Thursday, September 29, 2005

Shanah Tovah

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I wish you all a sweet, happy, healthy, prosperous New Year.

May 5766 be filled with blessings for each and every one of you.

I'll catch you all "next year"!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Flock of Seagulls

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This is something I've wondered about for years...

I've always associated seagulls with lakes and beaches and oceans and rocky shoresides. My parents have countless photos from Miami Beach with my father throwing bread up into the air and feeding the gulls on the beach. We have photos of gulls dive-bombing into the water when they spy an unprotected fish that they want to enjoy as sushi.

Please explain to me why so many seagulls have managed to find their way inland, namely to suburban parking lots of office buildings, malls, supermarkets. Why are they patrolling the asphalt of synagogues and schools? Why are they lured to hang out and hold meetings around Dumpsters?

This is a year-round phenomenon, not just specific to a certain season. These creatures caw-caw-caw their way far far away from beaches, and lakes, and normal habitats.

Perhaps they've been listening to and adapting to the song lyrics to the "I Ran" song by... A Flock of Seagulls:

...And I ran
I ran so far away
I just ran
I ran all night and day...

These birds' version would have them singing: "I flew, I flew so far away..."

Listen, birds, get away from here. Go back to Miami Beach, Santa Monica, Baltimore's Inner Harbor, South Street Seaport. There's nothing for you at Beth Avraham, No Frills, Bayview Glen Day School, Hillcrest Mall. Nothing I those parking lots...except perhaps some suburban garbage. Which, I might add, does not compare to the sushi and seaweed that you've been used to eating for years.

Fly -- fly south. Get yourself a GPS and start moving those troops -- oops, flocks! -- outta here.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Ma, You're Such a Cut-Up!

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Yes, I sometimes call my mother "Ma." She is certainly not what one pictures when you hear someone referred to as "Ma"-- think Nancy Walker in Rhoda, but if it's not Mom, it's Ma that you'll hear me saying.

Yesterday I was over at my parents' house to do some freelance work; I knew I'd get some peace and quiet and few interruptions. When I'm home and with the three kids, there's always something that needs to be dealt with and my work sometimes suffers.

So, soon after I got into the house, my mother gives me a bag and a card-- my parents didn't get to see me on my birthday, so here was the next best chance to belatedly share the day with me. Cards mean an awful lot to me and the sentiments written inside it mean even more; you can usually get by with just a card for me, because, in essence, that is also my best gift.

Before I got to the card, I got to the envelope. My mother had managed to find this in some newspaper somewhere -- PEARLS OF WISDOM -- and taped it onto the envelope. I stared at it and had several thoughts running through my head.

1. My mother must've cut that out a while ago and saved it for just the right time. I told her that my blog is called PEARLIES OF WISDOM, very similar to what she'd put on the envelope. She smiled at that close coincidence, even though she doesn't quite "get" this blogging phenomenon and my deep interest and involvement in it.

2. My mother could very well be a kidnapper. You know how, usually in old movies, when someone's been kidnapped, the family gets a ransom note made up of cut-out and glued letters from newspapers and magazines...? Well, my mom is pretty good at that!

For years, she'd find the letters of or the words "Pearl" or "Pearly" or photos of pearls and oysters, or my horoscope or a photo of a gift she'd planned for me and would affix it/them to a birthday card. Her creativity has always run rampant and is something I cherish.

3. I said that cards mean a lot to me. I'm beginning to think that envelopes mean a lot to me, as well!

Truth Lies in the Eyes, Not in the Hat

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This past Shabbat I went to one of the shuls I belong to but don't frequent weekly for various reasons; I'm usually at one closer to my house. But this week I went to this one and was in the main sanctuary where there was a bar-mitzvah going on.

I'd gone to day school with the bar-mitzvah boy's uncle and I said to my friend, "I wonder if Mark came in from Israel for the bar mitzvah." She said he doesn't go by the name Mark anymore, and my memory worked for me and I recalled the classmate's Hebrew name. She pointed and said, "I think he's the one down there wearing the shtreimel." My eyes sort of fell out of my head and she explained, "I was told that he follows the Bostoner Rebbe..."

I'd heard that this classmate had become quite religious, I just had no clue as to the extent! I still remembered him from days when he went to a conservative shul in Toronto. But I knew I'd like to say hello to him -- IF he'd be willing to talk to a female.

To my luck, when I left the women's gallery, he (the only Jew in this Orthodox shul in the shtreimel) was at the door I'd have to pass through. I stopped in front of him, waited till he finished speaking to someone and said boldly, "Mark _____!" And after a brief pause, I said, "I guess you're better known these days as Avraham."

"Yes," he answered, but he still had a questioning look. I announced myself with my maiden name: "Pearl ______!" And then he gave a smile and proceeded to make small talk and said how pleased he was that I'd come up to him to say hello.

I knew I'd put him on the spot and watched as his eyes sort of furtively looked at me and then looked away while he spoke. Here I was, speaking to someone I'd known in class from preschool through junior high, but who looked so very different than anyone I knew personally. Aside from the shtreimel, I'm guessing (but didn't quite notice if) he also wore a "bekeshe" and the rest of the Chassidic look, but he also sported a gray beard down to his belly button and now wore glasses. Normally I would've passed this man on the street, would have given him a second look -- not because I recognized him, but because it is rare for me to see a Jew dressed like this where I live. They do live in the city, but in the "south" end.

I stood before him, looking for anything I recognized of this person of the past. And then I spotted his eyes. I did not know the beard, I did not know the glasses, I did not know the shtreimel nor the garb, but I knew those eyes.

It is very clear to me that there is truth in the saying that the eyes are the window to the soul. Keep your eyes open at all times and you will see things that other people might not.

Friday, September 23, 2005

It's a Beautiful Day (Again!) and Could Be for U2

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Back in May, I posted using the title, "It's a Beautiful Day." That U2 song is catchy in its lyrics: "It's a beautiful day -- don't let it slip away..." I wrote that May post after a doctor visit where I'd been given a clean bill of health. I'd stepped out of the hospital where I'd seen the doctor, took a great big healthy breath while I gazed at the clear blue sky and wonderful sunshine.

