Wednesday, March 29

grey power

As feared, it was the lowest voter turnout ever in the history of the state yesterday, at only 63%.

In the most baffling result of the election, the Pensioners' Party won a whopping seven seats in the next Knesset.

I confess to having heard nothing whatsoever about this party until today, and I don't think I'm alone, so it's a real shocker.

Even the veteran Meretz party (which I probably would have voted for, had I voted) gathered only four seats!

Apparently, the party platform "deals entirely with advancing the rights of the elderly, including ensuring pensions for all citizens and placing medications for the elderly in the health basket of medications and medical treatments subsidized by the state." Other than that, they say nothing whatsoever about the rest of their politics.

They had intended to join the Kadima party, but found that they would have been so far down the list that they never would have garnered any seats, so they went ahead and created a new party to represent their interests. And now they will definitely be welcomed into the coalition to be formed by the weaker-than-expected Kadima party.

Poor Bibi -- what a power-grubbing loser. He was so intent on fighting Sharon, the [very popular] leader of his party, instead of supporting him, that Sharon was forced by political expediency to leave and form a new party. Talk about bad timing, eh Bibi? If he had just been a loyal supporter of his leader, he would more than likely be the newly elected Prime Minister today. Instead, he's on the rubbish heap with a measly 11 seats and the probability of being summarily ditched by the party. Of course he blames Sharon for deserting the party and leaving it "a broken, shattered movement." His hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Tuesday, March 28

what I did on my Election Day holiday

Woo-hoo! Mid-week holiday!!

I have a certain pride in Israel's attitude to democracy: It's considered so important to vote, that a whole holiday is mandated to make sure citizens will have no work-related excuse for not exercising their franchise.

I am proud of this attitude even though I'm not actually an Israeli and do not vote.

I never became a citizen. I've lived in Israel since the end of 1982, as a "permanent resident," and have periodically asked myself if I feel any need to officially become a citizen; the answer I always got back was, 'Nah.'

What would it mean to officially be Israeli? It would mean something on paper that in mentality, or psychologically, I am not. I live here, and consider it politically expedient that there is a Jewish homeland, and I identify as a Jew, but I definitely don't identify as an Israeli, even after more than 20 years here.

I may feel not-quite-normal in Canada either, but being the Squarepeg misfit that I am, I've never had any psychological need to hold an Israeli passport, and consider it just one more administrative headache that would need to be handled periodically. What for? I have always thought of myself more as a "citizen of the world" and happen to have a perfectly useful Canadian passport that will take me anywhere I need to go; I don't need another passport.

I could have become a citizen at any time, and still can if something changes my outlook, but it just doesn't feel like it's a choice that would reflect anything truer of me than my current status.

The only thing that sets me apart from citizens is the national election. I can't vote. But I also can't say I care that much, since the direction of the country doesn't actually seem to depend on who gets elected. Arik Sharon got elected and turned around and did exactly the opposite of what he promised to do, eventually, and so would Bibi Netanyahu. So I really don't know if it makes any difference. The electorate seems to be doing the best it can without my help.

So does the very liberal-minded day off to vote help? Perhaps. Around 70% of the electorate usually gets out there, but for some reason there's worry that there will be less this year, with so much confusion and fracturing of the main parties. There's more talk of going shopping than ever before. The radio is playing public service announcements by celebrities every few minutes: "Hi, this is Rita [40-something singer/actress]. You have to vote. You simply have to." blabla, democratic process, etc.

Knowing how the populace feels about consumerism, Ms. Squarepeg and I got up early to hit the mall before 10am, while there was still parking. By the time we left at 11:30 there was not a spot to be found, legal or illegal, anywhere in the vast over- or underground lots.

So, voter or not, I'm off now to enjoy my free day with the last third of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Over and out, muggles!

Sunday, March 26

lighter side of bird flu

With over a million fowl destroyed in these parts so far as a result of the bird flu epidemic, I've already received several times instructions by email on how to handle poultry and eggs in order to avoid being contaminated. No sunny-side-up eggs. Raw eggs as an ingredient, which I always avoid anyway, are absolutely out now. And I personally have no intention of buying or handling raw chicken for the foreseeable future. Tivol, the soy meat-substitute people, are celebrating I guess.

So this is what's making the email rounds today (in Hebrew):

A bear, a lion and a hen meet.
Bear: When I roar in the forest, the whole forest trembles in fright.
Lion: When I roar in the desert, the whole desert runs in fear.
Hen: Big deal, all I do is cough and everybody shits themselves.

