Sunday, July 31

cautious optimism

"The country is better off because we have stopped lying. We are learning, slowly, to tell one another the painful truths."

Yair Lapid -- actor, talk-show host, columnist-intellectual -- last week published this article that pretty much sums up my cautiously optimistic view of The Situation.

The thing that terrifies me most about the current climate is my fear for our democracy, represented by the Knesset and symbolized by the Prime Minister himself. When Rabin was killed, democracy got a critical kick to the gut, and I felt that pain. We all have, for the past decade. In this climate, there is a very real fear that that could happen again and, while Israel would undoubtedly survive it, recovery would take a very very long time.

I like to think that our democracy is getting stronger (while that of the U.S. appears to be weakening dangerously) and Yair has articulated that perspective well.

black woman's perspective

I started reading Debra Dickerson's razor-sharp take on "Wedding Crashers" (which I haven't seen yet, but being hot for both Wilson and Vaughn, I can't wait) because it looked like it offered an interesting perspective. She wanted to know why the studs crashed the weddings of every culture but hers, black. My first reaction was, "Maybe it was obvious their lily-white faces would be harder to get away with at a black wedding." But, on second thought, it's not cinema verite --that could have been very funny. Dickerson's objection goes so much deeper.

Dickerson talks about a terribly painful subject for black women that I can only relate to from the perspective of ageism, one that she tackles with such balls it's breathtaking.

It doesn't matter if it has nothing to do, specifically, with your particular circumstances. It's the human condition. Do read it.

Saturday, July 30

just an orange napkin

Mr. Squarepeg and I were at a lovely, breezy Tel Aviv restaurant on Friday afternoon before saying good-bye to my in-laws for a month (they're off on their annual R&R in the environs of Munchen. With the heat hitting 40 deg. C these days, escape is almost mandatory).

"Knafeh" specializes in a cheese-filled and syrup- and pistachio-covered Arab pastry of the same name (also known as "kadaiffeh", I believe). Also offered for you non-kosher and non-vegetarian types, a delicious hummus-with-ground lamb. It was mouth-watering.

The pretty paper napkins on the table were orange. It's a sign of how successful the orange campaign of the anti-pullout movement has become, that even this napkin needed to proclaim its innocence. Stamped on it, in Hebrew, was "I'm not political; I'm just an orange napkin."

Friday, July 29

parents' month off

And the bliss continues ...

Bliss, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. For me, it's:

  • being able to think, in peace, for more than two minutes at a time -- a train of thought, as it were, that does not get derailed at every crossing
  • gathering all the old clothes, school bags, and other stuff I've been hanging on to for the past year until I could get around to loading it in the car and taking it to the local charity
  • cleaning out and reorganizing all the junk drawers in the house -- there are 16 of them! -- some of which have not been given the time of day since long before we moved to this apartment five years ago. Each of these drawers has a mess of assorted items (paper clips, envelopes, tax returns from 1994, a little baggie of hair from my daughter's first haircut), all my day planners from about 1984, etc.
  • having a conversation with Mr. Squarepeg that proceeds from the beginning to the middle and then concludes with a sense of mind-settling completion, not having been stopped several times en route by the chatter brilliant statements or queries of a third party
  • getting my roots done without feeling like the two hours at the hair salon is an egregious theft of my precious, limited playtime
  • reading Harry Potter whenever I feel like it, including while getting my roots painted
  • not asking "what do you want for lunch/dinner?" 20 times a day, while either having all menu suggestions greeted with "No!" or being ignored until 11pm when I've already collapsed on my bed
  • having the computer to myself, free of the msn-obsessed being that usually occupies it while endlessly downloading music and any old spyware that grabs her interest
  • leaving the house whenever I want, coming home whenever I want, guilt-free
  • blogging uninterrupted
  • the delicious feeling of missing someone, and looking forward to their return

And that's just the first week!

Tuesday, July 26

In Memory of Evelyn

A very classy lady, and not insignificant part of my family history, who has gone this week to what we can only hope is a better place, leaving behind some painfully bereft family and other admirers.

Knock 'em dead in the next world, Evy!

Monday, July 25

wheels up

There she goes, off into the wild blue yonder. And just like that, I've scored a month of childlessness.

No, that was not "childishness" -- I said "childLESSness".

