Sunday, October 31

let's get physical

Today brought some variety. We visited a big Tel Aviv park with a challenging rock-climbing wall, since this is one of the things our daughter likes to do. She went right for the most scary looking wall. It was very very high, and halfway up, it veered backward slightly. I doubted she could do it, though she's been coached on good technique by an athletic uncle. Explaining the simple physics of the wall angle, I said, "You're going to be hanging off the wall instead of leaning on it." She responded, "Ooooh, I love that!" and up she climbed. Where the wall started veering outward, the need to hang on to those handholds suddenly became critical, or she'd be twisting in the wind. This was a pressure she hadn't felt before, and she called down that she was scared. We shouted out encouragement as we watched her very competently pushing forward, finding another foothold, then another handhold, then another foothold. We were impressed. Her grandmother (my mother-in-law) was also there, controlling the feeling she was about to have a heart attack. In pretty quick time, the kid made it to the top, and then expertly rappelled back down to us, a bit shaken up and with a nice film of sweat on her brow, but glowing with pride at the accomplishment. Shout out to athletic uncle: She declared she couldn't have done it if he hadn't taught her never to let go of the handhold until you have secure hold of another.

Never underestimate where important learnings may come from.

From there she moved on to the bungee-trampoline activity, where she likes to give ME a heart attack with her mid-air somersaults. I'm always terrified she's going to come down on her head. Funny, she's not very athletic in the usual kinds of sports; maybe she's on her way to being an extreme sports enthusiast? I don't think I can take it.

Meanwhile, I made it to the gym this weekend, scared into a healthy act after watching Supersize Me, finally. It was shocking how quickly the McDiet and no exercise turned this superfit vegan jock into a lethargic, headachey mess.

Why is it SO hard to get myself to the gym? I do enjoy it once I'm there, turning the treadmill into my own private disco floor. My gym has some good music pumped in via an earphone connection at every treadmill, and I was just getting one good [cheesy, disco] song after another yesterday, enough to keep me at it for 40 minutes, with music speaking straight to my body and my psyche. The minute I plugged in, I got the sweet sounds of Gerry Rafferty's sax in "Baker Street", a melancholy song I've always loved. "Just one more year and then you'd be happy, another year and then you'd be happy, but you're cryin', you're cryin' now." Then suddenly it was the unbeatable beat of the great, fallen MJ, the tragedy of our generation, with "Don't stop till you get enough." Sweet. The pulse continued with GingerSpice Geri Halliwell's cover of "It's Raining Men, Hallelujah!" and moved on to "I saw you cryin' at the discoteque" with the "tie like Richard Gere" -- love that one... no idea what it's about. Then another classic: David Bowie's "Let's Dance! Put on your red shoes and dance the blues." Cooling down, it was Santana's "Black Magic Woman" -- more painfully sweet guitar. I was about to call it a day when Jamiroquai started up -- not my favorite one, but I don't know any bad Jamiroquai songs. I couldn't ignore it. This one was "Virtual Insanity" -- a good name for a life, I thought. Or a blog.

Friday, October 29

meanings of homelessness

"You are a member of the counter culture now. Welcome. Truth is a value of the culture your life is running counter to. You're going to have to get comfortable modifying that value a bit. Your private life must be kept private. Lying defends it.

"Lying is a survival skill."

I have to express appreciation to my high-powered new blogfriend Lioness for introducing her readers to Survival Guide to Homelessness, a fascinating view into the requirements of living with no fixed address. (Did you know, for example, that there are two classes of homelessness? Owning a car makes all the difference in the world.) The quote above comes from the new blog's author, Mobile Homemaker, and it kind of gives me chills. Though I've spent my life paying the price for being scrupulously honest, there is another side of me that fiercely defends the right to protect one's precious private life with bald-faced lies. I only regret that the world had to witness Clinton doing it on tv, over and over and over again. [Curse you, Ken Starr!]

The concept of the counter-culture is what makes me stop and ponder. True, I have a roof over my head and can thus pretend to being a "normal" member of society, but in so many ways this is where "normalcy" ends and faking takes over. In downtown Toronto where it's easy to do one's own thing, I didn't stick out so much, but in Israel the ways I am not normal seem infinite. It tires me just thinking about it.

One of the most obvious ways that I'm "way out of the mainstream" is in not working, and when I do, never staying at it very long -- okay, rarely staying at it very long. The longest job I've held in memory was just under three years, and that ended 7 years ago. In the past 7 years, the job I held the longest lasted 10 months. I could have stayed at that one, but I didn't like the direction it was heading, so I cut out before it could completely deteriorate. Almost all the others were hi-tech layoffs from dot.coms going bust or needing to drastically downsize. But the fact is, I get bored as soon as routine sets in and office politics start to penetrate, so I often don't mind moving on. Since the spring of 2001, it seems I've been in an interminable jobhunt. When it comes to the world of employment, I am homeless -- even when employed.

So, in the spirit of looking on the bright side, I've decided to create a top 10 list of why it's great not to be working:

10. There's all that thinking and dreaming I like to do.
9. I can go to bed late because I can go back to sleep, if I need to, after the kid leaves.
8. I don't have to get dressed in the morning.
7. I can stay abreast of the news and read on the Internet to my heart's content.
6. There's time to mangae my email inbox so it doesn't get out of control with all the stuff I'm subscribed to.
5. I have the time and energy to cook properly or make a salad, if I so desire.
4. I have the patience to help my daughter with her homework.
3. If I had a regular salary coming in, I'd be wasting a whole lot more money on unhealthy fast food.
2. I can go to the gym whenever I choose (oops, really should do that today!)

and the number one reason it's great not to be working:

1. If I were working I wouldn't have time to blog!

Tuesday, October 26

some actual israeli content, for a change

Most of the time what I post is just personal happenings, whatever's going on in my mind, with very little comment on the Israeli Situation, since a) I'm not as in touch with it here in my little bubble-world of unemployment in Raanana, and b) it usually doesn't interest me as much as what's going on elsewhere. (Okay, there was that mobster-bombing down the street, but that's rare.)

So today is a special treat, because there are two matters I want to mention.

First, this evening brings the ninth anniversary of Rabin's assassination.

from Haaretz online: Rabin was assassinated by Jewish right-wing extremist Yigal Amir on November 4, 1995. Wednesday, the 12th day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, marks the Hebrew anniversary of his death.

I find it an interesting coincidence that also this evening the Knesset will finally vote on Sharon's proposal to withdraw from Gaza.

again from Haaretz online:
In his speech Monday, Sharon said the decision to pursue disengagement was the most difficult he had ever made, "in all my life as a fighter and commander, a politician, a Knesset member, a government minister and prime minister."

Sharon said Israel could not continue with the status quo. "We don't want to rule over millions of Palestinians, whose population is doubling every generation. Israel wishes to be a democracy and cannot do it. The disengagement is opening a gateway to another reality."

