Thursday, June 29, 2006

With apologies to Friends - the Clips Post

In television land, when they can't be bothered doing anything they run a show when the cast sit around and reminisce about things around a package of clips from previous episodes. Friends used to love doing this.

Given that it's stinking hot, World Cup dreams have been shattered, it's the end of the week and everyone has gone down to the beach....please cue up the harp music.

Monica: Do you remember way back when in the early days of the blog it was Yom Ha'atzmaut and we attended a great party the night before and then we went to the BBQ at the Queen of Katamon where we met the Purple Parrot for the first time.

Rachel: Remember it? I am still scarred from having to wait two hours to go to the bathroom only to find that the toilet was completely clogged. Ended up having to go in the bushes only to find Joey there making up with some random Katamonster.

Joey: How you doing?

Chandler and Ross: We particularly liked the post about not arguing with a pregnant lady.

Monica and Rachel: What exactly are you two saying? I'd choose my words very carefully if we were you two.

Phoebe: Orange juice anyone? Hey that reminds me, remember the post about the orange ribbons still being proudly out there?

Ross: Speaking of orange juice, what about that wedding we went to?

Chandler: What has that got to do with orange juice Ross?

Ross: They had really great orange juice there.

Joey: How you doing?

Monica: I simply loved the American Idol finale.

Phoebe: Can you believe that Hoff cried on the show?

Chandler: Makes up for all the times I've shed tears listening to his singing.

Phoebe: Do you remember that post about Jennifer Aniston's movie career?

Rachel: What is this? Ocean's 12????

Monica: I loved the post about Crocs.

Ross: Imagine writing a post about creating social phenomenons spreading and then that post spawned other Crocs posts all over the place.

Chandler: Maybe you should incorporate that into your next lecture Ross.

Monica: Then it got all boring with too much sport.

Rachel: Way too much!!

Chandler: But we've had great times here.

Phoebe: Yes, we have.

Monica: How about we all go to the Hamptons now. I'll cook and we can play some games .

Rachel: What about watching some movies?

Phoebe: Can we watch Breakfast Club?

Joey: How you doing?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Seventh Heaven

Now that the festival of the Boot is over can concentrate on more important matters at hand such as popular culture. Such a wide ranging of topics to choose to talk on such as Eddie the dog from Frasier dying, how the Hoff is a judge on a American Idol spin-off and speaking of Idol there are the shocking revelations that not only runner-up Katherine McPhee had/has an eating disorder, but that 22 year old McPhee has a 41 year old boyfriend!!!

But when the name Harry Potter comes up there can only be one winner. News came out yesterday that the finale of the seven book blockbuster will contain the deaths of two major characters.

HP is the biggest literary franchise the world has ever known and will likely ever see. Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Mark Twain all probably generated a lot of buzz in their day when a new book came out but not to the extent of this.

William Shakespeare? Think he was appreciated more once he died.

In modern times maybe Jeffery Archer or possibly John Grisham. Grishma had heat for a bit in the early 90’s but then all his books became carbon copies, all featuring a lawyer from the South who ends up in the Cayman Islands and then everyone lost interest quickly.

What J.K.Rowling has been able to generate is nothing short of remarkable. She has created an empire. As everyone knows she started slowly but by the time the Goblet of Fire came out in the summer of 2000 everyone was going mental for Harry.

The first four books came out every year from 97-00 but since she has had two year gaps between books with Order of the Phoenix in 2003, Half-Blood Prince last year in 2005 and the unnamed book seven appearing as though it will come out next summer.

The hype has tapered off but that’s simply because there is no way it could be sustained at that level for seven years. But note how a simple announcement about what will happen in the book is enough to create headlines around the world.

When book seven comes it will be sheer and utter pandemonium. The desire and urge to find out how it all ends will be massive and hopefully those will want to read it but won’t have done so yet, don’t get the ending ruined by leaks.

Will be interesting to know how it all pans out in the end. For mind, Book 4 was the best in the series and a bit like the Matrix, the tale lost a bit of direction since it peaked then.

Speaking of books, one of the things in particular about fatherhood I am looking forward to is reading to the little one. Whether it is Dr Seuss, Sweet Pickles, Where the Wild Things Are or whatever else is out there.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Reality Bites

Sport is cruel and there is nothing crueler than the World Cup. For every 197 countries who enter, 165 are going to miss the finals. 16 of those won’t get past the group stage and ultimately only one captain will be holding the trophy aloft high above his head. And you can rest assured that every one of those 196 other teams will have a sob story of their own why it’s not them.

Italy did what Italy do best and that is win. Nothing else matters other than the final score and that says 1-0. Don't believe me? Check it out then on Wikipedia.