I plan to be very grownup about this. But it's very weird and probably won't sink in until sometime next weekend. That's when my work week will finish and I won't be dragging my tired butt home feeling the guilt of a mother who has very little left for her extremely talkative and attention-needing daughter, desiring only to kick back and talk to no one for two days.

At thirteen (next month), she won't be begging me to watch TV, play Scrabble, or observe her magnificent computer slideshow creations all that much longer. Okay, maybe the computer creations will go on for a few more years.

And she's just started her own blog, so I'm her primary audience for that too. Well, at least as long as she's away from home for the next month. So far, she's been demanding that I look over her draft before she hits the Publish button. That can't last long.

A month. Well, barely four weeks really. 28 days to have a chance to miss each other. She won't have me rearranging her hair against her will, demanding that she tidy her room, or begging her with exasperation to "Stop talking already!!!" And I won't have to deal with her chocolate addiction or hear her calling me "Stinky" and declaring, "You're so MEAN!" No doubt the reunion next month will be sweet.

Anyway, today was our first trip to the brand spanking new Ben Gurion airport, and it was strangely reminiscent of Toronto's new airport. Particularly the big ramp leading from the parking area to the terminal. Nice change! Just follow the signs to the "speed ramp to Terminal" ... okay, so the "speed ramp" wasn't working. But no matter, it wasn't one of those miles-long walks, just a quickie across the bridge.

We arrived three hours ahead of the departure time, so we weren't under any pressure. And we had been told what counter number we should check in at, so found the area quickly. We had a long line ahead of us for the pre-check-in passport-security check, but I've seen much worse. The young 20-something security employee addressed all his questions to the young lady who had been well-briefed to leave out all the wise-cracks and just tell him we packed this morning. She was on good behavior for those 3 minutes. Then we went to an ultra-short line for Unaccompanied Minors, paid fifty bucks to have a flight attendant keep an eye on her in transit, and completed the check-in procedure. Finally, we headed around the corner to the waiting hall, the "sky lounge" with wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on the airfield. Impressive. Tidy. Orderly. A McDonald's, a coffee-sandwich-salad bar, a juice-shake bar, and a "taste of Israel" fast-food place. And a long bank of mall-type shops with a nice selection of whatever you might need.

And smokers! Very disappointing. I saw not a single No Smoking sign, but after looking around, I did see a sign indicating that along one side was the designated (not partitioned) smoking area. Which of course several smokers ignored, continuing to pollute the air wherever they pleased. Two steps forward, one step back.

Something I've never seen in an airport before: Performers. A couple of clowns dressed as janitors goofing around with pail, mop and broom. And an astoundingly athletic dance duo performing to a wonderfully futuristic, spacey soundtrack, an incredible gymnastic ten-minute piece that had me breathless with fear of someone falling and breaking their neck. At one point, the tiny, lithe woman was balanced perpendicularly on her muscular male partner: he standing with his head forward so that there was just the curve of his neck and shoulders to balance on, she upside down, feet straight up in the air, balancing only the back curve of her neck on the back curve of his, hands straight out in the air. I wanted very badly to take a picture of this incrdible feat, but was terrified that the flash would cause them to lose it; I waited until they were out of danger, in my perception. Here's a sample:

Who ARE these people? Anybody know? There was no announcement and no indication of any kind. I'd love to see them again. The moment they finished, they donned jackets and sped off into the main check-in hall, giving nary a clue of their identity.

Sunday, July 24

the invisible blogger

Like Noorster (and probably every other blogger), I metablog -- her great word for blogging in your head. Not that metablogging is much use to my handful of faithful readers who have found me in absentia for the past two weeks. I apologize.

Where have I been and why haven't I been writing it down? I must try to spare you my usual litany of up-early-aggravating-drive-to-work, etc. etc. because if you're here now you've heard it all before and are hoping I'll say something different for a change, but really I don't have that much of a life; this really is my boring life.

