Archives for April 2006

You Never Know When You’ll Need This

I am a gadget guy. I just love all the doohickeys and doodads. I always have. I just found a couple more items that I can add to the list of things I might need one day.

The first is The Portable Bar. I first learned about it over here. Thanks to the fine folks at JustInCase I am now confident in my ability to hire myself out as a party on wheels. And you know, there is never enough of those.

Here is the thing that really gets me going. Thanks to Random Good Stuff and The Poop Report I have become familiar with the work of Marcel Neundorfer.

The good man has helped to design games you can play at the urinal. This seems like a no brainer to me. If you are going to serve as a traveling bartender than you might as well bring along some games to entertain the guests wherever they may be.

Michael Totten Goes To Israel

As many others have blogged about Michael Totten is writing about his experience in Israel. It is worth reading. Here is a nice long excerpt.

“TEL AVIV – After living in an Arab country for nearly six months, arriving in Israel came like a shock.

It startled me from the air. Whoa, I thought, as I looked out the window of the plane over the suburbs of Tel Aviv. If the border were open I could drive down there in a short couple of hours from my Beirut apartment. But this place looked nothing like Lebanon. My Lebanese friend Hassan calls Israel Disneyland. I thought about that and laughed when I watched it roll by from above.

Trim houses sprawled in Western-style suburban rows like white versions of little green Monopoly board pieces. Red-tiled roofs somehow looked more Southern California than Mediterranean. Swimming pools sparkled in sunlight. I felt that I had been whisked to the other side of the planet in no time.

The airport shocked me as well, although it probably wouldn’t shock you. There were more straight lines and right angles than I was used to. There were more women, children, and families around than I had seen for some time. Obvious tourists from places like suburban Kansas City were everywhere.

Arab countries have a certain feel. They’re masculine, relaxed, worn around the edges, and slightly shady in a Sicilian mobster sort of way. Arabs are wonderfully and disarmingly charming. Israel felt brisk, modern, shiny, and confident. It looked rich, powerful, and explicitly Jewish. I knew I had been away from home a long time when being around Arabs and Muslims felt comfortably normal and Jews seemed exotic.

First impression are just that, though. They tend to be crazily out of whack and subject to almost instant revision. Israel, I would soon find out, is a lot more like the Arab and Muslim countries than it appears at first glance. It’s not at all a little fragment of the West that is somehow weirdly displaced and on the wrong continent. It’s Middle Eastern to the core, and it has more in common with Lebanon than anywhere else I have been. The politics and the history are different, of course. But once I got settled in Tel Aviv I didn’t feel like I had ventured far from Beirut at all.

Lisa Goldman kindly welcomed me to the country and met me for drinks in a dark, smoky, and slightly bohemian bar on my first night. We talked, as everyone does, about The Conflict.

Lisa is a journalist who has been writing for the Guardian lately. She moved from Canada to Israel years ago when Ehud Barak was prime minister. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians looked imminent. Israel was on the threshold – finally – of becoming an accepted and normal country in the Middle East. It was the perfect time to relocate, a time of optimism and hope. A cruel three weeks later that dream was violently put to its death. The second intifada exploded. Israel was at war.

“It was so traumatizing,” she said. “And everybody blamed us. I don’t think I will ever get over it.”

Last year she wrote a six-part series on her blog called How Lisa Came to Israel. It’s riveting and terrifying to read. She must turn that material into a book. Do yourself a favor. Set aside some time and read Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, and Part Six. If you’re a literary agent, send her an email.

“I was near 11 or 12 suicide attacks during the intifada,” she said. “But that’s nothing. I know people in Jerusalem who were near 40 or 50.”

She kept going to restaurants, cafes, and bars even while bombs exploded somewhere almost every day. She even chose to sit right next to the front windows, the least safe place in any establishment.

“The staff kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to sit there,” she said. “I did.”

“I didn’t want to visit Israel then,” I said.

“Hardly anyone did,” she said. “The thing is, though, even when the intifada was at its peak you were far more likely to be killed in a traffic accident than by the bombers.”

She’s right about that. Most supposedly dangerous countries in the Middle East are considerably safer than they appear from far away. The region is not one never-ending explosion. Even so, suicide bomb operations are far more terrifying and traumatizing than car crashes. They’re murderous. They’re malevolent. They’re on purpose.

“It’s especially disturbing when you know what those bombs do to the human body,” she said.

“Do I want to know?” I said. I was not sure I did.

She shrugged and raised her eyebrows.

“Okay,” I said. “Just tell me.”

“Arms and legs go flying in every direction,” she said. “Heads pop off like champagne corks. You just can’t believe anyone hates you that much.”

Comic Books Find Religion

“Four years ago, we learned that The Thing is Jewish when he was shown praying in Hebrew over the body of a friend he had sought to protect. (“It’s just … you don’t look Jewish,” a surprised character tells the enormous, destructive orange rock-man, who explains to another character that he never said anything about it because he didn’t want to embarrass other Jews, seeing as he was, after all, an enormous, destructive orange rock-man.)”

Call me a geek but I found the story to be interesting. Please note that the selection I chose is but a small part of the overall story.

Now if you really want geeky you can click here to find out the religious affiliation of many superheroes.

Cancel American Idol

Please, nuke this show. Send it away, far, far, far away. Banish it to Cat island. Stick it in the trash, it is done.

I am so sick of hearing about it.

Immigrant boycott aims to "close" US cities

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Pro-immigration activists say a nationwide boycott and marches planned for May 1 will flood Americas’s streets with millions of Latinos to demand amnesty for illegal immigrants and shake the ground under Congress as it tackles reform.

But while such a massive turnout could make for the largest protests since the civil rights era of the 1960s, not all Latinos, nor their leaders, were comfortable with such militancy — fearing a backlash in Middle America.

“There will be 2 to 3 million people hitting the streets in Los Angeles alone. We’re going to close down Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Tucson, Phoenix, Fresno,” said Jorge Rodriguez, a union official who helped organize earlier rallies credited with rattling Congress as it debates the issue.”

Fine. I don’t know that this is going to work out the way they hope it will. I suspect that this will polarize the issue further and create more problems than it solves.

“We want full amnesty, full legalization for anybody who is here (illegally),” Rodriguez said. “That is the message that is going to be played out across the country on May 1.”

I’d like to know why he thinks that people should just cross the border and immediately be given citizenship. I understand why people want to come here and am not opposed to legal immigration.

But I have a problem with just giving away citizenship. We should know who is coming in. It is not unreasonable to ask for a little background check, nor is it racist to say that I don’t support illegal immigration.