Saturday, July 31, 2004

I totally cannot wait to see Garden State. But before you can understand my rave-review-before-I've-even-seen-the-film, you need to know two things:

1. I love films that are different while still having an understandable plot. Films that make you say "Whoa! That was so unlike the usual shoot-em-up or romantic-comedy ho-hum that they usually play in my local theater. That was different. That was cool. That was unusual. Wow!" So far, the only film that has made me say that was "Being John Malkovich." Well, maybe "Amelie," too. Amelie was great, but still pretty much in the romantic-comedy category. After I saw "Being John Malkovich," I was stunned. It was so quirky and different but not in that what-the-hell-was-that film noire kind of way. (Click here for a satire of the latter.) It was more like "I got that! And it was refreshing because it was weird in a new way. A way that no one else has ever been weird before."

I really wanted to see Adaptation because I had the feeling that it would earn the same reaction, but I missed it. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind also, I bet, fits into this category. Luckily, it's still playing in these parts. Gotta go see that.

Notice that all three of those films were written by the same people. So maybe they are all weird in the same way with each other, which would be a little disappointing. Maybe I'll let you know after I see Eternal Sunshine (Which in Hebrew is called "Eternal Sun of the Immaculate Brain" or something like that.)

2. I have a movie-star crush on Natalie Portman. It's a combination of her playing Queen Amidala, her having been incredible as Anne Frank on Broadway (yes, I saw it! She was fabulous), and her being, frankly, gorgeous. (I once interviewed a gay man for an article I was writing about a homesexuality-related issue, and I asked him whether he's ever been attracted to a woman, and he said "I appreciate women's bodies the way you appreciate a great work of art. If you look at a beautiful painting, you can appreciate how beautiful it is, but you don't want to sleep with it. That's how I feel about women." That's how I feel about Natalie Portman.) There is something about Natalie Portman that is so darn compelling. When she's on the screen, I can't take my eyes off her. There could be, like, 6 dozen pigs in tutus reciting Shakespeare, and you'd still be looking at Natalie Portman in her jeans and old sweatshirt drinking a diet Coke.

Unfortunately, other than the Anne Frank gig, I've never seen her in anything where I thought she was actually acting well. I admit that this might be because I haven't seen much of her work. Her performance as Queen Amidala is pretty flat, though that may have to do more with George Lucas' directing (all the other actors are flat, too). And I saw her in "Where the Heart Is," and instead of being engrossed by her character, all I kept thinking was "hey! Look! It's Natalie Portman faking a Southern accent and faking that she's poor and faking that she's pregnant!" You just can't believe that Natalie Portman would ever be anything other than a gorgeous Harvard girl who looks just like the central figure from this pre-Raphaelite painting. Maybe if I'd seen her other work I'd feel differently.

Anyhow, on to Garden State. I first encountered it in an ad on some other website and went "Hey! A new movie with Natalie Portman! I'll pay 32 NIS to see it no matter what, even if she never changes facial expression!" and went over to the movie's website. And, oh my God! This movie looks different! And even in the teaser trailer there I can almost believe that Natalie is someone else! She has different facial expressions! She moves her body in all sorts of crazy ways! That is so un-Harvard! (I lived in Cambridge a few years ago; I know what I'm talking about.) And the soundtrack . . . I must get this soundtrack! I was jazzed.

But this article and this trailer really convinced me. First, because the article says that all the major movie studios turned down the script because it was too unusual (very good sign), and it was done as an indie project and picked up at Sundance. What kind of indie project gets Natalie Portman? It must be interesting. And, Zach Braff must have a really good presence, since I'm just as likely to watch him as Natalie in the trailer. Wow. I am so jazzed for this film.

Can someone please buy me the soundtrack?
(It is my birthday in 18 days . . . )

Friday, July 30, 2004

I'm still reeling from all the nice comments to my last post! Thanks so much, everyone!

OK, a few things before I run out to shop for Shabbos cooking:

1. Reminder: Don't forget, tomorrow is Harry Potter's birthday. I'm personally buying a birthday cake to serve for dessert tomorrow. Yes, I'm serious.

By the way, I was reading on one of the Potter fan sites that if you pay careful attention, the books actually took place in the early 1990's. You can figure this out, apparently, from the fact that in Book 2, Nearly Headless Nick is celebrating his 500th Deathday. Somewhere else, apparently, it says that he died in 1492. So Book 2 took place in 1992, which means that Harry was 12 years old in 1992. Which means that tomorrow he turns 24 years old! Pretty weird but pretty cool. So, here's to you, Harry, wherever you are. I guess you've managed to kill off Voldy or we'd all be in bad straits by now.

(Yes, yes, I know it's a work of fiction. Work with me here, OK?)

2. It took me three hours to get from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem yesterday. My meeting with my editor ended at about 4:20. Then it's like a 15-20 minute walk in the hot hot sun to the Central Bus Station in TA, but also I stopped on the way in a store that sells stuff really cheap; I got some shot glasses for kiddush, and something to unclog my bathroom sink (how romantic), and a 40-shekel food scale. Then, at the bus station, I almost got onto a bus but it was full and I would have had to stand in the aisle, so I waited 15 minutes for the next bus. It takes a while to load up the buses, with a lot of people cutting the line and everyone pushing and sweaty. Uch. I sat down in one of the few empty seats on that bus, next to a weird-looking guy who immediately asked me if I speak English, and would I like this brochure about how Jesus saves, and Jesus loves you, you know. I opened up a newspaper and sighed deeply, and he said "sorry for being pushy." I sort of nodded and went back to my newspaper. My backpack and shopping bag were sort of scrunched up on my lap. I was feeling sweaty, even with the air conditioner on.