Friday, March 24

caution: entering holiday season

Now that Purim is behind us, Pesach [Passover] is imminent. It's one of the two high points of the year of holidays, very much like Christmas Eve in the western world in terms of family gathering and need-to-be-with-a-group, ANY group, just not alone. This one is special though because it drags on for a week of tedious dietary rules, making it difficult to buy many items one wants in a grocery store, or order regular food at a restaurant. (The other high point is the "High Holidays" of Rosh HaShana [new year of the Jewish calendar] and Yom Kippur.)

We're charging into the inevitable circle of the holidays, each with its own special gimmick --Succot: eating in huts; Hanukah: jelly donuts and latkes [potato pancakes]; Tu B'shvat: dried fruits and nuts; Purim: costumes and triangular, filled cookies called "Haman's Ears" in Hebrew; Pesach: matza instead of bread for a week; Shavuot: cheesecake and cheese blintzes; Yom Ha'atzmaut [Independence Day]: afternoon barbecue ["mangal"]; Lag B'Omer: evening campfire; Rosh HaShana: new year, white clothes, worrying about one's fate in the book of life; culminating in Yom Kippur: fasting.

Even secular types go along with the gimmicks. Probably many find the repetitive framework comforting. Every specialty food in its rightful season. I just like the days off work.

I didn't miss the holiday routines and foods at all when I was in Toronto for two years. It was a relief, frankly, to have all those expectations removed. Around here, it seems to me most people just follow the customs by rote, with no feeling involved. One does it because one simply does; one goes along to look "normal". When you're part of a big family, the duties are very real and seriously problematic to avoid. Fortunately, I was smart enough to marry into a very small family: Mr. Squarepeg is an only child, and so is his father; and his mother has just one sister.

My mother-in-law and her sister had a Peach arrangement that worked for a couple of decades, where they would take turns hosting the seder. But the sister's family kept growing, with two of the three children married and producing offspring (and in-laws), while our family with one son, wife and grandchild (and in-laws far away) remained static. My mother-in-law is too tired now to host the whole song and dance with that big brood, and therefore doesn't want to attend her sister's seder either. If I were a completely different sort of daughter-in-law, I'd probably take on the mantle, but that will never happen. Last year, just my in-laws came to have a modest seder at our place (and brought most of the food, as usual). They told her sister that they would be out of town, staying at a hotel, to avoid the unpleasant family fallout. We haven't discussed what we're doing this year, so I don't know what's going to happen. We'll have to do something -- doing nothing is unthinkable, like pretending Christmas Eve isn't happening -- but it's sure to be pretty quiet.

And before all that, we get a very special holiday-off-work that involves no special food or gimmicks: Next Tuesday is Election Day, and all businesses are closed. Woo-hoo!

Monday, March 20

ghost of purim present

Purim has come and gone, and it was not pleasant. It seems that Israelis, who grew up with the traditions of the holiday, are quite blase about the whole thing. For me, it was an opportunity to break out of routine and be silly. For all but two others in the whole company, it was worse than business-as-usual: they wanted to bust out, but they were at work, so they were just bummed out instead. On the Tuesday of Purim, I put my hair into a bunch of kooky little ponytails of various colors, which made people smile and say "kol hakavod" [good for you!] to me all day long, which in this situation means, "It's nice that somebody is making the effort to show some Purim spirit because I sure as hell don't have the energy."

On Wednesday, we were having a Purim activity during work hours, but off-site -- instead of the company's usual evening Purim party. We were informed of this a couple of weeks ago, and I just knew it would be hell: An afternoon activity (2:30-5) that I would have to drive to, meaning no alcohol and probably no food either, since it was right after lunch. What the hell would we be doing? Games of some kind, no doubt. It was actually worse than I expected, with the games being competitions between work groups (and my boss and I were the only present members of that tiny group), children's entertainers dressed up in clown costumes desperately trying to build enthusiasm, and ear-deafening music being played by a DJ ... but no dancing. Aargh.

Friday, March 10

whee, i'm "it"

Thank you, She. I'm flattered by your interest, and since it's a silly questionnaire, I'll play along. I was once tagged with the Book Interrogation which completely intimidated me too much to answer it, but also had some influence on getting me reading again, so there you are.

However, since I'm basically a cheater who plays by her own rules, I may leave out or change some of these questions. Sue me. And I am sorry to say that I haven't been able to keep up with my favorite blogs for the past couple of months, so don't feel right about tagging anyone else. Good thing She tagged several!

