Day Two in Israel


The sun rises in the east yet for some reason east “feels” west here. Body clock says “get up” when it’s still midnight, so a stroll around the beach is in order. More nightlife than one might expect on Shabbat. The little cone lights put out on the beach as “sitting areas” coupled with mid-size screens showing crappy movies is also a nice draw.   This iwas a fun evening, from sandy beach to “A Place For Meat” it was great. The waitress was amazingly good.  Thank you BEN!!

Breakfast consists of hard-boiled eggs on bread; salad for breakfast is common. Israeli’s seem to love their salads; maybe it’s a means of supporting internal economy (You must eat your salad and pancakes, there are children starving on farms in the north…, we all do our part).  The sidewalk bistro is perfect for starting the day. Everyone is filled with “good mornings” and smiles, and there are newspapers in Hebrew, Spanish, Greek, English hanging from a rack.  Free internet abounds here; it’s as common as the smiles. Israeli people are markedly tolerant of Americans, at least in this part of Tel Aviv. Last time I was here, I stayed in the diamond district and aside from the shops being well out of my financial means, the shopkeepers didn’t like browsers nor casual conversation. This morning, I exchanged jokes with our server and we talked about how she’s learned English by watching the TV series “Modern Family” (I’ve never seen it).

REALity Bites

Reality TV from America is a big deal here in Israel. Life must be boring.

The beach is entirely a different matter here.

The sand is so fine, it’s soft and inviting; until you stand in it for more than 5 seconds without shoes. HOLY HELL IT HOLDS HEAT! No fooling, blisters in about 2 minutes. Say whatever you want about Middle East culture; if their feet can handle this sort of torture, you don’t want to mess with these people!

OK, hip-hole dug, towel laid down, we’ll start by hitting the water. The Med seemed warmer last night in the dark, perhaps that’s the difference between a 95 degree day and the water vs an 80 degree night and the water. No sharks (Israeli nor Arab-trained) and the water is reasonably clear. We’ll swim out to the breakwaters…Nooooope… Lifeguards don’t like that if you’re alone. they’ll come get you on a Jetski… I wondered what those heli’s over the beach were for…they’re WATCHING SWIMMERS! THEY HATE THESE SWIMMERS (If you’ve never seen The Jerk, that last won’t make sense)!

As I return to my towel, I’m somewhat pleased to see a couple of ladies that have parked themselves within view; but then the two guys that were with them parked. It was like a scene from “Free Willy,” with how large these two dudes are…and just as white. I didn’t mind quite so much when they broke out the huge hooka and were smoking some interesting herb, and minded even less when they offered me a pass.  People here are quite friendly; These guys were a little more friendly than I’d have liked. Even though they were with the pretty ladies, they were more interested in me than the ladies. I did get an invitation to dinner at a Greek restaurant up the street.

Hmmmm.....Not sure how to consider this one...

Tel Aviv is very liberal and open; the number of hookahs on the beat is but one way to taste the local culture.  With my Hawaiian beach towel and American novel on the beach, curiosity got the best of a few people that stopped by to say hello.  Strangely enough, almost everyone who came over to say “hello” asked me about some American television show or another. Odd that people halfway around the world are more familiar with American television than I am.

The way people lay on the beach is interesting.  Most beaches I’ve been to, we all face the sun like the good little sun-worshippers that we are. In Tel Aviv, there are rings of people that switch positions.  Find a perfect circle with a hookah in the middle and it’s like some ancient ritual point.  It’s very interesting.

The Passion. Wow. In all my life, I’ve never heard two gay guys going at it (outside of a movie, that is). This couple got into a fight on the beach and they weren’t afraid to let the world listen in. I don’t speak Hebrew, but dayum! I pictured the conversation going something like:

“You don’t look at my butt that way; what am I, chopped liver??”
“I like your butt just fine; he was blocking my sun!”
“You were STARING! Everyone could see! I’m SO embarrassed!”
“Quit being so dramatic. He’s just another pretty face. I’m with you and you should be glad for a guy as great as me.”
“Bitch, please! I could have any guy on this beach!” (And he probably could, because he was kinda cute in a Paris Hilton kinda way, you know…the little dog she carries around?).
“Whatever…..” (ShiiBillniiqua, I need your head-roll thing here…”

They also might have been trying to figure out who last had the car keys…I dunno. Like I said…I don’t speak Hebrew.  But it sure is fun making up conversations to go with their animations. You HAVE to admire a guy that can roll his head and neck with the long-finger hand movements that heretofore I thought only black women could do.

