Tuesday, June 29, 2004


One of the most popular musicians in Israel is getting lost in the Nickelodeon parking lot. Hatzel, or in English, "the Shadow," is circling in his supped-up black SUV looking for the back entrance of the film set for which he is already ten minutes late for. "It’s ok," Hatzel reassures, "we are operating on Israeli time. Being late is like being on time." Hatzel is an imposing, hulking individual. With multiple tattoos running up and down his muscular arms (including two Stars of David on each elbow), it would be easy to mistake him for a bouncer of a trendy bar or a teen pop star’s bodyguard. He is dressed in standard hip-hop garb; a black extra-large Roca Wear jersey, baggy black pants that are constantly sliding down, a doo-rag wrapped tightly around his head and he is adorned with an impressive display of bling-bling, most notably another Star of David prominently worn around his neck. Not exactly the sort of jewelry you’d find in your synagogue’s gift shop.

I ask him why he is so insistent on finding the back entrance. I naively suggest that we park in front and then ask someone where to go.

"That would be suicide," Hatzel retorts. "If we went through the front, we would never make it in." And it is at this moment that I begin to grasp what he means. We drive alongside a group of Israeli children, the ones lucky enough to sit in the audience for a live performance of their newest heroes, Hatzel and his partner, Subliminal. The group curiously looks into the car and notices the Shadow. They instantly begin to--for lack of a better term--freak out. I am reminded of the footage of the Beatles arriving for the first time in America. Girls are screaming for the man of their dreams, standing mere inches away. Boys bang on the car and point imposingly as if this was their way of communicating, we wish we were you. Hatzel is noticeably happy with this feverish reaction. After all, just a couple of years ago, he was a nobody—just an ex-soldier with a passion for hip-hop. Now, along with Subliminal, he is one of the most influential figures in Israel today. Teens hang on to their every rhyming word. Fans know their strong right-wing lyrics by heart. Apathetic youth across the land are now taking great pride in their Jewish heritage thanks to the pro-Israeli messages of Subliminal and Hatzel. Carefully, Hatzel pulls away from the mob of his fans. "Oh, ***," he says with a sense of relief as we view the children frantically chasing the car in the rear view mirror, "I will never, ever get used to that."


In a small country known for its sentimental folk music and patriotic sing-alongs, a major cultural transformation is taking place. Teens, who once sat around a campfire and sang about sowing the land and almond-bearing trees, are now hanging out on street corners and rapping about the kind of hoes not necessarily used for harvesting. When asked about the role models they had growing up, the older generation speaks about Moshe Dayan, David Ben Gurion, and Golda Meir. Inquire their more progressive youth and they’ll speak with great reverence of Tupac, DMX, and Jay-Z. "They’re living like they’re in America," says Shlomo, one of my taxi drivers. There’s a longstanding truism in Israel that if you want to know the direction in which the country is heading in, ask a taxi driver. "These kids are naive for thinking about a future in this rapping business when there is no market for it. We are a very small place." In spite his pessimism, Shlomo concedes, "I also have never seen anything become this popular in this country before. It makes sense though. Israelis love to talk a lot and rapping is like talking, no?"

"Rapping is the language of the streets," says controversial underground rapper, Rocky B. "And the government is no longer representing us, so we have to express our opinions this way." Rocky B, whose real name is Roi Assayag, is a tall, lanky 24-year-old with an impressively fluffy afro and a permanently glazed look. He is wearing baggy generic clothing and outdated glasses and a mischievously goofy smile as I walk into his Jerusalem apartment. "Welcome to the ghetto," he says as we walk up the poorly lit stairs. Upon walking into Rocky’s apartment, I am greeted by a refrigerator standing in the hallway. "Excuse the mess," he says. "We don’t clean that much." Calling his home "a mess" is an understatement; his apartment would qualify as unlivable. Clothes are haphazardly strewn about, dirty bowls are resting in random places and some filled with cigarette butts. Although Rocky B meant it as a joke, his apartment is indeed a slum, a decrepit version of the ghetto. Rocky then introduces me to his d.j., Walter the Einstein Frog. Walter, also Itay Drai, 19, sports a similar afro and sits lazily in his chair as if a hint of wind could blow him over. Before the interview even begins, they offer me some weed. I decline but that does not discourage them from partaking. In a cloud of smoke, I ask Rocky B. about discovering rap and he shares with me his affection for political musicians such as Public Enemy, Body Count, and Rage Against the Machine. "I had so much to say and when I heard these guys, I was like, wow. This is how I can communicate my philosophy."

