Open Thread for the threading of openness. And thread.

It’s yours….

Standard FYI clause: I generally wait about 2 hours after Ta-Nehisi would typically open a thread (roughly noon, EST, back when such a thing was typical…!), and if none is forthcoming, I put one up here.

204 Comments

  1. baiskeli

     /  July 27, 2012

    One of the best ads’s I’ve ever watched, and very inspiring.
    http://vimeo.com/45968190

    The cost of being Batman
    http://www.moneysupermarket.com/money/the-cost-of-being-batman-infographic.aspx

    And today’s Slimeball of the year award goes to Wall Street Journal Editor James Taranto, who Tweeted the following

    I hope the girls whose boyfriends died to save them were worthy of the sacrifice.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/25/james-taranto-wsj-editor-tweet-aurora-shooting-girlfriends-boyfriends_n_1702217.html?utm_hp_ref=media

    • Electronic_Neko

       /  July 27, 2012

      I’ll pile on with a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=YLO7tCdBVrA

      If you liked the Mr. Rogers remix, you need to watch the Bob Ross remix from PBS.

      • baiskeli

         /  July 27, 2012

        That is freaking phenomenal!

        • Electronic_Neko

           /  July 27, 2012

          Isn’t it wonderful? I had a terribly dispiriting day yesterday. The video made me feel so much better!

    • taylor16

       /  July 27, 2012

      That ad is awesome.

      Speaking of the Paralympics, does anyone know if there will be anywhere to see coverage of the games other than the one hour of soft-focus, “look at all of these broken people actually doing things!!! Isn’t that great??” shitshow that NBC will show? Surely there’s someplace else to watch the *actual* games, right? Anyone have any ideas?

    • The Batcave is the one thing that causes the entire Batman mythology to collapse in on itself. It cannot exist.

      • There’s one thing? And it’s not even “he’d piss himself in that suit”?

        • That’s a solvable problem. Build some sort of filtration system into the suit; all the money in the world ought to buy a nice one. The Batcave is Bruce Wayne’s one piece of unmovable infrastructure that can’t be shipped in from overseas, and that needs a whole lot of man-hours to build on-site.

  2. baiskeli

     /  July 27, 2012

    First post!

    I’m off to buy a Lottery ticket.

    • Play 16-17-18-19 on something. That actually came up in the Maryland lottery yesterday. Needless to say, no one won.

    • I blame myself.

    • I don’t get the context, but — good luck. Remember, real friends split their winnings with their real friends.

      I’m just saying.

  3. dmf

     /  July 27, 2012

    for fridays and citE deep in the heart:

    In Texas the lid blew off the sky a long time ago
    So there’s nothing to keep the wind from blowing
    And it blows all the time. Everywhere is far to go
    So there’s no hurry at all, and no reason for going.
    In Texas there’s so much space words have a way
    Of getting lost in the silence before they’re spoken
    So people hang on a long time to what they have to say;
    And when they say it the silence is not broken,
    But it absorbs the words and slowly gives them
    Over to miles of white-gold plains and gray-green hills,
    And they are part of that silence that outlives them.
    Nothing moves fast in Texas except the windmills
    And the hawk that rises up with a clatter of wings.
    (Nothing more startling here than sudden motion,
    Everything is so still.) But the earth slowly swings
    In time like a great swelling never-ending ocean,
    And the houses that ride the tawny waves get smaller
    As you get near them because you see them then
    Under the whole sky, and the whole sky is so much taller
    With the lid off than a million towers built by men.
    After a while you can only see what’s at horizon’s edge,
    And you are stretched with looking so far instead of near,
    So you jump, you are startled by a blown piece of sedge;
    You feel wide-eyed and ruminative as a ponderous steer.
    In Texas you look at America with a patient eye.
    You want everything to be sure and slow and set in relation
    To immense skies and earth that never ends. You wonder why
    People must talk and strain so much about a nation
    That lives in spaces vaster than a man’s dream and can go
    Five hundred miles through wilderness, meeting only the hawk
    And the dead rabbit in the road. What happens must be slow,
    Must go deeper even than hand’s work or tongue’s talk,
    Must rise out of the flesh like sweat after a hard day,
    Must come slowly, in its own time, in its own way.

    “In Texas” by May Sarton

    • CitizenE

       /  July 27, 2012

      Yeah, driving across the state is like that, the sky is so big here it hurts the eyes, and the wind, thank god for the wind, and the lightning and thunder that says cool water is coming in fat drops, cause what everyone else in the nation calls extreme weather is just any old summer day, day after summer day, the summer having levels–first it just gets hot, up in the nineties by eleven, and it gets down to the seventies by dark, but soon enough even though it cools off at night, and stays cool till nine am, it gets hotter and does not cool off till way after dark, then there’s one day, say in late July that speaks of August in which it’s in the 80s before dawn, and however hot it gets in the middle of the day, so hot people have to duck in and out of it so quickly, it gets really hot, a different category of hot, hotter every hour starting at 4 pm, maybe you drive a couple of airconditioned blocks to visit family, watch tv, and driving home it’s 10 pm and 90 degrees out there, everyone blandly noting, August is much hotter here than July. Maybe you get a gray day with wind, the wind that bakes the sandy gumbo into concrete, while the drought and the water bill contend for your attention. People next door could be a million miles away, everyone indoors, not even the sound of kids in the neighborhood, laughing and playing their vacation time days out there. Quiet–almost eerie, so many trees bearing flowers.

  4. Electronic_Neko

     /  July 27, 2012

    I’m going to a couple fancy-ish night time events this weekend. I like perfurme, but I don’t have any good “night” perfumes. I stopped by Macys today to get a sample of Poison. The saleswoman reacted so skeptically that I now feel unsure about my choice, even though I like the scent. I think it’s working on me, but now I’m surpressing the urge to poll my co-workers.

    • Bookwoman

       /  July 27, 2012

      It’s a very strong, ’80s fragrance, but if you like it and it works….

