The Defence – Steve Cavanagh

This is the first of the novels about con-man turned lawyer Eddie Flynn. (You can see my review of the fourth, here.) There is a novella (The Cross) which I have not read.

Be warned: the plot is far fetched. A mobster has kidnapped Eddie’s daughter and is forcing him to wear a bomb while he defends said mobster. The aim is to blow up the chief prosecution witness. It doesn’t help that this trail is somewhat in the public eye, and the FBI have more than a passing interest.

Eddie uses his full range of tricks to try and get out of the mess and save his daughter. The author delivers a tense, seat of your pants adventure. If you can suppress your disbelief in the fanciful plot, you will have a great time.

The writing and Eddie’s solid characterization puts this at a level above the usual airport disposable novel.

Recommended.

More Guardian Hate for Israel

And, not so incidentally, more antisemitism.

See this story:

The Guardian turning an antisemitic tweet into bashing Israel

Here’s the Guardian engaging in outright demonization.

See how far you have to read in the article before finding out the facts.

The facts?

  • Japan spends more on lobbying. Articles by the Guardian on that – none.
  • Korea spends more on lobbying. Articles by the Guardian on that – none.
  • The Securities and Investment lobby spends more than seven times the amount spent on pro Israel lobbying. Articles by the Guardian on that – none.
  • The Real Estate industry lobby spends almost four times as the amount spent on pro Israel lobbying. Articles by the Guardian on that – none.

Oh, and I have seen it suggested that the ‘pro-Israel’ amount quoted includes J-Street. Two issues with that. First, it’s by far the biggest contributor. Second, it’s pro-Israel the same way that Abbas is pro peace. In your dreams, pal.

So this hit piece turns an antisemitic tweet into an exercise in bashing Israel.

It ignores the undoubted antisemitism. No excuses. (That bigot didn’t spot antisemitism according to Guardian. She ignited a controversy!) Just ignores it. Then, it leaps out in a not so brave new direction of propaganda spite.

Or, to put it another way, it picks out and unfairly discriminates against the Jewish state.

The Guardian.

Guardians of anti-Israel hate.

Guardians of antisemitism.

Guardians of a world view that abhors the existence of the Jewish state.

Somebody break the news: we’re here to stay.

Killing by Silence

TOI coverage of Ori Ansbacher's murder

The death of Ori Ansbacher is a terrible, shocking event.

Away from the clamor of calls for the restoration of the death penalty, or the stormy, noisy row over whether to deduct payments from the PA, there is another area where her murder has been met with a deadly silence.

As of now, her death has been ignored by the BBC, the Guardian, and the Independent. Not one word. (Funnily enough, all have covered the latest casualties in the Gaza riots.)

That silence is a killing silence.

That silence ensures that the media consumed by the western world is unbalanced and unfair.

That silence is part of the demonization of Israel. Minimizing Palestinian terror reinforces the (false) narrative from the media that Israel is to blame for everything, and the Palestinians are innocent, oppressed, and deserved of sympathy.

I do not seek to minimize the deaths of Palestinians. Whatever the Gaza rioters were doing, all deaths are to be regretted. But the silence about poor Ori’s murder – while covering every Palestinian casualty – is as hateful, as poisonous, as evil as any piece of antisemitic bilge from so called pro-Palestinian supporters. Arguably, it’s worse because the reach of these media platforms is so wide, so extensive, and so insidiously persuasive.

To put it another way, had Ori been a Palestinian, her death would have been front page, worldwide news. But the death of a Jewish girl at the hands of a Palestinian terrorist? That’s not news.

That silence is a killing silence. It kills the prospects for peace and reconciliation. It kills the chances of even handed treatment in the eyes of the world. It kills by piling further pain on the family who see their daughter’s life rendered as of no value, as insignificant. It kills because it empowers extremists on both sides. It kills the lie that such media is honest and impartial. It kills the belief that liberal media have good principles and moral standards. It kills the belief that western liberals have good principles and moral standards – I mean, where’s the outrage, guys? That silence is a killing silence.

Zion’s Fiction

I am a fan of science fiction and fantasy literature, preferably in novel form. All too often, the short story form neither excites nor interests me. There have been some exceptions, but generally I keep away from short stories.

As you may have guessed, Zion’s Fiction – a collection of Israeli fantasy and science fiction short stories – was an exception. It wasn’t only that I wanted to support this venture, but also that I knew almost nothing about the local fantasy and SF scene, and this was a perfect opportunity to start learning about it.

The Foreword (by Robert Silverberg) is fine.

The Introduction (by editors Sheldon Teitelbaum and Emmanuel Lottem) is informative, but a real slog. It’s a touch too much of the high brow, and also seems focused on squeezing every last one of the editors’ pals and acquaintances in. The worst part is that it did not engage me. The writing seemed limp and lifeless, with an absence of humor. I’m sure some others will love it.

