Saturday, May 28, 2005

My New Stilettos

So here’s the deal. It’s true that stiletto heels make it really tough to run after that rental car shuttle. But on the other hand, who needs to run – in stilettos the shuttle will run after you.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to realize this simple fact. I think I wasn’t paying attention. But now that I’ve seen the light, I’m planning on making up for lost time. I’m tired of being sensible about these things. Especially now that I have the inside scoop:

Vanity Fair presents, in its June issue, yoga for the feet. Geared at helping us all graduate from flats to 70mm Blahniks to 90mm Blahniks to that holy grail… 105mm Blahniks. While in NYC, they suggest a visit to the great yogi Yamuna Zake, who says, reassuringly, “Women should be able to wear any kind of shoes they like… outside the studio, I wear stilettos all the time."


Friday, May 27, 2005

Valley Droids

A friend of mine just commented that Jdate has been sending him "valley droids". I knew that valley was the San Fernando valley, but I wasn't sure about droids. Internet to the rescue - has an amazingly opinionated definition:


n. [from `android', SF terminology for a humanoid robot
of essentially biological (as opposed to mechanical/electronic)
construction] A person (esp. a low-level bureaucrat or
service-business employee) exhibiting most of the following
characteristics: (a) naive trust in the wisdom of the parent
organization or `the system'; (b) a blind-faith propensity to
believe obvious nonsense emitted by authority figures (or
computers!); (c) a rule-governed mentality, one unwilling or unable
to look beyond the `letter of the law' in exceptional situations;
(d) a paralyzing fear of official reprimand or worse if Procedures
are not followed No Matter What; and (e) no interest in doing
anything above or beyond the call of a very narrowly-interpreted
duty, or in particular in fixing that which is broken; an "It's not
my job, man" attitude.

Typical droid positions include supermarket checkout assistant and
bank clerk; the syndrome is also endemic in low-level government
employees. The implication is that the rules and official
procedures constitute software that the droid is executing; problems
arise when the software has not been properly debugged. The term
`droid mentality' is also used to describe the mindset behind this
behavior. Compare suit, marketroid; see -oid.

This is maybe even more than you wanted to know...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Oriana Fallaci Charged in Italy with Defaming Islam

ROME (Reuters) - A judge has ordered best-selling writer and journalist Oriana Fallaci to stand trial in her native Italy on charges she defamed Islam in a recent book.

The decision angered Italy's justice minister but delighted Muslim activists, who accused Fallaci of inciting religious hatred in her 2004 work "La Forza della Ragione" (The Force of Reason).

In "La Forza della Ragione," Fallaci wrote that terrorists had killed 6,000 people over the past 20 years in the name of the Koran and said the Islamic faith "sows hatred in the place of love and slavery in the place of freedom."

--- You can put on trial in Italy on something like this? I'm stunned. Has anyone been indicted for saying such things about Christianity or Judaism?

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Safe Sex

I was driving behind a great bumper sticker this morning:

Remember when sex was safe and motorcycles were dangerous?

Which reminded me that I'd been looking up STD's on the net (no, I don't have any...) and came upon a site with graphic pictures of appalling infections. It took me awhile that to realize that I was looking at the Trojan condom web site...

Monday, May 23, 2005

Pocket Pets

Pocket Pets

Apparently that’s the name for the little Chihuahuas that seem so popular among the glitterati. Which reminded me of those other pocket pets, the Tamagotchi. Where did they disappear?

For those that don’t remember (or never knew) them, the Tamagotchi are tiny plastic computer game pets with a small screen and three buttons. You hatch a little screen critter that then needs taking care of, just like a baby. My daughter and her friends used to feed and diaper and comfort their little guys while in class holding them under the table. If they weren’t fed promptly, they beeped. If they weren’t well taken care of, they got sick. True negligence would lead to death. They were the hottest toy of 1997, and then they disappeared. Almost. Here’s one girl’s description of the latest model from Amazon:

First step:
You see your Tamagotchi egg first. Then you get to set time and stuff like that. After a couple of minutes, it'll hatch. Congratulations! It will say if it is a boy or a girl and then you can name it.