Rocky B is very proud of his potent lyrical content but he beams with true accomplishment when we talk about Miklat ("Shelter"), a frequent gathering at a dingy Jerusalem bar that brings together Arabic, Israeli (like Israel’s first recording rapper, Segol 59), American, and Russian rappers for an United Nations-like hip-hop performance. "The capitalization of this state…Arabs and Jews throwing rocks at each other in the streets…I needed to wake up, man" Rocky B says frantically, as if his response was being timed. For someone under the influence of a mind-altering drug, he is quite alert. "F***, I needed to wake up, man. [And then] I found a book about the Black Panther movement in Israel. I saw them and I saw now and I decided that I was a Black Panther. We are in a state of emergency." With his new frame of mind, Rocky B then hooked up with a local d.j., Caress, and put on a hip-hop show called "Car Bomb" Some reacted with horror and disdain especially in a hostile environment where car bombs were not so uncommon. I ask Rocky if people reacted negatively.

"Of course they did," said Rocky, "but I am a terrorist. A lyrical terrorist. Just like Chuck D (of Public Enemy)."

The anti-establishment rapper shares with me his prickly beliefs, which revolve around a distinction that grows with popularity in Israel. Ironic that a state once founded as refuge for Jews is becoming a refuge from Judaism. "Look, I do not see myself as a Jew. I am an Israeli," he continues. "I am tired of this militant bull****. I am tired of mother f***ers talking about being Jewish and shouting ‘f*** Arabs’ like Subliminal and his crew."

But isn’t this just a different form of Black Power? This emergence of Israeli/Jewish pride, I ask.

"There is a big difference because the Black Power came from a movement of the underdog," interrupts Walter. "And we are not the underdogs now. A guy like Subliminal says he is keeping it real. But he is unreal."

"I see a great deal of hypocrisy of the Jews here because we are making our own Holocaust. But it is a slow Holocaust against the Palestinians," Rocky is genuinely annoyed. He speaks quite passionately, waving his arms around as if he was conducting an orchestra. I also take note of Rocky’s contradiction--moments ago, he spurned the yoke of religious affiliation. Now he uses "we" as he groups himself in with "the Jews." Appropriately enough, Rocky B’s most lyrically powerful song on his album is called "Enemy." The first verse’s narrative tells the listener that "I am the enemy of myself" and then ends with the rebuking message that "we are the enemies of ourselves."

I ask Rocky if he has dreams of a better place, if he has seen an Israel that would not need his lyrical revolution.

"I want to go to place where people have no race, no religion, no king…just independent thoughts. Where children on the street aren’t afraid of something."

But do you love being here? You sound so frustrated and tired.

"S***, yeah. This is my land. There is so much diversity here in Jerusalem. But to make connections in Israel between the ghettos is so hard. But places like the Miklat bring us together. The hip-hop unites us and that is why it is getting so popular today."

Rocky B takes out a cigarette, lights it and takes a long, satisfying drag. I tell him I need to go but I appreciate his time. Playing the hospitable-yet-stoned host, he walks me to the door and gives me a commonly used handshake that involves multiple hand positions.

"Keep it real," he says. I promise that I will.


Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Wednesday June 23rd. 10:35 AM

Whoa. Where am I? Better yet, who am I?
Oh yeah. I'm guitar god, Eddie Van Halen.

