Sunday, February 13, 2011

I've migrated to

Hi all!

Yep, I'm alive and well. This is just to update that as I've gotten married, it seems my thoughts have shifted from those of the perplexed single (gone, but not forgotten), to that of human-rationality arbiter. If you're interested, I've picked this up on my new(ish) blog:

Same guy, different focus. Hope you enjoy both!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

31 1/2 update: Relationship! (Not a typo...)

Well, I've been away for a while. A loong while - I'd previously managed at least one passing thought worthy of comitting to silicon every month or two but poof, it's a half year gone by. Yes, this can only mean one thing: I'm in a relationship.

Avid reader(s) may read enough between the lines of the previous 2-3 years to figure this hadn't really happened. And as my last post showed, I'd faced the cold reality of life squarely, and walked away a little dispirited, but at least comfortable with seeing the truth. That, of all times, was when lightning struck. (Substitute with Cupid reference of your choice).

The story is long and primarily our - and our friends' and parents' - business, but it's a good one. Which is nice. The point is, though, I'm still a freak. I mean, not a freak per se, but still a little out of step with some basic elements of living that others seem to pull off at reasonably well. And here comes someone who'se ok with that. And who fills a room with joy. and who'se laugh is... and who'se got so many things going for her, it's obvious she'd be taken when I was first seriously interested, as she was. Luckily, I had the chance to keep up the acquaintance and, with some uncanny luck and some major twists and turns, earn her willingness to put up with me. Which I'm still grateful for, several days shy of 5 months in.

It feels real, because we're both ourselves. It feels like a 30-something connection, not a 20-something one. We're formed people. We continue to be ourselves and have our separate interests, but luckily there's plenty of common ground and willingness to respect each other's space, and all kinds of mature stuff way ahead of what I - Mr. 1-2 dates guy - thought I could ever pull off at this stage. Unsurprisingly, I'm still occasionally doing some dumb s&%t and getting the right slack for it, but it's ok. We move on. This is real, and I love it. and her.

Now not to screw it up.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Thoughts @ 31

Turned 31 a couple hours ago. Some nice plans for the b-day: a show - one of 4 in a week(!), a planned "craaaazy" afterparty.. rehearsals, friends, music. stuff I like.

Had written a post on my 30th which I'd evidently forgot to publish (a little late now, so.. never mind), but in it I tried to describe major changes from the previous year, or just stuff that was on my mind at the time. Let's have a go this time round! So:

The first major change this year was the regular exposure to what had previously been relegated to a status worse than "false" - it had been plain uninteresting to me: religion. Nope, still the same atheist I've been for a while now, but found religious people, as well as the bible, interesting, for the first time. This through a group of friends who meet round the "parshat shavua" once a week, which I stumbled on pretty much by chance. Rather than being the pathetic-bachelor club I suspected it would be, all awkward and transparent, it proved to be a remarkably varied, interesting and intelligent group of people.

So first of all, I was making new friends. This on its own was a novelty because, though I hadn't thought about it, my core group of friends had remained staunchly rooted in my high-school years and my musical exploits. That was it. So the dynamics of becoming friends when you're older, more self-aware and more self-defined, proved interesting on their own. Won't bore with details.

The second aspect of these meetings, as I mentioned, was that religion as such suddenly became interesting. For one thing, just the wildly varying shades of observance and strictness, a terrific quality in Jerusalem, was fascinating. People modern in every way but...; people who look more closed but are actually budding open-ists; and of course people who just genuinely are who they are, different from me in some ways and so similar in others. Combined with this culture of ours, this man-made tradition that for me contains so many clues, pointing at a melting pot of historical circumstance, human psychology, economics, politics and, well, more human psychology, it becomes quite fascinating. The religious text we cover each week with tremendous variety in approach and appraisal, is in itself fascinating for its own circumstance and, yes, its constant drawing power. So that's one thing that's changed.

What's stayed largely the same is the existential realization that hit me so strongly just one year and two days ago. What are we doing here and, more importantly, what am I going to do about, remain in one way or another a preoccupation informing a lot of my perceptions of this world and my life. I'm fascinated by people, what drives them, their follies and their genius; but in all this I still can't formulate a cut-and-dry path that feels right for me.