    • baiskeli

       /  July 27, 2012

      That’s the perfume my mom used to wear so I’ve come to associated it with her.

    • Electronic_Neko

       /  July 27, 2012

      Yes, after some more googling my sense is many people have strong (negative) associations from when it first came out and that it’s very easy to wear too much. I wanted something really bold, but I’m being cautious and applying only a very small amount

      • socioprof

         /  July 27, 2012

        You might take a look at Flowerbomb by Victor and Rolf or anything by Thierry Mugler. They are more modern takes but all pretty bold and distinctive.

        • Electronic_Neko

           /  July 27, 2012

          Thanks for the suggestions! I think Flowerbomb may have some crossover with several other perfumes I own…I’ll have to check it out.

  5. efgoldman

     /  July 27, 2012

    ani must be off Guybrushing.
    Hey, here’s some news!

    The value of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s stake in the company he founded has plunged $7.2 billion since its initial public offering.

    Zuckerberg was worth $19.1 billion, based on the IPO price of $38 a share back in May. He sold 30 million shares on the stock’s debut day in order to raise cash to pay taxes, but he still had 503 million shares at the conclusion of the IPO.

    http://money.cnn.com/2012/07/27/technology/zuckerberg-net-worth/index.htm?hpt=hp_t2
    Of course, those numbers are fantasyland. If someone like Zuckerberg, or Bill Gates or any other one-percenter did a major selloff, it would cause such a major crash in the price, the stock he had left might be worthless.

    • No, I’m neicling-ing!
      I made them a CD. I hope it goes over well.

    • Ani is the best at Guybrush-sitting because she sends us pictures. The silly kitty apparently has yet to destroy the entire apartment or to hurt himself while jumping from things.

      • I should warn you–he did knock down all the stuff off your over-the-toilet shelf, including the toiletpaper.

        Nothing broken though.

  6. In which I muse about the fact that while a lot of whiskies have been coming out at higher strength without chill filtration, which is good, their prices have also been rising precipitously, which isn’t so good for consumers.

    http://cocktailchem.blogspot.com/2012/07/win-some-lose-some-thoughts-on-shift.html

  7. Ian

     /  July 27, 2012

    On Monday I turned in the Memo of Death. If it’s in my power to get my boss fired, that memo will do it. I wrote it because we’ve reached a point where he’s really harming the organization, and things are getting worse by the week. I felt okay with it partly because I had a lot of faith in our HR director–I knew she’d take it seriously and treat me fairly. Bad timing! While I was composing my memo, she was getting promoted into a whole other department! I have no idea who this interim guy is…

    • efgoldman

       /  July 27, 2012

      I trepidate in your general direction.

    • O_O

      Oh noes!

      Hopefully the new guy will turn to her for guidance. Good luck!

    • koolaide

       /  July 27, 2012

      oooh. Good luck to you. FIngers crossed.

    • Ouch. Hope you survive the office politics.

      • Ian

         /  July 27, 2012

        Thanks. I think they’ll have a hard time getting rid of me. I’m legally protected for much of what I raised. My concern is that they’ll talk to my boss but ultimately not do anything, so he’ll know I let them know about his, uh, managerial quirks, but we’ll both still have to work together. That’s going to lead to some remarkable disfunction for the entire office.

    • helensprogeny

       /  July 27, 2012

      Oi. Fingers crossed.

    • chingona

       /  July 27, 2012

      Well, it’s either going to be awesome – or very not awesome. Hoping the new guy can see what’s what and handles everything professionally.

    • taylor16

       /  July 27, 2012

      Oh no! Can you possibly contact the old HR person to see if she can grease the wheels at all with the new guy? Especially if she knew about the situation you’re addressing…

      • Ian

         /  July 27, 2012

        Not really. It goes through our on-site HR person, who I know will take this seriously, so it wouldn’t be right for me to go over her head. The problem is that I raised stuff that should get attention from multiple departments (it was a 10-page memo, plus attachments), so it needs to go up to the HR director and then outwards from there. I made a lot of work for a lot of people, if this gets handled correctly. I just don’t know if the guy is any good, and even if he is, no doubt he’s already overwhelmed just from taking over the new position.

    • watson42

       /  July 27, 2012

      Yikes. I hope HR deals with this appropriately; your boss sounds like a real piece of work. I am seding good thoughts your way!

      • Ian

         /  July 27, 2012

        Telling anecdote: A while back I drafted an org chart for my boss. One of the conditions of his continued employment was reorganizing his unit so that he would not be everyone’s direct supervisor. So I put the director was at the top of the chart with a line down to my boss, showing that my boss answers to the director. Boss took the chart, crossed off the director, and wrote in Governor Sean Parnell as his direct supervisor. He was not joking. Parnell doesn’t even know this fool’s name.

  8. Blog flogging on my own blog!

    1) I just wrote about voter ID laws, poll taxes, and assuming everyone has $50 just laying about: https://emilylhauserinmyhead.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/on-voter-id-laws-and-poll-taxes/

    2) Over at Open Zion, I wrote about the mess that is a Palestinian child’s life: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/27/more-on-palestinian-children.html

    3) Earlier at Open Zion, I wrote about how NO MR. ROMNEY THE JEWS WILL NOT BE VOTING FOR YOU http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/25/democrat-jewish-still-voting-for-obama.html

    4) A couple of weeks ago, I created a delightful and informative alternative itinerary for Mr. Romney in Israel (and now I wish they’d had me write it for today!) http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/12/an-alternative-travel-itinerary-for-mitt-romney.html

  9. chingona

     /  July 27, 2012

    Tomorrow I am taking the offspring on a five-hour plane trip. Wish me inner calm and strength.

    • Bookwoman

       /  July 27, 2012

      And Benadryl? I never used it on my kids, but some of my friends swore by it.

