Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Wanted 18


In the many documentaries made about the First Intifada (1987-93), humor and wry wit are usually in short supply. In the 2014 film The Wanted 18, the quest for acquiring and then preserving 18 cows for a Palestinian town’s self-sufficiency takes on a mythical, and comic, tone.

The tale is told with archival footage, drawings, and black-and-white stop-motion animation, making an unusual tale about cows – cows deemed a threat to Israel’s national security – more special.

The power of the film is that it presents Palestinians talking about resistance to Israel’s intrusion into every aspect of their lives, the arbitrary arrests, and curfews. Also, the disappointment the residents of Beit Sahour felt when the Oslo Accords failed to bring substantive change for them.

This is not a deep dive into the background of events that lead to the First Intifada but rather an amusing snapshot of many of the issues prevalent at the time.

The Israelis interviewed, IDF commanders during this period, do Israel no favors, sounding resolutely cruel in viewing every interaction with Palestinians as an opportunity to assert dominance on the local population.  

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Dancing Arabs (A Borrowed Identity)


I watched the 2014 film A Borrowed Identity on Amazon Prime. I understand the title of the film may be Dancing Arabs (this is the title of Sayed Kashua’s book on which the film is based) on another streaming service.

The film follows an exceptionally bright Palestinian kid, Eyad, from his home in the West Bank to a tony prep school in Jerusalem. Despite the progressive ideals of the school, the students and teachers show prejudice and hostility toward Arabs.

Eyad works to improve his Hebrew and fit in as best he can. He falls in love with a Jewish girl, Naomi, who introduces him to Jewish Jerusalem.

Part of the school’s curriculum is for students to do community service. Eyad’s assignment is to help Yonatan, an Israeli about his age, who suffers from a debilitating disease. Yonatan is a music fan and opens Eyad to a cultural scene new to him.

Everywhere Eyad turns he encounters an Israeli society that discriminates against and fears Arabs. Eventually Naomi’s parents learn she is dating an Arab and take her out of school. Eyad drops out of school so Naomi can return.

Eyad had been working as a dishwasher in a restaurant, learning that Arab workers are confined to the kitchen and generally don’t become waiters – a role reserved for Jews. He figures he has a passing resemblance to Yonatan, so he borrows his ID card and starts waiting tables for more money.

His bank statements get sent to Yonatan’s house where his mother finds them and confronts Eyad in a touching scene. “I just wanted to be a waiter,” he said. “It’s fine,” the mother said, overwhelmed with the tragedy of her dying son. This small act unleashes a brilliant and disturbing course of events.

This film is powerful, showing a spectrum of prejudice in Israeli society, from the soldier at a checkpoint, to the literature teacher, to the family living in a nice house.  

This excellent film is both entertaining and provocative concerning the realities of modern Israel/Palestine. There is humor and engagement with any number of nationalistic issues that continue to define the region. 

The Band’s Visit

The 2007 Israeli film The Band’s Visit is a lovely comedy chronicling the misadventure of an Egyptian orchestra stranded in a small Israeli town in the Negev.

The slowness and silences allow the deadpan humor to wash over the viewer gently, often intensifying the pleasure.

No fast talking, strident political discussions, or grand action, rather the meticulous unfolding of small human dramas.

Before the Egyptian characters were fully developed, I noticed that I had formed a narrative about what actions they would take, or who they were. Later these expectations were turned on their heads, and I felt that my biases had been revealed and needed to be corrected.

An unmitigated pleasure.


Friday, January 29, 2021

The cat with our Jewish Space Laser™

 A brief descriptions of the Jewish Space Lasers hashtag from The Jerusalem Post:

Among the many posts being unearthed amid renewed scrutiny of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s social media history is one in which the new congresswoman implicated “Rothschild Inc” in connection with a deadly forest fire that, she wrote, was started using secret laser beams from space.

Greene, a freshman Republican from Georgia who made waves during the campaign for her promotion of the QAnon conspiracy theory, made the accusation in a 2018 Facebook post that is no longer visible. In the post, Greene offers a mix of evidence-free speculation as to what caused the 2018 Camp Fire, which burned more than 150,000 acres and killed 85 people.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Bubble

The title of this 2007 film is a reference to the Tel Aviv “bubble” of liberalism toward Palestinians that is lacking in other parts of Israel. Like all movies dealing with Israel/Palestine, this is a tragedy.

