Five for Friday

Quite a nice week: a bit of work, a bit of travelling, a bit of family visits, a bit of shopping, and here we are again at the weekend. I did manage a trip to the gym, but no long cycling session. So, I was grateful to get a chance for a long walk on Thursday, striding out for an hour. It felt good. Just as good as the prospect of a nice, relaxing Shabbat. So, I am in a good mood. (Am I not always? Hee Hee.)  Therefore, here is the icing on the cake, namely the regular weekly selection of links:

And a bonus for this week, especially for Michelle: a look back at a piece of pop music history that stirs some fond, fond memories:

‘Heroic, sexy and a warrior bravado’: how Adam and the Ants redefined pop

Shabbat Shalom!

The Last Witness – K J Parker

This is another novella (100 pages or so) by the dazzling fantasy writer, K J Parker, taking snippets from his bestselling novels as background for an intriguing, twisting, turning tale about memory, reality, and perception. It features a character with a special ability to extract memories from people, and using his first person perspective, narrates his life story.

There are some sharply observed comments about memory, and the frailties of our existence on ths planet.

But it is not boring or pretentious. On the contrary, it’s a roller coaster of a tale, finishing with the usual flourish, and leaving the reader sad that the excitement is over. Well written, very satisfying, and lean and mean, this is a little cracker. (Or a big cracker in a little package.)


Look down

Probably the post of the week, Jewish Labour Mole has On looking down, not up.
The subtitle previews the content:

“There is wilfull blindness to the top-down institutional propagation of Labour’s Antisemitism.”

It starts as follows:

I was brought up to beware the following set of circumstances: an economic recession; the emergence of a populist leader with an antisemitic following and the inexorable flow downwards to an increase in antisemitic abuse, violence and murder. That sequence is no fable: it’s history on repeat, and it’s happening now.
It’s true that Antisemitism is a society-wide phenomenon: but it rarely flourishes unless sanctioned by leaders and institutions. The caveat in this classic narrative is that the conditions required for that evil to triumph is that Good Men Do Nothing.
I was given to believe that never again would ‘Good Men Do Nothing’. I was sold a pup.

It’s a must read.

It’s very worrying that the political scene in the UK seems infused with antisemitism, and it’s getting worse.

Apocaplyse Now

It’s Lag B’Omer today. On a typical Lag B’Omer morning, when you go outside, you are greeted with the smell of lingering bonfires. Some are still burning. I don’t know why, but this always brings to mind the famous quote from Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore in Apocalypse Now:

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

As I said, I can’t explain it. Just wanted to share it with you.

A Haaretz Antidote

The media inside Israel is, generally, left wing. Haaretz is the worst (by far) from my perspective, but the collective vision they have is so negative, that they all share the blame for the way Israel is viewed by the foreign press. Fortunately there are exceptions. And while Israel HaYom is far too close to Bibi for my liking, it is often on target with its critique of the other media. This, for example, is absolutely right:

“In the reality in which we live, a senior officer (major general) who compares processes taking place here to the Germans in the 1930s is a man of values, but an officer who invites his soldiers to pray before an action in Gaza? That’s darker, even reminiscent of Iran. It’s a shame that Albert Einstein isn’t here to test the theory of moral relativism in our country. Perhaps we should recall Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s command prior to the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, when he called on all Allied soldiers to “beseech the blessing of Almighty God” before the operation?”

Of course, the current Lieberman and Herzog adventures in the cabinet, or out of the cabinet, have inspired some shrieking commentary. The Israel Hayom piece is a good antidote to the poison put out by Haaretz and others, and skewers their howls of angry commentary fairly easily.

Do read the whole thing, here.

The Devil You Know – K J Parker

A short (120 page) book, with a long (encompassing several years worth of) conversation between one of Parker’s long standing creations, Saloninus, and one of the Devil’s minions. The encounter between these two is an unfair contest…

Easy to read, full of delightful barbs, witticisms, and pauses for thought, this is a fun and rewarding read. It is cheeky, irreverent, packs a punch at the end, and is well worthy of your time.

One point worth stressing is that you do not need to have read any of the author’s other material to enjoy the book. It does stand on its own.

Highly recommended. (But get the Kindle version, as the paperback is ridiculously overpriced.)