Something that emerged a little more strongly this year was the focus on the individualistic (as opposed to the universalit) viewpoint. Anyone who tries to hammer out a single, one-size-fits-all doctrine for living - or what is "right" - will earn my immediate suspicion. We are all different people, with very different needs and even basic characteristics. There are totally different mentalities, interests and perceptions amongst people. The breakdown in cultural narratives (believe it or not, I'm not a sociology major), something that always felt a little bit of a shame, now seems more inevitable and plain sensible in today's world. Like it or not, we're no longer the small, nomadic tribes we once were. In fact, every nation on earth has gotten a little too big to be held together by cross-cultural dogma.

I don't say this angrily or with a chip on my shoulder. I'm not trying to violently tear down anything. I personally am not in any way a misanthrope - on the contrary, outside of some private music, pretty much all my lasting, deep enjoyment or contentment comes from people. So it pains me a little when these statements get pigeonholed and somehow make me out as a contrarian, rebel or heretic. I'm just saying - blind beliefs don't work for me. I'm trying to improve our collective future just as much as any socially-minded believer might, in saying these beliefs have to be tailor made. I'll cringe as much as anyone at the shallow, materialistic mentality so often on display (anyone seen the tv-series "Mechubarot"? kvetch kvetch kvetch! geez, when did whine replace personality?) but I'm a firm individualist.

Relationships? Mmm.. Had a few nice shorts, but if we're talking about thoughts and realizations, let's see... what's new, what's new.. Nothing, I think. Just as mystified as ever. Probably a bit more confused, if anything. No sweeping statements or ideas to be made this time around.

And another random update for posterity - this year got me more intellectually interested in trying to characterize and correct the tremendous amounts of plain bull in common economic, social and political thinking. I'm not talking about our leaders - everyone knows what they're full of. I'm talking about regular, otherwise intelligent people: I'm plain bewildered by all the hip-shooting, snap judgment, opinion-as-fact, dramatics-as-evidence, revisionism for its own sake, conservatism for its own sake, and willful ignorance of counterarguments that I come across in ordinary, web-bourne and face-to-face conversation. It's like "reasoning" isn't even in the lexicon...

Mood-wise it's been up and down, but at the end of the day, I'm still more up than down. Thank ? for small pleasures. ;)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

50 Years of True RAWk


Can't really give a context for why this came up, nor claim there's any desperate need for this in the universe, but - I've just always felt there's been a line of true Rawkers; bands that, for their period, represent the true spirit of r'n'r, and that any given point in time, just frickin' ruled.

This isn't easy to pin down. Remember, rawk isn't the same as "good". In fact, even just "really good", or "incredibly influential" aren't criteria (or obviously Low, and VU would be here, and about 5 trillion others). Unadorned, thump, energy, passion, a rebellioussness and/or dissatisfaction with the state of music (or life), highly original or forward thinking yet clearly indebted to what came before - those are what counts. An arty streak is ok so long as there's fire, but glam or self-obsessed whininess don't cut it. Nor do noise-for-its-own-sake or shredding if there isn't that creative spark to back it up.

The only "hard" rules were: bands can only appear once, and only one per year. This was tough. As much as possible, the year represents a particular peak of Rawkness for them. The one-a-year restriction means it's relative, since often someone else would peak so blindingly a certain year, they'd have to be "nudged" off their own true peak year. This table certainly doesn't indicate "improvement" over time, nor that one superseded the other (AC/DC, for example, still kill today!), just whomever peaked most strongly that year in a way that historically, you just can't mess with. A highly personal and emotional list, obviously!

What validates rawk for me more than anything else is that Jerry Lee Lewis (74), Little Richard (77), and Chuck Berry (82!) are still with us! Hell, even Bo Diddley made it until last year. It's a frickin' life force*, man!