The main plot revolves around a love affair between two men, an Israeli and Palestinian. They meet when the Israeli is doing his reserve duty at a check point. They have some nice times in Tel Aviv before the reality of the conflict drive them apart.

The film feels significantly dated at times as it presupposes an organized anti-occupation movement in Tel Aviv – one where the adherents enjoy raves and trance music. There is a scene of a scuffle with right-wingers, but such is mild compared to recent years.

My main takeaway is the illustration of how the occupation distorts everything in Israel/Palestine. One may struggle with work, love, life, all of it complicated by the on-going need to keep Palestinians under martial law for time immemorial.

As an anti-occupation film this is weak tea, as the story is mainly told from an Israeli perspective.

This is my seventh film regarding Israel/Palestine in the last two weeks. One theme that reoccurs frequently is the generational conflict generated in Palestinian society as it transitions from an agrarian culture to an urban one. I can’t speak to how valid these representations are but am guessing it must figure quite prominently to be commented on so often.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Junction 48

The 2016 Israeli film Junction 48 is worth the effort. The film chronicles the lives of Palestinians living in the Israeli city of Lod, the main character an aspiring rapper.

Although not dealing with occupation as experienced in the West Bank and Gaza, this film grabbles with issues of Palestinian displacement, discrimination, and how to live in a country where a hyper-nationalism is the norm rather than the exception.

I particularly liked hearing the Arabic, both sung and spoken, laced as it was with Hebrew and other languages.

The characters deal with crime, Israeli house demolition, cultural conflicts, and romance. One particularly poignant note was that a Palestinian man’s house was appropriated for a museum of coexistence.

Of course, this movie has an excellent soundtrack, and the rap music is good.

Overall a nuanced and provocative work. 

More Fan Art

 Loud, proud, and ready to make a difference in your community. Let the Grease Cuck within you shine forth like a true medieval blasphemy. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

In Between (Bar Bahar)


Last night I watched the 2016 movie In Between (Bar Bahar) about three young Palestinian women who for various reasons find themselves roommates in Tel Aviv.

The main theme was cultural, generational and gender conflict with various relatives and friends, with little direct commentary about being second-class citizens in Israel or occupation. This was refreshing, as the other films I’ve been watching have a strong message of advocacy. However, I’m looking for films that introduce newbies to the political, social, moral issues of occupation, so this wouldn’t be a good fit.

Looking at the list I posted yesterday, this film has been the most enjoyable to watch. For one thing, it depicts Palestinians as nuanced and varied in their outlooks and attitudes, fully developed characters, each with her own motivations and desires.

I fear from watching all the documentaries one might believe that every Palestinian can recite the verbiage of UN resolution 181 by memory.

The importance of this film for me is that it shows how nothing is static in these multi-generational conflicts. Each generation will survive and react to the situation as it sees fit. 

Monday, January 25, 2021

How to Build Interest in Israel/Palestine?

A still from the movie Jenin Jenin

Academics and serious amateurs are aware of my predilection for all things Israel/Palestine.

I’ve certainly had my fill of combating the forces of right-wing idiocy in all manner of Jewish community. My desire is to keep evolving in my thinking and not just be a troll.

I’m now at a synagogue that is better suited to my views and through their Israel/Palestine committee am happily undergoing a self-imposed film festival. I expect to view most of these films in the next few weeks.

·         Wrestling Jerusalem

·         Ajami

·         Omar

·         Jenin, Jenin

·         The Bubble (HaBuah)

·         In Between (Bar Behar)

·         The Gatekeepers

·         Bridge Over the Wadi

·         Tel Aviv on Fire

·         Junction 48

·         My Dearest Enemy

·         Budrus 

·         The Band’s Visit

The question I’m asking myself is if someone isn’t knowledgeable about Israel/Palestine, what is the best film to spark interest?

I remember several years ago hearing a leader of B’Tselem (a human rights organization that documents Israeli abuses) give a presentation. She was asked how Israelis respond when confronted with a video that shows soldiers shooting civilians or something equally horrible.