If there is anything certain about the World Cup it is that everything that goes around comes around. Italy were knocked out by three penalty shootouts and a golden goal in the last four World Cups so they are all too familiar with the cruel fickle finger of fate that is the World Cup. Even now they haven’t won it and may end up feeling as gutted as we are if not more, if they watch someone else raise the trophy.

It would have been good for the magic to continue. Take on Ukraine for the place in the final four. Been in touching distance of something that was pure and simply unimaginable. But when we sit back and think about what we have done, the truth will be that we have overachieved a hell of lot.

Then there is the question about why any of this should affect me any way. A soldier has just been kidnapped and I am worried about a football game? People die in horrible circumstances every day and I would get upset about something as trivial as this?

Please G-d, I am about to be a father which outranks winning a football match on a score of about 789 trillion to three. I have a beautiful wife and a country where unemployment is such a factor, I have a job.

Plus there is the factor of what did I exactly gain if we won? Other than a fuzzy feeling inside not a hell of a lot. Speak to Manchester United fans - winning is over-rated....

The fact of life is that if you want to try to achieve anything you have to be prepared that loss and disappointment is a potential outcome. The higher you rise so too the expectations and the possible letdown. The two teams who lose the semi-finals will be 1000000 times more gutted than we are now.

So while I am upset that we don’t get to continue our Magical Mystery Tour I am proud of the lads and of what we have accomplished.

Normal programming will now be resumed..............

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Fun Has Just Begun or This is Where We Get Off?

Dual emotions regarding today's game against Italy. Obviously we would like to do well and advance but one has to be realistic.

This is Italy after all we are taking about. A team who has only been defeated in the last four World Cups by golden goals and penalties. Furthermore, until Korea knocked them out last time around, only super-powers the likes of Brazil, France and Argentina had eliminated the Azzuri from the knock-out round of the tournament.

Won't be blogging again this time round. When I was that nervous and stressed wasn't able to think straight and thus didn't have the ability to write as clearly or lucidly as I would have liked.

So how does one balance having optimism with the potential having one's hopes crushed after? Story of life there....

Think the consolation factor is that even if we bow out today we have done amazingly well, massively exceeded expectations and shown the whole world we are not some third world backwater.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Donna Martin's Dad Graduates to the Big Studio in the Sky

Like millions of children of the 80s, am mourning the loss of Aaron Spelling, the television producer extraordinaire who passed away yesterday at the age of 83.

From The Love Boat to Fantasy Island to Charlie's Angels he owned TV in the late 70s and most of the 80s. Shows such as Hart to Hart and TJ Hooker were ok but he really hit paydirt with Dynasty which basically defined a generation.

Once the 80s were over he hit a lull before bouncing back with Beverly Hills 90210 where he infamously cast his daughter's nose as in the series before ultimately deciding to include the rest of her body as well.

Then Melrose Place came and defined the early 90s and he finished off with Charmed and 7th Heaven. He did so well for himself that Tori is going to find quite a nice Yerusha coming her way.

Once what Aaron made of the current climate where Reality-TV reigned supreme. His shows which were based on high production values and elegant story lines.
Maybe it was his type of shows which caused Reality-TV to emerge.

All of his shows featured hot ladies whether they were Heather Locklear, Farrah Fawcett, Alyssa Milana or a very young sizzling Jessica Biel.

Either way, not sure we will see the likes of his kind again; at least not for some time.

Report Time Part III

With the World Cup moving so quickly and the last lot of pool matches taking part on Shabbat, didn't have time to give out grades before the Round of 16 matches began. Given how the victories of Germany and Argentina were par for the course, won't affect the report too much.

Thumbs Up:

Ivory Coast - In a tough group they played well and did great in rebounding from 2-0 down to win their final match 3-2. Placed in a better group they probably would have advanced.

Ronaldo - He is playing pretty poorly and might do better if was told that the ball was a doughnut but he now shares the all-time scoring record and nobody can take that away from him. At least not until someone surpasses him.

Switzerland - Only team to get through the group stage without conceding a goal.

France - Scratchy start but will fancy their chances against Spain and from there anything can happen.

Australia/Ghana - For a big team to miss out on the Final 16 is a massive underachievement but for a minnow to make it through it is a big overachievement. Double thumbs up especially to Ghana who not only came from the toughest group of them all but advance after losing their first game which is very hard to do.

Ukraine – Had the benefit of being in the softest group and could throw a spanner in the works.

Past Winners
– Six of the seven qualified for the finals and all six are still alive. The way its heading all six will make it to the quarter finals and if that happens, only (going out on a limb here) Holland and Ukraine will be the only non members of the club left.

