Friday, June 30, 2006

My Affair with the City, My Affair with Mitzi's Sister

Good Afternoon! Or should I say good morning? *It is now 3:15pm, and the northern bear groggily rises after his ritual catch-up sleep from working the night-shift*

Back at the front desk again today after a little holiday to my favorite city: the "T dot Oh", which I went to for the cheif purpose of checking out some open stage action.

City Hall Posted by Picasa

The first day my plans fell through. I had heard of a place called Oasis on the corner of Robert and College, which is no more. So instead, I met my friend the Zonne, who cheered me up about the prospects of being happy despite not having taken over the world with her pleasant smile and good words. I found some pieces of wire on the sidewalk and weaved what I called a "chain-link of hope" which I attached to the fence while she ate some pizza in the great outdoors. I also had a good discussion with the cook from Massimo's about the poor state of music these days. He like it when the rock gods like Jimi Hendrix were wailing away on the guitar...but now too much of music is recycled garbage and Canadian Idol.

So my artsy theme was starting to work out and the adventure was just beginning. Despite the several million people Toronto is home to, it has a strange cosmic feature which allows you to encounter people you know on every corner. The Zonne and I went to a book store and perused then off to a patio on a roof in a place called Poppers. The one person I ran into on the staircase, of all places, was Mega, a girl I knew in high school, so I met her man, introduced them to my crew, and we talked about Life, the Universe and Everything

A good night is always complimented by a soft couch, and the one at the Zonne's was perfect for surfing. Her cat softly nuzzled against my hand to wake me up in the morning and I was off again to wander through Kensington market, China town and all around. I walked down to the business sector to meet Mitzee and Jason for a coffee at Straybucks and on my way I caught some Torontonian character: someone had removed the "Ade" from the "Adelaide" street sign, so it just said "laide". I wondered if it was a recent statement left behind from the queer folks during Pride. I also said hi to local street hero, Zanta, who was flexing muscles at the corner of University and Queen. He said "I'll be back next week!" I'm sure he will.

Zanta Posted by Picasa

To nourish my wandering carcass, I got some street meat and topped it with a lot of sauer kraut, mustard and HP. I didn't care that I was eating eyes and lips -this was authentic! During business hours, mostly everyone I knew from the city was working like people are wont to do, so I tooled around con solo and chanced upon this, a Billy Talent concert held outdoors (they are a great Canadian band) at the headquarters of CityTV/Muchmusic. They are on a cross-Canada tour, scheduled to hit Vancouver tomorrow.

Devon Soltendieck, the Muchmusic VJ was asking them lots of questions which I listened to from across the street, and through the din of passing street cars and patrolling officers. He asked questions like whether they ever got to an age where they just felt comfortable, whether people had tried to get them to sell out or coordinate their costumes for marketing purposes. In a way, these seemed superficial questions coming from the boyish meterosexual but the VJ is very good at his job. I would have hated being singer Ben Kowalewicz, who navigated most of the interview. Some questions seemed hard enough or just silly. Then again, they were coming from a young audience. If I were in the band's position, I might have simply said "next" to some of them. Questions like: "What's your top three albums of all time?" and "What's your favorite Kevin Bacon movie?" but then I'm not a rock star. Not yet.

It started raining, which the band says is in line with the "black cloud" that's been following them throughout their whole rise to fame and delivery of their second album. They talked about growing up from a bunch of "awkward little fella[s]" and gave a tribute to the crowd, who was now getting soaked, playing "Standing in the Rain". As for me, there are certain things like a compass and an umbrella that I don't go to Toronto without, so I stood dry.

I got what I came for my last night there. Finally, I will admit that the title of this post has nothing to do with me imposing or hitting on any of Mitzee's relatives. This is spelled "Mitzi". My fine friend Martino Febreeze introduced me to Mitzi's Sister, a small club with an intimate crowd and an eloquent host, Jack Breakfast, offering open stage on Wednesday nights. He is a very entertaining host -a man who knows how to talk AND sing. At first the sound system was amok, so he talked at length, telling us silly stories and entertaining us completely while the amateur crew figured out what the hell was going on.

The ensuing line-up was killer. First there was Mr. Breakfast himself, who played a few nice diddies on the piano and sang along. They were soft and sweet melodies full of broken-hearted warmth...or perhaps furtive sang-froid. Either way, the music and words were a finely crafted paradox of wonderful ingredients. Later, all the way from Boston was an innovative cellist who played her instrument sideways, held up with a strap, kind of like a guitar. Lindsay Mac is an accomplished musician who studied at Berkley and even opened for KD Lang. I have to agree with the reviews on her site that she is "avantguard". She broke out into some ripping hard-stroked chords which resonated like a stand-up bass due to the low pick-ups being most prominent. Her clever lyrics, bordering on risqué and folky voice put her in the category of Ani Difranco...but better. She later told her engineer to adjust the settings before playing a song about her experience touring on a busline in Boston called the Peter Pan. Her stories, wit and radiance were a much-appreciated element of the evening.

So after such a night, we stood outside and talked music -Martino Febreeze, 90.1FM Jazz host Reiner, Lindsay Mac and myself. The heavy rains from that day resulted in the small intimate crowd that was there, which was perfect for my first performance at an open stage in Toronto. I slept it off, had some corn-pops and watched TV with Febreeze, then took a street car back downtown while listening to some stellar thunder claps and watching the puddles splash pedestrians as the cars went by. The sound of the crashing thunder reminded me of Toronto's gun violence problem, which has been brewing for the past two years. I felt lucky for being able to play music and dodge a bullet at the same time especially when I heard that a friend of mine was playing a show last week when the bar had to be shut down due to a shoot-out on Spadina.

