Sunday, October 31, 2004

Urgh, Urghster and Urghette

We now interrupt work to to bring you this powerful brain stem moment:

Medium: Telly (one of those brilliant VH1 specials)

Settings: Bush rally or something similar

Intervenients: Bimbalhão Mor, Bimba e Bimbo (sorry, private language joke: Bush, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lashay)

Case in point: "(...) So Nick and Jessica sang for him. This means that at at some point you had Dubya, Jessica and Nick in the same room - that's a think tank right there."

This was hours ago and we are still wildly entertained.

"Small Craft Warnings"

This is a VERY IMPORTANT post Blogger-cum-sanity-wise, PLEASE read it. It may save your blog from oblivion.

As some of you noticed, my blog was gone from dawn till a while ago (Lisbon time). I know it was from dawn on because some of you are on the West Coast and were awake. The main page was blank, grey-blank. I could access it through the Google cache pages, and edit and view posts through the Dashboard. But no normal access, no actual Blog viewing.

My template ended abruptly after the first coding lines for Posts. It's pretty funny in a darkly-humoured way because the same happened to RenReb 3 days ago and I commiserated. Only her screen is dark blue. Oh well. I may have helped her, I HOPE I have, she probably hasn't read my email yet.

I emailed Blogger twice and am still waiting for an answer so I can’t tell you more about the reason. I’ll update so keep an eye on this post. I could fix it because I worry terribly about losing things I write so I had both saved a .doc copy of my template (if you’re new to this go to the Dashboard, there’s a link on the top right corner of the main blog page; if you can’t find it go to and choose Change Settings-Template) and of the actual posts (I have a .doc to which I copy every post WITH COMMENTS and I update as I post new ones. It saves the formatting as well.)

I’m so BLOODY HAPPY I did it, imagine if I hadn’t! Last time I asked Blogger for help, well, let’s say I’m happy I know nerds - other than the Blogger team that is (you should click on this link as well if you find your profile, sidebar etc have been pushed to the bottom of the page, it tells you how to fix it). From what I could surmise - because it just happened AGAIN, after I’d fixed it (new Blogger email from me) - it occurs while saving the template. This is what I think happens: the template is only partly saved FOR SOME VERY DISTRAUGHTING REASON and you’re told to republish. By then it’s too late and you only notice after republishing, when you try to view the blog and you find THE LIMBO FROM HELL (a bit of a theological impossibility but you know what I mean).

So please, please, PLEASE take the time to save both your templates and the actual posts. The posts are a bore the first time but then you only need to update. You may be sparing yourselves the most terrible grief.

(My dog has been with me for exactly TWO YEARS TODAY!)

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Jewish Gastronomic Factor

My mother just rang me. We talked a bit and then she tentatively said: “I’ve cooked some really nice chicken… Maybe you’d like some.” And I said yes.

My mother is a wonderful cook even if she doesn’t much care for it. I’m a rather
poor and unwilling one. I once managed to wreck a whole pot of soup. Don’t ask me how. It stands to reason that, if you throw a bunch of vegetables in and they taste good, end result will too. NOT. Plus it took me two hours to finish. Two hours making soup, I ask you. During exams, pretty much from the beginning of December till the end of September, I hide in my lair boning up. I become anorectic, have absolutely no appetite. Typically, I also smoke loads and drink heaps of coke. I’m hoping that will have been changed this year. So my dear parents will come round to see me and bring me nutritional reinforcements. Sometimes, though, I don’t need the food or don’t feel like it or actually need to cook the veggies in my fridge (I've never forgotten the starving children in Biafra my mother used to use as an example of people who’d be very happy to eat the food I would not deign to look at. I also can’t bear to let food spoil in a country where old people starve to death every year because they are too proud to say they’re hungry. Besides, there are people starving everywhere - but this won’t be another one of THOSE posts so I’ll shut up now). I haven’t wanted food in a while hence the “tentatively”. Most importantly, my mother is convinced I starve. I am sometimes too lazy to cook and had rather go to bed a bit hungry - but that’s not starving, that’s simply being daft. I love eating! No I don’t, I positively starve. She will regularly ask me if I’ve eaten. It goes like this:

