Tuesday, May 31, 2005

What's French for schadenfreude? 

I would comment on my pleasure at seeing the statist, anti-American, appeasement-pacifist, anti-Israel, unelected, unaccountable, sovereignty-usurping monster known as the European Union defeated in a referendum. But I won't bother, because Mark Steyn has already done so beautifully.

Funny Vodka 

One of the most interesting recent phenomona of the growth of email has been viral advertising: companies using internet movie formats such as Flash to create advertisements. Two New Zealand beverage manufacturers have done this beautifully: 42 Below vodka have done some beauties. Realising there is a limit to what they can get away with on television, they have made some beautifully subversive ads that have added massively to their profile: The first is "The Story of 42 Below". They followed it up with beautiful takes on Britain and Australia, where they played on the (actually untrue) stereotype of New Zealanders living on Australian welfare hand-outs while they laze on Bondi beach. The other company is L&P (for non-Kiwis: L&P is a lemon-flavoured soft drink), relying on Kiwi memories of the atrocious offence to elegance that were Stubbies shorts. To know what NZ looked like in the early 80s, see this ad.


Hi all. Yet again, I have to apologise for not posting. I have been busy, but that's no excuse. Thankfully, Comrade has kept people informed and thinking.

There is much blogging to come.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

To iPod, or not to iPod 

The Apple iPod is a fantastic invention. It is ridiculously popular, and even people like myself that tend to distance themselves somewhat from popular culture have one in their pocket. But there are problems with the iPod, and I'm not referring to technological ones.

The problem is not with the iPod per se, but with the phenomenon it represents in our society. It is the problem of instant gratification. It's the monster that wants strawberries all year round, the beast that demands television movies to start NOW. And now it has a new guise - the one that wants access to all the music it owns, at all times.

There is something remarkable and beautiful about seasons, about anticipation. Only through anticipation without instant gratification can we truly appreciate what we are recieving when we recieve it. There is something wonderful about not having the one CD you want to listen to with you, and listening to it when you return home instead.

Even now, for example, in Israel, winter is the season of the pomella. It is a beautiful and delicious fruit, but you know it is only around for a short time. Every juicy bite becomes heaven. Every morcel is savioured. And everyone is more grateful for that morsel than they would have been had been available all the time.

I'm not suggesting that we dispose of imported or greenhouse fruits, or that everyone burns their iPods, or that we shutdown the internet. These are all things that have their place. But we should definately be aware of the deep problems these concepts present. We need to be aware of how far they have taken us from our natural human nature - the nature that is rooted with the land and the seasons. Only if we are truly aware of these phenomena can we be truly grateful for what we have.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Jeff da Maori 

I saw a programme on television (shock! horror!) the other day called "New Zild: The Story of New Zealand English". Great stuff. I love the idea of bringing historical linguistics to the masses!
This programme caused me to contemplate the "bro" or "fresh" accent heard in a lot of Maori and Pacific Island English in New Zealand, and I was wondering if it is remnants of the Pacific languages on English (just like French was originally Gaulish Latin). A lot of the sounds are similar. Any comments people? I know it's not as exciting as my last blog, but this really fascinates me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Late Night Philosophy - The Jewish Imperative 

No, this isn't about the Jewish imperative to do late night philosophising. Rather, it is a blog about the "Jewish Imperative" and is written late at night, hence it is in itself late night philosophy. Anyway, let's get to work. This is just a thought I had while walking to shule on Shabbat a couple of weeks ago.

People (especially Jews) have complained in recent years of the so called "moral double standard" that the world seems to hold Israel to. They complain that the world holds Israel accountable for things that would go unnoticed in other countries. I think this is a real problem - not that people hold these "double standards", but rather that people protest against them. Every human has a moral obligation to the other. It is the face of the other that demands this obligation. However, it would seem that there is indeed something more than this to Judaism.

In many places in the Torah, we read about the requirement to be kind to the stranger "for you were strangers in the land of Egypt". It is this sentence that holds the key here. We were strangers in the land of Egypt. We know what it feels like to be strangers in a land. Indeed, we have known it not only from Egypt, but from all periods through history. But it is because of that, that we must be held accountable for what happens to strangers in our own land.

It is the Jews that have had this experience, and as such they have what I will call an experiential imperative. Jews are human. They already have the moral obligation to their fellow by that fact alone. It is as if the text is telling us "You know what it is like to be a stranger! Al achat kama v'chama (even more so) do you need to be kind to the stranger! You - because you have experienced the suffering to be a people in a strange land - you must take the extra imperative! It is not enough for you to merely be human!" It is not anti-semites or anti-Zionists that hold Israel to a higher set of morals - it is the Torah itself!

Not only is the idea of a "double moral standard" a very Jewish concept, but it is the essence of what makes us Jews. We know what it is like. We have experienced suffering. We must not let others suffer. Even if it is beyond our obligations as moral people, it is not beyond our obligations as Jews. This is our Jewish experience. Those that deny the double standard, deny their Jewishness. We must live up to our obligations.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Apologies and General Funniness 

Hello all!
First I must apologise for my several long inactive months. I have been a bad blogger. But enough of that... onwards and upwards as they say.

Let me relate to you a short anecdote from my wanderings of the vicinity of the University of Auckland yesterday. I'm not usually one to support the defacing of property, but this time it was some good graffiti that made me laugh. Someone had stuck a poster for May Day on a lamp post with something to the effect of "Want to Sack your Boss?" written on the top. To which another being, with their pen in their hand, had commented: "Want anarchy? Go to Angola you dumb fucks!".
Sometimes swear words say it best don't they...

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