      • chingona

         /  July 27, 2012

        There is a small percentage of people that have the opposite reaction. It makes them terribly hyper. My husband was one of them as a kid. My MIL has a truly harrowing story about a benadryl-fueled roadtrip from Denver to Chicago. She pulled up at the house, handed her children to their grandparents and drove away in tears.

        Another friend’s daughter also has this reaction to Benadryl. They learned this on her first trip to Israel.

        I’ve always been scared to try it.

        • I’ve used it with no ill effect with my kids — but (on someone’s advice, I don’t remember who) I tested each of them first, when they went down for a nap sometime before the trip.

          A bad missed nap? Unpleasant but survivable.

          A bad flight? HELL.

        • David L

           /  July 27, 2012

          This is why I’ve always heard to test the Benadryl beforehand.

          • chingona

             /  July 27, 2012

            One of these years, I’ll plan well enough in advance to actually do that.

        • socioprof

           /  July 27, 2012

          I have had both experiences myself and figured why risk it with the kids. I tend to bring a ton of favorite snacks and two tons of new (and cheap) toys when I fly with little ones. How old is the offspring? I might be able to offer more specific tips.

          • chingona

             /  July 27, 2012

            6 and 2. The six year old can entertain himself somewhat, but can be rather moody and unpredictable. The two year old is very loud and expressive, whether she’s happy or sad.

          • chingona

             /  July 27, 2012

            And yes, we do lots of snacks and some new activities. I also will swipe my credit card for the older one to watch the in-flight movies/television if they have that. It will be fine. It will just be a long day.

            • Do you have a laptop you could bring that you could play DVDs on for him? I am all about the screens on long flights.

            • socioprof

               /  July 27, 2012

              Apps–if you’re into that–could be your friend. My 2 y.o. sounds a lot like yours. We just got back from Orlando and my iPad and his dad’s iPhone came in handy. If you have any applicable (hehehe) devices, downloading some preschool apps, books, and videos might help to shorten the day. Playdoh, crayons, and Color Wonder markers and paints were also part of my carryon kit.Kiddo#2 got a kick out of a travel-sized Hungry Hungry Hippo game I bought. Maybe something like that and you and both of the offspring could play at the same time.

              Can you get the six yo to take some ownership of his entertainment–a trip to the (comic) bookstore where he can choose a new stash of books just for the plane? Or new toys or activity sets that he choses and packs in his bag himself?

              Good luck and have fun.

              • chingona

                 /  July 27, 2012

                The little one loves play-doh very, very, very much. That’s a good idea … just put down the tray and let her at it.

    • Maybe Jordan can recommend a whiskey for you…

      • chingona

         /  July 27, 2012

        Fortunately, my parents have a fairly well-stocked house.

        • koolaide

           /  July 27, 2012

          hmm. I read Gonzai’s statement as being maybe there’s a whiskey to give your kids for the flight…but, um, that’s probably b/c I’m a terrible person…

          • taylor16

             /  July 27, 2012

            When I was very young, I used to get a lot of chest colds, and coughing would keep me up at night. My mom used to give me a tiny glass of homemade “cough syrup” that would soothe my throat and let me sleep. It got to the point where I *loved* it and would ask for it even if I wasn’t coughing. “Mom, can I have some of the honey lemon syrup??”

            It wasn’t until I was an adult that she confessed she’d been giving me (tiny amounts of very weak) Hot Toddies, so that I’d calm down and sleep.

            This explains SO MUCH.

            • chingona

               /  July 27, 2012

              My dad would give us spoonfuls of whiskey for bad coughs. It worked but I hated it because burning. He said we had to take it because we were keeping him up.

          • I was meaning, whiskey for Chingona so she survives the flight. But the kids could probably use some, too.

    • chingona

       /  July 27, 2012

      Can I just complain for a moment about the TSA? Here’s the problem. I do not have the most well behaved kids on the planet. Maybe that’s my fault. Maybe it’s not. Either way, it’s not getting fixed between now and Saturday morning. With the security lines, they’ve already had to “be good” for an hour to an hour and a half – before we even get on the plane.

      • We’re traveling to DC in December. It costs significantly more, and takes a bit longer (not as much as you’d think, given the time it takes for security theater), but we’re takingv the train. No kids, just a cute little old couple.

        • mightbelying

           /  July 27, 2012

          Even though you can fly out of TF Greene? It is officially my new favorite airport. I am so sad that Southwest discontinued their service from PVD to PHL😦 I’d be on that all the time!

          • Southwest goes to Friendship (I guess Thurgood Marshall, now) which is
            really Baltimore. It means the kids have to drag up there and get us. We are really too old and broken to drag heavy, awkward bags on and off the train to DC. Also too we really don’t like Southwest. Too, too cramped.
            We like Jet Blue, but that involves going to Logan.
            Full-fare airlines are out.
            We can drive to 128 station, exactly 30 highway miles from the house, there’s parking (not cheap but cheaper than the airport), get right on the train without security theater, have big, comfy seats, decent food, walk around freely, and land at Union Station. Easy peasy.

            • mightbelying

               /  July 27, 2012

              That makes sense. My next trip I am taking the train, because it will save me $114. I’m taking my first trip on JetBlue in 2 weeks, I am excited for it (but less excited about my first experience at Logan).

              • The problem with Logan is, its severely limited for expansion, because in the 1920s they built it on an island. So all the access roads loop back on each other in a very cramped space. Up until the late 60s, they filled more harbor on the one side, and took parts of the neighborhood on the other by eminent domain, but a bunch of very feisty old Italian ladies and the environmental movement put a stop to that.
                http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-09-29/news/30216978_1_neptune-road-neighborhood-photos
                From Wiki:

                Massport’s relationship with neighboring communities has been strained since the mid-1960s,[9] when the agency took control of a parcel of residential land and popular fishing area near the northwest side of the airfield. This project was undertaken to extend Runway 15R/33L, which would later become Logan’s longest runway.[10] Residents of the neighborhood, known as Wood Island, were bought out of their homes and forced to relocate. Public opposition came to a head when residents lay down in the streets to block bulldozers and supply trucks from reaching the intended construction zone.[11]idents lay down in the streets to block bulldozers and supply trucks from reaching the intended construction zone.[11]

  10. … I have a complaint that I want to complain but probably should not complain publicly, so if you could all just say “Yes, that’s really annoying, there, there, Emily” I’d be very grateful.
    😡

    • koolaide

       /  July 27, 2012

      That is ridiculously annoying. I can’t believe that happened/exists/etc. You are totally right.
      😉

    • baiskeli

       /  July 27, 2012

      If I were there, I would give a stern talking to to the (man | woman | child | object | alien | spirit | god | demon | golem | zombie) that is annoying you.