“Have you eaten?”
“Yes Mother.”
[doubt oozes through the chord. She doesn’t even have to speak. I KNOW.]
“Daaaaaarling, tell your old Mother what you ate.”
[notice the subtle emotional exploitation of implicit frailty]
“Mother! Do you know how old I am?”
“Well that has nothing to do with it! You could be 50 and I’d still be asking you this!”
“Yes, that is my fear.”
“Do NOT be cheeky.”
“Mother, how old am I?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
[genuine surprise in her voice]

Sometimes it doesn’t go as casualty-free but never mind that. Irony and pre-emptive strikes don’t work:

“So what could you possibly have eaten? You don’t have anything healthy in your fridge!”
[note: my mother doesn’t see my fridge all that often. But she knows I almost always ONLY have healthy food in it. Reality is NOT a variable in these conversations. A variation on this theme is "you don't have ANYTHING in your fridge."]
“Mother, you know I never eat. That’s why I’m so skinny and probably anaemic.”
“Exactly! You must eat, please let me bring you something!”

I never win. I often regress when dealing with her. I actually managed to hide the fact I was smoking again for TWO YEARS!!! It’s a protection mechanism. I knew, I simply knew the grief I’d be getting once the truth was out. I still sometimes tell my mother “I’m going to come round with G. but you are not to say one word if you smell cigarette smoke please, the woman is 42 AND a doctor!” My mother will take one step into my flat and start grimacing and waving her hand in front of her face as though submitted to the PONG FROM HELL! I also knew the grief I’d be causing her and that I can understadn very well. I was already smoking again and she’d sometimes randomly say “Oh I’m just so happy you quit smoking!” I felt like Dobby the House Elf and had to physically refrain from banging my head against the wall wailing “Lioness bad daughter, BAD SMOKING DAUGHTER!”

She came round impromptu a few of hours ago and you should have seen me manically flying around
locking cats in bedroom and opening windows wide, washing my face, gargling and then using the front door to create a draft to help air the place all this in the time it took her to get to the 6th floor. She was good, she only grimaced once and mumbled something-smoke-something to herself. Sometimes she does listen. We went to my cousin's wedding a month ago. I told her "Mother please, for the duration of this wedding we shall pretend I'm a grown-up, albeit a stupid smoking one, and there will be no comments every time I light a ciggie. Deal?" "Deal." She even had the good grace to laugh (we are amused by our daughter at times). I was smart enough to not smoke too much in front of her (I unashamedly lie to her regarding the daily amount). You think I haven't learned?

Sometimes I give up and just say yes to everything and all food she wants to throw my way. That usually works if I’m discreet about it and don’t sound like I’m rolling my eyes. It also helps if I actually DO NOT roll my eyes. Sometimes though, for some very obscure reason, I decide she’s bound to realise ANY DAY NOW that I am an adult and have in fact been one for over a decade. And that’s not even wishful thinking, it’s DANGEROUS thinking because it leads to my forgetting The Way Things Are and inevitable disaster. About 2 years ago she rang me suddenly with a well-timed worry:

“I was just wondering if you knew how to operate the washing machine.”
“… If I what?”
“No need to react like that is there, it’s a perfectly normal question.”
“No it isn’t! It would be if I were 12 maybe!!!”
“I don’t see why you must make such a fuss, it’s normal to worry! I’m your mother, I’m supposed to tell you things like this. How am I supposed to know if you know you have to separate colours if I don’t ask you.”
“Yes but why do you worry about th - colours?! You don’t know if I … I must be dreaming this. Tell me again THE YEAR I WAS BORN IN, I think you are confusing me with someone else, Mother.”
“Well if you’re going to talk to me like that…”

And then she’s offended. Because she's UNAPPRECIATED, how unfair I can be at times.