Second Step:
Now, your tama is very important especially when it's younger. It usually beeps frequently so be aware. You might want to check it to see if it poops because I don't think it beeps when it poops and it's younger. After a day or so it will become a toddler.

Third Step:
So you have a toddler? Congrats! Basically it’s just like the baby.

After a while it will become a very cool teen. And if u cared for it well, you get a nice kind teen...if not, you'd get a rebel teen. You can check out character info on

Eventually, it will became an adult...maybe its fifth year? And soon it will get a mate...sweet! It'll have a baby...and if your first tama dies, you'd have another to take care of! Isn't that awesome!

And all this done with three buttons and a 1’x1’ screen… Genius.


When I was 16 and finishing high school in the south of Israel, I got a summer job working as an interviewer in a survey of wives and parents of Israeli soldiers that had been killed in combat. It was 1978, and I was surveying familes of soldiers killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, and in the war of attrition that had followed the 1967 Six Day War. The Israeli army had commissioned the study to get a better idea of how the families, five or more years after their loss, had adjusted. Questions were asked about their social and work life, their health, their finances… I was way too young for the job, but I managed to land the interview, and seemed so mature that I was hired.

For several weeks, I visited one family after the other, traveling around the south of Israel by bus, and going through the long and repetitive questionaire – about an hour and a half worth of questions – at least a couple of times a day. When I think of it today, I’m shocked at how unprepared I was, and wonder how much damage I did asking those callous and formulaic questions.

Small as the sample was, I very quickly perceived a pattern. The wives, mostly widowed with young children, were struggling with the practical consequences of their loss. They didn’t talk about their lost love, they talked about the difficulties of raising children without their father, of socializing in a society where all their friends were married, of losing the upward mobility that they had expected in life.

The parents’ loss, on the other hand, was almost entirely emotional. They all had other children, and none were left alone. But here too, a pattern emerged. The mothers had in some way recovered. The fathers had not. Almost without exception, the fathers were unable to resume a truly normal life. They felt ill, they couldn’t work, they needed anti-anxiety medications, they couldn’t get their lost children out of their minds. There was an emotional resilience that the mothers seemed to have, and that the fathers did not.

I remember in particular a family from one of the smaller towns in the Negev. They’d had three sons, two of them identical twins. They showed me pictures. The twins were slight and red haired and wirey. Both had been paratroupers. One had been killed in the 73 war. In my mind, it seemed like the least of the losses, after all, he had an identical twin. His mother sat stoicly through the interview. His father started crying almost as soon as I started on the first question, and continued crying all through the interview. Almost five years had passed, but the wound seemed just as raw. I was crying with him, I couldn’t hold it back. When I left the mother looked at me quietly, observing a foolish young girl. But what I clearly saw even then was that she had made her peace with what had happened, her husband hadn’t and probably never would.

Many years have passed, and I’d forgotten about these interviews, until a brunch yesterday with a good friend. Guys were the subject of the conversation. Their fear of rejection, their difficulty in recovering from failed relationships. I was telling about a man I’d met who still seemed to remember vividly a six week relationship he’d had four years ago. He’d fallen in love. She’d left him. Since then he hadn’t tried again. I suddenly remembered that I too had a failed relationship exactly four years ago. It was only a four week affair, but it was by far the most painful that had happened to me. For months I’d cried at the end of every yoga class, driving my car, riding on planes. But four years later, I can hardly summon the memory. I knew it hurt, but I can’t remember how.

“Guys are just fragile”, my friend said. “Once they’re hurt, they can’t seem to just pick up and move on”.