A: My daughter, ms. squarepeg; I know without even looking because she calls me 99 times a day. When I call her, she's programmed her phone to play (for me) and ring (for her) the Pink Panther theme, which she's currently in love with.

A: Sex and the City. Love that sax.

A: Reading in bed. I'm in the middle of "The Devil Wears Prada," which I really appreciate now, a year after working for someone exactly like Miranda Priestly (the "Devil" boss of the title). I only tolerated it for a week and am seriously still traumatised by the experience. I find it difficult to comprehend how people choose to stay in such jobs; worse even to contemplate the torture they endure because they desperately need the job. brrrrrr.

A: Just saw "Syriana" at the cinema this evening. Very confusing; need to see it again on dvd. Saw all five Oscar noms before the big night. (First time that happened. Loved Munich and Capote; Brokeback, not so much; Good Night and Good Luck, interesting but not Oscarworthy; Crash, okay, but Best Movie of the YEAR? gimme a break) Caught "The Aristocrats" on the tube last night, the great documentary that interviews scores of comedians about the most famous in-joke of all time, apparently, which I'd never heard of. Also didn't think it was funny, but I can see how they would all get a kick out of entertaining each other with personalized versions of this joke. It was really fun to watch. Great editing.

Q: What's your favorite town/city?
A: I love all cities, but I think Vancouver was my favorite.

Q:I can't wait to (til)...?
A: the weekend!!!!

Q: When was the last time you saw your mom?
A: August 2004, when I returned to Israel after 2 years back in Toronto, my hometown.

Q: What did you have for dinner LAST NIGHT?
A: Shipud b'lafa. (shishkebob chicken wrapped in a big flat pita)

Q: How long have you been at your current job?
A: 14.3 months, but hopefully not much longer

Q: Who is the last person you spent over $50 on?
A: Mememememememememe. Only me. Ooops, wrong -- it was ms. squarepeg, who nagged and nagged and nagged till I took her to the mall 2 nights ago, and sprung for yet another pair of jeans -- these ones artfully torn at the knees -- some khaki pants, and a few tops. 550 shekels. ka-CHING! But usually it's only me, really.

Q: Whats the last piece of clothing you borrowed from someone?
A: Ew. I never borrow clothes. But ms. squarepeg is now big enough to start wearing mine -- that which has "shrunk" (or has seemed to). I'd never let her borrow anything though, since she throws everything on the floor, inside out, and then walks on it.

Q: What website(s) do you visit the most during the day?
A: Yahoo email and

Q: Do you have an air freshener in your car?
A: Yuck! Hate artificial air perfume. Also, the smell of any cleaning materials, including furniture polish, and can't stand men's cologne or deodorant (unless it's one of the 2 scents I've ever smelled that I love). And I never wear perfume myself. I don't like having other people's scents forced on me any more than I want to breathe second-hand smoke, so I've always assumed that others felt the same way. I was surprised to hear recently that many women always wear perfume. Like daily showers, it was not something I was ever trained to do, and find that life works fine without it.

Q: Do you have plants in your room?
A: I have an African violet in my office that, like all my African violets before this one, has refused to flower since the first flowers died. I looked this up on the internet, and supposedly it's very simple, but it just does not work for me. All suggestions welcome.

Q: Does anything hurt on your body right now?
A: Thank god, no. Knock on wood.

Q: Do you own a camera phone?
A: No, but my daughter does. She's a real little gadget junkie. Gotta have the latest thing!

Q: What's your favorite Starbucks drink?
A: There's no 'bucks in the Holy Land anymore, but we've got lots of clones. I stay away from the sweet drinks. Just a big, strong cappuccino, lukewarm, for me.

Q: Recent time you were really upset?
A: A week ago, when I had words with my boss about the temp guy that works in my room twice a week and spends most of his time on loud phone calls either personal or with other clients. She told me to suck it up because "he delivers" and I made this into a personal insult (typical) with the hidden meaning of "i.e. what he delivers is more important than what you deliver." I had a great deal of angry energy to burn at the gym that evening, and went to a very good job interview the next day (recruiter, actually, not employer). Revenge will be delightful when served cold ... some time in the next couple of months, I can only hope.

Q: Have you been in love with anyone?
A: Ah yes, my drug of choice. The only thing that kills my appetite.

"mind if I look at your Winchester?"

For anyone who missed the Oscars (as I did -- it was broadcast on the cable channel we DON'T get), or just wants to see it again:

Jon said, "There is nothing remotely gay about the classic hollywood westerns."

Jon cracks me up.