Sunday, July 30, 2006

No longer leaving Las Vegas...

...but fully left, apparently, seeing as my friend Dell and I have reunited. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what can I say? I didn't gamble, didn't get married (hard to coordinate with the blog readership without the laptop), and the delights of legal prostitution remain to be discovered. Some of the many photos I took there are now online, but be warned, they are perhaps the least racy pictures ever taken in that city. But moving onto something far racier...

Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem made surprisingly good airplane reading. Nothing goes better with some lightning flashing alongside you than reading about the destruction and massacring of entire cities in Syria, the random killings that made Beirut what it is today (or was in the 1980s--this book's not so recent). I have more to say on the book, but will finish it before doing so. All I'll say now is that I picked it up intending to learn more about the history of Lebanon-Israel, but find myself more interested in Friedman's own relationship to Jewish political activity. He at one point refers to himself as a member of one of the "tribes" going at it in the Middle East, yet is able to remain at a distance, whether because of his status as a journalist, as a Minnesotan, or both. More than members of most other "tribes," Jewish writers often seem willing to be at least as critical of their own as of others. But what interests me more is, if the Middle East is all about tribes, and tribalism is bad news, what's there to replace that system? Does group identification need to be redefined, scrapped altogether, or what? Again, I need to move on to "Jerusalem" from "Beirut" to have a better sense of where Friedman stands.

Also worth taking a look at: A.B. Yehoshua, on life in Haifa today: "It’s a bizarre combination. It’s like Yom Kippur on the one hand, because the streets are empty and there are no cars. On the other hand, you can eat if you like." The "History Boys" fashion slide show, also in the NYT Magazine, is great as an uplifting antidote--the world may be falling apart, but there are still, somewhere, pretty boys in pretty outfits.

2 comments:

Rita said...

I found Friedman's condescension a little patronizing, as though all it takes to bring peace to the Middle East is a little New York Times-flavored cosmopolitanism on the part of these stubborn "tribalists." If we could all just sit down over martinis and Asian fusion cuisine in Lincoln Park, we could solve all these petty little ethnic conflicts.

Anonymous said...

The Beirut half of the book is much, much better.