Friday, July 28, 2006

Tom Cruise Decoded

Perusing the New Yorker archive yields so many treasures! Firstly, here is a LONG but worthwhile piece on Hezbollah by Jeffrey Goldberg. Written in 2002, it's still relevant today. Secondly, Anthony Lane comes through in this pithy assessment of Tom Cruise's alien-like qualities in this review of Mission Impossible III. Enjoy:
Since the last installment of “Mission: Impossible,” Cruise has found somebody to marry him for real, and to bear his child. This scarcely unusual news would hardly be worth rehearsing, were it not for the kinks and wavers that have been observed in the arc of his stardom—and “M:i:III,” like many blockbusters, would be nothing without its star. The Cruise fan base has been shaken by a number of public pronouncements, although some of us have merely been confirmed in our original suspicions that there was something about this actor that was not quite of this earth. The stiff-necked jerk of his motions; the grit of his bared teeth; the eyes switched to perennial full beam but never quite blinking, even during tears; his ability to remain totally upright when sprinting, as if carrying an invisible egg and spoon—what are these, if not the techniques of an alien life force who has just graduated summa cum laude in advanced human behavior? Just who was scared of whom, precisely, in last year’s “War of the Worlds”?
It's true! He never blinks! And I've always been mesmerized by his run (there's an opportunity for him to run in every movie. He probably even runs in Born on the Fourth of July before he's wheelchair-bound) and now it all makes sense. Lane has cracked it wide open. TC is really an ET.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The New Miami Vice: all accents, not enough bikinis

David Denby's got an amusing review of Miami Vice in the New Yorker this week. Usually the chuckle-worthy movie reviews are courtesy of Anthony Lane but this time around DD holds his own. A taste:
Mann’s narrative style in this movie is terse, abrupt, and fragmentary, his dialogue little more than advanced drug-dealer-and-cop jargon, verbal hardtack spat out of the corner of someone’s mouth, some of it by Latino and Chinese actors with accents thick enough to make you long for the bad old days when Americans played most of the foreigners in Hollywood films and delivered their lines in accents that any Missourian could understand. “Miami Vice” risks, and often achieves, a kind of clenched impenetrability. The movie must have six variants of an ugly ruffian speaking into a cell phone words like these: “The deal is going down now. Fifty keys at three thousand each. Only the location is changed. The second barge on the Gowanus Canal. You have twelve seconds to get there.” The picture turns dealing into a kind of expensive, high-speed scavenger hunt. Sometimes the geography is so confusing that we wonder how the film crew managed to show up at the right location.
This movie sounds flamingo-tastic!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Finding a Slice in the Holy Land

New York-based pizza blog Slice travels to Israel this week and filed this report on "Green Door Pizza" a bakery in the Muslim quater of Jerusalem's Old City. Egg-yolk pizza with "cow meat"? Sounds deelish.

Etgar Keret Puts it in Perspective

Israeli writer Etgar Keret has a thought-provoking op-ed in the NYTimes. He gives insight into what most Israelis (and their counterparts abroad) are feeling. Here's a snippet:

And no, it’s not that we Israelis long for war or death or grief, but we do long for those “old days” the taxi driver talked about. We long for a real war to take the place of all those exhausting years of intifada when there was no black or white, only gray, when we were confronted not by armed forces, but only by resolute young people wearing explosive belts, years when the aura of bravery ceased to exist, replaced by long lines of people waiting at our checkpoints, women about to give birth and elderly people struggling to endure the stifling heat.

Suddenly, the first salvo of missiles returned us to that familiar feeling of a war fought against a ruthless enemy who attacks our borders, a truly vicious enemy, not one fighting for its freedom and self-determination, not the kind that makes us stammer and throws us into confusion. Once again we’re confident about the rightness of our cause and we return with lightning speed to the bosom of the patriotism we had almost abandoned. Once again, we’re a small country surrounded by enemies, fighting for our lives, not a strong, occupying country forced to fight daily against a civilian population.