I said this before….Tel Aviv is not a place to experience alone, but there is a sweet peace in lying on the beach, hearing the helicopters,  Jetskiis, PongBall (Jebuz, is that ALL they play on the beach?) and vendors hawking half-melted icecream in the sun all the while with the iPod blaring a mix of Drake, Lynrd Skynrd, Eminem, Alter Bridge, and Stone Sour.  Oh yeah…reading Jeffrey Deaver, Clive Cussler, and Barry Eisler (these are all mind-boggling novels of intellectual depth. You can lose your page, start wherever you wish in the book and stay on track with the story.

PongBall…the noise is incessant. Yet relaxing.

Speaking of stories…Here I hang within a stone’s throw of Yafo/Yaphet/Jaffo/Jaffa, one of the oldest ports in the world. The locals swear that the story in Greek mythology which describes how the beautiful princess Andromeda, who was bound to rocks in the sea, took place exactly facing the shores of Yafo. Andromeda’s mother, Queen Cassiopeia, bragged that her daughter was more beautiful than the daughters of Poseidon. The Greek god of the sea became angry, inundated the shores of the Land of Israel with tidal waves and sent monsters to devour the people. Cassiopeia was asked to sacrifice her daughter Andromeda to one of the monsters in order to calm his anger. When she bound her to the rocks Perseus killed the monster, thus rescuing and marrying Andromeda. To this day it is possible to catch a glimpse of the chains on Andromeda Rock, which peek from the seawater at the entrance to the Port of Yafo.

Now back at the hotel room, 3 showers later, I can’t seem to clear all the sand. It’s embedded in ears, fingernails, toenails, nostrils, hair, and unmentionable parts. I have a friend that collects sand; Maybe when I get back stateside I can jump up and down on some newspapers and provide her with a cup or two.  I’ve brushed my teeth twice and still feel like I have a mouthfull of grit.

OK…off to dinner with friends. Catch ya on the flipside!


ReGifting Thanksgifting

Sitting between two Sumo wrestlers from the larger parts of Japan, I’m flying from LAX to SLC to spend this holiday with my familyand friends. It’s uncomfortable as hell, but some things are simply worth the hassle.

This is of course, one of them, but I’m planning on holding my expression of appreciation for the hassle until I’m no longer a head jammed between two separate sets of shoulders. Visualize a bowling ball stuck in a very narrow alleyway, halfway up from the street.

I’m actually grateful for the opportunity to be flying home as I was teaching today until 4:00 and didn’t leave for LAX at 3:00 as planned. A student who’d sworn up and down that she wouldn’t be later than noon showed up at 1:30 and we didn’t get into the sky until 3:00, about the same time I’d meant to leave for LAX.  But…I’m also incredibly grateful for the opportunity to teach.  In fact, it means more to me than ever. I’ll never be a world competitor-level skydiver again, and I’ll never be able to keep up with the twenty-somethings that can kick my ass backwards from Monday. But I do love the thrill of teaching, and will do so until the day I’m wormfodder.

Getting to LAX was stressful (LA traffic is usually about as relaxing as dodging seagull poop bombs falling on a busy pier) and true to form, the hurriedier I go, the behinder I get. The 91 freeway North had an accident. And of course, so did the 110. AND the 105. I needed to be at the airport by 5:30 to catch my flight, and at 6:15 I was pulling into the long-term parking lot. Not a good omen.

I’m grateful to a friend for talking me through the drive and keeping me calm while I was contemplating jumping out of my truck and screaming “I’ve got a temper and I’m not afraid to use it!” and hoping that would clear traffic ahead. That could have begun a bad day… Thankfully, my flight was magically delayed and I got through security just in time to catch the flight, even though it had been delayed by 30 minutes. Glad for the “no baggage” thing.