The prime minister told MKs that he knew what the Knesset decision would mean for those Israelis living in Gaza who had been sent in the name of the government to build homes there. "This is a fateful hour for Israel," he said. "We are on the threshold of a difficult decision, the likes of which we have seldom faced, and the significance of which for the future of our country in this region is consistent with the difficulty, pain and dispute it arouses within us."

This is especially significant because Sharon's moves are causing the exact same level of ire from the same (religious right) part of the population that Rabin's peace efforts angered, getting him killed. Nine years ago, such a situation with of all people Sharon drawing the fire for making unpopular sacrifices could never have been predicted. He is well known, after all, for being the housing minister that encouraged settlers to build in all kinds of disputed territories, against the wishes or expressed wisdom of [I believe] the majority. What a life.

And on a lighter note, I have fallen in love with a new bit of Israeli culture, a rare occurrence for me. It's a new tv show that last night aired only its second episode, called "Ahava Zeh Co'ev" -- literally 'love hurts' but which I'd prefer to translate as 'Love Sucks' (although on channel 10's website for the show, they call it "Love is Hard" ... I like mine better). I only got involved in this new dramedy because it stars the wonderful Dana Modan who I've seen before doing a different kind of late-night interview show that focussed on sex in the [israeli] city but also threw food into the mix (each guest brought a dish) along with one of her acerbic rants on what jerks men can be. I love her because she's smart and funny and not a model-beauty but fabulous all the same. So I came for Dana -- and she's worth it -- but the surprise is Assi Cohen and the chemistry these two have on screen. It's been a long time since I saw stuff that volcanic going on between two romantic leads. If you understand Hebrew, go to the website, click on "Video" and then choose "Perek 2" (episode 2) which starts right after Dana is crying her eyes out over the boyfriend that left her. Oren (Assi) comes to "apologize" for being a jerk after they slept together, but continues to irritate her, and she rips him a new one with something like, "If you were the last man on earth and we were on a desert island and we were naked in an elevator and I was horny as hell and no one would ever know, and there was a atomic explosion and the human race depended on us, I still wouldn't touch you." .... I burst out laughing every time I watch it. Finally something gets the juices going again. Thank you, Assi and Dana!

Monday, October 25

aura of green and purple

Well, the cleaning lady never showed up. She was supposed to come yesterday too, and told us only at the last minute that she didn't feel well. Why am I relieved? Oh yeah, having a stranger move your stuff around and spreading cleaning chemicals everywhere is stressful. I'm perfectly fine with having her here once in three weeks, but Mr. S is cleaning-obsessed. I'm the opposite; I have a strange affection for my own dust and grunge, and don't like it to be disturbed too often, nor to be the one who disturbs it. Yes, it's one of life's conundrums.

So, on to the report on the aura-reader. How shall I tell this? I was there for 2 hours. First, his Kirlian camera wasn't working so he couldn't take a picture of me with my aura, but his computer program was still okay, and it was fitted with a 5-finger sensor attachment where you put your hand, allowing the program to display your aura on the screen (and for printout) around the form of a person, so that you can see where it would be on you. My aura showed green all over my body and a diffuse purple-pink cloud a little way above my head. Right in the area of my heart or solar plexus was a strong blue area, and all the chakras in a vertical line below that point, down to the crotch area, were fuzzy spots of mostly yellow.

The interpretation of these colors: The green everywhere, he said, indicates first and foremost that I'm a very emotionally-based, good-hearted person with a strong desire to help people, a healer by nature. The blue around my heart indicates an area with a deep wound that requires healing. The purple-pink cloud up above my head is the sign of a strong connection with spirit, strong intuitive abilities. To teach me by means of comparison, he showed me another picture of a person with a much smaller, well-defined purple dot immediately above their head and said this was a very focussed "third eye" -- the same as my intuitive indication, but more focussed or developed. That person also had very well-defined points of color at each chakra, whereas mine were fuzzy and in some cases, near the bottom, almost invisible. This indicates lack of grounding, over-emotionality, difficulty with focus perhaps. I'm not too sure about that part. He said I am a good communicator and I am meant to help people. I told him that people usually bug me too much to be that kind of a person. He said this is the nature of my heart wound, that I can't trust people.

Basically, there was no new and asounding information here for me -- the problem remained: what to do about it? He had me lay down on his table and he covered me with a blanket and tucked me in on all sides. This was good, because the air conditioning was on iceberg setting. Then he sat beside me and talked me through a guided meditation like a walk in the woods along a beautiful path, fields, flowers, stream, treasure box, lake, etc. and I didn't find it helpful. I was sad, annoyed, frustrated. He asked me several times what I was feeling, and I told him. He asked me about the source of my frustration and I found tears flowing, though it was hard to really have a good cry while lying on my back. Eventually I felt lighter, but I don't know if this is something that has stayed ... we'll see. I'm already pretty stressed out again this evening with the fight over homework with my daughter, complicated by her father's tough stance.

Finally, this led into more personal conversation that I wasn't entirely comfortable with, and I'm rather uncomfortable relating it here, but I will. This is difficult: it would seem that he fell in love with me at first sight. He said he felt like he was meeting someone who he'd known forever, like he'd found a pearl, that he wanted to be with me. This wasn't shocking to me -- as I said, I'm open to the paranormal, and I'm willing to suppose that he was perceiving a dimension that I couldn't -- but I also couldn't say it was mutual, because for me he was just a kind old man with a spiritual healing gift that I was hoping might help me. There was no sex appeal whatsoever, and whatever anyone might think -- sexual attraction in some form is the power that gets interpreted as connection. Whatever he was feeling and interpreting in a spiritual manner was, I believe, first perceived through his sexual/sensual perception. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But, to be honest, it was a bit creepy, and probably would have been even if he was a young hottie; I still would have been very suspicious at the powerful-connection, out-of-the-ordinary, soulmate sort of attraction. It's an ideal, it's a dream, but I guess I've become a tad too cynical to believe in it anymore, even if I felt it myself ... I might go with it, but I'd have trouble really buying into it. Truth is, I wish I had felt it; but the powerful attraction was not reciprocal. This seemed to be an important part of why I was there; as he said, I wasn't simply another client to him.

It is nice to know he is there as an advisor/counselor if I want one, and perhaps I will keep in touch. I still don't know what to do with whatever came out of this session today, if anything. I can't say if it helped any more than a session with a therapist who validates what you already know about yourself. Maybe a little more. He told me my work is not rightly in the field of technical writing, where I'm looking for a job, but in a more healing or communicative work. Only problem is, that's where the money is, and that's the main reason for working, in my view. Still, it's something to keep in mind.

not as interesting* as a terrorist attack, but ...

Who knew?