Today while I drove to work, that song played on the radio. It was perfect timing: the sky was blue, the sun was shining...and life is generally good.

I know that life can't always be good for every one of us, and we each have to cross bridges, jump hurdles, take detours to get where we want to go, but I hope that it isn't just shadows crossing those paths, but sunshine, too -- sunshine that can take your breath away, it's that blinding.

Wishing you all sunshine...and beautiful days.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Poignant Portrait

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The other day I posted about a fellow blogger's upbeat blog suddenly becoming a downbeat blog. Life had thrown him a curveball to deal with.

I opened my computer this morning to read this most recent post of his. And such is life--sometimes you don't go out with a bang, but rather, with a whimper.

Queens General

The doctor said his movements were just reflexes. But the Jamaican nurse said my father could hear if you talked to him. So, I did. I held his hand. I made some small talk. When I mentioned that we flew in on American Airlines, his favorite airline, I thought I saw my father’s head move slightly in approval.

Sitting here in my father’s hospital room feels like a scene in a movie — the scene where loved ones gather around someone who is unable to talk or breathe by himself. Movie scenes are the only real experience I have of these things.
It’s not looking too good. It’s still not clear if it was a heart attack or not. Whatever the reason, my father, Arthur Kramer, collapsed in the living room. He is over seventy and not in great health, so it was shocking, but not entirely unexpected. No, I’m lying — it’s always unexpected.
I’m not sure I’m ready yet to talk about my feelings. My head is spinning with confusion. My mother is much stronger than I am.
I would like to bring up my usual favorite subject — Sophia — and say how heroic she’s been. I was with Sophia when we got the frazzled phone call from my mother. Sophia and I were in midst of the most mundane moment possible — we were examining some fake Tupperware in the 99 cents only store to see if it would be a good container to hold some nuts. When the phone call came, I became a zombie. Sophia picked up the slack and called up NY, to talk to the paramedics working on my father. One paramedic said that it was hopeless and they were going to pronounce him dead. Sophia insisted that they keep on trying, and after a few minutes, they actually did revive him! It was like a miracle. Even if my father doesn’t make it through this, it has been wonderful to have this added time to be together and say goodbye.
While we were still in Los Angeles, we lost contact with my mother. My long-time friend, Rob, called around and found out that my father was admitted to Queens General Hospital. This was ironic since my father has worked at Queens General as a physical therapist for forty years. When we called the hospital for information, no one would give us any. Sophia called again and again and found Marina, a Russian-speaking clerk. This wonderful clerk said she would get the information for Sophia. Not only that, she said that since couldn’t use the hospital phones to call Los Angeles, she would buy a calling card at the gift shop to call back, if Sophia couldn’t reach her. What a terrific person!
We arrived in NYC in the morning. My father was in the emergency room, but doctors were not to be found. When a doctor finally showed up, he came with 7 interns in tow. Sophia thought that he was spending more time teaching his students than caring for my father, and spoke up, something my mother or I didn’t have the nerve to do. The doctor huffed and puffed, but Sophia was right. He apologized and promised to come back to give a personal consultation.
It’s really important to be proactive in a sterile hospital setting. It was amazing to have Sophia to talk to the medical staff and it was amazing to see how it changed things for the better. When she saw that my mother and I were scared to touch my father without a doctor’s permission, she showed us that we could talk to him and hold his hand. She’s still the only one who is not afraid to wipe his brow, massage his neck and put his head in a better position. She was so knowledgeable about things that some of the doctors assumed that she was a doctor herself.
Eventually, the nurses realized who my father was — someone who worked at the hospital for years. Many didn’t recognize him without his large black "Woody Allen" type glasses. When they knew he was "one of their own," they all promised to give him the best attention.
Things are not looking good for my father. But I’m glad to have people around who are loving and collected. Like Sophia. Like my long-time friend Rob, who came visiting today. And that Russian clerk. I remember during the Katrina disaster wondering to myself why some just stayed in town, doing nothing. But very few of us are ready for a disaster or tragedy in our life. It just comes, sometimes even when you’re in the middle of examining fake Tupperware at the 99 cents only store.

Sophia and I went for dinner across the street — at the Hilltop Diner, which ironically, I wrote about a few days ago. My Dad likes this place because it is close to the hospital. After the cat scan, the doctors told us that the prognosis was "very grim." There was severe damage to the brain and kidneys. We had our first big cry.
Despite it all, things haven’t been totally depressing. My father wouldn’t want it that way, and it is not my mother’s personality. We snuck in some food from the Hilltop Diner and ate in my father’s room. We told him that he would have liked the pot roast.
Afterwards, my mother and Sophia went home to rest. I decided to spend the night near my father.
I haven’t read any of your messages yet, but I know you have written. One of my mother’s friends called my mother, asking about my father. "How did you know?" asked my mother. "It’s all over Neill’s blog," she answered.. "And so many people wrote such beautiful things."
So, thanks.
And by the way, my mother doesn’t call my blog a "bolo" anymore. Now she calls it a "blodge."
Like, I said before, my father was a pretty happy and friendly guy. He wouldn’t want gloominess, even with the grim outlook. If anyone wanted to do something to make him happy, it would be to watch one of his four favorite movies:
1) The Guns of Navarone2) Gunga Din3) The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly4) Lawrence of Arabia

Finally, read your comments. Thanks again… everyone. It was so touching.
My mother spoke with a rabbi about the inevitable. My uncles are coming to town. Moore stress!
As I type this, I am eating pizza — the hospital cafeteria is a pizzeria! How New York is that?!