So back to the two Sumo wrestlers and the unmentioned guy across the aisle….

The gentleman seated across from me is having a discussion with his wife about “regifting” and how horrid it is, “how could anyone do such a thing?” What makes this eavesdropping really uncomfortable is that in order to listen in, I’m practically nose to nipple with the oversized man-boob of the 350 pounder sitting next to me. And I don’t want to rile him any (he’s sleeping, or pretending to be. Or maybe his eyelids are simply as overweight as he is, I’m not sure). But…the conversation is one I’d really like to jump into. We’ve all received weird gifts in the past, right? Yet my plane-mate is proclaiming that re-gifting is right up there with cheating at cards, taking the quarters from your daughter’s pile of tip change, or thumbing through Cosmo in the checkout line (it’s a Utah thing….)

Hmmm…I for one, don’t have a lot of use for the gallon of  Old Spice that I received for Christmas one year. And the Chia Pet head of George W. Bush? It’s either gonna get round-filed or handed off to someone as a joke gift, or maybe as repayment for the strip monopoly game I got for my 40th birthday. Either way…it seems a shame to throw away a gift that is still shrink-wrapped. I’d return it, but the day after Christmas, Walmart immediately lowered the Chia-head of the president from 49.99 to 2.99. It  wasn’t worth the gas cost to drive to the store’s return department.

Which brings me to another reason I like re-gifting; Return Departments. Have you ever braved one the day after Christmas?

I’m thinking that the French had a better time of it against the English Armada.
Very Large People In Polyester fighting for space in an area smaller than most corrals,  these anti-regifters sound akin to braying donkeys as they argue with return clerks about why they should get regular price for something they’re returning even though the post-Christmas price is 90% off of whatever it was paid for. It was a gift, it cost them NOTHING! Whatever happened to “It’s the thought that counts?”

Duh…it’s also a new profit program, right? Mark up an item 150% of cost, then discount it by 50% of the retail price, which still engenders a profit margin of 50%, then discount it by 90something percent the day after the holiday and still clear a minimal profit for the fast turnaround.

It’s amazing the crap people will buy in the Christmas buying frenzy. Honestly….how many of your friends really NEED a Ped-Egg, and how many of them are wondering if they have funky feet and you’re trying to be diplomatic with your gift?  When I got a gallon of Old Spice, I found my insecurities wondering if I smelled so badly that only a worser smell could mask the olfactory offensives?  That  24 pack of battery-operated personal fans…let it sit right where it will be the day after Christmas. Honest. I don’t want/need one. Although they could be fun in freefall….Hmmmm….. Silly String is really fun in free fall too.

Back to reality here tho; I am a grateful person. This year, I’ve learned more about life than I had in the previous lifetime. If I were a cat, I’ve used up eight of my nine. I’m gonna make this last one count. I’m grateful for the thoughts sent my way, and I’m grateful for all the love and support sent my way. I’m appreciative of the cards, letters, emails….and I’m gonna re-gift them all. I promise, if you sent me some love, some support, a card, a happy thought, I’m going to re-gift it and pass it along.

Re-wrapped, of course.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from my very humble trailer in Lake Elsinore, California.

Feelin’ Groovy

What a week…. (WEVA Wedding Event Videographer’s Association) was my first foray into the world in which I lived prior to my skydiving incident that left me with a shattered pelvis, ACL/MCL destruction, and a few inner body parts leaking into the pelvic cavity. It’s been four months since I’ve been vertical. WEVA got me off my butt, yet I hit the ground running when it came time to go to NAB Post in NYC.

Snow came TOO early this year.
Snow came TOO early this year.

Saturday brought snow and could it ever be earlier? It’s rare to see snow before Hallowe’en. I hope the ski resorts are happy, because I’ve still got to mow the lawn and drain my sprinker system. And finish getting my mobile home ready for the winter, and put away the bike and….it’s a long list of things ta-do. Everyone has one, right?

With frost on my windshield early in the morning, I set out for SLC International to fly to NYC for the NAB Post Production Conference being held at the Doubletree hotel. The frost was so bad that my windshield wipers stuck to the windshield and the wiper arms didn’t, ripped from their sockets like arms torn from a skeleton. Not exactly an auspicious beginning indeed.

