Posts filed under ‘Arts’

Closet wide Shut

On Friday, Israeli media revealed that the popular singer Harel Skaat is gay. Over the weekend this has been the hottest news item in all sorts of media outlets.

The nation is in a state of shock.

Rumor has it that similar scoops are to be expected in the following days, revealing that water is wet, the sun is hot and Elvis is dead.


October 23, 2010 at 15:55 1 comment

Monkey Business

I’ve just returned from Sweden, where I stocked up on books published since my last visit, and now during Rosh Hashanah I started to work on the stack of Swedish literature whenever I had a moment over between the davening, eating and shnatzing.

One of the books I read was Stephan Mendel-Enk’s Tre Apor (“Three Monkeys”). The story is about a Jewish boy growing up in Gothenburg in the 1980s, and what happens when his mother leaves his father for her non-Jewish boss.

Thematically, the book is more or less a version of A Serious Man, but related from the perspective of the son, but the Swedish 1980s setting creates a few unique literary gems. Mendel-Enk’s description of the cut-out Per Ahlmark columns on the fridge, his War-traumatized grandfather who divides the whole world into Jews and antisemites and the sporadic upholding of religious customs that no-one seems to understand anymore is priceless.

Another priceless scene is when the whole family is gathered in front of the television in 1979 to watch the Eurovision Song Contest hosted by Israel. Mendel-Enk describes how everyone where both immensely proud and deeply nervous that the idealized Jewish state would make a fool of itself – and of them – on live television before the whole world. Maybe, they asked themselves, she isn’t ready yet and should still keep to easier chores, such as winning wars in the desert, and not be entrusted with truly important tasks, like entertainment.

Tre Apor is a short novel. Maybe even a little too short, to my taste. It wouldn’t have hurt to add a little more meat to the bones, flesh out the characters and – to stretch a metaphor beyond breaking point – to give the reader a little more to chew on.

Or maybe that’s just me being greedy.

September 12, 2010 at 08:21 Leave a comment

Syncing Memory. Do Not Disconnect

The Eurovision extravaganza is over for this year. The fans have left Norway, Germany is celebrating and Harel Skaat is probably licking his wounds somewhere in a dark corner. We didn’t win this year either and despite Harel’s Yemenite ancestry and the front-runner rumors, it soon became apparent that Israel wouldn’t even be among the top 10.

Despite warmly appreciated Cypriot efforts to keep diplomatic embarrassments from hurting Harel’s chances, I fear that a slightly bizarre body language and a few high notes sung painfully off-key spoiled whatever possibilities he might have had to bring the competition back to Jerusalem.

Oh, well. No big deal, Harelush. We still love you.

In Sweden, in the meantime, the analysis of the fiasco continues. Markus Larsson at Aftonbladet thinks that the Swedish taste is out of sync with the rest of Europe’s. Maybe he’s right about that, but I must say I start to doubt his judgment when he writes that Sweden has a tendency to vote for “something low-key, elegant and cool”.  

He doesn’t go into details about what he means, but I honestly must say that I’m having a hard time seeing what’s so low-key, elegant or cool with the Swedish entries in the ESC from the last decade: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009.

The Swedish taste in music might be out of sync with Europe, but Mr. Larsson’s musical memory is clearly every bit as much out of sync with reality.

May 31, 2010 at 08:32 Leave a comment

Next Year in Jerusalem?

To our great joy, Harel Skaat delivered in Oslo last night, and qualified for the grand final in the Eurovision Song Contest tomorrow. Harel will compete against some other strong entries, such as Armenia and Azerbaijan.

We know that the competition is tough, but we still haven’t given up hope.

For Sweden, however, all hope is lost since Anna Bergendahl didn’t qualify. This was in fact the first time ever Sweden won’t make it to the ESC final. The young Swedish singer herself was devastated of course, and the nation itself is in a state of shock. On national radio, crestfallen Swedish fans declared that they would throw away their tickets for the final and return home from Oslo immediately. The tabloid Aftonbladet demands the resignation of Christer Björkman, the supreme macher behind the Swedish ESC efforts in the last decade or so. The other national tabloid, Expressen, chooses to blame the system, saying that the selection procedures must change, or Sweden should withdraw from the ESC in order to avoid similar national humiliations in the future.

So far, we have no official comments or words of comfort from the Royal Palace, the government, or Mark Levengood.

May 28, 2010 at 11:04 Leave a comment

How Rumors Get Started

Only a few more days left now until the biggest, though perhaps not the greatest, annual cultural event in Europe – the Eurovision Song Contest.

The Israeli contestant, Harel Skaat, is considered one of the favorites this year, and his entry, “Milim”, has already been translated into both English and French. Even the Swedish experts, who don’t usually waste any superlatives on Israeli songs, seem to have fallen for Harel’s irresistible charm.

Harel Skaat has already arrived in Oslo and according to this clip, his charm is working wonders also on Norwegian school children. Now let’s just hope that they all are equipped with cell phones.

There is, however, one worrying aspect of that generally heartwarming footage. Toward the end of the clip, Harel – who is full of enthusiasm about his meeting with the Norwegian children – says to the reporter: “They’re so cute. I could eat them.”

Now I just hope that no one will alert Donald Boström, Åsa Linderborg or someone else at Aftonbladet of this obvious proof that Israelis eat little children.

May 21, 2010 at 12:25 Leave a comment

Hopefully More than a Thousand Words

 So, it’s been decided. Yesterday the song that will represent Israel in the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo was elected — at least officially.

For anyone who saw the show, it’s hard to escape the impression that the song had in fact been elected a long time ago, and that everyone did what they could to push the audience to vote for Milim (“Words”). And they dutifully did.

I hope it’ll do well in Oslo, even though I have my doubts.

Luckily for Israel, even if the song isn’t all that it could be, at least we’re sending the right guy to sing it. The Europeans are already noticing his many talents and in this poll, the aficionados place Harel as number one.

It’s unclear, though, whether it’s the picture or the thousand words that did the trick.

March 16, 2010 at 09:38 2 comments

Back on the Yemenite Track

This morning it finally happened. The four songs, one of which will represent Israel at the Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo later this spring, were revealed.

The singer, Harel Skaat, was decided some time ago, without any elaborate contests as in some other countries. Not that I have any complaints, since I can’t think of anyone who would do a better job than Harel.

Which song Harel will sing in Oslo will be finally decided by the smsing public Monday next week.

In the meantime, you can enjoy all four songs here.

March 7, 2010 at 18:52 2 comments

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