Mixing your greetings

Tomorrow is the Fast of Tevet. As the JVL puts it:

The Tenth of Tevet (Heb, Asara b’Tevet) marks the day on which the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem began in the year 588 BCE, an event which eventually led to the destruction on the Temple in 586 BCE and the first exile from Israel. Though the day usually falls out near the time of Hanukkah, the two holidays have no significant relationship with each other. The Tenth of Tevet is considered a “minor fast” and orthodox Jews refrain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset on the day of fasting.

In Israel, the Tenth of Tevet has also come to be marked as a memorial day for the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The kaddish (Prayer for the deceased) is recited on this day for people whose date or place of death during the Holocaust is unknown and that is how the date has gotten the unofficial Hebrew moniker, Yom Ha-kaddish ha-kleli, literally translated as The General Kaddish Day.

Tomorrow is also, according to the secular calendar, a day of some significance. It therefore gives a rare opportunity, to mix greetings: to use the traditional Rosh Hashanah greeting, and make it do double duty. Therefore:

Happy New Year. And Well over the Fast!

[Thanks to Kenneth and Peter for the tip.]

The 10 best films of 2014

You can see the BBC’s list here.

I’ve seen only three of them (Whiplash, A Most Wanted Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy), with one more (Birdman) that I want to go and see when it is released here. The other six do not interest me.

How about you?

Guilt – Jussi Adler-Olsen

The fourth in the Department Q series, this crime novel – about the investigative exploits and adventures of Carl Morck and his team of Assad and Rose – is continuing proof of the author’s high standards. It’s a finely meshed tale of several strands, well told, and featuring a raft of interesting, amusing, and enthralling characters.

It starts with a diversionary interest in a current case. It reminds Rose of an old case in their files: the 1987 disappearance without trace, of Rita Nielsen, an escort agency operator. Written off as a suicide, the case now piques Carl’s curiosity.

Whatever happened to Rita seems to be connected to Nete Hermansen. Her story is told in interspersed flashbacks, and we experience her dreadful life. In turn, her connection to Curt Wad, a fascist politician with a belief in eugenics, gives Department Q a lot to tackle. But tackle it, they do.

This time around the author gives Rose and Assad more prominent roles, and that works well in spreading the load, and adding a little sparkle to their interactions.

There are enough moments of tension and plot twists to satisfy the most demanding reader. But, without taking away any of the quality or the edge, the book also offers some commentary on Danish politics, past and present.

Great stuff.

An Israeli in Scotland

Here are some random experiences from my snap visit to Scotland; stuff that popped into my mind as being different or noticeable. I offer no comment beyond that.

  • I was there for a week. I heard a car horn, once.
  • I have not seen so much rain in the last five years. (Since I made aliyah.)
  • I had forgotten how cold it could get.
  • One morning, after asking me what part of the city I was going to, the taxi driver asked me how I would like him to get there. (What route to take.)
  • I took several taxis. I never once felt my life was in danger.
  • I did not see a single traffic accident.
  • Shop assistants were very helpful, and polite.
  • I took several trains. I noticed how, each time my outgoing train came into Central Station, the departing travelers waited until the arriving passengers had all got off the train.
  • Somebody tried to skip the queue in the security screening area at the airport. One of the security workers came out from behind his station and almost physically redirected the person to the back of the queue.
  • Somebody tried to get on to the flight leaving Edinburgh with a handbag and four large plastic shopping bags – each larger than my carry on case. The airline staff refused to allow the person to board until this had been reduced to one bag. The excess material had to be abandoned.

Five for Friday

This has been a difficult week, because of the sudden death of my friend Marcus. There have been good moments among the sadness. But it has been hard. And as hard as it has been for me, it must be so much harder for the family. My heart goes out to Raymonde, Roxanne, and Yan. May they be spared sorrow for many years to come.

In the end, I decided I would do the usual weekend set of links. If nothing else, I want to draw a line under the week and move on. I will always remember Marcus, his smile, cheery disposition, and enlightening personality, even though I return to the circle of life and the hurly burly of the world outside, as evidenced by the following:

Shabbat Shalom!

Festive greetings

To those celebrating it, have a great Christmas. Here are some snaps of the locals here (Glaswegians) getting in the festive mood:


Four calling birds…


Help! My pipes are stuck in my beard!

Boots’ corner 2014


This gallery contains 4 photos.

Following a recent Facebook posting, here’s photographic confirmation that today Boots’ corner is somewhat different. (Unsurprisingly.) Click on any picture to see an enlarged version.

Sparks’ histrionic humbug

Sparks in London, November 1972; Ron Mael, Jim Mankey, Harley Feinstein, Russell Mael, Earle Mankey

Sparks in London, November 1972; Ron Mael, Jim Mankey, Harley Feinstein, Russell Mael, Earle Mankey. Source: Wikimedia

From the comments below this slightly up itself Guardian review of a Sparks plus orchestra concert, we have this

If a kid today should ask you ‘what does originality in pop music sound like?’ you could always point them to Sparks. Marvellously witty and tuneful and always entertaining, yet sounding unlike any band before them. ‘Kimono my house’ should be up there in any classic album list.

I could not agree more with the commenter. Sparks are my heroes. I hope the concert recording makes it to a commercial release. It sounds, er, different:

If the orchestra enhances the glam pomp of This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us, it turns the rest of the record into cinematic set pieces. Here in Heaven reeks of international espionage, Talent Is an Asset becomes an Oktoberfest oom-pah, and Falling in Love With Myself Again could be Julie Andrews at her most narcissistic. And if Thank God It’s Not Christmas was once a rock anthem of histrionic humbug, it’s now a lost theme to The Muppet Christmas Carol, sleighbells, symphonic snowfall and all.


I stepped off the plane at Frankfurt this morning, and the cold hit me. I loved it. All around me, people wearing coats, scarves, gloves, hoods, and generally well wrapped up against the elements. My concession to the weather was to wear a vest. It was, however, dry.

I stepped off the plane at Edinburgh, later, and the rain hit me. Wet stuff. Everywhere. Magic! It hasn’t stopped. I am back at my hotel room, and it is still raining. Eventually, the novelty will wear off. Till then, I am enjoying it.