Anyway, then last night I was secured safely again behind front desk. Da-dee-da-dum! In my energy-drained stupor, the world looked a strange place. I'll leave you with some randomn motel observations to give you a sense of how warped your mind can get when no one is looking:

-Turning the sprinkler system on is like shooting a gun except that the trigger is a knob and the bullets are made of water

-Lining up all the miniature peanut butter and jam portions so that the brand label is right-side up in the dispenser makes the bears on the logo look coordinated and jolly

-Asking guests how their rooms were the night before may seem like a strange question but then consider that their rooms have never been theirs before...unless they are a "stay over"

-A glass pitcher of apple juice with a cylindrical ice pack plunged in its centre somehow looks disturbingly pornographic but proud nonetheless. However, its simply there to keep the juice cold.

-Bananas lying on a plate with the direction of their curves synchronized makes me think they are spooning. It's irrelevant that they have a Chiquita sticker...or is it?

If dwarves are small versions of people, are muffins dwarf versions of cake?

Personal Diegesis

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Value of Talk

I started thinking out the flow of another great poem that I promised myself I'd write in order to update things here on Writings of Faith, but after a hearty mid-day sleep to recuperate after a long night shift and an even longer weekend trekking up north to a cottage where I got in a pig roast, swimming and even some remote control airplane-flying (until it flew into the trees) the damn thing has entirely slipped out of my mind.

So instead, lets discuss the first article I fell upon after my awakening: why first impressions really add up and the spontaneous insight I can draw from it to my current life. I actually think it is a bad article. I have nothing to do with IT recruitment, but although the idea that first impressions matter is not a new one, it is nevertheless an important reminder of the fact that "you only have one chance to make a first impression."

Although my new job is getting better now as its comprehensibility increases and its manifestation of insanity wanes, I'm interested in finding out what the result of my other interviews and tests are and pushing things further. In the job market, I have to say it is disappointing how little individual candidates seem to matter in the grand scheme of things. I am left with an unfairly negative impression of companies that don't get back to me about the status of my application. Then I feel like a badger contacting them a week or two later.

I wonder if there's anything I can do beyond writing pointed cover letters and sending my resume out in a blitzkreig. Networking! In the new job itself, the relevance of impressions increases as I hone my Customer Service skill. While I'm in this position, I might as well learn how to make things fresh and never get sucked into feeling that relations are a mindless routine. I have to remember never to let down my guard (or to always have it open) and always welcome guests instantaneously. This morning for example, I greatly improved the pleasure of my own shift by simply asking some folks where they were from. As a result, I got a chance to practice my French since they were from Montreal. They were pleased that I was fluent and I was pleased that they were pleased.

The article mostly talks about what the interviewer can do to ease the candidate into conversation but after driving alone this weekend for so many hours, listening to Rex Murphy and others interview people on the CBC radio, getting a few recommendations of books such as Dessert Queen, a book about the first queen of modern day Iraq and Incendiary by Chris Cleave from Cross-Country Check-up, I've gained a new found interest in dissecting conversation because it is not the titles of these books alone that matters, it is the reason they were chosen that is interesting. To me Rex is an example of someone who is ultra-conscious of his own communication. He is very precise. Some annoying callers kept trying to go on and on about several books and flatter Rex about how much they liked his show, taking up his time and forcing him to wrap things up prematurely. He dealt with them politely and let them off the line as softly as possible but it was funny and surprising to see that when people have the opportunity to make an impression to so many listeners, they choose to act like tools.

Is there ever a point at which a conversation can become too mechanical? I've been feeling a little detached lately not being able to talk to any of my friends because while they are awake, I am sleeping. A side-thought is that perhaps I need to meet more people so that I have a vaster human bank to draw from at any time during the day. I need to meet more vampires. It has occured to me though as well that perhaps I just need to initiate socializing with a little bit of a sharper edge with those I already know. Do I already really know them? You can always ask people about themselves. Questions are the breeding ground for information and I think people are like rocks that you forget to turn over sometimes -underneath lies so many surprises! So I flirted with the idea of starting to compile generic interview questions that can be applied during any encouter with a stranger or friend. You don't want to scare people off, which is why it is important to remember the value of both small talk and big ideas but I think that getting people to open up and converse is such an enjoyable human past-time.

We cannot take it for granted.

So, Question: Is there ever a point at which a conversation can become too mechanical?

Exercise: Think of someone you admire or would like to speak with (it could be someone you already know, a historical character or a celebrity) and compile a list of questions you would like them to answer.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Orientation Misapplication

Youthful passions flare in haste
The heart a searching, pumping paste
She, the fair and fueling feast
Of hormones, self-sufficing beasts

Pleasing yes but wanting not
The place I’ve picked for my love spot
She the aft and not the fore
She goes through a different door

To a likeness she aspires
-Delicate beauty not a sire
Lilac legs and tangled fronds
To weave with her own lovely longs

My perception dull with guile,
Lysandrian sight and Hermian smile,
Soft lips glisten Maxim-style,
Photoshopped to please me

I see green and glaring red
Are all the signs she’s not to bed
With page boy, male-man, ranting sir,
Oh truth be told! Kick the cur!