So we have mobsters in our little burg. There was all kinds of excitement on Saturday night when a "shock grenade" (which apparently causes shock -- in this case to 3 people -- but no other damage) was thrown at a home in the western section of Raanana known as "Lev HaPark". Although Nesher St. is not a neighborhood I frequent, by chance it is exactly where I'm going today. (See report on that later.)

According to this report (in Hebrew), the grenade was meant as a threat to a soldier of the Ohana crime family, Haim Jann (my transliteration), and not an assassination attempt. A scare tactic, to send a message, as a Raanana resident commented on the Raanana Yahoo list. The same person noted that "both Nesher Street and HaMachtarot Street [which is my neighborhood] have well-known [or suspected] 'crime families' living there. Those living in the area know who they are and where they live. This is not the first grenade throwing and is probably linked to the recent headlines (last week and today) about certain people having been killed recently - even when they come to the 'shiva' [the 7-day mourning period when the bereaved receive visitors at home]."

Apparently a whole block full of rattled Israelis stood around on the sidewalk in their pj's telling the press that the blast had shaken their windows and scared the crap out of them.

* ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times..."

appliances keep going on the blink

I thought our 14-yr-old dishwasher had given up the ghost yesterday evening, just into the wash cycle. The noise had stopped and the light was off. Amazing that it's never given us a problem in all these years. Mr. S opened it up, saw lots of water and immediately began to lament our "continued bad luck" -- which naturally is understood to be my fault. I didn't bother pointing out to him (as I've attempted to do so many times) the many blessings we enjoy that he is conveniently (?) ignoring, but is it any wonder that I contemplate piling the mayo on his sandwich at lunchtime and and turning a blind eye to his liter-a-day consumption of diet coke?

Our trusty technician arrived this morning and put humpty-dumpty's wires all back together again (the dishwasher, that is; there's not much hope for Mr. S) -- it was just one broken/burnt out wire, plus a little accumulated grunge -- but there goes another 150 shekels we didn't plan on spending and apparently got "nothing" for. So goes one person's way of thinking anyway...

Ooof, the cleaning lady's on her way. I must go tidy up some more crap before she hides things where I won't be able to find them ...

Sunday, October 24

the light at the end of the tunnel

Three days after receiving my 30-or-so boxes from Toronto, I'm seeing counters and floors again and most of the crap is hidden away, stuffed into cupboards and drawers. It took me all weekend and I've filled 3 large cartons with decent stuff to give away to ESRA or WIZO, the local versions of Goodwill. I'm truly shocked and dismayed by the quantities of sheets, towels, blankets, cutlery, dishes, glasses and papers I've accumulated and refused to part with all these years. It doesn't bother me so much that I bought them (some of them were gifts), but that I have been unable to pass them on when I've stopped using them -- in many cases, for years. And of course, while waiting for it to arrive, I had to buy just a few little things to tide me over, and now they're helping to clog the cupboards as well!

But this is a depressing period, working hard at nothing it would seem. I barely get out, except to go to the gym, shop for groceries, and chauffeur the kid around. I love sitting around reading endlessly on the internet, but I need a job just to get a social life. Today I met my pregnant-with-twins friend for coffee (she drank decaf), and she's already enormous at 6 months. Although she's a highly intelligent Yale law grad, we were able to discuss nothing more than her impending motherhood of 3 babes under age 3 (her first child will be 2-1/2 when his sisters arrive) and my sad jobhunt. Downer.

After that, I sulkily dragged myself to the gym for my first workout in a week, and then moped over to the local grocery store that I hate, in search of comfort food.

And then a sort of miracle happened.

I had just tossed a head of romaine into my basket when an elderly man approached me and handed me his card in a sort of ingratiating manner, the way people who are soliciting you on the street often do. I assumed it would be nothing of interest, but I'd be polite. He said something about offering his services in the field of healing and photography of auras, and in surprise I looked down at his colorful card in my hand (without really focussing because I don't read Hebrew quickly), and asked him what this was about and where he'd acquired a Kirlian camera -- I guess they're widely available now. But he made it clear from his comments that he didn't need Kirlian photography to "read" me -- he could already see everything, he said. If I report what he told me, skeptics will immediately guffaw, but since I was and am open to the paranormal -- even though I haven't really been conscious of experiencing it -- I was cheered by this encounter. He said he had a near death experience (NDE) 14 years ago. For over a year, I've been reading everything I could find on NDEs and have been intrigued by reports of what has happened to many people who have experienced this. For many, it does seem to cause life-altering changes in their psyche and many have reported psychic abilities that have developed after the experience.

We stood and talked for 10 or 15 minutes, and he urged me to come have a sitting with him, telling me that he charges 200 shekels (about C$50). Immediately creating a picture in my mind of the outrage such an idea would cause in my husband, I told him that I was very interested, but that I have no money at the moment, as I'm unemployed and job-hunting. He said forget about the money right now, he won't charge me; he told me that I need his help and he very much wants to help me, that this meeting was no accident. Feeling I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, I agreed to go see him tomorrow at midday.

I will report on the encounter tomorrow.

Meanwhile, this gave me a good laugh: It's a clip of Conan's "Triumph the Insult Comic Dog" interviewing spinmeisters following the 3rd presidential debate recently, "as America attempts once again to decide which toilet to drink out of". Go to IFILM - Viral Videos Channel and click on the "Poop Valhalla" link in the list. Hilarious!

Saturday, October 23

too much crap

goddamn it, just lost the post with some kind of server error or something -- serves me right for staying up too late, exhausted from unpacking shipment of my life crap, boxes spilling it out everywhere, looking for somewhere to put it all, on top of new world record 5 days of migraine, on and off

more tomorrow on this, as i recreate the lost post...

Wednesday, October 20

joys of motherhood

My 12-yr-old daughter is having a rough time re-adjusting to life in Israel. Being back with her father (Mr. S) is not sufficient to compensate for everything she left behind in Toronto: her best friend, her fun extended family, and a school curriculum that was more manageable, in a class that had fewer kids. Of course, all that school stuff might have changed this year, grade 7, anyway. But she was used to doing pretty well, for a change, and she's feeling very dejected now. Socially may be the worst of it. There are 40 kids in her class, and the only girls she's friendly with are the two relative outsiders from Argentina and Chile. She says she doesn't like anyone else, but the truth is that she thinks no one likes her. These things can take years, and at least months, to work out, but it's so painful to watch. Meanwhile, the test schedule says she'll be doing at least two a week, and every approaching test is an agonizing family affair. Today we sat with her while she reviewed her math concepts, because if we don't, she just blows it off and then comes home with a failing grade that she's ashamed to show us. The depths of frustration and panic masked with anger and hysteria are just mind-blowing. Why does this all look so very familiar? Oh yeah, it's like looking in the rear-view mirror of my life. Shudder.