And in his Huffington blog Bill Maher gives the presdient props for cutting through the bullsh*t like the no-nonsense cowboy that he is. He writes:

I have to say, watching George Bush talk about Israel the last week has reminded me of a feeling that I hadn't felt in so long I forgot what it felt like: the feeling of pride when your president says what you want your president to say, especially in a matter that chokes you up a bit. I surrender my credentials as Bush exposer - from the very beginning - to no man, but on Israel, I love it that a U.S. president doesn't pretend Arab-Israeli conflict is an even-steven proposition. Lots of ethnic peoples, probably most, have at one time or another lost some territory; nobody's ever completely happy with their borders; people move and get moved, which is why the 20th century saw the movement of tens if not hundreds of millions of refugees in countries around the world. There was no entity of Arabs called "Palestine" before Israel made the desert bloom. If those 600,000 original Palestinian refugees had been handled with maturity by their Arab brethren, who had nothing but space to put them, they could have moved on -- the way Germans, Czechs, Poles, Chinese and everybody else has, including, of course, the Jews.
Compare the president's response to that of Spain's prime minister who has basically destroyed any dimplomatic relations with Israel with stunts like this.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Jerusalem Restaurant Review: Canela

Address: 8 Shlomzion HaMalka St.
Tel: 02-622-2293
Business Lunch: Sun-Thurs 12:00-4:00pm, 2 courses 68NIS

Canela is a fairly new kid on the Jerusalem fine-dining block. Gone are the days when Arcadia and 1868 had to suffice for a fancy night on the town. The recent influx of the French (many of whom were restaurateurs or chefs in their previous locales) and tourism dollars pumping their goodness back into the economy means that Jerusalem can now sustain a restaurant of Canela's caliber. Sporting a crisp James Bond-like decor (LOVE the striped wallpaper - why don't more Israeli restaurants embrace wallpaper?) and impeccable food with equally matched good service, Canela provides a sexy and elegant dining experience, worth the hefty price tag.

The menu selections are not necessarily ground-breaking. The starters consists of the usual roasted eggplant with techina appetizer (making appearances on every high-end menu in town), along with sashimi and soup selections. But the lamb kebob with warm chick-pea salad (pictured above) was fulfilling on every level. The chickpeas and buckwheat provided heft and the creamy techina added just enough tang to the herb-infused keboblets. The sliced roast beef starter with garlic aioli was robust and superbly rare, a wonderful way to commence the meal.

The veal tagine main course was lavish and well-executed, arriving in a rustic metal pan and wafting sirenous aromas on its way to our table. The meat was tender, the vegetables stewed to perfection and the Moroccan-influenced sauce delectable and earthy. Another main course of goose leg confit with shallot confiture was appropriately rich and dignified, the sauce providing a nice accompaniment to the creamy mashed potatoes served with the dish.
Two glasses of house red and white (Recanati, offered at 20NIS/glass for the lunch menu) completed the decadent meal.

Canela also boasts private dining rooms in their upstairs level and on any given day one may catch a phalanx of impeccably-suited European businessman or the certain Russian-billionaire-owner of a certain Jerusalem soccer team exiting after a fitful meal at Canela.

Live Missile Chats

Is the current crisis the "most blogged about war"? Lisa from On the Face thinks so. Live blogging during simultaneous missile attacks is one way to share culture across borders.

Monday, July 17, 2006

When All You Can Do Is Read.....

New Republic editor Yossi Klein-Halevi has a must-read editorial on what the media has dubbed the "Crisis in the Middle East." He points out that unilateral withdrawal wasn't all about doves and peace, but about creating firm, internationally sanctioned borders through which Israel could defend itself:
For the Israeli right, this is the moment of "We told you so." The fact that the kidnappings and missile attacks have come from southern Lebanon and Gaza -- precisely the areas from which Israel has unilaterally withdrawn--is proof, for right-wingers, of the bankruptcy of unilateralism. Yet the right has always misunderstood the meaning of unilateral withdrawal. Those of us who have supported unilateralism didn't expect a quiet border in return for our withdrawal but simply the creation of a border from which we could more vigorously defend ourselves, with greater domestic consensus and international understanding. The anticipated outcome, then, wasn't an illusory peace but a more effective way to fight the war. The question wasn't whether Hamas or Hezbollah would forswear aggression but whether Israel would act with appropriate vigor to their continued aggression.
Also worth reading is Ari Shavit's editorial in Haaretz on Israel's most justified war.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Make Way for the Ice Aroma Stampede

