Two astronomers. Separated by only 22 degrees, 58 minutes of latitude, 33 degrees, 29 minutes of longitude, yet seemingly worlds apart. Their common goal: figure out the very nature of the Universe and its womenfolk.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

White Jerusalem

Although one is inclined to believe that it is the religious fervor, or the politics of this land that make it surreal, upside down, a "through the looking glass" experience, there is higher proof - of the natural kind - that afirms this claim. As the rest of the world uses proof of a warm winter as evidence for man made global warming, in Israel the opposite is true. Outside of my office it is snowing. And not just a trickle of snow that wont stick: but a full on blilzzard (of sorts). While alpine resorts curse their confounded bad luck at the lack of freezing temperatures, here in israel - a country surrounded by deserts and the warm waters of the mediterreanean - the mercury has dropped to that crucial point allowing sleet and rain to mold itself into snow. Its not just the politcs, the religiosity, the cultural interaction that is strange here, but alas, mother nature has her own plan for this land.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Tim Cappello: all kinds of awesome

Last night a few of us watched The Lost Boys (too skint to go to the Christmas curry!). I've always loved the film - and it's INXS-dominated soundtrack, but it had been a while since I'd seen it. I was hence reminded of Tim Cappello. And how badass he is.

Cappello is a musician that rose to fame as part of Tina Turner's touring band, and I suspect in no small part due to the fact that he clearly loves getting stacked and breaking out the baby oil. In the film, he can be seen playing a gig - with his epic track "I Still Believe" - to a crowd on a beach. Where better than to get topless, show off those muscles, and get oiled up?

As if that wasn't enough, his onstage performance in the film is nothing short of mind-boggling. His strutting puts Jagger in the shade, and Shakira would kill to be able to move her hips like Tim. And then there's the nuclear-powered sax playing. BOOM! How the hell this dude isn't a gay icon I'll never know.

His website has the following great facts:

-Timmy's favorite two instruments are the sax and his voice.
-In a fight scene on an episode of the Equalizer that he acted in, another actor mistakenly dislocated his nose. Ouch!!
-Timmy's band, the Ken Dolls, was the only group ever banned from CBGB for being "too outrageous."
-He isn't fond of any cologne; Timmy says it makes him itch.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Keep talking's my turn this week, along with the "N of NFW", to deliver the Friday Lunchtime Talk - an event now popularly abbreviated to FLT by Geach and Ross, I note. Well, there's only one band to listen to when writing a talk.

Yes indeed, "life is what you make it". And a quick glance at iTunes suggests that when my Talk Talk collection has been played through, I've got Tears for Fears to look forward to. Happy Days.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

why do beurocrats hate their jobs so much?

This morning I had an appointment at the ministry of the interior to sort out my formal visa position since when I landed I was only granted a 1 month tourist visa. My first experience with Israeli red tape was nearly what one would expect from a third world beurocracy. Except for the relative "efficiency" (I was out after only 45 minutes) the experience was agonizing. Firstly the crowd of american jews, phillipeno immigrants, palestinians and israelis was completely chaotic. There were no numbers to pull, no sign up sheet, basically a free for all where the man with the biggest waist wins. I luckily had an appointment (through not fault of my own: I had tried the futile exercise of making an appointment by phone, but no one EVER picked up), made for me by the adivsor to new faculty who also gave me a long list of documents/photos/forms I needed to have. My advisor also told me EXACTLY what to request: a 1 year B2 multiple entry visa. The beurocrats were your typical, lazy, sour faced, too much make up, ugly, annoyed, annoying, negative, "Id rather be dead than working for this lot" crew. At 930 I went to desk three and told the woman I had an appointment. She told me to wait. At 941 I sat down. She said I couldnt get a B2 multiple entry visa. Why not? because I was only elligible for a student visa. But my university told me differently? Doesnt matter. I can only grant you a tourist visa for 3 more months which will be cancelled when you leave the country. But... I dont care. Go to room 205. I go to room 205 (presumably the manager). She is in the process of clearing the long queue from in front of her room. Shes yelling at these phillipenos in hebrew and they clearly dont understand a thing. Then she starts yelling in english "If you dont have an appointment you have to leave", "Im sorry your pregnant wife isnt here, you cannot apply for anything on her behalf", "Come back tomorrow at 715 am" "If you dont have your visa tracking form I cant help you". She gets to me. I start telling her how my university told me one thing and her colleague is rejecting my request. "what do you do?" "why do you need to leave the country?" "how long you here for?" finally she submits to my request. I rush back to desk 3. The woman is clearly angry that her superior has contradicted her. She says its going to cost me 500 shekels (about 70 quid - the university told me it would cost 145 shekels). Cash only. After hitting her windos 95 keyboard with a ferocity that could get her an ASBO, she says its only going to cost 390. Then after hitting her decaying keyboard again its come down to 290, then 220. I pay. She sticks some stickers in my passport, burries my forms and documents (without checking them) deep into an abyss of files, and gives me a look thats says "Never come back here you disgusting little piece of insignificant nothingness". I happily take my passport and leave with the slightly naseating feeling that I need to do this all over again in 11 months.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Spoon bending and mind reading

On friday evening I went to Tel Aviv. I had a rendevous with paranormalist extraordinare, Mr Uri Geller (perhaps the only israeli "celebrity" the world has ever seen). I had organized a meeting with him after he telephoned me on monday following a meeting he had with my father. We met just before sundown and the beginning of shabbat on the 19th floor of the Sheraton hotel. After introducing himself to me he immediately went to the business lounge bar, picked up a spoon from a basket of coffee spoons, started stroking it and presto! the head started to droop. He then placed the spoon a top the coffee maker and insitsed that when in contact with metal the bending continues alone.
After it had bent a full 90 degrees, he signed it "To Noam, Uri Geller" and gave it to me. I must say that unless he had quickly deposited the spoon there before entering the room, the whole thing was unexplainable. Even if he had deposited it there: the spoon is made out of metal, and I SAW it bending. I was well impressed. He also performed some telepathy on me: he turned around and asked me to draw something simple and then cover it with my hands. I did so, he turned around and drew the EXACT same dawing.
The diamond shape even includes a small segment I added on to make it more unique. I was well impressed, again. The final "feat" (he told me not to use the word "trick") he performed was to ask me to think of any building in any capital city. I thought of Sacre-Ceur in Paris. He had it already written down (ok, Paris might have been the obvious choice, but why not the Eifell tower?). I dont know how to explain these things with my rational, physical arsenal of differential equations. Regardless of whether he is a charlatan or not (his words), he is a very interesting and charsimatic person. In his life he has met so many amazing personalities, to name a few: Golda Meir, Richard Feynmann, David Bohm, Viktor Weisskopf, Salvador Dali, not to mention the A-list Hollywood crowd. His CV includes, among many other things, prospecting for gas and oil fields for major energy corporations, being invited by Al gore to bombard the Russian delegation with telepathy to sign the Nuclear non proliferation treaty, working with the FBI to locate the "son of sam" serial killer in New York, and ultimately his abilities were tested by stanford, the cia, and the mossad. He explained to me that the whole universe is energy and that if you give energy to the universe, the universe gives you energy back. I asked him then, why could I not bend a spoon and he said quite honestly "I dont know". Oh well, I guess us mere mortals must make do with bending things with pliers.