I was at another job interview/test today, this one half an hour away, straight highway driving all the way. It's a good technical writing position in a big company. Would hate the commute, but would love the money, and maybe even score a car. Well, now I have to wait and see if they liked the test I did. It's been so long since anyone has hired me for a proper job, I can hardly imagine it working out. Even the emailed editing test I did all last Friday morning (at home) has garnered no response whatsoever from the woman who sent it to me. People are SO rude.

Actually, the people at the company I went to today were anything but rude; they were lovely -- exactly the opposite kind of treatment from the one I was at a couple of weeks ago. The two women who received me were very kind and gracious and checked on me repeatedly during my two hours there, making sure I had something to drink and giving me the passcard to get back in again after going to the washroom. The difference was stunning. Too bad it's so far from home, but I would be very happy if they hired me.

So would Mr. S, who wouldn't even mind driving me there and picking me up every day, if they don't offer me a car -- just so long as I bring home a salary already! Our shipment is finally to be delivered tomorrow morning, and they want another 2,000 shekels (about C$500)! I don't know how they figured this out, but we've already paid too much for this whole thing, as far as I'm concerned. One great thing though: We got away with paying nearly nothing (C$15) in customs duty on our stuff, because I managed to get ahold of the paperwork from two years ago proving that this was the same stuff coming back that was shipped from here then. That was a very lucky break, and I have to thank that shipping company, Globus -- which was far more efficient than the one I'm using this time -- for probably saving me at least $300 by finding that paperwork in their archives for me.

I've started taking tennis lessons again. A friend told me about this little group of Anglos (that means native English-speakers here) being taught by a French guy -- turns out he's 71! Looks his age, but very fit, very charming, and very French. A former champion, they tell me. He's a darling and is already improving my moves! It's twice a week for just 45 minutes, and a nice group of people. Perfect addition to my life, and just 5 min. drive from home.

Tuesday, October 19

we're off to see the lawyer ...

Never having been involved in either side of a lawsuit, today's visit with Mr. S. to a lawyer, in pursuit of a suit, was kind of interesting.

At the beginning of this year, we bought a car from a woman who assured us that it had never been involved in anything worse than a fender-bender. As the 60-ish war widow was also a colleague of the daughter of close friends of my in-laws (like family, in other words), Mr. S. took her at her word and decided not to invest the $100 for a thorough test of the car. He paid the book value, invested more in sound system and new tires, and hoped to live happily ever after. Six months later, the car was stolen, and when it came time for the insurance company to cough up the claim, they informed us that the car had a record of major accident damage and a big payout to the former owner, reducing the value of the car and subsequent claim. We were out 12,000 shekels (about C$3000). Our lawyer sent her a letter claiming that she owed us this money, and would be sued if she didn't pay, but she didn't respond. Now we're on to stage two.

We drove to Petah Tikvah (about 20 min.) and had to park the car another 10 min. walk from the lawyer's office, as the commercial area of that town is too congested to find reliable parking. He is practising out of a run-down old apartment building without an elevator, so I was glad he was only on the second floor. We were greeted with a wave of cigarette smoke in a squalid little office. There was no receptionist, but the desk in the front area had an ashtray overflowing with butts. Dismayed, I immediately went for a window and opened it in spite of the air conditioning, standing there until the lawyer, who emerged with a cigarette in his hand, came to invite us in. Another man, likewise with a lit cigarette, brought an extra chair into the office. Even for Israel, this smoking environment was unusual -- there's a lot less of it now, and it's prohibited in many public places -- and I've clearly become spoiled.

I was also surprised by how young our lawyer was -- he's the son-in-law of a client of my father-in-law, and because the client owes my father-in-law money, we're getting "free" legal services... although I learned today that we will need to pay a court fee for filing the suit, though I don't know how much. He looks like about 25, with funky, gelled hair but a perfectly bright white long-sleeved shirt -- the professional look, but no tie in Israel, of course. I wondered how long he'd been out of school.

The whole picture, up to that point, was pretty unimpressive, but once he started talking, any doubt fell away. He sounded very intelligent and rational and as if he'd given the matter its due consideration. I enjoyed the way he patiently explained the court processes. He informed us that he was suing on our behalf for 36,000 shekels, not 12,000, and he explained that this was the amount we'd lost on paper, because it was the difference between what we paid for the car and what the insurance company later said it was actually worth given its background -- although the insurance company didn't actually transfer that total loss to us in our claim, possibly because our insurance premium was based on a higher value. This remains unclear, but we were very pleased to hear that we could potentially make on this suit triple what we'd calculated. It's a nice thought anyway; I won't hold my breath.

What I learned from our young advocate today: Stage two (where we are now) involves formal filing of the suit, which will be hand-delivered to her. If she doesn't formally respond to the court with her defense claim within 45 days, we automatically win, and the process finishes with the court-ordered extraction of the claimed sum, from her bank account or property. If she does properly respond, it goes to stage three, a preliminary hearing where the parties and their paperwork are looked over to see who's who and what's what. If one of the parties fails to show up at that point, they automatically lose. Stage four, if stage three doesn't bring a settlement, is the actual trial with the evidence and examination of the witnesses, which our lawyer made sound like the stuff of tv. "This is where the art comes in," he told us, "and it's very difficult for witnesses because the job of the lawyers is to make them look like liars." Only onths later will a judgment be rendered.

In any case, he says, we can count on the whole process taking at least a year to completely resolve, unless the respondent fails to respond, in which case it will wind up faster. I guess the courts are pretty clogged up with litigious citizens. From what I've heard of our seller, she's probably one of them; I'll bet she knows the system very well and is hoping to drag this thing out as long as possible.


Of course the scandal that is Sinclair Broadcast Group, including the nauseating refusal of broadcasting authorities to overrule Sinclair, is just one more incident -- though a particularly egregious one -- in a long list of offenses against democracy.

Thanks to my Dad for this link to columnist Molly Ivins' Oct. 14 warning, entitled Beware of creeping fascism: "Sinclair Group is the perfect example of what's wrong with the concentration of ownership in media: Just a few companies now own almost all the major information outlets. Sinclair is the largest owner of local TV stations in the nation. It controls 62 stations in 39 markets and reaches at least 25 percent of Americans every day, all day. "

Which is exactly why I keep telling people to read Salon, who reported today on the anger of one of Sinclair's employees at what's going on: "Jon Leiberman, the Washington bureau chief for Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group's news division, angrily denounced his employer last night for plans to air an hourlong program that is to include incendiary allegations against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for his anti-war activism three decades ago. 'It's biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election,' said Leiberman."

Monday, October 18

the fascists are coming! the fascists are coming!

Bush's retreat from reality, as discussed in Salon's War Room, is getting ever harder to stomach.

In "Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush," Ron Suskind's New York Times Magazine cover story, he quotes a senior Bush advisor who derides him, along with most journalists, experts and government technocrats, as part of the "reality-based community." As Suskind tells it, the advisor described this group as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernable reality," an approach this administration evidently sneers at.

