Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Rich Are At It Again; Cheating on Their Taxes – The Bar Refaeli Story

There is a long list of celebrities who cheated on their taxes. Considering their net income, it’s quite amusing that they avoid paying taxes since they are not exactly poverty-stricken.

The latest culprit is Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli. The woman dodged serving in the army by entering into a fake marriage, so it should not come as a big surprise that she stiffed her government who uses the funds to protect its citizens with e.g., iron dome.

Bar Refaeli tried to weasel out of the allegations by claiming that she lived abroad. Well, that did not exactly fly – the Israel Tax Authority had the woman arrested for allegedly evading millions of dollars in taxes. She was grilled for 12 hours.

As a supermodel, she received a lot of freebies for which she should have paid income tax on. She didn’t, just enjoying her perks such as luxury apartments and cars without any accountability. The woman also stayed in luxury apartments registered under her mother and brother’s names, and also used Range Rover and Lexus cars free of charge. The Israel Tax Authority notices that she enjoyed unreported income amounted to “dozens of millions of shekels.”

The Refaeli women defended themselves, claiming that the model lived outside of Israel. Needless to say, that did not fly. The Israel Tax Authorities were not amused, showing thatDiCaprio’s ex and her Mummy enjoyed “celebrity discounts” such as free interior decorating, which they never reported.

The homes of both Refaeli women were raided this week. On Thursday, they were arrested and released on bail. They were forced to fork over their passports and can’t leave Israel without permission for 180 days. Quel horreur!

Moral of the story – don’t cheat on your taxes! It’s just not worthwhile. Tax authorities all over the world have long memories, unlimited resources, and the tenacity to hunt you down. Do yourself a favor, just pay your dues – especially if you are an egomaniac celebrity! (Or any member of their money-hungry posse).

(Image courtesy of K Bar from TA, IL at Flickr)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Medieval Drinking Song

Reposted from The

The tradition of singing raucous lyrics in pubs has a long history. There are a few drinking songs from the Middle Ages, including those found in the Carmina Burana, a collections of poems and texts created in Germany during the first half of the thirteenth-century.
The Carmina Burana includes songs dating back to the 11th century, and were collected from various parts of Europe. Many were created by university students, and includes works of mockery, love songs and at least forty songs about gambling and drinking. As one scholar points out this “collection is full of that excitement, that daring, that laughing-at-convention which characterizes independently minded youth.”

Here is one of the medieval drinking songs:
In the boozer
you’re a loser
if the dice you’re shaking.
You’ll get hurt
and lose your shirt,
sit there cold and quaking.
Lady Luck, your gifts are bad,
you trick us, then you make us mad,
make us gamble, make us fight,
and sit out in the cold all night.

‘Brrr!’ The naked loser moans,
when he’s cold and left alone,
shakes and shivers as he groans:
‘I wish I could be
asleep under a tree
With a hot sunshine warming my bones.’

But now let’s roll the dice again
and win some drinking money!
Who thinks about November’s rain
while it’s still warm and sunny?

Image courtesy of:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bookworms rejoice! There is now a short-story vending machine for your convenience - free of charge!

Grenoble, located in the French Alps, started a great initiative. It installed short story dispensers. It’s simply brilliant in its simplicity. The dispensers are placed in public areas. They are one meter high, don’t have a screen (sorry, device addicts) and cannot be missed due to their vibrant orange and black colors. They offer a selection of short stories that can be one, three, or five minutes long to read. Best of all - it’s free of charge!

The Grenoble municipality launched this initiative for the benefit of its citizens; it wanted to bring back a bit of culture that is jeopardized by e-books, Kindle and the likes. It wanted people to connect with the printed word again.

The green party mayor of Grenoble, Mr. Eric Piolle, approached the founders of publishing company Short Edition to create content. The result? There are currently 600 short stories available. The is convenient; a short story of three minutes in printed on a piece of paper of 8cm by 60cm. Quite handy!

Christophe Sibieude, co-founder and head of local publishing start-up Short Edition explained: “We said to ourselves that we could providing good quality popular literature via vending machines to occupy those little unproductive moments.”

If you are in Grenoble and want to read, go to any of the eight dispensers located at the town hall, the tourist office, libraries and in social centers and try it out!

Happy reading!

(Image: A woman chooses a short story at a short-story distribution terminal in the Mistral district of Grenoble ©Jean-Pierre Clatot / AFP)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Eurovision Song Contest 2015 - A Review

Yep, it was that time of year again…the Eurovision Song Contest brought to you live from Vienna.