I adore my mother but this is her one characteristic that drives me absolutely mad. Which is funny because she really is quite sane and well-grounded. My parents are amazing in their relationship with the world, considering both that they were in their late thirties when they had me and that they are Portuguese, a people who tend to be conservative. They are open-minded, good fun, firm believers in individual freedom. I think the fact that I was a very sickly infant/child/adolescent/young adult contributed to some of her fears. My sister dying as a newborn cannot have helped much either. But it’s still pretty out of character with the rest of her.

She has the best sense of humour. She’d often ring me in Israel (and I her) to tell me tidbits of funny conversations she’d heard, or mistakes by TV anchormen. Even when I didn’t find it funny I’d be laughing too because her laughter is infectious and she can just go on and on. But if she were to read this she’d go straight for my jugular. She wouldn’t see the humour in this, EVER.

So the chicken.

“You want the chicken???”
“Yes, I’d love some.”
immediately brighter voice, you know, TODAY the child is getting some nourishment into her emaciated body]
“Er… There’s also some pasta.”
“Pasta would be lovely.”
“Oh and some soup maybe?”
“Soup would be nice too.”
And then my mother says, and I promise this is the verbatim translation:
“Oh how lovely! If only you knew what joy you give me when you accept food!”

Baruch hashem.

This is the woman who denies being Jewish or having any connection to it. This is the woman who finds it bizarre I should feel this strongly towards Judaism. Good grief, must you go to the synagogue every weekend? It’s so… religious! This is the woman who, despite her higher education, strong will and independence, often sounds like she's just arrived from the shtetl.

Oy vey is mir.

Why I'm not a lefty Greeny and that bad, bad cow milk

I am not a vegetarian. If I have a problem with meat-eating it's the conditions in which the animals are housed, grown and killed. I don't find eating other animals morally reprehensible. If I'm walking somewhere in the Tanzanian bush and a lion eats me, well, good for him, tough luck for me. That's the way it is, some eat, some get eaten. Same with furs. I don't object to using animal products per se. I use leather and have boots that have fur. But it's from animals whose hide was obtained as a by-product, as it were. It's rather a way of putting everything to good use, of not wasting any part of the animal. I do object if the animals are bred simply for that purpose. If they are kept in very small cages for all their lives [this is why I eat almost only fish and free-ranging poultry]. If they are electrocuted as a means to keep as much of the fur unblemished as possible. And just so you know, bullfighting is cowardly. Those bull have the best of lives, mind you. They get to spend years on an open field with loads of trees and grass and fresh air and all the roaming they could wish for. It's the end of their lives that is so degrading. Oh, and so is fox-hunting, so you don't accuse me of being Brit-blind. And hunters in Portugal, even those who actually eat what they kill, have an abysmal tendency to drop their hunting dogs to starve by the side of the road. Said dogs then form packs (the ones who survive that is) and kill sheep. And the wolves are blamed. Wolves will kill only what they can eat. They do not maul as many sheep as they can sink their teeth into. There haven't been any wolves in Serra da Estrela, for instance, in over 25 years. But they get blamed so the farmers can collect a State compensation. A wolf in captivity here lives maybe 10 years. In the wild, where there are hardly any left, 2-3 (locals kill them AND not enough natural prey. We have a rehab centre, I volunteered there, some other post) And finally, I'm NOT a greeny. Groups like Greenpeace? Too hypocritical for me, too badly dressed, too drama-queeny, too media-crazed, too taxonomically-discriminating. I have yet to see them trying to stop a ship or chain themselves to some high bridge to save a newt.

Here we go.

Milk has a
sugar, lactose, that can't be broken down by most adult humans. Many people are intolerant to it. The problem with intolerance is that it's not the same as an allergy. An allergic reaction is much more obvious. Intolerance may mean you have a perpetually irritated bowel and don't know it because it's been like this all your life, why should you think there's anything wrong with it if it's all you've ever known. Permanent inflammation opens a very wide door to [colon] cancer.

