Friday, July 12, 2013

Coral Snakes, Butterflies, The Attack (a film review) and Some Thoughts from Hamlet

Poisonous Coral Snakes

Aside from rattlesnakes, the most dangerous poisonous snake encountered in South Florida is the coral snake.  Its venom can kill you.  Coral snakes have alternating black, red and yellow bands encircling their bodies, and they have black heads.  They look very much like what is called the scarlet snake or the king snake, both of which also have black, red and yellow bands, but which are harmless.  The crucial differences between these harmless species and the coral snake is that only the poisonous coral snake has a black head and yellow and red bands which touch each other.  As the old jingle goes, “red next to yellow, he’s a bad fellow.”  On the harmless imitators of coral snakes, the yellow and red bands are separated by a black band. 
Coral Snake (poisonous)                                                  King Snake (pretends to be poisonous)

In my dozen years in South Florida, I have only encountered this kind of snake once, down at the bottom of the garbage can in my garage.  While it did indeed boast red, black and yellow bands, I never really had the time to determine if it was a dangerous coral snake or one of its harmless mimickers because when I turned the garbage can upside down to get a better look, it slithered quickly across the driveway into the grass.
Jack Lippman


Film Review:  The Attack,0,105,105_.jpg

At a recent Fourth of July party, I heard some interesting comments about the new film, “The Attack.”  I reserved my comments until I had seen it and now that I have, I can attest that it is a very serious movie. 

If you see it, and don’t come out of the theater with something on your mind, you must have dozed.  You may object to the film for a variety of reasons or you may find something in it with which to agree or it might reinforce ideas you already have, but it has to stimulate your gray matter.  It may convince you that there is no real solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or it may give you reason to believe that there must be one.

The film is in Hebrew and Arabic with poor sub-titles, but you will have no difficulty following what is happening.

In the film, which is the creation of Lebanese director Ziad Doueini who lives in Paris, an eminent Arab physician working in Israel among Israelis receives a high medical honor.  His Christian wife, whose family lives on the West Bank, is not there to share the honor with him because, unbeknownst to him, she is busy blowing up a Tel Aviv restaurant in the guise of a Palestinian suicide bomber.  The plot of the film (which is based on a novel) is about the physician’s quest to learn what motivated his wife to do this.  

The film’s director grew up in Lebanon hating Israel but after working in the film industry in the United States, graduating from San Diego State and learning about the Holocaust, that hatred disappated and he accepted the fact that there are two sides to every story, even one such as this.  But let’s get to some of the thoughts “The Attack” sets in motion.

First of all, the film has been banned in all Arab countries because it was partially filmed in Tel Aviv, and has been criticized in those countries as insufficiently “demonizing” toward Israelis.   It is sad that Lebanese, Palestinians and Israelis working together to make a film which endeavors to show more than one side of a story runs counter to politics in those nations.  (Had these same nations not encouraged them not to accept partition, and flee Israel in 1948 in the hope of coming back after the Jews were defeated, and then refused to let them into their countries, those who call themselves Palestinians would not find themselves in their present predicament.)

The other side of the coin from this Arab objection is that many who have seen the film in the United States have criticized the overly harsh picture it sometimes paints of Israelis.  Once it is known that his Palestinian Christian wife was the suicide bomber, the highly respected Arab physician becomes just another highly suspect Arab in the eyes of the Israeli authorities.  The Shin Bet detective handling the case is portrayed as a monster, the cell the doctor is thrown into temporarily is little better than a torture chamber and the rough Israeli treatment Arabs receive at checkpoints is made clear.  Apparently these things, while enough to convince many viewers that the film is no more than a piece of pro-Palestinian propaganda, were not enough to avoid the banning of the film in Arab countries.  Such unnecessarily negative portrayals of Israelis were somewhat balanced by the unfavorable portrayal of the clergy on the West Bank, unwilling to compromise, and the terrorists who manipulated the wife.