Aroma comes to America! Actually just to New York! And they changed the names of the sandwiches. But the coffee's still great! And according to Canonist, the store has already become the requisite site to hold anti-Israel protests. It's interesting given the fact that the coffee chain is downplaying it's Israeli roots with this new venture
The target audience, at least during the early stages, is Israelis living in New York that are familiar with the taste of the Iraqi sandwich. "“We realize that during the first few weeks we will rely on Israelis that are familiar with Aroma and this will remind them of home," says Milevitski. "But in the long run, we are counting on the American crowds. Aroma will not be an Israeli coffee shop in New York. We don'’t have a menu in Hebrew, we will not have newspapers from Israel, and we will not showcase the local Israeli channel on the television screen."
I wonder if ordering in America will have the same rapid-fire banter ordering in Israel requires. The plethora of questions are designed to drive you insane. For example:
"Ready to order?"
"Yes. One latte"
"Small or large?"
"Umm, small. Also, an eggplant sandwich."
"The single, the double, or the quadruple ( 4 halves)"
"Oh, the double...I guess"
"Which type of bread?"
"oh, umm, what kinds are there?"
(sweating) "dark bread, yeah dark"
"just forget it, ok, forget, it, I'll just go to the falafel stand!"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In Praise of Crocs

Here's an essay in Haaretz magazine about the bewildering popularity of Crocs clogs. Like many Haaretz articles the piece starts in one place and ends at a completely different point - the horrors of Tel Aviv humidity. But no matter, this actually points to an interesting conclusion about the beguiling neon footwear - they may be conventionally unattractive, or "ugly" to some people, but they are 100% the most comfortable shoes ever created. Ever. And for someone with an amphibious lifestyle ( i.e. constantly navigating water sports or rainy climates) they are truly brilliant, whimsical, and fun. If only the world would embrace wackiness more often. The spongy material is akin to walking on a firm marshmallow. The playful holes provide much needed A/C for overworked toes. There are those who refuse to give in, who shun the mere suggestion that perhaps the candy-colored stompers could be respectable footwear. And to those I say - endure the agony of deFeet.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Solar Power Fun

I've got solar power on the brain. Maybe it's the barrage of hurricane-season brain-melting media onslaught, or maybe it's the fact that using solar power seems so space-age modern Jetsons-like while being simultaneously so simple. Plus, sun power is free, it's clean, it's basically sinless and ain't nuthin this girl likes better than some free sinless power!
Check out the Solio, a compact solar charger that when fully charged can provide up to 14 hours of power for a cellphone, iPod, digital camera, etc. It attaches to your backpack and charges as you make your way through this hot, hot world. There's also Solar Cookers for those times when the electrical power grid just isn't making that vacum-sealed pack of Sag Paneer piping hot. These nifty products combined with approx. 15 bottles of wine round out my hurricane checklist. Flashlights, shmashlights, batteries are so overrated.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Jerusalem Film Festival Opening Night

Every year the Jerusalem Film Festival screens its opening film in the "Sultan's Pool," a valley situated between the majestic walls of the Old City and the historical Yemin Moshe neighborhood. For a few hours that night the air above the valley is filled with the shouts, music, and dreams of whatever cinematic experience is projected onto the inflatable screen. The festival is a prestigious event, attracting film personalities from all over the world, with many international productions premiering. This year Jeff Goldblum and Debra Winger welcomed the crowd and officially opened the festival.

It's a sublime film-watching experience despite the fact that everyone shivers and freezes their tushis off EVERY year even though they know it cools down in Jerusalem at night. Luckily this year's movie did not inspire too many walk-outs as most of the crowd was glued to their bleacher seats, huddling to stay warm.

The film was especially significant given that it was a hometown tribute - "Someone to Run With" based on the book of the same name by David Grossman, a book that is so widely read and revered by Israeli teenagers and young adults that comparisons to Catcher in the Rye are bandied about. The plot centers around the misunderstood teenagers that populate Jerusalem 's street kids/musicians scene. Earnest and sincere, the film had a raw, unpolished look that allowed the powerful performances and narrative to shine through. The film was a resounding success with the audience whispering along to the breathy Israeli songs on the soundtrack and trying to figure out which Jerusalem locations they recognized. It was the equivalent of watching the home team grandslam in the most breathtaking stadium on earth.

Jeff Goldblum is SO excited to be in Israel. The country has been smitten with him ever since his role in Jurassic Park. He had us at "mathematician."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mazta Brei, T-shirts, Jewish Robots

Things to check out if feeling the need to know what other young Jews are doing/thinking: - A collective blog of young Budapestian Jews. It's in Hungarian, but it's clear those Hungarian Jews are involved in some interesting convos. Particularly beautiful is "Matza Brei Remix" pop-art illustrations of a how-to-make-matza-brei recipe.
- This San-Fran gal's company has been around for years but those t-shirts still inspire chuckles and thoughts. - animations, cartoons, funny videos.