This afternoon was extremely emotional. Word got around the hospital that Arthur was in ICU. One after another, doctors, nurses, and staff came to visit my father. They called him a "sensitive person," "dedicated to the hospital," "always there to help everyone who asked and everyone who didn’t," "a godsend to his patients," "funny," "a man who was the president of the Jewish doctors and nurses organization AND was the yearly Santa Claus," and "someone who flirted with all the nurses. (that one sounds familiar!)" I actually didn’t realize how loved he was by people at his work, almost as if he had another family apart from us. I didn’t know that he was so involved with the hospital auxiliary that provided funds for things the hospital couldn’t afford . I was also surprised that everyone seemed to know me because I was apparently the only thing he talked about (other than the flirting).

The neurologist spoke with the family. The hospital did more tests and the doctor said that the damage to the brain was even more extensive than they thought. All the other doctors agreed. There was no chance of him ever regaining consciousness or any awareness of things around him. We said that we knew that my father would never want to live this way. We had to sign all sorts of papers to allow them to disconnect the support tomorrow.
Afterwards, my uncle, his wife, my mother, Sophia, and I went out for dinner at one of Dad’s favorite diners and we shared funny stories about his life.
Tomorrow morning, we’re going to say our goodbyes to a kind and generous man, Arthur Kramer, my father.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

G-d and Science

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G-d is sitting in heaven when a scientist prays to Him, "G-d, we don't need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing. In other words, we can now do what you did in the "beginning."

"Oh, is that so? Tell me..." replies G-d.

"Well," says the scientist, "we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man."

"Well, that's Me."

So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil.

"No, no, no..." interrupts G-d. "Get your own dirt."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Blogging: A Circle of Friends

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You may note links in my margin to fellow bloggers (still needs updating...don't fret if you're not there). These people -- some whose blogs I just read, others whose blogs I comment on, and others still, who I correspond with offline -- have become in essence a circle of friends.

There are many kinds of friends in this world: best friends, fair-weather friends, needy friends, long-distance friends, acquaintances, casual "Hi, how are you?" friends...and now, blogging friends.

When you open up your world to us, exposing us to nearly every nook and cranny of your life, you are opening your mind, your heart and your arms to new friends...whether or not you realize it. Even if blogging is perceived by some people as some kind of superficial bridge, for other people it's very real.

I'd been planning to blog today about something light, but this light became a little dimmer... and I'll soon tell you how so.

I've tried to back off the blogging mode for the past week; I haven't succeeded fully (you'll notice), but I have managed to diminish the time spent around blogs. And that's been good for me. However, I've still peeked in on my favorites, even if not every day, then every other day. I need my "fill" -- your posts entertain me, enlighten me, tap into my social, moral or emotional consciousness. In essence, they help to enrich my already-rich life.

One of the newer blogs I read is written by a California-based writer/Web producer. He is extremely funny and sharp; his tremendous following proves that. I know that when I turn to his blog, I will end up laughing silently or out loud as I read his offbeat words, accompanying photos and follow-up comments. His posts are lighthearted, FUN and a wonderful diversion in my day.

It is evident that this blogger has attracted a like-minded crowd; comments are riddled with wittiness and many inuendoes of all kinds. It appears that his commenters like to "joust" with this blogger, like to top one another's comments, and each seeks some kind of personal recognition from the blogger.

This, in essence, is what my post was going to be solely about today: this fun blog I read and the fun comments that surround it. I was going to question aloud where the blogger gets his often-outlandish and wacky ideas to blog about. I was going to question aloud why women primarily read, or at least comment, on his blog. I was going to question aloud why this blogger is rather popular.

But this morning I was told by a blogging friend (used sincerely) that this happy-go-lucky blogger had a new post...that wasn't funny, that wasn't witty, that wasn't happy-go-lucky. His post entitled "Bad News" was indeed that -- his father had had a severe heart attack on the East Coast and he was leaving California to go and see him and be with his family.

Of course, the comments were still there. Those same readers who usually leave witty, snarky and chatty words left brief heartfelt messages that relayed prayers, warm thoughts and heartfelt words.

Blogging about our worlds and ourselves shows that life is about good and bad, good and sad. We've read Jack and Stacey's posts about their very ill fathers and the personal/emotional/anguish they've gone through as a result; we've read David Bogner's posts about young friends who've taken ill, been severly wounded or have passed away; we've read the anguish of parents who have lost children through illness, sudden or lingering; we have read bloggers' personal trials and tribulations as they've described them to us.

We have been up when you, the blogger, are up; we have been down when you, the blogger are down. We ride that emotional roller coaster with you: we cheer you on, we console you, we laugh with you, we cry with you, we give you the hugs you need, we give you the space you need.

It is my sincere hope that the Californian's next post will be called "Good News" -- but G-d forbid it isn't, he should know that we are with him in spirit, if not in body; his widespread array of readers may not be there in proximity, but they will be there in soul.

Because, after all, we are all [blogging] friends....

Sunday, September 18, 2005

In Good Company

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I definitely share something in common with the following people, some alive, some deceased, but all notable folks:

Mickey Rooney

Walter Pidgeon

John Coltrane

Ray Charles

Ben E. King

Julio Iglesias

Bruce Springsteen

Jason Alexander

Ani DiFranco

So, if anyone has access to Mickey Rooney (like, if he's sitting at a restaurant table beside you, having lunch) or Jason Alexander (if he's not busy, trying to make a sitcom comeback), or if you don't care that I wasn't "born in the U.S.A." and if you have access to Mr. Springsteen, please pass on this message: "I'll be expecting a call/e-mail/card from you.... Remember mine, and I'll remember yours!"

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mind Your P's & Q's

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(again, it's not really's my evil twin blogging)

Spent a few late-afternoon hours in the park with my children today. They played baseball; I played "conversation catch-up" with neighborhood/shul friends.

When my husband went off to learn before mincha, my older son and his friend were playing baseball, and my youngest had some kind of tantrum, so I offered to play baseball with him -- I'd pitch, and he'd bat, and then we switched roles.

I joined him on the baseball diamond, and as I moved closer to him, I noticed the front part of his shorts were a bit wet.