Most of the stories were OK, but truly no more than that. There wasn’t one that made me think ‘Wow, I’m really glad I read that.’ Unfortunately, there were a couple that made me think ‘Wow, I’m really sorry I wasted my time reading that.‘ In short, a big disappointment.

The best of the stories, to my mind, is Keren Landsman‘s Burn Alexandria. (I believe Keren, who writes in Hebrew, has a novel coming out in English this year from publishers Angry Robot. ) Perhaps this seemed better because it’s one of the longer pieces and had time to develop more fully. The end, however, was exactly as I anticipated, and left me somewhat underwhelmed.

Probably the best known author of the lot is Lavie Tidhar. His The Smell of Orange Groves reminded me of work by China Mieville. That’s not a good thing. The story did not work for me. It came across as half an idea, half a dream, and wholly missing the entertainment point. Not for me, old boy.

The Afterword by Aharon Hauptman is spot on: short, snappy, and to the point. Well done that man!

I am sure – he said, entering optimist mode – that there are many great pieces of Israeli science fiction and fantasy out there. But none of them are in this book. At least I bloody well hope not.

Avi Katz‘s illustrations are OK, and the cover is clever.

But the best thing about it? The title.

Last Laurels at Limanowa

I forgot how good this system is. But within minutes of getting Last Laurels at Limanowa on the table, I was in action and having a blast. It had obviously been a while since I played the Ypres game, but the rules quickly came back and I rattled through the scenarios. Sure I made mistakes, but it was still great fun. (No, I did not crack how to win the scenarios for each side. I was in too much of a rush to get to the campaigns.) So now I am playing the first campaign, and it’s all good.

By way of a refresher, this is a game about tactical combat in World War One. Units are companies and hexes are 200 yards across. The game is played in turns of alternating couplets (mini-turns) the length of which is randomly determined.

Combat can be deadly. It’s all too easy to recreate the slaughter of the real thing, especially in the initial stages as you come to terms with the limitations of your troops, and the frighteningly narrow range of tactical options. Oh, and you also get to see how much of a king of the battlefield artillery was.

This title in the series is about the December 1914 encounter between Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empire forces, before trench warfare had taken hold, in Limanowa, southern Poland.

What do I like about the system?

The rules are not complex. They take – in the main – a mix of tried and tested mechanisms, and blend them into something that is smooth, coherent, consistent, and challenging to master. The chaos of war is laid bare for you to experience. Yet, despite the simplicity (or lack of unnecessary chrome) you are faced with tough decisions. There’s no such thing as a perfect plan because you don’t know how long you have each turn. (And that’s before your opponent plays merry hell with your intentions.)

It helps that the atmosphere the game creates seems authentic at the level of action it attempts to portray. It also helps that these are – at least to me – fresh battles, with new history to soak up, and much to learn.

It also helps that the maps are gorgeous, the counters are a lesson in clean design, and the rules are very good. (Although I do have some queries which I posted at Consimworld.)

In short, this is one fun game.

So, a big round of applause to John Gorkowski and Compass Games for this game. The series is one I intend to follow, and I am hoping for and looking forward to future releases.

Truth in Marketing? (Updated)

Here’s a picture of an advert (from Friday’s Jerusalem Post) for a development by Rothstein in Kfar Yona,

Looks like a cracking view. Nice place to buy a penthouse?

It looks good, doesn’t it?

But would you like to live in a penthouse that is pleasing to the eye, but deceptive? What do I mean? Check out the text:

Er, hello? Anyone got a dictionary?

Oh dear. Another case of inadvertent truth in marketing? Or did nobody bother to actually check the text? Tut, tut Rothstein. Tut, tut Jerusalem Post. You both should be ashamed.

Update: Aaron Silverman points out (correctly) that the text at the top – “multiple breath taking views” should be “multiple breathtaking views”. I suppose they felt it necessary to, er, pause for a breath…

Returning to Holland

Well, I finally got to play Holland ’44. (This well illustrates my challenge: too many games, not enough time.)

It’s worth noting that I put this on the table after a debate came to life on ConsimWorld, driven by queries from David Hughes for an article he was researching. That set off a burst of book reading by me, and then I got out the game and played it through.

I only played it once, and the Allies got thumped. But it was fun. It was cool to see how Mark Simonitch handled various aspects of the battle, and how the narrative developed.

I had no problems with the rules. The components were, as usual, gorgeous, and the system is one I find to be playable and immersive.

The potential criticisms raised in the online debate included suggesting that units in the game can cover greater amounts of territory than they could in real life. While I think that’s true, there are several responses.

First, it’s a common ‘failing’ of many wargames, because designers are so wedded to the concept of zones of control.

Second, in the game it doesn’t seem to materially interfere with the historicity of the overall flow. In other words, it doesn’t matter.

