Movie Review Roundup

As much as I’m glued to YouTube watching the world unravel, I’m still a movie buff. In the past few weeks I saw three.

On Christmas, I saw Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.  On New Year’s Eve, I saw The Operative. Today I saw Ford vs. Ferrari.

Short non-spoiler reviews

Star Wars. Generally thumbs up. Lots of fan service and a good send off for a movie series that has been part of my world view for most of my life. I saw it in 3D 4DX, which helped me ignore the plot holes and ridiculous writing.

The Operative. Hand waggle. I wanted to like this movie. Martin Freeman is in it. A female Mossad operative in Tehran. The movie has lots of good parts that simply don’t hang together well.

Ford vs. Ferrari. Generally thumbs up. I miss driving. I miss amazing cars. This movie should have been about a passion for something that deep in your soul you have to do, instead it was about a race and spirit-crushing corporations.

Longer reviews (mild spoilers)

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker

Seeing this movie in 3D 4DX means that I felt like I was *in* the movie. Things are coming at me (3D) and my seat moves like a roller coaster, wind blows through my hair, I’m sprayed with water, and then during fight scenes, my seat turns into a massage chair and I’m (gently) bonked in the back in time to the fight scenes (4DX). I literally held on to my seat for two hours. BEST TIME EVER!

It was enough to distract from the poor writing (Stormtroopers using jetpacks. C3PO: They fly now! Finn: They fly now? Poe: They fly now.). But even with all the distractions, I was quite disappointed in Kylo Ren’s redemption arc (because it wasn’t believable, not because it didn’t have a Hollywood ending) and ambivalent about Rey’s lineage and ultimate rejection of said lineage.

We get to say goodbye to the original characters and the story that brought them to the screen. It’s the end of an era and I’m glad I was part of the story all along the way.

The Operative

Based on a novel written by a Mossad officer (The English Teacher), directed by an Israeli, and featuring Israeli actors, there was a lot that I wanted to like. I had to suspend a lot of disbelief starting with a British citizen as a Mossad handler who doesn’t speak Hebrew, but understands to a level that he can be in briefings. (Story of my life in Israel, but I’m not in the Mossad!) And a non-Israeli female operative is sent alone into a deep cover mission in Tehran and she speaks no Farsi (Persian)?

There’s a weirdly pointless mission in Turkey and all I thought was: “Am I supposed to believe that this Mossad operative has had no weapons training and no close quarters fight training and they still sent her alone to meet with Muslim men in the middle of a desolate desert in eastern Turkey?”

And then it just ends. My mouth dropped open because I was so shocked that it just suddenly ended. I felt like a reel was missing.

Ford vs Ferrari (in the UK Le Mans ’66)

The movie stays true to history and if it had stuck to the passion, it would have been a better movie. I felt like studio execs read the original script and decided they needed a strong woman and a family life (Ken’s wife and son) so women would go see the film and they needed a villain (Leo Beebe and the corporate line) so that there would be “tension.” Whatever. The parts of the movie that work are the relationship between Ken Miles and Carroll Shelby and the blinding passion they have for cars, speed, and beating their own best record.

Matt Damon and Christian Bale are fantastic actors – honestly, I would watch them in anything – and they are the heart and soul of the film. I liked seeing Lee Iacocca struggle against the ordinariness of the Ford Corporation, but seeing these passionate guys go up against Big Business shouldn’t have been what the movie was about.

I’m glad it wasn’t about good old America and Ford sticking it to the Italians and Ferrari. There’s a  moment when Enzo Ferrari tips his hat to Ken Miles. We understand that the moment is about the love of the perfect lap in the perfect car at the best speed possible (so far). Ford is just in it for the optics of winning. It’s in these moments that the movie really works.

For me, I love classic cars and there are some real beauties in this film. My favorite moments were when the engine would rev at 7,000 or 8,000 rpms and Ken would shift into higher gear and just fly. In real life, those are the moments we live for.

 

Priorities in Order

Things not on my list of priorities

  • Hints of war with Iran. Not in my skill set and way above my pay grade.
  • Prime Minister’s corruption and request for immunity. I think this is taking longer than the Mueller Report.
  • Third election. As if anything will be different.
  • Putin and Zelensky are going to be at a Yad Vashem event together. I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • Impeachment in the US. I can’t remember that far back.
  • Potential constitutional crisis in US. Meh.
  • Harry and Meghan break from the royal family. Yawn.
  • Lunar eclipse during full moon. Missed it.
  • Massive rainstorms in Israel. Didn’t go outside.

My #1 Priority

  • Catsky-Doodle’s teeth.