"N, did you pee in your pants?" I asked. (he's been trained since he was age two, but if he gets a bit "too involved" in a game, he might just forget he needs to go to the bathroom, which is a common practice among boys, young and old, apparently)

"No, it rained a little." (wow, how far a child can stretch the truth...)

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Jew by Any Other Name...Is Still a Jew

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Original Birth Names of Jewish Performers

Woody Allen --- Alan Stewart Koenigsberg

June Allyson --- Ella Geisman

Lauren Bacall --- Betty Joan Perske

Jack Benny --- Benjamin Kubelsky

Irving Berlin --- Israel Baline

Milton Berle --- Milton Berlinger

Joey Bishop ---Joseph Gottlieb

Karen Black --- Karen Blanche Ziegler

Victor Borge --- Borge Rosenbaum

Fanny Brice --- Fanny Borach

Mel Brooks --- Melvin Kaminsky

George Burns --- Nathan Birnbaum

Eddie Cantor --- Edward Israel Iskowitz

Jeff Chandler --- Ira Grossel

Lee J. Cobb --- Amos Jacob

Tony Curtis --- Bernard Schwartz

Rodney Dangerfield --- Jacob Cohen

Kirk Douglas --- Issue Danielovich Demsky

Melvyn Douglas --- Melvyn Hesselberg

Bob Dylan --- Bobby Zimmerman

Paulette Goddard --- Marion Levy

Lee Grant --- Lyova Geisman

Elliot Gould --- Elliot Goldstein

Judy Holliday --- Judith Tuvim

Al Jolson --- Asa Yoelsen

Danny Kaye --- David Daniel Kaminsky

Michael Landon --- Michael Orowitz

Steve Lawrence --- Sidney Leibowitz

Jerry Lewis --- Joseph Levitch

Peter Lorre --- Lazlo Lowenstein

Elaine May --- Elaine Berlin

Yves Montand --- Ivo Levy

Mike Nichols --- Michael Peschkowsky

Joan Rivers --- Joan Molinsky

Edward G. Robinson -- Emanuel Goldenberg

Jane Seymour --- Joyce Penelope Frankenburg

Simone Signoret --- Simone-Henriette Kaminker

Beverly Sills --- Belle Silverman

Sophie Tucker --- Sophia Kalish

Gene Wilder --- Gerald Silberman

Thursday, September 15, 2005

How Curious George Escaped the Nazis

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(Okay, so I'm not supposed to be online, but it's my lunch hour -- does that count? And I wanted to share this very interesting article with you. All those times that you read a Curious George book for yourself or to your children, did you ever think of the story that came before the ones you're familiar with? Here's that story...)

From the New York Times

Published: September 13, 2005

Curious George is every 2-year-old sticking his finger into the light socket, pouring milk onto the floor to watch it pool, creating chaos everywhere. One reason the mischievous monkey is such a popular children's book character is that he makes 4- to 6-year-olds feel superior: fond memories, but we've given all that up now.

In the years since the first book was published in the United States in 1941, "George" has become an industry. The books have sold more than 27 million copies. There have been several "Curious George" films, including an animated one featuring the voice of Will Ferrell that is scheduled for release this February, and theater productions, not to mention the ubiquitous toy figure. Next year, PBS will begin a Curious George series for pre-schoolers.

But in truth, "Curious George" almost didn't make it onto the page. A new book, "The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey" (Houghton Mifflin), tells of how George's creators, both German-born Jews, fled from Paris by bicycle in June 1940, carrying the manuscript of what would become "Curious George" as Nazis prepared to invade.

The book's author, Louise Borden, said in a telephone interview from Terrace Park, Ohio, that she first spotted a mention of the Reys' escape in Publishers Weekly. "But no one knew where they had gone from Paris, the roads they took, the dates of where they were, the details," she said.

Her account, intended for older children, is illustrated in whimsical European style by Allan Drummond, and includes photographs of the Reys and wartime Europe, as well as H. A. Rey's pocket diaries and transit documents.

For her research, Ms. Borden combed the Rey archives of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi, interviewed people who knew them and traced their journey through letters and postmarks.

Hans Reyersbach was born in Hamburg in 1898 into an educated family, and lived near the Hagenbeck Zoo, where he learned to imitate animal sounds, as well as to draw and paint. During World War I, Mr. Reyersbach served in the German Army; afterward, he painted circus posters for a living. After studying at two German universities, he went to Rio de Janeiro in the mid-1920's, looking for a job. He wound up selling bathtubs on the Amazon.

Margarete Waldstein, who was born in 1906, also in Hamburg, had a more fiery personality. After Hitler began his rise, she left Hamburg to become a photographer in London. In 1935, she too went to Rio.

Mr. Reyersbach had first seen her as a little girl sliding down the banister of her family's Hamburg home, and now they met again. They eventually married, and founded an advertising agency. Margarete changed her name to "Margret" and Hans changed his surname to "Rey," reasoning that Reyersbach was difficult for Brazilians to pronounce. Crucially, the two became Brazilian citizens.

For their honeymoon, they sailed to Europe, accompanied by their two pet marmoset monkeys. Margret knitted tiny sweaters for them to keep them warm, but the monkeys died en route.
The Reys ended up in the Parisian neighborhood of Montmartre, where they began writing and illustrating children's books. In 1939, they published "Raffy and the 9 Monkeys." Mr. Rey drew the illustrations, and his wife helped to write the stories. Hans initially had sole credit for the books, but eventually Margret's name was added. "We worked very closely together and it was hard to pull the thing apart," she later said.
Hans was a fanatical record keeper, listing exp
enses and details about their work in tiny pocket calendars. In 1939, he began a story about the youngest monkey in "Raffy," who was forever getting into trouble but finding his way out. It was called "The Adventures of Fifi."

That September, war broke out. The Reys had signed a contract with the French publisher Gallimard for "Fifi" and other stories, and in a stroke of luck received a cash advance that would later finance their escape.