    • Ian

       /  July 27, 2012

      Honestly, I don’t even know how you keep your temper. I would probably light that dude’s house on fire.

    • caoil

       /  July 27, 2012

      It’s complete and utter rubbish, Emily! Bah! You are right to be irritated!

    • What! That person/organization/corporation/publication/organism should be forced to apologize/exposed for the scum it/they are/pay a hefty fine/ be forced to take accordion lessons!

      • well, when you narrow it down like that…

        • Well, I’ve got it narrowed down to either her SO did something annoying – as men can, (on rare occasions) do – or her chainsaw won’t start.

    • socioprof

       /  July 27, 2012

      ““Yes, that’s really annoying, there, there, Emily””

    • JHarper2

       /  July 27, 2012

      Emily, I just can’t believe that S***. How you remain so calm in the face of such provocation is both beyond me and an example to us all!
      Have a calming manatee.
      http://calmingmanatee.com/

    • I just came back to this, and you all made me laugh!

      Yay, you all!

      xoxoxox!!

    • Darth Thulhu

       /  July 27, 2012

      In Illinois, I believe it is now legal to launch your antagonist into the Sun for that behavior. Worth investigating.

      Also, “yes, that’s really annoying. There, there, Emily”

  11. Just found this on YouTube: momma cat adopts a squirrel and the squirrel is so imprinted to the momma cat that the squirrel can purrhttp://youtu.be/fHT1nAX46dM

  12. efgoldman

     /  July 27, 2012

    Why don’t we have press like this? They don’t even have a First Amendment.

    And if you try that in U.K., especially, don’t expect your grievous breach of etiquette to go unnoticed by the tabloids. The Sun, legendary for its scorching headlines, summed up Mr. Romney’s escapades thusly: “Mitt the twit –Wannabe US President Romney in Games insult, but David Cameron insists: We’ll show you.”

    http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2012/07/27/12993004-challenge-mitt-romney-and-the-deathly-hellos?lite

    • baiskeli

       /  July 27, 2012

      Whoah!! Holy Cow!

      Say what you will, the U.K media does not fool around. I remember listening to them flay a U.S politician a couple of years ago.

      Politician went in like a lion and came out like a skinned traumatized lamb.

      • I’m enjoying this as much as anyone but let’s not fool ourselves, the UK press are complete fucking scum.

        • baiskeli

           /  July 27, 2012

          Depends.

          Some are, some are not. The BBC is pretty good, and their reporters definitely do not take well to being bullshitted (I think the reporter who did the flaying in question in the interview I listened to was from the BBC).

          What I’ve noticed is that a lot of mainstream U.S reporters go into interviews with the purpose of making friends while getting answers, BBC reporters go in with the purpose of getting answers.

        • Which makes all this expert opinion then, right?

    • efgoldman

       /  July 27, 2012

      And Weigel points out that Romney and his “staff” have done it to themselves:

      Compare this to what the British press has termed the “Romneyshambles.” By chance, I was in a BBC studio yesterday morning to do a radio interview with another outlet. Non-reporter staff—people who did not cover the campaign, much less work on it—were chattering about Mitt Romney. The general tone was that, yes, they’d had some problems staging the Olympics, but that was up to them to talk about, not some American who’d run his own Olympics 10 years earlier. As I waited, I saw Prime Minister David Cameron—who is, remember, the first Conservative PM since 1997—make a backhanded slap at Romney. “Of course it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” he said. Later, like everybody else, I saw London Mayor Boris Johnson—also a Conservative!—make fun of “some guy called Mitt Romney” in front of a massive Olympics crowd.

      http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2012/07/27/how_the_olympic_romneyshambles_restored_my_faith_in_gaffes.html

    • CitizenE

       /  July 27, 2012

      Mitt the Twit with pint of bitters, goes down real slow.

  13. Heh!

    When I put up an open thread, I always just assume that all the “new comment” announcements in my email are re: the open thread.

    I have 10 comments in the Voter ID thread! Perhaps I should peep them.

  14. CitizenE

     /  July 27, 2012

    The late Lamine Konte, a member of the griot caste, from Senegal, was the first African kora foli (master) to reach European and American audiences in the 1980s, introduce to Americans by Stevie Wonder. Nowadays the kora, originally a shepherd’s harp, that in more recent centuries has fulfilled the role that the piano has in European based music, especially as popularized by the extraordinary Toumani Diabate from Mali is quite well known world wide. Konte also played a number of traditional instruments, was a powerful declaimer of poetry, and wrote scores for several African films. It’s hard to find most of his music any more, though Euro vinyl dealers have it. I wanted to post some examples of his dramatic declaiming style of African poetry in French for T-N, but here is a short, contemplative piece featuring a sung vocal and the mother of all vibraphones, the Mande royal instrument, the balaphon:

  15. efgoldman

     /  July 27, 2012

    Homeward bound. Be back in an hour or two. You children behave yourselves.

