Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One Word: Backups

Just writing to remind any readers of mine who might have valuable files on their computer(s) to back them up in as many ways as possible. Send them to yourself on Gmail, save them on CDs, DVDs and external hard drives.

A computer in the Schiff household just had a near-death experience and one computer technician kept very important documents and years of work from going down the drain.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Justice for Roman Polanski?

Yes, Roman Polanski is a wonderful filmmaker. Yes, the then-13 year old girl he had sex with in the 70's has since forgiven him and expressed her wishes that Polanski not be punished. Yes, the crime was committed more than thirty years ago.

And yes, Roman Polanski should be extradited to California from Switzerland and face time in prison. The man admitted he had sex with a minor and then ran to Europe when it seemed like he would have to serve jail time. Not punishing him would send the wrong message. If you are powerful enough and evade the law long enough, you can get away with criminal behavior even after you're finally caught.

Aspie Racer

After the previous season of The Amazing Race included a team of a deaf man and his mother, the current season, which had its debut last night in the States, includes Zev, a guy with Asperger's Syndrome who is racing with his best friend Justin. Since I live in Israel, I haven't seen anything from the current season, but I'm very curious about it.

Lately, it seems there's a spike in the entertainment industry's interest in autism, mostly in its Aspie form. Films such as "Adam" and shows such as "Boston Legal" and "Grey's Anatomy" have featured characters with Asperger's. The Amazing Race, as far as I know, is the first show to actually feature a real autistic person, and not just an actor playing one.

Good luck, Zev & Justin!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Arab Initiative and Hamas

It has long been my view that Israel should have responded favorably to the Saudi Initiative, not by agreeing to all its details but by starting negotiations with the Arab League, with the Initiative recognized as the Arabs' starting point. As it turns out, that wasn't Saudi Arabia's intent. In an op-ed in the New York Times on September 12, Prince Turki Al-Faisal summarized the Saudi stance in the title, "Land First, Then Peace". The Arab demands are not negotiable. They are preconditions.

I had read the op-ed piece when it came out, and was reminded of it again when Shlomo Avineri wrote a critical op-ed piece about it in yesterday's Ha'aretz (here in English or Hebrew). Here is his final paragraph, which I agree with:

"The initiative should not be ignored, because it includes an Arab declaration of willingness for peace, but its meaning should not be mistaken. At this stage it is not calling for negotiations, but rather unconditional acceptance of the Arab position, and that is also its main stumbling block."

This reminded me of the discussion I've been having over at Gert's blog surrounding a recent interview Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, conducted with Khaled Meshal in The New Statesman. Hamas's stance towards peace negotiations with Israel is strikingly similar, if not absolutely identical, to the one Al-Faisal presents in his op-ed as Saudi Arabia's position, and indeed the whole Arab League's. First, leave all territories captured in 1967, including East Jerusalem, and only then will we talk about peace. So, Hamas and Saudi Arabia have the same basic ideas about peace with Israel, yet the former is considered radical and the latter is considered moderate?

Hamas and the rest of the Arab world have to understand that withdrawal and the creation of a Palestinian state is the final step of the peace process. There can be no further claims after this.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy New Year!

Rosh Ha'Shana starts tonight, and with it begins the year Ha'Tasha, which is 5770. I hope it will be a year of peace, but with Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Avigdor Lieberman at the helm, I'll settle for a year of quiet. I hope it will be a year of health, happiness and prosperity.

This also marks the beginning of a new Jewish decade, just three and a half months before the new decade AD (the Twenty Teens, fun to say). It's a good opportunity to think about my long-term expectations. What would I like to achieve before the 5770's (and the Twenty Teens) are out?

I'd like to be a successful young university lecturer with at least moderate success as a fiction writer. I'd like to be happily married with kids, who I hope will be close to their cousins, despite age differences.

I hope my nephew, who would be 19 in 2020, will be an independent young university student, and will not be a soldier, because by that time service will not be mandatory rather than because he'll get an exemption as an autistic person. I hope my 15 year old niece will be a successful high-school student. I hope my sisters and their families won't live too far away from me and my family and that we'll see each other on a regular basis. Maybe one or both of them will be working on something that would get them a Nobel Prize a few years later.

I hope my parents will be healthy in their 70's, happily enjoying their retirement together. I'm sure my mother won't be entirely retired, though, still keeping busy with interesting projects.

Anyway, that's about it. Shana tova! Assor tov!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tragedy Strikes Twice

Lt. Assaf Ramon, whose father Ilan died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, was killed in a training accident today. His plane crashed to the ground for unknown reasons.

Ilan Ramon was Israel's first, and so far only, astronaut. The Columbia disaster was seen as a national tragedy here in Israel, and several places have been named after Ramon, who among other things, also participated in the bombing of Iraq's nuclear facility in 1981. After his death, his son Assaf was determined to follow his footsteps and become a pilot in the Israeli Air Force. As a pilot's widow, Rona Ramon had a right not to allow her son to enter the pilot training program, but she did not stand in his way. I can't even imagine how she and the whole Ramon family are feeling right now. It's just too horrible.

Lebanon Through Israeli Movie Cameras

The first Lebanon War was a disaster when it took place in 1982, and then when it lead to an Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon and a war of attrition with Hezbollah and other local groups. In the latter half of this current decade, though, the misadventures in Lebanon have led traumatized Israeli filmmakers to make excellent, award-winning movies about the war. It wasn't the Second Lebanon War that prompted directors and writers to look back at Israel's Vietnam, since 2007's Beaufort and 2008's Waltz with Bashir were already long in the making. I wonder what was.

A new Israeli film, "Lebanon" won the Golden Lion (first prize) at the Venice Film Festival yesterday. I haven't seen it, and hope to have an opportunity soon. Director Samuel Maoz recounts his own experiences as part of a tank crew in the 1982 invasion.

I must admit that the first time I heard about "Lebanon" I thought to myself, "Oh, no, not another one." Then I thought of the fact that I actually liked the previous Israeli war movies, and if the new one is good, there is no reason not to see it.

Now I wonder if for the third year in a row, an Israeli movie about Lebanon will be nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. If it is, it will be weird when they announce "From Israel: Lebanon".

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Celebrity Dead Ringers

So, I'm watching a Season 6 episode of CSI: Miami, and there's a guest actress there who I was sure is the same one who plays Sarah Newlin on True Blood. She looks exactly the same, only slightly younger. Turns out, the actress from CSI is Jessy Schram, while the True Blood actress is Anna Camp.

Compare for yourselves:

Left: Anna Camp; Right: Jessy Schram