Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Safety and Fear

When I first started planning my trip to Middle East I was expecting the typical "Oh my G-d, I can't believe you are going to such a dangerous place" reactions. I was not disappointed. No matter how much I quoted statistics about how it was more likely to be killed while driving on a Dallas freeway (10x more dangerous, actually) than to visit Israel for 10 days, they could not be convinced. I think the culprit is the usual negativity slathered on TV addicts by a drama-driven media focused on the region.

Funny that I didn't get that reaction when I went to Brazil or Mexico, countries where an American tourist is 25x more likely to be the victim of a violent crime. By that I mean killed. But then there isn't ongoing press coverage of crime in those areas.

On the other hand I was also surprised at how many people wanted to come with me. I actually had to narrow it down to two. We three share the same philosophy - we'd rather go out doing what we want to do than live a safe life limited by fear.

Zeh mah yesh.

With that I bid you shalom and I'll see you mid November!

Yallah bye!

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fight The Powers

Busy boy. So busy I have not kept up with the news much lately. Of course, as Michael pointed out in his blog today, sometimes we have to wonder why we do.

I tried to catch up a little this afternoon with my news sources here in the States, Israel, Russia, Pakistan, India and the UK. (Yeah, I'm probably on some government watch list with that lineup, lol)

First, former PM of Pakistan Bhutto was greeted after 8 years of exile to a lovely surprise on her return to re-enter the Pakistani race. The worst suicide bombing in Pakistan's history, 140 people killed.

Was it her pro-democracy vision? Was it her pro-West stance? Was it the scandals surrounding her former regime? (what regime doesnt have those?). Or maybe just because she is a woman? Who knows, these people seem to kill because its their only talent.

Now we have presidential candidate (snicker, snicker) Huckabee telling us that our next terrorist attack in the US will probably be launched from Pakistan. No time frame, mind you, and definitely no proof of cause, just intuition, I suppose. He warns us that we have become too complacent and that we think "everything is OK there".

Um, thanks Huckabee, I think we are all crystal freaking clear that things are not OK there.

Cheney says the US will not tolerate a nuclear Iran.

Thanks Dick. No country should "tolerate" a nuclear Iran. With 40% unemployment, growing poverty and an inabilty to lay down basic infrastructure (like getting energy from their oil stash to their citizens), I kind of think the Iranian people will take down their own government.

The "Palestinians" who tried to kill Israel's PM were released, then brought back in, and who knows, maybe released again. All this after the PA agreed the assassination attempt was from within, only to turn 180 to deny it and claim that Israel made it up.

Someone please tell me I missed something here.

Out of control fires in Malibu.

Wow - fires, mudslides, earthquakes and million dollar tear downs. Why do people live there again?

More educators sexually abusing students.

2500 out of 3 million educators had their licenses revoked for this since 2000. Its a small percentage, well, until it affects someone you know.

I stopped reading the news at this point. I opened a nice bottle of Pinot, poured a glass, sipped and plugged in a movie. It was an interesting choice, one I had been meaning to see since it came out in 1988. Funny to watch it now almost 20 years later - so 80's - bright colors, spandex, those odd "tatoo" hair cuts, big hair, bigger boom boxes and G-d fobid, LEGGINS! lol

Still, as I watched it, I thought Spike Lee really hit it right on almost 20 years ago. This, I think his best, or at least his most socially relevant film is still a current commentary on tension caused by differences. Today's tensions might not be the black-white-brown tension of a racially charged Brooklyn neighborhood but the theme still applies.

MLK and Malcolm X references throughout in combination with the Public Enemy song that plays over and over in different contexts, still seem appropriate today, if only to speak to moderation and common sense. The problem seems to be that these ideas only speak to those who are moderate and sensible in the first place.

Whats to be done? Hell, I dont know, just pick which side your on, pour another glass, take another sip and - fight the powers that be.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ha Buah

Last night we went to see the new Eytan Fox film, Ha Buah (The Bubble). The openly gay Israeli has produced two of my favorite films, Walk On Water and Yossi & Jagger. Ha Buah is definitely on par but much more complex.