She said they are stunned, then go into a state of denial – “that isn’t us.” Then they tell themselves that the moment on film was an aberration, an extraordinary event that doesn’t represent the majority of situations. Soon they forget they ever saw such a thing.

I have had a similar reaction to showing films in Jewish community that document IDF soldiers doing bad things. The right-wingers don’t really engage with the material, just ask how/when they get to show the film that represents their values.

My current thinking is that dramas and comedies might be more effective in bringing people to this subject than the documentary.  

I’m looking forward to discussing these ideas with the other members of the committee, many who are further left than myself—a first!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

New Wave Of Agriculture

There’s a restaurant near where I live that grows sprouts and leafy vegetables hydroponically in their window.

I haven’t yet eaten at The Soop but I am intrigued.

Watch this space for updates.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

How I Survived the Trump Years

Therapy cat hard at work.

Back in 2016 I was still disbelieving how corrupt and pathological the Trump administration could be. I assumed that at some point adults would enter the room and a more normal presidency would evolve. Looking back, I admit I was so wrong it hurts.

Initially I would watch the news with my wife after dinner. As the mayhem and stupidity began to unfold, I became aware of a need to sit close to her, literally to band together, to withstand the assault on truth.

Later we needed to be under a blanket to really feel protected enough to survive the news as presented by Rachel Maddow.

By 2019 we required a weighted blanket to give us the perception of safety. The extra heft of the heavy blanket added emotional armor.

For the last few months of the Trump White House, we required something out of the ordinary to take us over the finish line – a therapy cat. The theory was that the cat would sit on top of the weighted blanket and allow us to pet it and lower our stress when things really got out of control.

The therapy cat overall was a good idea as we all enjoy cats, but there are many nights when the cat isn’t on the clock, can’t be bothered with us, is somewhere else, or chooses to administer therapy in a manner no one can fathom.

We are all complex individuals. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Trump Leaves Office And COVID Declines

 I heard on NPR this morning that the COVID peak may have occurred and a gradual decrease in cases can be expected. Such has happened where I live when looking at the 14-day trend.

Yesterday was a big day. I'm glad to have an administration that values human life.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Inauguration and Burnside Street

The Civil War General Ambrose Burnside, whom Burnside Street in Portland is named after.

Today I was driving the kid on Burnside Street. Near our home the road is four lanes and a busy thoroughfare.

A woman with a baby in a backpack started to make her way across the road in a pedestrian crosswalk. I was in the lane nearest the center line and stopped to let her cross. A panel truck to my right appeared to one moment make a break to keep going but then realized a stop was required.

The woman made a sour face at the truck’s quick stop, prompting the driver to start a series of long horn blasts. The woman calmly stood in front of the truck, removed the lid from her coffee, and deftly flung the cup’s contents onto the windshield.

I drove away looking at the scene in my rearview mirror. The truck had on its hazard lights, indicating that it wasn’t going anywhere. The woman stood on the curb and yelled and shook her fist. The truck driver apparently declined to get out of the truck.

At this time, in another universe, President Biden was being inaugurated.

In my mind the bully truck driver was Trump and the woman was newly empowered because his reign of corruption and idiocy was over.

I realize this narrative is one of my own making, but it was a day that felt like new beginnings, starting last night when President Biden and Vice President Harris paid tribute to 400,000 COVID deaths.

I realize that the Biden White House will have its ups and downs, with policies I disagree with and so on. If the Biden administration has a basic normalcy and competency, such will feel like a radical rethinking of government.


Monday, January 18, 2021

We Honor Dr. King

“Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to jail 29 times. He was a target of FBI surveillance and intimidation. During his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” he also said, “We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.” Throughout his entire life, polls showed a majority of Americans did not support him or the civil rights movement at large.
We see a lot of revisionist history every MLK day, where the same forces of oppression and white supremacy that Dr. King devoted his life to dismantling share quotes and admiration. That’s why today and every day, we must honor the true legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – a Black radical who proclaimed that "we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values."
Just as MLK became increasing unpopular in his fight for racial equality through a message of morality and actions of civil disobedience - we see a similar trend today. A new uprising for racial justice was sparked after police murdered George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year. But it didn’t take long for public support for the Black Lives Matter movement to decline.
It was this historical trend that MLK called out in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, saying, “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. Tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
I often hear people wonder, “What would I do if I was alive during the Civil Rights movement?”
I was a child of the civil rights movement. I am a firm believer in the necessity and power of non-violent resistance. We have a long way to go to realize the dream that Dr. King spoke so passionately about.
We are living in the modern civil rights movement. And despite the many great leaders like Dr. King involved with the civil rights movement during the 1960s, the movement’s true power was in the collective of everyday people joining the fight. That holds true today.
So the question now is, what side of history will you be on?