 Let’s have a look at how the 27 candidates did.

 1. Slovenia 
A strange woman in wedding dress wearing a huge headphone (think 1980s) sang about something or other while a ballerina in a glitter outfit did her own thing. Enough said.

 2. France
Being French, the singer was dressed in black (think Edith Piaf) and sang in her native tongue - naturellement! Against a background of white doves on steroids, a bunch of drummers joined the fun.

 3. Israel
This chubby Justin Timberlake wannabe looked like one of the few performers who was having fun. No Tortured Soul here! The catchy dance number will be a summer hit - mark my words.

 4. Estonia
Another Tortured Soul (see France for the first one) showing a lot of cleavage and being leered at by a fellow singer. Creepy…

5. UK
A duo sang a sort of 1920s number surrounded by dancers and lots of special effects. Who has been binge watching Dr. Who?

 6. Armenia
The piano was able to drown out the singers. There were also lots of church bells ringing - a tribute to North West’s baptism in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem?

7. Lithuania
Two singing soap stars with two soap star background singers. Lot of owa, owa, owas. Looked like a scene from the Young and the Rest of Us

8. Serbia
An Opera Diva performed with a mask wearing, flag-waving entourage. A left over from the May 1st parade?

 9. Norway
Another Tortured Soul - this time a midriff baring chick. Completely forgettable.

 10. Sweden
Guy wearing leather pants singing in the digital rain. Multiple stick figures from the For Dummies series moved (danced?) in the background. Singer kept repeating “heroes of our time”, which made it as exciting as Ikea furniture. (Sadly enough, the Boring Swede won)

11. Cyprus
Strumming an acoustic guitar, I got Eric Clapton vibes watching it. At least the singer can play instead of playback.

12. Australia
This entertaining 1980s act included a chick in glitter hot pants. Go Aussies!

 13. Belgium
This time, a Justin Bieber wannabe hit the podium. His four background singers in white looked like extras from a SF show.

14. Austria
Another wannabe; this time Kid Rock. I rest my case.

15. Greece
Guess what? Yep, another wannabe! Channeling Celine Dion, the nicest thing I can say about this singer that I loved her earrings.

16. Montenegro
This singer was one of the few singing in his native tongue - kudos! The melody was catchy and the four muses behind him looked good.

 17. Germany
Catwoman represented the Teutonic State, singing “Too Hot”. Note to singer: “No, you are not!”

 18. Poland
A Las Vegas bride singing next to white piano flanked by 3 background singers. Yawn!

19. Latvia
Firebird in a ridiculous Las Vegas showgirl gown belted out a lot of oh, oh, ohs

20. Romania
This baldie was also singing in his native tongue. Catchy melody, but no idea what it was about.

21. Spain
This time, a Jennifer Lopez wannabe. Singing is Spanish, she also performed a nifty dance number with a hunky guy. Gracias!

 22. Hungary
A quintet of classy singers with good voices. The cameraman had a thing for the singer in the red dress.

 23. Georgia
Goth Girl looked like she belonged at a KISS concert. She sang about something or other; could be anything from love to ousting Putin.

 24. Azerbaijan
Yep, another Tortured Soul! But the two dancers were amazing and obviously trained in classical ballet.

 25. Russia
A skinny Anna Nicole Smith lookalike dressed in white (what else?) belted out a nice song. I rooted for her to win, but she ended in second place. Pity!

26. Albania
This poor singer was completely overpowered by the background music. Lots of ayeh, ayeh, ayehs...Boring!

 27. Italy
Italy sent 3 Divos singing about amore (what else). Singing and styled like the highly successful Il Divo, I liked it.

Next year, it will be Sweden again to host the event. Good luck with that!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Why I Love Latin

When I was a kid, learning Latin was a prerequisite to go the Med or Law School. From the age of 12, I had 2 hours of Latin – every school day for 6 years. I loved it since it allowed me to “time travel” to the Roman Empire of Cicero, Pliny, Ovid, Livius, Vergilius, and Julius Caesar.

Roman noblemen loved to write and self-published way before we are doing now on Amazon. If Internet and social media would have been around in the time of the Roman Emperors, we could have laughed at the selfies of Caligula, watch the YouTube videos of Caesar’s murder online, and read the latest gossip about the private lives of the rich and (in)famous on the Ancient Roman equivalent of TMZ.

Although heaps of (juicy) materials have been lost over time, we still have a treasure trove of legal documents, records, poetry, plays, speeches, letters, academic works, a pamphlets, etc. The Romans were the Americans of today – even the political structure is similar as is the innovative spirit.