"I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principals and empiricism," Suskind writes. "He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"
As Salon put it, "It's considered unfashionably shrill to refer to the Bush administration as fascistic, but this is pretty clearly the language of totalitarianism. "

They also quote Hannah Arendt's seminal 1951 book The Origins of Totalitarianism, where she wrote, "Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it."

and now, a little good news:

Along with several others, the Florida newspaper Bradenton Herald has reversed its position of four years ago and now endorses Kerry, with this editorial:
"When the Herald recommended the election of George W. Bush as president of the United States four years ago, we lauded his record in Texas as a consensus builder and expressed confidence in his ability to unite the country after four years of bitter partisanship. We liked his slogan, 'A uniter, not a divider,' and criticized opponent Al Gore's role as point man for Democrats' mean-spiritedness. How poorly we understood George W. Bush in 2000. We could not imagine the possibility that, just four years later, Bush would have done just what we feared of Gore - that the United States would barely be on speaking terms with some of its staunchest allies, and that America would be reviled around the world as a bullying, imperialist superpower." the rest...

Sunday, October 17

and the "24-hr. virus" drags on ...

Spending more time in the loo has kept me somewhat out of the loop this past week. Although I felt fine on Thursday, the diarrhea and weak stomach were back on Friday and continued through yesterday, along with very low energy. Today I'm feeling better again, though the diarrhea persists. I've never experienced this pattern of symptoms before, so I'm quite curious to know what's going on, and hopeful that it's winding up. At least the rest of the family is fine -- better me than them, since when they're sick I suffer anyway.

The temp. job I went to see about last week didn't work out. He called me the next morning and told me he's "had a bit of luck and found someone permanent." I didn't believe it, since he hadn't had time to do that, and seemed pretty desperate for help when he interviewed me. I figure that the rate I asked for was double what he was willing to pay, so low that he was embarrassed to suggest it. It was a surprise. I was prepared for him calling and offering me less, but not for no offer whatsoever. It would have been fine, though (since I didn't really want that job anyway), if Mr. S. hadn't criticized me for sounding too firm (in his opinion) on my rate. His view is beggars can't be choosers. Mine, however, is that I'm not there yet.

Meanwhile, I spent all Friday morning (about 4 hours) doing a "test edit" for another potential employer, which she sent me by email. I was not pleased to have to invest that many hours with no promise of return, but that seems to be the usual procedure in this country. (I never did any serious job interviews in Toronto.) I think the result I returned to her is a high standard, and if she agrees she'll probably give me some contract editing work. I've yet to hear back from her.

On the bright side, I've found a new hairdresser -- always a tough task in a new place -- and am enjoying my first haircut back in Israel. It's always a mistake for me to wait two months to get my hair cut, since I look older and older as the weeks go on, no matter how much I fuss with it. Drying, gelling, flatironing, more gelling, more flatironing. It's exhausting. I'm very pleased I found someone who a) is close to home, b) is not a primadonna, and c) cuts very well quickly. My last cutter in Toronto was lovely, but took forEVER. Reasonable price too, though not cheap. The big test will be the color job, which I'll definitely need in another month.

I'm hoping our shipment will finally be delivered this week. It's exactly two months today since the packers came to our house in Toronto and took our stuff away. It's already taken a couple of weeks longer than I thought it would, but I wasn't counting on the holidays and strikes slowing the process down. I need to go now and organize my storage room (downstairs in the building) a bit, to prepare for the onslaught.

Thursday, October 14

24-hr virus

Ironic that the night of my long food-related posting, I started getting bad "indigestion". About 5am I awoke with unusual gas pains that just wouldn't move, no matter how hard I tried. By 7am it was world-class diarrhea, like an upside-down volcano, and I was racking my brain to figure out which of the things I'd eaten the day before must have brought this on. The only thing I was really suspicious of was some ice cream I'd just bought, because it was a little too soft and I'd wondered if it was stored at the correct temperature. My stomach was sore for hours, I was weak, and I had no appetite, and by afternoon I was feeling the body ache characteristic of flu as well. I took a hot bath and felt better, but later the ache returned and I went to bed early. When Mr. Squarepeg enjoyed both my cannelloni and the same ice cream with no ill effects, I decided it really must have been a 24-hr bug rather than something I ate.

And today I'm fine again, not to mention lighter! I'm managing to get to the gym 3 times a week and, together with my little virus, I've dropped 2 kilos in the last 10 days. It's nice to be able to do up my pants without a struggle. This morning I went for an interview for a temporary office job that a friend had put me on to. It's a small office that needs a receptionist/office manager/English letter-writer and I told the South African owner that I would help him out temporarily for 40 shekels an hour (about C$9/US$8), much more than he wanted to pay. I was feeling pretty sure of myself, and told him I am used to being paid double that, but I realized that it was a different kind of job; also, that he'd pay much more if he went to a temp. agency. I added that it would encourage him to find someone permanent as well, to which he agreed! He was nice, and told me he'd talk to his partner and let me know tomorrow. If they offer me 35/hr. I'll go for it too; it's just 5-6 hrs. a day, near home, very convenient. I'd be crazy not to take the opportunity.

Tuesday, October 12

reclusive cook

It's been a strangely cloudy day all day. Strange, that is, by Canadian standards (well, Toronto, anyway) because it surely would have rained, had this been Canada. But no, just this heavy, low-ceilinged, close warmth all day long. The only time I ventured out was when I stood in the parking lot of my building at 2:30 to kindly hand off a sandwich to the hard-working Mr. Squarepeg, who was just dropping off child from school along with her Argentinian girlfriend and then heading back to the coal mine.

Yes, I've become quite reclusive ... although I am sitting out on the balcony more now that I've got a wireless network card on my laptop [smirk!].

Actually, I spent the majority of the day (it feels like) in the kitchen, and was completely blissed out that I could listen to an interesting [downloaded] lecture on my wireless laptop as I cooked!! Damn, I love doing two things at once!

First I made myself a healthy lunch, for a change: salad and tofu patties with a bit of hummus on the side.