  16. Neocortex

     /  July 27, 2012

    This seems appropriate for Emily’s blog. I just got back from my Birthright trip to Israel (specifically, the Israel Experts LBGTQ/Allies trip). It was, all in all, a fantastic experience, though not without aspects that were worthy of criticism. I am incredibly curious to hear what Emily thinks of this comment!🙂

    Unlike a lot of Birthright trips, we did discuss the Occupation (I was pleasantly surprised when our amazing tour guide, on the second day, very matter-of-factly referred to the West Bank as the “future Palestinian state”). We were introduced to the narrative of the Naqba and why Palestinians would feel that way, and had the separation wall pointed out to us when we passed by it. We had a bit of discussion on the Palestinian refugee camps and the difficulties of living in them, though not very much. We had a seminar of the geopolitics of Israel’s ever-changing borders. But I felt like our discussion of the Occupation was pretty superficial, and there wasn’t enough of it. We had no Palestinian speakers talking to us about it. We barely touched on the settlement movement, and we had minimal discussion of Palestinian civilian casualties, Israeli military/police abuse of Palestinians, Palestinian (and Israeli Jewish ally) nonviolent civil rights activism, or price tag attacks. I want to be clear that what we got was head and shoulders above what is typical for Birthright trips – Israel Experts is sort of known for that – but this was still definitely disappointing to me.

    On the other hand, between our tour guide, our speakers, and our mifgash Israelis (age peers, mostly current IDF servicemembers, who spent half the trip with us) we covered other Israeli social issues and problems far more than what I would have expected. We discussed economic stratification (especially in Tel Aviv) and Israel’s 2011 social protests in some detail, mostly during our tour of Tel Aviv’s poorish Florentine district. We discussed Sudanese refugees (some of whom we saw in the lawn/park areas when we went to a Tel Aviv gay bar) and the race riots against them from several weeks ago (I actually had a wonderful conversation with one of our Israeli soldiers about this). One of our Israelis told me a bunch of stuff that I didn’t know about racism from the Israeli left against mostly-Christian Korean-Israelis. I learned about the tracking of Thai and Filipino migrants into farmwork and domestic jobs. We talked (mostly with our Israelis rather than the tour guide or speakers) about marginalization and poverty among Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews, and the Mizrahi Black Panthers of a few decades ago. We saw illegal Bedouin villages made of trash and scrap metal as we drove through the desert, and our guide explained what they were. We learned quite a lot, from several different perspectives (including a Palestinian one) about the good and bad of being queer in Israel, and particularly, in Jerusalem, where we visited their LBGT center. We talked quite a bit about the divisions between ultra-Orthodox and other Israeli Jews, and unfortunately got to see this division a little too up close and personally when one of the kibbutzes whose hostel we stayed at turned out to be a religious kibbutz hosting a Haredi conference at the same time they were hosting us. One of our speakers was an Arab-Israeli Muslim woman (there were some very different and interesting reactions to that seminar afterward among the participants), and apparently Israel Experts is basically the only Birthright trip organizer, or close to it, that brings an Arab speaker to talk to its participants. When we went to Mount Herzl and saw Rabin’s grave, we talked about what happened to him, and the security measures that are taken to prevent vandalism of his grave.

    We also did a lot of your standard non-political things. We ate local food, floated in the Dead Sea, went to gay bars (one of which featured a drag show) in two cities, went shopping in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Be’er Sheva, went to the Western Wall, visited an olive press in the Golan Heights and a bunch of things in Safed. We went on a water hike down one of the tributaries that feeds in to the Jordan and got into a splash fight with enthusiastic Israeli schoolkids. We went rafting on the Jordan and swam in the Mediterranean on Tel Aviv’s gay beach. We went to Mount Herzl (Israel’s Arlington National Cemetery equivalent, very emotional) and Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum). We went to the Hall of Independence, saw the actual stage and seats from which Israel declared independence, and listened to the audio recording of Ben Gurion’s declaration and the first playing of the Israeli national anthem after Ben Gurion’s declaration. We climbed Masada to watch the sunrise (we had to get up at 3:15am). We went on a camel ride and a donkey ride, and spent a night in a rather Disneyfied Bedouin tent (but with real Bedouins living in the village, one of whom talked to us at length).

    I found the day that we went to both Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem to be very unbalanced and emotionally manipulative in a way that none of the other days were. But I don’t think it was on purpose – they’re right next to each other, so most groups go to both in the same day. It wasn’t that any of the content was bad, but that there wasn’t discussion of, say, the Occupation, to balance it out.

    • I’m on deadline for something, but I’ll read and reply later – pinky swear!

    • That all sounds amazing.

      • Neocortex

         /  July 27, 2012

        It was…see my follow-up comment below for more details, including more queer-specific ones.🙂

    • When I try to imagine any trip/process which would give a picture of the U.S. which is as balanced and comprehensive as this, my mind blows. If only we could. (sigh)

      Who would vandalize Rabin’s grave, sympathizers with his assassin, or just people (teenagers) who might vandalize any prominent grave?

      Strikes me though there was no coverage of Israel’s First World economy?

      • Neocortex

         /  July 27, 2012

        Yeah, it’s hard to picture it in the US (and it’s not common in Israel either – I picked Israel Experts as my Birthright trip organizer specifically because they had this sort of reputation, while most Birthright trips are pretty propagandistic). I also think it would be harder to do in the US just because the US is so much bigger – Israel’s the size of New Jersey geographically and roughly the size of New York City in terms of population. You can get all over Israel in a bus in ten days.

        The vandals are hard-right-wingers/sympathizers with the assassin, according to our tour guide. Rabin’s grave is in a whole section of the cemetery for past prime ministers, and it was the only one with security cameras and a warning sign about surveillance pointed at it and a chain around it.

        There was some discussion of Israel’s thriving technology sector, especially green tech. And as I said, discussion of economic stratification. But now that I think of it, not much of its economy as a whole. It was pretty clear that it was a developed economy rather than a developing one from looking at the cities, if any of us hadn’t been aware of that, but we didn’t really go into it.

        I’m writing a follow-up comment in reply to my first one with a few things that I left out of the first one.

