Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In the Night: (sort of) Live Blogging

Nervously, I unlock the door and step outside (01:30).

I find myself walking the streets of Tel Aviv at 02:00 in the morning. I'm not drunk, I haven't done any drugs (except my naturally spewing endorphins) and I'm alone. My destination is relatively near. I'm trying to play some songs in my mind and when that doesn't quite work I use the infernal contraption (my iPod). I listen to the chorus: "In the night, in the night" but I just can't make out all the words. Thanks, Basia.
I expected the streets to be rather busy with people as this is Thursday and people go out, even at these hours, but it's quite desolate. Plenty of cars, though. I try to slip by.

It's about 02:30. I don't know how long I have to wait. I'm feeling very nervous but also quite still. It will all be over soon enough, I tell myself.
02:35 - There's nothing on TV. Who's great idea was it to play "300" in the middle of the night in a waiting room? I find the sight of people hacking at each other quite unappealing so I try to look away. Should I use the iPod again? Maybe I should try to read some more in that very long paper I carry around in the bag? But no, that would just stress me out some more. I wait.

02:45 - Finally, I enter the room and deposit my metallic stuff. Half blind, I stumble unto that hard and narrow bed. No, I don't want any shot of chemicals. Yes, it's OK.

02:50 - I close my eyes. The world is now composed of two things: loud metallic clanks, sounds and odd noises emitted by this tube I'm in and me, trying to count and differentiate the assortment of auditory assaults I'm experiencing. I remember counting to over a thousand the last time I was here. I wonder how high I'll reach this time.

???? - It's over. No, there it is again: life composed of a cross between a WWI sinking submarine and a washing machine-dryer combination with a few nails and shoes tumbling inside. It's not perfect, but it's home, at least for the next 10 minutes or so (which seem like forever right now).

03:10 - It's over and man, have I got a headache. I smile feebly as I gather my stuff and walk away into the night.

03:55 - It's still very dark and marvelously quiet. I climb into the bed, sighing.

03:57 - I forgot to blog it live. Do I have to do it all over again?

Basia Bulat - In the Night {Video} (from Oh, My Darling)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Song of the Morning: Trees

Israel is my adoptive home. There, I said it. It's not like I, my parent's or even some of my grandparents were not born here. It's how much I feel at home that I'm talking about. On the one hand, I barely feel comfortable in my own skin. This feeble body has brought its fair share of disappointments and frailties. On the other hand, in this life I'm not likely to experience how it would be like living in another body, which means this is the only body I have and may as well consider it Home (there's a somewhat disturbing dualistic view of Mind-Body acting as a pre-supposition here; disturbing because I'm not sure what I really think or feel about it).

But I digress. My point is I don't always feel at home here, like I belong or long to be here. Whether this is the result of me being a snob, some remnants of another (and better) life elsewhere, plain escapism or a correct reading of the facts, I don't know. I like forests and rivers. The desert has its charm, but I'd prefer it'd keep its distance from me.

So yes, I'm at home here. But maybe I need a little RV time before I can finally settle in.

This post's song deals with similar issues. It was written by one of Israel's greatest poets, Leah Goldberg, expressing longing for her birthplace (she was born in Königsberg). Achinoam Nini (also known as Noa), along with Gil Dor, composed the music for it as well as adding a few verses of her own in English. She spent most of her childhood in New York and has, as she sings, "roots on both sides of the sea".

Perhaps it's possible to have roots in a far away land one has never been to. Perhaps we grow our own roots after the fact. Right now, I think I have some packing to do.

Achinoam Nini (Noa) - אילנות (Trees) {MP3} (from Achinoam Nini/Gil Dor [Leah and Rachel])
Achinoam Nini's picture from

Late Edit: When I first heard Amit Erez's "Postcard" a couple of years ago, I thought it dealt with the same feelings I mentioned earlier - not really belonging here and longing to be elsewhere. With the video clip of the song, released a few months ago, you get a somewhat different meaning. See below the beautiful clip.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Featured Artists: Angus & Julia Stone

I'm (finally) approaching the final stretch of the school year. With four more papers to go and an exam at the end, I can begin to see the end of it. How much have I really learned this past year, however, I can't just say. I feel it should be about more than just the information and the details I've managed to accumulate. It somehow feels like at the beginning - full of doubts, not knowing where do we go from here and what do I do with it.