Fashioned out of order if-
My quick eye doth miss the drift,
An amazonian warrior soul,
Prefers a plate and not a bowl

For her kind words and longing gaze,
Do o’er stretch my wanting haze,
Homing in on fairer sex,
Leaving me to be perplexed

She would rather bunk with gals
I could only be her pal
Gender such a trifling thing!
Was God or man its author?

I cannot go conquer Miss
She would loath my hairy kiss,
Smite the smell of masculine
And search the room for crinoline

I cannot go romping round
In sync to such a frivolous sound
And expect myself not to be fooled,
Too much drink and folly pooled

So I make a shrewd embrace
-Promise her myself will case
With re-direction like a dove,
Having more Platonic love

I was wanton, reckless, coy,
Now I get served like a boy,
I conjured a sinister craft,
To the fore but not the aft

@ Copyright Sir Barrett 2006


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Emergency Motel Sequence

To update you on how the new job as a front desk guest representative at a motel is going, I'll say that it can be a confusing, mind-racking or laid-back job, like most can. There is a lot of technology and reporting to deal with: buttons, log sheets and such, to allow us to track every speck of lint in the motel.

I answer the phones according to certain SOP's and we compare our rates and sales with all the competing hotels in the area. The customers are generally pleasant and patient although there are some that come in and get in your face wanting to know what your rate is. You must be creative with those. There are others, like some inebriated fellows last night that came in and harassed me at around 4am, telling me I was "too professional" and warning me not to tie my tie too tight or else it might strangle me -obvious pointers appreciated as any piece of advice from a falling-over-drunk. After a moment or two, they apologized for being rude and told me not to take it personally. They were just "f%cking around u know?" "No problem," I said, called them a cab, and they left.

My only real emergency last night was the fact that I accidently called 911. How do you accidentally call 911 you wonder. Well, let's get to that.

The person who was training me left for the bathroom for just a few minutes and I managed to do a classic FUBAR...or almost. A guest walked up and wanted to use our phone. We're not supposed to offer it but because I am new all I could remember was the main mantra of customer service: keep the customer happy. I dialed "9" for outbound call then the customer dialed "111" for his room number. (I failed to clarify that he wanted to make an inbound call). Well, folks, what do you get when you add 9 + 111? 911!!! Immediately alarms started sounding and I almost nearly swore. "Why isn't it working?" Asked the customer. "Oops!" I said. "I accidently called 911! You're not going to be able to make that call." Then, I went over to the bathroom and knocked asking: "Um, I just called 911." "What happened," asked the muffled, confused voice that belonged to my friend Lucifer, who is training me. "How do you turn off the alarm?" "G-d Barrett! I leave you for two minutes and what do you do? You call 911." My friend was just trying to hang a dump and then this happens. I realize it wasn't very impressive.

After figuring out the phone system, which had automatically disabled itself due to the apparent "emergency" I got ahold of the dispatcher and urgently said: "False alarm! False alarm!" "Next time you call 911 and that happens, just tell us you got the wrong number. The police are already on their way," a non-plussed voice answered. "Sorry about that," was about all I could muster. My heart was racing like Ben Jonson.

The night was full of other, inevitable, minor f*ck-ups -which were great for my learning experience. I actually worked two separate shifts: one from 5-9pm, then I came back for the night audit from 12-5am. Lucifer forgot his book with all his Toronto listings for his move in it, so he begged me to drive it to him after work. I agreed on the condition that he'd get me an autograph of someone famous like Emily Haines or Paris Hilton when he goes to the MuchMusic VIP party this weekend (the enviable bastard), so that took some extra time after work. I now anticipate that everything WILL go wrong but to finish it off, I finally got home around 5:30am when the sun was rising then I was about to go to sleep thinking ah! Finally some sweet, succulent rest! Then I felt that my pocket felt a bit heavy and bulky. It turned out that I had brought the wireless "night" phone with me from the motel. We're supposed to switch from landline to wireless every time we leave the desk and I must have forgotten to switch back. So the adventure continued. I drove back AGAIN, returned the phone, returned my tie, said "goodluck and goodnight" and left.

Next shift I work alone and I depend on myself. It is a scary but empowering thought. I have my training manual which will be my lifeline for all the various POS terminal codes and sidewinder calls. I have today off to go to a Stag and Doe, friends of mine that comprise a very lovely couple, then tomorrow to sing Harry Chapin's "Cat's Cradle" in church for Father's Day. The song is about a father that never has time for his son although the son looks up to him very much and wants to be "just like him." Advancing to different stages in his life, the boy grows up to be a man with "planes to catch and bills to pay." Sadly and ironically they both get what they wished for. The two switch roles with the father realizing once he is old that he's lived his whole life without spending quality family time and the son wishing he could see his dad and "have a good time" if only he could find that time.

So happy Father's Day my pets. Work hard and play hard but don't do either to the exclusion of family.

Speaking of family, my sister Wein-Bean sent me this interesting video which mashes together Indian culture and the Beatles in one strange mix of Hippy-Bollywood:

Their dance moves are pretty good, and their voices are more soft and soothing than Lennon's. They even have the Beatle's haircut! Check it out!

Personal Diegesis

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bloat Alert!

This is me. I bet you didn't know that I was a big fat cow.

Well, basically the theme of my elongated (elongated because I was pushed out of my volunteer stint at the think tank by some intercepting international researcher so I had Monday off due to joblessness) weekend was that I went around to various BBQ's and had people feed me. (God! I wish I was more elongated. Then this wouldn't matter so much!) I went to one place and had steaks and shishkabobs and chutneys and fine italian breads, then another in the big city...then added to it after sleeping off some of the bloat by bringing it back with a huge pile of Chinese takeout. The result was that I've been getting a bit...puffier lately.