About 45 minutes later, as we were approaching Jerusalem, I lost concentration on the book I'd switched to because I realized that we'd been in the same place for a long time. The bus was parked on the side of the highway, and the driver was outside, examining the bus. After about 10 minutes he came back and said "everyone out, you can take the bus right behind us." We all get out, and sure enough, another bus had stopped behind to pick us up. But that bus already had its own passengers inside. It was rush hour. So all the people from my full bus scrunched into the other already-full bus. Everyone was hot and sweaty and scrunchy and miserable.

In Jerusalem, you have to wait on line to have your bags checked by security before going through the bus station. And then it took a few minutes for me to get a cab home (I usually find one immediately). So by the time I got home, it was 7:30, and I needed a shower real bad (how romantic).

2. From the Things My Shaliach Never Told Me File (Just for you, Miriam!)
Last night, after my shower, Yael and I went on a night tour of the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. Apparently they give night tours all the time, but this one was in English so it had been advertised on Janglo. I hadn't been to a zoo in years. And guess what? It cost only 35 NIS, just a little more than a movie. It was so awesome! Two and a half hours of walking around a beautiful zoo at night, getting to see how the animals behave after all the humans go home and the lights go down. I saw "rih-ay-mim" (as in "Levanon v'siryon kmo ben ri-ay-mim"! But I don't remember what they are in English. They are beautiful, though). I saw a penguin waddling around playing with some wood strips he found next to his pond (I think penguins, along with cows, are one of the world's inherently funny animals). I learned that a "Zvi" is actually not a deer but a gazelle (the word for deer is Ayal). I saw Ibex (Yaels), zebras, peacocks sleeping on the electricity tower in the zoo (the zoo got all that beautiful land because there is a law against building offices or homes near an electricity tower), and Asiatic lions (the male roared while we were there. It sounded like an old man trying to cough something up really, really loudly). I saw wild sheep, and hippos, and ostriches, and flamingos, and elephants! Yay!

I've got other stuff to say but I have to run. Next time. Ciao.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

You may have noticed that the number in the counter for this site dropped dramatically. That's because I changed my settings on Bravenet, and now the counter ignores my hits to my own blog. Which erased about half the hits at one blow. Oh well.

I was disappointed for a few minutes, but then realized two things:

1. As you know if you've been following my blog, I'm not 100% comfortable about being out here in bloggerland, baring my soul to total strangers. I go back and forth about it, but forge ahead in my little experimental fashion, hoping to find a way to do this that strikes a good balance for me. There are days I wish I was getting hundreds of visitors a day, or thousands. And there are other days when I think about ending the blog, because the over-exposed life makes for weird living. It's like Han Solo said: "Keep your distance, Chewie, but don't make it look like you're keeping your distance." And at a protesting roar from Chewie, he answered "I don't know . . . fly casual." So, I'm flying casual.

2. What my readership lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality, and I love that. I love that most of the people who stop by here are intelligent, mature folk. I find some of you through the "referrers" page at Bravenet, and even if you don't leave comments for me, I can see some of your blogs, and you are really a great group of people. I love that when I make a mistake, you don't let me get away with it . . . but you also remember that behind this blog is a human being. I love that most of the other blogs that link to me are blogs that I'm proud to be linked from. We're a small group, this little J-Israel-bloggerphile-club, but such a nice one! (Bli ayin hara, poo poo poo)

So, thanks to you all for making me feel warm inside. :-)

And here's a request: It would make me feel even warmer if you'd leave comments! Please, when you stop by, take a moment to sign the guest book so I'll know you were here!

Love you all. Kissy kissy. XOXOXO

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Welcome to a new blog, Baynonim, a Jew's musings on being "between" the RNs (Religious - that is Yeshivish- Neighbors) and the OMJs (Orthodox Modern Jews). The end of his recent post about the plaques in the local shtiebel made me laugh. Welcome, fellow blogger!
Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!

My sister just called, and said "is that your postcard on the Odd Todd website?" And it IS!!!!

Check it out by clicking here and going to "Letter of the Day," or, if it's not today anymore, click here.

This is in addition to my featured letter at Help Me Bubby (See the entry for July 20).

I am all over the blogosphere! This is so cool! First the blogosphere, then the world! Then the universe! Then I'll get married!
Here in Israel, there is just a little over an hour left to Tisha B'Av, the holiday commemorating the destruction of both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, as well as the long list of other tragic events in Jewish history. My head is a little foggy from the fasting, so forgive me if this post isn't too coherent.

Last night, my French neighbor Nomi and I went together to the Windmill plaza overlooking the Old City to hear Eichah. We were among the first to arrive, and took a few moments to gaze at the Old City walls as the sun set, all pink and grey and blue. Nomi made a comment that echoed my own thoughts: "Jews have been dreaming about this place, fasting because of it every year, for 2,000 years. And now here we are." And I added to that: "Tonight and tomorrow, Jews all over the world will fast in memory of something that stood right over there, and we get to be here in this place ourselves." It was just awesome. And I don't mean in the 80's sense. I mean it was awe-inspiring.

Over the next 45 minutes, about 500 people showed up to sit on the plaza and hear Eichah, which was read over a microphone by a group of guys from England. I heard a lot of Hebrew, English, and French among the crowd before and after the reading. There we were, under the stars, 500 Jews, reading aloud an ancient, sacred book about events that had happened right there, over that wall.