1 1955 Bo Diddley
2 1956 Little Richard
3 1957 Jerry Lee Lewis
4 1958 Chuck Berry
5 1959 Ray Charles
6 1963 The Beatles
7 1964 The Kinks
8 1965 The Who
9 1966 The Sonics
10 1967 Jimi Hendrix
11 1968 Blue Cheer
12 1969 MC5
13 1970 The Stooges
14 1971 Can
15 1972 Black Sabbath
16 1973 New York Dolls
17 1974 AC/DC
18 1975 Rocket from the Tombs
19 1976 The Ramones
20 1977 Sex Pistols
21 1978 Joy Division
22 1979 Dead Kennedys
23 1980 The Misfits
24 1981 The Wipers
25 1982 Minor Threat
26 1983 Subhumans
27 1984 The Minutemen
28 1985 Husker Du
29 1986 Butthole Surfers
30 1987 Sonic Youth
31 1988 The Pixies
32 1989 Mudhoney
33 1990 Fugazi
34 1991 Jesus Lizard
35 1992 Kyuss
36 1993 Therapy?
37 1994 Soundgarden
38 1995 PJ Harvey
39 1996 Turbonegro
40 1998 Shellac
41 1999 Burning Airlines
42 2000 Fu Manchu
43 2001 Les Savy Fav
44 2002 Queens of the Stone Age
45 2003 Sleater Kinney
46 2004 Hot Snakes
47 2005 Deerhoof
48 2006 Boris
49 2007 Grinderman
50 2009 ?

* if you don't OD on something..

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dreams Vs. Reality, Round 9

Welcome to the boxing match inside my head: On this corner, weighing in at 300 pounds, pummeling anything in its path - it's Reality! And on this corner, weighing it at [intentionally left blank], looking like the most incredible woman I've ever laid eyes on, it's Dreams! And what a sweet talker she is.. sometimes she can bring reality to it's knees with a few suggestive promises...

I've had this for years, actually. Leave an incredibly loud, chaotic rock show, attended by people 5-10 my junior, at around 3AM, get up for work, And wonder what the hell I'm doing. The next day I'll be fine.. but every once in a while I'll come home, and feel a twinge of longing..

Right now, there are several Israeli bands touring somewhere on another continent. One of them has made a proper "career" out of constant motion - a good 200 or so shambolic shows a year, alternately touring Europe and the States. I seriously doubt they're financially all that profitable; in fact, once they finally take a break - 3+ years and counting of constant touring, those crazy bastards - I wouldn't be surprised if they come back more or less breaking even. But they will have lived; made use of their time on this earth. Their reality is my dream. and every once in a while it completely kills me.

I was on a tour a couple years ago, and just thrived on the change of scenery, the disconnect from "normal" life, the parties, the little stories, the nighttime stillness at a truck-stop in Montana. An incredible adventure.

Standing between me and this is my own rationality, and my own penchant for - how ironic is this? - stability. I'm well and truly split. I do the day job thing well. It's not my favorite thing in the world to do, and I certainly don't define myself by it, but I do do it well, and there's a degree of comfort I've learned to appreciate. Still, out there is this chaotic, crazy existence beckoning me, where you literally live off your music and have no idea what tomorrow brings. Brilliant. To do it, though, I would have to poke a pretty big hole in my reality - really make some fundamental changes, and some significant sacrifices to boot...

Dreams and reality. As time goes on, one seems more and more to preclude the other. And as I move into my 30s it becomes obvious I have to take some kind of stand, do a leap of faith. I've got two polar directions to leap and two voices in my head battling it out in a long, on-again-off-again, grueling battle.

So far I'm still watching, but this fight is getting ugly...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Talk About Pointless..

Unveiled earlier this year, the latest generation of atomic clocks have an accuracy of +/-1 second every 200 million years - as opposed to the previous, 80 million years. Now there's a relief!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jerusalem Elections - A Test of Rationality (please vote!)

Resident Traveler's definition of campaigning: the process of a party or candidate disseminating the lies they think will get them the most votes.

While this is true of all political campaigns, none have exemplified this more than the Porush campaign. His numerous lame attempts to buy votes through hollow verbiage is a test of basic rationality I pray we don't fail.

The Porush campaign has been nothing short of an insult to intelligence. Putting a little santa-claus image of him is entirely beneath the adult, voting population. Promising thousands of jobs - which is as simple as designing a poster that says "thousands of new jobs!" and then posting them all over town, with no accountability - is no less an insult. It's tempting to run myself, just say I can draw up posters of "Free jacuzzis for all Jerusalem residents!" or "100,001 residents will return".

While Barkat has quietely been doing things to better the face of this city, the Porush campaign pulls out every kind of fallacious argument, effectively saying, "the people are stupid - they'll buy this crap". If he wins, it means we've failed this test. Please vote!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

House, M.E.

