Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Friday, November 23, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
But do not fear, reader, I am not about to start listing my sins in this post. Don't want my ailing Internet connection to die of boredom. Trying to keep my soul-searching positive, I turn to Japanese culture where, surprisingly, apologising and giving thanks is the same thing. One of the most common words for apology in Japanese - "Sumimasen", can also be used for expressing gratitude, as it literary means "it is not over", as in "I can never repay / make it up to you". It is really a shame that in modern Japanese society the original profound meaning of some expressions is lost in the jungle of protocol politeness. So today I will be giving thanks for the numerous gifts of wisdom I have received in my life an cannot ever repay, to my teachers, who, sometimes unknowingly, helped my journey through this world. And here we go:
Things I've learned from my parents:
-The importance of friendship over pretty much everything.
-Similarly, that pretty much everything in the world is more important than money.
-That the secret to a good marriage is having a sense of humor.
-The importance of learning history, that for my father is the one true religion.
-That the only sure way to get your children to do what you want is to have them respect you and care about your opinion. It took me at least 25 years to ever think of revisiting any of my parents' ways.
-And the only way of earning anyone's respect is by being a person worthy of respect, as simple as that.
Things I've been taught by my friends:
-To enjoy things I'm not good at. Such as sports, or cooking. A revolutionary concept for me. It was mostly my friend Noa in Israel who taught me by personal example the joy of little everyday activities, and my friends in Japan got me on a bicycle, into the karaoke room and so on.
-That people are different (from me), and I should get over my prude self and support them through the paths they chose if I call myself their friend.
-About fashion, cool places, pop-culture, the ways of the world in the practical sense. Being a person so invested in my inner world I had very slim chances of surviving in the outer one on my own. For example, without my friend Lisa I wouldn't know where to eat either in Jerusalem or Kyoto.
-To speak if I want to be heard. Still working on that one, to stop expecting people to read my mind. But at least now I can stop myself from getting angry at people who don't.
-That it is absolutely not true that men only want one thing. Or I keep meeting the only ones who want more. Which would also kind of make sense - for God knows they could get that one easier elsewhere. And if there was one thing all men want, I'd have to say it was something diferent than usually assumed. In general, I have this theory that the greatest human desire is having someone to listen to you. Not sex, or fame or anything else. Although I am yet to figure out a strategy how to take over the world by being a good listener...
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
That is a question someone might have asked me during some (drunk, perhaps) conversation , thus eliminating the need for this post.But, unlucky for you, reader, no one did. So here it goes. Thing is, I don't do sad songs. Not as a music choice, but mostly not as therapy. I don't listen to sad songs when I'm sad. I really don't understand people who do...Is it because I'm an escapist? I've been told many times by my girlfriends that the process of wallowing in depression and self pity to the appropriate soundtrack is something to be enjoyed and cherished, but I fail to do that. My life would make a very weird movie where the character's darkest moments of grief and anguish would be accompanied by some outrageously upbeat body shaking Latin tune.
"Now I understand
"Sentados en corro merendábamos besos y porros
and in smoke and smiles the hours flew by.
You were dying to go back, "Con la frente marchita" sang Gardel,
And amidst quotes from Borges, Evita was dancing with Freud.
And the rain came down pouring from then until now...
Pastry chariots, soldiers of tin.
I wished to concur you with the sea water of Andalusia,
But you needed no other love than Rio de la Plata"
Just so you know I have tears in my eyes while translating this now in the middle of Kyoto university library. Specially when i get to the end (skipped a few verses)
..."Te sentaba tan bien, esa boina calada al estilo del "Che".
Buenos Aires es como contabas, hoy fui a pasear,
y al llegar a la Plaza de Mayo me dio por llorar
y me puse a gritar: "¿Dónde estás?"
Y no volví más a tu puesto del Rastro a comprarte
corazones de miga de pan, sombreritos de lata.
Y ya nadie me escribe diciendo: "No consigo olvidarte,
ojalá que estuvieras conmigo en el Río deLa Plata"
Buenos Aires is just as you've told me. I went for a walk,
When I got to the Plaza de Mayo I broke down and cried,
And I shouted and called "where are you?"
And I never went back, to that place at the market to buy you
Pastry hearts, little tin sombreros,
No one writes to me anymore, saying "I cannot forget you,
How i wish you were here by my side at the Rio de la Plata".