Big Quarter Finals – On the back of the last point, the last eight promises to be massive. You could have Argentina meeting Germany and England taking on Holland and the last time either of those match-ups took place in the World Cup was 1990. Then there is Brazil seeking revenge against France for their loss in the 1998 decider. The last one could be Italy against Ukraine and could Shevchenko be the nemesis for all of his old colleagues?

If I had to predict now I would say one semi-final is Italy-Argentina and the other is Holland – France and from there anything could happen.

Thumbs Down:
Refereeing – While it is easy to take pot shots at the referees because they will always make mistakes some of the ones made this time round have been inexcusable. The referees are more professional than ever, fitter than ever and paid more than ever before. The last thing you want is for a match to be decided by a referee’s error and/or for people to be speaking about the performance of the man in the middle after the match. Forget Graham Poll, Markus Merk has been appalling in two matches now and shouldn’t get another game. Last World Cup the players were putting a lot of pressure on the whistleblowers in terms of diving and bad tackles. For the most part this is gone which makes the refs' woeful performances even more lamentable.

Korea/Czech Republic – When you win your first match and don’t advance you have to do something of a choke job not to. Korea had a chance to prove that their efforts four years ago were no fluke but sadly for them, couldn’t disprove the skeptics.

Scheduling - Japan’s coach, Zico, had a more than valid point when he complained about Japan having to play two of their group matches during the heat of the day. Do Brazil and the other big guns need any more favors than playing all their games at night? Some are still more equal than others in the FIFA family.

Asia – Think the AFC would be thanking their lucky stars they now boast Australia as one of their members. Without them, three of their four teams finished last in their respective groups plus Korea who were third.

Concacaf – May have had a great tournament last time round but three of their four teams finished last as well including the only one not to score a goal (Trinidad and Tobago). Mexico did ok and were gallant going down against a superb Argentina side.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Australia vs Croatia

0' I am at Ben's house watching with a whole crew of Australians. Not a Croatian in sight. The players have just entered the stadium and the anthems are just about to play. Very lucky to be here in fact after the atrocious traffic from Tel Aviv due to that concert.

2' Croatia score their first goal of the tournament and it only took two minutes. A Srna thunderbolt of a free kick. Not a great start.

6' Australia go forward for the first time and possibly should have been awarded a penalty. Viduka crash tackled in the box. Not the best of starts. The team doesn't look fluid at all and has trouble stringing passes together. Clearly the occasion is getting to them.

10' They're starting to get into the game a bit more now except breaking down just before the final mass. If there is any plus to allowing an early goal it's that it allows them more time to get back into it. The game though is being played at a frantic pace doubt they can maintain it.

17' Getting some shots on goal now but nothing that is even forcing the goalkeeper to save.

20' Viduka is totally down on confidence and isn't shooting. Dishing off these silly passes instead of having a crack.

29' Australia have their best shot of the game. The set pieces are atrocious though.

38' Penalty to Australia for handball.

39' GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL to Australia. Moore takes it and blasts truly.

41' Just four minutes to go before half time and want to hold them out now. Croatia haven't had a shot on goal since the free kick. But lets get a few more goals ourself.

Half Time - So far we are ok. Croatia are definitely far more aggressive since we scored. 1-1 is a fair result but we are a bit suspect at the back, vulnerable to set pieces and not sure about Kalac being in goal.

Just a word about the surrounds. We are in the Ben Green palatial bachelor pad. There are some fellow bloggers here.

48' Here we are just 45 minutes away from glory. Spotted in the crowd was the great Michal Platini. Is a great atmosphere with expert commentary provided by Ben and un-expert commentary provided by Avi Unterman.

56' Croatia score again via another goalkeeping gaffe by Kalac. Not good.

64' We are banging away now. Aloisi on for Grella. Let's get ourselves an equaliser here...

71' Harry had a great chance but kicked it straight at the keeper. Then they try a pushover try but the forward pack didn't do it far enough.

75'Handball by Croatia again but referee misses it!

79' GGGGGGGGGGGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!! 2-2 Australia and Harry Kewell scores but we have taken off all our defenders for attackers. 10 minutes to hold out!!!!!!!!!

84' Croatia get a guy sent off for a second yellow. Great news!!

86' Now Australia get a guy sent off!! Terrible news..

90' Now just injury time to go and Croatia get another guy sent off. Great news.

90+2' One minute to go.... Let's do it boys!!


Taking On the Picnic Table Shirts

Tonight would probably be one of the biggest nights in Australia Sport in 219 years. Tonight we play for our place in the final 16 of the world's biggest competition. Not many people were expecting that from us and to do so would be huge.