The plight of the Muslims and Christians living on the West Bank and the deep enmity they feel toward Israel is well dramatized.  It included a reference to the alleged “massacre” at the Jenin refugee camp in 2002 which has become grossly exaggerated in the Arab mind, and perpetuates this inaccuracy.  Supposedly, it was her sympathy for this that enabled the doctor’s wife to be manipulated into becoming a suicide bomber. Although they did not have children, she wrote that if they ever did, she would want that child to have a country of its own.  Becoming a suicide bomber is not a particularly good way of achieving a “two-state” solution.

Try to see this film with an open mind, discounting some of its excesses particularly in its portrayal of Israelis, and try to get into the head of the physician who was faced with what might be impossible choices as to his identity.  Should he be an esteemed Arab citizen of the State of Israel or should he maintain the Palestinian identity for which his wife died?  

And a broader question which the film does not fully address is whether or not there even is such a thing as a Palestinian identity.  I felt that the director tries to gently touch upon this in a brief scene when the physician returns to his wife's home town, Nablus, on the West Bank.   A smiling, giggling, mildly retarded man blowing on a whistle is scampering around the town square, playing at directing traffic.  No one seems to mind, nor pay any attention to him.  I suspect this is the director's allegorical attempt to underline the pointlessness of those who seek to identify themselves as Palestinians.  Do those include the physician's wife and as the film ends, the doctor himself?

See the film.


To Be or Not To Bein Egypt

Probably the most famous lines from Hamlet, or any of Shakespeare’s plays, are those of the Prince’s rhetorical query:

“To be or not to be, that is the question: 

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them.

Sir Lawrence Olivier in his role as Hamlet
Scholars have debated the meaning of these words for years; their significance is applicable to many situations.  Man is a peaceful creature.  All of our religions preach peace and the nobility of suffering “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”  For the good and the innocent, the rewards for doing so will come later on in Heaven.

Hamlet, becoming aware of the foul hand dealt to him, seems to have had enough of such “taking it,” and after ruling out suicide, begins to contemplate ending his troubles by taking some sort of action against them.  In our world, when is that point reached?

When does diplomacy fail and war commence?  During the 1930’s, the ominous signs of war hung over Europe and the world.  For almost a decade, through isolationism in this country and appeasement on the Continent, the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” were permitted to be perpetrated on Europe’s Jews and other minorities as well as upon the sovereignty of Czechoslovakia and Austria.  Ultimately, as a reaction to this, the Allies “took arms against a sea of troubles,” and finally, in 1945, ended them.

Think about this in relation to the Middle East.  Ask this question of the Egyptians, outraged by the extremism of their democratically elected government, who rioted in Tahir Square in Cairo.  When is “enough” enough?  Ask this question of the Egyptian military, ostensibly in the service of a government whose motives they question.  And the answer is a call to action. 

In dealing with such questions, once you are fed up with those slings and arrows, the outcome can be similar to Hamlet’s “taking arms against a sea of troubles,” which resulted not only in his death but also those of his mother, step-father, girlfriend (?), her father, her brother and assorted other Danes.  We hope Egypt and other countries suffering from “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” fare better.

Butterfly Update

For those of you who follow the goings-on in the butterfly garden behind my house, here is the “Summer Update.”   There haven’t been too many Monarchs around this year because their larva have eaten the leaves on the milkweed plants, stripping them completely.   After the leaves grow back, we may see a few more Monarchs. 

Meanwhile, the Gulf Fritillary larva is thriving on the Passiflora Juliette at the side of the house and the Gold Rimmed Swallowtail larva is doing even better on the Dutchman’s Pipe vines.  Both plants were aggressively pruned this Spring and have come back stronger than ever.  Look for the bright orange Gulf Fritillaries and the gold trimmed Black Swallowtails flying around if you live anywhere near me.

Gulf Fritillary Larva on Passiflora

Gold Rimmed Swallowtail Larva on Dutchman's Pipe



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