I guess I had realized that already at age 16.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Walk on Water

An Israeli film about a Mossad agent on a mission that forces him to confront and come to terms with his feelings towards Germans, Arabs, Homosexuals, and the recent suicide of his wife…

An incredibly interesting film. It tackles a multitude of weighty matters with original and compelling insights. Most parts are extraordinarily authentic. Its weakest part is its treatment of palestinian suicide bombings and the Arab/Israeli antagonism - cliché and overdone. I disagreed with the cause and effect relationship that the movie drew between Israeli antagonism to Palestinians, and our memories of the holocaust. The best parts; a macho man’s repulsion and fascination with homosexual relationships, and – most compelling to me – the enactment of the difficulty that a child of holocaust survivors has in coming to terms with his relations with Germans and Germany: The agent’s first visit to Germany reminded me in so many ways of my first visit there, with all its nuances and gut-wrenching discoveries.

Last but not least, there’s the lead actor, Lior Ashkenazi. So my type… And I loved the way he always had his hair mussed up in the back, as though he had just gotten out of bed. A great effect. Why does it take an Israeli filmmaker to figure that one out?

Overall, highly recommended. I’m sure this movie will be replaying in my mind for weeks to come.

Please – No LAX Expansion

Please please please… Whenever my friends belittle L.A., I have three comebacks. Great weather, best yoga classes in the world, and the fastest major airport anywhere.

You can take a cab to L.A.X., and, lines permitting, be at your gate in 10 minutes. Or less. Now how does the expansion work? Well, additional reunways are added along with "remote terminals", and “people movers” are added to transport said people to said remote terminals.

Have you ever been to the Denver airport? One of my worst nightmares, and a case in point. You arrive at the entrance to the main terminal. You take escalators and moving walkways to the “people mover” that then transports you to the terminal where you walk through the food court and the shopping area to gate D20 and from there on more moving walkways to gate D47 and then take another moving walkway to gate D64 and then another moving walkway to gate D78, and bam, 45 minutes later you’re at your gate!

So how do I propose that increased LAX traffic be handled? Well, first of all, let’s discourage the idea that it needs to be a hub like O’Hara or Denver. Let’s keep it as an end-point destination. Dedicated to us Angelenos. And for those excess flights, how about expanding the Burbank and Long Beach airports…?

When LAX starts looking like Denver airport, I’ll have no choice but to move to another town…

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Phnom Pen Dispatch

From a friend who's spending a year traveling around Southeast Asia:

Across the "street" from our Phnom Pen guest-house we saw a small bar/restaurant catering to the usual backpacker crowd that resides in this part of town. At 6:30 they advertised The Killing Fields". Chloe and I couldn't resist it and at 6:30 reclined into one of the wicker chairs and ordered drinks. Lemonade for Chloe and Gin & Tonic for me.

The DVD on a mid size TV started. Amidst the constant noise of motorcycles from the pot holed street we watched the horrific history of the Cambodian conflict.

There was a short interruption to our viewing pleasure from a homeless street kid begging for money with his amputee father (land mine?). Three other backpackers on adjacent tables watched the movie with us, washing the city dust and heat with BeerLaos (shitty beer made in Laos - all but I seemed to like it).

They had dinner as well - some of it during the parts showing the Khmer Rouge guards starving the Cambodian prisoners. The German tourist had a Burger and the Australian had fish and chips and then an extra order of french fries and about 5 BeerLaos (did I mentioned that this beer sucks?). I had three G&Ts (very good ones) and then Chloe and I had french fries as well (with ketchup). After all, the movie is 2.5 hours long - one gets hungry watching people starve.

Today we went to see the killing fields. I mean the real place, with hundreds of human skulls in piles as a memorial and numerous human bones still protruding from the ground in the path. No BeerLaos, no G&T.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Low Class

The subject of the week on the blogosphere seems to be class. Lower class, Upper class, European class…

“You can tell if she’s a lady by her hat and her shoes.” That’s what my Italian grandfather used to say, or so at least my father – a card carrying member of the communist party - would quote him. That was the extent of his opinion on class.

