Archive for June, 2008

Israel, Part 2.

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Tel Aviv has bats. I didn’t know that until I went on a tour of the architecture of Tel Aviv (big surprise: it’s Bauhaus). This house in eclectic style from the 1900s had been recently redone, but if you looked closely, there was brown flecky things all over it. Apparently the bats just poop all over the sides of the buildings. And I saw them one night. They are fruit-eating bats, because there are fig trees all over Tel Aviv. I was so happy, I did a little dance and probably scared some of the natives. Here’s the bat-poop building.


Let’s cover Jerusalem. The problem with Jerusalem is that the entire city was built on top of itself over many centuries, so wherever you live is over a historical archaeological site. Apparently they had to move this building from one place to another, so they numbered every stone and moved it. You can see the numbers on the building.


A close-up of the numbers.


On our travels we passed several stations of the cross. You can rent a cross and carry it around all the stations. Here is a group of Filipinos carrying a cross and singing right near Station 5.


The sign outside Station 5.


You’ll notice something interesting about the ceramic sign that tells you you’re on the Via Dolorosa. When the British were in charge, they put up those ceramic signs all over Jerusalem, but they didn’t like the Jews and favored the Arabs, so the signs were only in English and Arabic. When the Jews got Israel, they copied the pre-existing style and added the Hebrew on top. You’ll see it’s in two parts, with the Hebrew add-on. Interesting nugget of information.

We also went to the Holy Sepulchre, which is the last three stations of the cross: where Jesus was crucified, where he was laid out and prepared for burial, and where he ascended to heaven. The area where his cross was in the ground, my goodness gracious, is it ornate. There’s like fifty lamps hanging from the ceiling and solid silver sculptures embedded with jewels and mosaics with gold tile, you have no idea. I have a picture, but it doesn’t really capture all of it. Gives you an idea, though.


While we’re covering Christianity, we also went to Nazareth. There’s a church there for Mary, Jesus’ mother. Story time: they were building this church and Pope-whoever-the-hell-it-was-at-the-time showed up and asked why there were all these holes in the cement. The architect told him the holes were to hold the marble slabs they were going to cover the walls with. Pope WTHIWATT said, “No, Mary would not want the walls covered with marble. She was a humble woman.” So the church has plain cement walls with holes drilled in them. No marble.


What the church does have is mosaics. And not just any mosaics. Mosaics done by a variety of countries representing Mary and Jesus as members of their race. Here’s the one from the Congo, which was my Mother’s favorite:


And here’s Japan, which was my favorite (seriously, it was gorgeous):


We went to the Jordan River. It was the slowest-moving river I have ever seen. It had catfish just swimming around in it, going nowhere in particular. They had the passage from the Bible mentioning the Jordan River on the wall.


Then they had it in thirty or so other languages. Now, I’m at a place with a great deal of meaning to many people, so I’m trying to be respectful, but the version translated in Hawaiian Pidgin had Cricket, my mother and I snorking innappropriately.


One final religious thing: We drove past Har Megiddo. In English it’s referred to Armegeddon, where the final battle will take place between God and Satan. Here’s a road sign.


When you see Har Megiddo, you expect it to be big and craggy and awe-inspiring, like the mountain from the end of Fantasia. In reality, it looks like this:


Huh. Kinda underwhelming for a battle that will involve angels with flaming swords. But I don’t make the rules. If that’s where God and Satan want to duke it out, fine by me. As long as it’s not near New York City, where I will most likely be.

Israel, Part 1.

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I decided that you can go to any site on Israel and see the same photos of the same famous places over and over again, so I am only going to show pictures that are important to me or have an interesting story to go with it. And I’m breaking it up into several parts so you can enjoy it in chunks.

Most of Israel is not what you would call “pretty”, at least not architecturally. It’s all built in the Bauhaus style, and some of it is excellent examples of Bauhaus, but most buildings are merely Bauhaus-esque, and they look like Communist prison housing. The main problem is everything is made of stucco and cement, and I don’t know if you know this, but stucco and cement need a great deal of upkeep to prevent them from looking like crap. They stain with rust and mold and they crack and when you spackle the crack it never matches the original color, etc. So the buildings, while structurally sound, look terrible. Here’s an example.