By the time the Germans marched into Holland and Belgium in May 1940, the Reys had begun a book of nursery songs in both French and English. "Songs English very slowly because of the events," Hans wrote in his diary.

With refugees pouring into Paris from the north, Mr. Rey built two bicycles from spare parts, while Margret gathered up their artwork and manuscripts. They then joined the millions of refugees heading south, while German planes flew overhead.

The Reys found shelter in a farmhouse, then a stable, working their way by rail to Bayonne, and then to Biarritz by bicycle again. They were Jews, but because they were Brazilian citizens, it was easier to get visas. One official, perhaps thinking that because of their German accents they were spies, searched Mr. Rey's satchel. Finding "Fifi," and, seeing it was only a children's story, he released them.

They journeyed to Spain, then to Portugal, eventually finding their way back to Rio. "Have had a very narrow escape," Mr. Rey wrote in a telegram to his bank. "Baggage all lost have not sufficient money in hand."

The couple sailed to New York in October 1940, and "Curious George," as Fifi was renamed - the publisher thought "Fifi" was an odd name for a male monkey - made his first appearance the following year.

The Reys wrote a total of eight "Curious George" books; Hans died in 1977, Margret in 1996. The ensuing "George" books were created by writers and illustrators imitating the Reys' style and art.

"Like Hans Reyersback and Margarete Waldstein," Ms. Borden concludes, "the little French monkey Fifi would change his name, and it would become one to remember. "


Addendum: Thursday,10:50 p.m

My apologies to Rabbi Neil and to Jack who, I found out earlier this evening, already posted the Curious George story. I did not steal the story from them; I thought I was giving non-NY Times readers a breaking/interesting story. This is what I get from weaning myself off of blogging. I'm late to get a piece of the pie!!!

See, I said "weaning"; I didn't say "going cold turkey". THAT would be much more difficult, but for the most part I curbed my enthusiasm greatly these past couple of days regarding blogs. As tough as that is for me, I had to -- and still have to -- do it. But then again, if something as interesting as the George story catches my eye before a week from now, I might just have to post it.

In the meantime, Shabbat Shalom to my Jewish readers; happy weekend to all others!

Your friend (who is really only here in spirit; if anyone asks, I wasn't here!),


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Elul: A Time for Introspection, A Time for Change

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I've "introspected" and have decided I need some changes in my life. I'm pretty happy overall with myself as a person, but there is always room for improvement and growth. One of these changes involves my getting off the computer. Instead of getting tired of blogging and reading blogs, I'm finding new ones to read and comment on. This cuts into a big chunk of my personal time. Even before I discovered the world of blogs last October, my life was pretty quick paced. I'd tell people, "Life gets in the way." These days, it's life -- AND BLOGGING -- getting in the way.

As tough as it will be for me, I have to step away from the computer ("Place both hands in the air where we can see them, and s...l...o...w...l...y step away from your computer"). I have freelance work deadlines to meet, family time that needs to be doled out, household and work commitments.

So I'll make like Houdini and disappear for a while...and then show my face yet again. Perhaps in a week. I'll be a year older by the end of next week, and supposedly a year wiser. Let's see if the latter proves true.

In the meantime, watch me s...l...o...w...l...y back away. G'bye ... G'bye ... G'bye


And in a meek, little voice I say, "I can only try..." That goes for not reading blogs, not commenting on blogs, not reading comments on blogs -- and not writing my own posts.

Monday, September 12, 2005

It's Worth a Shot in the Dark

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I apologize for the "look" of this piece; I'd copied it when I found it online, but now you can only plug in to NYTimes to read it. This (minus images) if from the copied piece I had.

It's a most interesting article...and apparently he's not the only screenwriter who's ever felt the urge to attack his own work!

A Screenwriter Shoots His Own Unproduced Scripts, With a Gun

Published: September 7, 2005

INGLEWOOD, Calif., Sept. 2 - In the dim light of a shooting range, a figure clad in black baggy trousers and a black T-shirt is carefully loading a .45-caliber pistol. He adjusts his glasses, plants his feet and aims straight ahead.

Misha Erwitt for The New York Times
The screenwriter Tom Benedek displaying one of his original works of art: an old script of his that he shot full of holes and then turned into a bronze sculpture.

Misha Erwitt for The New York Times
After firing a gun at a script, Tom Benedek photographs the results.

Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Pow! Five ear-splitting cracks ring through the cavern, and a flurry of paper - like tiny white feathers - wafts to the floor.
"That's 'Ivory Joe,' " says the screenwriter Tom Benedek, who has just pumped bullets into one of his 22 unproduced scripts. "It's a rewrite of an adaptation I did after 'Free Willy' for Lauren Shuler Donner," he adds, referring to a well-known producer. "A romantic comedy-drama."
Many a Hollywood screenwriter has bemoaned the brutal Darwinism of the movie business, has felt the dull pain of too many pages and too many years of orphaned work unproduced and unrecognized. Few, however, have found the path of catharsis and creativity discovered by Mr. Benedek.
After 20-plus years of a middling career as a Hollywood screenwriter, Mr. Benedek, 56 - the brother of Peter Benedek, a partner in the United Talent Agency - is forging a new path in the field of fine arts, using the raw material of his past failures for a canvas. Having shot the "Ivory Joe" script, which he wrote in 1992, Mr. Benedek will make it into a bronze sculpture, or take photographs with a special camera for striking jumbo prints. He will show these and other pieces this month in an exhibition at the Frank Pictures gallery in Santa Monica titled "Shot by the Writer - Works on Paper: 1982-2004."
In an era of self-referential entertainments like "Entourage" and "Fat Actress," it all seems somehow appropriate. With his shuffling gait, hangdog air and dark-rimmed glasses, Mr. Benedek might be the contemporary answer to the Michael Douglas character in the 1993 vigilante drama "Falling Down." In that film, Mr. Douglas was an otherwise peaceable Everyman who, after being fired from his white-collar job and suffering other indignities, takes control of his life by shooting his way across Los Angeles.
In the Hollywood hierarchy, the screenwriter is Everyman, an undervalued cog - albeit a well-paid one - in the whirring entertainment machine. Mr. Benedek's move to take control of his own work sounds like a dark fantasy for many of the movie world's ink-stained wretches.
But he prefers to call it closure rather than catharsis. "Sometimes it's fun," he said, as the harsh smell of gunpowder still lingered. "Sometimes it's sad. When I look at the exit wounds, and the paper and the words exploded by the bullets as I photograph them, it feels like I'm taking the words back."
Mr. Benedek said the project started when he realized he had run out of storage space in his garage, which was filled with 20 years of script projects, both produced and unmade. Among those that did become films were "Cocoon," "Free Willy" (for which he did not receive a credit) and "The Adventures of Pinocchio."
But there were nearly two dozen other completed scripts that never got a green light: An adaptation for Sydney Pollack about mental health. A drama about the Israeli spy Elie Cohen for Martin Scorsese. A comedy about a Soviet collective for the producer Ray Stark. There were stacks of boxes filled with drafts and notes, movies "that remain on paper and nowhere else," Mr. Benedek recalled.
Before throwing out some of this paperwork, he said, he felt he needed to "memorialize" the work. "Mentally, I was as encumbered as my garage."
Initially, he considered chopping the scripts into small cubes with a table saw and filming the process. Then he had a vision of one of his scripts, riddled with bullets, bronzed.
Somehow, that image stuck. He hired a shooting coach and the project grew into a serious endeavor, step by step. "It started as 'I'm just going to do one for myself.' I'd do it, and have it bronzed like a baby shoe," he said.
But it turned out to be complicated to make a bronze sculpture out of paper, and every two or three weeks Mr. Benedek would explore another step to make it work. He tracked down a foundry that could perform an age-old process, eventually using a wax mold and a rubberlike cast as preludes to pouring the bronze. And he found that the objects he was creating - the shot-up scripts - were visually intricate and often quite beautiful. A local gallery owner suggested he photograph them.
"It just snowballed," Mr. Benedek explained.
The artistic experience connected to a long-neglected interest in photography. Born and raised in Great Neck, N.Y., Mr. Benedek pursued fine-art photography as an undergraduate at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He entered the movie business because he wanted to be a cinematographer. But his first break in the industry, in the 1970's, came from writing a screenplay, so he took that road instead.
It has turned out to be a path of only intermittent satisfaction. But the photographs and sculptures - those have turned out to be exciting, and deeply satisfying. The poster-size prints are exotic swirls of torn paper and random words like "love" and "time." The 30-pound bronze sculptures, pockmarked with holes, have their titles etched in gold letters: "Viagra Falls," a comedy written for the production company Working Title in 2001; "Spells," a 1986 rewrite of a horror film.
After two more rounds, Mr. Benedek reels in the script, now puckered and swollen by the force of the bullets. He flips it over to shoot the other side. "I feel like I'm creating something new from something old," he says, refilling the clip.
But is he still a screenwriter? Mr. Benedek hesitates before answering, as if weighing how prospective employers will perceive his response. Finally, he answers glumly: "Yeah. I just got a call to go to a meeting."

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I'll Raise Your Heehee with My Ha

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"Yesh li jewkim ba-rosh." Loosely translates from the Hebrew as "I have bugs in my head."
I have quirks, neuroses, wacky ideas.

I have a problem with the way I've seen people note in blog comments that something is funny.
I'm used to seeing LOL or ROTFL (laugh out loud or roll on the floor laughing).
I'm used to plain out saying "That's funny." Or I like to say "Ha" as counterpoint to LOL (right, Randi?)

But I have a pet peeve; I can't explain it, but it's there...this bug in my head. I cannot stand seeing someone comment about a blog and then the words "heehee" showing up. What is up with that?

Either it brings to mind some little schoolgirl hiding her laugh, actually her "titter" behind her hand, a little shy, a little embarrassed to be laughing out loud, or if there's a third "hee" in there, it brings to mind a sinister, mocking laugh of an evil person. (and I've seen guys "heehee" as well)

I like hearty, robust laughter, and "heehee" is not it; it actually comes across as wimpish even if the reader has been entertained. We need people to comment and write: "Loud guffaw"; "This is so funny, I peed in my pants"; "Hilarious"; "Make the laughter stop!"

You wanna "heehee", go back to your play group; you wanna "ha" or "guffaw", hang out with the grown-ups!

I. blog.

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Its vortex sucks you in
leaving you
or sometimes high.

Too much of a good thing
can't be good.
Can it?
Or perhaps I should use the affirmative
and just say


This blogging of mine has replaced TV --
not that I was a big watcher anyhow --
for the past near year
you can find me sitting in front of
the little screen,
not the big one.

I find it equally entertaining,
educational and exciting.

My friends say I'm addicted.
Sometimes I admit it, other times I deny it.
Should I start a support group?

Will I have to start by writing on the blackboard twenty times:
I will not blog.
I will not blog.
I will not blog.
I will not.
I will blog.
I blog.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Snobs: The Sequel

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This is a book cover; it's the name of a piece of fiction.

This is a post; it's the name of a piece of non-fiction.

When I finished my high school studies in public school that had a 95% Jewish population, I encountered A LOT of snobs, or as we preferred to say, JAPS. (no Canadian version of that term)

The irony about these girls is that so many of them kept mirrors in their lockers so that they could look at themselves, at their hair, at their makeup throughout the day. Yes, they looked...but they did not see. They did not truly see themselves beyond their masks of artificiality. Or if they did see themselves, it wasn't evident that they cared how they were perceived.

A good indicator of this was when it came time to the graduation yearbook, and filling in grad forms. Many of these girls wrote under the caption "Pet Peeves/Dislikes": JAPS.

It is many years since I graduated high school. Snobs are still clearly evident around me. And it is not just women, but men, as well, who suffer from this very ugly disease.