I haven't been jogging regularly since I sprained my ankle and this I blame for my corpulence. I am now dangerously vulnerable to being put on Go Fug Yourself's Celebrity Bloat Terror Alert along with Luke Wilson, or at least I would be, if I were a celebrity.

But things are on the up and up my friends. With my relapse of jogging which was commenced yesterday, and a new-spawned disciplinary drive, I hope to bring myself down to ELEVATED from "HIGH: GOD MAN GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF!" bloat terror level.

In other general news the Edmonton Oilers hung on in last night's match, winning it in overtime with an unlikely breakaway by Pisani. It is my oldest sister's birthday today! I went out with old friends and danced to retro music last night and I love that "Crazy" video by Gnarls Barkley.

I have also finally (FINALLY!!) got a job as a hotel Front Desk 'Guest Representative' where, despite its not being PR, despite its shifts being completely whacked, despite its entry wage, is a somewhat decent job. I have been complaining about this forever so, alas, I at least have something that prevents me from going on welfare. My friend, who is leaving for the big city, kindly referred me for the job and he has the pleasure of training me. I am not elated with the position but I have nothing to complain about. Just like a rose being a rose, a job is a job is a job. I can build up my Customer Service, Sales and Reception skills while I look around and look ahead.

The nice thing is I get to stay indoors in air conditioning. I don't have to operate a jack-hammer or lift weights. I wear a tie, keep my fingernails clean and don french cuffs while I answer phones, document 'walk-ins' and ensure that every guest at our hotel is completely satisfied with our services.

Personal Diegesis

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Broken Promise Land: A Glance at the Israeli Palestinian Conflict

The Old City. Photo by Andreas Duus Pape, used with permission Posted by Picasa

In 1967, Israel captured and occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights in the Six Days War. Before that time, the area was controlled by Jordan ever since 1948, when Israel had its War of Independence.

There were a group of Jewish villages known as Gush Etzion, which the Arabs had invaded and supposedly destroyed.[1] However, on June 13, 1967 a small group of Israelis who never lost hope of returning to their village searched it out and resettled there.

Settlers were motivated by various religious, political or strategic incentives for lebensraum. For some it was part of the dream of creating a greater Israel. For others, it was about reclaiming holy historic sites, at the centre of which is the controversial Temple of the Mount or Haram, which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. The stones buried deep beneath the surface of the Western wall date back to the Roman Empire. The U.N. recognizes such places as the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem and the Wailing Wall as sites of “common heritage of humankind”[2] with interest to Christians, Jews, Muslims, historians and archeologists. But whether these places are technically part of Israel or Palestine is the issue, especially if walls are to be erected separating the two states.

There were also settlers who had no ideological reasons for inhabiting the occupied territories other than that it provided affordable housing and was, in one way or another, part of Israel. Many, like future minister of defense, Moshe Dayan, were Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Bloc. Kinneret was a place where Jews immigrated to and where they were taught agriculture. His parents moved to one of the first “kibbutzim” or “collective farms”, Degania, established by Jews in 1909, on Palestinian land, which was then controlled by the Ottomon Empire until the British Mandate of Palestine after WWI.[3] Many famous Israelis occupied this area and spread out along the Sea of Galilee to form more kibbutzim. This is a place is also of special importance to many Christians, considering it is the historic spot where Jesus carried out much of his ministry.

The objective of the Six Days War was not occupation. Most Israelis would likely have settled for the 1949 armistice lines, however, many apparently had more expansionist hopes. There were Rabbis for example who aspired to recapture the Western wall which had fallen under Egyptian rule. It was also called the “Wailing Wall” because of its proximity to the destroyed Second Temple, and its association with Israel’s exile.

Another view of old city. Photo by Andreas Duus Pape, used with permission Posted by Picasa

Today, hundreds of thousands of Israelis live in officially recognized West Bank settlements. The West Bank is inhabited by an 84% Palestinian majority although there are many Israeli settlements, and some still prefer to regard it as “disputed” territory.[4] Another 196,000 Israelis live in annexed areas of Golan and East Jerusalem.

The problems now and stretching back into history, are whether strict lines can be drawn to separate the two cultures, whether a two-state solution is desirable, and if so, how it can be done peacefully. The other option is to integrate “mixed” areas where Palestinians and Israelis live in close proximity to one another into Israel and hope that regional decisions can still be made democratically for the common good.

Either way, Zionists feel that their ultimate Promise Land has been marred by non-Jewish inhabitants, saying that Palestine was never a country on its own. Many Palestinians are angry that their land, promised to them by the British, is now being taken away. Some argue that the Bible promises Israel to the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not those following a specific religion. With this in mind, it could be promised to a mix of Christian, Jewish and Muslim descendents.

Other arguments for why Israel should be a strictly Jewish state are expressed by the Zionist movement founded by Theodore Hertzl[5] in the late 19th-early 20th century. His framed picture overlooked the parliament when the official declaration of the first and only Jewish state in the world was made. There was a lot of evidence to suggest that Jews needed a place of sanctuary, where they could truly be safe, considering the holocaust, post WWII (especially considering that geopolitically, they are surrounded by 22 Muslim states). Israel had a long history of violence including the Hebron Massacre in 1929 and the “Arab Revolt” from 1933-36.