My German-Jewish ex-husband had much more refined ideas of class. Europeans, he told me, have clear methods of identifying class. The focus, he’d tell me, was on table manners and accent. The ability to pile a few peas, along with some mashed potatoes and a piece of meat on one fork held in the left hand with the tins facing down, and navigate them into your mouth without having any peas fall off, is a sign of class. Even higher class would be to do it without the mortar of the mashed potatoes holding the peas in place... Contrast with American standards – first you pre-cut your meat, then you transfer the fork to your right hand. You scoop up the peas up with the fork tins facing up, and go for the mashed potatoes in the next round. What is considered upper class in American table manners? I think it’s keeping your elbows off the table and keeping your mouth shut while you chew.

One of my last trips with my Ex was to Germany. Before the trip I jokingly showed off my knowledge of German. It was really my knowledge of Yiddish. The words Yo (yes). Azoy (I see). He cringed. I sounded like a country bumpkin he said. Only farmers talk like that. Pronouncing those words properly – Yah, Ah Zou – was imperative. He wanted to make sure I didn’t go around with him sounding like I’d just fallen off the pumpkin cart.

All through the trip I couldn’t get those words out of my mouth. In either accent. I couldn’t decide which I preferred. Sounding like a country bumpkin, or trying to sound like the upper class of a country that I still consider the great satan… Which class did I really want to belong to?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Just So Stories...

By Rudyard Kipling. I was just reminded of how beautiful they are. Wonderful for reading aloud to kids and to adults. You can read the whole text online. For a sampler, I particularly recommend The Cat That Walked by Himself, The Elephant’s Child, and How the Rhinocerous Got His Skin

Sunday, May 15, 2005

A Public Service Announcement

I don’t think the NIH hasn’t published a consensus committee note yet, but it seems that all the doctors I know have come to their own conclusion. Statins are good for you. A statin a day, etc…

Here’s the summary I got last night – if you’re over 50 – you should take a statin drug (e.g. Lipitor…), an ACE inhibitor (e.g., Enalapril), a baby aspirin, and an antioxidant (a few cups of green tea will do), every day. Even if your blood cholesterol and blood pressure are normal… It’s not official, but the informal word is out, and doctors seem to be following it.

Given that despite the best medical advice, I insist on keeping my weight down, maybe I’ll take this recommendation down to age 40 and follow it myself…

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Orthodox Jeans

At last night’s dinner party, my orthodox friend came wearing the latest in Jeans fashion. True Religion jeans. Check them out. About $200 at Bloomingdales… And with that name, you can even try wearing them to shul. Certainly the Kabala center would accept them.

What Luke Missed by No-Showing at My Friend’s Sabbath Dinner

My friend’s food is always top-notch Persian. This time she took special care to have extra vegetarian dishes for her vegetarian, no-show guest. Persian rice with brown beans and raisins, with a crispy bottom. Persian rice with green herbs and green beans , with a crispy potato bottom. Endive salad, eggplant salad, asparagus, chocolate cake, apple/almond strudel… I haven’t even included the meat and fish dishes, but as always, we were treated like royalty. And there were some beautiful girls there… Luke, you should have come…

Wigs on Orthodox Women

As a self proclaimed expert on high-quality, natural hair wigs, I’m disturbed by the trend among affluent Orthodox Jewish women to opt out of a head covering in favor or shaving off their hair and covering their head with a wig.

I have several problems with this approach:

First – that it seems to contradict the basic purpose of covering your head. I thought you cover your hair so that other men won’t be attracted to you. You show your most attractive self (coverless) only to your husband. In contrast, with a wig, your most attractive self is shown to the outside world, your husband sees the bald you.

Second – It favors the affluent so strongly. Affluent women can afford the very expensive, custom made, human hair wigs. The rest need to settle for synthetic, industrially made, often ill-fitting wigs. But that’s maybe a faux egalitarian approach. Obviously wealthier women can afford nicer clothes as well, so I won’t try to resolve this one….