Since making aliyah I've often found it difficult to take in the spirituality of Jeruslaem, its importance and its history. The sheer magnitude of it all is usually too overwhelming for me to think about, so I don't. But last night, I heard the words "eichah yashva badad . . . " and I looked at the crowd and at the wall and I thought "This place, this very place, was badad (forsaken/desolate). But now look at all these people who have come home . . . " And I knew that there is nowhere on earth I'd rather be on Tisha B'Av than right here. On Tisha B'Av, and every day.
Welcome to all you folks who found me through I'm sorry to have to tell you that I am not "Sarah Kozer Playboy Pics," nor am I "Sarah Rowland Live Nude." I am just Chayyei Sarah, a midlevel journalist, formerly of the United States and now of Jerusalem, Israel. Please, stay a while. Sit down and have some coffee. Read a few posts. They may not be what you thought you wanted, but there might be something here to please or interest you nonetheless. Enjoy your stay.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Star Wars update:

You saw it hear first. According to the AP's report at, Episode III of the Star Wars saga will be called "Revenge of the Sith." The AP reports that fans seem to approve, as there is a symmetry between this title and the original concept for Episode VI, which was going to be "Revenge of the Jedi" until Lucas realized that Jedi don't take revenge, and changed it to "Return of the Jedi."

I like the new title, except that it seems to incorporate information that so far "pre-dates" even the sequels. The Sith will take their revenge for what? For being driven out of the Jedi order thousands of years ago? Unless you are a serious "baki" in Star Wars mesorah, you won't know what the "revenge" is for. That is, people who have watched the films but aren't uber-fans won't necessarily "get it."

That cloudiness seems in keeping with the general fuzziness of plot of Episodes I and II, particulaly Episode I, which should be called "The Phantom Plotline." Lucas seems so intent on giving these films an "old world, look-I-just-wrote-a-new-myth" feel that there are purposefully many questions left unanswered. Of course, in many ways the same could have been said for Episodes IV, V, and VI.

Perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to judge. Perhaps the answers will come in Episode III. I can't wait to see it! (Especially, I admit, Amidala's wardrobe. If only I had her stylist . . . . and her body . . . . and an anti-gravity suitcase . . . . and an R2 unit and a gorgeous Jedi knight to protect me . . . and hair that miraculously gets thicker and longer just when I need it to wrap around one of those cute, eye-catching, 6-foot-high hairpieces . . . . and a secret retreat on a lake in Italy . . . and a gorgeous Jedi knight to protect me . . . who is 6 years younger than I am . . . mmmmm . . . . .)
A few things:

1. Today I took my newspapers to the round, green paper dumpster/recycling bin down the street, and lo and behold, someone had painted it, beautifully. Instead of just plain forest green, the local paper recycling thingie now has leaves and pretty patterns, and a dove flying over an abstract-ish city. Oh, and the words "liniyar bilvad" ("for paper only") painted tastefully in the upper right-hand corner. It's so pretty. Some anonymous person has made my day!

2. Most people in my neighborhood dry their laundry, as I do, by hanging it outside their windows, on laundry lines. Dryers are expensive, and the hot Israeli sun does the trick in a couple of hours. But lately I've noticed that my neighborhood has been looking nicer than usual . . . because hardly anyone has been putting out laundry . . . because it is the 9 days! Wow! In America this custom would be considered nutty, and here it's just taken for granted. Nine days, no laundry. Pretty neat.

3. I've been feeling really down lately. Nothing in particular, just the standard loneliness/ my 32nd birthday is coming up and I'm still single/ the last time I had a second date was about 8 months ago/ no one asks me out/ can't remember the last time I was touched by a heterosexual male/ I'll probably grow old alone/ I'll never have any kids/ there's nothing wrong with me so why is this happening . . . . thing. Perhaps more about that later.

Friday, July 23, 2004


My life is rated G.
What is your life rated?

I'm 31 and my life is still G-rated!

I thought all the cursing I do when I'm alone would have brought me up to at least a PG.

This rating may be a hot commodity on Yom Kippur, but right now I feel sucky and pathetic.

Thanks to My Urban Kvetch for the link to the quiz. I'm gonna go run in a field of lillies now.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Today I watched "Annie Hall" on DVD. I'd never seen a Woody Allen movie before -- can you believe it?-- and decided to get some culture, you know, find out what the big deal is with Woody Allen.

It was funny.

Diane Keaton was young.

Woody Allen was young.

It was funny.

That is all.

A totally creepy thing happened to me this morning. It totally freaked me out.

You have to understand that although by Monday afternoon my fever was gone and I wasn't throwing up anymore, I was still worn out. And Tuesday I went in the hot hot sun to Herzeliya to do an interview, which involved a taxi, a bus, another bus, and a walk to the interview. Then a walk, bus, and walk (in the hot hot sun) my paper's office to take care of some paperwork. Then a walk, bus, and taxi home. Bad.

Then, on Wednesday, I had a lot of last-minute researching to do, because I'd lost so much time being sick on Sunday and Monday. It's pretty stressful, not knowing if the people you need to talk to will return your calls on the same day. By the afternoon, I was really worn out. I took a nap, even though I knew I should be writing my stories. Later, I pulled myself out of bed to go to a singles event nearby, which I had to attend for at least a little while because I was one of the organizers. I spent an hour there and came home from that around 9:30, having still not written any of my stories, which were due this morning. Bad situation.

So I did what I've always done in such situations, bad as they are: I set my alarm for a very early hour and went to sleep.

My stories are due at 10 am, and I had 3 of them to write. So I set the alarm for 4:30, figuring I'll get up by 5 and have a few hours to get the pieces finished.

My radio went off this morning at 4:30, and as any normal person would do, I hit the snooze button.

That's when the freaky thing happened. My cell phone alarm went off.

At 4:30 am. It went off. Did it do that yesterday? No. The day before? No.