Sunday, January 17, 2021

World’s Worst Therapy Cat Reevaluated


As academics and serious amateurs have noted, Stuart, our cat, is an excellent martial arts-influenced apex predator but lacks a certain level of empathy to excel as a therapy cat.

Plus, there is the notion that the probability of him killing us is not zero.

Today my wife pointed out that perhaps I’m misunderstanding the role of a therapy cat and he is in fact giving us the indifference that we so sorely need.

I can accept this possibility.

Cat stoke!

Friday, January 15, 2021

Portland and Rain

Last Tuesday I went hiking in Washington Park with friends. It was pitch black and a storm whipped rain down on us like a fire hose.

A cold rainy night in January and we were not alone on the muddy trails, encountering two other groups of hikers.

This is why, rain or shine, during daylight hours all the inner-city hiking trails are well-used, or even super highways when the weather is just the slightest bit cooperative.

The picture above is from Tuesday night -- a selfie I took in the garage. There was nothing to photograph outside except darkness and rain. I even had to use a GPS app to navigate the trails as the rain and headlamp made everything two steps stranger in the haze.

A really great night. Looking forward to next Tuesday.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Searching For Bright Spots

In Oregon the COVID resides where the people are, no matter how much I look to different metrics to tell myself that it's not in my backyard.

The numbers are trending up, most likely in reaction to Christmas and New Year's holidays. 

I'm waiting for some big public push for vaccinations -- no news yet. Doctors and nurses are getting shots, but that's the extent of it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Family Photo

I remember when we used to eat out in restaurants as a family. Those times take on a mythical quality in my memory.

My mother and her husband in New York need the COVID vaccine – it may be June before they get one. Nothing is happening quickly.

Joe Biden will be president in a week. I believe he will take the pandemic seriously and there will be action, if not good news, on this front.

I’m hoping.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Stop Being Grease Cuck

I am familiar with the punk band Grease Cuck.

So when I was playing around, I thought it would be great if they made a concept album called “Delegitimize Yourself.” So here is the album cover. 

You're welcome!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

A Dose Of Reality For the Terrorists

The guy carrying the zip-ties was arrested in Nashville. Eric Gavelek Munchel is accused of being one of two men who stormed the U.S. Capitol with zip-ties. 

I’m still feeling sick to my stomach when I think about Wednesday’s coup attempt. Having scores of the terrorists identified, many through their own social media posts, is a mark in the mood-improvement box.

NYT reported that Trump being unplatformed from Twitter and Parler has put him into a rage.

Still, I believe the Fox news perspective is that Wednesday’s assault on democracy was a win for their side.

Tomorrow will start a new week with the business of the day to impeach Trump for a second time.

Trump will continue to eat the world until he doesn’t.

I’m ready for that day.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Doom Scroll 2

I’m feeling better after tapping into various other people’s outrage over the insurrection. Politicians, pundits, average people. There is anger afoot.

As I write this Trump has been kicked off Twitter. This was long overdue.

Pence is hiding in an undisclosed location and has made it clear he will not invoke the 25th amendment.

Impeachment proceedings will commence Monday. I’m not optimistic about Trump’s removal but I understand this is the probably the only legal mechanism that opponents of Trump have at their disposal.

Here’s hoping for some congressional magic.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Doom Scroll

 I tried to stay away from screens for much of the day. I’m feeling bolstered by the clear thinking of the Democratic members of Congress – got to get rid of President Crazypants.

I’m still in shock about the statements from the mob of rioters, so many assumed they would not be harmed, or even touched, by police – like the whole storming of the Capitol was a white privilege convention.

The word “doom scroll” is now part of my vocabulary. If I can name the problem I stand a better chance of combating it.