Made Me Cry – Girafot – Moses

Girafot (Giraffes) is an Israeli band. They released their debut album in 1999 and became famous when the song “Rami is Accused of Possessing Recreational Drugs” was banned on the radio and immediately became an Internet hit. Although initially dismissed as a one-off novelty act, they kept performing and released their stunning sophomore album Gag (Roof) in 2006. That album, most of which dealt with broken relationships in a surprisingly sober manner and sported excellent production and musicianship, immediately became a classic of Israeli rock and spawned several hits. The band also became famous for its cranky live performances, in which the frontman Gil’ad Kahana improvised spoken-word not-quite-sensical commentary on current affairs.

Their third album was released recently. It is full of little human stories, very real and very Israeli, and yet very universal. Nobody expected anything so touchy and emotional from a band whose singer takes pride in the amounts of alcohol he consumes before going on stage and ends the shows singing an extended version of a song called “Rami is Accused of Possessing Recreational Drugs” walking back and forth through the crowd. Yet there you have it. The most unforgettable song from this album is called “Moses”. Here’s the video, which takes the main message of a song and puts it in a completely different context. You don’t need to know Hebrew to enjoy the video:

… But i’ll translate it for you, because then you’ll understand the context, and it will become even more powerful:

Sewage seethes in the middle of the street,
Oil turns the water rainbow-colored,
The horse’s hooves slip,
Everybody falls down,
Radiator,
Air conditioner,
Sewing machine,
Straw basket,
Israeli flag,
Rag and bone man,
And his son begs
“Father, please, don’t hit Moses.”

An especially hot day,
Jaffa is burning,
Riding through the streets,
The child is conflicted
In his thoughts
How is it possible that father will change horses?
In the beginning of the week
Moses got scared from a pigeon taking off,
A washing machine was ruined.
Everybody falls down.

A little explanation: Jaffa is the old town of Tel-Aviv with a significant Arab population, a very popular tourist destination. Many people there are poor, but the proximity to the sea and the romanticism of the old town causes pretty rapid – and tasteless – gentrification. Still it’s home to many rag and bone wagon drivers. This song shows them in a new light – their children are human, too.

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Made Me Cry – Hague

A guy called Ian Hague gave US$200,000 to The Perl Foundation to help the development of Perl 6.

Well, it didn’t make me weep like Misha or The Walkabouts. But i did shed a tear.

Maybe it’s a tax writeoff and maybe he could give the money to the victims of the bad weather in Burma.

But he gave it to one of the geekiest and weirdest causes possible—development of a programming that possibly no-one will ever use seriously. But it could also happen that it will be the best programming language ever. And for whatever reasons he gave his money to it. It is almost a religious story: At least three of the leading developers of Perl 6 have been struck by bad health problems. And then an angel came, so this undertaking won’t perish.

The world is not lost.

Almost Made Me Cry – Chicken

Driving alone on Kvish 6. Putting on I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One. That’s right, the album that opened my “Made Me Cry” series.

I already expect that i’ll cry of happiness from listening to this brilliant record.

And then i see a truck of cows that are going to die. No happiness.

And then i also realized that the opening track is titled “Return to Hot Chicken”. Great. Everything is broken.

Actually i should try to suppress and forget this stupid experience.

Made Me Cry – Nikita

My nephew Nikita came to Israel to spend the summer with his grandparents – my parents. It was all fun, until two days before his flight back to Moscow he was hospitalized in Rambam with a bad case of peritonitis.

So his flight is postponed, of course. A week after the operation he can still hardly eat and walk. My parents sit at his bed in the hospital twenty-four seven and they are terribly tired, so i came to help them.

Today i sat with him for a few hours. He mostly slept. The TV was on with a low volume and i watched Music 24 (nonstandard1), the Israeli music channel.

The golden age of the music video has ended in about 1996. Back then MTV was the undisputed Master of the Universe and local videos, although very low-budget, aspired to the international big brother and had a lot of character. These days, however, nearly all Israeli music videos can be grouped into three sets:

  1. The singer is walking around the streets of Tel Aviv. And it’s the same couple of streets in all of them.
  2. The singer is walking around his rented apartment in Tel Aviv, makes coffee, watches TV, talks on the phone or goes down to the street to buy cigarettes.
  3. A huge close-up on the singer’s face. Obviously, this group is the most disgusting. I guess that too many video directors fell in love with Sinéad or – worse – with Alanis (Flash2).

By a rough count, nine out of ten videos falls into one of these, which is quite astonishing and depressing. It can ruin even good songs. But there are exceptions.

