowly being glued shut. I still shot him a stupid look, "what are you gonna do?" i bemused in broken Amerikaki english accented hebrew. "huh?"Dumb bald fuck. we kept going. hitting every light on dizingoff. sounds like a dirty fucking word.

The woman had been hailing us down for half a block. Its 4 am lady, you nuts? The buldging driver releases the airlock by his side. "Hey lady, the kids getting out at the corner." Not this corner you fat dick. "where ya going? get in. get in. where ya going?" He sounds like a rapist. Two cabs magically pull up. "There. she's got a cab. Crazy lady. Out alone. Doesnt want a ride? she's crazy. If only something would happen to her." If only something would happen to her, he said. Let me explain this to anyone too feign of heart to think of the truth themselves. "If only something would happen to her." He's hoping, praying something terrible upon this woman. Something arbitrary and vague. Just something. Anything, so long as it's terrible.

The cotton candy fog was aglow in pink and blue from a sealed up internet cafe. what a fucking front. no one in this neighborhood is going to an internet cafe. they dont even distance themselves from strangers when pissing in the street. the whole place is a big fucking urinal. two tough fags walk down the middle of the street. sharing a fag, ironically. i suppose not so much. **


well, none of that really makes any sense, but it's what i wrote at around 4:30 this morning.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

yeah...totally didnt do a thing today. katy and pablo came over. pablo needed to use my computer for something. but there was a great development, and it has to do with this guy:

there's a couple of bloggers from iraq, salam pax is one, there's riverbend i hope that link is right. and one or two more that either blog really infrequently or are stopping.

but i like zeyad a lot. not just because he answered my email, and is up for some dialogue, but because it seems like he's up to giving a lot of background info along with his own feelings, and whats going on around him. he's got a really well rounded writing style, plus, i like what he's got to say. so check him out. i'm gonna throw on some links and then find something to occupy my time.

peas.

i should go down to the castro store and get a shirt. i can't find my mastro shirt. i love that shirt. will, if you're reading this, you'd make my channuka/sukkot/christmas/quanza/halloween/ramadan/purim/easter/new year/sylvester/whatever...if you'd send one. or drop one off at my parents place. medium please! i still have the matro hat, i should take pictures of me sporting it around town. i'll do it. i will. i also need to get down to the cellcom store and tell them my stupid phone keeps beeping in my ear every minute when i talk. i hate cellphones enough without going deaf. isnt brain cancer enough of a price to pay? apparently not. i should read. i was supposed to have read all these books by the time classes start (monday) but i've only read one and a half. i need someone to teach me all about the bible. and the koran. ah well. i got a book on herems during the ottoman empire. i think i'll tackle that one today. after all, why not? well, perhaps because it's 2pm and i'm still in pajamas. ok, enough. shower time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Ok, this blog has gotten too serious, and i need to make it a little more realistic. which really means, making it more ridiculous, like my life.

so i had a job interview today, actually, it was the second in what may be a series of interviews, for one job, that pays what would be considered minimum wage in a civilized first world country. it's a job selling via email to american companies something called PHP, it's a company called Zend, www.zend.com, feel free to look them up, and if you can figure out what the hell they're selling, please let me know. i've been faking it all along. and doing a GREAT job of it. they seem to really like me. as long as you can keep talking, and asking questions, you can do anything. it's quite impressive.

i think i've somehow combined what i learned from acting, and what i learned from studying politics, and have become a master bullshitter. king bullshit, that's me!

in other news:

hung out with yosef tamir (grandma's 89 year old cousin)...he's one hip cat. got to go through old photo albums and hear more cool stories. he showed me a picture of his dad, and there's a really crazy resemblance between him and myself. very very weird to look at a picture taken about 100 years ago and the guy looks a lot like you.

australian alex has decided to leave the country. she's been here for 4 1/2 months and she's just had enough. she lived here 10 years ago, and it's just not the place she remembers. i can't say i blame her, it's really not easy to live here. aside from the obvious, it's just not easy to get along with israelis, we're not a particularly polite people. plus the beaurocracy sucks. (she can't get an israeli passport because the fucking government workers are on strike. let it be known now and forever, socialism fucking sucks, yeah, i'm looking at you europe)

finally found a bar that's up to par! we'll thank alex for that. it's actually really hard to find a good pub here, israeli's are more into coffee then booze. honestly, this is SO third world. had a discussion with alex about hipsters, and apparently i'm a hipster. the main reason being that i'm clearly NOT a hipster. apparently this is hip. i tried to explain that i get my clothes from H&M, which is basically what you would find at the mens section in target, if it was fancier.

it's hard to find good orange juice here. for those of you who know me, this may explain the bouts of meloncholy.

i can see the world series here! unfortunatly, it's on at 4 am. still, it's the world series and worth staying up for.

and finally, friendster just sucks. it wont let me send messages, and says i'm not connected to people. stupid friendster.


Thursday, October 09, 2003

I'm listening to Interpol's "NYC" at the moment. I guess i just like to play with fire.