    • mightbelying

       /  July 27, 2012

      I went with IE in March and had a very similar experience. (I wonder what the odds are that we had the same guide, yours sounds similarly awesome …). For what the trip is, I feel like I got as much of a balanced experience as I could expect – it raised lots of questions, and I at least had a sense of when I wasn’t getting the full story and would want to find out more on my own. I’m really glad I went and so grateful I had the opportunity. It’s pretty mind-blowing, if you think about it. Without Birthright I probably never would have gone to Israel in my life. But now that I’ve gone once, I’m pretty motivated to try to make it so I can go back.

      • Neocortex

         /  July 27, 2012

        I thought it was about as balanced as I could expect too, but I was a little surprised at how it was balanced. I had expected more Occupation-related content and less content about Israel’s other social justice issues. I’m delighted that I got the latter, but still would still have liked more depth re: the former. The people in our group had a very wide range of backgrounds when it came to prior knowledge about Israel, and I hope that they will realize that there were parts of the story missing re: the Occupation.

    • Neocortex

       /  July 27, 2012

      A few things that I forgot to put in the first comment:

      There was some coverage of Israel’s prominence in technology, especially green and agricultural technology. We visited an organic farm in the desert a few miles from Gaza and learned about irrigation processes invented by Israelis (and got to eat many varieties of herbs and cherry tomatoes). We learned about the tech used by the olive press that we visited in Golan Heights and how it had invented some very environmentally beneficial products. We saw vast quantities of solar panels in the desert.

      Environmentalism came up in another context at the Dead Sea – our tour guide discussed how climate change is causing it to disappear, and the impact that that is having on local residents and businesses. And how it makes it unsafe to walk on some of the ground in the area, because there are big air pockets under relatively thin layers of ground and you can be sucked in, quicksand-style, pretty quickly.

      We were there during the year’s biggest heat wave and it hit 110 degrees during three days of our trip. On the first of those days, women were required to dress modestly (sleeves, long pants) because we were visiting Sefad, a very holy city where Kabbalah was invented, and they didn’t want us to offend the locals. I was very annoyed about walking around a furnace in sleeves and long pants. Furthermore, all my long pants are black, and the obvious failure mode here hadn’t occurred to me when I was packing.

      We got to see both Gaza and Syria from hilltops a few miles away (in the case of Syria, from an old sniper bunker with a bunch of cool tunnels underneath). We actually went through an Israeli-controlled part of the West Bank briefly, on the way from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem, and got lunch near Jericho, but it wasn’t announced that we were in the West Bank because the tour guide didn’t want to scare people. A couple of us caught on when he announced that we were entering Jerusalem from the east, and I asked him about it in private later.

      Our Shabbat was conducted by a lesbian rabbi, with her longtime partner and two cute but unruly children in attendance. She was an immigrant from the US, and she and her partner had immigrated to Israel because her partner, a Caribbean native, couldn’t get a green card. She talked with us at length and was smart and cynical and extremely positive about queer life in Israel (though when I asked her, she was less positive about life as a feminist in Israel). She also did an optional Jewish Renewal-style chanting service with us, inspired by the chanting in Sufi (Islamic mysticism), which I thought was neat.

      The queer center that we visited in Jerusalem was very neat. Our group was split in half, and each half got to talk with two speakers. The speakers for my half were an older Ashkenazi man, a longtime gay activist, who had immigrated from the US in the ’60s and who had founded the center in the first place, and a young gay Palestinian Christian medical student. The latter of these was especially interesting to me, as he was the only Palestinian I actually got to hear from on the trip. His story was extremely sad, and I was not surprised, but definitely exasperated, to hear that he had just about given up on dating Jewish guys because when he had tried half were overtly bigoted and the other half fetishized him in very creepy ways (why would you tell someone that you want to sleep with them because “getting f***ed by the enemy is so hot”?). Being a med student, he also knew some about the relationship between the trans community and the medical establishment in Israel, and was able to describe it. The older man knew a great deal about the history of queer activism in Israel and particularly in Jerusalem. He talked about the intersection of queerness and various ethnic and religious identities (e.g. Ethiopian, Russian, ultra-Orthodox) within Jerusalem.

      Our tour guide explained last year’s social protests and the country’s economic stratification through the lens of taking us on a graffiti/street art tour in Tel Aviv’s Florentine district (the “canvas of Tel Aviv”), which is where he’s from. He explained that in Israel the dominant graffiti tradition is sociopolitical, and would point out specific pieces to us and explain their sociopolitical content and context, with occasional personal anecdotes.

      I slept for 13 hours last night after getting back.

      • mightbelying

         /  July 27, 2012

        Did you meet Avraham (the artist formerly from Detroit) in Sefad? I hear he is a Birthright staple.

        • Neocortex

           /  July 27, 2012

          Hmm. That sounds vaguely familiar but I don’t remember him. Maybe he was mentioned but I didn’t find him. There was a terribly loud and obnoxious guy from Toronto working at a Yemenite food stand in Sefad; I remember him.

          You wondered if we had the same tour guide. Did yours share a first name (though not the spelling) with a famous Roman emperor?

          • mightbelying

             /  July 27, 2012

            You’d know him if you’d met him. He’s like a Kabbalistic stoner.

            And nope, our tour guide’s name was Yael. Unless there was a famous Roman emperor Yael. In which case: Yes. (I really wanted to introduce my tour guide to Emily because they would totally be friends but could not find an awkward way to say ‘here is the blog and email address for this chick I kind of know from the internet and I think you will like her.’ Probably just shoulda done it.)

            • Neocortex

               /  July 27, 2012

              Okay, yeah, not the same person. We had Niro, not Yael.

              I wasn’t under the impression that Kabbalistic stoners were really all that uncommon, but anyway I don’t remember this one. Though we went to Safed on day 3, so it was a while ago.

              • Just read all of this, and oh my word you guys fit in A LOT!!

