br23, part 2

Uładzimier Katkoŭski, a.k.a. Rydel23 and BR23, passed away yesterday after about a year in coma caused by a road accident. Katkoŭski was the webmaster of Radyjo Svaboda – the Belarusian branch of Radio Liberty, one of the editors of Pravapis – a site dedicated to Belarusian language, and a popular figure in Belarusian Internet culture. I knew him personally through the web and we exchanged some emails. While some people accused him of Belarusian nationalism and Russophobia, he was just a guy who wanted to speak his own language and tried to convince the world to give a little respect to the history of his country, which is considered by nearly everyone as just a bunch of counties in Western Russia.

May his soul rest in peace.

See also:

Oh (edit): The spelling of his name is inconsistent, because there are several contradicting spelling systems for Belarusian. -mier (-мер) is probably influenced by Polish, while -mir (-мір) leans more towards Russian. And of course i could just call him in the “simple” Russian-influenced form Vladimir Katkovski, but that would totally miss the point – he would certainly like the spelling of his name to be as Belarusian as possible.


R’ Aviner vs. the Academia

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner in an interview to NRG-Judaism: “Render to the Academia the things that are Academia’s, and to Yeshiva the things that are Yeshiva’s“.

It strongly reminded me of Matthew 22:21 / Mark 12:17 / Luke 20:25.

Sanity check: Jews don’t recognize the New Testament as holy scripture, and that’s when they are polite. R’ Aviner is one of the unofficial spiritual leaders of the “National Religious” movement, and even though he is a bit controversial inside his own milieu, he is not suspected of Christianity.

But then, in modern Hebrew there’s a common expression מלח הארץ – “salt of the earth”. I looked for its origin and the oldest that i could find was Matthew 5:13.

Defective Defective

Some music CD’s are sold with a technology called Copy Control, which is supposed to be a kind of CRAP (DRM). Some people don’t like those CD’s and refuse to buy them. The Free Software leader Richard M. Stallman is one of those people, of course. Usually he provides strongly philosophical and hard-to-read explanations for his ideas, but in this case his reasoning is very practical and simple. In his account of his trip to Spain RMS writes:

My hosts gave me several records of bagpipe music, one of which I like fairly well, and one of which I haven’t heard yet because I left it in a car in Italy. But the most important one was the Hevia record. It’s important because I had to refuse it. It was a Corrupt Disk, with Digital Restrictions Management, and presumably impossible to copy. As soon as I saw this, I gave it back to my hosts, and asked them to take it back to the store, so that the record company could not keep their money. I would have been glad to listen to Hevia’s music, but not on a Corrupt Disk.

A “CD” that I cannot copy is of no use to me. I always travel with a bunch of records so that I can offer my hosts the chance to listen. A year ago, when my backpack was stolen, I learned to bring only copies, not originals. If I can’t copy a CD, I can’t travel with it, so I don’t want it.

The funny part is that he writes: “presumably impossible to copy” and doesn’t tell that it’s outright impossible. This is very true: From my experience i never had any problem to listen to CD’s marked as “Copy Control” or to copy them. I own some: Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry, Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief, Beastie Boys’ Solid Gold Hits. I could copy all of them to my hard drive as lossless FLAC or WAV files, which can be later burned to a CD. I could listen to them in my car, and the CD player in my car is pretty bad.

Later in his article Stallman adds: “DRM attacks our freedom, and it attacks free software (since free software cannot access such media).” Well, it is wrong: I could play and copy those CD’s on Ubuntu without proprietary drivers.

So i don’t really understand what this technology does and why do record labels waste their money on it. I do know that those CD’s run some program when they are inserted into a computer running Windows, using Windows’ Autoplay feature. The software is a kind of a dumbed-down media player, which seems to play the music in a lossy format – MP3 or some other audio format with CRAP – which really fucks the honest customer who bought the CD’s, ‘cuz he payed for CD quality and gets to listen to a lossy file. This application probably also locks the CD drive, so it can’t be easily read or burned. It is not a problem for me, though – every time i use a computer with Windows one of the first things i do is turning off Autoplay’ing of CD’s. As far as i know, turning off Autoplay is not illegal, but then maybe in the US it is illegal under the DMCA.

You gotta fight for your right to party – but you don’t need to avoid CD’s just because they carry the Copy Control mark.

To make things clear, if i would have any practical problems playing them in my computer or CD player, i would return them to the store.