Five for Friday

Traffic? I see no traffic. Tel Aviv - February 2012

Traffic? I see no traffic. Tel Aviv – February 2012

For various reasons, this needs to be short and sweet. (A lot like this week, or so it seemed.) Therefore, as we once again arrive at the weekend, here are the regular weekly selection of links for you:

And, because that lot is a bit on the heavy side, here’s a bonus on the bright, bouncy, and musical side:

Sir Elton John promises to give Tel Aviv a ‘wonderful, crazy’ night

Shabbat Shalom!

It’s all in the combination


To start this week’s session, I was joined by Sheer, and we played 7 Wonders: Duel.

Sheer is quick at assessing the value of card combinations, and he put that to good use in this game, by collecting science cards aplenty, and the resultant bonuses. His focus on that aspect forced me to look elsewhere, and I started off with a military strategy. That – eventually – started eating away his finances, and allowed me to get some decent victory point cards. I came close to knocking him out with a military victory, but he fought back, and the game went the whole way. I was pleased with my play, but (pleasantly) surprised by the win, as I was sure his bonuses would have been too much. Great fun. And each time we play this, I am more impressed by how well it works as a short, sharp, and challenging two player game.

Peleg then joined us, and we played Automobiles. Sheer again got a powerful combination together, and soon looked to be out of reach to me. (I had chosen the opposite of a powerful combination.) But Peleg, with a variation on Sheer’s theme, was keeping in touch, and so made it a bit of a competition. We played three laps, and I was consistently in last place and in danger of being lapped. Peleg  kept up the pressure, right up until the last turn or so, when Sheer pulled ahead to win the race.  Then, to our surprise, we found out that we had played some of the cards without taking the requisite wear. That would have changed things, though it is doubtful if it would have changed the result. It simply whetted our appetite to try this game again, because it is a good variation on the Dominion type game.

Speaking of which, we finished off with a regular Dominion game. Peleg and I went into an early lead, with lots of victory points, while Sheer concentrated on getting the right combination so as to maximize the efficiency of his desk, and throw all the Curse cards at us. It worked. Both Peleg and I were slowed down, and Sheer gradually caught up and exceeded our victory points. Damn!

Thanks to Peleg and Sheer for making the session so enjoyable.

Haaretz and Rodes

This is interesting:

An Israeli Echo Chamber? Haaretz and the Iran Deal

Haaretz’s cheerleading for the Iran Deal raises the question: Were they a willing part of Ben Rhodes’ “echo chamber”?

“Echo chamber” — two words that Ben Rhodes uttered to the New York Times Magazine were enough to expose the media’s failure. The issue has been raging in the US for over a week now, since David Samuels’s piece first appeared, but aside from some minimal coverage, it has received almost no attention in Israel. And that’s very strange, because what Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications said about the gaggle of “freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal” is very serious: “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say,” Rhodes bragged.

This was primarily aimed at the American media, but it has an Israeli aspect: Haaretz newspaper.

Those who have followed the Israeli media certainly remember how coverage of the Iran Deal looked from Schocken Street’s perspective: Haaretz did not even bother hiding that it had taken a side, and its reporters constantly echoed White House talking points in Israel. Now, in light of Rhodes’s confession and the storm he caused, very serious questions have arisen regarding Haaretz’s conduct in the affair, its journalistic prestige, and its professional reliability.

So, was Haaretz part of the press echo chamber that did exactly what the White House wanted, and ditched all objectivity and independent thought? It sure looks that way. Read it all, here. (The original David Samuels piece is here.)

Murder DC – Neely Tucker

This is the second Sully Carter novel, the follow up to The Ways of the Dead, continuing the investigative adventures of our intrepid reporter in Washington.

This time around, the story starts with the discovery in the Potomac River of the body of Billy Ellison, the son of a prominent local family. Why was Billy near a known drug trouble spot, and who killed him?

Neely Tucker’s background as an experienced journalist is once again a solid platform for his story telling. He handles the central character well, portraying a troubled, but principled man, challenged by alcoholic tendencies and a tragic past. Yet Carter makes progress, and in between the competing worlds of high society, and local drug lords, somehow gets closer and closer to unraveling the mystery, and exposing the truth.

The Washington backdrop and the other characters are realistic, and believable, though the Ellison family lawyer comes close to being overdone.

The plot has its twists and turns, and more than enough to add to the reader’s enjoyment without being overpowering and stretching suspension of disbelief too far. The tension is well maintained, and the whole story hangs together neatly.

It’s a good read, is highly recommended, and ensures I will be looking out for the next in the series.