My mom was born in Israel and this is the first apartment she ever lived in. She was born in 1936, so one can assume that this building is from the early 30s. It don’t look so good.


I bet you’re wondering why the street signs are in English. It’s because for a chunk of time, about 1920 to 1948, Palestine was a British mandate. So all the signs are in Hebrew and English, or Arabic and English.

Israel has an interesting situation. There are cats running all over the place. Just hanging out, being catlike. Don’t belong to anyone. Some are feral and skittish, but a couple seemed to like people and meowed at me and would sit next to me on park benches and whatnot. I made a composite image of some of the kitties that crossed my path.


Here’s another neat thing: It was the 60th anniversary of Israel, and the major newspaper printed a million and a half Israeli flags and gave them away in the newspapers so people could hang them outside their windows. The problem is they had them printed in China and apparently they didn’t explain how to orient the star in the middle. Long story short, all the flags are wrong. The newspaper gave them away anyway and people did hang them and it looked really amusing. Here is picture of both the correct and incorrect flags. The big one is the wrong one.


One day we went to Ceasarea, which is this gorgeous port town from the time of the Romans. It had several nasty earthquakes (Israel lies on a major line between two tectonic plates) and so there’s just ruins. The entire time I was looking at this well I was glad there was a grate over it, because it would have been so tempting to yell “THIS IS SHPAAAAAAATAAAAA!!” and then kick some elderly tourist into it.


I thing I found funny was the use of exclamation marks on signs. Some signs require them, don’t get me wrong:


Like that one. But then there was this sign:


Why does “Things That Will Blow Up When You Step On Them” get one exclamation point, but “Be Careful, It Could Be A Bit Slippy” get three? I would give the mine sign like, twenty exclamation points. And a big neon arrow pointing to it and blinking on and off.

The water in Israel is desalinated, so while I don’t mind the taste, most people do and so they mainly drink bottled water. They have really cute and beautiful bottle collection boxes all over Tel Aviv.


Happy happy flowered recycling containers.

Jaffa is an extremely old city near Tel Aviv. It’s also an artist’s colony. They have these really cool street signs in the artist’s colony. Each street is named after a sign of the zodiac. And they have these lovely handmade ceramic signs stuck in the wall to tell you where you are.


So this is Sagittarius Street.


And outside #8 Sagittarius Street, this is on the side of the house. Isn’t that a charming way to organize a neighborhood?


More to come tomorrow.

NPR and Jonathan Coulton.

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

I was going to write this past week about my travels to Israel, but I got slammed with a project that ate my head and digested it from Monday to Friday until I was a crispy frayed exoskeleton of myself. I was so busy I didn’t even get a chance to check my emails all week. Brutal, I tell you. But the project got done and went nicely and all is hunky-dory, so now I can return to the world of the living and tell you about my recent activities. And I’m editing my Israel photos to share with you as well, so there will be a plethora of posting in the next few days. Rejoice, three readers, rejoice!

I drove my parents to the airport on Saturday so they could fly out to California, and on the way back I listened to their radio. My dad has two stations in his presents: WQXR, the classical music station, and NPR, the… NPR station. On Saturday WQXR plays opera all afternoon, which I really don’t care for at all, so I listened to NPR. I realized something that I’ve been fighting for a long time. I don’t like NPR. I want to like NPR, I really do, it’s just they’re just such drowse-inducing intellectuals, I crave to listen to all of Eminem’s albums back to back afterwards. Traffic was backed up so I got to listen for two and a half hours. Because Albert Hofmann had just died (the inventor of LSD), they played an hour of psychedelic music, all of which I could name in the first two beats (yay me!) The songs were: Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Magic Carpet Ride, Purple Haze, White Rabbit, and White Room. The DJ talked about his magic mushroom trip where he discovered the meaning of life in his vomit, and that was all fine. Then came on All Things Considered. Here’s where NPR proved themselves (once again) to be the most grating thing on earth. Andrea Seabrook did a ten-minute piece on the tomato salmonella outbreak where she interviewed… her mother. And they chatted about tomatoes being a pivotal part of their lives. For ten minutes. In those voices that they speak in. These voices. I wanted to shoot myself. Patton Oswalt (my most favorite comedian in the whole wide world) does a thing about NPR on his DVD, Feelin’ Kinda Patton, that is just BRILLIANT. Rent the DVD if you can. It’s about fifteen minutes in. He sums up my response far better than I can.

