Friday, August 11, 2006

Footprints in the Crosswalk

Music and Games

I don't listen to much in the way of Hebrew music, still, but I'm beginning to appreciate some of it.

Try this yourself. If you live in America, you can probably find some foreign language station on your radio dial, such as Spanish or French. Listen to it once in a while for a few years.

At first, the songs all sound the same, even though they sound different. What do I mean by that? It's the same as saying that all "people of X nationality" all look the same. Of course, they don't look exactly the same. They all share a certain characteristic that your brain classifies briefly in a new container.

Because you don't spend that much time studying the actual differences, your brain washes away the details and the only thing you remember is the classification characteristic, which is, essentially, the same for all the members in that container.

As you immerse yourself in that world, your brain assigns the elements in that bucket more importance, and begins to enhance your classification features. Now, instead of only, say, 'slanted eyes' for all those Chinese people, you begin to also see 'red cheeked', 'flat nosed', 'wrinkled', 'smiling eyes', and so on, all characteristics that you also use for any other people. Only before, these characteristics never made it high enough onto your radar to be considered worth utilizing.

The same goes for songs. When I first heard Israel music, I thought it all sounded the same. I wouldn't have listened at all, but the most popular radio station, and the only one that plays English music (at the time) is Gal-Galatz, army radio. Their playlist is a mix of English and Israeli music, in roughly equal proportions.

It's all top-40 junk, mostly, but I occasionally like to listen to it, and mostly, my kids want to listen to it in the car. So as the years went by, I began to start discriminating between the Hebrew songs that I liked and those that I didn't.

I'm still no fan of Israeli music, but I admit now that some of it is quite good. I still know very little about artists and songs specifically.

Of course, the same thing can be said about games and game styles.

All war games seem pretty much the same to me, as do all civ building computer games, and all party games. Of course I see that they're different. But my brain hasn't assigned enough significance to those aspects that differentiate them, yet.

If I played them more, no doubt that I would. And the same must be true about Euro games to those who are deeply entrenched in their own gaming genres.


One of the bands whose name I know is Tipex. Aside from the fact that I knew one of their songs, which I liked, I also knew that they are one of the few Israeli bands that are politically right-wing, as opposed to being ideological left-wing dreamers. That's a hard position to be in in Israel, and to be successful as well was impressive.

So when I found out that they would be playing at the annual outdoor international artists fair in Jerusalem, I decided to go with Tal.

The concert was excellent. And it turns out that I knew something like 17 out of the 20 songs that they played, having heard them on the radio countless times. I just never knew that they were Tipex songs.

Let me say again: they are really really good, even to Western ears.

But their lead singer sure looks funny. The band is six people, and five of them look like typical musicians. The lead singer is really short, has a mostly bald or shaved head, a wispy black goatee, and looks like a total nerd. He wore a black suitjacket, and when he eventually took it off, he revealed a Batman tee-shirt.

But he sang in a voice that didn't look like it could come from that body, and he sang great.


As far as the visual arts and crafts, there were many displays from various countries, although less than last year. Perhaps some of them canceled recently due to the situation. In any case, one surprise booth was the Jordanians.

The guy running the booth had a big picture of the Jordanian king in the back of his booth, and under it a sign saying "We love Israel". He told me that we have to beat Hezbollah, because we are fighting Iran and Syria, and no one else is doing it.

He also said that the whole situation is very ironic in the Arab world. They always expected that Lebanon would be the first country to make peace with Israel (before Egypt and Jordan), but that Syria scuttled it. I wished him well, and I hope his trip was profitable.

I saw some Mancala games in the African booths, and some chess sets in the Nepalese booth. I almost bought a beautiful inexpensive chess set that rolled up and fit in a tube. It came with carved stone pieces from Nepal, and it was dirt cheap - less than $10 - but in the end I realized that I didn't really want it, I only wanted to photograph it.

Tal looked in vain for zebras, but while there were many other animal figures and paintings, zebras don't appear to be popular subjects for crafts.

I ended up buying one thing, a strange looking pillow case from Zimbabwe, of a style that I have never bought before, but which attracted me. I honestly can't say why. Why are people drawn to things? What makes them like certain styles or patterns? What makes my brain suddenly say "I like that"?

On the way home, I didn't notice that one of the crosswalks had been newly painted and I stepped on it as I crossed the street. Tal says that I left footprints in the crosswalk.



Mischa said...

I enjoyed hearing the New Orleans Klezmer All Stars, my first non-Fiddler exposure to Jewish music.

Yehuda Berlinger said...

I'm glad you like it. I'm not a fan of Klezmer. I think that there's more to being Jewish then life in an Eastern European shtetl.

On the other hand, I don't think the culture should be lost.