Israel in Top 10 List of Copyright Infringements, Says New Report

A report released yesterday by BayTSP titled “Online Trends & Insights – 2008”, asserts that the cumulative number of copyright infringements from Israel during that year is 3,655,253. That raises Israel from 13th place in 2007, to 9th place in 2008 – or 2nd place per capita. It should be mentioned that this is not an independent report, and that BayTSP like any other anti-P2P company has a vested interest in making the numbers seem bigger.
BayTSP Report: Israel is in Top 10 List of Copyright Infringements

Hat tip to TorrentFreak.

How New Technologies Made TV Worse

We are in the middle of a digital revolution:Twitter, YouTube, mobiles, LCD – the only sure thing about these new technologies is that we do not really know how they will affect our lives. Amidst this wonderful wave of transformation some disturbing trends have emerged. Following are a few examples from Israeli TV wherein new technologies facilitate in its change for the worse:

Distorted video proportions

Between 4:3 and 16:9, analog and HDTV, a mixture of formats that is indicative of a TV world that hasn’t decided on a new standard and has to make do. Until a universal standard is agreed upon and implemented, are we destined for years and years of stretched heads?

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That man is not this fat! Channel 10 News visually distorts an interview from UK’s Sky News.
These people are not this thin! Channel 2‘s UK reporter submits a visually distorted news item.

Web quality footage when better is available

News desks get access to virtually every other news feed in the world and record most of it for future use, but lately it seems it became too much of a hassle for them to use the recorded footage. Searching for a video on YouTube is so easy and fast that even when doing a piece about an event that happened a day earlier, news channels slack off by broadcasting pixelated videos from the web, as opposed to broadcast-level footage.

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Channel 2 News features coverage by German ARD using a compressed YouTube video.
Channel 2 News covers Bar Refaeli’s interview with Letterman on CBS using YouTube posted video.

Web videos as legitimate news items

The blurring of boundaries between news and entertainment is a serious issue, and part of it manifests in this trend of deeming web-content newsworthy. In this age of Context Collapse a private posting can be escalated into prime-time news:

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Channel 10 News covers a satirical YouTube video that miscaptions the Fuehrer so as to make him complain about parking spaces in Tel-Aviv.
For that extra kick, channel 10’s reporter shows said video to a Holocaust survivor who had never seen it before. Sought emotional impact achieved.

Part 2 of this post will be published during the next few months.

When I Cry, I Cry for Both of Us – Israeli Politics and the Eurovision

Everything you do or say in Israel can be construed as political, from the paper you read to the lunch you eat. It’s no wonder, then, that so many songs sent to represent Israel at the Eurovision song contest over the years have raised quite a bit of ruckus on the way. Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane:
In 1974, just after the Yom Kippur war, Israeli band Kaveret sang at Brighton, UK, “There’s enough air for a country or two”. In 1983, a decade after the Olympics massacre and half a century after WWII, singer Ofra Haza, in front of a German audience in Munich, sang “I am still alive”. In 1991 at Rome, Italy, a singing Duo Datz wished whoever comes ‘Ahalan’ in Arabic, but stated they were born ‘here’ and so were their children. At the 2000 contest in Stockholm, Sweden, things got so hectic that the band Ping-Pong were disavowed by the Israeli Broadcasting Authority after insisting on waving an Israeli and a Syrian flag (and some cucumbers). In 2007 at Helsinki, Finland, Israeli band Teapacks warned the world that you-know-who is “gonna push the button”.

Held this week in Moscow, Russia, the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest will include another political song from Israel, but one that is quite sober and realistic. Sung by “an Arab girl who looks Jewish and a Jewish girl who looks Arab” this song might not win Europe over, but I believe singers and songwriters Noa and Mira Awad will make many Israelis proud by their simple statement in English, Hebrew and Arabic: There must be another way:

