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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

'Digging' at Bezalel market

No one really knows where the good stuff, sold here at ridiculous prices ,comes from. No one dares ask how this merchandise from well-known store chains and top fashion designers has turned up here, and who are these people that sell it. It is believed that there's a worldwide net which gets hold of the fine stock of surpluses. and distributes it , probably by dubious means, to its members in various countries . As for the people who sell it - my favorite place, for instance, is run by a drug addict, quite a character.

The price is a great bargain, but there's work to be done. One has to dig for the precious items deep into piles of clothes displayed both on the outside stands and inside the shops. And, in my case, when I get home I sometimes have to activate my sewing machine and make a few adjustments to the newly purchased items. But every effort is worthwhile. It's such a delight to wear a "Marks & Spencer"outfit , knowing that you paid for it five dollars only ! And I don't wish to know how the stuff got here. There, I said it.

"Bezalel" , a tiny clothing market (also of some home appliances and gifts) is situated in the very heart of Tel-Aviv city, close to its bigger brother, the 'Carmel' general market. It includes a short street and two small lanes. The attached photos were taken in the main street area.

I've received two kinds of reactions to one of the photos (guess which):

Men : ' Oh well, You had to capture only half of her and ruin a good photo'
Women: 'Why on earth did you have to bring in that half milk cow and ruin a good photo'
The truth is I haven't even noticed the 'a la Dolly Parton girl ' when I pointed to shoot. I'm definitely in favor of showing the whole thing. not half of it.

trouble with the nose or with the smell?

she's got lovely Love earrings

religious orthodox women looking for kids' clothing

interesting patch on the pants of the young woman

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The lonely fisherman

catching fish

See the red spot on the steep rock? That's a young man dressed in a red shirt catching fish in the Bistrita (Bistritza) river in north east Romania. The name Bistrita has its origin in the slavic word 'bystrica' meaning serene water. Serene indeed, and not only the water, but the whole landscape surrounding it. It's not the same serenity one experiences at the Dead Sea, for instance, but still ,serene enough for a relaxation vacation and for catching fish.

Anyway, I saw the fisherman from the back and wanted to capture him from the front. So I went up the bridge, but I coudn't see him at all from there. I stretched my arm in the proper direction (where he was supposed to be) with camera face down, and clicked. Got him. (Who says I have no photographic skills? LOL). When enlarged , it is quite a nice picture with a cute , lonely fisherman. I like it.

It so happened that on that day, we had fish (good source for Omega3 oil) and mamaliga (polenta porridge) for dinner. With the local sparkling mineral water , it all tasted great.

road bridge over Bistrita seen from below

the road bridge

the serene waters of Bistrita

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Yungfrau - forever young and cool

Where I live, summers are very hot and humid, so I often try to escape the sticky reality by letting my imagination run freely to cool, icy places I once visited. My favourite in this category is the Yungfrau, in the Swiss Alps. The german word 'yungfrau' is translated as 'virgin'. Indeed, there's a virgin kind of beauty about this highest mountain peak in Europe; all white and impeccable as if untouched. ( Sorry for the poor color quality of the attached pictures- the snow should, of course, be white, not yellow).

When you reach the summit (by clog rail which runs inside the mountain tunnel,) you witness a stunning view: bright blue skies, white snow capped mountains, the sun shining from above (sunglasses - a must). You feel you're on the Top of the world ,not only on the top of Europe, and that's a terrific feeling. The Yungfrau range of mountains has in fact three giant peaks, but only the highest among them bears the name of Yungfrau , and it is below this peak that trains arrive from the nearby charming little town called Interlaken, a well-known resort in the area.

Yungfrau with its snow, ice, and glaciars is the perfect place to dream about in these torrid days.

Oh, dear God , please have mercy upon our souls and send us now some of that mountain blessed coolness, so that we can enjoy the outdoors , and give up air conditioning, indoors!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rural Touch

"Don't trust women and don't trust the clutch"- this piece of 'advice' was written on the back of a car in a village I visited recently in north -east Romania. Even in the 21st century, it appears there are still places where people have more confidence in horse -drawn wagons than in cars.

The guy in the first picture was waiting to 'upload' me in his rudimentary horse- drawn cart and take me to the village where I was supposed to meet with an old, confined to bed member of his family, someone who ,as a young peasant lass , used to come to the small town of my childhood, to help my mother clean the house and do the laundry.

Short after the ride started, the horse raised his tail and ...released a very bad smell in our direction. I looked at the driver; he seemed cool. Well, he's probably used to it, but I was almost asphixiated.