How boring? I'm spending spare minutes when not at work or playing Scrabble with my nearly 13-yr-old daughter reading the last Harry Potter. Not the new one -- the LAST one, book 5, the Order of the Phoenix. By the time it came out two years ago I had gotten bored with him (sorry, the TriWizard Tournament just didn't do it for me) and just wasn't in the mood to read any more. It's been sitting on my shelf ever since (along with who-cares-how-many-books-I-own). But now with all the hype over book 6, I found I was missing dear Harry and started in again. As usual, I hate putting it down but have only had time to get through about a third so far. If you really want to know, you book-meme-cultists, magical type plots have fascinated me since childhood, and that's the sort of stuff I've always gobbled with relish. As with so many with a tendency toward being a loner, books like these were my best friends. Harry Potter takes me back to those satisfying times of whole weekends immersed in the latest find from the library.

Not much has changed, but I hardly read fiction anymore. If I do, it's usually something like the Da Vinci Code, or The Red Tent, or Bridget Jones' Diary, that absolutely everybody has already read before me and one can't help feeling one is missing out on a cultural touchstone if one doesn't read it.

For at least the past 20 years, I've tended toward philosophical-psychological stuff. The problem with this stuff is that, while absolutely fascinating, it's so heavy that I can't usually read more than a couple of pages before I fall asleep (the time I usually manage to read). For much of the past year, I've been dipping into Ernest Becker's "Escape from Evil" and "Denial of Death", both amazing works. If I try to read earlier, I get interrupted by some family activity anyway. So I have a permanent pile of extremely heavy reading material on my bedside table, which is gazed at lovingly and will Definitely Get Read Someday. Unfortunately, I have trouble allowing myself to read lighter stuff while these other jewels await me. Tis a conundrum, a little bit of a painful one, as are all my issues involving friends. Enough said about books for the moment.

I could tell you what's happening at work. But I'll leave that for another time, since I'm not there today and won't be tomorrow either. The special occasion: Little Ms. Squarepeg is heading off on a 4-week adventure to Canada tomorrow afternoon, all alone. She'll be met by my/her Toronto family and Victoria, BC family, but she's taking a huge independent leap and will be without her mom or dad for a month. This is a major milestone in our lives, and certainly there's some trepidation, but lots of excitement and trust that we're all big enough to meet the challenge.

So for the next 4 weeks, there should be no excuse for not blogging. Watch this space.

Monday, July 11

i heart cary tennis

Ever since Cary Tennis started dishing out his interesting advice on Salon nearly four years ago, I've been repeatedly and inevitably struck with amazement at the man's earthy, poetic wisdom. Even when he published my letter to him, early on, and basically threw a relatively nasty bucket of cold water over my self-involvement, I was in awe of his talent at expressing himself.

And he's continued to churn out that high quality product every few days for nearly four years, along with the occasional piece unconnected with advice-giving. I particularly remember A Birthday that will Live in Infamy, the one that began, "This year for my birthday I got a terrorist attack." I love Cary's voice for its depth and soul.

He's done it again today, and this one,
Middle age is hitting me hard is really a great read, a perfect companion this week to the review of Anna Karenina in Salon's other current feature, Summer School of classical reading.

Only for those who are strong enough to let the sad in.

traffic blues

How I hate my stupid little commute.

Yesterday I left for work at 8:55 am and was caught in traffic so bad it took me an hour and a half to do what, on a Saturday, takes 20 minutes. (Of course, my roommate-colleague was not so lucky: she never made it to work, having been rear-ended by a pick-up and spending the majority of her day at the hospital being diagnosed with whiplash. Seems I'll be on my own this week.) I was so pissed when I finally rolled into work after bumper-to-bumper jams that I swore I'd find a way to get up earlier today and beat the masses to the highway.

And then I had to watch a movie that needed to be returned to BB today (Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; interesting little movie....) which took till midnite, and then I couldn't fall asleep right away ...

Set my clock for 7 am but didn't need it, because the excessive heat woke me already at 6. Putter, putter, putter, and I was out by 7:15. YAY! SUCCESS! But the traffic was STILL heavy! However, I managed to get to work in half an hour anyway, so no harm done.

Except for my utter lack of sleep. [YAWN] Damn, I'm tired.

Saturday, July 9

"don't be a sheep"

That's the strongest message I remember receiving from my parents while growing up (along with "cheaters never prosper" and "just be a mensch").

It 's the first thing that flashed into my mind when this headline caught my eye:
450 sheep jump to their deaths in Turkey

...turns out it was actually 1500 sheep (!) but the ones that jumped later landed softly and lived to jump another day.

