Academy Award Nominations Concur: America is at a Crossroads

With all the excitement of an Israeli film nominated for an Academy Award for the first time in twenty years, I did not pay enough attention to the Documentary Feature category:
Three out of five films nominated deal directly with the Iraqi conflict, including ‘No End in Sight‘, which I wrote about in a post titled ‘Watch This Film and Become a Better Citizen of the World in 90 Minutes‘. If you were not persuaded to follow my advice then, with an Oscar nomination you really have no excuse now.

Watch the No End in Sight trailer here:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGPp-WhgEXE

The 80th Academy Awards telecast, hosted by Jon Stewart (Leibowitz), will be broadcasted live:
USA – February 24th, 5PT/8ET, ABC
Israel – February 25th, 3am, Hot Gold (channel 12)

Library of Progress

I often criticize the Israeli Internet for being stuck in the 1990’s and not getting the jist of the net’s knowledge sharing nature. So much so, that I started thinking that maybe I come off as a crazed reprover in the gate, drooling and mumbling incoherently something about Web 2.0. Could it be that everyone in Israel is wrong? Is sharing not a Jewish trait?

Case in point: There are three extensive photo archives in Israel, the National Photo Collection, The Central Zionist Archives, and the Jewish National Fund – and every time I search one of them, I cannot help but wonder: Is that all I get?
A crummy search engine user interface – is that all I get?
A crummy photo-not-available-online result – is that all I get?
A crummy purchase-reproduction-by-email-only* – is that all I get?

Well, today, courtesy of the US Library of Congress I got my sanity check, and it came back in my favor:
The Library of Congress, established more than two centuries ago, is young enough an establishment to decide to upload all of its 14 million photos to Flickr – for you and me to use freely. Let me repeat that for you, to make sure you and me get it: I read today, on the library’s blog (that’s right!), that they started a pilot (currently only 3000 photos) in which users can freely search, download, caption and tag all the historical photos from the archives of the LOC.
Still waiting for the other shoe to drop? Looking for an angle? Trying to find out if the LOC have a secret money making mechanism? Matt Raymond, Director of Communications for the library, details their evil knowledge-sharing/knowledge-seeking scheme:

[singlepic id=21 w=320 h=240 float=right]We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves. For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured. If such information is collected via Flickr members, it can potentially enhance the quality of the bibliographic records for the images.

 

Why must we wait a decade before web trends make Aliyah?

Hat tip to TGrayImages.

* The Jewish National Fund is the only one that offers online photo purchasing.

Will That Be Cash or Credit?

Eytan Shouker, photographer, activist, and a former teacher of mine, notes that most of the people making a living from art are not artists themselves: museum staff, municipal and governmental culture department clerks, freelance curators, art critiques – all of them receive payments for their art-related work – while the artist usually settles for a stroke of his ego, and a couple of extra copies from the exhibit catalog. In his 2006 manifesto Shouker describes the common practice of offering artists nothing more than acknowledgement and credit, and sometimes reimbursement for their material expenses. The artists, feeling indebted to the powers that be for singling them out as worthy of an exhibit, accept these terms without ever thinking they deserve better.

[singlepic id=19 w=320 h=240 float=right]This month, Shouker has embarked on a project which aims to turn that art pyramid on its head, and help artists take charge of their future. He is arranging a group exhibit which will be funded by small amounts of money donated by individual artists. Based on the Million Dollar Homepage concept, he created a website, in which artists are invited to purchase pixels to fund the project, creating a Million Dollar Art Pyramid, so to speak.

The Pyramid Game exhibit will open March 15, 2008 at the Artists House in Tel-Aviv. Visit the official website (now-defunct) for more information.

Update: Eytan Shouker’s artwork featured in this post, which includes five of Hagigit’s seven members, is now available for purchase, marked at 31,500 NIS.

Hebrew Obama Poster: CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN

Inspired by Will.i.am’s video and the Yes We Ken Girl, as well as being moved daily by Obama’s rhetoric and promise of a better America and vicariously a better world, I thought I would do my part: Following is an Obama poster I translated to Hebrew. It is my first creation for the campaign, and I am thinking about making a Hebrew video as well. We’ll see…

[singlepic id=18 w=450 h=693 float=center]

Click here to download a Zip file containing a print-size JPG and PSD.

Disclaimer:
– Use the graphics in any way you see fit, as long as it is not for financial gain, and as long as it gets Obama elected.
– You can use CafePress, Zazzle, or similar online printing services to print merchandize for you and your friends, as long as you do not set up a public shop.
– If you have used the graphics online or printed it and held it in an Obama rally, it would be nice if you could send some photos and share the joy.
– Feel free to link directly to the original post on my blog, but do not link directly to the files.