The "snob syndrome" runs rampant in our synagogue; it runs rampant in our children's school. My husband and I are friendly, unassuming types. Just as he came to this city and said that he'd go out with any blind date he was offered (it's only a couple of hours, a cup of coffee, he claimed) because he had nothing to lose and much to gain, he is equally friendly to all. He nods hello or shakes everyone's hand at shul, and some of these men just pass him by or grudgingly give a limp handshake in return, often without even looking in my husband's direction. Is a simple gesture so difficult to undertake? Or he can see the same men weekly when he takes my son to his shul sports teams and although he's friendly and tries to have a conversation, he's generally excluded by many who just don't bother with him.

And women? Equally if not more nasty. You're lucky if you get a response to a hello. A limp handshake to your firm one. You're lucky if you get into a conversation, however brief, however superficial. But many times the other person is looking around to find someone "better" to talk to, and G-d forbid I should be in the middle of the conversation with one and someone else comes along; often I'm just ignored, hung out like clothing on a line and forgotten for a while.

A hello in return to mine might constitute a woman looking me not in the eye, but starting at the toes of my shoes, slowly working her glance up my body, over my outfit to the top of my head where my hat sits. Is she looking at me like I'm a Claiborne model on the runway and she's contemplating buying the outfit I'm modeling? I don't think so...

Is it that money walks and money talks? Is it a holier-than-thou persona speaking loudly in actions rather than words? Is it just that common decency is lacking, as in giving someone the time of day?

I like to twist Shakespeare's famous words, "Get thee to a nunnery" and make them my own by saying, "Get thee to a snobbery."

It is really unpleasant to be amidst men and women of this lowly caliber. My husband and I and our equally unassuming, decent and pleasant friends often discuss this issue. It isn't that we need to be "accepted" by these types, it's just that we'd like to be on the receiving end of common decency when we ourselves display it wholeheartedly.

What kind of examples are these people setting for their children? Perhaps it's an inherent characteristic, something learned from their own parents, which continued to rear its ugly head throughout their lifetime. Where is the derech eretz? You send your children to shul to learn to daven and "treat your fellow man as you'd like to be treated"; you send your children to expensive Jewish day schools and camps to learn derech eretz and positive behaviors and nice manners. Yet in the home and publically you display negative qualities, which your children learn and carry with them into the public arena, as well.

I guess that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and if you'd ask, a snob would probably qualify this statement and say that their apple is a fabulous quality, the tree it fell from is thriving, the yard it fell into is beautifully landscaped. And even if you didn't ask, the snob would make sure that you heard their story.

But in fact, you don't have to stick around to hear it. You can each get out there and tell your own.


A (morning after) thought: You know that famous slogan "A mind is a terrible thing to waste"? Well, I think I will adopt it, with modifications, and print up some snobby designer T-shirts that announce: An Ego Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Breakfast Date

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A couple of posts ago I talked about going out to a friend's house with my husband and another couple and hanging adults, sans children. (although they came up frequently in conversation)

I'm pleased to say that I took this morning off work, as did my husband, to settle our youngest into his first day of school. Then we went out for a tete-a-tete (imagine the appropriate accents on the words) and had breakfast at a nearby cafe.

Yay, I had a breakfast date with my husband. Let the good times roll...!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Back to School, Back to Reality

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Umm...does this image caption refer to stress on the kids or on their parents?

'Cause I think I might already need to take a long, hot bubble bath in the Jacuzzi, and sign up for a 90-minute session with a masseuse...

And it's only the first day of school -- for two of my three kids.

Tomorrow, child # 3 starts senior kindergarten, school for the first time. Until now, he was with a home day care provider. This provider babysitter has been the surrogate mother for my children since my eldest ( now 10 years old) was 6 months old; he stuck around with her till he was three; my daughter stayed till she was five, and my youngest is also leaving at age five.
In essence, this wonderful woman has raised my children on a daily basis from infancy through early childhood. Every day with her was "back to school."

Giddiness fills the air, carpool traffic fills the neighborhood streets and school parking lots on the first day of school. Forms and notes fill the children's knapsacks on the first day of school. Appointment notices and schedules fill my bulletin board on the first day of school.

The cycle repeats each year...and I recall my own first days as a student. Tradition held that my mother would take a photo on the first day of school, capturing me dressed in a new article of clothing or wearing new shoes and toting a new schoolbag. That tradition has carried over into my married life, and we ushered the children out early this a.m. to have them stand in our front yard and capture their faces on camera, in their first-day jitters and twitters.

These kids of mine now write in a daily school agenda, listing assignments, tests, homework, memos. I think I ought to get one of those agendas for help manage -- and minimize -- that back to school stress. Or maybe I should go back to school myself, take a stress-management course, and maybe by next year, having had a wonderful practical placement in my own home, who knows....? Maybe I'll get to teach the class.

Hope all of you who attend school, or those of you who send off others to school, had a good first day back. Break out those books; you've got some studying to do!

Tickle My Tichel

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I just found this bit in the NY Times online section. It certainly tickled my invisible tichel -- and funny bone.

Correction: August 27, 2005, Saturday An article on Aug. 19 about a peddler at the bungalow colonies in the Catskills where many Orthodox Jews spend summers misstated the length of Tishah b'Ab, the observance of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem, when the faithful wear plastic sandals to abstain from leather. It is a single day -- the ninth of the month of Ab -- not nine days. The article also misspelled the term for a head covering sold to some Orthodox women. It is a tichel, not a tickle.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Yay, I Feel Like a Grown-Up

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I pay taxes. I pay bills. I own a home...and a mortgage. I own two vehicles. I had three children by natural birth and reasonably quick labors. I work outside the home. I am a mother and a wife.

I would say these qualify me as pretty much a grown-up.

But because I'm a grown-up, my life, together with my husband's, is so wrapped up in the lives of our children, our parents, our siblings. It is pretty rare that we go out together as a couple, just because circumstances seldom allow us that luxury, and if given the chance to do so, we're really just so tired from keeping up with daily family and work life. So in essence, and for the most part, we're homebodies. (I might still yearn for jazz clubs, or comedy clubs, or galleries or concerts, but those do appear on my social calendar once every few, I mean years.)