"I was driving across the burning desert
When I spotted six jet planes
Leaving six white vapor trails across the bleak terrain.
It was the hexagram of the heavens,
It was the strings of my guitar.
Amelia, it was just a false alarm.
Is a song so wild and blue
It scrambles time and seasons if it gets through to you.
Then your life becomes a travelogue
Amelia, it was just a false alarm"
Once in my dorm appartament in Jerusalem I spent one of my extremely rare Bridget Jones moments playing and singing this song over and over again over a bottle of white wine. Talk about things you didn't know about me, reader.
"Maybe I've never really loved
I guess that is the truth
I've spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitude
And looking down on everything
I crashed into his arms
Amelia, it was just a false alarm..."
P.S. If any of my readers, specially the blogging ones, want to share their song choices with me, I'm very curious!
Friday, April 06, 2007
The cherry trees are in full bloom, and I shall later perform my duty and share some photos from all the "hanami" - blossom viewings I have attended. But let me tell you first this little secret - the blooming sakura tree is most beautiful not when you come to view it, armed with a camera and the intelligence provided by weather broadcasts, but when you come upon it unexpectedly - a shimmering cloud floating over your head in the dark, as you climb over the closed gates of your university at 3 am., on your way from a wild salsa night. Appearing, breathtaking with it's unearthly purity of colour, in some spot of your everyday life, seen by you alone.
As I have witnessed this year, spring in Japan is all about blossoms and graduation/entrance ceremonies, as it is also the end and beginning of the academic year. Walking around the Kyoto University campus I was able to observe Japan's finest youth going through the various changes the season invites: first, the gorgeous, colorful hakamas of graduation ceremonies. The graduates proudly prancing around with bouquets, accompanied by excited parents and taking group pictures in those familiar Japanese poses...The proud graduates soon change into suits and go searching for jobs, faced with the rather depressing prospect of becoming a "shakaijin", productive member of society, rather than the president of "ghost stories" club or whatever. But the nest doesn't stay empty for long - the entrance ceremony, coinciding with the cherry blossoms, fills the campus again with hopeful freshmen with their shiny suits, and all those annoying club representatives, spreading invitations and wasting the rain forests and my patience as I try to make my lonely gaijin way in the crowd.
One of those comments in the scriptures caught the eye of the host of the Pesakh ceremony conducted by the Israeli community of Kyoto. It said that on this day, each of us must think of himself as he was the one leaving Egypt, and moving from slavery to freedom. Our host (far from an Orthodox Jew, father to a beautiful half Japanese baby boy) noted, that the Hebrew name of Egypt - "Mitzraim" comes from the root "narrow", a space closing on you and slowing down your movement. He suggested that it can be looked upon as a metaphor to all the things in our life that are holding us back, denying us our freedom and progress.
Friday, March 09, 2007
The Japanese like to claim that no foreigner can ever fully understand Japan, its culture, its people's behavior and so on. I claim that it is possible to get a pretty good understanding of what modern Israel and its people are by personal experience, even a short visit (it can also pretty much be crossed through its length in a one day car ride, very small country, keep in mind). But since for most of my friends such a visit will have to wait for now (in some cases, till hell freezes over, unfortunately), I thought of a way to introduce some of the aspects of Israel's reality and society through its sounds and occasional images. As I've noticed, most foreigners don't really understand how culturally different Israelis are from the image of European Jews of old most of them have from movies and what not. Well, prepare to be surprised. 8-)
I tried to introduce artists of different genres, not necessarily music I listen to myself. I'm everything but an expert on Israeli music (although, in my defence, I did date the guy who wrote the music column in my university's newspaper for a year and a half) I was also limited in my choice by what you tube has to offer, which was surprisingly a lot for, again, such a small country.
I'll begin with one of the most interesting things that happened to the Israeli music in recent years - The Idan Raichel Project. This guy Idan Raichel (and yes, it is his real hair) incorporated his own music and lyrics with the traditional music of the Ethiopian Jews, using Ethiopian musicians and singers, their religious singing and the Amharic language. Providing an insight to one of the most interesting and least explored cultures brought to Israel by immigrants, the project became insanely popular, and the radio stations played it to the point we all wanted to kill the guy. This song is my favorite, and I like the video that shows very typical views of the old city in Jerusalem. Their other songs have amazing female vocals and many other cultural influences, I highly recommend.