Now, in the last few days there were times that the battery was really low, so it's possible that in the last few days, the phone was always off at 4:30 am. But the thing is, I don't remember the alarm ever going off at 4:30 am. How could I have set it for 4:30 am without knowing? And if it was an accident -- if I, say, thought I set it for 4:30 pm some time -- why did it go off at 4:30 am today, just when I needed it to?

To add more creepiness to this: It sang its little song three times, as it usually does, while I thought about the fact that this is so wierd. Then it stopped after the three-song cycle. I kind of looked around my room in a haze, thinking "God, that was weird," and put my head back down, figuring I'll snooze anyway until the radio alarm goes off again.

And then, the second my head hit the pillow . . .

the phone went off again.


This freaked me out to the extent that I actually got out of bed at 4:31 in the morning -- those who know me understand the miraculous nature of that-- because I thought if the phone is going to go off at 4:30 (which may have a logical explanation but I don't know what it is) and then go off again 10 seconds later (which has no explanation at all), then this is a sign from God that I should get up and write my stories.

In the end, one of my stories was still 2 hours late, though well-done I have to say.

Why did the alarm go off like that? What does it all mean? Perhaps we'll never know . . . .

Monday, July 19, 2004

And now for a book review:

I finally finished reading that biography of Nellie Bly I mentioned in an earlier post. I've had it for years and finally read it cover to cover. Before I say anything else, I should tell you that the author, Brooke Kroeger, is someone I know personally. So, while I was reading the book, I wasn't just thinking about Nellie Bly; I was thinking about Brooke doing all this research about Nellie Bly.

Regarding the book, there is good news and bad news and good news.

The good news is that Nellie Bly was a fascinating person. Despite being a woman and having very little education and almost no writing skills, she became a famous reporter in the late 1800's through pure perseverance. This was one plucky lady. She went around the world (with no chaperone! gasp!) in 72 days. She had herself committed to an insane asylum in order to report on conditions there. She learned to train elephants, dance ballet, and fence. She went to Mexico to become a foreign correspondent. She married a much-older man and became a successful businesswoman and patent-holder. She lost all her money when some of her employees embezzled funds from her company. She reported from Austria during World War I. And above all, everything she did sprang from a sense of wanting to do what's right and help the underdog. (Except when it was from a sense of female vanity -- her articles are replete with references to herself and the compliments others gave her. It's very amusing.) Before she died she got involved in helping to place unwanted babies with adoptive parents. Kroeger even tracked down one of those children, now an old lady, to see what she remembered of Bly. It's a fascinating life and therefore a fascinating story.

The bad news is that, in the middle of the book in particular, the telling of the story gets a little dry. I've read Brooke's other work, which is consistently well-written (her book on Passing is riveting) and I think the reason that the book gets dragged down sometimes in minutae is that Brooke didn't have anything else to go on. No one had ever written a proper biography of Bly before, and Bly had been dead a long time. Other than the one orphan-girl whom Brooke found, the only sources of information for this biography were Bly's articles, some surviving letters, court documents, and things like the birth and death certificates of Bly's family members and records of sales of property and things like that. So one can't really know how Bly felt about things, other than to speculate. As a proper journalist, Brooke does not speculate about things.

The good news is that Brooke did her research so thoroughly that no one can argue that her book isn't the definitive biography on Bly. We'll never need another. Interestingly, the biography itself is a study in modern journalism. Bly never would have had the patience to create it. Maybe it's because I work in the field; maybe it's because in Journalism school I had to write a "biography" of a landmark building (I chose the Palace Theater), and spent hours in the New York City archives at Surrogate Court to find out how much the land on which the building sits was worth during the colonial era, and the name of the farmer who owned it; but I couldn't help but think throughout reading this biography that Brooke gave us a gift in resurrecting Bly to the extent that she did. No one else would have spent so much time going blind over a microfiche machine or poring over crumbling newspaper articles in order to find every single story that Bly ever published. And all those birth records and property sales records . . . the hours Brooke spent reading the trade magazine The Journalist just to be able to tell us that the publication, tellingly, hardly ever mentioned Bly, even though Bly was one of the most famous reporters in New York . . . the research about feminism and journalism and America's relationship with Austria during the first World War . . . Kroeger must have spent several weeks in Surrogate Court alone. The idea of it makes my head spin.

In short, I recommend the book. The beginning and the end, when Bly is working as a journalist, are great. Regarding the middle, when Bly is working in business and wrapped up in lawsuits, Brooke did the best she could with what she had; thanks to her incredible level of perfectionism and patience, what she had, in the end, was more than anyone else would have gotten. If you like biographies, or if you are interested in the history of feminism or journalism, read Nellie Bly. If you don't or you're not, skip it and go straight to Passing.

Now, on to Marie Antoinette? Or Sarah Bernhardt? Or shall we try a little fiction in the form of Bridget Jones's Diary?

Lots of odds and ends to write about today:
A. Hey! Blogger now has one-click commands for
  1. creating lists
  2. changing text colors
  3. and uploading images. Do I have to pay to upload images? It's one of those things I have no time to look into right now.

B. Yesterday I was sick. Again. Not the cough this time. Just throwing up and a fever. Not good. I basically slept for 36 hours, except for the throwing up, lying in bed shaking and moaning, and watching a few episodes of Sex and the City on DVD.  One of my girlfriends introduced me to Sex and the City the last time I was sick, and I'm forever grateful.  God, that is a great show. It is so excellent for taking one's mind off of throwing up and having a fever. Is it appropriate for a Nice Jewish Girl? Probably not. But at the age of almost-32, if watching a smart, funny, entertaining show about relationships (and sex) is my worst sin, I'm doing really, really well. I don't watch it for the sex (though it certainly is a fascinating and educational aspect of the show).  I watch it because it makes me laugh so hard my Sprite comes out my nose.