It wasn’t until after the Six Days war that Arabs started referring to themselves as “Palestinians” –twenty years after modern Israeli statehood. Before that, the area now known as “Palestine” was referred to as “Eretz Yisrael” and Israel was an ancient Jewish state in 1312 BC. These days, Jewish claim to Israel is rejected by some Muslims, and they are threatened by Islamic Jihad even though many Jews argue that Muhammad never set foot in Israel, and Muslim’s religious capital is in Mecca, not Jerusalem.[6] We know very little about Muhammad’s actual life except that he had some interaction with Jews and respected them originally as a “People of the Book” but then turned away from them when he saw that they did not regard him as the Prophet.[7]

To connect politics and religion can be tricky business but considering all the Christian Fundamentalist arguments dominating political decisions under the George W. Bush administration in the U.S., you cannot argue it isn’t commonplace. There are all sorts of arguments over how the Torah should be interpreted regarding whether or not the Third Temple should reinstate animal sacrifices or not, were they ever regain complete control of Jerusalem.

The argument for a Jewish state is exemplified in Dennis Prager’s argument in the Jewish World Review. In Separate Anti-Zionism From Anti-Semitism? He states that: “Among the many lies that permeate the modern world, none is greater — or easier to refute — than the claim that Zionism is not an integral part of Judaism or the claim that anti-Zionism is unrelated to anti-Semitism.” He equates being a Zionist with being Jewish, and so to distinguish the two identities is to be anti-Semitic, contrary to the implied beliefs of protestors shouting “Yes to Judaism! No to Zionism!”

He is right that Jews are not only a religion but a people in that historically, Jews have always prayed and have been fervently committed to returning to Zion. However, perhaps he is conflating arguments by suggesting Jews inherently believe in a homeland geographically comprised of Israel and Palestine, or by suggesting that Palestine is not a legitimate state, whereas Israel is, because its name has biblical and historical roots. Is the word “Israel” a name for a constantly changing border or is there some other distinct meaning that it holds? As he explains in his own article, “Zion” is the biblical name for “Jerusalem” -not modern day Israel and its surrounding territory. So can Jews only accept a Zion that includes exclusive control of Jerusalem and if so, does the Jewish identity require the destruction of the holy mosque on the Temple Mount, or in other words: are Muslim and Jewish identities mutually exclusive in Jerusalem?[8]

It seems that for a sizeable amount of Israelis and Palestinians alike, their ultimate goal is unfortunately the complete destruction of the other and an all-encompassing Jewish or Arab state –which is dangerous in itself. Yassar Arafat came “bearing the olive branch in one hand, and the freedom fighter’s gun in the other.” He told others not to “let the olive branch fall from [his] hand.” Yet peace for him seemed more like a war tactic, a temporary pause in the endless string of PLO violence. Ultimately, he had only one form of peace in mind for his people: “Peace for us means the destruction of Israel. We are preparing for an all-out war, a war which will last for generations.”

The word “peace” doesn’t register in the dictionaries of Islamic Jihadists. In a video aired featuring Al-Qaida’s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawarhi, he said that destruction of Israel is every “believer’s duty,” stating that the “Islamic nation knows that its path is jihad (holy war) and the bearing of arms.”[9] This is a perfect example of modern day propaganda. In the past there was always aggression from various nations but never has there been such a coordinated assault from terrorist networks. As one of their few choices of responses, Israeli defense led by Minister Shaul Mofaz has begun targeted rocket killings.

Shall we go over the historical events leading up to an unrealized Jewish state in Israel?

After the 1957 Suez War between Israel and Egypt, Israel bowed to diplomatic pressures to evacuate Sinai and West Bank. Egypt but not Israel agreed to have U.N. peacekeepers, or the UNEF, patrol the Sinai Peninsula. However, during the 60’s Syria led guerilla raids into Israel to try to quash dissent of its Baath party.

Disputes over the 1949 armistice border lines escalated until April 7, 1967, when the Israeli Air Force took out six of Syria’s MiG-21’s in an aerial battle over Golan Heights and flew over Damascus.

Egyptian President Gamar Abdel Nasser formally asked the UNEF to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula and remilitarized the zone. This removed the international buffer and heightened tension between the two countries.

On May 22, he announced that the Straights of Tiran would be closed to all Israeli trade effective May 23. Israel asked for the UK and US to complete their promise of protection and reopen it for them but it didn’t receive much international support. Israel planned a preemptive attack on Egypt for its blockade of the Tiran Straight, but waited at the request of the U.S. Meanwhile, Jordan joined the military alliance of Syria and Egypt, and Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait and Sudan all supported them with troops. Still, despite all these Arab countries pitted against Israel, since Jordan was preoccupied fighting Yemen, the Israeli army overpowered all others put together with its 264,000 well trained troops.

On the evening of June 1, Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan met with Yatzik Rabin and the Southern Commander, Yeshayahu Gavish to figure out what to do. It was Rabin’s plan to invade the West Bank, whereby they would siege the Gaza Strip, taking its residents hostage until Egypt reopened the Tiran Straight but he favoured Gavish’s plan to knock out the Egyptian forces on Sinai first. Dayan backed the plan because it had the advantage of avoiding a simultaneous Syrian battle.

On June 5, at 7:45am the Israelis led the most pivotal action of the Six Day war, taking out three quarters of the Egyptian Air Force before it could even take off. Utilizing all but four of their 197 planes of their own, they strafed, bombed and rendered runways useless, destroying over 300 planes and killing 100 combatants within a single day. They also returned and destroyed parts of Jordanian, Iraqi and Syrian airfields as well.