Milk also has some proteins that can't be broken down into amino acids and initiate a response from the immune system. Believe you me, it's no fun when your own body turns against you. It's a bloody pain at best. Dairy products induce extra mucus production and burden the immune, digestive and respiratory systems. Many professional athlets and singers stay off dairy for this reason. So, cow milk is mucous-producing and acid-forming. Asthma, allergies, ear infections in small children, arthritis, sinusitis, colic, acne and others. Incidentally, osteoporosis also, isn’t that ironic.

Galactose, derived from the break-down of lactose. The lack of enzymes to break it down (as in 10% of American women) seems to be connected to ovarian cancer.

Pesticides are also a very big problem nowadways. They concentrate in mammalian milk (in a study in the US, they found breast milk contamination in women in 46 states).

Bovine growth hormone - The FDA approved the use of recombinant bovine somatotropin in 1994 (= bovine growth hormone, BGH). This is a genetically-engineered hormone that increases milk production in cows. The milk has high levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) - and it stimulates cancer cells’ growth. Recently it’s been found there’s a very steep increase in the risk of breast and prostate cancer in women and men with the highest IGF-1 levels. BGH is banned in both Canada and Europe (doesn’t mean it’s not being used still, our government urged beef consumption when it was already known beyond doubt in the high spheres that we had BSE (mad cow) in the country; and did not have AIDS-infected blood lots destroyed. They were later given to hemophiliacs who are now very dead. The ones responsible for the decision walk freely.). Cows treated with BGH contract mastitis very easily (udder inflammation, v painful) and are subsequently treated with antibiotics and sulfamides. Trace amounts can be found in their milk, along with bacteria and pus. Some of these antibiotics even in such small amounts can cause allergic reactions.

The calcium fallacy. We all need calcium, true (we also need phosphorous, magnesium and Vitamin D to absorb it but that's often not mentioned). However, we need calcium that the body can actually use. Let me give you an example. I recently found a cereal brand that made a big deal on the box about it being enriched with iron. I checked the label. Hemoglobin is a pigment made of blood and iron that picks up oxygen and delivers it to the red blood cells, which in turn carry it around the body. This is the catch: ferrous iron (Fe2+) is the one that binds the oxygen. Ferric iron (Fe3+), oxidised, doesn't. Hemoglobin carrying this iron instead of the Fe2+ is a clinical condition called methemoglobinemia. Want to venture a guess as to which iron was present in the cereal? I find it downright criminal. Incidentally, premenopausal women and men who donate blood more than once a year seem to be at lower risk for heart attacks and cancer. GO DONATE SOME, go on. You'll live longer - and someone else will too thanks to your blood. Back to calcium. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 1988 reported that calcium excretion and bone loss increase in proportion to the amount of animal protein ingested. There is a lot of Ca in green leafy vegetables, algae, carrots. I will post a table on Ca contents soon here so keep an eye on this post.

My parents, incidentally, were big milk guzzlers. They stopped drinking it and cut down cheese consumption. They now eat and drink non-genetically modified soy milk and yoghurts and my mother says she’d not have believed the difference it has made to her digestive tract. She thought she was fine. My father still eats too much cheese but I'm ready for some drastic measures; he'll not appreciate my cancer cell pictures in my pathology atlas. If that's what it takes, that's what I'll do. They are turning 70 in February and I intend to have them around for at least 2 more decades, if it kills them.

I love Haagen-Dazs Strawberry Cheesecake. I ADORE cheese. I still eat them and will go on eating them but now it's an informed decision. I have cancer cases in both sides of the family, parents and grandparents. I intend to make it hard for the little bastard to get me, so I eat less of it. I'm working on my smoking too - and just so you know, I hardly drink any coke anymore. Tea, tea, tea and more tea. Whenever I sneeze (and I do sneeze more when I eat dairy products) you can hear the chlorophyll choir singing. I SWEAR.