Anyway, after a few minutes I felt better and started to enjoy the green scenery around, the vast, open spaces with or without sheep and cows, humming to myself the only line I knew from a song that mentions horse and carriage: Frank Sinatra 's " love and marriage, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage" . I was not very comfortable. I had to hold on to the man's arm with one hand , and to the bench I was sitting on ,with the other one, but neverheless I felt great. Besides, the ride was in a gentle tempo and lasted only about twenty minutes.

vast green fields

A couple of hours later, after exchanging kisses and presents with the target woman , and eating a copious meal with incredible dishes served by her daughter-in-law , I was to go back to town with the guy's niece in an even simpler cart (the third picture), as he was in a hurry to get to a wedding in an adjacent village. Well, it was me , the big adventurer, who insisted on a full cart journey, so I had to take what came along. This time it was even funnier. Me and the niece behaved like two bad schoolgirls shouting nasty words at the poor horse (I''m so ashamed!) , laughing , and leaving to God to protect us from the poor country road.

Back at the hotel, I thought about the horse. What a hard life the poor animal has, what an exploited creature, pulling people and loads in any weather. There are probably cases of malnutrition and general maltreatment too. I hope there's an association somewhere representing horse rights as there is for human rights, only something far more efficient.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Joyful evening at the Fortress

Place - the medieval fortress 'Cetatea' (the citadel) on a high hill overlooking the city of Brasov. It has four towers, a canon, and a 81 m deep well in the courtyard, weapons hanged on walls, statues of warriors.
The occasion - dinner at the restaurant of the citadel followed by a performance of a troupe of artists from the local Opera House of the city of Brasov. The place was packed with tourists sitted at tables on both sides of a long hall.

Well, the food was delicious, the wine opened the senses widely, and we were all happily waiting
for the main dessert - the artistic performance with arias from well known operas, choreography with a pair of dancers, and fine instrumental music.

I liked it all, the music, the voices, the dances - except for one thing - the way the three male opera singers looked. They were out of shape (the belly stood out) and dressed in a sort of depressive outfit. The younger among them
was dressed adequately for his love duets with the soprano, but the size of the tuxedo was big on him so he looked lost in it, and his shoes had ridiculously long, sharp tips (The three didn't know I'll be in the audience LOL..) .

the senior singer

the middle-aged singer

the junior singer, in a duet with the soprano

Apart from that, everything was just fine, considering the fact that the performers (for whom it was a way of earning some extra money) didn't have here the optimal stage conditions available at the Opera House in town.

the red-head mezzosoprano

the dancers

The programme ended with the orchestra playing some dance music to allow the guests of the restaurant to engage in dancing. Medieval walls or not, the happening within these walls was modern and lively.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The nuns' silent neighbouress

Ashes, dust, will remain of you
As this has always been the rule
Nothing brings you into this world
Nothing takes you away from it
Nothing of you will remain behind

Veronica Micle
4.v111 1889

(free translation from romanian - june 2009)

On one of the hottest days of last June, facing the tombstone of the young beautiful poetess Veronica Micle, I felt a deep sadness penetrating my soul. What a loss of talent and beauty ! I think the words, engraved on her stone, refer to the physical aspect of things . She herself left behind two daughters, poems, prose , admirers.- that's certainly no Nothing.

Veronica committed suicide two months after her lover (the great romanian poet Mihai
Eminescu) died. She was burried in a tiny garden at the Varatec Monastery. This all women's monastery (with about six hundred nuns), surrounded by meadows and forests , housing fine paintings and furniture, always attracted writers, poets and scholars who found here the proper atmosphere for rest and creative work - and in Veronica's case, final peace.

Veronica and Eminescu, whom she lovingly called Emin, first met at her house where she hosted a literary salon. After the death of her husband (thirty years her senior), the two came close to each other planning to marry but , for some reason , it didn't happen. They both died in their late thirties.

There's some new material (letters) recently released by descendants of the Micle family, and it will probably serve as the basis of a great literary, romantic movie.


view of Veronica Micle's grave -( june 2009)

the main entrance to the monastery (hidden by the van)

nun selling products of the monastrey's own bakery (2009)

people visiting the convent - (june 2009 )

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Greetings from Vlad Dracul (Dracula)

Dracula - portrait

Bran Castle on top, souvenir market at the bottom

Dracula as a 'sex symbol' (postcard)

Vlad Dracul, who inspired the Dracula vampire movies, was a real figure in romanian history of the 15th century. As prince of Wallachia he had his headquarters at Bran Castle on the top of a high rock overlooking the charming city of Brasov.

At the foot of this rock , there's now a souvenir market based on the images of Dracula and the castle. His face is printed on almost any imaginable and unimaginable item: T-shirts, cups, magnets, postcards, paintings, sculptures, keychains, dolls, wooden-boxes, tableware pieces, masks, etc...

I knew from history lessons that Vlad Dracul the third was considered a brave soldier who fought against the Turk and German invaders , as well as a just and efficient ruler. Nevertheless, on my recent visit in the area I was rather surprised by the affection people have for his personality and by the enthusiasm with which they talk about him. Surprised , because after all , Vlad Dracul ('dracul' meaning 'the devil' in romanian) was a cruel , ruthless man.