Josh from California days came by to visit. He's studying at the conservative yeshiva in jerusalem. There's something really admirable about josh that i've never put my finger on. he just seems like someone with direction, maybe that's what it is. i wish i could have been a better tour guide, but i'd like to think he had a good time. we walked around a ridiculous amount, since i decided we could go into the area that i really dont know well at all. but we went to jaffo, where we ran into these two old biddies (is that how it's spelled?) from new zealand. a pair of jesus freaks on some tour of the holy land. definatly not my cup of tea, but one of them offered to treat us to lunch since she only had american money (why she had american money is beyond me) and wanted to pay with her credit card. who are we to turn down a free lunch. it was quite nice actually, and very funny. i had pita bread halfway into my mouth when one of them turned to josh and said "do you pray before or after you eat? could you say a prayer in hebrew?" well, josh and i just looked at each other for a second, a couple of "uh, ums" and then he whipped out some prayer. he really could have said anything, so it's probably a good thing they asked him and not me.

you've gotta hand it to the real jesus freaks, wanting all the jews to come back to israel so the messiah will come back. whatever. one of them said "the jews should all come back to israel, it's where they belong. and they should bring their money with them too, because that's important." Do you have any idea how hard it is not to say "Why? wont GOD take care of that?"

the only thing that really bothered me was the typical "we'll be praying for you" as they leave. don't pray for me. if i wanted prayer, i'd believe in god. and it certainly doesnt look like prayer has done much for israel. christ, is there really any place more fucked up? the thing about it is, it's so fucking small, why does anyone care?

i was talking to my dad today on the phone, he said they should take the "wall" (the western wall, which is called Kotel in hebrew, but he uses the regular word for wall, which is "kir" it's something that would drive the religo's insane and the seculars reeling in laughter) and just pack it up and move it a couple of miles south into the desert.

i dont see myself staying here. dont get me wrong, i'm having a great time, but part of that is knowing that my time here is temporary. it could well be that i dont see a future here because no one sees a future here. israeli's dont see or make any plans for the future, everything is in the present. even the army radio talks in the present tense. there was a great article about this in Ha'aretz. it's just really sad. everyone just thinks "at some point, it'll be ok." and it will, i just dont have the desire to wait it out.

perhaps if i felt some sprititual connection, then i'd have more incentive look for a future here. but i dont feel that. like i was telling alex and pablo yesterday, it's not just that i dont believe in god (i've retratacted my once agnostic outlook and replaced it with atheism. after all, if you're going to do something, do it right) it's that i dont care if god exists.

I own a toaster. a lot of people own toasters. even more people know what toasters are. they're a fact of life. they exist. it doesnt matter if you believe in toaster or not, because they exist. what would it even mean to "believe" in toasters? that's ridiculous. toasters dont care if you exist or not. they are, that's all. they heat things up, they break down, they die, you get a new one. toasters.

i've never seen a ghost. if i saw one, i'm sure i'd believe in them. if some sort of full blown apperition, rattling chains, howling out horrible things, then that's it, i believe in ghosts. no problem. then what? who cares if i believe in ghosts? they'd exist, i'd believe they exist, and that's it. it really doesnt matter. it doesnt affect anything. maybe if i could talk to ghosts and learn something, then it would matter. but to my knowledge, no one has ever learned anything significant from ghosts.

so if god exists, it might as well be a toaster, but until then it's nothing more then a ghost to me.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Rolling down Highway 1 on Eged bus 480 and some unknown rate, but surprisingly fast as we've managed to get a bit of luck (no traffic). The Judean foothills surrounding us, above us, below us, those small mountains covered in pines, olive trees, eucalyptus, the meditteranian brush. Flashes of red roofed towns marking the way between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The hourly news report ends, talk about the Israeli strike against a terrorist training camp in Syria, world response, washingtons response, radiohead comes on. Sitting next to me is 88 year old Yossef Tamir, my grandmothers cousin. He left Russia with his parents when he was 8 years old to come to Palestine. He remembers everything. I can barely remember my phone number (in all fairness, the only time i use the regular phone is to call to the US).

So I listen to stories about my family, british mandate palestine, israel...all intertwined. It's enough to forget about the craziness for a while. The stories are great, and he knows how to tell them. So i'll share one.

Yosef's father was a doctor, they lived in Petach Tikva, at the time the largest moshav in palestine. moshav being a jewish settlement. it was built surrounded by arab villages, and he was a doctor to all the arabs in the surrounding villages. They called him Abu Yussef. When he died he was buried on the mount of olives in jerusalem. the mount, along with rest of the city was lost after the war of independence, and then regained after the 6 days war in 1967. a few days after the war yossef and his son Nati went to the mount of olives. the arabs had taken all the tombstones and used them to build what is now the intercontinental hotel. yossef's fathers headstone was left untouched. eerie.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Yom Kippur sure is strange. By sundown there are no cars in the street, but everyone is outside. people walking and riding bikes down the street, going the wrong way. I got a great shot (i think, i havent looked yet) of a whole family with little kids and all taking up the entire 3 lanes of the street. I watched 12 hours of the first season of 24 with Liron. We also went food shopping to stock up for the day, since everything will be closed tomorrow. The supermarket was really crowded. i managed to swipe the last package of pita bread. there was some guy there who bought nothing but candy. just a huge armload of candy. sometimes it's just fucking weird here. wow, i totally did nothing today. hmmm, i'll find something exciting to do.