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OMFG they must be joking. That’s what I first thought when I saw the headline in the Green Prophet: Jordan’s Crazy Star Trek Park Will be a Cleantech Showcase.  A Star Trek theme park?  My kind of vacation.  As some of you know, I’m a bit of a nut about Star Trek.  Apparently King Abdullah II is a huge huge huge Star Trek fan, too, and he even managed to get himself a role as an extra in Star Trek Voyager.  So now he’s gone and found over a billion dollars to build a Star Trek theme park in Aqaba?  Meters from Eilat, Israel’s year-round scuba-snorkel-spa resort-city?  Umm.  Wow.

Here are the related articles.  Have a blast.  Check out some of the titles (giggle giggle). I’m sort of in shock.

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Just Because I Like Them.  Enjoy.

From Tom Jones.  Who knew Albert Finney was so amazingly beautiful in the early 60’s?  Incredible actor.

One of the finest scenes from Tampopo – a stunning, poignant, and hilarious Japanese film all about food — and the society that surrounds it.

Seems a more than a bit kitschy now, but Like Water For Chocolate was one of the hottest movies we ever got to watch in high school.

A thoroughly bizarre film, Beetlejuice scared the crap out of me – and though I did enjoy watching it – I think I would close my eyes or run out of the room during certain bits.  This was certainly one of them.  Even though I knew it was coming.

Yes, it’s dubbed in French (gotta love the French and their inability/unwillingness to accept subtitles – kidding – kind of…), but this is the only video I could find online of this scene.  I won’t write the title for fear it will be taken down.  But you gotta love: “Oh, dessert! Cerveau de singe au sorbet!”  My friends and I would watch this scene over and over again.  That and the scene where the guy takes the other guy’s heart out, still beating.

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I am bubbling over with pride and for very good reason.  The winery I’ve worked for for two years, the Golan Heights Winery, just won top honors – the best wine producer in the world – at the Vinitaly International Wine Competition in Verona.

This is awesome, such a coup for Israel, for the winery, for a “new world” winery that is so young (founded in 1983), etc.

The award is given to the producer that has the highest points – tallied from those who have won first prize in at least two individual wine categories.  The two wines that swept their category from the Golan Heights were the 2009 Yarden Chardonnay Odem Organic Vineyard and the 2008 Yarden HeightsWine (dessert Gewurtztraminer).

Chardonnay Odem

Golan HeightsWine

The Golan Heights Winery beat over 1,000 other producers from over 30 countries who submitted over 3,000 wines.  This competition is commonly referred to as the “World Cup” of wine, and it means a great deal that Israel has won.  We’re serious players in the wine world, and now the world, all the world, will recognize it.  No more will I wander Europe and have people not know that Israel makes wine at all.

All Vinitaly Award Results

Articles: (I’m sort of shocked there aren’t more in English and French…)

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A Vogne-Romanee over my notes.

I’m thinking of changing the name to “Wine Wednesday.” The W’s go so well with the day I happen to write these posts.  Opinions?  I’m also not sure anyone is reading — my more quirky culture posts seem more popular — so give me a shout out in any case to let me know your thoughts.

What I Tasted:

I was invited by my employer to attend a private wine tasting hosted by a major import company, featuring the wines of M. Chapoutier.  It was held at the Institut Francais on Rothschild Blv in Tel Aviv.  I’m a big fan of Rhone Valley wines, Syrahs can drive me nuts, I swear.  But, they’ve got to be good, and it’s a region that exports a lot of mediocre stuff.  Apart from the exceptional blini being served along with excessive amounts of French cheeses, a knowledgeable representative of Chapoutier presented a long array of his wines.  The only ones of note to me were the “Ermitage” wines.  Ermitage (without the more common “H” – Hermitage – is commonly used to denote the better single vineyard wines) wines that were best included their “Le Pavillion” and  “L’Ermite.” At the time I didn’t know that they were priced at 147 and 176 Euro per bottle, but it makes sense.  These single vineyards are ancient, the Pavillion on the slope side of the larger pf the two Hermitage hills, and the L’Ermite at the top, where the soil is very poor, the ancient vines really needing to fight to survive, and producing a terribly small yield.  The Hermitage region is one I will be keeping an eye on.  These wines are bold and full of fruit, that gorgeous cassis I adore so much, that rich magenta color – so different from the Bourgognes we drink often at the wine shop. Interesting facts: Hermitage wines were the favorite of the Czars of Russia, and in fact, in the 19th century Bordeaux wines were “hermitaged” (mixed with Hermitage) in order to fetch a higher price.  Cool beans.

I also had the pleasure of drinking the above pictured wine this week, and it was wonderful.  The “La Forge de Tart” is the second wine, one of two, that this domain makes, and it doesn’t come out every year.  As a “second” wine, it’s laughable, as it’s as good as most grand cru Bourgognes out there.  This producer’s got a crazy awesome story, so here’s a little about the “Clos de Tart:”

A rare gem, Clos de Tart has been owned by the Mommessin family since 1932 — only the third proprietor of this historic domaine founded in 1141 by Cistercian nuns, the Bernardines de Tart. Located on the very best slopes of Morey-Saint-Denis in the Côte de Nuits, Clos de Tart, only 7.53 hectares (18.6 acres) in size, is the largest grand cru monopole in Burgundy, with a picturesque, 15th-century, stone wall surrounding the grand cru vineyard. Clos de Tart carries the distinction of being one of the few grand cru monopoles in Burgundy that comprises an appellation in its entirety. Clos de Tart makes just two wines. Low-yield, old-vine vineyards are harvested by hand and vinified in six separate lots, and the best lots achieve the bottled status of Clos de Tart Grand Cru. In some vintages, the domaine also produces a second wine called La Forge de Tart Premier Cru, which is typically made from the younger vines (25 years and under).