We have been sold this idea of milk as the ultimate child, tooth and bone saviour. Most people are not aware of the implications and possible consequences of dairy consumption. Ponder this: we are THE ONLY SPECIES that consumes milk as ADULTS, a product specifically designed for the needs of the young. We are weaned from our own species’ milk and then move on to another species’ - one that has 4 gastric compartments with harbour things like special bacteria for cellulose breakdown (because they are herbivores), and ruminates its food!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Father's Sigmoid Colon + Cow Milk Is Bad

My mother has been officially cancer-free for 6 years today. It is always the happiest day of my life.



I have a bit of time right now and I wanted to add to it. My mother was extremely lucky, it was stage 2 and she didn't need any chemo other than taking Tamoxifen for 5 years. Thankfully, her liver coped well and all she experienced was some hair thinning. Mother is a tough one, she was diagnosed just before I left for Israel for my reasearch in 98 and at first I didn't want to go. She told me in no uncertain terms to stop being silly, of course she was going to survive and my staying would only mean we were giving up. My parents were adamant I should go despite being worried sick about my being in Israel (you learn pretty quickly to ring them immediately whenever there's a bombing, even if it was at the other end of the country and they know it). I felt guilty but she was right. She couldn't be bothered to reconstruct the missing boob for some reason I can't comprehend. She's the real Lioness (that's not the reason for the name though).

My father was diagnosed about a month and a half ago with colon cancer. He'd gone for a colonoscopy, they found some polyps, removed them and sent them for analysis. The doctor was convinced all was well. One of them, as it turned out, presented a miscroscopic carcinomal focus - meaning, there was cancer starting but it was still in the stalk of the polyp and was fully differentiated (always good news w tumours). So it was gone and he won't even need any medication. We were a bit worried of course but for some reason neither my mother nor I seemed able to really really worry. We knew it wouldn’t be bad. I read the pathology report and it was pretty reassuring. Colon cancer is not too bad to have if caught early on, my doctor friend G. explained to me. In fact, she says, if you knew you had to have one and could choose, you should go for this one. User-friendly, as it were.

This brings me to milk. Go on, read the new post. You might end up hating me.

ASM (and the Portie Pipeline)

Picture this. A restaurant, rather famous in Lisbon. Noisy, packed with people, filled with food smoke and smells and loud, gesticulating voices (yes, we do manage THAT). Gorgeous passion fruit mousse. A very friendly place, you’ll agree. But maybe an unlikely place to honour a man who was one of the greatest heroes this country ever saw, wouldn'y you say? And yet...

José Manuel Cabral was the President of the Portuguese Amnesty chapter then. He, alone, is enough for several posts. Zé Manel was bigger than life, metaphorically and literally. He was tremendously fat. TREMENDOUSLY. He drew people to him, he unified Amnesty and made it work like never before and never since. Amnesty was his home, his passion, his family almost. He was mad about whisky and ALL FOOD. Tuna was a much beloved friend. He smoked a disgusting pipe that left an unbearable pong in my car for days. He cursed like a whole ship of demented drunken copped-up-for-too-long sailors ALL THE TIME, occasionally creating new expressions that are still in use. We once had a meeting at the House of Timor-Lorosae and someone’s mother was present. Ladies in the room caused him to abstain from swearing but it was a Herculean task. He started fidgeting. And sweating. He looked... diminished. There we all sat and he was talking. He really became excited about what he was saying and ended the sentence with “and that’s why we really must support this bloody shit - a thousand apologies, my dear madam.” His way was unique and quite often unorthodox. He looked adorable when he had his beard trimmed and wore a lovely blue button-up shirt. He died on a pavement while I was in Israel when his heart rebelled against all that weight. I was mad about him. We all were.