As work now is nothing short of insane, I have very little time to make any significant progress with these papers. There is one, though, that I'll probably start with and I hope to elaborate about when I can. It is concerned with Indie music and how it is similar and may even be considered a kind of an open source industry. In this I mean not just the artists and the producers themselves but also the fans who take an active and a special role in spreading the music and encouraging its growth and development.

Until I get started with that research, here's a pair of Australian siblings now touring in Europe (supporting Martha Wainwright) to great success, making wonderfully sweet music. Touring, playing, having fun - what else can be asked?

Angus Stone - River (Joni Mitchell cover) {MP3} (from No Man's Woman)
Angus & Julia Stone - Just a Boy {MP3} (from
A Book Like This)
Angus & Julia picture from

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Listener, Bound

It is now about day 60 to my addiction to Shearwater's Rook. I've been listening to it or parts of it almost daily. It has a calming effect on me, and yet it excites me. It's a whole maelstrom in here.

For those of you seeking meaning to these beautiful songs, first look into the lyrics on Matador's site (PDF). That is but the beginning though. To really get the meaning you have to listen and feel.

What I got is an overwhelming feeling of sadness and anguish felt by the so-called 'Animal world', as though the birds and the whales and the rest of the rich and once flourishing life forms on this planet were speaking to us, Humans. But it seems that they are even beyond the point of accusation and laying of blame; instead they are filled by quiet dignified sense of retreat, disappearing silently into oblivion. Leaving us, our hearts "still racing", alone.

Whale picture from the National Geographic website.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Vote for Julian

Julian Velard, the wonderful indie/jazz singer-songwriter whom I've mentioned a while back, has a new amazing interactive site. In fact, it's so great, .net magazine is nominating it as one of the best interactive sites of the year. So go ahead, explore the quest-like features in his site and vote for him here.

Julian Velard's site is here.
Picture from Facebook.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Song of the Morning: Lucky

First, a disclaimer: I support skepticism. I think it is a healthy and necessary human behavior and way of thought (you'll soon see why I mention it).

A very admired professor of mine is in the habit of producing an anecdote which, he says, demonstrates the importance of skepticism. It goes something along the lines of:
"A man goes to the temple of Poseidon, god of the sea, where he is shown a lot of offerings made by those that were saved from drowning. 'Ah', he says, 'but what about those men who did drown?'".

My point is, and I'll probably ruin the humorous part of the anecdote, that this story is incomplete. Why? Because we don't get to hear the reply from the local priest. I'm sure the priest can produce all kinds of reasons (or excuses) as to the wickedness of those who drowned (or their lack of offerings before going on board that last fateful voyage...). But the reply of the priest is omitted, and one may ask if rightly so. After all, this story is not supposed to deal with the relations between science (represented by skepticism) and theology (represented by the absent priest). It is just suppose to show that skepticism is important. Well, is that a complete answer? I'm not sure.

Could another example serve us better? Suppose the man from the anecdote went to the horse racing tracks and was shown a wall full of pictures of happy people. Would he not ask "where are all those who lost in their bets?". Would not the reasonable reply be "since they lost, they were disinclined to give thanks to the gambling authorities"? Would that constitute a good answer? How is it different from the answer of the priest?

Doubt has no real end and its beginning is in the first breath and the first sight. Doubt doesn't paralyze out of fear; it is the certainty we perceive or believe to exist that causes that hesitation.
So, this post's songs are extraordinary beautiful covers of a beautiful Radiohead song (from OK Computer). I don't believe in luck; I have cause enough to doubt it. But there are some things, like this song, I don't doubt. They exist.

John Frusciante - Lucky (live)
Warren Haynes -Lucky (from Live at Bonnaroo)

Warren Haynes' picture from
John Frusciante's picture from the blog PenguinsKnowWhy