Wednesday June 23rd. 10:38 AM

Who do I have to give an autograph to for a bottle of Jack over here?
Cool. I'm in a hotel. I'll call room service.

Wednesday June 23rd 10:43 AM

Called room service. My bottle of Jack is on the way. I hope the bell boy doesn't mind bringing it to my bed. After all, guitar gods do not get out of bed for s***.

Wednesday June 23rd 10:46 AM

That was the best bottle of Jack I have ever had a bell boy pour into my mouth for me. Well, there was that time in Las Vegas...but that doesn't count because that was a long time ago and I was just a guitar demigod then. Now I am a full-on guitar god.

Wednesday June 23rd 1:15 PM

I had breakfast and played some guitar...uh, excuse me--I shredded. I just realized that sometimes I can't even see my own fingers cuz they move so quickly. Which comes incredibly handy when I need to pick my nose in public. I haven't been caught yet! I watched some MTV while I had my breakfast and I saw this video for this guy named Usher. I tell ya, this s*** looks mighty silly with the "oh yeahs" and "what's"--just plain stoopid. I remember playing that guitar solo for Michael Jackson during "Thriller." Now, that was the real s***. And that was back when I was just a guitar son-of-god. Geez, why's he gotta play with the children? I keep tellin' him, Mike, I said, you're like the richest guy in the world who is not a guitar god. Why not just pay really hot chicks to hang with you? That's what Sammy Hagar does. HA HA! I just zinged Sammy! I sure hope they don't publish this after I die and Sammy reads it and says, man, Eddie, that is so uncool.

Wednesday June 23rd 1:47 PM

Maybe it wasn't so nice to name my son "Wolfgang..."

Wednesday June 23rd 2:33 PM

People ask me all the time, Eddie, how does it feel to be a guitar god? And I finally have an answer; it feels like being god but just a god of the guitar. Ya' know what I mean? I can't like change the weather but I can reign--that, my friend, was good one.

Wednesday June 23rd 3:54 PM

We go on stage in just a few hours. It's so amazing to be back on the road playing arenas. I just got a call from Dave and he wished me luck which was really nice. At least, I think he wished me luck. I couldn't really understand what he was saying. It took me like five minutes to even realize it was Roth. Do I miss touring with him? Well, does Milli miss touring with Vanilli? I'm thinking he does. But maybe that's not such a good example because Milli was and will never be a guitar god. I, on the other hand, am. But back to Dave: sounding more like Cubic Zirconium nowadays. Not the Diamond of the yesteryear. So sad how that happens. If it wasn't like gay, I would offer him a hug. He sounds like he could use one. A hug from a guitar god is a gift from the rock star heavens. Like a Dido song if Dido songs were cool

Wednesday June 23rd 4:17 PM

I had no idea that watching the pimping of a ride could be so fun. Idea for next MTV show: Pimp My Guitar with host guitar god, Edward Van Halen. Which reminds me, I've been meaning to get a Playstation 2 console built into my guitar. Because that seems like the most practical thing to do right now. Oh, and I must have something to check my email. People always busting my f***in' chops because I'm not writing back. Now, I'll just email 'em while I'm soloing during "When It's Love."

Wednesday June 23rd 5:31 PM

Just hung out with Alex for a pre-show dinner. How cool is that--that I get to tour with my brother, the best drummer in the world? Dare I say that he is a drum god? Possibly. Have to check with Neil Peart first to see if the title is still available. I've been thinking that I would love to meet Steve Guttenberg. I'm not sure why. Just feel like I need to.

Wednesday June 23rd 6:45

Sound check went well. Now, I'm watching a repeat of "One Day At A Time." Schneider is a total character. I miss Valerie. I wonder if she misses being Mrs. Guitar God. This may be the last post I write before I go on stage tonight. Which is cool because being on stage absolutely rocks hard.

Wednesday June 23rd 7:22 PM

Note to self: You are a guitar god. You are a guitar god. You are a guitar god. You are a guitar god. You are a guitar god. You are a guitar god. You are a guitar god. You are a guitar god.