Then I attacked the cannelloni I've been meaning to figure out since I bought a box of them a couple of weeks ago in a creative mood. I had bought some spinach and cottage cheese and grated yellow cheese of some kind, in preparation for this day, but I really didn't know if it was going to come out very well because I didn't want to slavishly follow any of the complex recipes I'd found on the internet ("complex", meaning too many types of cheese to buy). My stuffing included a fried, chopped onion, steamed spinach with a few garlic cloves (peeled afterward, when they were soft), a container of 1/2% cottage cheese (I thought it would be drier, but it was quite creamy), and a handful of walnuts. And lots of salt, of course, because it was pretty bland. I put the cooked mixture into my mini-food-chopper to smooth it out a few pulses (not to complete mush). Then I half-cooked the cannelloni tubes in boiling water and put them on a plate where they immediately started to stick together. I really didn't know what to do with the baking dish, but I spread a very thin layer of the stuffing on the bottom, then managed to stuff about 11 cannelloni tubes with the rest of the mixture, laying them side by side. Finally, I sprinkled some grated yellow cheese over the top (not too much, as I don't digest that stuff well anymore -- a remnant of my long years of Coke-like addiction to cheese). I covered the dish with foil and stuck it in a 180C / 350F oven for 20 minutes. I thought it came out pretty good for a first effort; we'll see if the Mr. likes it -- he's not big on spinach though, so I'm not holding my breath -- but of course the kid doesn't even want to look at it; she's still a picky eater and wants nothing mixed up at all. I forced her to eat reheated pasta for lunch (usually met with stubborn refusals) by serving it (together with tofu patties) to her and her friend, and telling her she wouldn't get the dessert I'd made (see below) if she fought me on this one. She told me it tasted like vomit, but she cleaned her plate. -- SCORE!

So the other thing I made was the dessert the WHOLE FAMILY eats (there's hardly anything I make that I can get just about anyone to eat), and that's apple crumble (or apple crisp). I love it cause it's SO easy and quick and I can keep several times' worth of the sugar/flour/oats mixture in a big container in the fridge and just melt butter and mix a bunch of it into the mixture and sprinkle over the chopped apples and/or pears. Here's a site with lots of good apple dessert recipes -- just the first one I found by doing a Google on it.

So now it's dark and another day of blissful unemployment has passed. Things are quieter than I expected on the job front. But my shipment could come as soon as this week -- it's in the hands of customs right now -- and then I'll have a whole lot of crap to sort out... so I'm thoroughly enjoying the calm before the storm... before the calm... before the storm... just like cooking and dishes!

Monday, October 11

the sunny side of life

I may not seem like the most cheerful kid on the blog, but despite my tendency to chronicle the cloudy side of my life, things are really not all that bleak, much of the time. Personally, I mean; obviously, the political situation is bleak. Yet I remain optimistic, for no rational reason. Both politically and personally. After all, whatever we are experiencing right now, whether we like it or not, is nothing but a temporary state. If you can't cope without drugs, I say go for it.

The study of good moods reveals surprising parallels with my own life, though I may appear the very opposite of joyful. In "Exuberance," reviewed today in Salon, author Kay Redfield Jamison says, "Built into exuberance is an ability to, no matter what comes along, find something else to be interested in, to care about, to write about, to fall in love with. Like Watson says, it's the pursuit. If you're totally content you don't have any desire to pursue anything intellectually or geographically. Exuberance has a restlessness in it. It's not discontent -- it's a forward-moving, active restlessness." -- well, that's all true of me, except the part about the discontent. My motivation comes from a lot of discontent. I suppose that may disqualify me -- and clearly, I am not often what anyone would call "exuberant" -- because I am never satisfied with the status quo or less than my vision of a better, which is to say less flawed, circumstance. Perhaps the truly exuberant would say, "This is good, but it could be better," whereas the discontented would claim, "This sucks, and I can make it better." It takes both kinds to make the world, but it seems to me that most people would rather hang out with the former.

Exuberance is a lot like the manic end of bipolar disorder, but not so far along the continuum, more solid and sustained, Jamison says. Interestingly, she adds that "it's well known that there's a higher rate of bipolar illness in immigrants, and because bipolar is related to these temperaments it may be that there was some sort of genuine selection for that. [...] I wanted to think about what kind of temperament gets you over the mountain, gets you settling the plains. There's the group that came to the Eastern seaboard, and a smaller group from that who got restless and took off for the American West. And the people who stayed in Boston are very different from those who are a bit restless, who had this dream. Some people see desolation when they look out at the prairie, but some people say, Wow, these are going to be orchards. The people who left were more willing to take risks. They really had to be able to imagine the future and act on their optimism."

That reminds me of the old joke my parents have told so many times about the family problem of two kids, one overly optimistic and the other overly pessimistic. The pessimistic kid gets a roomful of toys for his birthday and sees them all as flawed and not what he really wanted, while the optimistic kid gets a roomful of shit, and responds with glee, "Where there's shit, there must be a pony!"

I guess, like most people, I'm a mixture of both.

tribute to "superman"

I am somewhat shocked and very saddened by the news today that Christopher Reeve has died at 52. I know I join a huge number of people who had hoped he would someday be victorious in his bid to walk again, but now he's free of the limitations of his body, and no doubt he's very satified having lived an amazing, full, and courageous life.

Here's one quote from a news site that gives a hint of how large a life he led:
Before his riding accident, Reeve played the piano to professional standard, had done many of his own film stunts, was an expert sailor and skier and had twice flown solo across the Atlantic. After the accident [in 1995] he considered suicide but instead emerged determined to prove the medical experts wrong. Reeve threw himself into fundraising to highlight the need for more medical research.
Now that's exuberance.

Saturday, October 9

shrill harpy

Debate number two is under our belt and I'm feeling good about this. What about it, all you naysayers? Still think Bush will win anyway? For decades it's been common wisdom that the image projected during these debates is all-important, and Bush came off this time as even more shrill and defensive than during the first debate. And it obviously hurt so much not to scowl that his stress was transformed into eye-twitching. Or was he winking at Laura in the wings?

Unless those bastards pull bin Laden out of their collective ass on November 1, I think Kerry may just pull this off.

Check this out for a laugh:
Bill Maher is no Jon Stewart, but he wrote a very convincing piece for Salon where he claims we should stop pretending that George Bush is so macho because, plainly, he acts like a girl. Damned if that doesn't all make sense after watching how the little vixens in my daughters seventh grade class operate. One of Maher's examples: Bush said of Kerry, "He hurt the Iraqi prime minister when he said he wasn't legitimate -- the bitch." And Maher forgot to even include how intent Bush has been on manipulating China and Korea in order to get his way while avoiding the appearance of being bossy.

Speaking of seventh grade girls, we saw "Thirteen" on dvd last night, and that was scarier and closer to home than any terrorist attack, let me tell you. It somehow reassured me, for a change, that I made the right decision to reunite my daughter and her father. The movie made me so shaky I spent the next hour hugging her and telling her what I appreciated about her.

Friday, October 8

the fog lifts

We're into a fresh cycle here, and things are looking better. Yesterday was a low point in many ways, but the Mr. and I have had it out and there will be smoother sailing for a while. He's even promised to "submit" to some therapy once I'm making some money. Whew! And the kid had a great day with the camels. But her really big excitement today: she's discovered coffee. The Bedouins make it in very special pots, with lots of ritual; it comes out like mud and very bitter. How on earth my little sugar addict decided she now loves coffee, I'm at a loss to explain, but she did indeed guzzle half my cappuccino when we went out to drink later on!