After years in the wilderness trying to prove ourselves we now have our chance. For the most part this World Cup has been an abject failure for the African and Asian confederations. We could be the one shining light for the minnows and the sleeping giant of Australin sport is full awakened from its slumber.

Not sure what will happen tonight but either way it is going to end in tears.

To commemorate this special occasion going to do a live blog of tonight's game.

Three Card Trick

Their office is the pedestrian mall off Tachana Mercazit in Tel Aviv. Their equipment is a tatty cardboard box, three cups and a ball. Their objective is to scam people who don't know any better of their money.

Every day after work I walk to the bus station and there they are playing Find The Ball which is a simple variation on the Shell Game or Find the Lady or Three Card Monte. In the midst of sex shops and poker machines, no one seems to be bothered at all by the presence of these guys. It is the same four every day. One who moves around the cups and three who pretend to play but are in on it. Infact everyone in the world is in on it but for the saps they get to play.

The only concession I would give these guys in that they are absolutely brazen and have no shame in what they are doing. They have descended so far into the mire that they have no problem looking the person they are about to swindle in the eye and acting as if they are their best friend.

Ultimately are they any different to a lot of other people in respectable occupations who wear suits and ties to work and have offices in the big end of town??

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Eight Is Enough

Have just entered the eighth month which means we have approached the beginning of the end, the home straight, the bell lap or any other cliches which fit the bill.

The classes have left the world of the theoretical and embarked on hard-core Tachlis. Talking about contractions, breathing exercises, what to do when the water breaks and the like.

As I have said before once you find out that you are pregnant the excitement is replaced by the waiting game or when things get a bit testy; the blame game.

The eighth month tends to be overlooked in the haste to get it over and done with. After all, this is the last time for the rest of the lives that we know life as it is sans child.

We say goodbye to the old world and say hello to the new one. A brave new world which contains babysitters, breast-feeding, baby Mozart and nappies.

Can't wait!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Report Time Part II

At the halfway stage of the tournament. 32 matches gone, 31 to go. Interesting tournament shaping up.

Seven teams have already been eliminated despite having one match to play. They are: Poland, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Ivory Coast, Serbia & Montenegro, Iran and Togo.

Teams which have some mathematical sliver of hope but are most likely gone: Trinidad & Tobago, Angola, USA, Japan and Tunisia.

Here are the new grades after the last set of matches.

Thumbs Up

Steven Gerrard - Goals in the Champions League Final last year, in the FA Cup final this year and against T&T. He is in red hot form and is vital to England's hopes of advancing deep into the tournament.

Ghana - Only African team to have won a match thus far.

South Korea - Only Asian team to do anything and with a real chance of making it through to the knockout phase.

Spain - Looks like the Spanish Armada isn't going to wilt so easily this time.

Portugal - First time in 40 years they are past the group stage.

Argentina - In red hot form and easily the best team going round.

Ecuador - Showing there are some other teams in South America.

Thumbs Down
Poland - Another woeful performance.

Referees - The gulf between the big and the little countries isn't reduced when the whistleblowers blow everything in favor of the big boys.

France - Not the team they once were.

Brazil - While everyone may love the legend and legacy of Pele, Socrates, Garrincha, Jairzinho, Oscar and Careca - this bunch of show ponies and prima donnas aren't fit to even call themselves the same team. The great sides of 1970 and 1982 would make mince meat of these pretty boys who have been ordinary to date. You can take it from me - they will not win the tournament.

Usual Suspects - Apart from the hopes of South Korea, Australia and Ghana every team who makes it through to the Round of 16 is from South America, Europe plus Mexico. With only seven winners in its history, the World Cup has always been the domain of the big boys and looks like staying that way for some time.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Seeing The Light

Was on the bus early this morning coming to work when I heard something. Not sure if it was an apple hitting me on the head ala Sir Isaac Newton or the chip which had just fallen off my shoulder and was now rolling around in the aisle.

I had had an epiphany regarding my recent post of John Pantsil and his flag waving. It was like one of those 3-D pictures where no matter how long I stared at it I couldn’t see the dinosaur or the palm trees or whatever image was embedded inside it.

Then the penny dropped, I could see the image and with that I could hear the wake-up call which was coming in loud and clear.

There are aspects of Israeli society and culture which ally themselves with the worst aspects of my personality – my cynicism, my skepticism, my paranoia, my distrust, my suspicions. Instead of viewing life here with the glass 95% full it makes me concentrate on the 5% which is empty. Like a cancer on my soul it makes me a miserable, cantankerous, grumpy old man who I am not, nor do I want to be.

Ironic I guess that this revelation comes the week of Parshat Shlach – the week we read about the 12 spies being sent out to see what Israel was like. What sort of spy would I have been, I wonder?

