New From Israel: Beauty-Free Cosmetics

Beauty-Free CosmeticsAs much as Israelis love English, Israeli business-owners like English puns and play on words better. Well, not really play on words, but what they perceive to be a clever play on words.

How about an Israel cosmetics company that apparently wanted to stress how inexpensive its products are, and came up with the ingenious name of Beauty-Free Cosmetics.
Yes, they wanted the customer to make a connection between the beauty products and the cost of similar products sold in the airport Duty-Free shops. These people love English so much they did not bother to check the meaning of ‘duty’ or ‘free’, and so they are now selling cosmetic products without beauty.

Learn Hebrew While You Drive

When I wanted to know how to get to a certain address in Jerusalem, these were the travel instructions I got from Israel’s leading mapping website emap.co.il:

English Route Instructions Software Bug | emap.co.il


7.  Straight on Agripas
8.  Turn left on Ki’akh
9.  Straight on Ha-Nevi’im
10. Take ramp to say what?

Yes, it is not a software bug; it is an induced-Hebrew-learning feature.

Pay No Attention to the English-Speaking Israeli behind the Facebook

There is no way around it, when it comes to computers, I am old school. When I first laid my hands on a keyboard, I was about seven years old and all the letters were in English. It was an Apple II clone, there was no hard disk, instead of a mouse there was a joystick, and of course there was no Hebrew involved.
The grown-up world was still trying to make these business machines work, so making them work in Hebrew, a language used by a few million people, was unheard-of.
To this day whenever I get an annoying ‘my computer does not work’ phone call from one of my computer illiterate friends, the first thing I am trying to establish is what pretentious action was executed to make a popular software fail. One time it was Nero not being able to burn Hebrew-named files onto a CD. Another time it was a graphics editor that kept refusing to open photos from a Hebrew named folder.
This is why I consider myself old school, as I always try to make it work and never insist on making it work my way. My thinking is always: it worked for a couple billion users, what possibly could Dana from Jerusalem do to make it break down?

Shahar with his Apple clone computer - 1984

I am aware, though, that I am pretty much alone in this battle: while I consider Hebrew an added bonus within the IT world, most Israelis approach it with a sense of entitlement. ‘If it does not work in Hebrew – it does not work’ some say. Others confess to not even trying to read any English, pressing the [Yes] or [No] buttons arbitrarily or by gut instinct.
The number 1 movie database is in English? Let’s use database number 700 – it’s in Hebrew!
You Google for answers in Hebrew and get none? Chances are you stumbled upon one of those eternal unanswered mysteries of the universe!

Shahar and his brother Liran with their Apple clone computer - 1986

This was pretty much the mentality around here, until MySpace and Facebook arrived. All of a sudden, Israelis found out they can read and write in English when they want to, and they started seeing the benefit in communicating worldwide using one universal language.
For all those people (some of which are my best friends) I hold the utmost disdain:
You who have frowned upon your (copied) software for not doing what you wanted it to do,
You who have allowed your personal computers to contract viruses, Trojan horses and venereal diseases because the warnings were in English,
You who have called your geeky friends in all hours of the day and night, horrified that your computer stopped working after clicking ‘Yes’ to an ‘Are you sure?’ message box you have not read,
All of you should be ashamed.

Only now did you discover you can actually put to use the second language your country made you learn from grade 4 to 12?

Israeli Avenue Q – Follow-up #3: Read My Critique – or, Better Yet, Skip My Critique And Just Buy Your Tickets Today!

Avid readers of my blog may have read about my growing anticipation for the Israeli production of Avenue Q (previous post #1, #2) – well I just came back from seeing the show and it is absolutely amazing!

Beit Lessin Ticket for Avenue Q

GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY at www.AvenueQ.co.il

Okay, now that I got the bottom line off my chest, let’s get down to the nitty gritty:
While I love theatre musicals, I am quite difficult when it comes to watching a local production, never being able to stop comparing everything, starting with the translated text, the set, the songs, the orchestra, and every other aspect which more often than not seem to be much better in the original production.
That is not the case with Moshe Kepten’s Hebrew version of Avenue Q – Bravo, Kepten, O Kepten!