Wednesday June 23rd 7:53 PM

Pssst. Eddie, you are a guitar god. RAWK!

Monday, June 21, 2004


Today may as well be Christmas. It's another day of which I am a non-celebrating minority. But while I have never taken part in the glorious day in December (company holiday parties non-withstanding), it was not long ago that I too had a Father's Day brunch. In fact, this is only my second Father's Day to be transformed into a regular Sunday. A Sunday like the week before and the week after.

As I received catalogue's in the mail, reminding me that "this is what dad wants!," I noticed the cruel nature of designating a day for patrimony appreciation. Walking down the aisles of Walgreen’s, the Hallmark cards called out, reminding me...all the cards I had no need to look through and consider, asking myself was this funny enough or was it too funny? I wondered if there were Hallmark employees, writers who had to write the card inscriptions, those that had lost their fathers. Was it harder for them? I only had to walk by them. They, on the other hand, had to conjure all the painful memories of those tie-gifting Sundays. I felt bad for them.

All the friends I spoke with today, tiptoed around thier own celebrations. "I'm with my family," said one, keeping it ambiguous but still making it very clear. I walked to the park to meet some friends, all who had their own specific reasons for not being with their dads (mostly out-of-towners) and I noticed the wandering people on the streets. I wondered why they weren't with their fathers--could there have been a falling out? Were they no longer speak to one another? I then realized that setting one day aside for evaluating a relationship with the man who brought you into this world seemed too shallow. One day out of 365 self-serving days. Granted, I consider this only because I no longer have the opportunity to buy a Father's Day gift or card (which is not to say that I don't appreciate him every day, every hour, every minute--I do. In retrospect, every encounter, every phone call is now precious gold) but I can no longer tell him that.

I was thinking that if I knew two or three years ago what I knew now, I would have bought two Father's Day cards: one for the appropriate day and the other...I would have saved it for a few weeks, keeping it for some random Tuesday or Wednesday. Then, I would have written an inscription inside the card, telling Dad how much he means to me, how much strength and support he has given me over the years, how invaluable his presence is in my life. I would have written that card unconcerned with looking a little "uncool," I would have gladly been a Daddy's boy. I would have mailed that card to him so he would get it on that random Tuesday and Wednesday, and then he would have opened it up, read it, and knowing him, he would have cried. He would have called me to thank me and how unnecessary it was.

I no longer have that opportunity but I wish more than anything in the world for it. I know that's naive and child-like...to wish life into existence, but I can't help it. When I was young, I remember jealously watching TV in December with all the holiday commercials. I was saddened that I was not a part of what-seemed like a worldly celebration. Seeing Santa virtually everywhere, I told my Dad that I felt a bit left out. My father laughed with a trademark twinkle in his eye. He pinched my cheek and took me out for a Strawberry milkshake.

Well, today I feel a bit left out again. Except this time, I have no one to take me out for a Strawberry milkshake.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


The English have a reputation for being cold and emotionless. But if one considers all the celebrated pop culture representatives from the UK, you’ll discover quite the opposite. The English are actually impossibly sappy. Actors like Hugh Grant and Rupert Everett are all wimp, all the time. Best selling authors like Helen Fielding and Nick Hornby are renowned for their stories with characters bearing their insecurities and constantly harping on their emotional instabilities. Perhaps, I suggest, the Brits are too in touch with themselves.

And truthfully, their music is no different. Coldplay, the Paltrowed foursome currently crowned as “the biggest band in the world,” don’t curse, don’t drink and don’t smoke. Moreover, they sing lyrics like “look at the stars/see how they shine for you.” And considering Chris Martin, lead singer and songwriter of the band, named his child Apple…well, nowadays, they’re not looking any tougher.