Last night I got an explanation to my first issue. The explanation is even more bothersome to me than my original impression.

In talking with a friend of mine, I realized that his beautiful 21 year old married daughter had been wearing a wig. That hadn’t even occurred to me, but he explained that it was camouflaged since the front part of the hair was hers, the back part was custom made to blend in.

So what was the point of this gorgeous “wig”? Well, his explanation was that a woman’s hair, especially if it’s long hair, is her weapon, her power. When she wears a wig, she may look the same (or even better) to men, but to herself she feels weaker.

So, let’s assume we agree with him (I’m sure he didn’t make this up), that the purpose of the wig is not to make other men crave her less, but rather to make her feel weaker…

Pretty sad… Do we women need to make ourselves feel weaker? Aren’t we weak enough? I much prefer the head covering idea, at least there the thought is of saving your best part for your husband, a gift…

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Great Greeting Cards

on a certain subject of intense interest to me...

Should we Let Dads get Near our Kids?

After the recent NYTimes article on father’s rights, Cathy Seipp’s article on same, and a dinner conversation I had last night with a divorced Dad, I decided to weigh in on the subject.

In my married days, my husband used to insist that I give him directions while he was driving. Without my directions, he couldn’t seem to distinguish north from south. Except, of course, when I wasn’t in the car, in which case he could navigate perfectly well on his own.

You get where I'm going. Parenting is similar. Dads often show their incompetence in fathering to the extent that we Moms enable it. Or in other words, to the extent that we’re willing to take up the slack and play out our mothering instincts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If we like it that way, it’s fine. Although I certainly didn’t enjoy giving driving directions on how to reach the mall.

Divorce changes all this. Suddenly both mom and dad are driving on their own. Suddenly the differences are sharpened and each side needs to become a jack of all trades. Are mothers usually the more competent parents? Perhaps. They also tend to be more competent in whipping up a quick meal. And more attentive in following up on their children’s needs. But that can quickly change, as fathers realize that they no longer have a better half taking care of the driving. And surprisingly good results often emerge.

Let’s consider legacy: Up until a few years ago, child custody was almost exclusively awarded to women. The result was that divorced dads saw very little of their kids...

I contend that encouraged fathers to move away, both physically and emotionally. I have adult friends who saw their father only once or twice a month or even less while growing up. With limited visitation, the lure of another job and a fresh start in a different city became overwhelming, and the fathers moved away and saw their kids even less. Ok, I acknowledge that some fathers move away even without this incentive, but...

The catch is that now that they’re in their 20’s and 30’s, these children of divorce often remember their father more fondly than their mother. They prefer his company to hers. A double loss for the mothers. On the one hand, they put in the vast majority of the work. On the other hand, they’re confronted with their children’s obvious preference for the X.

Is this preference for dad the result of the relative personality merits of a certain mother and father, or is it that distance makes the heart grow fonder? I think it’s largely the latter. The intensity of single parenting encourages the child to idealize the absent dad over the ever-present and budensome mom.

In the end, as mothers, we often have a lot to gain by making sure that our divorced husbands have a large part in the lives of our kids. Even if it means ceding control. Even if it means letting Daddy decide whether Jr. can go to a b-day party while under his watch. We gain our time, the freedom to pursue our social and vocational aspirations, and in the end, we probably gain better relations with our kids as well. Our kids gain too. Instead of feeling that they lost the experience of childhood with their father, they know that they got their fill, sometimes even more than their fill…

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Mommy's Day, Daddy's Day

A statistic from the days before free unlimited long distance:

The day with the heaviest long distance call volume?

Mother’s Day

The day with the heaviest collect call volume?

Father’s Day

My So Called "Social Life"

Today I ran into a neighbour I hadn't seen in awhile. After some chit chat she looked at me earnestly and asked:

"So how's your social life?"