C. Speaking of Sex and the City, Chris Noth, who plays Mr. Big, is in Israel this week. I looked into getting an interview with him for the paper I'm working for, but someone else is already assigned to it. Damn. I'd give an arm to have a conversation with Chris Noth. So close and yet so far.

D. In the bittersweet news department: My stint at my current paper is coming to an end in a couple of months. The woman I've been covering for while she was on a temporary leave is returning. And just when I was getting used to the rhythms of the job, and the regular paycheck! Ah, well. The experience will open doors, I'm sure, when I go back to freelancing. Plus, now I'll have the freedom to make a long trip to the USA to see my friends, my family . . . and my house before my parents sell it. I'm glad about that, but a little stressed about where to take my career from here. I'm much more experienced in "hard news" than I was a few months ago, but I'm not sure how much I enjoy doing it. I'm thinking about trying to get more into travel and medical writing. I also have an idea for a book I want to write, but it would involve a lot of research time in New York, and I'm not sure I want to leave Israel for the few months I'd need to spend in Manhattan to do research. I might also look into teaching adult education courses in writing, journalism, or English grammar (my first love), since I miss teaching.  Lots of choices, but only Hashem knows which will ultimately work out. So far He's been taking good care of me. I'm sure it will all work out, but it's hard to be at a crossroads. It could be that I'm more stressed out about it than I care to admit, and that's why I got sick.

E. Some creepy news: On Saturday night I went out for coffee at Caffit, a cafe on Emek Refaim Street, to celebrate the 9th anniversary of my neighbor's aliyah (she got the idea from the aliyah party I threw a while ago). It was just me, her, her aunt, and our other neighbor. We had a great time talking about the aunt's 15-year-old daughter, who is a free-spirited child in a very right-wing (religiously) school, and all the ways she manages to break the rules. The mother is hoping to transfer her daughter to a school with more freedom in September. I had a Coke and then went home, not knowing that I'd soon be throwing up.

Anyhow, in today's paper we find out that Caffit was almost blown up a week ago by a would-be suicide bomber (sorry, I can't provide the link because my browser is acting funny. I think I need to reinstall it). The bomber changed his mind in the last minute and walked away. This is not as creepy for me as it is for one of my girlfriends, who was actually in Caffit on the night it was going to be blown up. She's going to the Kotel to express thanks to God for saving her. At least there was a whole week separating the almost-bombing from my being in that cafe.

But it is still very creepy. Going to the Kotel might not be such a bad idea for me, either.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Chava just sent me a link to this great site, with little films about muffins. It is such an amazing time-waster. :-) If you have ever eaten a muffin, or called someone muffin, or looked at a muffin, you should look at this site. Enjoy.
I've had issues with Steven I. Weiss, who doesn't seem able to understand my "take" about my own anonymity on my blog.

Now, he urges readers of his blog to use Google to figure out quickly and easily who I am.

Well of course anyone who has nothing better to do can follow the clues and figure out who I am. I hope that my readers have more worthwhile pursuits filling up their time, but I've always known that there is the risk of someone who is bored going through my blog and following the trail to my identity. That's a risk of blogging. I accept that.

By leaving my name out of my blog, I'm at least preventing people from figuring out where I live within 2 seconds; this way, it will take them 6 seconds.

That may seem like a ridiculous difference, but it's what makes me feel comfortable enough to continue blogging. Everyone has their own thresholds for privacy and security. The same way that my personal anti-terrorism threshold involves moving to Jerusalem and eating in cafes but being afraid to take the bus. Others take the bus all the time. And some move to Hebron. And some won't come to Israel at all.

There are some things in life that can't be explained logically and don't have to be. I guess one of the things that comes with maturity is the ability to respect other people's thresholds, whether you understand them or not.

***UPDATE**** Point well-taken that he doesn't "urge" readers to Google me. I acknowledge that word to be an overstatement.

Welcome to the 2004 Nefesh B'Nefesh olim from North America!

As I write this I'm listening to the celebrations at Ben Gurion Airport, where 400 new immigrants just landed. They are streaming this live at It's so cool to be able to sit in my apartment in Jerusalem and listen to this live!

10:30 am They just interviewed a family from Tuscon, Arizona who are moving to Modiin, and a guy from Montreal, and a family from Baltimore who brought with them a Torah Scroll from Baltimore to Kochav Yaakov - the Torah Scroll was originally from Poland and now has arrived in Israel via Canada, New York, and Baltimore.

10:31 am Now, Yishai, the Kumah Guy, is blowing a shofar. They talked to a 12-year-old girl who said that she was nervous but excited about coming. The interviewer said "Soon you'll speak Hebrew faster than your parents" and the girl said "I certainly hope so."

Lots of cheering and talking in the background.

10:33 Little 9-year-old boy from California is saying that he wanted to come. When the interviewer said "in a few years you'll be speaking great Hebrew," he said "yes, Ma'am." [He might improve his Hebrew, but 10 sheks says he won't be saying "yes, Ma'am anymore]

10:34 Can't hear the interview because some guys are singing about Jerusalem in the background, and dancing around the Torah scroll.

Well, I gotta get to work now. But this has been cool. Welcome to all the new folks!

Friday, July 09, 2004

Some of you may know that my father is a lawyer. He happens to be a very talented lawyer. Harvard Law graduate. Worked for the State of Massachusetts for 19 years, writing a few of its laws. Very honest, tax-paying, respectable, intelligent guy. But not a guy who ever made a lot of money, compared to his classmates from Harvard, being that he worked for the government.