And how could this not help my mood: After nearly two months back here I've suddenly discovered that The Daily Show with Jon Stewart IS on here! The problem is that there are so many channels, and I've hardly been watching tv, and the tv guide was in Hebrew -- well, I decided to study it very hard, and lo and behold, there it was, on a channel we never watch. And THEN, today, I finally got my laptop hooked up to a network with the desktop, and now I can go wireless all over the house! I promptly upgraded my system, then upgraded my windows media player to version 9, and voila! I'm Jon's love slave again, happy like a junkie who finally got her fix. Damn, I've missed him.

More debate tonite, so you know what that means: yep, more snickering with sweet Jon tomorrow! Yeah, baby!

horrific attack on hilton in taba, egypt

Right next to Eilat, Taba is just over the Israeli-Egypt border and many Israelis filled the Hilton hotel there during this end-of-summer holiday. At this moment, 29 have been pronounced dead in what looks like a suicide truck bombing at the front of the hotel. Ambulances from Eilat's hospital plus Israeli firefighters have crossed the border to aid and evacuate the wounded, and put out the blaze that started after the blast. As well, two other blasts have been reported from the camping areas south of that location, but as yet no more news. This is very scary, and my daughter is supposed to go on an all-day trip (2 hrs. by bus) to the south of the country early tomorrow morning. I don't know that it's a good idea to send her. We'll probably be up pretty late following the news as it develops.

-->UPDATE: We watched the news unfold till after 1am, and then I didn't sleep well. I was already up at 6am checking to see what had happened and trying to intuit whether we should send the kid on the bus trip -- camel ride from Dimona to a Bedouin camp, where they are enjoying the traditional "hafla" (feast, I believe). Called one of the organizing mothers who was surprised I'd worry, couldn't see why it should influence the trip, so I let the kid decide, and she wanted to go. Why wouldn't she? She's had a mostly bored-to-tears holiday up to now. But a 2-hour bus ride is a turnoff, since she has frequently thrown up on them during school trips. I decided to solve that problem by not feeding her breakfast. She has a peanut butter sandwich if she's starving. When we got to the meeting point at 7:30am, it seemed no one had considered not sending their kids, and everyone was excited by the trip. It was especially good to let her do this today, as last night she had her second major anti-Israel meltdown since returning to the country. "Everything is stupid here!" is the refrain, and by that she means a) the homework (both the difficulties she's having with the language and the bible-laden subject matter), and b) the lack of extended family to take her mind off it. The long holiday with no reliable friends around, and the fact that her parents have been raising the tension level lately have certainly not helped either.

Thursday, October 7

like a month of sundays

Happy end of the holidays everybody! It's never dragged on so long -- probably because it all began early this year, just a week into the new school year. Hopefully by the next time this comes around I'll be employed and grateful for all the paid days off.

Wednesday, October 6


It's a cloudy, but warm, day. Light rain has even been forecast, always a big deal after the long hot summer.

As soon as I got out of bed I went to the internet to read the reviews of the debate, just to make sure there would be no nasty surprises, then I got my tape out of the vcr and started watching -- ff through Wolf and the other empty yakking heads of cnn, then finally the start. Less than 30 seconds into Cheney's first reply I was already glazing over. People, this is NOT good tv!! His boss was way more entertaining! And Edwards was just repeating the exact same script that Kerry spoke a few days ago! What does he think, that people would be watching him but wouldn't have watched the infinitely more amusing Main Guy Event? He needs better writers. By Cheney's reply no. 2 (and goddam if that wasn't the longest question I've ever heard in the history of tv -- what was that moderator smoking?) I was already fast-forwarding to the sexy parts ... except I never found any. Five minutes later, I decided this wasn't the most interesting way to spend my day and turned off the tv. I wonder how many actual voters those two guys put to sleep?

--> UPDATE: managed to get through the debate later on in the day, and was impressed by Edwards' fine showing compared to the arrogant, flippant (did I mention BORING?) Cheney. Veep didn't even seem to be taking the debate format seriously, putting no intensity whatsoever into his answers, sometimes opting not to respond at all. And when you have just 30 seconds for comment and you waste a big chunk with the moronic, "Wall, Gwen, I hardly know where to begin ..." -- gimme a break. Bravo to Edwards -- he gave some solid speeches once he found his stride.<--

Is it really possible John Edwards is 51? He looks like 30 to me, and Cheney looks like his elderly father.

I'm reading way too many pessimistic opinions that the black hats are going to come out ahead at the end of this movie, and it's really bringing me down.

So it's ANOTHER erev-hag today, the last one of the season. Weird day today, holiday tomorrow, Friday is erev-shabat, then shabat, and then on Sunday we can finally get into the routine of the school year, hopefully find a job, get ourselves out of the house, make some money, quiet the barking dogs, and basically get on with our lives! The depressed husband scene is such a downer.

If I can just get myself to go to the gym, I'm sure I'll feel better.

Tuesday, October 5

life's a beach

This week just goes on and on... and it's pretty much All Daughter, all the time. This morning the 17-year-old daughter of an old acquaintance, army-bound in January, came to tutor mine in the horrid Tanach (bible) based subjects that she's drowning in. Not only is she missing the basics of the subjects as a result of being away for the past two years, it's also being taught by a stuffy pedant (the principal) who's teaching from his own book, written at a level (several who know better than I have commented) which is way over the heads of these poor seventh graders. Did I mention he's dead boring? Anyway, this young tutor came to give her some help with the homework; in one hour they only managed to get through about half of one subject's assignment. So she's returning tomorrow.

And this afternoon we went off to the 12- and 13-yr-olds' beach party. It was nice to watch the tangerine-peach sun sink into the sea. The kid had a great time body-surfing, and enjoyed herself with her South American friend. The invitation had asked for parents to come too, to supervise the kids while swimming, but very few parents actually came. Still, I had a couple of interesting people to talk to, one of which is a psychiatrist from Argentina who's been here 27 years. I've never really spoken to her at length before, but she divorced her husband a year ago, so it was fun to talk some trash about a subject never far from my heart. I took advantage of her willing ear and poured out a few of my complaints. She was fun, and exactly the same age as me (2 months younger, actually). We may get together again.

Mr. Squarepeg was in a rotten mood all day, but drove us to and from the beach anyway. He didn't want to come join the party, though, as he hates sand and is hysterical even about getting a bit of sand in the trunk of the car. He's been bitching all day about one thing or another, getting on the kid's case about her schoolwork and withdrawing all tv or computer until it's done. But he's too bitchy to help her with the work, so it's just going nowhere. Now he's sulkily watching tv alone in the bedroom, and I'd just as soon sleep here in the den as put up with him, but I get the feeling he's coming out of the funk and will be wanting to bridge the gap before bedtime. Yawn.