A year ago, I would have taken that question at face value. But now I know better. Social is the new romantic. Today, questions like "How's your love life?" or "Are you dating someone new?" are taboo. They've been replaced by the code phrase "How's your social life?".

Now why is that? Why not ask the direct question. Are we afraid it's too sensitive?... So painful that euphemisms are needed? Don't worry. I can talk about it. No need to pussy foot around.

Here's the answer: If you're really asking about my social life, it's pretty good, thank you. If you're asking about my romantic life, well, unfortunately I have nothing new to report. If there's a guy you'd like me to meet, I'd be delighted. Hopefully, it will turn into a romance. But if not, I won't consider it a total loss. I'm sure he'll enhance my social life.


My friend started talking with a woman at a café in Venice Beach a few days ago. Her name was Julie, and she was cute. Realizing that his friend was waiting for him, he left in a rush without getting her phone number. Disappointed, he put a note up on the Craig's List Missed Connections board looking for Julie from the Venice cafe. Within a day he got a response from two Julies that were at the same café at the same time. Neither was the woman he had talked with…

I didn’t even know there was a Missed Connections board…

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Eat More, Live Longer

People who are a little overweight live longer than those of normal weight. For reference, that means that for a woman like me (5’7”), the optimal weight for long life is between 165-185 pounds (!).

The study was published in the blue chip JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). It made front page headlines in all the major newspapers only two weeks ago. How is it that most of my well-read friends haven’t heard about it? Why is it that today when I googled it, the top sites that came up were in New Zealand and in the U.K? Why did this story get so little play in the U.S. of A.?

After all the broohaha about SuperSize Me, why don't we have panel discussions about the important contribution McDonald's is making to the life expectancy of Americans?

I’m sure I can explain. It's because we dieting elites don't like to hear it. We want to have it all - slim figure, long life. But if asked to choose between the two... well... Do you think I'm going to eat that brownie because it will add ten minutes to my life? Maybe a whole cheesecake and I’ll add a full day…? I’m laughing already.

You’re getting my gist. This finding is unacceptable to me, and unacceptable to my friends. It has no effect on my long-standing and immutable resolution to lose 5 pounds. After I get that out of the way, I’ll consider alternative life-prolonging measures.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Flying the Crowded Skies

This Saturday night I sat at my computer to book my Sunday evening, one hour Southwest flight to Oakland. This constitutes significant pre-planning on my part – I normally make the reservation just before my flight.

Bad idea. My plan to fly at 8pm was impossible. All the flights from LAX leaving after 4pm were booked. Nothing available from Burbank airport either. United’s latest flight to San Francisco was at 3:45. American offered flights through its partner, Alaska Airlines, leaving at 4pm, arriving at 10pm, one stop in Portland…

I called Southwest and begged. The agent explained patiently that all flights were booked, and that I should try later or tomorrow morning. It was already past midnight, but just before I fell asleep I checked again. Now the latest available flight was at 2pm. 8am Sunday morning – the latest flight available was at 10am(!). I had visions of LA closing in on me. No way out, no flights available, planes circling with passengers hanging off their sides… On a whim I checked Burbank airport again. One space available, on their latest flight out, at 9:45pm. I grabbed it.

Arriving at the airport I heard the flight attendant call out for volunteers to be bumped off the 9:45 flight. It was overbooked. I felt gleeful. I had gotten on. The next flight available was not until 12:30 the following day…

The World is Flat

That's the title of Thomas Friedman's new book. What a lame title... I thought Friedman's first book - From Beirut to Jerusalem - was great (maybe just because I was young when I read it...), his second - the Lexus and the Olive Tree - was about 300 pages too long , and this one - just from hearing Friedman discuss it on talk radio, I can tell it's terrible. With his first book, Friedman was breaking new ground, with his second, treading water, and with this one - rehashing anecdotes that have been recounted much more eloquently and interestingly years ago.