Highlights:
Translation: Eli Bizsawi’s translation from English is a work of art. I often complain about still being able to ‘hear’ the original English when the translation is literal and sticks to the words and not the essence – but that is not the case with Avenue Q. As I predicted before, fitting all the information in English into Hebrew, which has oh so many more syllables, is an impossible job – but the translator did not force it, he made the words feel comfortable coming out of the actors’ mouths, using contemporary slang and references.
Actors: Michal Yannai plays herself as the has-been actress, and was a smart bet by the director of the show who felt the Gary Coleman character would not relate to the Israeli audience. Yannai upgraded the part and became the unequivocal star of the show, using many authentic reference points from her actual life to truly make herself be the example Schadenfreude person.
I have to admit I was very concerned with four actors: Roy Bar-Natan (Princeton, Rod), Tali Oren (Kate Monster, Lucy the Slut), Idan Alterman (Nicky, male Bad-Idea Bear), and Nicky Goldstein (Trekkie Monster), all of them are accomplished Israeli comedians, so familiar that I thought they might overshadow the puppets they play. To my surprise all of them gave minimalist performances, maximizing their abilities but minimizing their individual idiosyncrasies.
Michal Muchtar played an amazing female Bad-Idea Bear (Doobie Lo Lo), using her unique voice to show there really aren’t small parts. As previously noted, she is an up and coming star of the Israeli theatre, whose future seems brighter every time we meet. She also played Mrs. Thistletwat wonderfully.
Set: Except for a window that kept opening up, the set was a good replica of the original show, minus the Kate Monster head that shows up for a few seconds. No biggie.

Lowlights:
Sound: My biggest pet peeve when visiting the Israeli theatre. You always have to strain your ears to distinguish the words from the music. If they can balance it well abroad, why can’t they do it in Israel?
Actors: Elinor Aharon who played Latina the Spanish immigrant (originally Christmas Eve the Japanese immigrant) was dealt a bad hand and tried to do her best. The M-to-N letter replacement in her accent got old very quickly and became quite annoying. She only shined during her ‘The More You Ruv Someone’ solo.
Nir Shalmon played a parve Bryan, making a human character seem less life-like than the puppet characters. He did not ruin it for me – he just did not do anything for me.
Video: I cannot avoid mentioning the fact that the opening animation got digitally stuck half way through the opening theme, and there really isn’t an excuse for that.
Also, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a DVD player that does not show the word ‘play’ when you press play, but maybe it’s just me.

All and all, a very good production, well worth your time.
There are only a few more shows this month and a few more in November, 2007 – make sure you order your tickets soon!

Learn To Say Olmert in Sign Language

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Receding Hairline Over The Years - 1960s, 1990s, 2000s - From Full To Bald

Many shows on Israeli TV feature a sign-language interpreter in the corner of the screen for the benefit of the Israeli hearing impaired. While there is nothing wrong with my hearing, from time to time I find myself watching the interpreter rather than the show. I know very little about sign language: I know it is different in each country – and I know how to sign ‘I love you’. That’s pretty much it, except I have noticed the interpreters spell the letters of certain names, but have specific signs for popular ones – so when I first noticed the sign-language lady on the nightly news making a comb-over gesture when the anchorman said ‘Ehud Olmert’, I was certain I was mistaken. Only after finding the following video on the Israeli sign language website SignPedia, did I begin to believe my own eyes:

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

Ehud Olmert, who has been in the public eye for years, has always had a comb-over in a futile effort to disguise his receding hairline. It has only been a couple of years since he stopped fooling himself and accepted his baldness, so I guess the gesture for his name was invented a long time ago, which is rather funny to watch now, because it seems like deaf people all over Israel are making fun of him.

Israeli Avenue Q – Follow-up #2: Notes Following Press Junket

The Israeli production of Avenue Q conducted a press junket yesterday, performing some of the songs in front of news reporters, and both the actors and the puppets were interviewed by all mainstream Israeli media. As I grow more and more anxious towards the premiere in October, 2007, here are a couple of notes, based on my newly gained knowledge:

Puppetry:
Avenue Q Israeli puppets versus their American counterpartsIt seems that Roni Wagner’s puppet-making skills produced some inconsistent results:
while Kate Monster, Nicky and Trekkie Monster (TrekkieFletset in the local production) seem like they are the exact replicas of the originals, the other puppets seem a far cry from Rick Lyon‘s work:
Princeton doesn’t look like he just stepped out of college, more likely he just stepped out of the Kibbutz and haven’t had a chance to change his socks-and-sandals.
Rod with his pale blue skin color seems like a Chinese knock-off of the original investment banker and he seems to have changed the frames of his spectacles to an older and much less endearing ones.
And with Lucy the Slut something just doesn’t sit well, but I can’t put my finger on it. For some reason she looks to me more like a love doll than your local neighborhood slut.