Tuesday, July 5

in which the boss gets a liiiittle bit out of hand

Haven't felt like I had the time or energy for posting lately. Well, honestly, because I feel exceedingly boring. Not ME, of course -- I'm fascinating, witty, and wise -- but my life is so ... so ... what is the technical term? Ruttish, perhaps.

Reminds me of a song, must Google this, just hang on ...

Okay, got it in 3 seconds (I LOVE YOU GOOGLE GUYS!!! HOW DID WE EVER LIVE WITHOUT YOU??!!):

From Desmond Dekker and the Aces (huh? don't remember ever hearing the group's name), from I can't remember when, but feels like high school. Year, anybody? (Dare you to out me!)

Get up in the morning
Slaving for bread Sir
So that every mouth can be fed
Ohhhh, oh oh, the Israelites

Yeah, that was a cool song. Who knew I'd be living it 30-odd years later.

So I drag myself out of bed each morning at a slightly different time (vain attempt to prove I'm not in a rut) -- sometimes 7 am, sometimes 7:10, just depends how much sleep I feel I've gotten and, consequently, my level of annoyance at needing to get the morning routine going. This morning it was 7:30, because yesterday I left the house at a decent time and spent a full hour in bloody awful traffic. Thus, I had earned a late departure today which would allow me to skip the usual bottlenecks and fly to work in just 30 minutes.

It was a quiet day with most of the managers out at a seminar, and my roommate home with a sick kid, but the end of the day brought some excitement.

I should preface this story with a mention of my workmate "Ilanit" who has been with the company for a couple months less than I (and I've now been here 6 months), i.e. she's fairly new. But she's firmly established in our medium-sized office as the resident hottie. She's got a cute face, a Julia Roberts smile, and a bodacious Barbie body. Tall, slim, unrealistically voluptuous chest, and she glues on her revealing outfits. As this is Israel, we're used to seeing lots of cleavage and bare midriff, even in the office ... especially now that the weather is so hot. But Ilanit always seems to take it just one step further, with really low-riding pants and very shrunken tops. I do not begrudge her this provocative flaunting of her amazing body. Partly because she's eye candy even for me, but also because I recognize her deeper lack of self-assurance even as she sashays down the corridor flashing her flesh. Just out of university, she's clearly a young beauty that hasn't really learned how to harness that power yet, and she's still pretty overwhelmed by it. Males of all ages have their tongues dragging on the floor when they see her. I observe with interest and empathy.

So today photos from our recent outing were published on our company common drive (a place on our network that any employee can access from their computer), and a link was emailed to us. I looked through them quickly and discovered our CEO (who rarely talks but carries a big, expensive digital camera to every outing and event) had published a lot of very beautiful shots of our trip along with many goddess-worshipping shots of Ilanit. At the pool, soaking wet, in her teeny bikini. Close-up, telephoto angles. And then the money shot: Ilanit, huge wet cleavage, partially submerged in water by the side of the pool, in the midst of eating a popsicle. Totally Sports Illustrated in both quality and tone, but I knew she'd be mortified. The CEO had really stepped over the line with this dirty-old-man behavior. Sure, as a photographer, I completely understand his fascination with the subject -- I also have several shots of her from the trip -- but he had clearly focussed the shot and cropped it to feature her heaving wet bosom, with the bonus of the tip of the popsicle gently touching her mouth. Okay, had he done this in the privacy of his own home, no one would have been the wiser, but he published it for the whole company to see. Shockingly bad judgement. Totally unacceptable from a CEO.

I walked across the hall to find Ilanit gasping in horror at the same pictures, while deleting them from the source as quickly as she could. She was disturbed when she left this evening, feeling violated and humiliated and worried about who might have seen the pictures before she deleted them. I find her response to be quite justified, while my boss (a strong-willed Israeli woman of 45 who learned to deal with Israeli male chauvinism, both in the army and at the office, a long time ago) dismissed the issue as nothing to get bothered about. (Implied: After all, the girl is young and hot; she should expect that kind of response. We should be so lucky.) I have a feeling this may be a painful lesson in sexuality for Ilanit, but probably one that is somewhat overdue. I will update...

Meanwhile, on a related topic (you'll see why) ... your laugh of the day. Oh, go ahead -- watch it a few times; it never gets boring!