Led by General Ariel Sharon on the ground, the Israeli forced were outnumbered by about 30,000, however, the Arab forces were poorly coordinated and Israeli surprised them by attacking at the same time that the IDF was scheduled to attack the Egyptian airfields and from the opposite direction that they had attacked them during the 1956 war. Sharon sent paratroopers to block the forces north of Um-Katef and south on the road to Al-Arish so that the enemy at Abu-Ageila completely encircled from the East. The breakthrough battles lasted three days. Although many Egyptian units remained intact, when the Egyptian Minister of Defense, Abdel Hakim Amar heard that Abu-Ageila had fallen to the Israelis, he ordered an evacuation of all troops in the Sinai, which meant Egyptian defeat. This was such a wild success, establishing Israeli dominance in the air and on the ground, with such few Israeli casualties that their commanders must have been on an adrenaline high of elation.[10]

In the aftermath of the incredible victory of the Six Days War, the battle has continued for many generations, with bitter vengeance being carried out between both sides, children being recruited into terrorist organizations, and heavy ideological groups being formed based on the right to exist in one land or another. Occupation has been a liability for Israel, while serving as a roadblock to peace for Palestinians. There are disadvantages of Israeli (and Palestinian) occupation for both sides –resentment, racism, maltreatment, degradation of Israeli medical and educational systems, terrorist attacks, targeted killings and harassment at checkpoints. For Rachel Corrie, who was an American activist serving as member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the disadvantage was that a bulldozer that drove over her on its way to demolish a Palestinian home cut her life short on March 16, 2003.[11]

The "Wailing Wall". Photo by Andreas Duus Pape, used with permission Posted by Picasa

Certainly, there are no easy answers to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All over the world, as in Canada, there are always aboriginal land protests such as the recent one in Caledonia, Ontario, which enraged residents and left Natives feeling like they hadn’t been listened to. We build super malls on top of ancient burial grounds sacred to natives and then we wonder why they may act violently at times. A similar syndrome whereby the RCMP was sent in to remove protestors during the Ipperwash protests is comparable to the situation in the Middle East. They shot and killed Dudley George on Sept 26, 1995 and a politician named Mike Harris was accused as the protagonist, though he denied stating that he wanted “the f&cking Indians out of the park.”[12]

Violence and misunderstanding is often sparked between the doves and hawks of every country’s policy-making machine. There are the Pinhas Sapir’s and the Moshe Dayans –those who work to nurture soft power, building institutions, engaging in diplomacy and building alliances and those who force hard power through military might.

Ariel Sharon seemed like one of Israel’s most powerful hawkish leaders to date, leading militants in assassinations and cutting towns in half with the construction of barbed-wire laden fence. How did he suddenly transform into such a hero in the eyes of Israelis and lovers of peace? By evacuating the Gaza Strip, certainly he melted hearts, yet it is more likely he made the decision out of U.S. pressure rather than his own will.[13]

Regardless, this last act is what will be remembered of him most since his stroke froze him in that moment, interrupting the process that some saw as a final solution: the roadmap to peace, while others were convinced it was their country’s doom. The pullout confronts the taboo for Israelis of giving land back to Palestinians when the Zionist dream is to occupy ALL of the territory. The state of Israel officially declared an end to its 38-year military occupation of the Gaza Strip on September 11, 2005.[14] On the other hand, perhaps the pullout is just a farce. In reality, the Israeli army is what drives Israeli politics and there never was a Palestinian partner to negotiate peace with anyway. What is there to convince us that both sides aren’t simply fighting a never-ending war?

Although Israel “officially” declared the end of occupation, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) still enforces who is kicked out of the West Bank, with frequent examples of harassment or shutoff of water supply. The West Bank is closed off by walls which have in some cases been built right through the centre of communities. The residents are terrorized by the army at every turn. An example is an article entitled “IDF razes toilets of Palestinian cave dwellers in West Bank” printed in Ha’aretz on May 31, 2006,[15] about a family whose cave dwelling was demolished near Hebron. They were staying in one of the 13 destroyed structures that were donated to them by a Christian organization. The Civil Administration justified the demolishing because the structures were built without permits although the High Court of Justice has prevented their expulsion.

While the South Hebron Hill coordinator for the community, Ezra Nawi, saw this as merely part of the government’s strategy to deal with illegal settlers, whether they be Israeli or Palestinian, another commenter voiced tired frustration, interpreting it as another act of Israeli colonialism:

“The arrogance and malice involved in this decision is almost beyond belief. To uproot families in an area that Israel should not be in anyway is emblematic of what is wrong with Israeli society today. A colonialist mentality which informs the Israeli consciousness is one of the reason[s] why Israel is such a pariah state today. Get the hell out of the West Bank, already, stop dehumanizing the Palestinians, and start the process of dealing with the difficulties in Israel proper.” –David, Royal Oak, Michighan.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, posted more demolition orders on other settlements in West Bank, including those in Gush Etzion and the Moan Farms, where Israelis were allegedly throwing rocks at Palestinian children on their way to school. These were the first real confrontations since the destruction of nine Amona settlements in February, 2006.[16]

Many Likud party members strongly opposed to Sharon’s decision to evacuate the Gaza Strip and West Bank, which was the cause for the new Kadima party’s formation –so that unilateral disengagement could take place. Peretz defeated Simon Peres in the 2005 election, who was most closely involved with the Oslo Accord[17] outlining the withdrawal. Yatzik Rabin,[18] twice Prime Minister of Israel, signed the Accords then was subsequently assassinated by right-wing Israeli activist Yigal Amir,[19] who strongly opposed it. Since then, there hasn’t been much progress, and it has left other important issues unsolved, such as what should happen to the refugees and how the security of borders will be maintained. However, a big development is certain to occur soon. Sharon may be dead, but his plans will live on, adopted by Ehud Olmert. Olmert basically marketed himself as the reincarnation of Sharon by using a picture of his face as part of his election campaign.