2-3 years after the rest of the world, I've finally caught up with the series "House, M.D." The bits and pieces I had seen of it before led me to severe bias against the show, what with the rapid-fire, "too cool to be real" dialog and the beautiful people on screen. "Blech," I thought, "more American non-realistic drivel." But now that I've finally been watching it - and this only applies through season 2, hoping it doesn't go down hill! - I think the series, and the character of House in particular, are sheer genius.

It would be way too long for me to go into all the qualities I think make the series so good, but there's one aspect in particular I find myself relating to so much - House's repeated ducking of redemption. He will forego emotion, wrestle with his leg and pill addiction, never actually say a kind word to anyone, etc. If you've watched the series, it's referenced directly many times. But the beauty of the series is in setting up your expectations that he may be saved. After all, the other characters are all so much more emotional.. or emotive. There's subtle humor to soften you as you watch. The characters are beautiful. So you kind of assume that in the thick of it all, House himself will finally be saved. Surely, in the season finale he'll be cured. Or realize something life changing. or fall in love. But the brilliant scriptwriters never allow it to happen.

Oh, how I saympathise. Maybe you've been there - in your 30s, relationship dry spell, somewhat hyperactive mind - or maybe your mind just goes hyperactive because you've been living on your own so long that? On those nights with nothing special to do, you begin analyzing yourself psychologically. and analyzing the fact that you're analayzing yourself. and ideas come and go. they seem so important until the next time a little distraction comes along and you forget all about it. Unless it's 4AM and you think, whilst in the shower, "I've got to get this feeling down." True story - I'm sure you've guessed...

If you're in a situation anywhere near this, maybe you also feel torn. I've spent the last several years unwittingly striking some sort of delicate balance between an almost blind worship of the purely rational - House style, to a degree - yet carrying some hope of redemption. That a truly major change is just around the corner... or maybe a little further on, but it's coming. Meanwhile, of course, my "purely" rational intellect is reminding me this is all nonsense, and that the quicker I put aside these passive hopes and focus on some personal building, then maybe there's some chance of this all not being in vain. But no matter what happens - I mustn't ever, ever count on it. because that's just plain folly. Not now. not after I'm 30, and still nothing big has changed. and no love to be seen.

So House strikes a very deep chord with me. As a series, it fully recognizes the power of these hopes - without poo-pooing them. in fact, it builds you up to believe in their worth. Just as you're primed to really feel something, House will always manage to evade his own happiness. If the opportunity arrises, he'll mess it up; generally, his mind will make sure he doesn't even get that far.

It's just a tv show, I know. But catch me at a certain time, in a certain disposition, and I'll feel just like that. screwed, lost, and trying to rationalize my way away from it. Away, never out of it.


After watching season 3, I realize I must've come off as an especially arrogant bastard. It contains an already solidified - and expressly referenced - view of House as near-infallible, genuinely arrogant, and relatively comfortable in loneliness. I didn't mean to compare myself to any of this. Avid viewers with a good memory may recall that none of those were certain in the first couple of seasons. To clarify, my empathy concerned only the "earlier" House, when some kind of redemption still appeared possible and welcome (and the arrogance still appeared a defence mechanism), and had nothing to do with his ostensible brilliance...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Palm Desert

"Oh, that's not good.."

"What, what happened?"

"Your palms.. it's not a good sign." She'd read my palms a long time ago. Got quite a bit right, as well. Blind luck...

Just that moment, someone walked in the room, and she turned to engage them in some mundane conversation. I hesitated for a moment, but decided to let it go. A few minutes later, she got ready to leave.

"That's it? You're just going to leave me hanging like this?"

"Well, ok.. but do you really want to discuss it in this forum?"

"Come, I'll walk you out." A few paces down the hall, I was all ears.

"no, it's just that I saw you have some frustration."

"You got that from across the room? wha..?"

"Yeah, I could see it. Some kind of deep frustration, like something isn't progressing as it should, or isn't going the right way."

I was stunned. "Sometimes you scare me with how well you read this stuff."

"Do you want to.."

"No. Bye, see you tomorrow."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

About me #3: Romance Is in the Mundane

["About me" posts, despite their name, are meant to have some relevancy to the reader as well. you can see my introduction to them here, though this now reads to me as somewhat out of date and borderline naive. But hey, tradition is tradition, right?]

A few days ago, I was sitting at a cafe1 and suddenly found myself in the throws of the aforementioned existential angst (just the angst, though - not the sweaty bit. :) ). Then, outside, a young woman walked by on the street2. Moderately attractive. Warm face, energetic gait.