"Well Moses, think we should stay in Egypt because they drive their donkeys like maniacs there, the shuk only has one kind of goat’s cheese and it’s way too expensive and you can’t add a second storey to your shack unless you give the local chieftain a brown paper bag…"

Like in the Matrix though, life is not all what it seems. Not only do we live in a very special place but are incredibly lucky and privileged to do so. Instead of sifting the holy from the unholy and concentrating on the latter; I should be like a horse with blinkers; ignoring the impure elements and focusing on the good stuff.

And despite evidence which may suggest to the contrary, the good stuff is here you just have to look out for it - even if the message comes via the hands of an African soccer player. Not quite a talking donkey but still does the trick.

Wonder what Mrs thinks about Pantsil as a middle name for the first born…..

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Down But Not Out

Went down 2-0 which was a fair result. Australia played well but lacked confidence in themselves. Brazil were average and I don't think they will win the tournament.

They are playing as a bunch of individuals as opposed to a cohesive team - they just haven't played anyone thus far who has been able to punish their errors.

Just need a draw against Croatia on Thursday night to make it through to the next round.

Boys From Brazil

Make no mistake - this is a tough assignment for the Socceroos.

Brazil has only lost four pool matches in the history of the World Cup Finals - one in 1930, two in 1966 and one in 1998. So for Australia to win would require nothing short of a miracle.

A draw would be a fantastic result!

Australia has to be physical without going over the top. Can not afford to have any guys sent off or have guys rubbed out for the Croatia game.

Is one of the biggest occasion in the history of Australian sport and hopefully the nerves will not affect the players too much.

Prediction: 1-1.

Fly The Flag

While it's nice to see an Israeli flag present at the World Cup, I don't agree with what John Pantsil did and think he is going to find himself in hot water. If not from Ghana, then from FIFA.

Pantsil plies his trade for Hapoel Tel-Aviv and told people he would wave the Israeli flag if Ghana scored. They scored twice in their upset win over the Czech Republic and so the flag came out.

Israeli flag or not, I disagree with what Panstil did. He is representing Ghana on the international stage so where does Israel come into it? Why wasn't he at least brandishing an Ghanaian flag and waving the two together?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Keep Me Posted

Forget about what I said before about Mashiach coming soon. He ain't, especially not if he is waiting in line for something at the Post Office.

Just got back from there where the queue was out the door. With it already crazy hot, it wasn't taking much for the tempers of a lot of people to reach boiling point.

They had benches by the side of the queue so people were sitting on them spectating like we were some exhibit in the art gallery titled: People waiting in line at the Post Office.

I was so bored and had nothing else to do but watch the faces of the people entering the Post Office and seeing the shock on the face once they registered the length of the queue.

One lady whose husband was buried somewhere in the middle of it all, took his papers and asked the person at the very front if she could go ahead of her. Every other person in the queue went troppo and she fires back and then keeps going muttering stuff under her breath.

Not sure what was going on but the queue wasn't moving. 10 minutes go by and not a single person who was being served has finished. They all had these plastic shopping bags from which they took out mounds and mounds of paper. All I had to do was send one simple letter.

Couldn't take it anymore and went to another post office where the same thing was happening. It was like some bad dream.

Report Time

After the completion of the first lot of pool matches good time to take stock and give out some grades.

Thumbs Up

Korea – First ever World Cup win outside of Korea.

– First ever World Cup goal and win.

Mexico – Impressive first up showing.

Argentina - Bounced back from a poor tournament last time.

Spain – Could this be the year……they make it past the Quarter Finals?

Red Cards
– Just three from the first 16 matches.

– The likes of Cech, Essien, Gallas, Cole, Drogba, Lampard, Crespo, Robben, Terry, Ballack, Shevchenko would be making the folk at Stamford Bridge very optimistic.

Goals – 39 Goals from 16 matches. Just two 0-0 draws.

Internet – Coverage and news has never been better courtesy of the Information Superhighway.

Thumbs Down

– Five matches, one point.

– Six matches, one point.

France – Yawn.

USA – Undid four years of progress in 90 minutes.

Italian Tops – Revolting.

– Limiting tickets and making people think it is a sell out only for there to be loads of empty seats.

Heat – Player welfare has to be a higher priority.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Scary Cause It's True

I read this superb article in Ha'aretz today by the ever-excellent Guy Rolnik and decided to copy/paste it below. Wouldn't ordinarily do this but it's the only way I could do it justice. For those of us who live here it makes for chilling reading.

As long as we don't have to pay for soccer

Are you angry?

Do you not believe your eyes as you read the paper? Certainly websites are brimming with steaming talkbacks - look where our taxes are going, stinking country, that sort of thing.

