Five for Friday

Goodbye Pesach. It was nice knowing you. But, it is nicer knowing stuff like this:


Over Shabbat, I fancy a wee dram of the good stuff. Yes, indeed.

Meantime, at the end of this week, here are a set of links of various bits and pieces that I hope you find interesting.

Shabbat Shalom! Slàinte!

The passport that threatens the peace process

Rick Richman at Commentary magazine gives us this amazing situation in detail:

Now that the Supreme Court has agreed in Zivotofsky v. Kerry to decide the constitutionality of the law allowing Jerusalem-born Americans to have “Israel” on their passports as their place of birth, it bears reiterating that President Obama did not need to make this a federal case, and that he could still take the same approach President Clinton did in 1994, when Congress passed a law allowing Americans born in Taiwan to have “Taiwan” on their passports rather than “China.”

Clinton enforced the law, but declared that America’s “One China” policy (recognizing only the People’s Republic of China) remained unchanged. Obama could uphold the law regarding Menachem Zivotofsky’s passport, but declare that the policy that Jerusalem’s status is subject to negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians remains unchanged. Case closed! It is not clear why this should present a problem: the State Department website identifies Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; so does the CIA website; the Department of Defense website features a 2009 picture of Secretary Gates and Prime Minister Netanyahu meeting in “Jerusalem, Israel,” a 2012 picture of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey with Israeli President Peres in “Jerusalem, Israel,” and Secretary Hagel’s 2013 statement at his meeting with Netanyahu in “Jerusalem, Israel.”

In a nutshell, USA policy is that somebody born in Jerusalem is not born in Israel, and so cannot have that as their country of birth on their passport. Continue reading

Talk like an Egyptian; repeat a blood libel.

The good news is that the latest blood libel is no longer giving the impression of having been sponsored by Visa.

The bad news is that the Egyptians continue to care not one fig about antisemitism.

When will the West (in particular) wake up to the reality that this issue needs to be acknowledged and dealt with?

When will we see an NGO in the Arab world combat the antisemitism there?


Crime pleases

In making a half hearted attempt to get my Good Reads lists in order, it became stark how important crime writing was in my fiction interests. I still read science fiction and fantasy, but – perhaps because of too many disappointments in those fields – in recent years, crime is king.

Part of this approach may be the continuing and disproportionate response to the way I was taught English literature in school. I was forced to read the classics. I was banned from reading anything (as part of the formal English curriculum) that was not on an approved list. And, take it from me, that was a safe (and boring) approved list. Especially as Dickens doesn’t do it for me. I can appreciate the writer’s outstanding craft, but I neither enjoyed nor was stimulated by his books. (I could fall asleep reading them.) The same applies to all the usual suspects: Austen, Bronte, Eliot, James, Trollope, Waugh, Wilde. Only Conrad and Stevenson had a half decent appeal for me.

In fairness, it may be that in addition to being forced to read these damn classics, I was taught them in a soul sucking manner. It was not read, enjoy, and retell. Instead, it was read, analyze, analyze, analyze, analyze, and analyze. Find the message. See the symbology. OMG! All I wanted to do was read and be entertained. What was wrong with that?

The combined effect? If it’s a classic, I am not interested. I am not going back there.

Which brings me to the following quote that I only recently came across. It’s from Reginald Hill, one of my favorite authors. A crime writer. He said in 1986:

I still recall with delight as a teenager making the earth-shaking discovery that many of the great “serious novelists,” classical and modern, were as entertaining and interesting as the crime-writers I already loved. But it took another decade of maturation to reverse the equation and understand that many of the crime writers I had decided to grow out of were still as interesting and entertaining as the “serious novelists” I now revered.

I don’t agree with the quote because I think the good crime writers (like him) were far more interesting and entertaining than so called serious novelists. (I grew out of the serious novelists.) But his perspective on the true quality of crime fiction is oh so welcome. Probably understated, but very welcome.

I miss Reginald Hill.

Change required

I don’t know the speaker, nor the context, but he speaks the truth about Israel, the Palestinians, the Arab World, and hate. Do listen all the way to the end.