My poor little cat was getting skinny, but it seemed like she was still eating. This past week, I noticed that she was avoiding kibbles but could eat soft food. I called the vet who makes house calls and wrangled her into the carrier.

It was like a prison riot in my living room while we waited.

Tranquilizers. Oral surgery on the coffee table. Shots of painkillers and antibiotics. And then my poor drunk monkey was finally coming out of it (no video to protect her dignity).

Around 5am the next morning, she loudly declares her desire to go outside. In. The. Rain.

I regret my decision to let her out a few hours later when I can’t find her anywhere. I do a few laps around the neighborhood. Where are her new hiding places? She usually doesn’t leave the yard.

Finally, she comes home. She’s anxious, noisy, pacing, shivering. She won’t stay on my lap. She won’t curl up anywhere. She won’t be swaddled. Arrgh!

It’s a long night, but we make it.

Today, she is closer to her normal self. Playing, less vocalizing, wandering in and out. It’s sunny, so I left the door open.

This afternoon I found her like this.

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Catsky-Doodle is under Kit Kat Monster. I was airing out the Cat Condos since there was a bit of sun today.

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Later, they rearranged themselves. I put the lid back on and since I last checked on them, they are both still in there. I mean, it’s not like they have a whole apartment at their disposal.

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Psycho Kitty is inside, swaddled, living her best life with her human. The white cats could take a page from her book.

Update: Catsky-Doodle is in the house, but it may be another long night of prison riots.

Israel Is Ready

Let me introduce Israel’s response the targeted killing of Qasam Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran, with two quotes.

“If someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him first.”
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 72:1

“[I]f an enemy of our people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him. . . .

[A] Jew must learn to defend himself. He must forever be prepared for whenever threat looms. . . .

[S]tand united in the face of the enemy. . . .
Menachem Begin, 1981,on the lessons of the Holocaust

I scanned the analysis pieces from all over the political spectrum of Israel and found that for the most part, everyone is in agreement: Soleimani was a bad guy and no one is really sorry to see him gone. Israel will deal with the consequences.

Netanyahu says he stands with the US. The opposition also applauded the US action. Israel is on high alert and “braced for retaliation.”

From the left, the analysis asks how this assassination fits into a broader strategy in the region. After all, Soleimani has been on the US and Israeli radar for 21 years (and sometimes Soleimani suited the US agenda in the region by fighting ISIS). Bush Jr. and Obama both had opportunities to take him out, but chose not to. What goal is served by doing this now? Without seasoned professionals around him, does Trump have a plan?

I looked at two analyses from the middle-of-the-road news site. The analysis more to the left reiterated the question: “Is this strike worth it?” And reviewed the positions of previous US administrations. The analysis more to the right also mentioned previous administrations and took a jab at Obama’s conciliatory methods, which allowed Soleimani “to run wild in the region” and increase Iran’s influence. But it also brought up the age-old conundrum of whether it’s better to stick with the devil you know or go with the devil you don’t. He illustrated the point with how Hassan Nasrallah came to lead Hezbollah in Lebanon after the targeted killing of Abbas al-Musawi in 1992.

The news site the most to the right hadn’t posted an analysis yet, but did have a round up of reactions. Earlier in the week, in response to the US attack Sunday on militia forces influenced by Iran, they published opinions of former generals about what Israel can expect if Iran wants to retaliate via Israel. In short, the Golan Heights might be vulnerable and that would be a huge security threat to Israel.

Even though Netanyahu is under indictment for corruption and is trying to get the Knesset to pass legislation to give him immunity for his crimes, he still won the leadership in his party’s primary by a landslide. Still, he can’t get a national coalition together and that’s why we’re heading to the third election in a year. Even so, what Israelis know for sure is that Netanyahu has led Israel for a long time (with periodic legitimate elections) and he believes in Israel. He laid his own life on the line in an elite commando unit and his brother lost his life during the rescue of over a hundred hostages in Entebbe. Israelis trust that Netanyahu will not send the sons and daughters of Israel into pointless battle. Israelis will always choose to preserve life, which goes hand in hand with self-defense. Israelis also know that since the birth of the State of Israel our neighbors have tried to get rid of us. They didn’t succeed then. And they won’t now.

 

Christmas Eve in the Old City

My friend from Costa Rica came to visit me in Jerusalem on Christmas Eve. It was wonderful to see her, and it also gave me the opportunity visit my city as a tourist. It’s nice to be reminded how exciting the Old City can be.

We wandered around and enjoyed the views.

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View from the Austrian Hospice (looking southward). Today it’s a hotel and in the past it was a rest stop for Austrian pilgrims.