There Must Be Another Way – Noa & Mira Awad – Lyrics

English Translation:
There must be another
Must be another way
Your eyes, sister
Say everything my heart wants to say
We’ve come a great distance
Our road has been long and hard
Hand in hand
And the tears fall, flow, in vain
Our pain has no name
We are both waiting
For the day ‘after’
There must be another way
There must be another way
Your eyes say
One day, the fear will be gone
In your eyes there is determination
That we can continue
Our journey
For as long as it takes
For there is no address to sorrow
I cry to the open plains
To the merciless sky
There must be another way
There must be another way
There must be another
Must be another way
A long and hard journey
Lies before us
Together, on our way to the light
Your eyes say
All the fear will someday disappear
And when I cry I cry for both of us
My pain has no name
And when I cry I cry
To the merciless sky and say
There must be another way
And the tears fall, flow, in vain
Our pain has no name
We are both waiting
For the day ‘after’
There must be another way
There must be another way
There must be another
Must be another way
Eina’ih, ahot
Kol ma shelibi mevakesh omrot
Avarnu ad ko
Dereh aruka, dereh ko kasha
Yad beyad
Vehadma’ot zolgot, zormot lashav
Ke’ev lelo shem
Anahnu mehakot
Rak layom sheyavo ahrei
Aynaki bit’ul
Rah yiji yom wu’kul ilkhof yizul
B’aynaki israr
Inhu ana khayar
N’kamel halmasar
Mahma tal
Li’anhu ma fi anwan wakhid l’alahzan
B’nadi lalmada
L’sama al’anida
Derech aruka na’avor
Derech ko kasha
Yachad el ha’or
Aynaki bit’ul
Kul ilkhof yizul
Vehadma’ot zolgot, zormot lashav
Ke’ev lelo shem
Anahnu mehakot
Rak layom sheyavo ahrei

May 12, 2009 – Israel qualified for the final contest. Russian host Andrey Malakhov: “The most political-correct [sic] song goes to the final! Congrats Israel”.
May 17, 2009 – As expected, Europe did not fall in love and with 53 points Israel has finished in 16th place.

My Top 10 List of Brilliant Films Where Nothing Happens

Can I be alone in my longing for inarticulacy, for a cinema that refuses to join all the dots? For an arrhythmia in gesture, for a dissonance in shape? For the context of cinematic frame, a frame that in the end only cinema can provide, for the full view, the long shot, the space between, the gaps, the pause, the lull, the grace of living.
  – – Tilda Swinton‘s State of Cinema address, San Francisco Film Festival

I have compiled a list of movies I really like where pretty much nothing happens. In this age of nonstop-action films, these films dare to show the pause, the lull, the in-between, that which we call life. To say that nothing happens in these films is, of course, an oversimplification, and while these films are not boring, not by any stretch, they are the furthest thing from the climatic feeling you get in other films where a mystery gets solved, or when the two main characters finally fall into each others’ arms.

These films are certainly not for anyone, but those willing to risk losing ninety minutes off their lives, might gain so much more.

Lost in Translation (Japan, 2003) – Director: Sofia Coppola

Himalaya (Nepal, 1999) – Director: Eric Valli

The Band’s Visit (Israel, 2007) – Director: Eran Kolirin

The Way Home (South Korea, 2002) – Director: Jeong-hyang Lee

Elephant (USA, 2003) – Director: Gus Van Sant

The Mailman of China’s Mountains (China, 2003) – documentary

Our Daily Bread (Germany, 2005) – Director: Nikolaus Geyrhalter – documentary

Bar Refaeli Demonstrates What Happens When You Don’t Drink Enough Water

The scarcity of drinking water in Israel has led its Water Authority to deal with it the only way it knows how: gather a few celebrities willing to donate their time and produce a couple of public service announcements. Upon watching the PSA featuring Bar Refaeli, something did not seem right, but it took me a while to find out what it was: her arm gets flapped six or seven times in six seconds!

Is Bar a bit dehydrated, or could it be that her organs are trying to leave her one by one? You be the judge:

Breaking News: Knesset Member Unable to Switch Channels on Radio

It ain’t no mystery
If it’s politics or history
The thing you gotta know is
Everything is showbiz
  – – “Springtime for Hitler” from “The Producers” by Melvin Kaminsky

Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad has demanded that Israeli radio station Galgalatz stop playing the song Allein Allein (Alone, Alone) by German pop band Polarkreis 18      (Polar Circle 18), saying that the chorus is full of ‘shouting voices’ and that ‘as long as there are living Jews for whom shouting in German triggers a flashback to the time of the Holocaust in Europe, we cannot trample their feelings”.