There are many arguable reasons why the peace process has failed. Robert Rothstein argues that both sides acted in a way that seems like they were intentionally causing the Oslo Accords to fail, reflecting the “Conflict Syndrome” which is a psychological result of enduring bitter conflict.[20] The fact that the militant Hamas group was elected into parliament signals Palestinian frustration with diplomacy, just as international sanctions against the “terrorist government” do the same.

The international community, for the most part, has refused to negotiate with Hamas. George W. Bush has always refused to negotiate with any “terrorists”. Even before the Hamas government however, the PA was never really acknowledged as an appropriate negotiating partner by Israel. Sharon blamed Abbas for not controlling the Palestinian terrorist network. Now that Hamas, a party Canada officially doesn’t like, has been elected democratically, Canadians followed the U.S. lead to withdraw aid, resulting in hundreds of thousands of starving women and children, never mind the lack of wages for government employees. The effect is that by isolating Palestine the way Israel has shunned them, we leave them little to do in the way of negotiation. At the point that they made an initial step towards democratization, we practically labeled their voice meaningless.[21]

To be fair, a first step would be for the Palestinian government to recognize Israel. Israel has done a lot of negotiating, yet it is a little discomforting to have a militant anti-Israeli government at your border. Palestinians residents are starting to wake up to the fact that slogans against Israel do not feed their children, if they hadn’t before. However, international sanctions against Palestine are targeting those who were helpless in the first place.

Of those 17 people who voted on my survey here on Writings of Faith, 11 people think that we should be sending some aid to Palestine so that they don’t starve to death. On the other hand, 4 of those people said it would be hypocritical to send aid to a country their country deems a “terrorist organization” and 2 people thought the money would be better spend on their own military. Cynics suggest that aid all gets hijacked and diverted by terrorists in Palestine anyway but then how do they explain the dramatic rise in poverty and the lack of hospital supplies in an already poor country? I believe there is at least some correlation.

To deal with the issue, on May 25, 2006, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas made the bold move of an ultimatum to the Hamas-led government giving them two choices: either agree to a two-state solution and make an implicit acknowledgement of Israel within 10 days or a referendum will be held within 40 that will most certainly pass that decision anyway. Truth: time is running out, which Abbas regards an unaffordable “luxury.” If they were to agree, they would imply Israel had a right to exist. The plan would include the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem which were capture in 1967 and the authorization of the PLO as the negotiating body. It seems that this deal has been offered hastily before it can be ensured however, it would be an attractive option if it led to peace. Uncertainty remains as to whether Israelis would be willing to give up land or negotiate with the PLO.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has threatened to draw borders with the possibility of absorbing the West Bank, whether or not the Palestinian like it. He told Ha’aretz on June 1, 2006 that “[m]ore and more Palestinians are uninterested in a negotiated, two-state solution”[22] and accuses them of changing the subject of what the debate is about from an issue of occupation to one of democracy. Many have long feared that a two-state solution will lead to an apartheid-like situation where the Arab majority is ruled by the Jewish minority. Right now, the PA cannot control the settlements it does have, never mind an independent state. They would rather have one binational state where Jews and Arabs could live together, not that you’ll be hearing anyone singing Kumbaya. In the case of one state though, higher population increases in the Arab community would quickly start to close in on Jews and we would be left with the problem of continuing systemic violence that is ethnically motivated by both sides. This would kill the possibility of a Jewish state. Some questions we’re left to consider are whether assimilation works, whether it is desirable, and how distinct cultures can be maintained in the age of democracy, violence and extremism.

[6] Cited in a forward by Nathan Yacowar, editor of on June 1, 2006


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Bearded Men

I came across these fellows quite accidently while I was drawing. Then the bird landed on one of their heads and they didn't move.

What do you think the bird said?

Monday, June 05, 2006

A Job? What's a Job?

This is me Posted by Picasa

So Jimmy's BBQ was "star racking" with the stellar preparation of the cooks, the little jokes from the rain gods, meeting tonnes of bloggers like Crucible, Miss Thistle, Your Judgmental Aunt and more. Mitzee and I finally got to meet after over a year of mutual cyber-stalking.

"J" (Jeff) reminded me that I haven't updated you recently on the other main issues of my life, such as the restaurant biz, for example. Well, this is Writings of Faith afterall, not Writings of Doom, so I guess the reason I wasn't saying anything about my job is because I was trying to be positive...and I don't have one. Yeah, when the cook who was training me quit they never called me back. Then when I badgered them about it, they said there were too many people in the kitchen in other words: just enough people without you.

Can you tell I'm not bitter? Heck no! I'm not bitter! I'm just in denial! B doesn't get bitter. It's only been more than a month of unemployment, bring on the years! It's not like I've applied to hundreds of jobs and still not found anything! Even OUTSIDE OF MY FIELD. So I'm not going to wake up and be a speech writer but I can't even wash dishes?!! It's not like I've had to hear phrases like "we've decided to move forward with other candidates" a million times now. I've been tested, toyed with, avoided and it seems like it's just plain impossible to get your first job. Your second one is easy. No problem! You just have to somehow do something insane to get your first hijack an office. I don't care though. Nothin' gets me down. I just sing that song that I learned way back from Christian camp: "Buck up brother bill because a bunch of bitter boys became a bunch of better boys behind a big big smile...get along gang get gung ho about Jesus!"