No, for a change - we aren't talking about the charge for watching the World Cup. We can't remember the last time anything aroused public opinion to such a fever pitch of rage - but we're talking about the Civil Service Wages Report published yesterday.

It was the culmination of the Finance Ministry's annual peek, and a partial one at that, into the personal pockets of Israel's civil servants who feed off our tax money.

The usual reaction to the Wages Report is much the same as to the State Comptroller's report: a gaping yawn, a drowsy glance at the tables and titles, you wonder whether somebody can't fix you up with something similar, and that's it. By the next day you've forgotten the whole thing.

Is the Israeli public really that apathetic to being pick-pocketed? We thought it was, until two weeks ago.

The people who owned the World Cup broadcast rights thought to maximize their profits by selling the broadcast rights to pay per view TV. But then the People of the Souq woke up and roared. NIS 500? NIS 300? NIS 100? Chutzpah! Scandal! tens of thousands of surfers furiously typed in talkbacks and forums. Boycott! they howled in hundreds of thousands of emails flying about.

It turns out that the Israeli public can voice its opinion loud and clear when it comes to soccer. Every third Israeli is convinced that it his God-given right, or rather his government-given right, to be supplied access to soccer games for free.

The outrage over football is a little off-center. Two wheeler-dealers went and bought the broadcast rights to the games, and sold them to the highest bidder.

That is how the free market works. If the government feels that World Cup games are a staple that should be subsidized, it should declare: Soccer before health.

But when it comes to healthcare services, geriatric care, welfare, hospitalization, cleanliness in the streets, the ports and the police - all the basics that the state is supposed to provide - no chain emails make the rounds. No howls or even whispers of protest are to be found, just the odd whimper.

Each week the average Israeli, when surfing or reading the paper or in his private life, bathes in the corruption, the filth, the inefficiency and the red tape endemic to Israel. Politicians give and take rotten little (or big) things. Party center powers play the politicians like marionettes and the public sector is bursting with cynical party hacks utterly devoid of administrative experience. Politicians peer at us from the pockets of the billionaires.

Yet the public sits there flabbily, not peeping, not taking its revenge on the dirty politicians at the voting booth, showing little interest in the conduct of the people who live off our tax money and are supposed to serve us.

But along come a couple of businessmen and demand NIS 309 to watch football, and the hordes start screaming like stuck ibex. Yet how much money does the average Israeli pay in his bloated cellular bill each month? Bloated, thanks to the oligopoly of the banks? How much money does the average Israeli family pay in fees to pension funds, insurance companies, banks, car importers? How much do we fork over to the monopolies, open and hidden, directly and indirectly?

Each year Israel's distended public sector swallows 50 percent of the nation's GDP. How much hidden unemployment is lurking there? How many systems that could be abolished? The public is sensitive to certain services and products that gnaw at its disposable income, but ignores the fact that by far the most goes to tax.

The Civil Service Wages Report published yesterday reveals only the tip of the iceberg. It doesn't get into the inefficiency, the bureaucracy, the nepotism and the corruption that are spreading like a cancer. It doesn't discuss the billions that public institutions squander on tenders, procurement, lands and rezoning, creating multi-millionaires in the business sector, but ultimately at your expense.

It does not tell the story of a country in which there is a macher or paper-pusher for every five poor people.

This morning we all sit there clucking our tongues at the high salaries at the Israel Electric Corporation, but what about the billions that the IEC squanders on buying equipment, land and services? What about the dozens of suppliers, exporters and sweethearts growing rich off that economic monster? But none of that really matters, as long as we don't have to pay NIS 309 to watch the footie.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Give Me the Whip

If anyone wants something fun for the pool room, coffee table or mantlepiece how about this upcoming auction of Hollywood memorabilia....

I would love to get the famous idol from Raiders of the Lost Ark which caused all the havoc at the begining, although it probably would be more useful for these guys.

If I was successful with the bidding, do you think I would be able to pay for it with a bag of sand?


The train accident which happened yesterday was horrible but when I read this I was horrified, sickened, frustrated and appalled.

When tragedy and loss are so commonplace here you would think people would be more careful. The opposite takes place with everyone acting like they are on the set of Mad Max.

What happened yesterday was inexcusable, horrible and a sad indictment on this country. Five people died and countless injuries not to mention the millions of shekels of damage these halfwits caused. Lives ruined because two clowns were allowed to do as they pleased.

In response to the incident, the CEO of Israel Railways said “the solution for sites like those at yesterday's collision is the construction of bridges that will completely separate train and vehicle traffic.”

A billion shekels will be spent building these bridges – why can’t people simply act like human beings to each other?