                It sounds to me like you had just about the optimal Birthright Experience! It would have been better had you gotten to hear more from the other side, of course, but it also sounds like that door was left open (rather than not acknowledged or actively slammed shut, as it is on other Birthright trips), which is at least a start, because people now have more information than they started with and can move forward and learn more. I’m so glad you got a chance to do this!

                Three things:

                1) Now that you’ve been, I highly recommend that you read The Hour of Sunlight: One Palestinian’s Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker, the memoir of Jerusalemite Sami al Jundi – it will supply some of what you missed by not really getting to meet Palestinians. It’s not as good as meeting people of course, but you’ll read it now with entirely different eyes and much deeper understanding than you would have a month ago. If you’re in touch with anyone from your group, recommend it to them, too. It’s really terrific. City of Oranges is also really good, kind of a history of the conflict as told through the social history of Jaffa.

                2) When you went to Independence Hall, you were very close indeed to one of my old apartments! I love that area so much.

                3) Speaking of environmentalism in Israel: Did you go to Kibbutz Lotan, by any chance?

                oh and 4) Yeah, the sink hole problem around the Dead Sea (and the fact that we’ve reduced it to two, smaller seas through sheer avarice) is just heartbreaking.

                • Neocortex

                   /  July 28, 2012

                  We didn’t go to Kibbutz Lotan. We stayed at three different kibbutzes, but didn’t really get to interact much with the people in any of them. The first was Beit Alfa. The second was some religious kibbutz whose name I’ve forgotten. The third was a kibbutz in the Negev whose name I’ve also forgotten.

                  Where, actually, is Independence Hall within Tel Aviv? I didn’t pay attention to the street names, and it doesn’t seem to be on my complimentary map, weirdly enough.

                  It was interesting how people had very different reactions to the Arab-Israeli woman who spoke with us. Some (including me) felt that her view of Israel was awfully rosy, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, we should have had, say, a second Arab speaker, to give a more representative sample. Others were upset (in a horrified way, not a defensive-toward-Israel way – there didn’t appear to be any major Likudniks among the American participants) because her account was worse than what they expected – they were distressed that segregation between ethnic and religious groups was so much the norm that she would take it for granted. I guess it depends on what you expected Israel to be going in. I’ve been reading Ha’aretz intermittently for years, while at least one person in the group was previously unaware that Palestine was an occupied territory rather than an existing country, and a few hadn’t previously realized that there were Arabic citizens of Israel (hilarious confusion: people thinking as we rafted down the Jordan river north of the Galilee on day 2 that we were going down the border between Israel and Jordan, because there were Muslim women in hijab also in the water).

                  My conversation with one of our Israeli servicemembers about the race riots against the Sudanese refugees was quite interesting. It came up during our geopolitical seminar, and while I otherwise thought the guy who led it was great, I challenged him pretty loudly for downplaying the percentage of Israelis who agreed with its sentiments (he complimented me later). Afterwards, this particular Israeli, a North African Mizrahi lesbian, approached me, explaining that she was from South Tel Aviv, where the riots happened, and had some context. She talked about poor Mizrahim having been shuttled into slums in South Tel Aviv when they first came to Israel, and how the people in the government and the residents of posh North Tel Aviv neighborhoods were all nice and liberal and concerned about the poor Sudanese, but they didn’t actually what to see them in their own neighborhoods, so they dumped them on South Tel Aviv, and the addition to what was already concentrated urban poverty bred crime and resentment, and politicians looking to make a name for themselves took advantage of the resentment to rile people up. Also that a protester had caused a big freakout in a posh liberal North Tel Aviv neighborhood by paying for a bunch of Sudanese to be admitted to a community pool, highlighting a bunch of people’s hypocrisy when they freaked out about this.

                  I told her about similar situations in the US involving, for instance, Mexican immigrants, or black Americans, where politicians prey on the economic insecurities of lower-class white people to bring out racism and nativism, and it was a good conversation. I suggested that it would be awesome if the South Tel Aviv Mizrahim and the Sudanese refugees banded together and marched jointly on North Tel Aviv. She agreed that that would be cool but said they’d all be arrested immediately, which I don’t doubt. Israeli and US society: different and yet alike.

  17. I know way more about this whole Kristen Stewart situation than a human being reasonably should and, I’ll be honest, a lot of that is my fault.

    • socioprof

       /  July 27, 2012

      The knowledge or the situation? Either way, I won’t judge.

      • Unless Pattinson was subconsciously picking up my brain waves that his girlfriend is a terminal Sour Face and he could do better, then probably just the knowledge. Why do I click on these links? I do not care about these people and their shitty movie series. And yet I do.

        • taylor16

           /  July 27, 2012

          I hardly ever pay attention to celebrity gossip, and I clicked on like ten links to different stories about it yesterday too. I don’t know why. Apparently it has some subconscious pull on the world.

          • I’ve created an anti-celebrity/reality show gossip force field. It makes me immune to whatever is out there. Kristen Stewart? Never heard of her before the ABC news story the other night, Don’t care if I ever do again.
            The folks in the office who endlessly discuss “Idol or “Dancing”? The filter stops them right away.

        • (I’ve been avoiding them, but I’m a little more knowledgeable about the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes thing than I wish I were. The Scientology piece of it just pulls me in).

          • There’s something about the simplicity of the KStew thing that I appreciate. It’s just a regular person problem, but played out in public. She fucked her old boss, her boyfriend found out, and now they’re Splitsville. It’s just that her boyfriend found out by reading it in Us Weekly or whatever instead of swiping her phone to check her text messages.

            • koolaide

               /  July 27, 2012

              The whole “getting caught making out w/ old boss by photographers” part isn’t quite regular person problems. But yeah, much easier to follow than Jackson family crazy. Crazy which I could almost see as being created just to get them back in the headlines….

    • Ian

       /  July 27, 2012

      What I know about this whole Kristen Stewart situation constitutes everything I know about Kristen Stewart.

      • helensprogeny

         /  July 27, 2012

        And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • koolaide

       /  July 27, 2012

      Yeah. Well I know way more about this most recent Jackson family bruhaha than I should.