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Exiting the Lion’s Gate, we looked over Gethsemane (lower left) and the Mount of Olives cemetery (right). Perfectly timed as the sun was just about to be blocked by the walls of the Old City.

 

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Candle lighting at the Kotel. It was, after all, also the third night of Chanukah.

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Since it was Christmas Eve and there wasn’t a Chinese restaurant on our way, we had kosher Korean food. From the left, clockwise: gimbap, tteok-bokki (sweet version), japchae, and kimchi. YUM!

Next stop, Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It was unbelievably crowded. And yet quiet and respectful. It may surprise you to know that many of the special tours were in Hebrew – meaning Israelis were visiting.

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Nativity scene in the silent chapel at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

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Crusader graffiti. These marks were left by Crusaders along the walls going down the stairs to Helene’s Chapel. Helene was Constantine’s mother and declared this site to be the location of the crucifixion.

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The Holy Selpuchre itself. Inside this structure is a tomb that was opened in 2016 to be cleaned and restored. Some Christians dispute the site, but there is actually a tomb there consistent with the time period. See the National Geographic article about it HERE.

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In the Christian quarter. One of the few places in Jerusalem decorated with lights.

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Lighting up the walls of the Old City.

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We finished our evening by wading through a Chabad candle lighting at the entrance to Mamilla. The yeshiva boys are dancing, jumping, singing. The band is on the balcony playing wild Chanukah music featuring a flute. (Think mosh pit at a Jethro Tull concert.)

This was a great way to end 2019 and get ready for 2020. (I can’t believe it will be 2020 in a few days!!!)

Wishing you all good health, many joyous occasions,
and success, productivity, and prosperity in all your projects!

Happy New Year!!

A little light in the darkness

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice – the day with the fewest hours of daylight in the northern hemisphere. It’s also the first night of Chanukah. In the spirit of adding a little light in the darkest time of the year, here’s some good news!

(As I typed that I realized that I was being hemisphere-ist. In the southern hemisphere, tomorrow is the day with the most daylight hours. Sorry, Southerners!)

We’ve got Christmas in Jerusalem!

 

 

Santa

 “Jerusalem Santa” (Photo by Muammar Awad/Xinhua) SOURCE

This lovely guy brings Christmas cheer to the Old City by dressing up as Santa Claus and handing out Christmas trees provided for free by the municipality of Jerusalem.

Armenian

The Christmas tree in St. James Convent in Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter
(Photo: Vince PhotographySOURCE

You can always count on a Christmas tree outside the YMCA, but this year, the Armenian Quarter in the Old City is dressing up for Christmas.

James Corden’s Chanukah song

Need I say more?

LadBaby wins Christmas #1 AGAIN

This is an utterly silly song, but the story is absolutely heartwarming and sweet. LadBaby is a social media family who make hilarious videos, have fun, make each other laugh with a lot of British-style teasing, and have lots of followers like me around the world.

Last Christmas, LadBaby did a novelty song – “We Built This City (on Sausage Rolls)” – won Christmas #1 in the UK, and donated all the profits to The Trussell Trust. They were able to provide 70,000 emergency food packages for people in need in the UK.

So this year, they decided to try again. And they won Christmas #1 AGAIN! All profits will go to The Tressell Trust to provide food for those in need. Well done, LadBaby! (*Bonus Fun Fact: The only other groups to have back to back Christmas #1s are The Beatles and the Spice Girls!)

So whether you are celebrating Chanukah, Solstice,
Christmas, Kwanza, the New Year, or all of the above

May it be joyful and full of light!

 

 

 

News through an Israeli lens

Like any other country, Israel looks at world news through its own lens.

UK Election: Thank God that anti-Semite party wasn’t elected! Although if the Jews no longer felt welcome in Britain, they are definitely welcome here.

US Impeachment Hearings: What’s an impeachment?

At White House Chanukah Party, Trump signs Executive Order to Punish Campuses for Allowing Anti-Semitism: Whadda guy! Although the guest list was kind-of ^eye-roll^

Shooting in New Jersey: We are watching.

The Reimann family (owners of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, among other well-known brands)  committed to righting its Nazi sympathizer past and will track down people who were forced to work for them during the Holocaust to give them compensation. They are also committing EUR 25 million annually for Holocaust education: ^Nods of approval^

Finland’s Prime Minister is a 34-year-old Woman: ^crickets^


Meanwhile, here in Israel, we have our own issues.

On the way to a third election within a year: Seriously?!?!?!?

Netanyahu will not step down: Likud is having another leadership election. Netanyahu is trying to get support for direct elections for prime minister. Netanyahu keeps using the terms “witch hunt,” “attempted coup,” and “fake news.” (I wonder where he got the idea?)