Imagine, if you will, that you are an Israeli in Tel Aviv in love with a Palestinian in Nablus. Now imagine both are men. Sticky, yes? Nachon? Thats the setup for this film.

Noam (Ohad Knoller, Yossi from Yossi & Jagger) is the Israeli stationed at a checkpoint which is where he meets the Palestinian, Ashraf (Joe Sweid, Rafik from Walk On Water). They begin a heated relationship in Tel Aviv, Ashraf illegally living in Israel pretending to be an Israeli. While Noam's roomates Lulu and Yeli help to conceal Ashraf's identity, the situation becomes plagued with unconcealable, ugly regional realities. The ending of this movie is very Romeo and Juliet but it will touch you and leave you with many things to ponder.

Some critics said Fox was trying to cram too much into this movie. I disagree. I think the architecture of the film is quite simple. The Bubble for me refers to tension and isolation in various forms. Tel Aviv in a bubble from the rest of Israel. A gay Arab in a bubble from the rest of his community. An Israeli girl in a bubble of naivety. Love in a bubble from hate. Isolation begets tension, tension begets isolation. Its a vicious cycle until the bubble is popped. I think that was Fox's point, we go through enormous effort to keep our bubbles intact, sometimes to our own demise.

Filming of some of the scenes, particularly the sex scenes, is tastefully done; creative and artful. The violent scenes are filmed abstractly but they leave no doubt as to the fact that it has occurred.

Acting is good, particularly by Joe Sweid, who seems to building a career out of playing the gay Palestinian.

Distribution of Ha Buah in the states is very limited but if it plays in your city I hope you take the time to see it. It goes beyond regional, religious and sexual orientation boundaries.

Ha Buah

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Tiyul - Getting My Jew On

Wow, only a few weeks left before Galina, HEU Tara and I jet off to the Holy Land. I think I am more excited about this trip to Israel than I was about Brasil. I think my cousin the Negev is more excited about our coming than we are (if thats possible). She has been planning, re-planning, gathering family and making our intra-Israel arrangements for months. My guess is that she doesn't get a whole lot of visitors, sadly. And its too bad too, being Israeli Police, she can show us places most tourists (heck, most Israelis) wont see.

While we won't be visiting my cousin in the West Bank, he will be meeting us in Be'er Sheva for Shabbat and again in Yerushalayim. I kinda want to see the West Bank, but then again, I kinda don't, lol.

Anyway, now about that 4 months of work I have yet to do before I leave. That will explain my lack of coherent postings and one-line comments. Sorry.


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Monday, October 01, 2007

I'm Just The Driver

Viggo Mortensen as Nikolai

New look, new accent but same killer performance we have all come to expect. The much talked about scene of full-frontal nudity is, IHMO, one of the best scenes in movie history. Exceptionally staged fighting meets even better acting in a tight, tense sequence that will make you want to turn away. But you won't. You can't.

Eastern Promises is a terrific action/drama film but it is not for the delicate, there is a heaping mound of violence - implied and explicit.

The film centers around a Russian mafia family and the rather unsavory activities they engage in to remain in power in present-day London. Mortensen stars as the family's driver (just the driver) who has aspirations of reaching the inner circle. But all is not as it seems.

And all is not as it seems from the beginning when a pregnant teenage Russian girl steps into corner drugstore asking for help. The track marks on her arm speak to her habit and her hemorrhaging speaks to a gloomy future, which indeed turns out to be very short. Although the Russian girl dies in childbirth she gives birth to a girl and a diary. A diary that accuses. A diary that exposes secrets.

The acting is excellent from all but Mortensen as Nikolai dominates the screen. Throughout he walks the line between menacing and compassionate, as if he has as many secrets as the diary. Plot twists begin to form a cohesive story and the audience realizes the reason for his duality. What I liked the most about the film was the deadpan delivery of the plot twists - subtle yet powerful.

I liked David Cronenberg's last offering, A History Of Violence, but Eastern Promises shows maturity and confidence on a new level.

Eastern Promises

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