Addendum: I found a clip of the Patton Oswalt NPR thing on the YouTubes! Hurray!

On Saturday evening I went into the city to see Jonathan Coulton with B. and his wife D. and their son K. It was in the Highline Ballroom in the Meatpacking District, which is one of my least visited parts of Manhattan for three reasons: One, even though they hose down the sidewalks, you can still smell the rotting blood faintly in the air; Two, it’s become very trendy so everyone is young and hip and thin and I feel like a troll doll with fluffy orange hair whose ass is impaled on a fifth-grader’s pencil, and; Three, there are cobblestones all over. I am super-clumsy and I fall down on plain old asphalt, so I suppose on cobblestones I fall down, shatter and then burst into flames or something. But I like Jonathan Coulton very much, so I braved the hipsters and meat-funk and cobbles and somehow made it to our dinner destination, and I’m glad I did, because it was phenomenal. Really. It’s called Highline, and it’s a Thai fusion restaurant. The decor was lovely, the food was delicious and plentiful and not expensive, the iced tea with lychees was nummy, the waitresses were nice and friendly, it was just great. I also recommend that if you go there, go early, because we went at 5:00 and by the time we left, it was half-full. One can only imagine how packed it gets at 8:00. It’s on Washington Street between 13th Street and Little 12th.
Then we went to the concert. I don’t much care for live music (uncomfortable chairs, loud, etc.) but this had to be one of the best concerts ever. Really. Everyone had a good time: the audience, the performers, everybody was just thrilled to be there. The opening act (Paul and Storm) performed for about an hour and were amazing and funny, and then Jonathan performed for a hour and a bit and was terrific as well. He had eight people performing behind him playing ukeleles (the Kristen Shirts Ukelele Army, I believe they were called) and at one point they also played kazoos. And you could sit at tables and have dessert items and no one stood and blocked your view, a fantabulous time was had by all.
If you are a geek, especially a computer programmer/video game player geek, you must discover Jonathan Coulton. Here are some of his finest works:

I recommend “Code Monkey”, “I Crush Everything” (I found out at the concert it is a song about a squid who hates himself, which might be the greatest idea for a song in history), and “Mandlebrot Set”. They don’t have my favorite song there, “I Feel Fantastic”, but you can buy his music on his website, you don’t even have to brush your hair or interact with other humans. Bonus!

Major shout out to one of my newest readers, J. George, who is on bed rest for the next bunch of weeks due to ultra-uber-pregnant with twins. Good luck J. and enjoy this nice quiet time to yourself.

House. TONS of spoilers about the season finale.

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

First of all, I am back from Israel with many a tale to tell, but Cricket has the camera with all the photos on it, and I hope to get a DVD of all the pictures this weekend so I can share a few select ones with you all. Get prepared for that.

So yeah, the season finale of House this season, what a weeper, huh? There was one thing that bugged me out. Amber is a lovely-looking girl played by Anne Dudek, and she normally looks like this:


But in the last episode she gets hit by a bus and all her internal organs are ruined and she’s gonna die. So they wake her up and to gently break it to her that she’s gonna die. She tries to recollect what happened:


But then she realizes she’s gonna die and she gets the most terrifying facial expression for five whole seconds:


Tell me that’s not the creepiest face ever. And she does it for a really long time. I recoiled from the television, I thought her mouth would fall open and bats and spiders would come flying out. I think it’s because Anne’s irises have no color. You can watch the episode on Fox’s House website. See for yourself. Bring tissues.

Alright, pictures of Israel, coming soon.