And finally, watching American TV through my own Israeli lens.

An Israeli philosopher was mentioned on Chuck Lorre’s vanity card after Young Sheldon.

chuck lorre

 

 

Cat Condos and White (Cat) Privilege

Winter is coming. The forecast was for rain and I started to worry about the neighborhood cats. I have a couple of regular visitors. I feed and water them, but they are a little too street for my spoiled lazy cats.

Kitler was king of the yard before I moved here – my neighbor says ten years at least. He was a meany and he has a little half-mustache. It took a year and a half before he allowed me to pat his head. Now when he hears the door open, he comes running for his daily pat. These days he’s a roly-poly grump who tolerates the rest of us. He’s recently been attempting to look cute. But he’s stuck with the name. Sorry, Kitler, old pal! He had a cold (Kitler sneezing!) and that’s what spurred me into Cat Condo action.

Susanna is a vocal, needy, and slightly annoying cat. I feel bad for her because she had a blind, sick kitten. The vet made a house call, but we couldn’t save the kitten. A few weeks later, I managed to get her into a carrier and a friend took her in to get spayed (that was a drama and a half!). I named her after an annoying Susanna song – not “Oh Susanna” (although that’s also plenty annoying), this one.

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Susanna and Kitler

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Kitler coming in for a pat trying to look cute

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Susanna finally sits still after 20 picture attempts

Kitler would be ok, but this will be Susanna’s first winter. I found a few videos on YouTube and came up with an Israeli version of a Cat Condo.

Front view and top view (How-To below)

I made one the first day. Brave Susanna gave it a go and loved it!

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I snapped this after she’d been in there for an hour or so.

Normally, my white cats (Catski-Doodle and Kit-Kat Monster) look like this in winter.

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Snuggle-bunnies!

After I put out both Cat Condos, these two white entitled little brats demanded to go outside in the rain (it was pouring!) and spent the whole night in the Cat Condos! I couldn’t get them to come in. One finally scratched at the door at 4am. Guess why? To use the litter box!!! ARGH!! Seriously? The whole world is your toilet, but you’re coming in to make sure I clean it up for you! The second one came in at 6am like nothing had happened. That is some White Cat Privilege right there. No thought whatsoever that the Cat Condos could be for other cats. My black cat (Psycho Kitty) has no interest in being out in the rain and she couldn’t care less about the Condos.

The second night, when it wasn’t raining, everyone stayed inside and snuggled on the bed like they are supposed to.

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So you want to build a Cat Condo

Materials
60 liter storage box with lid
Outdoor seat cushion
Blanket scrap
Throw rug scrap
Tarp big enough to cover the box
cardboard (for insulation)
Duct tape

The most difficult and time-consuming part of the project is cutting a hole in the storage box – took me about an hour with a box cutter. You have to be sure that the hole is big enough for the cat but not too low allowing water to get in. Cover the sharp edges with duct tape to protect the cat. (If you crack the box while cutting like I did, duct tape it. One video recommended Rubbermaid, which would probably be easier to cut, but not available in Israel.)

I cut the cardboard so that I had a long piece to go around three sides and another piece on the bottom. I’m debating about gluing some cardboard and blankets to the lid, but it seems to me that the tarp works like a tent and it should retain some heat. (I’d be happy to hear some input on that in the comments.)

I used the throw rug for the curtain doors. It would also help to retain heat. I duct taped it above the door and cut it in the middle so the cats would know it was an entrance. I saw the cats pulling them closed when they were inside. They also feel safe.

The cushion takes up most of the floor space (soft, but also insulation). I covered all of it with a microfleece blanket. I have a few in the house and my cats LOVE them. The scrap was big enough to go over the sides of the cardboard.

The storage boxes that were the right size had lids that opened at the half-way point. Not very protective against the rain. That’s why I got the tarp. I didn’t want to close the box completely because the point of the lid is to be able to easily get in there and, if needed, clean the space or replace elements. So I duct taped the tarp on one side of the box and cut it so that it would tuck in on the other side.

Placement: I didn’t want to put it directly on the tiles of the patio, so one is placed on a pallet in the yard and I lifted the other one on two wooden slats. Not being a heating engineer, I hope this works. Also, I put a big rock on the top to weigh the box down.

Susanna seemed to like the space and I’ve found her in one box or the other (when my cats weren’t exercising their privilege). I have yet to see Kitler get in one. He’s sly, so we’ll see how it goes. Now I just have to make sure Louie, Pumpkin, Evil Snoopy, and the others don’t take them over. I don’t really want a Cat Colony in the yard.