This Me-First attitude is what turns a lot of Jews off Israel - can you blame them?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Picture Tells 1000 Words

If you don't follow - We WON!

World At Their Feet

Today is a huge day in Australia sport. Probably the biggest since the day of the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympics. Today Australia plays its first World Cup finals match in 32 years.

Australia tends to dominate team sports that nobody else plays; sports such as cricket, rugby, netball and hockey. It did ok at soccer (football) but was cruelly denied entry to sport's biggest stage due to the disgusting politics of FIFA.

The game against Japan is infact an anomaly because when the draw was done Australia wasn't part of Asia and thus in a different pool to Japan.

As big as the World Cup is, it is huge for Australia. A sports mad country who has struggled in vain for 32 years will finally quench its thirst.

Japan be prepared to bid Sayanora to your World Cup hopes as we make sushi out of you.

PS: Forgot to make a prediction. Australia 2 Japan 1.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Drift Away

Was having a flick through the wedding album over Shabbas. The thought that struck me was how different the crowd would be if it has been held today some 14 months later.

No doubt people who were invited then wouldn't be now and vice versa. Apart from a few people, your friend base is quite fluid and can fluctuate greatly. There were people back then who were on the cusp who we see far more of now than some people who were invited.

Choosing who to invite to your wedding is not an easy task and the wisdom of Solomon would assist greatly. Continuing with the biblical metaphors you use a Jacob's ladder approach where your pick a certain level and invite everyone above it even though that means inviting someone who is on the way down.

Another interesting thing was seeing how different, people looked in the space of just over a year.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

In just under five hours the 18th World Cup gets under way. It will be the largest sporting event the world has ever witnessed. But make no mistake this isn't just for sports lovers.

Its one of the great ironies of massive sporting events that they don't remain in the domain of solely the died in the wool aficionados. This is why you usually get seated inbetween the person who picks the team they are going for based on the uniform colours on one side and the one who asks the whole match "and which one is David Beckham?" on the other.

This is the moment though when anticipation is at its highest and there is a buzz in the air. The pages of history which are to be written are still blank and only in a month's time will we be able to read them. Then they will be set in stone and no matter how many times you watch a replay the result will always be the same.

Reputations will be made over the next 63 matches (who really cares about the 3rd/4th play-off) and the world will be watching, the whole world except for Israel, but let's not go there.

Will be a unique experience for me for a couple of reasons. First of all, Australia is participating and second of all it's the first time I am watching a World Cup in the northern hemisphere when it's the height of summer and the matches are played in the midst of balmy nights.

So what do I think?

*I think Australia can do ok if we get a good result against Japan.

*I don't think Brazil will win nor do I think Argentina will. Historically European teams fare better when the tournament is played in Europe.

*Too many people are discounting Germany when the host nation always does well.

*Italy are definitely a dark horse and don't forget their last four World Cup eliminations have all been due to penalty shootouts.

*England will not win unless they practise penalties.

*Spain will again be useless.

Apart from that everything is up and the air and open.

Can't wait.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Crocodile Rock

The Tipping Point is a great book by Malcolm Gladwell which examines the social phenomenon when something goes from under the radar to simply exploding. Once it tips everyone else then wants one or wants to do it or wants to go there because everyone else already has one, did it or went there.

Think Cabbage Patch dolls and Pokemon. Think the red ribbon everyone used to wear at awards shows. Think rollerblades and hypercolour t-shirts. Think poker. Think the Ugg Boot. Think the Razor Scooter.

Often things will tip in fashion because by definition it is so fleeting. Hundreds of different things will be tried and only one will tip. As the book explains, those things which eventually do tip rely heavily on the connectors, mavens and salesman involved.

I mean, how many people donned a yellow Livestrong bracelet simply because the rest of the world was? The pressure was inexorable to wear one. And if you were not going to sport a yellow one then how about a bracelet of some other colour.

Well standing at the bus stop today it dawned on me that I was staring at the latest tipped point in Israeli fashion – the guy standing next to me was wearing Crocs. Just as everyone I have met in the past few weeks has been wearing them. Just as the two year old who was at lunch last Shabbas was wearing them.

You only have two choices; which colour are you going to choose and is the strap going to be forward or back. This Boulder, Colorado company which only began in 2002 has exploded especially in Israel where it seems to have taken a real foothold.

Their unisex and uni-age nature means there is no stopping their relentless capture of market share here.

Out of curiosity, would love to know how they tipped. Who was responsible for metamorphosing them from a basic boating/outdoor shoe into a fashion staple?