Reality – Alone Alone

Assaf Amdursky - Alone Alone together with Karni Postel

Assaf Amdursky – Alone Alone

Together with Karni Postel

Assaf Amdursky is a successful Israeli singer. In the last few months he is doing an intimate solo acoustic tour, which he calls לבד לבד – Alone Alone. For the linguistic-minded readers: Yes – it’s a use of reduplication in Hebrew.

Karni Postel (or maybe Fostel – i’m not sure) is mostly a cello player and also a singer. She is very talented. I once dreamt that we’re making love in a desert.

If you can read Russian, see something very similar at Art. Levedev’s Idioteque.


There’s a word in Hebrew – schtinker. It probably comes from Yiddisch and it means informer, snitch (“stinker” appears as an English word in Babylon dictionary, but not in Merriam-Webster). I do it.

I inform the Ministry of Environment (nonstandard) about people who throw garbage from their cars (mostly cigarette butts) and pollute the air with stinking black smoke from their exhaust pipes. I “schtink” on them, which may be not so nice, but the stench of what they do is worse.

Mr. Naphtali Cohen, who is responsible for air pollution in the Ministry of Environment called me before Passover and told me that my reports are really good. He has less than ten air pollution inspectors for the whole country and he depends on volunteers like me. That’s right, less than ten inspectors for a country of more than six million people. In the end he wished me happy holidays:

— “Happy holidays, teimani.”

— “Happy holidays to you too…” I wasn’t sure what was the last word he said.

— “Ha-ha! I am also teimani! Well, happy holidays.”

Then i got it: He saw my address – Giv’at Yearim. It is a moshav which was founded by teimanim – Jews from Yemen but is now pretty mixed.

Polluting emissions test

My car was tested for polluting emissions and passed (the red frame at the bottom). Now i know that while i am informing the authorities about other polluting cars, i am not a hypocrite.

Notice the emblem of the Vehicle Testing Facilities Union of Israel at the top right square – it looks quite a lot like Square and Compasses and also like the coat of arms of Communist East Germany.

Reality – 9 May

9th of May poster, courtesy of Mr. Arcadi Gaydamak

Hebrew: Keeping the heritage

Russian: Thanks for your valiant feat

These signs were put all around Jerusalem by Mr. Arcadi Gaydamak. Remember him? This time he is organizing a parade of The Great Patriotic War veterans, which the municipality of Jerusalem allegedly tried to cancel.

Gaydamak has money, so the design of these signs is very good. The writing is in Hebrew – throughout the whole city i’ve seen only one in Russian. There’s an Israeli flag too. But what is that Yellow-Black stripe? And the flowers? And what heritage is the sign talking about?

Every year as the 9th of May comes Soviet-born Israelis are shocked to find out that nobody knows what happened on the 9th of May, let alone celebrates it.

On that day the Soviets, with a little help from from the Western Allies, kicked the German Fascists’ ass – at least that’s what they taught us in Soviet schools. In the USSR “The Great Patriotic War” was usually said instead of “The Second World War”, “German Fascists” was usually said instead of “Nazis”, “Soviets” was mixed up with “Russians” in various ways, and the role of the Western Allies is a matter of heated discussion, but the main thing always remained – the 9th of May is День Победы, the Victory Day. Many countries have their national holidays in the form of an Independence Day, but Russia needs no independence from no-one (although there is some ridiculous “Independence Day” in Russia since 1992, but few people take it seriously.) USSR and Russia’s greatest national holiday, one with which the people really identify is the Victory Day. The concept of Victory was pretty strong in the USSR; it was especially convenient to talk about The Great Victory over the German Fascists, ‘cuz hey – the whole wide world agrees that the German Fascists were the bad guys.

In Israel few people know what happened on the 9th of May. So they don’t understand what is that “heritage”.

The Yellow-Black stripe is Ribbon of Saint George, attached to the Cross of Saint George award in the Russian Empire, canceled after the October Revolution and restored in The Great Patriotic War under the name “The Order of Glory”. Now it is called George’s Ribbon again and is becoming a semi-official symbol of the Victory Day in Russia, like the Israeli flags on cars on Israel’s Independence Day. Together with the flowers it looks very much like a Soviet greeting card for – you guessed it – 9th of May.

There’s also a linguistic curiosity: In Hebrew the date is written as “9 מאי” – literally “9 May”, while it should have been “9 במאי” – literally “9 in/of May”. But in Russian there’s no preposition, but a case ending – “9 Мая”. I wonder what exactly were they thinking. I’m quite sure that it’s not just a silly mistake – there must be a sensible reason for that.