Sunday, August 30, 2009

Between Bocelli and Beethoven

During the last ten years of her life, my Mom was completely blind and deaf. The full blindness came after a long battle with the glaucoma eye disease; the hearing problems started when as a young woman she got beatten on head and ears by a german officer ; over the years it gradually worsened and deafness became permanent condition.

Mom's intense blue eyes ( that stayed beautiful and open till her last moment) and her delicate shaped ears never leave my thoughts. There are times when I think of her, wish to lie down and just cry - to make it up for all those terrible moments when I wanted to cry but I couldn't, I had to be strong for her sake.
It is in times like these that I seek the proper atmosphere ; I turn to the voice of the blind italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, and to Symphony nr.5 by the huge deaf german (how ironical) composer Ludwig van Beethoven .

Andrea Bocelli is relatively young, handsome and...blind. He was diagnosed in early childhood with glaucoma, and at the age of 12 after an accident he lost his sight. I like it both when he sings with or wihout a partner, his voice stirring up in me the right emotions.

Beethoven wrote his Symphony nr.5 at a time when he was struggling with his deafness. It sounds very angry and stormy . The beginning of the symphony is dramatic, the end is considered triumphant. I never cease to wonder how a deaf man like Beethoven could compose such mighty sounds. Anyway, I'm totally and utterly enslaved to this symphony; it helps me take out all the anger and frustration I've accumulated regarding my mother's fate.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Pink House

It stands on elevated ground, at the intersection of two streets. It has arched windows, cute semiround balconies, a decorative wood entrance door , and an ornamented iron gate ,all of which add elegance to the building. A long garden separates it from the next house's garden. Most of the time the house was uninhabited, or at least so it seemed, and that gave way to speculations and gossip in the small neighborhood. The owners of the house, apparently French citizens , are probably here now as the house looks refreshened lately.

Apart from serving as an informal direction indicator ("you get to the pink house, and then you turn right,/left/go straight ahead"), this small architectural gem painted in vintage pink has been an inspiration for those wishing to build a house with an old world charm.

One evening, some two years ago, I was on my way home , from a visit to an aquaintance of mine who was very ill. I was naturally in a sad, pensive mood, When I got close to the pink house, I noticed something which diverted me from my gloomy thoughts. There was a big light in one of the windows , and I saw a man intensely gesticulating and talking to someone in the room. I got curious, and since there were no dogs or electronics I approached the fence with no fear, in order "to get a better view".

As I was staring at the window trying to identify the person, someone from behind twisted my arms as if in an atempt to tie my hands. It was a terrifying moment until I heard "Guess who". It was the slightly retarded man who lived in the vicinity. I was trembling, and in pain from his grip . All I could do is to warn him never again to come near me . He seemed shocked at my angry reaction and kept muttering I'm sorry, I'm sorry. He thought he was showing his friendship for me, he said. He always looked so weak, I could never have suspected the strength in his hands. He was also so very timid and well-mannered, I couldn't have believed he would dare touch me.

From that evening on I lost all interest in the pink house, I learnt to mind my own business , and I also gave more thought to the less fortunate people such as the above mentioned handicapped man.

The pink house before the recent "refreshment"

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Moscow 2009 - Red Army Choir

The most famous and well-known russian songs such as Kalinka, Katyusha, Ochi Chorneye are best performed, to my mind, by the Red Russian Army Choir. This choir has great voices , and the uniforms that go with it never fail to impress an audience.

However...they cannot go on singing year after year, decade after decade using the same dry army style. 'Kalinka' and 'Katyusha' are songs with a speedy tempo and require choreography, 'Ochi Chornye' needs a woman with black burning eyes on the stage. That's a new era , they have to adjust.

As kids we were crazy about singing the refrain of Kalinka (little snowberry ), and we derived pleasure from the fact that it generates the word... 'kaka' (shit, in many languages). It goes like this: Ka - lin-a- Kaka - lin-a - kaka - lin-a - ka-moya.

[This reminds me of something about the Israelis ( not the kids, the adults).They love the names of two places in the world: Guadalahara in Mexico, and Harare in Zimbabwe. Why so? Well, these two names include the word 'hara' which in spoken hebrew means 'shit'. So the stand-upist will say something like this to his audience: "Last year I was at the soccer games in Guadalahara. Believe me , I didn't lick any honey there." ].

Well, things become more serious when we get to Katyusha, the second song. This song is about a young girl , Katyusha (the diminutive of Katya) , longing for her beloved who's away on military service. So far so good, but the russians gave the song's name to the deadly rocket they had invented. The katyusha , mounted on truck for mobility, is the pride of its russian creators and the sweetheart of the arab terrorists, but our people in Israel get hurt by it.

