Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Chicago Man Watches Death of Samurais in Israel (part 7)…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Humor,Israel,Jewish Themes,Love and Romance,My Own Personal Hell,Travel — Bob at 9:20 pm on Thursday, November 9, 2017

Chicago Man Watches Death of Samurais in Israel (part 7)

by Robert M. Katzman © November 8, 2016

 Some real life situations are so convolutedly charming that they defy fictionalization. Happened tonight.

Marooned as I am in The Promised Land with a painful foot problem which has stopped any explorations for now, and may now doom my hoped for two-day trip to Petra in Jordan and a night with the Bedouins, I spent the day in my nice apartment overlooking a valley thinking about ambition, ageing and gradually limited horizons.

Surrendering to pain, reluctantly and spending a day in an ancient Biblically historic land with cool November winds blowing through all the windows, and warm sunlight pouring down on a covered veranda, I had to think about how to spend my day.

I don’t watch TV, have a very limited supply of food on hand which I can eat here, and accepting the fact that I have to use the internet to learn how to heal myself, because although I have emergency international medical insurance which will evacuate me back to the States if something horrible happens to me, but no Israeli insurance which would allow me to see a local foot doctor, I also sent out a plea for information to a range of American friends. A prison with email.

Generally, most advice contradicts other advice. Don’t do this common self-medicating practice or you’ll cause that worse resulting thing to happen. Assorted home remedies. Go to a hospital. Pray. Ok, nobody said the last one. Especially the god-less the Internet. A self-aware future internet might one day logically assume it is God, because actual faith has no logic to it, and the internet wouldn’t be burdened with endless world-wide fantasies about worlds-to-come, or purgatory, messiahs, conflicting spiritual philosophies or ancient real estate claims based on land grants from God 4,000 years ago.

Thinking objectively, if I were asked by the universe to choose a new “promised land” say, for the Kurds (largest ethnic group on the planet, 28 million people, without a country of their own) or another group, like the North African Berbers or even liberal republicans, I’d choose Colorado, a true heaven on earth. Has everything.

Classic tangent. Back to tonight’s happening.

So I spent the day reading the New York Times which is sold on the very few newsstand here with Haarezt (The State), a mainstream Israeli newspaper tucked inside of the Times; a really excellent 1978 book about the history of the Jews, Wanderings, by Chaim Potok, where everything he talks about I have already been or is very close by; reading NPR and CNN on the internet and thinking about what to write after my last posted installment, part 6, on Vad Yashem, the Israeli Museum on the Holocaust; cooking three eggs sunny side up with dried onions, butter, salt, ground pepper and Caraway seeds, coffee and meanwhile mostly keeping my poor sore foot soaked, then dried, aired and elevated.

I was alone all day, then my roommate, Sam, who is an East Indian Moslem in Haifa University here, came home after sundown announcing that this is his last night here, after two weeks of living with him and watching endless identical Bollywood song and dance movies, and I realize I want to watch a movie on the big TV, but I have no idea how to use the remote to turn the thing on and pick a movie. I seize the moment.

I asked Sam to help me find a complicated movie I love, “The Last Samurai” an 2003 movie with Tom Cruise as the American star, and a Japanese cast of excellent actors. Here, briefly, is Wikipedia’s summation of the plot:

“Former US Army Captain Nathan Algren, a bitter alcoholic traumatized by the atrocities he committed during the American Indian Wars (in the 7th Calvary), is approached by his former commanding officer Colonel Bagley to train the newly formed Imperial Japanese Army for Japanese businessman Omura, who intends to use the army to suppress a Samurai-headed rebellion against Japan’s new Emperor. Despite his hatred of Bagley for his role in the Indian Wars, an impoverished Algren takes the job for the money, and is accompanied to Japan by his old friend Sergeant Zebulon Gant. Upon arriving, Algren meets Simon Graham, a British translator knowledgeable about the Samurai.”