There's been more than the average trash talkin' today, cause I connected with another old friend from an old job, who's also been through the shitmill with her nutty ex-husband, and is doing much better now. So many of us share similar experiences with these twisted nutjobs, and it's nice to have the understanding of the sisterhood. She's doing so well, in fact, that she's been making some good connections on JDate (I never had any luck there, but then I've never been properly single [since the internet was invented], so it's complicated) and even got a weekly gig playing the piano in the lobby of one of the coast's big hotels. Brilliant. There really is hope, and she's an inspiration.

Oof, he's skulking around looking for attention now; I knew he was coming out of it. Now I'll probably have to get an earful of whatever has been getting under his skin all day.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Ooh, must go set the video to record the debate at 3am.

Monday, October 4

hol hamo'ed

And the Succot holiday week drags on. The intervening weekdays between the bookending major holy days, both in Succot and Pesach are called "hol hamo'ed". For us secular types, it's just one long, lethargic week ... nice if you're working to get off earlier than usual, but if you're between jobs it's just one more thing between you and some action. The malls are packed with families who have nothing better to do. My mother-in-law came today from Tel Aviv to spend some time with the kid, giving me the freedom to go to the gym (located at the mall, where the usually empty parking lot was bumper-to-bumper); then she took us out to lunch before catching the number 47 bus back. This is a country where taking a bus is no casual thing -- I don't want to do it -- but she's a no-nonsense sort of woman who, at 70, has seen too many hardships to take this risk very seriously.

Sunday, October 3

frittering meaninglessly

It's a week of kid-home-from-school-for-Succot-holiday, and the week started today, Sunday. Daughter has 3 bat-mitzvah parties to go to this week, and one of them is a beach party, so she needed to be suitably kitted. We got her a new bikini and a modest tank top to wear over it, since what she really wanted was a 'tankini' -- she's not yet ready for prime time. And that was pretty much the extent of my day. Hey, it's hot, I'm sore from a workout yesterday -- and okay, I'm an internet addict, alright?

I also spent some time with an old Alan Watts book called "The Wisdom of Insecurity" that I picked up at a yard sale in Toronto a couple of summers ago and never found time for. Here's what he says about "the Age of Anxiety":

There is the feeling that we live in a time of unusual insecurity. In the past hundred years so many long-established traditions have broken down -- traditions of family and social life, of government, of the economic order, and of religious belief. [...]

Consequently, our age is one of frustration, anxiety, agitation, and addiction to "dope." Somehow we must grab what we can while we can, and drown out the realization that the whole thing is futile and meaningless. This "dope" we call our high standard of living, a violent and complex stimulation of the senses, which makes them progressively less sensitive and thus in need of yet more violent stimulation. We crave distraction -- a panorama of sights, sounds, thrills, and titillations into which as much as possible must be crowded in the shortest possible time.

To keep up this "standard" most of us are willing to put up with lives that consist largely in doing jobs that are a bore, earning the means to seek relief from the tedium by intervals of hectic and expensive pleasure. These intervals are supposed to be the real living, the real purpose served by the necessary evil of work. Or we imagine that the justification of such work is the rearing of a family to go on doing the same kind of thing, in order to rear another family ... and so on, ad infinitum.

This was written in 1951. It seems that in the most significant ways, not a lot has changed in the past half century. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Mr. Squarepeg was off today doing manly deeds like taking the "new" car into a nearby Arab village to get a deal on some bodywork -- the car we bought had been in an accident that the owner didn't see fit to properly repair, and it bothered me to start out that way. I likened it to doing deep cleaning on a new apt. you've just moved into; I don't mind my own grunge so much, but who wants to live with someone else's? In fact, Israelis frequently do a whole renovation on a new apt. before they move in, never mind the cleaning. I guess this was more like the reno. When I complained during the negotiations about the rough job on the whole right side of the car, the seller agreed to drop his price by another 1000 shekels, and the repair only cost 700... so we apparently came out ahead on this one.

Not that anyone's keeping score.

Saturday, October 2

little d

It's shabbat (Saturday) and we went out for lunch with my in-laws, who are apparently the center of my social life. Daughter slept over at their house yesterday, giving us a rare night to ourselves -- time to fight about money in private, and then watch a dvd, "Matchstick Men." Loved Nic Cage as always, but the plot sucked. Couldn't buy that ending at all.

My father-in-law, of whom I've grown very fond as I've matured, is 74 and not very interested in life at the moment. I say "at the moment" because I am hopeful he will grow interested again in regaling me with his office gossip, marriage advice, and wisdom of a life lived hard. He is less than two weeks after prostate surgery, and feeling very weak, not sleeping at all, he says, even with two sleeping pills.

Walking slowly back to the car after a dismal lunch, he shook his head and told me he is "me'u'ash," which could be "desperate" or "in despair" or, less dramatically and probably more idiomatically for this context, depressed. He was using one word to describe a state of mind where he was fed up with feeling lousy, to the point where he was feeling hopeless. I responded that I was too.

And by that I meant, despairing for the moment of finding any satisfactory solution to the situation I am in.

Friday, October 1

"Faces of Frustration"

This is cool. Go watch Bush make faces during the debate.


Blog-surfing led me to this hilarious site today.

Are you going to vote for John Kerry even though you find him unpleasant, annoying, arrogant, waffling, misguided or just generally unappealing in some profound way? Then you've come to the right place! We're Kerry Haters for Kerry -- perhaps his largest constituency! No need to hide in the Kerry-hating closet anymore while you pretend to everyone that he'll be a great president. Here you are among friends. You can speak freely and honestly. You can admit: 'He's awful! And I'm for him!'
Like I keep telling people: I'm not saying Kerry is all that. But unlike the alternative, he's a lot more than the pale reflection of a stunted human being.

dumb as a box o' hammers

The great debate played out as I slept (3 am our time), but I recorded it and managed to watch it this morning. What a relief to see Kerry effectively smack Bush down repeatedly, with barely a misstep. I have to admit that Bush surprised me with the number of details he successfully pulled out, and despite his usual mindless repetition of the party line ("mixed messages mixed messages maxed miss--uh--mixed messages"), managed to make not a totally boob-like impression. I thought he'd come off a lot dumber. He certainly was at a disadvantage without his laughtrack -- the Republican-packed audiences he usually talks to, programmed to guffaw at his "flip-flop" jabs. It was wonderful to hear all that silence from the strictly-warned university audience.

Reported in Salon: "An instant poll from ABC indicated that undecided viewers who watched the debate thought Kerry had won by a 44-36 margin, while Gallup showed Kerry winning by a margin of 53 to 37. During real-time monitoring of a debate focus group, CBS found Kerry scoring consistently better than Bush, particularly among women voters. And 52 percent said their opinion of Kerry had changed for the better."