As for me? Well truth be told I have my Naot which I know are "so-1991" but I’m pretty happy with them. Then again I usually tend to catch these trends just as they are on way out like when I got my Vans in 1996.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Picture This

Not sure what to think of the photos involving young Shiloh Nouvel. If the Pitts are going to be harassed by paparazzi trying to take photos of the young ‘un who can blame them for trying to capitalize by selling the official rights?

Do they have to be so narky and get the pictures removed from other websites? Probably not.

Can you feel sympathy for celebrities who co-operate with the press when it suits them and try to evade them when it doesn't? If they are going to be paid the megabucks then they have to accept what comes with the territory.

Maybe you and I don’t want to but people want to see these happy snaps. Don’t be surprised if People (USA), Hello! (Europe) and New Idea (Australia) have record sales this week with SNJP on the cover.

Forget about them not being Jewish – the JPs should have posted the pics up on Only Simchas. The site would have melted down while exclamation points on keyboards around the world would have been pressed into oblivion.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

My name is _____ and I am a Parent to Be

With just under three months to go, the finishing line is in sight. Mrs will be utilizing the services of a doula for the birth. At first I had no idea what a doula was and didn’t even think it was an English word but a Hebrew one.

A doula is a woman who assists another woman during labor and provides support to her, the infant, and the family after childbirth.

We got together with eight other couples who are also giving birth around the same time and using the same doula. Of the nine couples, seven ladies covered there hair and eight men were wearing kippot so it is quite a frum crowd. All the ladies were Anglos while two men were Israelis. The average age of the couples would have been mid-20s. Only two and a half couples know the sex of their baby and yes, we are one of them.

There was a nervous tension around the room especially at the beginning. It felt like a something-anonymous meeting; getting together with complete strangers but for a common element.

We met for 2.5 hours and she gave us basic introductions into the world of giving birth. What to expect and what to do. A lot of what she said I would never have thought of so it was most definitely a worthwhile exercise and we will be meeting up again a bunch of times over the next few months.

One of the men was Belgian and god bless, you have to love the Belgians. They are indeed a unique group. With a brother in law from Antwerp I know.
Two things about him (The guy in our group, not my b-i-l): As per usual, his wife was sporting quite the boulder on her finger. Second of all when everyone was saying how old they were, he said 17. This apparently is Belgian humour.

Going to be an interesting few sessions.

Monday, June 05, 2006

You Talking To Me

Another unique experience with a taxi driver last night. We got a taxi home and when we arrived I take a look at the price on the meter and then start fishing around for the money.

Problem is its in the dark so I can't see what I am doing.

Meanwhile he hasn't turned off the meter so it keeps on ticking on while I am searching. I give him the money and the change is commensurate to the higher price. I ask him what the deal is and he chucks a tantrum.

Did I do something wrong?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Over And Out

After the long two days of Yom Tov/Shabbat, my head is spinning like I have just come out from a cycle in the washing machine. It's like Groundhog Day where you following a pattern of eating, davening, sleeping over and over and over again.

In between that we played Anagrams which is where you take the Scrabble letters and try to build words. You can steal other people’s words by adding one of the newly flipped letters to their existing word. The only rules are that you have to create a new word. So if someone had DOG and a S was turned over you couldn’t add that to make DOGS but you could make GODS.

I was more interested in stealing other people’s words and it can be a frustrating game when the free letters are used to spell AIR, TAT, CAN and YOU.

The other major issue of course is what defines a kosher word? Slang words clearly are not ok but some are because their use has become so widespread. For instance I wanted to add EE to PING to form PEEING but it was denied.

Another game which can be dominated by what is and isn’t allowed is pool. There was a pool room where we were so we also shot some stick. We asked our friend what the house rules were and played by them with no dramas only for his dad to come by and watch later in the piece and tell us what the real house rules were. Pool is the only thing which has as many minhagim as Judaism.

Who would have thought that trying to shoot eight balls in six holes could be so complicated?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Special K

Mrs and I had the pleasure last night of meeting up with Kasamba who is currently visiting Israel. Schmoozed in the lobby of the King David Hotel which has an ever constant stream of people walking in and out of it, even once the clock ticks past midnight.

Had a vague grainy image of how I pictured her but she blew that out of the water. Also had the opportunity to see Mr Kasamba and Asparagus.

Given that it's Shavuot and all was quite apt to be at the King David. Also keeping in the spirit of things Davidic will be in Efrat for the festival.

Shavuot is the only Chag which can start on a Thursday night and that wouldn't be a problem anywhere else but Israel. We lose our entire weekend plus have to come in to work today even though it is a defacto Friday.

On the pregnancy front not much happening other than this will be the last Chag before our little one, G-d willing, arrives. Chagim are a real family occasion so Rosh Hashana will indeed be special.

The Festival of the Boot doesn't qualify as a Chag.