The film is two-and-a-half hours long, worth every minute, beautifully and artistically shot; explores a wide range of the different social aspects of the two parts of ancient and modern Japanese society; moves like a leaf slowly flowing by a stream, at least for me; and most essentially, carefully unwraps the two initial adversaries, the rebel Samurai leader and his captive Cruise, as Cruise spends the winter in the remote Samurai village, learns to speak hesitant Japanese, lives with the widow and children of the man he killed in self-defense, and gradually becomes integrated into the martial society; while winning over Samurai men who hated him when he first arrived at the village by his willingness to refuse to be defeated while suffering punishing blows when learning how to fight in the Samurai way. Much of what is transmitted to the movie’s viewers is wordless. The ancient versus modern Japanese battle scenes are stunning to watch.

While the film is playing, my other roommate, Nickolas, a Greek Orthodox Greek national advanced student also, with very strong accented English comes closer to the screen, watches it and tells me he knows the film.

Then he suddenly sneezes and I say, “Gehsundheit!” without thinking, an automatic response for sixty years.


Because I am the last surviving person in my family who grew up with all the immigrants from Eastern Europe who still says that, and that was the universal response to a sneeze, in Yiddish.

So, yeah, one more odd thing in the stew thing, right?

It is the cross-cultural, fish-out-of-water aspects of all of this that capture me, in this and other movies like it.

So, an American cavalry captain is hired to kill Japanese Samurais, learns to become one of them militarily, emotionally and romantically, was filmed in New Zealand, California, Japan, was directed by a Chicago-born Jewish director, Edward Zwick, being lovingly appreciated by a currently American (me) by way of Lithuania, Poland and Byelorussia while in living briefly in Israel mourning his dead Norwegian-descended wife, after the TV was turned on and tuned in for me by my East Indian roommate, Sam, and coolest of all, the subtitles are all in Hebrew letters but without the vowels I need to pronounce them, while the actual movie is spoken in Japanese, British-English, Irish-English and American English.

There are a few other movies that mirror the ideas of clashing cultures, if not countries. Here are my favorites. Some may be a little obscure, but worth looking for:

Witness, which pits a street-smart urban Philadelphia cop against corruption within his department and who is badly wounded and must seek refuge in and briefly play the part of a Pennsylvania Dutch farmer, and which includes a classic rock ‘n roll romantic dance in a hayloft lit by a kerosene lantern between the cop and a beautiful widowed woman from that community.

The Frisco Kid, honestly, a hard to classify film—ostensibly a road-comedy—about a hapless Polish rabbi who is sent to New York by his Yeshiva to travel across America to become the rabbi of a newly established San Francisco Jewish community, where a potential bride I waiting to marry him. While it seems to be a comedy, I see it more as a friendship movie as the rabbi becomes unwillingly involved with a train and bank-robbing cowboy and as they become very odd friends, the robber is gradually transformed by the foreign rabbi’s alien and gentle personality, and he decides to lead the rabbi across the country to get him there safely while he and they encounter Amish farmers, amused American Indians, hallucinogenic drugs, dangerous conmen, a silent monk retreat, a Chinese work gang on the transcontinental railroad, a whore house and finally the Americanized Jews of San Francisco.

 Next of Kin, another cop drama, but this one has several violent aspects of Chicago clashing against each other: an Appalachian-born cop, the local mafia, the black community and the dangerous other-worldly relatives and kinsmen of the Chicago cop who come to rescue him when the other forces begin closing in on him.

 Doc Hollywood and Baby Boom, both very touching movies, sometimes bittersweet comedies, about flinty impatient, easily antagonized urban sophisticated New Yorkers with intolerant attitudes who each end up unexpectedly trapped in very small towns and have to learn to accept a far slower pace of life, actual and not superficial friendships and who both fall in love with people they would never have dreamed to be acceptable companions for them when they were still big city people.

The Quiet Man and Leap Year, both about Americans who end up in tiny towns in Ireland for completely different reasons, each having to learn to navigate the complicated local cultural ways and seemingly eccentric personalities with both eventually falling in love with charming strong-willed Irish people.

Shining Through, about an American-Irish/Jewish woman with relatives still trapped in Nazi Germany who applies for a job with a mysterious sort of company and ends up working for the US government as a spy disguised as a cook in a Nazi officers house to try to photograph Nazi-scientist’s plans to build a new and terrible war rocket.

These movies are excellent, complicated and they all grow on you the more you watch them.

