Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Back to the vacation:After spending a day getting acclimated to the time change and the exceedingly pleasant weather, Natan's mother Julia took us north to the French Trappist abbey at Latroun (warning - this site plays hymns!). Perhaps it is indicative of the history of Israel that it was also the site of a major battle during the 1948 war. The abbey itself was astoundingly peaceful and serene. The monks grow olives and grapes and sell olive oil and wine to support the monastery. The different wines that are produced at this single location in Israel is extensive. I bought a bottle of 2003 Sept Monts Reserve, which I enjoyed with my family during our Christmas Eve dinner.The church at the abbey was closed when we first arrived, so we came back in a couple of hours. It looked very old, but when we asked the age of the abbey we were told, "Oh, it's not old at all. It was built in 1890." In a place like Israel, age is relative. Here's the view of the surrounding landscape from the abbey steps.In keeping with the duality of the Israeli Thing, to paraphrase one of my favorite bands, we also visited the Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum across the street from the monastery. They've got a whole lot of tanks on display there. Julia wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea of the place, but I told her that all boys like tanks so she'd just have to indulge us. Here's a picture of Julia standing atop a tank at the museum.One thing that really resonated with me at the museum was the vastly different provenance of the tanks utilized by the IDF. There were obviously American and British tanks that were likely supplied directly to the IDF, but there were also many French, British, Soviet and even Nazi German tanks that had been captured during the 1948 and 1967 wars that had been brought into service by the IDF. It was a bit sobering to see how the wars may end, but the weapons seem to move on to another fight. However, I've got a pretty good hunch that some of these tanks won't be going anywhere:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I Can't Say That I've Been Too Busy...

But I sure as hell haven't found the time to update, mainly due to my neighbors' collective miserliness. I've got a whole screed to vent on the events surrounding the Marah show that I was to be attending this weekend with my sister. However, I did close down the King Club last weekend, where E Eugene and I experience the terror-ific spectacle of Those Poor Bastards. E Eugene's new favorite shirt:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Against Me! at the Majestic Theater

I've been meaning to post about the Big Trip, but lately I haven't been sticking around after-hours at work and the neighbor's WiFi hasn't been cooperating. Same old excuses. Some might say that I'll need to re-title to something along the lines of "Things That Happened To Me LAST YEAR." But the memories are still fresh, so I'll get to it.
I did manage to come across a nice review in the Badger Herald of a show that I went to see a couple of weeks before I left for vacation: Against Me! at the Majestic Theater

Dane101 also has a review with a nice group of pictures: Against Me! and Sage Francis at the Majestic

I really enjoyed the show. Against Me! has been dominating my listening habits for the last few years, and I was more excited to see this show than anything since the Hold Steady back in June. I even got up front and got knocked around in the crowd. I'd love to put together a better review, but I've got to get moving.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Backstory & the Trip Over

I kind of jumped right in with a few pictures of Mitzpe Ramon, but I do want to go back and explain exactly how I ended up in Israel for two weeks. It all goes back to several months ago, when my friend Natan told me that he was planning on heading to Israel to visit his family and extended an invite to me. My initial reaction was that I couldn't possibly manage something like that, but the more I thought about it the more it seemed like a perfect opportunity. I'm glad I came to this conclusion, because it was exactly that.This is a picture I took of the kibbutz. As you can tell, the December climate in Israel was much nicer than that of Wisconsin. Natan and I booked flights together from Chicago to Tel Aviv via Frankfurt. I decided to come back a couple days earlier so that I could spend the holidays with the family. Early on December 10th my father came up to Madison to give Natan and I a ride down to the Memorial Union to catch the bus down to O'Hare. It was the start of a very long day. We needed to catch the early bus so that we would have plenty of time to get through security and check in for our flight. As with most situations where you show up early, we made it through fine and had a good couple of hours to kill in O'Hare. Natan and I both brought our laptops, and Natan kept trying to get me to watch scenes from Transformers. I did run into one small hang-up: my suitcase ended up being a couple of pounds overweight, and I had to quickly remove my shoes and a sweatshirt into my carry-on to make weight. This didn't leave me with a good feeling as to the return trip, and all the while in Israel I tried to avoid buying any heavy souvenirs.

The flight to Frankfurt wasn't anything special, and we arrived in Germany about 8 hours later. We had five hours to kill, and even though it was early morning in Germany the terminal was packed. I got to experience first-hand the weakness of the dollar versus the euro when I changed in a twenty for coffee - there wasn't much left other than a few coins after we had our coffee. There is even a small casino in the airport, and Natan lost a bit at the blackjack tables. Once the gate we were flying out of opened up we started our way through security. I was confused as to the process: everyone went through the standard metal detector, but then a burly Teutonic screener gave everyone a thorough check with the wand and a pat-down. What was the point of the first detector? The flight down to Tel Aviv wasn't bad, but at this point we had both been traveling for some time and sleep had not been on the schedule. Thankfully getting through passport control in Israel was not a concern for me. Natan ran into a few snags, since his Israeli passport had just recently expired. He had tried to go through on his American passport but he was told that he would have to renew the Israeli passport before he left.

Once we retrieved our baggage we made our way out of the airport. Natan's sister was picking us up. After an hour and a half drive south to the Kibbutz I was at the point of exhaustion. But the night wasn't over yet. For we all sat down to a nice dinner followed by a Hanukkah celebration, where Natan gave everyone presents. Here's a picture of their menorah:After all of this we got to sleep. I managed about nine hours while Natan did thirteen. But I was pretty much over the jet-lag the next day. Next time I'll go over some scenes in the Negev.