Sunday, March 29, 2009
The running joke in Israel about Israeli actors trying to make it big in Hollywood is that they are only cast as Arabs, usually terrorists. So, in this instance, the situation is the exact opposite: an Arab playing an Israeli.
There are enough Israeli actors in the States to play Israeli characters and I'm sure there are enough Arab actors in Los Angeles to play Arab characters, but still Hollywood groups them together. Is that a covert pro-peace message: you're all the same anyway, so just get your shit together already?
Saturday, March 28, 2009
SPOILER AND GEEK ALERT!
Well, weirdly, somehow the final episode was at once very satisfying and very unsatisfying. The battle portion was great. Even most of the Earth part was good. We said goodbye to the characters in an emotionally satisfying way, although the idea of the Colonials being the source of Greek mythology makes no sense, considering the fact that they arrived about 140,000 years before the emergence of Greek myths. Also, the whole "God did it" thing is unsatisfying. There were so many unaswered questions here (like what's the connection between the Lords of Kobol and the Cylon God). Maybe some of this will be addressed in the prequel Caprica, but I doubt it.
Anyway, I made up my own answers for the unanswered questions. I used some background from the original series and shifted it around to suit me. Here's a time-line:
- 22,000 BCH (Before Cylon Holocaust): A reptilian race in a far away galaxy creates robots which rebel against them and wipe them out completely. The robots then go on to attack Humania, the only other inhabited planet in that galaxy. A one thousand year war begins.
- 21,000 BCH: The Humanians, a humanoid race (though not human), create their own robots to help them in their war. However, their own robots turn against them and join the original robots. The war ends in mutual annihilation, with all robots destroyed completely, and of the Humanians only 50 people aboard the Starship Kobol survive. They see that their race cannot survive through regular reproduction, so they invent resurrection technology.
- 20,000 BCH: Humanians settle upon a planet in the Milky Way Galaxy. They name it after their ship, Kobol.
- 18,000 BCH: Humanians find our Earth and primitive homo sapiens. For some reason, they decide that genetically engineering biological creatures would be safer than building robots, so they take a few thousand bone samples and try to guess how they'd naturally evolve. They call the homo sapiens Humans, after their original planet. They place them on twelve different locations on Kobol, which would later become the basis for the twelve tribes. The Humanians come to be known as the Lords of Kobol and are thought to be gods by the humans.
- 4,400 BCH: El, one of the few offspring of the original 50 Lords of Kobol, is born.
- 4,100 BCH: Humans create Cylons. The LOK are pissed, but El convinces them not to do anything.
- 4,000 BCH: A human scientist discovers that Cylon resurrection technology can be used on humans as well. The Lords of Kobol kill him before he can announce his discovery and prevent him from downloading into a new body. They decide to banish the Cylons. El is furious and leaves Kobol with them. Also joining him are five human priests who worship the Lords of Kobol.
- A few months later: The Temple of Hopes in established, where the Cylons and the five human priests pray to the Gods. They later find Cylon Earth. A few homesick Cylons take the last remaining FTL-capable ships and return to Kobol. They are the source of the information on Kobol about Earth and the Temple of Hopes. However, the LOK distort the story and make it sound as if El made the Cylons create the temple for himself and the five priests. He would use this distortion a few centuries later to reveal the identities of the Final Five (who don't really have anything to do with the five priests).
- 2,000 BCH: The Cylons create robots who attack them. The humanoids and the robots destroy each other. El, though, saw it coming because of the previous encounters with robots, so he warned the Final Five. He builds an FTL-capable ship for them, but the Lords of Kobol destroy it, so the Final Five must use a subluminal ship.
- Meanwhile, El returns to Kobol, and the Lords of Kobol, in their panic, decide to banish the twelve tribes (plus the remnants of the Cylons who returned to Kobol, which is why sometimes it is said that the 13 tribes left at this time). Athena, who disagrees with this decision, disables her own ability to resurrect and commits suicide.
- 1,990 BCH: A solar system with 12 inhabitable planets is discovered by the 12 human tribes. Meanwhile, the Kobolian Cylons go in search of Earth. Unfortunately for them, they never find it and die out.
