Saturday, May 03, 2003

Saw "Identity" last night. An interesting movie. Not great, amazing or anything like that, but, as thrillers go, has an unusual premise, and is quite well executed. Two warnings, if you are planning to see it. First, it has some scenes that are quite gruesome. If I was to compare it's level of gruesomeness, I'd probably think of "Se7en". I'd place these two movies in the same category, the one usually called "Psychological Thriller". What is good about "Identity" is that it is not nearly as pretentious as "Se7en" was.

Which brings me to another warning. Well, not so much a warning, more of an observation. The movie has a somber, realistic look and feel to it. But it also has some elements that feel unfittingly cheesy. For example, watch for a scene where John Cusack is telling his story (while taking pictures). What is interesting is that after the movie ended, all this "cheesiness" became, in my view, consistent with the premise. I am very curious about other's take on this. If you cannot comment without revealing the premise, send me an e-mail.

Update: I just read these reviews from the NYT and the LAT. The former mentiones cheese...

Friday, May 02, 2003

I never knew that G. W. Bush served in the military, and even was a pilot (or maybe I just did not pay too much attention to the fact during the election campaign). So I was pleasantly surprised last night. Sure, it was a PR stunt, and not a bad one, either. But coolness aside, I think it is a plus to have a president who has some idea about how military operates, especially in times of war. It is not for nothing that so many Israeli PM's have been former generals.

While thinking about W's background, and how much (or little?) I was able to learn about it during his election campaign, I remembered the time just before the elections, as I very often have been since 9/11. Just a couple of days before the vote I had a conversation with a neighbor, who told me she was going to vote for Bush. As one of the major reasons for this she gave the need to support the military, which has been severely undermined under Clinton. Despite the fact that I voted for Gore, this actually seemed like a pretty good reason, although at the time it still did not sound important enough for me to change my mind. Then she mentioned something that stuck in my mind, and that was the bombing of the USS Cole. It did not make much sense to me at the time, and we did not get a chance to elaborate on the issue, but I kept thinking about it repeatedly. I don't think I was even fully aware of the existence of al-Qaida and bin-Laden at that time, and that bombing seemed just like an isolated incident. It was in the ME, after all...

Of course, after 9/11 everything became so much clearer. I don't know much about my neighbor’s and her family's background, and if they are connected to the military, or some information sources in any way (which could have explained her being better aware of the imminent danger than other ordinary people). What I am curious about is how many people who were in a position to know, actually knew, and how much hell did they, or did they not try to raise over the issue during the Clinton years. I am especially curious how many of those people were Republicans. Like, say, members of various classified committees of Congress. I am also wondering why was it that the Republicans tried to topple Clinton not over security and defense concerns, but over Monica Lewinski issue.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Busy, busy, busy. Hope to resume posting tonight.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I think this would be my last public service announcement for today: we at SR have absolutely had it with Blogger. Consequently, we are trying to raise some, um - what do you call it...oh, yeah, money. We are trying to raise some money which would enable us to switch to MT, by covering the hosting, domain name and whatever other geeky expenses may come up in the process. The tip jar is at the top of the front page - you cannot miss it. And thank you.
A new group blog, Free Speech, is looking for contributors. If you are interested, go and send Del an e-mail.
Allison has written an overview of Israeli English blogs, and she is lucky enough to have been able to do it as part of her day job. Go check it out. Hopefully, next such overview will include your's truly.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Alex posted some of the following in Russian. I googled for an English version, and found it here:
Yossel Rakover's Appeal To G-d

In the ruins of the Ghetto of Warsaw, among heaps of charred rubbish, there was found, packed tightly into a small bottle, a testament, written during the ghetto's last hours by a Jew named Yossel Rakover. Some extracts are written below:

"I am proud that I am a Jew not in spite of the world's treatment of us, but precisely because of this treatment. I should be ashamed to belong to the people who spawned and raised the criminals who are responsible for the deeds that have been perpetrated against us or to any people who tolerated these deeds.

I believe that to be a Jew means to be a fighter, an everlasting swimmer against the turbulent human current. The Jew is a hero, a martyr, a saint. You, our evil enemies, declare that we are bad. I believe that we are better and finer than you, but even if we were worse, I should like to see how you would look in our place!

I die peacefully, but not complacently; persecuted but not enslaved; embittered, but not cynical; a believer, but not a supplicant; a lover of G-d, but no blind amen-sayer of His.

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our G-d the Lord is One. Into your hands, O Lord, I consign my soul."

Tonight, and tomorrow is Yom Hashoa - The Holocaust Day.

Update: I would like to thank Michal Cahlon for alerting me to the possibility that the piece is most likely a literary fiction. I find it very powerful nonetheless.

USA Today: Aziz says Saddam survived airstrikes mounted to kill him

Sunday, April 27, 2003

I was born in Russia in 1960. It was only 15 years after WWII ended, but to a child 15 or 20 years is like eternity, so it always seemed to me like a very distant past. On the other hand, “The Great War for Motherland”, as it was called, was ever present in my childhood, and in the Soviet culture in general. Numerous books, songs and movies dealt with that war. In the city where I grew up there were still signs left on some streets reminding people to walk on the shaded side of the street. I don’t know the real explanation for this, but I recall that it had to do with the constant bombings by the Germans. Every family was in some way affected by war. My grandmother told me the same stories again and again. She got stuck in the city under blockade. There was very little food that was rationed, mostly dark Russian bread, that, as time progressed, had less and less flour in it. My grandmother learned how to drive a truck, and took up a job as a bread-truck driver. On most days she had to stop and run for cover when the sirens went off. She also had to stop and get someone to help her move some dead bodies out of the way. But she always had enough bread.

As a result of all this I felt very personal about that war in general and Germans in particular. In a way, living under blockade did not seem anywhere as scary as living under direct German occupation, and was the case in Ukraine and Belarus, for example. I strongly identified with some young partisan heroes in books and movies, and imagined with terror being caught and tortured by the Germans.

There was a radio show that I remember, in which people were looking for other people from whom they got separated because of the war: relatives, friends, high school sweethearts, fellow soldiers. There is a similar show on the Israeli radio that is still running after 58 years. It is about 15 minutes long, and is aired every weekday.
I first learned about the Holocaust in Israel. Before that I knew that many Jews were killed. I also knew about the concentration camps, but I did not know that they were mostly designed for and occupied by Jews. I did not know there was a grand plan to kill all Jews wherever they were. After I learned that, it all became even more personal. I was no longer a young partisan hiding in the woods with my friends. Now I was getting off a cattle car, huddled with hundreds of others, waiting to be directed: to the right or to the left?

I don’t particularly like reading about the Holocaust, because I feel that I know all I need to know about it. I know very little, I am sure, but I am always afraid that I might just learn something that will make it impossible to even think about it any more. I can hardly handle the idea as it is. I cannot talk about it without crying. I tell my son about it sometimes in little bits, not because I think he cannot handle it, but because I know I can’t. Maybe that is the reason every time I hear someone trying to deny that it happened, I have this strange glimmer of hope: maybe it did not happen after all? Maybe it was all one huge mistake? What a relief it would be.