About 10 years ago he was outed from his government job because the new governor wanted to give the position to someone who'd campaigned for him (welcome to politics). It took my Dad a while to find another position, since Massachusetts was in a recession at the time, and he was already older and way overqualified for most of the positions.

Eventually he found a job with a good law firm and things were great. But with the recession, the law firm laid off a huge portion of its staff, including, eventually, my dad.

So, he's been unemployed, again, for the last couple of years, and things have been tough for my parents. Thank God, they've been financially smart in the past and know how to live frugally, so they had enough income coming in from other sources to squeak by. There was never any fear that they'd starve or lose the house or anything like that, but squeaking by isn't a comfortable way to live.

Well, good news! My father just got a federal judgeship! Yay! My dad is now "the Honorable Dad of Chayyei Sarah." He's leaving for Washington in about a week for his 5-week training.

The bad news: The judgeship is in Cleveland. I have nothing against Cleveland, but it's not my hometown. My parents are going to sell their house, the house I lived in from the time I was five years old until I graduated from college, and buy a new one in Cleveland Heights.

I feel bad for my mom, who now has to pack, sell, or throw away the accumulated junk of the past 26 years of living in one place. I'm not so sure how well she deals with change, although parents have a way of being surprisingly adaptive sometimes.

I also feel a little bad for myself. Though my parents won't sell the house for a few months -- so I do have some time to go back to the US, pick up my remaining belongings there, and say goodbye to my old room, and my yard, and all the neighbors -- I don't know when I'll ever go back there again. My sister lives in California now, and my friends are all over the world. I have no reason, really, ever to go back to Massachusetts.

You have to understand that my being from New England has always been a source of pride for me. I love Boston. I love the fall foliage. I love the fact that sometimes I could smell salt in the air near my house. I loved that sometimes seagulls flew overhead. I loved my quirky little neighborhood, with all the Irish Catholic neighbors and the German lady at the corner who was always so nice to us. I loved Mrs. Z, the lady who controlled traffic at the intersection every morning and afternoon so the kids walking to and from school wouldn't be hit by a car. She's been working at that intersection for at least 27 years. I loved the Armenian family who owned the grocery around the corner.

More than anything, I love the Secret Garden a few blocks away. There's an old, old mansion there that was converted to condos, but from the outside it still looks like a summer home for royalty. The front lawn is huge, and all around is a grey wall. The wall has a little gate in it facing the street, but no one uses it because they just drive in through the front driveway. So trees and bushes grow just on the inside of the gate. When I was little, and didn't realize that the house had been turned into condos, I liked to look through the gate and squint my eyes through the trees and bushes, toward the big lawn, and imagine that it was the Secret Garden and a beautiful princess lived in the house. She had a white horse and used to picnic on the lawn.

Will I ever see the Secret Garden again?

Anyhow the neighborhood has changed. Mrs. Z told me last Pesach that she's retiring and moving to Florida. The Armenian family has sold the grocery to some Pakistanis, who I'm sure are nice but they didn't see me grow up. But still, there's a real neighborhood feeling in that community, like in Mr. Rogers, and the people in Cleveland have no idea who I am.

I am happy that my father has a good job, though, and my parents can start living comfortably. Maybe they'll even visit me in Israel, which would be fabulous. Also, my father will make an excellent judge. The fact that he got the job restores some of my faith in American justice.

Lots of bittersweet feelings all around.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

I've always hated hip-hop "music." I refuse to even acknowledge it as a musical genre. And now I hate it even more.

The best part: When Tamer Nafar, a Palestinian rapper, tells the NY Times that "My lyrics are with peace . . . . The question is which peace. Before you reach peace, you've got to have equality. I'm with peace, but I'm against the Zionism."

Well, news flash: Israel's existence is based on Zionism. What this kid is saying is "I'm with peace, but I don't think Israel has the right to exist." Someone take brownie points away from the reporter for not following up with a harder-hitting question about that, or for asking the founder of the concert which forms the topic of the article how a venue in which a bunch of Jews and Palestinians attack Israel's position, but no one seems to be attacking terrorism, has a message of "openness and peace."

Actually, those last two words weren't in quotation marks, so I guess Ben Sisario believes that this was the message of the concert.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

This is so weird. As soon as today's little earthquake happened, I posted a note to the effect that "you heard it here first; we just had another earthquake." Blogger told me that it had been successfully posted. But obviously they were wrong.

In any case . . . we had another earthquake! Cool! Not nearly as big as the last one, but still cool. The reason it was cool instead of scary is that this time I knew what it was while it was happening, so instead of thinking "Oh my God, a boiler just exploded" or "Oh my God there was a terrorist attack," I was like "Coolio! An earthquake! Check out the chair and desk shakey action!"

Typically, within seconds the local radio station was interviewing Israelis about the really intense drama this tiny earthquake brought to their lives. Like I've said before, Israelis deserve to be naive about something; so let them think that a 5-on-the-Richter earthquake is a big deal. They don't get to be naive about much else.

***UPDATE*** As soon as this posted, the previous message posted. Whatever!

You heard it here first:

I think we just had another earthquake, smaller than the last one, but still a funky experience. About 20 seconds ago.

Or maybe it was a very, very quiet truck going by.

I'm starting to get used to this.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Tonight I was thinking about Elf's comment to the effect that if I want men at singles' Shabbatons to remember my name, I need one more memorable than "Sarah." Elf's suggestion of Izevel didn't quite hit me right, even without the Biblical denotations, but Atalia sounds pretty, though Alitalia is better. So I'm taking readers' suggestions for new names. Hey, if Esther can change her name to Madonna, I can change mine to whatever I darn well please.