If you thought Coldplay was an exception, here are two bands that make a Dr. Phil episode look positively heartless:

- Keane, a Brixton threesome consisting of drums, bass and piano, has no guitarist. They don’t “crank it to 11.” They don’t have any three-minute solos. And they certainly don’t “rawk out.” But they do have ten sublimely hypersensitive songs about sympathy, sunshine, and, you know, love. Using Coldplay’s “The Scientist” and Ewan McGregor’s performance in Moulin Rouge as their blueprint, Keane’s debut is strong enough for a man but still made for a woman. Those who tend to eye-roll at earnestness should proceed with caution.

- Hailing from Northern Ireland, charming rockers Snow Patrol insert a bit more testosterone into their cup of earnest tea. With a driving rhythm section and pulsing guitar, The Final Straw is their third album and strongest to date. In fact, Universal Records is betting that Patrol’s first single, “Run,” will be this summer’s “Yellow.” And that’s a pretty safe bet considering the soaring, goose bump-inducing chorus—“light up/light up/as if you have a choice/even if you cannot hear my voice/I’ll be right besides you, dear.” This is the Straw that will break the cynical back

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


If you like Norah Jones…then discover Rachael Yamagata’s Happenstance (RCA) or Jolie Holland’s Escondida(Anti):

Imagine a Twilight Zone episode where some mad scientist figured out a way to split Norah Jones into two distinct personalities.
Are you imagining?
Now, imagine that the scientist is successful in creating two respective Joneses.
[Bear with me here. I love metaphors]. He then discovers that Norah I focuses on her wistful jazz, creating songs of nostalgia and timelessness while Norah II has a bit of rockier side, writing sultry jazz-like compositions but with an angsty edge of bitterness.

Norah I is actually Jolie Holland, a pigtailed musky vocalist, who writes lazy-sounding songs so calming, they could almost qualify as music for the sloth-inclined. Essentially, Escondida is a collection of twelve black-and-white photos illustrated with teasing snare drums, smirking trumpets and humid guitars. Recalling Billie Holiday but with a slight Southern rust, Holland’s debut makes for the perfect sunset viewing, sitting barefoot on a rustic porch and sipping a cold glass of lemonade.

Rachael Yamagata, or Norah II, possesses the same smoke-flavored and barbeque potato chipped voice as the two aforementioned torch singers but unlike their serenity, Yamagata, on occasion, likes to get things moving. In this way, Rachael is much like Fiona Apple, alternating between summer-dress-fare and girl power rockers. “Worn Me Down,” Happenstance’s obvious standout single, is a breezy bike ride into pop territory. “Quiet,’ is a nine minute surrender so heart-meltingly precious that Jones would surely trade in one of her three hundred Grammy’s for a simplicity so seductive.


Monday, June 07, 2004


BBS: So, Mustache, I just want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview.

Mustache: Don't be silly. It's my pleasure to be anywhere than under the nose of some random person.

BBS: Mustache, I hope this statement does not offend you but it's you that is so random. Essentially, you're facial hair just hanging there in middle of the face. I can't imagine that you serve much purpose... other than adorning the most dangerous dictators of all time like Hitler, Hussein, Mussolini, Tom Selleck...

M: Hmmm, looks like you started this interview with a toughie. One of the most difficult things about being the mustache is explaining yourself. People ask, why the mustache and more often than not, the answer is "I don't know. Just kinda wanted one." Imagine living this ambiguous existence where your life is based on a whim, when you don't even know why you're there. That's not easy.

BBS: I can't imagine. After all, everyone needs a sense of purpose.

M: And moreover, every time you see a shaver, you think maybe this is my last day. Maybe this is the day when I go from living above the lip to dying in the drain of your sink. You can't possibly relate to the sort of anxiety I face day-to-day.

BBS: Well, maybe we could resolve this insecurity. There's got to be a better response to the why-did-you-grow-a-mustache-question...

M: Hmmm. Well, I am sexy. There's nothing sexier than a mustache. Of course, I'm referring to a man's mustache, not a woman's.

BBS: Ha ha. So true.