(to be continued…)

Driving in the Dark: Lost in Israel (part 1) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3736

Bob in Israel: Crusader Castle and Caraway Seeds (part 2) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3748

Joy’s Ashes in Israel: An Independent Woman (part 3) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3761

Marsha Michael, Who Solved My Problems in Israel (part 4) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3771

Tel Aviv, Israeli radio and Unexpected Art (part 5) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3796

Vad Yashem: Killing Millions of Children (part 6) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3811

Chicago man Watches death of Samurais in Israel (part 7) //www.differentslants.com/?p=3846

Traveling Alone, Traveling Together (part 8) //www.differentslants.co/?p=3865

An American Jew’s Bold New Plan for a Sane, Peaceful and Prosperous State of Palestine (part 9) //www.differentslants.co/?p=3887

David’s Star in Israel (part 10) //www.differentslants.co/?p=3907

Sleeping With the Bedouins (part 11-a) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3962

Pleading with Fate in Jerusalem (part 12) https://www.differentslants.com/?p=3980

To contact the writer:



Publishing News! 

Bob Katzman’s two new true Chicago books are now for sale, from him!
Vol. One: A Savage Heart  and Vol. Two: Fighting Words

Gritty, violent, friendship, classic American entrepreneurship love, death, heartbreak and the real dirt about surviving in a completely corrupt major city under the Chicago Machine. More history and about one man’s life than a person may imagine.

Please visit my new website: https://www.dontgoquietlypress.com
If a person doesn’t want to use PayPaI, I also have a PO Box & I ship anywhere in America.

Send me a money order with your return and contact info.
I will get your books to you within ten days.
Here’s complete information on how to buy my books:

Vol 1: A Savage Heart and Vol. 2: Fighting Words
My books weigh almost 2 pounds each, with about 525 pages each and there are a total together of 79 stories and story/poems.

Robert M. Katzman
Don’t Go Quietly Press
PO Box 44287
Racine, Wis. 53404-9998                                                                                                                    (262)752-3333, 8AM–7PM

Books cost $29.95 each, plus shipping

For: (1)$3.95; (2)$5.95; (3)$7.95; (4)$8.95 (5)$9.95;(6) $10.95

(7) $11.95; (8) $12.95; (9)$13.95 (10)$15.95 (15)$19.95

I am also for hire if anyone wants me to read my work and answer questions in the Chicago/Milwaukee area. Schools should call me for quantity discounts for 30 or more books. Also: businesses, bookstores, private organizations or churches and so on.

My Fighting Words Publishing Co. four original books, published between 2004 and 2007 are now out-of-print. I still have some left and will periodically offer them for sale on my new website.

 Twitter handle:bob_katzman


Comment by Brad Dechter

November 10, 2017 @ 9:04 am

You’re so bored you’re summarizing movies?
Hope you/your foot feels better soon!!!

Comment by bruce

November 10, 2017 @ 11:21 am

first thing you must do is get that fever under control bro…yer descent into madness, while lamentable, will make a poor legacy if you succomb to a sore pedal digit…don’t they have toe trucks in israel? yikes! i think you’re contagious…

Comment by Herb Berman

November 10, 2017 @ 1:54 pm

Hope you’re healed soon, Bob, and up to climbing up and down the hills of Israel.

I liked all these movies. I loved The Frisco Kid. Gene Wilder was brilliant, as usual, in this gentle fish-out-of-water flick.

Comment by Charlie Newman

November 10, 2017 @ 8:52 pm

Most impt…feel better
2nd most impt…never take any advice, including this
as always…keep on writing, Brother
(and always avoid movies w/o toilet humor and unnecessary violence)

Comment by Jim Payne

November 11, 2017 @ 10:10 am

The first half dozen paragraphs are such good writing, typical of your talent. Now you aren’t in motion stimulated by the passing scene and absorbed by it. Now you are without motion and have to be stimulated by what is inside you. Some time let’s talk about what’s inside you. It governs where you are going.

Comment by Don Larson

November 11, 2017 @ 10:46 am

Hi Bob,

Sorry your foot hurts. I don’t have any advice for you about it.

Get well soon.


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