      • I can’t really piece that one together and mostly haven’t tried, although it seems completely bugfuck.

        • koolaide

           /  July 27, 2012

          Is it even possible to piece together anything that the Jackson family does? Bizzaro-land.

      • Electronic_Neko

         /  July 27, 2012

        I confess to following the Jackson story. But this Stewart/Pattinson thing is so much in the headlines that it’s hard to avoid learning about it, even though I’m trying.

    • CitizenE

       /  July 27, 2012

      It’s those freckles, whoever heard of Snow White having freckles?

      • Freckles on Snow White… does seem to miss the original point, yes.

        I have to say, in a totally de-rail-y way, that the most awesome costume I saw at Comic Con this year was a young black lady dressed as Snow White. ROCKING IT.

  18. dmf

     /  July 27, 2012

  19. Ian

     /  July 27, 2012

    Characteristic Yellowman: Slackness => earnestly singing Brook Benton’s “Endlessly” => slackness (in the space of a few seconds).

    • CitizenE

       /  July 27, 2012


      rootsy, and my favorite Jamaican tune ever.

    • dmf

       /  July 27, 2012

      as long as there are no calls for the death of boti boys I say let the slackness flow

      • dmf

         /  July 27, 2012

      • Ian

         /  July 27, 2012

        You really don’t hear that batty boy nonsense until the 90s. Not sure what started it.

        • dmf

           /  July 27, 2012

          sadly it has a long and ongoing history on the streets, and in the hills, but since the Buju implosion it doesn’t make the airwaves in the US and the UK (except on pirate)

          • Ian

             /  July 27, 2012

            My Peace Corps site was in Waterhouse, I played guitar in a reggae band while I lived there, and I lived about 100 yards from a major sound system, so I’m well aware. Not sure what you mean by “on the streets.” You’ll hear plenty of virulent homophobia from the country’s most powerful politicians and journalists. Some think of it as a dancehall problem because that’s what we hear over here, but dancehall is no more to blame than the churches, probably less. It’s everywhere.

            • dmf

               /  July 27, 2012

              just pointing to where most of the music is coming from

              • Ian

                 /  July 27, 2012

                I know. (Although, generally, when people talk about “the hills” they’re talking about the hills around town, which means rich people, which is not where most of the music is coming from. Unless we’re talking about Sean Paul.) That’s why I tried to point out that this isn’t really a problem with the music. It’s so pervasive across all parts of Jamaican society that it would be bizarre if it didn’t manifest in the music. To me that’s an important distinction.

                What’s weird to me is that you don’t really hear it on record much prior to the 1990’s. I wonder why that is. I didn’t live in Jamaica until 2001, when the stuff was already in full swing. I wonder if it was a backlash against the first real public efforts to talk about gay sex seriously, which would have been attached to the first efforts to confront HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. I can’t offer much support for that theory, but it’s all I’ve got.

  20. David L

     /  July 27, 2012

    I have seen a couple pictures on the web from the Olympics opening ceremonies. It looks as much like the set of the Teletubbies as the artist’s renderings I saw early in the week. I suggest you contact your friendly neighborhood pharmaceutical dealer now to place an order for something to enhance the experience this evening.

  21. Just so you know–it was around 95 degrees today, hot and sticky, and they don’t really air-condition the offices here. I know I complain about being cold in Seattle–and yeah, I am cold most of the time–but this was not a pleasant contrast. I had to go back to my hotel room, turn on the air conditioner HIGH, and take a shower to cool down after I got off work.

    Yikes.

    Well, tomorrow it’s supposed to be about 25 degrees cooler.

    • …and a storm just rolled through about an hour ago, and the temperature dropped like 20 degrees. Thunder, lightning, high winds, very heavy rain. It is still going on, but the rain has tapered off.

      We don’t get storms like this where I live. Usually it’s just increasing or decreasing rain, with scattered lightning at best.

      • caoil

         /  July 27, 2012

        Oh! I am jealous. Maybe you can send it north, to me?

  22. dmf

     /  July 27, 2012

  23. koolaide

     /  July 27, 2012

    If being the first woman to represent your country in the Olympics is not amazing enough, Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi will compete while also 8 months pregnant

    • mightbelying

       /  July 27, 2012

      That is awesome, but oh my god the comments.
      I know we have been over this before but apparently I needed a refresher. So remember everybody: UNLESS YOU ARE AMONG THE HORDE, DO NOT READ THE COMMENTS!

    • socioprof

       /  July 27, 2012

      COOL!!! And I had no idea that shooting was an event. And I am reminded of a student who literally accused me of making up the nation of “Malaysia” a few years ago in the classroom. I think of her whenever there are others who are caught up in the fantasy of believing this is an actual place.

      • baiskeli

         /  July 27, 2012

        A former boss thought I made up Addis Ababa. I was talking about flying through there and they said “You mean the place in the X Men movie?”. Up until then they thought it was fictional.

        • helensprogeny

           /  July 27, 2012

          headfuckingdesk. That’s just pig-ignorant.

        • CitizenE

           /  July 27, 2012

          Not Addis Ababa, but the flavor: Dub Colossus at Womad 2010 in New Zealand:

  24. caoil

     /  July 27, 2012

    Note to anibundel: sandals have arrived, test run scheduled for work day next week. Will report back, Captain.

  25. watson42

     /  July 27, 2012

    Special Hell. Olympics announcers on broadcast television also need to go to Special Hell. Why do they insist on inane yammering? (Is that redundant?) In normal circles it would be incredibly rude to talk during a performance, so why the hell can’t they shut up? This is the 21st century. Can’t NBC have the commentary scrolling across the bottom of the screen so I can appreciate the performance without this idiotic blathering?

    I don’t have cable but I need to find some way to watch the Olympic without all this crap…plus I like to watch entire events, and ones that aren’t in the mainstream. *sigh*