M: I understand why women get rid of me. I'm not for them. I shouldn't be there. I take no offense to that whatsoever. There was this one riot grrrl type who wouldn't wax and it was very disturbing to me. I pleaded with her to let me go but she wouldn't. Foolish pride, I tell you. She wasn't proving anything. Not to me, not to anyone. People would call her, "sir" and I felt awful because technically it was my fault. "Can I help you, sir" and I would wince because I knew I was the cause of the problem.

BBS: Awful. I'm so sorry. That must of been painful for you.

M: It was. I mean, I've been through some hard times. This whole Hitler mustache thing also has been so hurtful. People growing facial hair like that. I'm like, what is wrong with you? Why would you want to replicate that god-awful fashion statement?

BBS: What's next for the Mustache?

M: I will be in a few movies the coming year. Some TV stuff...I'm pretty hopeful. My agent says that I could be making a come back and if Mac...I call him "Mac"...Culkin can do it then why can't I? Heck, I've never gone away.

BBS: I hear you're huge in Cuba.

M:...and in Iraq. Are you watching the war footage? Every one there had a mustache. I'm like the It Facial Accessory.

BBS: Could we do a word association?

M: Sure.

BBS: Mark Twain.

M: He owes me everything. He would be nothing without me.

BBS: Burt Reynolds.

M: Make up your mind. Are we on? Off? On? C'mon, Burt, call me. Don't play hard-to-get with me.

BBS: Edge.

M: That's almost a Fu Manchu. Not a mustache. I'll tell you a secret, though. Under that hat, he's bald. True story.

BBS: The Milk ad campaign (Where's Your Mustache?)

M: Offensive. What is that crap? A milk mustache? Insulting! Every time I see some attractive young lady like Tyra Banks with a milk mustache, I am hurt like a kick in the groin.

BBS: Mustache, we're out of time but thank you so much for coming in and talking with us. I'll say that while you don't make sense to a lot of people, you're a great descriptive trait.

M: Thanks, Sincerity. If I can just plug my new appearance on John Feller’s face. I'll be there for sure this week. After that, call in first to confirm.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


I walked into the hospital, through the automatic doors, visiting my sister, Aliza, and her newborn baby daughter. While entering the maze of sanitary hallways with their heaping piles of uncomfortable silences, I realized that I had not been in a hospital since my father passed away last year. Moments after basking in my celebratory jubilance, my mood suddenly transformed into a heavy weariness as if the hospital was a friend that I once trusted but had nevertheless still let me down. The vivid imagery of last year's experience made me aware of all the pain and suffering that went on in this building while paradoxically, I also imagined all the happiness that went on the opposing floors. After all, I had been there for latter, not the former.

Though, my mind was finding a very hard time grasping with this concept--I was standing in
a place where life both began and ended.

I took the elevator to the fourth floor and wandered through the maternity ward looking for a nurse. After finding out where my sister was staying, I walked into her room to find her waiting for me. My niece, on the other hand, was not. I stood over her while she slept in her plastic crib/incubator, observing her unhampered innocence. Her precious smallness. My father would've cried as he held his first grandchild princess in his arms.

"She's cute, isn't she?" Aliza asked.
"Absolutely," I said. I always thought that babies looked closer to aliens or reptiles in their first two months. They only bloomed into their cuteness therein after that. But this little girl (if she could qualify yet as a girl) broke my heart in a way that most girls could never accomplish; into a surging awakening, not a painful collapse.

"Hi, little girl," I said. She would not have a formal baby naming for another few days. Until then, she would have to be "little girl." It's unfortunate, I thought, that she will never know her grandfather, my father. He would have spoiled her a great deal, as he had done for me.

She woke up and opened her ocean-sized eyes. She looked at me with a non-judgemental stare as I secured my arms in a tight cradle-like embrace. I would only stay there for a few minutes longer. The haunting echoes of my memories made this building an uncomfortable experience.

Moments later, I put the baby down with a kiss and left my sister and my niece to rest. I went to the parking lot to retrieve my car, trying to leave the bitterweet sentiments lingering behind.