Third, it’s easy to apply some house rules and see the impact. For example, I set up a mini scenario that applied a no ZOC rule. Wow, that was wild and very different. But it opened up some possibilities.

So, another good game from Mark and GMT. That won’t stop me listening to the ongoing debate, and waiting for David’s article.

 

A Day of ASL

Earlier this month, I was joined by Daniel, David, Josh, and Ran for a whole day of ASL.

David and Josh played the scenario Death’s Head Debut (SP 267).

As Josh puts it:

“Note that it is only 5.5 turns. It’s also classified as a “long-round” in Denmark, to be played Friday morning, until around 6 p.m. [Denmark hosts an ASL competition next month.]

Five and-a-half turns, no problem, right? David and I started at 10 a.m. and we called it at 8:30 p.m., with me surrendering. After three turns! And although I was badly losing, I still had a chance, but time constraints caused me to surrender. (Basically, I kicked David off the mountain, as required by the victory conditions. But I had to capture a second building and David’s tanks were roaming freely. He destroyed all my tanks and this demoralized me.)

They seemed to be having fun…

Meantime, Daniel, Ran and I played two scenarios, with Ran and I teaming up in both. We won one and lost one. It was so enthralling that I simply forgot to note what we were playing.

Too many games, not enough time!

Antisemitism as a Joke

This cartoon appears in the December 14 issue (number 1485) of Private Eye.

I don’t find it funny.

Is that because:

  1. It’s not funny.
  2. Antisemitism is never funny.
  3. I’m sensitive about antisemitism, so cannot see the humor.
  4. It’s antisemitic.

I recognize that I may not have the most neutral perspective, so this post is as much a form of enquiry as it is a comment. Do you think it’s funny?

Next Prime Minister of Israel?

Yair Lapid, the next Prime Minister of Israel?

Last night, Susan and I went to a Yesh Atid (There is a Future) meeting (Anglo Division) in Tel Aviv to hear the party leader, Yair Lapid. He was introduced as the next Prime Minister of Israel which is – to put it mildly – somewhat optimistic. However, let there be no doubt, he is by far my preferred candidate. Why? Partly because I like the man, but mainly because I like how Yesh Atid handled itself the last time it was in power – sticking largely to its policy promises – and also, no less, because of the party’s policies. Their intentions for the country address all the key areas in the right way, so to speak. I was particularly pleased to hear Yair promise that one early law, were he successful, would be to limit the number of times one person could be the Prime Minister to twice. (Hello Bibi!)

Underpinning a lot of Yesh Atid’s policies is an honest streak that seems to be missing from the other parties. For example, when in power, Yesh Atid refused to take the money that all the other coalition parties took from the State, just for being in power. Shocking. For another example, within minutes of the election being called, the coalition parties robbed the welfare and education budgets to fund their own political expenditure. Also shocking. Another almost unbelievable story was the reminder that Bibi ordered a personal – OK, a Prime Ministerial – plane at a cost of hundreds of millions of shekels, for no good reason. (The theory is that Bibi felt envious at Air Force One…) A funny story was told about the ministerial vote on work programs. Only two ministers voted against it. Guess which two ministers were appointed to be in charge of the work programs? Welcome to Israel…

Before Yair could start, he was interrupted by a protester – demonstrating against weapons sales to Sudan – who had to be removed by the security team. It’s unclear why the protester targeted Yair Lapid, as the offending matters were not of his creation. Anyway, Yair spoke for about 45 minutes – in reasonably good English – and then took questions.

The questions ranged from aliyah to illegal immigrants to non-orthodoxy to gay rights to educations, pensions, and so on. His answers were OK, but the poor guy has clearly been running around with far too much to do. I say this because his English in the answers was not as sharp or polished as it can be. He had not had enough time to prepare fully, I suspect.  In this arena, he is not as good a performer as Bibi. But, he will improve, and it’s one area that – despite declarations to the contrary – matters least in the Israeli elections. In other words, the Anglos will not have a material effect on the result. That having been said, I was impressed and cheered by the very young profile of the audience. Very heartening. Anyway, for election success, it’s more important how he comes across in the Hebrew media. And there he is very much equal to the Bibi challenge.

What are his chances? In the past elections, Yesh Atid has typically done less well in the polls until the closing stages. That appears to be the case this time around, too. But it needs to do much better this time to break the Likud stranglehold, and so far there’s been no hint of such a change. Instead, the opposition keeps getting split by new parties popping up. So, when it does come to the election, Lapid as Prime Minister is unlikely. But, then again, in the world of Israeli politics, almost anything is possible. After all, this is a country where a new politician could be ranked as getting 20% plus of the vote before making a single speech or uttering a single word on policy or beliefs. So, unlikely, but not impossible.

I’m resigned to another Bibi/Likud victory, but let’s see what actually happens.