As she passed by, for a split second, she gave me a wide smile - or so I thought. Her face quickly fell back to normal walking-down-the-street blank look. She must have mistaken me for someone else, or seen a passing acquaintance of hers behind me. Still, the effects on me were surprisingly powerful - in that split second, my heart swelled. I felt elated. It was amazing to me how one stranger's smile could snap me so quickly and easily out of what can only be described as a proper, 17th-century-philosopher-with-an-abusive-upbringing-and- undetermined-substance-abuse-problem style bout of depression.

This got me wondering. For one thing, it certainly gave kind of a ridiculous air to the mood I was in. There I was, allegedly grappling with all these difficult questions, feeling downcast, and one stranger's glance pops me right out of it!3 But this was more than just simple excitement at attention. It was exciting because it was unprompted. Her intent, in fact, had little to with it - as became clear a second later. It was a slight gesture that came about for no apparent reason, but it was glorious. There's a pattern here with me - I love the unprompted, small gesture. It's genuine.

I love spontaneous goofiness - as much as I love momentary impatience for it. Because, again, it's genuine. It isn't contrived. This comes across in other facets as well. Not long ago, I was in an unsure dating phase with someone. I was having a good time with her, but wasn't quite sure whether it could go anywhere. There would often be a somewhat formal air to the proceedings, and the conversation would hover around the obvious. The breakthrough moment came, ironically, when she revealed her doubts, as did I. That was the moment we both felt far more intimate, again - because voicing one's concerns is undoubtedly real. And there's something quite romantic about two people at that level of comfort with each other.

Let me spin this the other way: I've noticed I have a really hard time with planned events. I find the notion of a planned holiday, for example, quite stressful, because so much is at stake! It seems to me almost doomed to failure because we pin so many hopes on them, they can't possibly live up to the expectations! Same with weddings, parties etc. I'm not trying to say by any stretch that I don't enjoy planned events, occasions or travel; only that when I do, it's almost invariably not their planned aspects that I've enjoyed. It's the small stories that mean so much to me. Every wedding has had it's kooky little story, far removed from the official proceedings. Every trip abroad gave more insight at the trucker's stop than at the tourist attraction. and it's often the least planned events that turn out fun, because everyone has to improvise. It's real. It's not a preplanned Kodak Moment.

So I often find myself moved - truly moved, I'm not exaggerating - by the mundane. Not in the tree hugging way. I don't mean admiring the beauty of nature or the miracle of birth etc. - not that there's anything wrong with that.. - but simply appreciating small human moments. The idea of this person giving a total stranger a glance, practically moved me to tears. Meeting someone simply, falling in love with them simply, the notion of 90% of your time together being fairly routine - I actually find all that terribly romantic. I think not having some teriffic story about how you met, is just as good a story as a "good" one.

The other day, I was moved by the fact that a group of my close friends were genuinely excited to watch a film widely considered to be the worst of all time. It spoke volumes to me. I felt so fortunate to have friends like that, that are aware of - and actively voice - the absurdities of life, and are quite happy to swim within them. Obviously, there's no end to the examples but.. you get the idea.

The simplest definition I've heard for happiness is perceived reality minus expectation. When the latter is sky-high, it's going to be awfully difficult to be happy. I feel the film and television industries have really set the bar high for us. The one-upmanship in creating the most incredible on-screen action/suspense/extreme and, especially, romantic moments have made it so easy to (dis)miss the gems going on in our day-to-day lives.

I know he meant something else entirely, but when Ian Brown sang "Keep what you've got / by giving it all away", I like to think he wasn't talking about possessions, but rather about lofty expectations.

1 Yes, they actually have those in Jerusalem! In fact, we've got lots of them! Let it never be said this blog is without its educational merit. ;)

2 Some of you may be thinking, "really? Jerusalem actually has cafes with stylish full-glass walls facing the street? Not the gaudy styled ones, but the ones actually done in good taste? Isn't that too.. I don't know.. cosmopolitan for Jerusalem?" Well, yes we do and no it isn't, I'm glad you asked (thought?). Reputation aside, Jerusalem has some pretty cool nightlife (is my point).

3 DISCLAIMER - I'm a pretty normal guy. Really. This was just the sort of blue mood we all get from time to time. Don't want to be giving off the impression like I'm some manic depressive or anything..