We were invited to another couple last night for coffee; they too were seeking adult company after having been on holiday for two weeks with their four children. We accepted the invitation, and hired a new babysitter and went to the other couple's home. Another girlfriend and her husband showed up, as well, a short time later. She, too, exclaimed that it was so nice to get such an invitation.

We three couples, who have ten children between us, sat and discussed how, aside from going to people's homes for Shabbos and Yom Tov (and with our children in tow!), really never went out. Okay, does going to a simcha (wedding/bar or bat mitzvah) count?

It was a nice evening to sit and shmooze about this, that and other, with: this = kids; that= school; other = shul. We hadn't strayed too far from our homes geographically, but mentally and psychologically it was as if we were miles away... we were able to be grown-ups, not just family people.

Today I talked about the evening with my husband, and we actually could not remember the last time we ever went over to someone's house or out with another couple. Let's hope this might be the start of a new phase in our lives...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

A Thought for Today (not original...unfortunately)

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I received this today from a distant cousin in Australia. It stood out amidst the rest of the e-mail message. It's probably worth remembering...

A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.

Write On...

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I have to admit something (isn't my entire blog an admittance of something or other anyways?).

I love it when I know that I have actual writers reading my blog, with some of them even commenting from time to time. Screenwriters, fiction writers, copywriters, freelance writers, columnists, etc.

I'm not really sure why the thought of writers reading my words means so much; perhaps it's because I find myself on the periphery of that particular category, and I feel a need to belong. The fact that these people read Pearlies of Wisdom is perhaps my way of belonging...? The fact that I might have something interesting to say that draws them in is an ego stroker for me. These people hone their writing craft daily, I polish off my writing skills semi-regularly (not counting writing a blog, of course) and actually attempt to create something publishable. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

But in the meantime I can be content to know that my blog's words act as a drawbridge, allowing these writers to cross over to the other side and act as readers.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Just Say "We're Fixin' the Road"... Okay?

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On my way to and from work, I take varying routes-- no highways, but lots of side streets and main streets. I prefer driving through residential areas, looking at landscaping and architecture, rather than driving through commercialized main thoroughfares.

On one of my semi-regular routes is a big posted sign: Road Rehabilitation Program.

What a fancy-schmancy name; it just translates as "These roads are being fixed!"

But it sounds as if it's like a medical rehabilitation program -- a diagnosis, a prognosis, a method of care and paying lots of medical bills. In this case, it's break up the concrete, dig up some earth, add tar, flatten the tar, pave the road nice...and get lots of drivers irked because they have to slow down or find alternate routes.

Have any of you seen signs around (not necessarily roadworks-related) that say something basic but in a fancier way? Care to share?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Something To Ponder

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If it's called Labor Day, how come I have the day off from work...?


(an aside: in Canada we spell it Labour Day, but for the sake of my readers, who are primarily American, I've continuously been using American spelling in my blog and personal correspondence with fellow bloggers. Reason: I don't want any of you to think that I, a copy editor, don't know how to spell! Look, I can even spell in Canadian and American! You say labor, I say labour, you say mold, I say mould, labor, labour, mold, mould, let's call the whole thing off... You say jewelry, I say jewellery, you say honor, I say honour, jewelery, jewellery, honor, honour, let's call the whole thing off...)

We Need a 12-Step Program in Our Home/ And On Another Note... (Wow, a 2-for-1 Post!)

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I admit it loud and clear. I'm an addict. To the blogging life -- reading, writing, commenting.

Lately, my family members have developed addictions of their own.

Late at night, when I want to get online to check out my favorite slew of blogs, I've started to find my husband at the computer...checking out Ebay. He hasn't been an excessive bidder, but he's become an excessive bid watcher. And he's taking up my valuable computer time by doing so!

Son #1 is addicted to watching baseball games or the highlights on TV. Give it a few more weeks, and the sport of the day will be hockey. (I was so thankful there was no Canadian hockey for him to watch this past year.)

Daughter is addicted to watching these teeny-bopper shows that feature Britney Spears's younger sister, Jaime, or shows that feature Raven Simone, the now all-grown-up girl who used to be a cute tot on the Cosby show.

Son #2 is addicted to playing GameCube. He gets up very (and I mean VERY) early in the morning, runs into my room to ask if it's light outside yet, and if it's not, I say it's too early and he goes back to sleep for a couple of hours. If it's a reasonable hour, I just give him the head nod and "okay" and within minutes he's dressed himself, brushed his teeth, washed his face and is headed to the family room to spend some precious time with his game before Son #1 wakes up and competes to play a different game.

So what's wrong with this picture? Well, we're all addicts, and we're all addicted to something that has to do with a screen, with something you watch.

Yes, my kids and I and my husband read books too, play board games, play outside, so it's not as if we spend ALL our time in front of a screen. But maybe there is a group, Screeners Anonymous, that we can join. Maybe at the first session, we deal with a Primal Screen. That would be an audiovisual screen listing the group's 12-step program. I'm not too sure what those 12 steps would entail, but I figure we could get a group rate to partake in them, and wean ourselves off these terrible vices of ours, then perhaps go on to mentor others who also got waylaid in life by screens.

Yes, I guess in essence that this post is just another "screen for help"!


And On Another Note....

Happy September 1. It's hard to believe that we're already in September.

I have absolutely NO CLUE where summer went after I returned from California and Florida. But it sure didn't have an in-your-face attitude this year.

It's hard to believe my kids start school next week -- grade 5, grade 3 and full-day senior kindergarten. It's hard to believe that my kids are already those ages for those grades.

It's hard to believe that later this month I'll turn 44.

I have absolutely NO CLUE where my life went after I left the one-womb schoolhouse all those years ago. It's just zipping along...

...and I'm trying to keep up.