Now, back to the Red Army Choir. I've been following their video clips of the last years, and there were some minor attempts to introduce slight changes, but the outcome was usually ridiculous. Their main problem seemed to be with Ochi Chornye (Black eyes ,also translated as Dark eyes). It has more than one version . but basically , the song is adressed to a woman with "black eyes, burning eyes/passionate and splendid eyes/how I love you ,how I fear you". It's kind of hard for some colonel in the best and most fearful army in the world to play the role of the unhappy lover in front of some gypsy-like woman.

Surprise, Surprise. The Red Army Choir finally did it all. in its guest appearance at the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 in Moscow . They sang all these three songs and more, with the appropriate addition of dancers and dark eyed women (nice compromise - the colonel doesn't have to sing to a particular dark-eyed woman; he's surrounded by several of them).

Notice the difference between the two soloists: the first one who sings Kalinka, is a light version, in white uniform with licked hair, more like Elvis Presley.
The soloist of Ochi Chorneye is the classical soloist of the Red Army. What a Man! What a Voice!


Thursday, August 13, 2009


Humoristic postcard featuring Nessie with a long neck

After all these years (since 1933), with so many film expeditions and sonar experiments ,the mystery hasn't been solved yet, that of the water creature from Lochness in Scotland, affectionately referred to by the diminutive Nessie. So far, a lot of theories, but nothing definitely identified.

'Ness' in the Hebrew language means 'miracle', and that makes me think of the many 'miracles' in that area of Inverness (the small capital city of the Scottish Higlands) and the Lochness lake, due to the phenomena of Nessie.

First and foremost, it brings a lot of tourists who bring a lot of money and so help develop the place . The area attracts people of high quality : scientists, journalists, photographers and others who 'put the region on the map'. Moreover, from my brief visit here in the past, I recall feeling an unusual inner peace (calm, relaxation) and an unusual silky quality of my skin and hair. To my mind, it is the presence of something undefinable (Nessie??) about this part of Scotland that makes one feel here good in a strange way.

Anyway , the lake (Lochness) is long and straight and there's a castle (ruins of a castle, more precisely) on its bank. From what I'd read and heard, the sightings of Nessie occurred mostly in the area around this Urquhart castle. Well, I have a theory of my own . It goes like this: I say there's no smoke without fire. Too many testimonies indicate the presence of some special creature. some sort of animal or fish with both aquatic and non -aquatic skills in this area of the lake. To get to it , the castle of Urquhart will have to be completely demolished; this castle is, in my humble opinion the key to the mystery . But that won't happen , the demolition, as the castle is considered an historical, preserved site - part of the scottish heritage. So, the mystery will probably remain unsolved for a long, long time - perhaps forever.

Here are some photos with the castle and the lake from various angles.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Taste of Sweden

Palm trees welcome at Ikea

Greta Garbo, Ingmar Bergman, Ingrid Bergman - famous swedish names associated with great movies, Alfred Nobel - famous swedish scientist, the name behind the Nobel prize, "Abba" band, eurovision song contest winners - famous swedish name in lovely lively music, and... Ikea - famous swedish name in home design concept. Not bad, Sweden.

Ikea's concept is based mainly on two principles: 1. flat pack of furniture and of smaller home stuff, which reduces expenses of transportation, minimizes damage , and frees storage space. 2. do it yourself work by the consummer - assembly of components with the help of wordless instructions (drawings). Due to this concept, the consummer usually gets good quality for a relatively low price.

2009 Ikea catalog front cover

Once a year, Ikea sends to each address a colorful , 300 page catalog that displays their home products for that year and includes a lot of useful information.
The merchandise is designed by Swedish designers (the materials and work though come from many countries on the globus). At the store's restaurant one gets to eat "swedish meat balls", and there's also a tiny food shop which sells swedish made food products. such as frozen fish, crackers, coffee, chocolate.

The trip to Ikea is not always rewarding. Last year , for example, I bought a non -electric , originally designed kettle, which was supposed to shriek when water reaches boiling point. Well, it did not shriek, and I felt cheated.

Before I set out to Ikea store, I have no way of knowing whether I'll find the catalog items I'm looking for, as checking with the store by phone is a nightmare, and their website tells you only if a certain item is or isn't in the inventory. If the required stuff (usually small items) is in the warehouse, they won't fetch it for you, and will probably tell you to come next week or so.

Ikea is the only store, as far as I know, that requires to see your ID card when paying with credit card. That really makes me nervous. I hide my ID card so well that I can't remember in which one of the pockets I put it, and now with all the packages, they expect me to start looking for it. Ha! And God forbid if there's a mistake in the bill; they don't fix it on the spot but send you to the customers' service where you have to take a number and wait in line.
Luckily, there's delicious ice cream at 'the end of the road' and this makes it up for everything.

warehouse store structure