Eviatar Banai‘s video for “Yesh li sikuy” (Flash) is a quiet little masterpiece of music video making. The song itself is one of the all-time masterpieces of Israeli music; It is from Banai’s debut album. It’s black and white and it shows people in a bar lip synching to the song, subtly conveying the mood of the line they are singing. (Can you spot Banai himself there?)

Somewhere in the middle of the song there are those lines:

אמא שרה לבן בלילה,
אמא כאן לידך כל הזמן.

Mummy sings to the son in the night,
Mummy’s here near you all the time.

In the video a pregnant woman is singing the last line. You can hardly notice that she’s pregnant until she touches her belly. This subtlety is pure beauty.

I guess that it would make me cry even without the unfortunate circumstances, but sitting there in the hospital near sleeping Nikita while his mother was far away in Moscow did put things into a perspective.


I started writing this entry a few days ago. It was a pretty crazy bunch of days since then.

Nikita’s mother – my sister – Olga finally came to Israel today after fighting with travel agencies for a few days. His health became better.

Yesterday i bought him Gossip’s Standing in the Way of Control, a CD for which he was looking for months, in Moscow and in Israel. Finding it wasn’t easy. He was particularly happy to receive it, which may have contributed to his slowly improving health, too. Despite his current condition, i envy him; i don’t think that i shall ever be as touched by music as i used to be when i was his age.

Anyway, for the night he put it in a drawer next to his hospital bed and in the morning it wasn’t there. There is a slight chance that with all the fuss around him the CD was just misplaced and will be found, but everybody is sure that it was stolen.

I’m amazed. What a terrible scumbag someone must be to steal a rare CD from a sick child. I mean, i would at least understand the motivation if it was something famous, but even i hardly know this band, so what kind of a low life would want to steal it? He can get – what? – 20 NIS for it in a used CD store? Fukker.


1 Actually, the site seems to be mostly functional, but the videos use CastUp technology, which is IE-only. I never managed to install the Firefox plugin they offer, and even if it would work, it would only work on Windows. By the way, i (still) work for the company that recently announced the acquisition of CastUp. What do you know…

2 Sinéad O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” is not on YouTube. Alanis’ Head over Feet video is still there…

Made Me Cry – Misha

Moscow 1980 – Farewell, Misha (Flash)

In Soviet Russia the good things were very good.

In Soviet Russia the big things were BIG.

Yesterday i saw a child walking with a big colorful balloon and imagined him flying to the sky. And it reminded me of Misha – the mascot of 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow.

Very few of the people who grew up in the Soviet Union won’t at least shed a tear when seeing the finishing ceremony of that olympiad. Its high point was “saying goodbye to Misha”, as he was released into the sky holding onto colorful balloons to the sounds of a sad farewell song. Everybody in Russia remembers the song. More than this, this is The Great Unifying Moment of post-Stalin Russia, comparable to 9/11 and Kennedy assassination.

So watch this movie. Don’t miss Misha himself shedding a tear at 0:47.

If this movie doesn’t make you cry, then you’ll never really understand anything about Russia.


Here’s the song. Lyrics – Nikolai Dobronravov, music – Aleksandra Pakhmutova. My translation is lousy, but i tried to make it rhyme; improvements are welcome. Website of the authors with links to music files is here: До свиданья, Москва.

На трибунах становится тише…
Тает быстрое время чудес.
До свиданья, наш ласковый Миша,
Возвращайся в свой сказочный лес.
Не грусти, улыбнись на прощанье,
Вспоминай эти дни, вспоминай…
Пожелай исполненья желаний,
Новой встречи нам всем пожелай.

Пожелаем друг другу успеха,
И добра, и любви без конца…
Олимпийское звонкое эхо
Остаётся в стихах и в сердцах.
До свиданья, Москва, до свиданья!
Олимпийская сказка, прощай!
Пожелай исполненья желаний,
Новой встречи друзьям пожелай.

припев:
Расстаются друзья.
Остаётся в сердце нежность…
Будем песню беречь.
До свиданья, до новых встреч.

The stadium stands are getting quiet…
Time of miracles is melting away.
Farewell to you, our tender Misha,
Go back home to your wood of fairy tales.
Don’t be sad, give a smile before the parting,
And recall these good days, please recall…
Wish us all the fulfillment of wishes,
Wish a new meeting soon to us all.

So let’s wish lots of luck to each other,
Let’s wish kindness and love with no end,
Bright and clear echo of the Olympics
Will forever be cherished and sang.
Farewell to you, Moscow, farewell,
Farewell, the Olympic fairy tale,
Wish us all the fulfillment of wishes,
Wish a new meeting soon to us all.

chorus:
Friends are coming apart,
Tenderness stays in the heart…
We shall cherish the song.
Farewell, we shall meet again.