Translation:
Eli Bizsawi’s translation to Hebrew was probably a difficult task. Unlike English, the holy tongue is full of words with many syllables, which creates quite a challenge for anyone trying to fit the same amount of information into a predetermined amount of stanzas. It seems the translator did a pretty good job, as the words of the songs seem to flow quite naturally.
Besides that, the Israeli production, like the English one, had to bridge over the cultural differences, so here Rod will not read ‘Broadway musicals of the 1940s’ but will watch a DVD of ‘The Eurovision Song Contest – The Beautiful Years’, as it is an activity much more authentic to the stereotypical Israeli homosexual.
Also, the original Japanese character Christmas-Eve was changed to Latina, the Spanish immigrant who faces pretty much the same difficulties as her US counterpart.

Check out the video coverage of the press junket as reported by NRG:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=canUTfh9sck

Additional coverage: Channel 10 News, Ynet News.

If you haven’t done so already, check out these related posts:
Israeli Avenue Q – Follow-up #1: Rehearsal Sneak Preview
Uncancelled: Israeli Production of the Avenue Q Musical

Israeli Avenue Q – Follow-up #1: Rehearsal Sneak Preview

Oh boy, have I got a bag of goodies for all you Avenue Q fans out there. First, check out this photo of the Israeli cast:

Israeli Production of Avenue Q in Hebrew - Rehearsal PR Photo

Front left to right: Michal Muchtar, Lucy the Slut, Tali Oren, Kate Monster, Michal Yannai, Rod, Roy Bar-Natan.
Back left to right: Princeton, Nicky, Idan Alterman, Trekkie Monster, Nicky Goldstein.
Missing from photo: Elinor Aharon.
Peeking in the back: the ubiquitous all-Israeli white Ketter Plastic chair :)

If that photo did not quench your thirst, I know what will: a video clip of the company singing the Avenue Q Theme, but before you press play, I have transcribed the Hebrew lyrics for your listening pleasure, then translated them back to English, and then added the original English lyrics for reference:

Original lyrics Translated back Hebrew lyrics
The sun is shining,
It’s a lovely day,
A perfect morning
For a kid to play,
But you’re got lots
Of bills to pay –
What can you do?You work real hard
And the pay’s real low
And ev’ry hour
Goes oh, so slow
And at the end of the day
There’s no where to go
But home to Avenue Q!
You live on Avenue Q!
You’re friends do too.
You are twenty-two
And you live on Avenue Q!
You live on Avenue Q
You live on Avenue Q
You live on Avenue Q!
Sun is shining
In golden colors
A cat and dog
Play together
You have no
Money for milk
That’s the statusWorks a lot
And earns a little
The time crawls
And crawls slowly
At the end of another crummy day
Me and you
Come back to Avenue Q!
Living in Avenue Q!
It’s not all-that
Just so you know
Living in Avenue Q
Living in Avenue Q
Living in Avenue Q
Living in Avenue Q!
זורחת שמש
בצבעי זהב
חתול וכלב
משחקים יחדיו
לך אין
כסף לחלב
זה המצבעובד הרבה
ומרוויח קצת
הזמן זוחל
וזוחל לאט
בסוף עוד יום מזופת
אני וגם את
חוזרים לאבניו קיו
גרים באבניו קיו
זה לא משהו
רק שתדעו
לגור באבניו קיו
לגור באבניו קיו
לגור באבניו קיו
לגור באבניו קיו!

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nK6UUQu9mow
Also, in a Ynet interview published today, Moshe Kepten, the director of the show dished out some exciting information. Apparently, the musical was translated to Hebrew, but the names and locations were kept, except for one character: the building superintendent in the original production is Gary Coleman, the actor who starred in the eighties television series ‘Different Stokes’ – played by another actor, as the has-been of the Avenue. In a very bold move this part was transformed, and Michal Yannai, who herself was a huge television star for millions of Israeli kids in the nineties, plays herself as the has-been, supposedly telling everyone at home she is participating in a movie filmed in New-York.

The full article in Hebrew can be read here, and is also archived here for posterity.
I have previously posted all the needed ticket ordering information here.