A brave man. I hope people listen to him with an open mind, and that he makes a difference.

[Thanks to Hannah for the tip.]

Calling all journalists

From YNET:

Abbas threatens to dismantle Palestinian Authority
PA president’s proposal to declare West Bank under occupation would annul Oslo Accords, leave Israel with full responsibility over Palestinians.

The era of the two-state solution may soon be rocked by a decision that could signal its demise. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is mulling the merits of a proposal to dismantle the Palestinian Authority, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Sunday morning.

Palestinian sources confirm that the government in Ramallah was considering the unprecedented move. Senior sources in the IDF’s Central Command, who recently met with the heads of the Palestinian security services confirmed their West Bank counterparts were sincerely debating dismantling and disarming the PA’s forces.

I read that and thought, he’s done this before. This is not new. Why isn’t this pointed out? Am I going mad?

Minutes of browsing, courtesy of the irreplaceable Elder of Ziyon, produced the following. Abbas made the same threat in

  • December 2012
  • December 2010
  • November 2009
  • September 2008
  • July 2008
  • June 2007

Where are the real journalists who do things like fact checking?

As for the threat, isn’t this the same PA that has just applied to join several international bodies? How stupid does that make him look if he meant it?

This threat is a nonsense – like much of Abbas posturing – so when will somebody call him on it?

Magnificent Mancunians


How dare you! was the 1976 album from 10cc, a talented foursome from Manchester who could all sing, play multiple musical instruments, and write music and lyrics. Eric Stewart, Graham Gouldman, Kevin Godley, and Lol Creme were going from strength to strength, as the album proves. There were two hit singles – I’m Mandy Fly Me and Art for Art’s Sake – and the album showcased (again) a wide variety of musical styles, all rendered in tight, professionally produced, packages.


But this was the last of the real 10cc. It’s said (here) that this was the last album with the original lineup because Godley and Creme felt constrained by the 10cc commercial success format, and wanted to do their own thing. Had the band been able to handle people doing their personal projects, and not feel threatened, maybe the band could have stayed together. But it was not to be.

Playing the album now, to my ears the music is dated in the sense that it does not belong in today’s world. In other words, you are not going to see the same type of music produced today. But, ironically, it’s still fresh. The songs still have a bite and something to say.

My favorite track (then and now): Don’t Hang Up.

“The band went la di da di da
And I got loady do di dodied
Lousy violins began to play
I went no no no
And as the vol-au-vents exploded
I was walking down the aisle the other way”

The opening track that gave the album its name was also one I highly rated. While clever lyrics are all over the album, that instrumental is just fine and dandy.

It’s written somewhere that there was an art-school half of the foursome. That seems to come across in the artwork for the album. It also still stands out and remains memorable. Click on the following thumbnail for the interior artwork, and see if you can spot the band members. Does anybody recognize any other people in the shot?


Good memories.

[The musical journey of rediscovery through my record collection continues. Click on “Vinyl” in the Categories, or in the following links, to see previous entries.]

Shabbat Gaming

Susan and I introduced some novices (Avi, Sharon, Brian, and Adelaine) to gaming with a post Shabbat meal session of Ticket to Ride. I ran the game – dealt with the rules, help, and so on – but did not play. That made things go a wee bit faster.

Susan won, but just. What was gratifying was the apparently positive response. At the start, complaints about complexity and fear of the rules. At the end, complaints about strategies not working and fear of not getting finished! So, there may be more gaming recruits for future sessions.

Storm over Stalingard


This is an impulse based game, played on an area map, about the battle for Stalingrad in 1942. It’s designed by Tetsuya Nakamura and produced by MultiMan Publishing.

The designer is a gifted artist with a track record for looking at old, staid mechanics and giving them a twist that adds new life. Here, the twist is twofold: he cut down the core rules to fire and move, and he introduced cards. Thus, players focus on the play of the game (not a mountain of text) and seek to outwit their opponent. The cards add fog of war, surprise, and chaos, with little rules or system overhead.

It had been a while since I had played this, so that explains why I got one of the key (easy!) rules wrong. But it was still fun. Next time, I’ll get it right. It was good to be reminded of this little cracker.