Have a listen to find out what made the MK cringe (lyrics at the end of the post):

As a third generation Holocaust survivor myself I am eager to have a serious discussion about the subject, but a pop song is not where we should start.
Let’s start with the audacity of Israelis expressing anti-German sentiments while driving German cars and buying furniture from a former Nazi supporter.
Let’s talk about how survivors were ignored by the newly formed State of Israel and by its citizens, and let’s discuss whether these things are perpetuated to this day.
Let’s talk about Israelis captioning the Fuehrer so to make him complain about parking spaces in Tel-Aviv, let’s discuss why the two Israelis who made this thought it might be a positive outlet for their feelings, and why 90,000 Israelis wanted to watch it. Let’s discuss why the deplorable act is not making such videos but finding the nearest Holocaust survivor and forcing him to watch it.
Let’s talk about the German language and the German heritage of many of us, let’s talk about Yiddish and how we are witnessing this beautiful language die without intervening, let’s discuss why hearing a gentile uttering ‘wir sind allein‘ in German may trigger flashbacks and why a Jew saying ‘mir zaynen allein‘ in Yiddish does not have the same effect.

By all means, let’s have a serious discussion. But please, save me the fake wars about German pop songs in English. While this is a sure way of getting your name in the papers, I believe it belittles this serious subject.

Continue reading Breaking News: Knesset Member Unable to Switch Channels on Radio

It’s a Free Trip to Israel – So Why Aren’t You Already Here?

I have written before about Taglit-Birthright Israel       , a beautiful program that sends young Jews from all over the world to visit Israel for the first time for free. Yes, free! There are no strings attached, and no hidden agendas: the goal of the program is posted on its website: “to diminish the growing division between Israel and Jewish communities around the world; to strengthen the sense of solidarity among world Jewry; and to strengthen participants’ personal Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people.”

I am not sure people need much persuasion to get a free 10 day trip, but if you do you can check out this video, summarizing an evening of solo performances of monologues, spoken word and hip-hop inspired and performed by past participants, and directed by Vanessa Hidary, a.k.a. The Hebrew Mamita, of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam:
Make sure you check out the schedule for upcoming performances.

Which Way is Israel? – A Follow-up

Jerry I’m telling you I have this power. And I have no control over it.
   – – Cosmo Kramer – Seinfeld – s05e11

[singlepic id=185 w=320 h=240 float=right]Just two days ago I blogged about the mixed messages sent by Agritech, Israel’s agricultural exhibition, in their full page ads which had both an inviting slogan (The world arrives in Israel! Israel awaits the world!) and a deterring world map featuring relocated countries and arrows pointing every which way.
Well, it only took one phone call to event organizer Atar Krauss (as suggested by a reader of mine) to produce some results. In today’s Maariv newspaper the new ad is partly fixed: the countries are still playing musical chairs (except for Korea, circled in yellow by me, which was moved back), but at least the arrows are pointing to Israel, helping the world arrive there:

Before: After:
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click image for higher resolution

Swine Flu, Slackers and Simpsons – This Week in Spam

In the last few days I was fortunate enough to feast my eyes on the work of three kinds of spammers:

Spammer Type #1: The Updated Type

This guy truly believes every crisis is an opportunity and the current global pandemic can be harnessed to sell swine flu drugs:
Swine Flu Spam, May, 2009

Spammer Type #2: The Slacker Type

Hello Name Spam, May, 2009This guy has become so nonchalant about his daily sending of millions of unsolicited emails, he doesn’t even bother to proofread anymore, thus greeting millions of recipients with “Hello, {#TO_NAME}“:


Spammer Type #3: The Creative Type

This guy decided to flavor his spam with a long forgotten incident from The Simpsons, where Lisa, not Bart, is writing on the blackboard:
Simpsons  Spam, May, 2009

This is the relevant frame from that Simpsons episode:
The Simpsons s11e09 Spam, May, 2009