- Towards the end of the first Cylon war, the final five finally reach Kobol, but find it abandoned. They mysteriously find a ship identical to their own orbiting the planet. They discover it is a jump-capable ship with the coordinates to humanity's current location. The Lords of Kobol, who had come to regret their actions of 2,000 years earlier, are the ones who secretly provided the ship.
- The Lords of Kobol and El partially reconcile. They both manipulate humanity, sometimes with the same goals in mind, sometimes with conflicting goals.
- When Kara Thrace is killed in the maelstrom, the LOK recreate her body and viper on Earth, and then downloads her into a new body. El, on the other hand, is the one who turns on four of the Final Five with the music.
- When the Colonials reach our Earth, the Lords of Kobol make her see her father one last time, and he tells her it is her time to go. She says so to Lee and disappears. She's actually taken to the LOK's ship, because they believe she deserves an explanation for everything that happened. She dies on the ship and is taken to Kobol to be buried.
- Colonial culture was lost, and all we got from them is DNA. However, the LOK manipulate things so that their names come up in Greek mythology.
- Head Six and Head Balter in Times Square don't really exist. It is just a representation of El's internal thoughts, using the images he made Caprica-Six and Baltar see. He himself has a side of him who thinks humanity will succeed and one side that thinks they won't. He's also joking with himself about how people see him as a god.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Seven of Labor's thirteen Knesset members oppose joing the coalition, but the decision isn't up to them. If the convention votes with Barak, the seven MKs should split from Labor. As a majority of the Knesset caucus they even have the right to take the name Labor with them and force Barak's faction to call itself by another name. I have a few suggestions: The Coalition Party, CMNMW Party (Cabinet Members No Matter What), Anti-Opposition Party, Fig Leaf Party, etc. I have a million of these. I can go on forever.
If this split does take place, I'd leave the current Labor Party and may join the new one that will stay in the opposition. If the party will join the coalition and won't split, I'll leave the party. If it stays in the opposition it will be on probation - if it doesn't get its act together soon and be a distinctively pro-peace party that's less naive than Meretz but more serious about the two-state solution than Kadima, it won't be able to count me among its members.
Don't worry, I'm not planning on kicking the bucket any time soon.
Visit all six inhabited continents
I'd like to see as much as possible of the different cultures of the world.
Write a critically acclaimed work of fiction
I love writing.
Establish a cult that would worship me as a god
Not a death cult or a sexploitation cult, just one where they thought I was Zoroaster or Jahova or something.
Escape from said cult
Because I'd find out quite quickly that it's just too damn creepy.
Start my own Science Fiction franchise
To make millions of dollars and millions of fanboys and fangirls dress up as weird alien characters I made up.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
This is just one of the many reasons why it is insane and/or idiotic to appoint Lieberman as foreign minister.
A few years ago I attended a "mesibat gius", an "enlistment party", for a relative who was joining a combat unit. People gave him various tips about army life. Several people told him to always remember the Palestinians were humans, not just automatic terrorist suspects. I remember one person saying that "once you forget the Palestinian civilians are human, you also forget that you're human". It seems to me that kind of message needs to be an integral part of the training of combat soldiers.
Today's Haaretz editorial (Hebrew version here) calls for an external investigation:
"The IDF's internal investigations, which are moving ahead very slowly, are not enough. The army is absorbing more and more religious extremism from the teachings of the IDF's rabbinate. It would be appropriate to investigate the problems from outside the IDF and root them out before the rot destroys the IDF and Israeli society."I couldn't agree more. An investigative committee like the one set up after the Second Lebanon War should be set up, but this one should be focused on the moral and ethical aspects of the operation and IDF soldiers' training in general.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
In the last line of the [previous] column I say that the arguments of the academic critics of neoliberalism lead straight to support for and participation in the boycott of Israeli academics. (Which isn’t to say that all critics of the neoliberal university are necessarily pro- boycott, only that it is easier for them to arrive at that position because they are already halfway down the road.) Several posters wondered how I could get from here to there. Here’s how, in five easy steps:
(1) The academic critics of neoliberalism complain that one effect of the neoliberization of the university has been the retreat by faculty members from public engagement, with the result that intellectual work becomes hermetic and sealed off from political struggle. “We need,” says Henry Giroux, “to link knowing with action, and learning with social engagement, and this requires addressing the responsibilities that come with teaching . . . to fight for an inclusive and radical democracy by recognizing that education in the broadest sense is not just about understanding . . . but also about providing the conditions for assuming the responsibilities we have as citizens to expose human misery and to eliminate the conditions that produce it” (“Against the Terror of Neoliberalism,” 2008)
(2) In the eyes of many academics, a great deal of human misery is being produced by Israel’s policy toward Palestinians. Eliminating it is everybody’s business.