However, embracing the country's cultural diversity wasn't always as much of a trend as it is now. For a few good decades the country's popular music scene was pretty much monopolised by western influence (as well as musicians of European origin). Some of these people were quite talented, and a lot of them started in the army bands - an important institution in Israeli music. They were young, the country was young, and between the wars they were having quite a good time (as at least the 60's-70's movies seem to suggest). One of the greatest bands that came out of this period and outlived it by far is the band Kaveret (the beehive). These guys, who can be seen in the first video from Eurovision 74, proceeded to become the most unique and influential rock band of their times. What was great about them was their sense of humour that came through in the lyrics, the personages they created, the performances and so on. Few years ago they united for a concert, and the stadium was full of young people who weren't even born at the time they last performed, but who knew all the words of the songs.
The Eurovision song, seemingly a cute song about hopeless love, was seen by many as a political song, talking about the Yom Kipur war that had just ended, peace with the Palestinians and so on. The English lyrics (that can be found somewhere in the net) don't really reveal all that, but supposedly the songs title - "I gave her my life" refers to the prime minister Golda Meir. "I gave her my life/ I stood on my knees/ Trust me, everyone,/ It wasn't worth it.
I tried hard to find something recent, but 84 was the best I could do. This is another very famous and very funny song (I might find the lyrics later) and you can appreciate the band's music style.
While as i mentioned, the center of the stage was occupied by the western styles of music, Israelis of the eastern ("mizrahi" - Moroccan, Tunisian, Yemenite and so on) origin had music styles and talents of their own, but those were for a long time neglected and (as western culture would usually have it) looked down upon. The biggest name in this field was doubtlessly Zohar Argov (referred to as "the king"). As you might notice the name Argov sounds quite Russian - the singer was made to change his last name by his managers to become more familiar to the general public. Zohar's voice and talent could not be ignored, but neither, as u may see by the absurd dancers in the background of the video, was the mainstream able to connect to it very well. The singer himself died of drug abuse at a relatively young age. I myself am not a big fan of the traditional "mizrahit" music style, as it was rarely followed by interesting lyrics and was, for the most part, depressing as hell. But this song I do like a lot.
Those days are gone, however, by now artists of eastern origin have taken over the popular music world, and, more importantly - any modern Israeli artist wherever he or his ancestors might be from, views the eastern music styles as part of his cultural background and of what composes the distinctive "Israeli" sound. One of the first to combine eastern sounds in pop music was a band called Etnix, whom I remember well from my school years. This song is not their most famous, and I include it for two main reasons - the social reality portrayed by the lyrics and the fact at least one of my friends might enjoy the guy in the video 8-). It is the actor Sami Huri, and the actual band are the dudes with wigs dancing in the field. The story plays again on the culture clash between the Israelis of European origin (ashkenazim) and the mizrahim. Because of the way he dresses and looks, the golden chain he wears and the music he listens to, the blond girl considers our hero to be a useless punk, a "local Al Pachino", and so he returns to his roots and goes back to the "hood" to party. Please ignore the bar-mitzva boy introduction by a couple of pretty famous comedians.
In case the selection is getting too ethnic for you, here is some hardcore rock, where you don't miss much by not knowing the language as the words are pretty impossible to make out as it is.
These are Hayehudim (The Jews). I knew very little about them until in the army I once shared a room with a girl who was all about that music, and this song in particular. These two are actually a married couple in real life. They met (as if to prove a point I previously made) in an army band.
Another big name in the rock music is Berry Sacharof, whom I also didn't appreciate until I saw him in concert on some Student Day in Jerusalem. Very interesting musician, great part of his career was side by side with Rami Fortis. I had much trouble choosing a video with a good sound that would transmit the energies of a concert, so to my rocker readers I strongly advise to listen to some more. Fortis and Sakharof can also be heard in English under the name Minimal Compact.
Ok this is getting long, so perhaps for a first taste that should be enough. If by chance any of my Israeli readers has corrections and suggestions, feel free. Coming up next (if i see someone is actually reading and listening): Zionist hip-hoppers, Hebrew rappers, Israeli Idols (thank God they didn't call it that!) and so on. Stay tuned.