Make sure you check out my other design:
Hebrew Obama Poster: YES OUI KEN | frgdr.com

I will elaborate a bit on my artistic decisions: Translating ‘change we can believe in’ proved to be somewhat of a challenge, as the Hebrew word for ‘we can’ (NUCHAL, נוכל) is the exact one for ‘crook’ (NOCHEL, נוכל). In this age of Rovean politics, even a hint of such subliminal connections can be bad – remember the 2000 Democrats/rats ad by the Bush campaign? For that reason I chose wording which loosely translates to ‘change that can be believed in’, which has the added benefit of being misread as something like ‘Change, you can believe in him’. Since Hebrew uses a different Alphabet altogether, I could not use the original fonts. These are the closest I could find:

The original English PDF was downloaded from here, now here.

Update: This post was originally titled ‘We Need a Mentch in the White House‘, but was renamed upon releasing my second Hebrew Obama poster.

March of the Living Well

As a third-generation Holocaust survivor, I find the subject surprisingly unresolved to me, often pondering about different aspects of it. One example is my criticism of the Holocaust commemoration in Israel, which emphasizes the uniqueness of the tragedy in a way that makes contemporary acts of genocide not really matter.

[singlepic id=16 w=250 h=240 float=right]I find it refreshing to stumble upon art that tries to discuss the Holocaust, as the subject is somewhat of a taboo in Israel and intelligent discussions are often brushed-off with the ‘there is no comparison’ sentence, useful for all occasions. Noam Akotonas is an Israeli singer/songwriter whose debut album ‘Sweeter than Blood’ (2004) includes a song to my liking: ‘A Trip to Poland’ discusses the practice of sending high school students to WWII extermination camps to ‘bear witness’ quote unquote. Noam, like myself, is very critical of these programs, ran by Israel’s Ministry of Education, raising the oh-so-important question: What are we teaching our children?

Noam was kind enough to send me an ad-hoc English translation to the original Hebrew lyrics. Have a listen:

Noam Akotonas and the Salvation Army – A Trip to Poland – Lyrics:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

We traveled to Poland, Mummy
We were sent to get memories
I wrote everything, Yes Mummy
Listen to what we got here
We arrived at Auschwitz, Mummy
And saw the gas chambers in rows
We were in a shock that Mummy
We had to invite two go-gos

We visited the ghetto, Mummy
And what remains from the wall
I spent so much money, Yes Mummy
Suffering has its price say they all

It was so dreadful, Mummy
As we got to the crematorium hall
And in the evening when we had a moment
We spent some good time at the mall
We also toured at Treblinka
With flows of tears we held flags
We were so in pain, Dear Mummy
That at night we exchanged fluids and rags

I came back from Poland, Mummy
I have almost made it all right
But tell if it’s possible Mummy
Could I have fun in Eilat?
But tell if it’s possible Mummy
To send me at once to Eilat

נסענו לפולין אמא
נשלחנו לספוג רשמים
כתבתי הכל כן אמא
בואי שמעי איזה קטעים
הגענו לאושוויץ אמא
לראות את תאי הגזים
במלון מרוב זעזוע
הזמנו גם שני חשפנים

ביקרנו בגטו אמא
או מה שנשאר מהקיר
ביזבזתי המון כן אמא
לסבל יש גם מחיר

היה מחריד הו אמא
נכנסנו למשרפות
ובערב היה לנו רגע
עשינו בקניון קניות
סיירנו גם בטרבלינקה
בדמעות הנפנו דגלים
ומרוב שכאב לנו אמא
בלילה החלפנו נוזלים

חזרתי מפולין אמא
הפכתי לגבר כמעט
אבל אם אפשר אז אמא
אני רוצה גם לאילת
אבל אם אפשר שוב אמא
אני רוצה גם לאילת

Top Ten Most Offensive Israeli Ads – Part 2

Over the years, the Israeli ad agencies seem less and less connected to the human experience and more and more willing to use anything to sell everything. In this list I attempt to countdown the most offensive advertisements created in Israel in recent years, in the hope of using shame as an incentive to be more creative.

While part 1 of this list focused on ads that were particularly insensitive towards historical tragedies of other nations, part 2 focuses on ads that use sexual harassments and hints of pedophilia as their storyline. Every time each of the following ads was criticized by the media and by consumers, the admen had the same exact response, claiming it was all done with a tongue-in-cheek approach, accusing the critics of being humorless sticks-in-the-mud.

2006 – Chipsi Free TV Ad – McCann Erickson

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71sT12KwS84

A young boy in a Hugh Heffner bathrobe tells his mom to relax as he gets a visit from two teenage blondes. Had it been a young girl getting a visit from two high school guys, there is no doubt in my mind there would have been cries of pedophilia.

2008 – Nescafé Taster’s Choice TV Ad – McCann Erickson

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIPk2aad874

The new Mrs. Robinson apparently now has a craving for instant coffee and a different bachelor, dispensing sexual innuendos that would have been considered too shallow and obvious by 1980s porn directors. Nothing new, just your run-of-the-mill insult to intelligence.

2008 – Kotex Dry & Soft Night TV Ad – McCann Erickson

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAX0rDqLCdo

This is another example of a brainstorming joke that should have never left the ad agency’s conference room. Parents watching this ad with their kids are not only forced to answer questions about doggy style and the meaning of 69, but are also forced to try and explain how sexual positions correlate to female hygiene products. Totally inappropriate.