(3) This includes academics who cannot stop at just talking about injustice, but must do something about it, must act.
(4) The political resources of academics are limited, but one way academics can show political solidarity is to put pressure on colleagues who are silent in the face of injustice: “The boycott or the divestment campaign is the mode of political protest that is left after all other forms of struggle have been tried”; it is “the politics of last resort” (Grant Farred, “The Act of Politics Is to Divide,” Works and Days).
(5) Therefore, it is appropriate and even obligatory to boycott Israeli academics and Israeli universities “that have turned a blind eye to the destruction and disruption of Palestinian Schools” (David Lloyd, Daily Trojan). “If, in the midst of oppression, these institutions do not function to analyze and explain the world in a way that promotes justice . . . but rather acquiesce in aggressive neocolonialist practices, then others may legitimately boycott them” (Mona Baker and Lawrence Davidson).
Nor will they be saved by the invocation of academic freedom, for rather than protecting Israeli academics, academic freedom, as the boycotters understand it, demands reprisals against them for having stood by while the freedom of Palestinians was being violated. “There is a whiff of hypocrisy,” says Steven Rose, when after failing to protest against the atrocities of their government “Israeli scientists complain that those of us . . . who refuse to collaborate with them . . . are attacking their academic freedom” (The Guardian, May 27, 2004).
David Lloyd drives the point home: “Israeli institutions are complicit in immense infringement on Palestinian academic freedom, so it’s really hard, it seems to me, for Israeli institutions to claim the rights of academic freedom that they are so systematically denying to their Palestinian counterparts.”
Lloyd’s last phrase — “their Palestinian counterparts” — raises a question that helps us to see what has happened to academic freedom in these statements. Counterparts in what respect? Not, obviously, as co-religionists or citizens of the same polity, but as academics — men and women trained to engage in research and to follow lines of intellectual inquiry wherever they might lead.
Whatever their political or religious or geographical situations, scholars throughout the world are linked by a set of concerns to which they have a responsibility that is distinct from (although not necessarily antithetical to) the responsibilities they may have in other respects. The strength of an academic discipline, Murray Hausknecht observes, “depends on maintaining relationships across national borders.” (Dissent)
Academics, Hausknecht explains, “can be likened to citizens of a nation,” and while they are also citizens in political units (particular nations and finally the world), if we conflate the two citizenships by making academic judgments (whether to accept a paper in a journal or invite a speaker to a conference) on political grounds, we do great damage to the scholarly community, the nature of which “is exemplified by academics who publish papers in foreign journals, attend international conferences, and collaborate with colleagues in research projects.”
But it is just such a conflation that the boycotters insist on, as Grant Farred makes clear when he declares that “academic freedom has to be conceived as a form of political solidarity.” Political solidarity, not academic solidarity. Farred denies to academic work any distinctive identity (he of course would receive this as a compliment, not an accusation), and insists that decisions about how to engage in it — where, in collaboration with whom — should be guided by political considerations, by a determination of whether this or that scholar is on the right side.
For the most part, opponents of the boycott do not engage on this point, but instead put forward arguments that are weak, either because they are counterproductive or merely strategic. In the counterproductive category is the charge that the boycotters are anti-Semitic. Rather than shaming or cowing those it is aimed at, this accusation only produces indignation, both on the part of those who favor a boycott and are Jewish (like its founders Steven and Hilary Rose) and those who declare that they have been fighting all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, for their entire lives.
The charge of anti-Semitism also provokes two responses of principle: first that one can and should distinguish between opposition to the policy of a state and prejudice against that state’s racial majority (Are you telling me I can’t criticize Israel without being a racist?); and second, that the invocation of anti-Semitism has the effect, if not the intention, of chilling speech (a First Amendment no-no). How can one “vigorously advocate the idea that the Israeli occupation is brutal and wrong . . . if the voicing of these views calls down the charge of ant-Semitism?” (Judith Butler, “No, It’s Not Anti-Semitic” London Review of Books, August 21, 2003).