His post-mortem name Tepes (pronounced:Tzepesh) originated in his favorite weapon
- the stake. Impalement was his preferred method of torture and execution of opponents and of people disobeying the rules, hence the name of Dracula the Impaler. They say he was concerned quite a lot with woman chastity. Adulterous wives and maidens who lost their virginity were punished by his famous method of impalement. Brrrrrrrrrrr!

The romanians acknowledge all that, and present horror shows from his activities. Yet they do try hard to soften this side of his character by claiming that it was impossible to maintain order without heavy punishment of the bad guys , and that the Germans who hated Vlad, were those who invented and promoted his image as a blood thirsty prince and vampire.

Anyway, while there, I bought some souvenirs asking the vendor to pack them carefully as they were for presents. 'And what's for you' , he asked . 'Nothing' I said . 'I took some pictures of the castle, and as for Dracula, I could think of some nicer men with friendlier faces to look at' . 'He could be revengeful, you know, visit you in your dreams', warned me the vendor.

Well, I don't want him in my dreams, do I. So, to be on the safe side, I decided to have a round magnet with Dracula's face on it . I think I'll stick it on the front door of the fridge hoping his face will keep me away from opening it too often , and thus help me with the diet I need after eating the terrific food in Dracula's kingdom.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

...get that out of the way

I'll be away for a little while, somewhere in east Europe, on a sort of small 'roots trip' . It will start with locating the graves of my grandparents, cleaning their tombstones, litting candles, saying prayers...I'll sure miss your fabulous blogs from which I learn so much. In the meantime, I leave you to read and enjoy Woody Allen's brilliant tiny piece of writing (enlarge the picture).

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stars gone out at the Herodeion

The Herodeion , on the south slope of the Acropolis of Athens in Greece, is a stone theatre that has hosted many musical concerts and famous artists throughout the years. Here's one of the most intriguing musical events: George Dalaras , the popular greek singer ,and Emma Shaplin, the young french Diva, in a....surprising duet with "Spente le Stelle" ("The stars are gone out").

(I must confess, I take seriously any performance of this particular song as I have very deep, traumatic feelings for it.. I was in the middle of listening to this song , when I got the news of the untimely sudden death of my brother. Later on, I 'stole' its music for a poem I wrote in his memory and I worked very hard on my voice (in the shower) to be able to sing it, at the memorial ceremony. I didn't do it in the end as it would have been a Fiasco.).

Orchestra. The guy with the bandanna should have definitely changed his outfit into something more appropriate to the nature and atmosphere of the 'Spente le Stelle". The drummer is cute and energetic, but that's not the kind of drum beat that usually comes with this kind of song. I'm interested in the Choir which is of utmost importance here ,echoing the events like in an ancient tragedy. We are, however, not offered a decent close-up of the choir, and that's a pity.

Dalaras opens. Oh ,my God, he looks and sounds distracted. Maybe he's had a glass of ouzo before the concert. I then take a look at Emma. I don't believe it! She's smiling, that's pure blasphemy! The song is a tragic one, it's about a betrayed, broken heart, bitter tears, despair, hopeless dreams, empty night, crying love... Perhaps she also had a glass of ouzo. Two orchestra players sitting right behind the singing couple, are engaged in intensive chatting. How dare they ?in the middle of the concert? They should be fired ! What instruments are they playing anyway, I see no instruments. Ah,well I remember now the two faces from another concert, they're bouzouki players, and there's probably no part for bouzouki in this piece, so they are jobless and feel free to chat.

The two guys seem to do more than just chatting, they are gossiping. Since I like a bit of gossip myself, I follow their glances . Oh, oh , I see... Emma and George are now holding hands. That explains it all; the distraction, the smiling, the loving eyes. Emma, poor Emma, He's got a reputation, He''ll break her heart. I must admit, however, they look lovely together and their kiss when leaving the stage made me forget all about the weeping song.

Oh well, I wish the diva, Good Luck with the charming greek prince, and forgive her for not delivering the song (which brought her big fame some ten years ago ) in a proper manner. I can understand.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Ben Bernanke (the chairman of the Fed) is printing dollars like there's no tomorrow.

Stanley Fischer (the Governor of Bank 0f Israel) is buying dollars like there's no tomorrow.

OK - Could be there's no tomorrow. With the intensive spread of nuclear power and the global warming which brings about natural disasters - the end of the world seems pretty real. Add to this, the major fact that God is very angry with us people, for violating the order and rules of this universe with migration ,pollution ,and globality - and you get the whole picture.

But what if there is a tomorrow ? Well, in this case, it won't have anything to do with the dollar. Let's face it, America is a superpower of debts.
The World Bank is quietly looking for a substitute to the old green bill, just in case...

So why are these two respectable economy professors playing the game of printing and purchasing dollars? It's my humble opinion that they won't tell us why because they have no idea why. They're both stuck in some old theory regarding the Depression of 1929-1933 and their every second word is "growth" -whatever that means.

Bernanke was Fischer's doctoral student. Israel got the teacher, America got the student ,and the world got a big monetary and economic Headache.