I was at the least, over joyed to find wifi on my flight. Had the airlines been a little more intelligent a few years ago, I’d GRATEFULLY paid an additional 25.00-50.00 per flight for wifi. Instead, airlines chose to be stupid by penalizing travelers with 5.00, 10.00, 15.00 luggage fees (speaking of which, have you heard the latest outrage? Charging 10.00 more for flights on the “busiest days of the year.”  Ummm…can you imagine Walmart charging an entry fee during Black Friday? Where do these people get their marketing education?).

Radio City Music Hall in late afternoon
Radio City Music Hall in late afternoon

Gawd, I love NYC at night. Tailwinds got me into JFK nearly two hours early, leaving me some time to explore my favorite-visit city. I walked from my hotel between 4th and 45th street all the way up to 8th and 60th. I found a delightful fondue place and I’m not a big fan of fondue. There was something decadent about putting beef into cheese. Cheeseburger on a stick?

‘Tis always fun to be part of an All-Star lineup with people like Jeff Greenberg, Rich Harrington, Yosse Tessone, and others. I had four sessions to teach, and was a little concerned about how my body was going to manage a full day of instruction. My mind was up for it, but the whole “mind over matter” thing just isn’t always reality. Between my back and the braces on my legs, plus the one-mile walk to the venue, it was touch n’ go at best.

“The Director’s Eye” led the day, a 90 minute class on how to compose shots, shot sequencing, and looking for the angle that best tells your story. “Chromakey Techniques” was the second session of the day, and it’s always a learning experience to hear the problems and challenges facing shooters in the field, and being able to help fix their problems based on a life-time of screwups and experience. In this session, not only do we put up a key, but also spend a lot of time working in post. This session was fun because I had a bunch of great Artbeats footage to put underneath my keys, putting people in ocean waves, churches, and against my favorite Artbeats library, “Code Rage.”

By lunch I was beat. Brain in motion; body not. Thank heaven for the hotdog vendor in Times Square that had a can of GoFast (that cost more at the stand than two cans at 7-ll). About that same time, Dan Berube and Keith Larsen showed up and their presence was an infusion of enthusiasm. Keith’s smile always makes one want to do their best. He’s just that kind of guy.

Dan Berube, Douglas Spotted Eagle, Keith Larsen at NAB Post Plus in NYC
Dan Berube, Douglas Spotted Eagle, Keith Larsen at NAB Post Plus in NYC

My favorite subject lately, “AVCHD and HD Production Workflows” started the second half of the day, and it always amazes me how many folks have been duped by HD mythology. For example, I had one student stutter for quite a while about why AVCCAM is superior to AVCHD. Marketing hype….AVCCAM is just Panasonic’s branding for AVCHD, just as they re-branded DV and called it DVCPro, initially the same 8 bit, 25Mbps video stream as every other camcorder manufacturer shot and stored.Additionally surprising in this session was the number of people considering using Canon 5 D and 7D still cameras for production. Personally, I’m interested in using the 7D for a small production, simply to see how she flies. With true 29.97 frame rates, it should be a solid production tool.

Ending the day with “Video for the Web,” it was a ball calling up various VASST and skydiving videos at fullscreen, showing folks how great web video can look delivered in Flash and MP4. The days of convergence are truly upon us. We predicted it nearly 15 years ago, and it has started to hit so fast that broadcasters don’t know how to manage it, methinks. I haven’t turned a TV on in nearly a week;,, and other sites hold for much more interest and channel surfing can easily become an endless vacuum much like Carroll’s rabbit hole.

And now it’s time to leave. Leaving New York City is like leaving a beautiful mistress; you don’t want to go, but know you can’t stay. It’s just simply not “home.” With the wistfulness of a teen leaving his first date on the porch…I wave goodbye to the bright lights of New York and head for the city that never sleeps.

Go Yankees! After all, Yankees and Delta gave me several bags of Cracker Jack, one of my favorite snacks.
Go Yankees! After all, Yankees and Delta gave me several bags of Cracker Jack, one of my favorite snacks.

Las Vegas, here I come.