A second line of anti-boycott reasoning invites counter-responses that merely continue the debate without in any way clarifying it. It asks, why single out Israel when European and North American academics regularly engage with researchers from countries (including, perhaps, the United States) with well-documented records of human-rights abuses? The trouble with this debating point in the guise of a question (you’re supposed to realize that you’d end up boycotting everyone) is that it implies that if Israel were the only state performing bad acts it would be O.K. to embargo its academics.
The real question is, should the policies (whatever they are) of a country an academic happens to live in ever be a reason for denying her the courtesies academics extend to each other in recognition of the collaborative nature of the work they do? (Yes, I would include academics from the Third Reich.) That question has the advantage of facing squarely the issue of what academic work is and isn’t, an issue that is obscured if you’re just toting up and rank-ordering atrocities as a preliminary to determining which scholars you will or won’t deal with.
Boycott opponents do no better when the focus is narrowed to just Israel and Palestine and they argue, as Anthony Julius and Alan Dershowitz do, that it is incorrect and a suspicious distortion to regard Israel “as the pure aggressor,” and the Palestinians “as pure victims” (“The Contemporary Fight Against Anti-Semitism”).
But again, the degree of culpability assigned to the two states (and of course that is a matter that will never be settled) should not yield a formula for treating its academics differently (you guys can come to our conference, but you lot can’t). Even if it were agreed that Julius and Dershowitz are right and there is blame all around, that agreement would say nothing about whether or not to boycott, unless you believe that the question is an empirical one that can be answered by history and analogy.
Because anti-boycotters offer arguments that trade in comparisons and calculations of relative guilt, they are vulnerable to the boycotters’ trump card: If you supported the boycott of South Africa and the disinvestment by universities from companies doing business in or with that country, you are obligated, by your own history, to support the boycott of Israeli academics. Hilary and Steven Rose reported in 2002 that they knew many academics “who thought that cooperating with Israeli institutions was like collaborating with the apartheid regime” (“The Choice Is to Do Nothing or Try to Bring About Change,” www.guardian.co.uk/Archive).
In response, anti-boycotters say that (1) boycotting is a “blunt instrument” that harms individuals and institutions indiscriminately; (2) it wasn’t the boycotts that brought down the South African regime; (3) the boycott against South Africa was economic and was not aimed primarily at scholars, and (4) despite the loose use of the word by boycott promoters, Israel is not an apartheid state, for it accords its Arab citizens political rights that were denied to blacks in apartheid South Africa.
But the effort to detach Israel from South Africa by claiming that the sins of the latter were much greater than the sins of the former has not been successful, in part because those who make it are trying too hard. (You can almost see the sweat on their foreheads.) The American Association of University Professors ties itself up in knots explaining that while its own history includes “support for divestiture during the anti-apartheid campaigns in South Africa,” it nevertheless opposes this boycott. The rationale seems to be that South Africa was a special, one time case — “South Africa is the only instance in which the organization endorsed some form of boycott” — but that is hardly going to satisfy those who are prosecuting the “if-you-protested-injustice-then–you-should-protest-it-now” argument.
The better course would be for the AAUP and other boycott opponents to accept the equivalence of the two situations, and repudiate what they did in the past. Not “what we did then is different from what we decline to do now,” but “we won’t boycott now and we were wrong to boycott then.”
Whether or not divestiture and other actions taken by academics were decisive in, or even strongly contributory to, ending the apartheid regime is in dispute. What should not be in dispute is that those actions, however salutary and productive of good results, were and are antithetical to the academic enterprise, which while it may provide the tools (of argument, fact and historical research) that enable good and righteous deeds, should never presume to perform them."
Monday, March 16, 2009
The deals with Hezbollah were so extremely wrong that it isn't hard to achieve a better agreement. We gave the Lebanese terrorist group hundreds of prisoners in exchange for soldiers' dead bodies and one living criminal. We should have only given dead bodies in exchange for dead soldiers, and the criminal, who was captured while doing something illegal, was not worth a high price.