To be eligible to be my new name, a name must be
a) unexpected, especially to Israelis
b) feminine

I thought about the name I gave myself in Sophomore-year German class, Christina (not because of any religious crisis did I choose that name; I just think it looks and sounds pretty) but decided to go for broke and possibly opt for Christiana (pronounced Kris-tee-ah-nah)instead. (see above about Esther/Madonna.) One of my classmates had chosen Brunhilda, which is certainly unusual, but not very feminine in my opinion.

Then there's a name I truly love, Kinneret. It's not as common as one might think; how many of you have actually met someone named Kinneret? But, admittedly, it's not necessarily memorable enough. Maybe I just like it because I like bodies of water? How about calling myself Yam Suf, or Yam Hatichon? Or Pacifica?

We could go for coastal locations. Netanya is pretty, both as a name and a place, but is probably as common as Kinneret. Rhode Island has a nice ring to it. As does Cape Ann (but it would be Anne with an "e" . . . or I could name myself Cordelia?). I love San Francisco, and Francesca is a beautiful name.

But then I remembered my friend Jennifer once telling me that for some reason, Israelis find her name to be really sexy. Americans are like "oh, hi Jennifer." But Israelis are like " . . . . Jeh-nee-fair! What's UP, Jeh-nee-fair?" It's the Israeli version of Heather.

So far I've narrowed it down to:

But I won't make any final decisions until you, my faithful readers, have had a chance to weigh in on this matter - a vital one for my future.

The best thing about throwing a party is that I can attend with the knowledge that I'll like all the people there, because I invited them!

It went really well last night. About 40 people came, all these really nice people whom I've gotten to know over the last year and/or hope to get to know better. Yael was kind enough to let me throw the shindig at her place, and was so great about helping me shop and set up; she even shlepped a watermelon and a full grocery bag up several flights of stairs for me. Now that's a good friend!

Noa gave a great dvar Torah about Jewish continuity and how Eretz Yisrael plays a big part in it (along with other things like family, leadership, halacha, and one other thing I don't remember), and how our having moved here puts us in the category of the daughters of Tzlafchad, who valued the land so much that they managed to get a law made just for them. Then, Elisheva H. from my ulpan class said a few stirring words about the importance of Aliyah. I don't remember what she said but I remember thinking it was really inspiring.

The best part of the party, for me, was after the divrei Torah, when RivkA M, who'd come with her kids, said that her oldest, Yaffa, had listened to the speeches and said "it makes me realize how lucky I am to have been born here, especially in Jerusalem." I saw my native-Israeli neighbor nod in agreement. Everyone else in the room was an immigrant from America, England, France, or Russia. A real ingathering of exiles! And we've all survived at least one year of being immigrants!

(Native-Israeli guy from the Shabbaton, the one on whom I'd crushed for several days, showed up later. More about him some other time - but don't hold your breath for any exciting news. The key word there is "Whatever!" with a capital W and me putting my thumbs together to make the W shape.)

At the end of the party, a few other guests, who have been here longer, thanked me for reminding them how exciting and important Aliyah is, since they'd pretty much forgotten.

It made me feel really good that people felt inspired by my party (!) even though I didn't do it for that purpose. It hadn't occured to me. I just wanted a chance to thank all those who helped my first year of "absorption" to be as smooth as it was: Sarah Beth and Ari, RivkA and Moshe, Beth and Simcha, Yael, Chava, Nefesh B'Nefesh, and of course Hashem. Plus I love it when my friends get to meet each other. So, knowing that it also turned out to be inspiring makes me feel really happy, like I gave something back to Israel.

(Also, a few people brought me presents! I love presents! Special mention to Sharonah R., who gave me a cactus plant so that I'll always have a real Sabra in my home.)

Monday, July 05, 2004

Last night there was a fundraiser in Jerusalem in which they had a special screening of Spiderman 2 and all proceeds went to help kids with cancer at Hadassah hospital. A whole lot of people from the English-speaking community in Katamon were there, including moi.

This movie is phenomenal. It is amazing. Even if you think you don't want to see it, you should see it.

It is also very, very scary. I was in the front row center (the annoyance of the evening: there were no assigned seats, and everything was taken by little kids, so I couldn't sit with my friends) and I'm sure that all my comrades from Katamon could see me up there with my hands over my eyes half the time. It's very violent but soooooo good. Because, in addition to the violence there's also a lot happening with the characters.

Now, a question for my fans: There was something at the end of the film I did not understand. Something that relates to Spidey 1. If you saw both films please contact me so I can ask you about it. There seems to be a lack of internal consistency, but maybe I'm missing something.

In other news: Tonight is my aliyah anniversary party!

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Today's New York Times has this article about the rise in French immigration to Israel. The question raised in the article is: given that more Jews are moving from France to Israel, are they doing so because of anti-Semitism in France, or for other, less tangible, reasons?

I found this paragraph interesting:

Some Jewish leaders in France contend that the Jewish Agency has sent squads of "emissaries" to recruit Jews for aliyah, or the return to Israel. The agency denied the charge, saying that it has the same staff of eight recruiters and that they merely try to persuade Jews thinking of emigrating to the United States or Canada to consider Israel instead.

1. Assuming it is true that the Jewish Agency has the same number of recruiters as before, then the reporter missed out on asking a crucial question: Are more Jews leaving France, or are more Jews leaving France for Israel? If the same number of Jews are leaving France, but lately more of them are deciding to make aliyah, rather than go to North America, then obviously the anti-Semitism isn't a factor. The reporter would have done well to look into this.

2. Why is the assertion that the Jewish Agency is recruiting Jews for aliyah a "charge"? Did the unnamed Jewish leaders in France call it an accusation? Did the Jewish Agency take it as an accusation? Or did the reporter interpret it as an accusation?