Latin became the lingua franca of academics throughout the ages. Erasmus and Thomas More wrote each other in Latin; neither mastered the native tongue of the other. During my first year in Law School, one of my professors taught in Latin. We would take notes and later translate. One time, he said a sentence that we all penned down. He repeated the sentence, so we underlined it. When he repeated it again, we double underlined it assuming it was very important. Turned out that he told us that the sun was shining in his eyes and if one of us could please push the button to lower the blinds…(Afterwards he was forced by the Dean to teach in our native tongue – the fact that he called us “discipuli stultissimi” might have something to do with it)

Roman law codes serve as a fundamental of many current law systems due to Napoleon. Terms such as alibi became mainstream. Common law systems also have many Latin legal terms such as: “habeas corpus” and “intestate”. Roman medicine gave birth to current traditional medicine. English still refers to many organs and illnesses by their Latin names.

Nowadays, Latin is out of fashion. That is a pity in many ways. Once you master Latin grammar, getting the structure of other languages is a lot easier since you can “read the blueprint”. Western languages contain a lot of Latin-based words. The reason? When the Romans conquered Europe, they introduced Vulgar Latin as the lingua franca. Furthermore, they introduced new inventions and concepts that did not have a local name such as: solarium, umbrella, senate, spa, aqueduct, testament, sanitation, etc.

However, authors still sneak in Latin – just for the fun of it. An excellent example is J.K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series. One gem is the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’s motto: “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus” which translates as “a sleeping dragon must never be tickled”.

Latin might not be fashionable anymore, but it is still firmly rooted in many languages and disciplines. Q.E.D.

(Image courtesy of Natalie Durden at keepcalm-o-matic)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

ais Thr Wizard of Oz an allegory of the economic struggles during the late 19th century?

"The Wizard of Oz" is written by L. Frank Baum and originally published in 1900.

According to the author, he came up with Oz due to the index of a filing cabinet. However, oz is also the abbreviation of an ounce of gold.

Hence the theory that the tale represents the economic climate at the end of the 19th century. True or not, it is an interesting history lesson.

The scarecrow supposedly represents the farmers in the western part of the US. Those poor farmers were faced with high mortgages and were in debt to the bankers and Wall Street wheelers and dealers. Due to deflation, those farmers had to pay more and more.

The yellow brick road represents the gold standard. It was aimed at keeping the stability and reliability of currency. The munchkins are supposed to represent east coast residents who strongly believed in it. That’s why Dorothy is urged to "follow the yellow brick road".

The tin man represents industrial workers who also suffered from the rigid gold standard. In 1894 alone, 18% of industrial workers in the US were unemployed.

The cowardly lion refers to William Jennings Bryan. He was a populist leader who thought that adding silver to the gold standard would ease deflation and would solve economic problems.

The Emerald City refers to Washington, D.C. where the money (greenbacks) rule.

Dorothy's slippers were silver in the original version. It’s only later that they turned red for the movie. Being silver, the slippers supposedly save the day by adding silver to the money supply.

Even if the above is not true, it should be! Anyway, it’s an entertaining history lesson.

(Photo courtesy of Pixmac)

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Where The NYC Literati Go To Party

Authors Michael Chabon, Gay Talese, Zadie Smith and Scott Turow recently partied at the annual New Yorker Festival at the Top of the Standard.

They rubbed shoulders with rockers Sting and Imagine Dragons. For their next masterpiece, they could have gotten inspiration by the visiting the private booth occupied by “Orange Is the New Black” creator Jenji Kohan and her writer husband Christopher Noxon.

Or may be talking to comedians Mindy Kaling and Nick Kroll, actress Molly Ringwald, It girl Tavi Gevinson or David Remnick would keep their creative juices flowing.

In good social media style, DJ Louie tweeted: “I’m DJing the New Yorker Party at the Standard and am doing everything in my power not to ask Malcolm Gladwell to take a selfie with me.”

The party went on until 3:30 a.m. The most interesting statement was made by Mindy Kaling who happily admitted that she likes on-screen love scenes. She said “I love it. I think it’s anthropologically interesting to watch on-screen love scenes how people kiss.” She sent on pointing out that she often “uses tongue.” This might be infringing on the Screen Actors Guild rules.

Sting took the opportunity to inform the masses that he enjoyed working on his musical “The Last Ship.” He also announced: “I want to get back to my other life, and get paid extravagant amounts of money for very little work.” Whatever.

The rich will stay rich, and the famous will keep on struggling for their top spot in the (social) media. (Just ask any of the Kardashians)