Uncancelled: Israeli Production of the Avenue Q Musical

Although its PR person emphatically denied it last month, Beit Lessin Theatre's production of Avenue Q is in full swing, premiering in October, 2007. This full page ad appeared in the shows schedule sent to subscribers today.

Israeli Production of Avenue Q - Beit Lessin Theatre Ad

The cast will include Michal Yannai, Idan Alterman, Roy Bar-Natan, Tali Oren, Nicky Goldstein, Elinor Aharon, and *Michal Muchtar. Directed by Moshe Kepten, produced by Yariv Yefet and translated by Eli Bizsawi.

To those of you who have no idea what all the fuss is about I would say that if Rent was about 'living in America at the end of the millennium', Avenue Q is about being twenty-two ten years later. You can check out some clips on YouTube, but don't dawdle in ordering your tickets, as there are only seven shows scheduled.

Additional information to follow. Critique to follow in October.

What do you do with a B.A. in English,
What is my life going to be?
Four years of college and plenty of knowledge,
Have earned me this useless degree.
– Avenue Q

*If the name Michal Muchtar rings a bell, it might be because you read my 2005 critique of Beit Zvi's production of the Blood Brothers musical, where she played the girlfriend, Linda.

Israeli Advertising Agencies’ Most Annoying Habits: Inventing New Words

One of my biggest pet peeves is the Israeli advertising agencies’ never-ending attempt to make us use words they just invented. It seems that all agencies use this beaten old trick, which usually comes in the form of combining two Hebrew words into one (a portmanteau) and pummeling it over and over into the brains of unsuspecting TV viewers. Some advertisers go to the extent of inventing whole new words from scratch, a trick that does not work with anyone above the age of twelve. In most cases this pretentious trick is used while trying to sell something no one needs, or when the advertising client have no earthly idea why anyone would use his services over his competitors.

Does it count as delusions of grandeur when you invent meaningless, useless words and expect people to use them? Here are some examples of this nasty habit, published here in the hope of using shame as an incentive to be more creative:

2004 – Dan Design Center TV Ad – Stakalala

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQ9YjDFAtV4

Phrases: tormofau, bravole, stakalala, darmushe, shasto
SEO: טורמופרב, טורמופאו, ברוולה , סתקללה, סתקללה לאללה, סטקללה, דרמושה, שסטו, שאסטו

2005 – Schoko Shock – Boker Shock

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgqMCe3YHRg

Phrase: boker shock (instead of boker tov / Good Morning)
SEO: בוקר שוק, בוקר טוב, שוקו שוק, שוקושוק

2007 – Yamit 2000 – Spark

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

Phrase: spark (a portmanteau of spa and park)
SEO: ימית 2000, ספארק המים, ספרק, ספא, פארק, פרק

2006 – Ruppin Academic Center – Mehandel

2006 - Ruppin - Mehandel

Phrase: mehandel (a portmanteau of mehandes / engineer and menahel / manager)
SEO: רופין, מכללה, מכללת, מהנדס, מנהל, מהנדל

2002 – Lapam – Pasim Lev

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tmSvg2ML8E

Phrase: pasim lev (instead of tasim lev / Pay Attention)
SEO: פסים לב, תשים לב

2005 – Avis – Tsidrug

2005 - Avis - Tsidrug

Phrase: tsidrug (a portmanteau of tsi / fleet and shidrug / upgrade)
SEO: אויס, אוויס, צידרוג, צדרוג, צי, שדרוג, שידרוג

2002 – Bagel Bagel – MemaCracker

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

Phrase: MemaCracker (a portmanteau of memaker / addictive and cracker)
SEO: ממכר, מקרקר, קרקר, ביגל, בייגל, בייגלבייגל, ביגלביגל

End of Part 1

Cancelled: Israeli Production of the Avenue Q Musical

I just found out this last Wednesday that the Israeli production of the musical Avenue Q is cancelled :(
After a month of phone calls and emails, I was finally able to get an official response from the Beit Lessin Theatre, confirming that the translated local production that was scheduled to open on October 25, 2007 in Tel-Aviv, Israel – will not take place.

Cancelled: Israeli Production of the Avenue Q Musical [doctored image]

Not that it matters now, but it was previously published that the production will feature Roy Bar-Natan, Idan Alterman, Tali Oren, Michal Yannai, Nicky Goldstein and Tomer Sharon. It was also published that the director will be Moshe Kepten, the producer Yariv Yefet and the translation is by Eli Bizsawi.

I guess I will have to fly to New-York or London, after all.