If it was the French Jewish leaders, then why is Israel recruiting for immigrants a bad thing? Do they not support the idea of Aliyah? Are they afraid their community will disappear?

And shouldn't the correct response of the Jewish Agency be "well, hell yeah, we're recruiting. Israel needs more Jews to make aliyah, and France has a lot of Jews. Is there a problem?"

Knowing what I know about the Jewish Agency, there is almost definitely a long, ugly, political story behind this (unless the word "charge" reflects the reporter's interpretation of events, rather than actual events). From what I understand, Jewish communities, including often America's, are wary of the Jewish Agency going around recruiting Olim. Maybe it's because diaspora communities are afraid of taking mass aliyah to its logical conclusion: the shrinking of those same communities for those left behind.

But also, the Jewish Agency has a history of making Israel out to be a utopia to unsuspecting Jews in anti-semitic countries, such as the ones who came to Israel in the 1950's from Arab countries. If the French Jewish leaders were in fact making a "charge," it could be against the Jewish Agency's methods, not its function.

In any case, that paragraph left a few questions unanswered. I don't entirely blame the writer, because we're all human, but I would have at least expected that an editor at the Times would have asked my Question #1 and sent the writer back to find out the answer.

That's my 2 agurot for the day.

Friday, July 02, 2004

So I had this brilliant idea.

I called the singles' Shabbaton organizer (see details below about last weekend's Shabbaton) and told her that I'd like to invite some of the men and some of the women to my party this week. She called the people I specified, got permission to give me their numbers so I could invite them to a party, and gave me all the numbers. Pay dirt!

Among the people I invited were 3 women, 2 men I'd be interested in, and a few men that I'm not personally sooooo interested in, but they seemed nice, people change their minds, and if they aren't for me, maybe they'd be good for one of my girlfriends who would be at the party. Of course, I was also running the risk that one of the men I was interested in for myself would become interested in one of my friends. In fact, it is bound to happen. But I'm not one of those conniving people, like that. If they want my friends, then kol hakavod. Someone in this world should be happy.

Anyhow, remember that not one of these people have asked for my number, so the chances that any of them are seriously interested are slim. But, you know, I figured "maybe one of them is mildly interested, and my calling them will remind them of it, and grow the interest." My, how one will cling to the most tenuous of hopes. I felt so smooth for doing this in the context of a party, where they knew I was inviting several people and therefore couldn't assume that I was aggressively asking for a date. I was being pro-active, but not pushy.

Anyhow, I called them all today. Left messages for most of them. I did, however, reach two of the men in person.

One was the sweet-but-nerdy guy I sat next to during dinner on Friday night. The whole dinner. We talked for about an hour and half.

He did not remember who I was.

The other was the one guy from the Shabbaton on whom I had the biggest crush. The one I'd been flirting with, and who'd flirted back. The one who kept catching my eye during Seudat Shelishit, and we'd give each other an evil grin. The one I've thought about constantly for the past 6 days.

He didn't remember who I was, either.

If it weren't all so absurd, I'd be more hurt. But, thank God, I know this is not about me. I am very much a memorable person. I may not be gorgeous in the conventional sense. I may not be the most suave, or the best Hebrew speaker, or the best-dressed. But I am certainly memorable. Apparently, these guys found the other women memorable, too, so we cancelled each other out (and I don't bear a grudge. The other women there were very high quality people. I'm not jealous, just sad for all of us. Because most of them probably didn't get dates either. In fact, I know they didn't. One of my friends who also was there is usually a Veela, and no one from the Shabbaton asked her out, either.)

So it's not that this is denting my self-esteem, but it is denting my faith in the universe. In men. In the value of the 200 sheks I paid for that Shabbaton. Because, if you can spend a weekend flirting with people and eating meals with them and being your most charming, memorable self, and 6 days later they cannot match your name to your face, then this "shidduch crisis" runs deeper than I ever thought.
I just wanted to share with you that even now, 19 years later, I still remember all the words to the Color War song for my team at Camp Dexter.

Each team was a different country. I was in Scotland. This was our song (note that Camp Dexter has an "Upper Field" and a "Lower Field" . . . Ah, the memories of rolling down the green green grass, with narry a care . . . )

(to the tune of Loch Lomond)

We are Scottish lads, and we are Scottish lassies
And we are proud we're from Scotland!
Oh we'll play our best
Our Spirit says the rest
On the bonnie, bonnie fields of Mount Wally.

Oh, you take the high field and we'll take the low field
And Scotland will be victorious!
Our Teamwork and Spirit will help us win the games.
On the bonnie, bonnie fields of Mount Wally.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

So Britney Spears is engaged, to a dancer named Kevin Federline. She seems to be following in the footsteps of Jennifer Lopez; she was married multiple times, too, and her second husband was also a dancer.

Federline, though, has this added attraction: He's expecting a baby with another woman. Which means that, at most, 8 or 9 months ago, he was seriously involved with this other woman (the pair have another child as well). Of Federline leaving her for Britney Spears, the first woman now says "You should never blame the other woman, never. There's life after Kevin, and I'm living it!"

Britney should take some hints from that.

All this reminds me that I never produced my promised manifesto on why Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck deserve each other. Too late now. She's moved on. You know, she left a serious relationship for Ben, too.

I wonder who payed for Britney's huge rock . . . probably not her fiancee . . . gee, do you think maybe he wants her money? (Gasp! Shock! Horror!)

I know that you don't have to have a lot of brains to be a famous pop star, but when it comes to relationships, Jennifer and Britney have nothing between their ears but a lot of "Oops I Did It Again."