Gilad Shalit is different. He is alive. It is right to release hundreds of living Palestinian prisoners for him. The question isn't the number. The question is who is being released exactly and how they will affect Israel's security. What these prisoners have done before is unimportant. It is important to assess what they might do if they are released. If they pose a serious threat and will carry out or plan attacks that will kill many Israelis they should not be released.
Also, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship should not be released as part of this deal. We cannot let Hamas become the representative of Palestinians inside Israel. These Israeli citizens who were involved in terrorism are not part of the Hamas's jurisdiction, or even the Palestinian Authority's. You know what? Any Israeli Arab prisoner who wants to be released as part of the Hamas deal should be given two options: either stay in prison till the end of your term, or give up your citizenship and be deported to Gaza. Who needs convicted terrorists walking Israel's streets?
So, should Israel go through with this deal? I don't know. I don't feel that I know enough about the prisoners Hamas is demanding. If the threat to Israeli civilians is low, than I support it. Otherwise, I don't.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Paul Simon was going to Graceland, Toto blessed the rains down in Africa – what place would you write a song about?
Venice is the most unique city I've ever visited. Where else are there boat lines instead of bus lines? Where are there buildings that go right down to the water, with no sidewalk or beach between the houses and the lagoon?
I know I'm not being very original here. Many have written songs about Venice. It has been an inspiration for all sorts of art forms. There is good reason for it.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Apparently, Angry Arab doesn't know that Rahat is the largest Arab city in Southern Israel. I doubt those Bedouin kids are Zionists, but hey, it's happening in Israel, so let's just use it as proof of the horrors of Zionism. Even if they were Jewish kids, would this mean Zionism condones animal cruelty? Does the fact that they are Arabs mean all Arabs abuse dogs? The answer to both questions is a big fat no.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Does a shark have the right to (eat) bear arms?
This has to be one of the silliest things I've ever written about, but who cares?
A shark would be able to rip the bear's guts out with a single bite, though the shark would be badly beaten up as well.
The judicial branch is headed by a woman, Chief Justice Dorit Beinish. The Supreme Court's permanent membership is made up of five women and seven men, plus two male justices on temporary appointments.
The executive branch is the most problematic. Though Tzippi Livni was close to becoming Israel's second female prime minister after Golda Meir, our next government will probably have only one female cabinet minister or two at the most. The Likud will appoint Limor Livnat, while Yisrael Beitenu might appoint Sofa Landver. However, the other coalition partners are likely to be religious parties with no female Knesset members, so they will not appoint female ministers.
What I don't understand is why the Likud will only have one female minister. Why isn't Leah Ness, who won a higher position than Limor Livnat in the primaries, getting a seat in the cabinet? Netanyahu can also bring in experienced women who are not parliament members if he doesn't like the women in the Likud's caucus.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
I have mixed feelings about this scandal. On the one hand, I think that attending strip clubs, especially when you pay for personal lap dances as the admiral did, is a form of sexual abuse. On the other hand, it isn't illegal, and it is somewhat accepted socially. Also, should this man, who is praised for his work in the military, be punished for what he does on his own free time?
I don't think this kind of scandal would have made headlines in Israel until recently. This sounds more like an American scandal, where the private life of a high ranking official - or at least one aspect of it - is seen as inseparable from his job. In a way, it simultaneously both a move in the right and wrong direction. Demanding that our military and civilian leaders will not attend businesses that objectify and demean women is a step in the right direction. However, mixing the private and the public lives of our officials is not good. Until now, their private lives have been the interest of gossip columnists, not of the serious news pages.
I wonder if there will be a new kind of shoe now. Like there are shoes made especially for running, walking, playing basketball or going to a fancy restaurant, maybe there will be special "throwing shoes". They'll be aerodynamic, with a special hissing sound and hidden camera which automatically uploads a YouTube video of the official getting shoed.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Oh well, maybe they'll have interesting questions once in a while. We'll just have to wait and see.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
This is quite literally the coolest thing I've ever seen.
The ice caves have nothing but ice formations in them. It's much more impressive than any stalagmite cave I've ever visited. The entrance into the cave is very cool - there are gusts of wind you have to go through, but once inside, there will be no wind whatsoever.
This guy who looks and acts like a bulldog or nightclub bouncer is unfit for government in general. He's especially unfit to be our top diplomat. Is there anything diplomatic about him?