Well, I have to admit that last week the interviews were better. I went to two separate ones where they gave me content to write an employee newsletter and design the layout with pictures and quotes. The one called me today and said they liked my writing but the fallout was simply that they had a lot of competition. The other job involved a math test and data entry as well. It was good of me to check before I started that pressing "Enter" not "Tab" advanced me to the next field. (I've made that mistake before, and it totally killed me). In terms of the math test, it went well, although I apparently don't know how to use the percentage function on the calculator, so I was dividing everything by a hundred then multiplying it to find the percentage of the number which is 38% of some other number which is the total cost minus the service fees for cleaning the pigeon excrement off of your windsheild.

Ah hang it! I don't really mind, except the whole routine is getting a little repetitive. Even where I volunteer, they're trying to get rid of me. I'm starting to exude bad karma. It's like a stench. Today I felt eyes on me. They were looking for a spot to set a fire or make the photocopier break and make it look like it was my fault. I was approached for violating the dress code because I wore shorts. Whoops! I guess it's just a little tough to bike 20 kilometres in freshly ironed dress pants! Sorry, just trying to keep the global temperature down. THROW ME A FRIGGIN BONE!!!

So yeah, I'm getting a little tired of the rigamarole but basically I have one more week of free labour (because my supervisor is a kind woman) then I'm cutting myself loose again and I MUST GET A JOB!! I was hoping that the volunteering stint might lead to something, and it's been fun, but alas, those they're considering as writers bring 20 years of experience. So next week is a new horizon. Then getting a job will be my full time job. I'll be staring down a barrel of a gun. I'm going to keep going to interviews but if this whole PR thing doesn't take me anywhere I'm going to start simply being a rock star instead and keep applying to everything. That actually seems easier than relying on others confidence in my professionalism at this moment. I understand that for them it's a leap of faith. Perhaps no one will offer me a job, but they can't stop me from getting a busking license and playing out my soul, getting into their teenage daughter's minds and playing incessantly on their iPods. I won't aim lower, I'll just use the shotgun approach. My motivational emails that I get sent to me every day tell me that the first step to making your dreams is to take them out of your heart and into your head. Now they're on my blog!

1/ Actually getting a job in my field.
OR, as a back-up, in forgeting about being financially stable for awhile and:
2/ Focusing full time on music to ultimately be a rockstar. OR
3/ The somewhat practical but boring one: Ditch PR for the time being and build up experience in the office environment doing drone work like data entry or something.

I figure being a rock star is kind of like PR, but it's relating to the music, relating through sound rather than measureable objectives and not having to deal with all the strategizing, superficiality and stress. Then I can not care about a flimsy little target market, I can live on the road, I can be a misfit but I'll play nice, slow, seductive music, not just baby-makin music. Screw the public! Screw having a 9-5 complacent, budgeting, benefits accumulating, always-one-eye-in-the-back-of-your-head, yes-manning, dead weighted, paper-pushing, "professional" lifestyle. If that doesn't work, (I HOPE that doesn't work in a way. I'd rather skip it!) I'll find some way of doing what I want.

So folks, I hope to stop whining about my unemployment woes soon but I thought I'd just keep you updated. Have sweet dreams and keep them tight!


Friday, June 02, 2006

So You Like to Drive an SUV eh? How 'bout a BAT IN THE FACE!!!

Mean Streets Photo Source

The streets may be mean but the air will be cleaner.

Starting Monday, members of the Centre for International Governance Innovation, along with other environmentally conscious individuals, will be taking up the Commuter Challenge, to walk, ride, teleport or carpool to work.

You don't want to be caught getting out of your car in the parking lot like this poor schmuck, when those mean high-heeled bat-weilding women close in on you for polluting their air.

Since we surpassed our goal of over 40 people who accepted the challenge, our CIO will be driving the Smart Car this week, rather than his Mustang.

Speaking of parking lots: this morning my little sister Grover hijacked her highschool's parking lot with one of her classmate's trucks. They brought in a barbecue, a couple tricycles, a badminton set, bubblemaker, and balloons. They guarded the territory with water guns and directed traffic through to the teacher's parking lot. Some people honked, others cursed and others cheered them on. The teachers stopped by for a burger and congratulated them on a job well done: "Haha! Good one!"

It was their graduation prank.

So, meinen Schätzen, have a good weekend and if you'd like to help save us from global warming, sign up for the Commuter Challenge!


Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Message, Not From George Carlin

You probably remember George Carlin for his stand-up comedy act, as Rufus from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, or his views on swear words, religion and cultural taboos. There's an eRumor circulating that he wrote the following message as a tribute to his late wife. However, he denies that he wrote it and refers to the piece as a "sappy load of sh!t". You can read some of his comments about it here. The other rumour is that it was written by a survivor of the Columbine shootings.

The actual author is Dr. Bob Moorehead, a retired pastor. Although Carlin says this is a meaningless message since the humankind is "totally f&cked up" anyway, there is some worthwhile depth to it. I don't think the human species had to go the route it did...and maybe in some alternate dimension we aren't! Dr. Moorehead points out some funny things about this world which may, rather than making us laugh, force us to sit back and ponder:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space.

We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.

We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less.

We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.

These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember to give a warm hug to the one next to you because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent. Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

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