That’s it for me this week, I’m afraid.  I’m exhausted and expected at the wine shop in under an hour.  Night before last was an all-nighter, spent writing a short story I should have been developing for over a month.  Oh well.  I’m still very proud of what I produced.  Perhaps I’ll post it here…after a couple revisions.  Human milk has been in the news a good amount these days… Cheers to you all!  Always remember to drink good wines…life is far too short.

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From the folks at Wordsmith, the creators of the “A Word A Day” emails that make my mornings:

Moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world’s champions. The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., novelist (1922-2007)

This quotation is from Bluebeard, the Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916-1988), a novel by Vonnegut, well before the internet explosion.  I haven’t read it, but it’s on my list now.  I put this up as my facebook status, as I often do with interesting quotations, and I received a lot of attention and “likes.”  A lot of us must feel this way, maybe as a generation.  Useless, underachieving, struggling, uncreative.  I’ve felt this way.  After the “me” generation, mothers telling us we’re all brilliant, the world is our oyster.  I think the key in getting by in this world, perhaps in achieving any sort of true, lasting happiness, is in letting it all go.  Perhaps we’re all brilliant in some way.  But it’s a fact that not all will be famous, wealthy, beloved by millions, respected by experts, world champions, successful inventors, world leaders, mountain-movers, saviors of humanity, and the like.  As it always has been.  Why should this be a source of suffering?  This doesn’t mean we need to settle into mediocrity.  Not at all.  We can all be participants, do important things, whether they are small or large, whether they are noticed or not.  I’ve not been feeling too well, in many ways, not that it needs to be mentioned.  In this time, I’ve watched a ridiculous amount of West Wing re-runs.  Brilliant writing, intelligent, insightful.  Watching it, I feel both proud and ashamed.  It’s a show about people making a difference.  Yes, people in positions of great power and sway, but moving, grooving, and improving nonetheless.  And here I am, in the act of watching it, doing nothing.  A great democracy, and I watch, complacently.

Need to remember: small things, small steps, patience, and not to drag myself, my self-worth into the mud.  Also known as letting go.

This has nothing to do with anything, I suppose, but this poem makes me deliriously happy.  Joy.  Small pockets of joy.  We are all the heroes of our own lives, the happy geniuses of our households.

Danse Russe

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,–
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,–

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

William Carlos Williams, (1883-1963)

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Neil Gaiman's Xmas by 39 Degrees North

Merry Christmas to those who are celebrating! And a very Happy Weekend to the rest!  Despite being Jewish, I miss Christmas, and being in Israel, I feel unashamed at saying so. It’s like I don’t have to be vigilant in guarding my religious traditions by not celebrating others’. I made egg nog, and I found Christmas carols (love the #christmas tag-tuner), and we hung some fairy lights, and we ate a Bouche de Noel (French Yule Log Cake) and a Galette des Rois (Cake of the Kings – another French tradition).

AND these videos were the life of the party and made my week that much easier.  I think they capture the spirit.  If you have a few minutes, they’re intriguing or inspiring or hilarious.  Enjoy!

Neil Gaiman Christmas poem.  WOW:

Trouble with your Blackberry?

Yoga has been so underrepresented on Broadway:

PINA BAUSCH and WIM WENDERS (http://vimeo.com/17772908).  I cannot wait to see this:

Lovely:

Nursing home talent contest.  Hilarious!

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The Ivory Tower (from The NeverEnding Story)

1 down, 9 to go.

I turned in my first application to grad school two days ago.  I should feel some semblance of relief, but I don’t.  My official test scores will take weeks to get there, and my stupid stupid MFA transcripts from London haven’t arrived despite being mailed 3 weeks ago.  I’m pissed off!  A really really really nice woman who answered my phone call to the Humanities department calmed me a bit, at least confirming that I would not be automatically disqualified.  She said she wouldn’t know if it would help, but she accepted a scanned copy of my MFA transcripts until the real ones arrive.

It became far clearer to me how difficult it will be to get in when this week a professor connection I was trying to make basically said, flat out, “there’s no point in me talking to her because we accept 3 people every year, and I’m busy anyway, so leave me alone.”  3 people out of 100.  My test scores are abysmal and I’m not that sure about my writing sample, so even if my grades, recommendation, and personal statement get me into top 10, these are easy elements by which to separate me out.  And I’m screwed if some schools look at scores first – if they only look at 650 and up – I am dead.  3.8 GPA, UofC honors degree, Phi Beta Kappa or no, I’m a terrible test-taker.  I’m counting on the readers being fair, and who knows how likely that will be.  Hence, 10 applications.  Hopefully I can raise my chances from 3% to, who knows, 10-20%, and maybe higher if I apply to many levels of programs.  Which I think I am.

That’s the story, Mornin’ Glories.  I’ve spent every night this past week working on my candidate statement, losing so much sleep, I can’t tell you, driving myself to exhaustion and sickness, and my work and grad school load have both suffered for it.  If it pays off, it will have been worth it.  If it doesn’t, I suppose I’m better prepared to do it again next year.  If I can bear it.  If I can bear it.

Knock, knock, knocking.  Please let me back in.  It’s cold and lonely out here.

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