2007 – Lighting Warehouse TV Ad – Inbar-Merhav-Shaked

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS1muFSM8ZU

Miki Buganim, an Israeli hairstylist and a D-List celebrity, harasses salesmen with lighting-related sexual innuendos, looking for something for his bedroom, appreciating the fact that it bends – the light fixture, that is – and upon hearing about the 70% discount, stating he would have also agreed to 69.
Since I find a good portion of all Israeli ads to be superficial and insulting to the intelligence, I actually consider this ad to be refreshing, believe it or not. Buganim, an effeminate gay guy, sexually harassing other people in a commercial, is actually progress in a twisted kinda way. Just like gay couples who want to hop on the marriage wagon, clearly seeing that half of the straights experience buyer’s remorse – when a gay guy sells, you know Israeli society had made some progress.

Blogging: The Tipping Point

Update: This post discusses TipJoy, which has now shut down its service. More info here.

Most bloggers and small content-providers do not expect to earn money that way. They do it for the fun of it, writing about things close to their heart. But everyone needs to feel the love, and so bloggers take comfort in the rising number of visitors, the search terms that led visitors to the website, and by the comments left.

When that initial love fades, many bloggers post a PayPal donation button or an Amazon Honor System paybox, to allow readers to leave small cash tips as a way of saying thank you for the content provided. The thing is, as most people read multiple blogs daily, it usually takes an extraordinary event to make a reader step out of his comfort zone, login to his PayPal account and actually send a buck.
This is where TipJoy, an exciting new startup comes to the rescue: readers are not required to create an account to leave a tip, so the initial friction is removed. They just click the tip this button | TipJoy.com button and type in their email address, thus starting to build up an account debit – one single account for tips left in multiple websites. Eventually readers can pay that debit off via PayPal, although no one comes after you if you choose to skip out on the bill. Readers can also start to ask for tips on their own site, and anything people leave for them offsets what they have given to others.
That is the magical simplicity of TipJoy: Did you read something that made you laugh? Tip the blogger 10 cents. Someone posted a scoop you enjoyed reading? Click to tip them. At the end of the month, go to your TipJoy account, and pay your entire 3 dollar bill in a single PayPal transaction.

frgdr.com added TipJoy’s ‘tip this’ buttons to its posts. We’ll see how it goes.

Hat tip to TechCrunch.

Notes Following the Cancelled Football Match Tonight At Teddy Stadium

I was flipping through the channels when I saw firefighters all geared up in a live broadcast on Israel’s Channel 10. As an Israeli, my first thought was that something bad happened. It turns out that there was a power outage at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, and the football match between Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Haifa could not continue.

I was glued to the television set, watching in disbelief the colossal waste of airtime consisting of numerous interviews with the who’s who of football management. Apparently there are many ways to say ‘I have no earthly idea’ without using these specific words.

Now, I get watching sport events on TV, okay, I get it. I even did it a couple of times with my dad, pistachio scarfing and all. What I don’t get is watching the sports talk shows after the game, analyzing every move for an additional 90 minutes. What I don’t get is reading the daily sports section, further dissecting the game.

What I don’t get is watching a football match for 7 minutes and then watching 40 minutes of live reports from the generator room, with an additional 10 minutes recap later on on the nightly news.

For your viewing pleasure, here are the last minutes of the live broadcast – watch as much as you can bear:

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=Z-jjmPpfAWQ

Everyone Is Talking About modu – But What Is modu Talking About?

Avid readers of my blog know all about my disdain for Engbrew, the English/Hebrew language that threatens to replace the holy tongue. Based on a child-like fascination with the American culture, many Israelis think speaking English-peppered Hebrew makes them seem more intelligent. Yes, just like the people who think wearing glasses makes you look smarter, many Israelis think that the more English words, terms and idioms they use while talking to their peers, the more cool they seem.

Last night, as I was watching a news report about the new Israeli cell phone company modu, my jaw dropped when one of the executives started speaking Engbrew:

httpv://youtube.com/watch?v=LB_ASueGI3U

A True Israeli Does Not Evade the Real Issues

Instead of discussing the issues that lead to the ongoing decrease in army enrollment, the powers that be have decided to embark on a campaign that aims to shame Israelis that did not enlist, and emphasize the superficial shared experiences that connect Israelis who did serve.
Having served in the IDF myself, I think I earned the right to say I find this campaign to be quasi-fascist on one hand and super-shallow on the other – an all out war on secular middle-class Israelis.
Only in a newborn democracy would the government dare to attack a portion of its citizens without ever opening the subject for real debate: in the commercials you would not find a single governmentally-exempt Orthodox Jew, nor a single sexually-harassed female soldier, nor a single MoD-ignored PTSD veteran.

Here is one of the TV spots of this campaign:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0_M-2WO7pI

Here is a spoof ad that was recently released by a group of brave Israelis (with less than brave acting skills) in an effort to open the subject for debate:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwTebMJtJPI

Hat tip to Mizbala.