So, Zé Manel-like, he decided to hold a session in honour of Aris*ides de Sou*a Men*es [sorry, am trying to avoid Portie searches, missing letters: T, S, D] in that restaurant. It’s a very Portie thing to do, restaurants. We sit, people sloooooooooowly arrive (Porties are NOT known for being punctual, sadly), we eat, we talk for hours, the sun rises. António de Monforte, ASM’s grandson was there (the family lives now all over the world since ASM was brutally kicked out of the country). Zé Manel gave him an engraved plaque in honour of his grandfather and said some words. António de Monforte accepted it and said some words. He was visibly moved. I was too. Much like yesterday, I was biting my bottom lip to stop me from crying (usually works). After a while he had to leave and I ran after him. I told him his grandfather was one of my heroes, one of those people I would most certainly have to meet if we could travel in time. I thanked him because I could not thank his granddad. I told him it had nothing to do with my Jewish connection. It doesn’t, for the most part. It mostly has to do with the fact that I am so proud to call him ours. I am in awe of such people, people who risk everything they have, their families, their lives to do what is right, what should be immediate and so often isn’t. I believe they are winged, like dragons. In the end we both cried a bit but it wasn’t soppy. It was grateful. For me, because I could say to his grandson some of what I’d love to say to him. For him, because his granddad had suffered very much, and the whole family with him, and their lives had been irrevocably changed so he could do what needed to be done and it was still worth it, we knew, we KNEW, someone will always know. ASM may be dead but he is not unsung nor will he ever be. [UPDATE: see another reason why.]

I miss those I love today, even those I've never met. I miss their greatness so much.


From the Yad Vashem site:

June 2000 marked the 60th anniversary of a massive rescue operation which took place in Bordeaux, France, and was orchestrated by ASM. He was born in 1895 into an aristocratic Portuguese family. His father was a Supreme Court judge. A. chose for himself a diplomatic career. After filling posts in various capitals (the United States and Europe), he became the Portuguese consul-general in Bordeaux, France. In May 1940, with the onset of the German invasion of France and the Low countries, thousands of refugees headed for Bordeaux, hoping to cross into Spain, in advance of the conquering German army. Included among the many who feared the wrath of the Nazis because of previous anti-Nazi political stances, were to be counted thousands of Jews who hoped to transit via Spain and Portugal, in the hope of reaching a safe haven across the seas, far from the Germans and their pronounced antisemitic policies. At this critical juncture, the Portuguese government, headed by dictator Antonio Salazar (who also filled in as Foreign Minister), forbade the issuance of Portuguese transit visas to all refugees, and particularly to Jews. This virtually also closed the Spanish border to the refugees. Against the grim background of France on the verge of collapse, and with the Germans within striking distance of Bordeaux, in mid-June 1940, Consul-General Mendes came face-to-face with the fleeing Jews, who pressured him to urgently issue them Portuguese transit visas. Rabbi Haim Kruger, one of the refugees, told Mendes: “If we should be trapped here, I don’t know what will happen to us.” The rabbi rejected Mendes’ initial offer to issue visas only to the rabbi and his family, insisting that visas also be issued to the thousands of Jews stranded on the streets of the city. After further reflection, Mendes reversed himself and decided to grant visas to all persons requesting it. “I sat with him a full day without food and sleep and helped him stamp thousands of passports with Portuguese visas,” Rabbi Kruger relates. To his staff, Mendes explained: “My government has denied all applications for visas to any refugees. But I cannot allow these people to die. Many are Jews and our constitution says that the religion, or politics, of a foreigner shall not be used to deny him refuge in Portugal. I have decided to follow this principle. I am going to issue a visa to anyone who asks for it – regardless of whether or not he can pay... Even if I am dismissed, I can only act as a Christian, as my conscience tells me.” It was an unseemly sight as people of all ages, including pregnant women and sick persons, waited in line to have their passports stamped with the Portuguese visa. The reaction of the Portuguese government was not long in waiting. Two emissaries were dispatched to accompany home the insubordinate diplomat. On their way to the Spanish border, the entourage stopped at the Portuguese consulate in Bayonne. Here too, Mendes, still the official representative of his country for this region, issued visas to fleeing Jewish refugees, again in violation of instructions from Lisbon. It is estimated that the number of visas issued by Mendes runs into the thousands. To his aides, he stated: “My desire is to be with God against man, rather than with man against God.”

Upon his return to Portugal, Mendes was summarily dismissed from the diplomatic services and a disciplinary board also ordered the suspension of all retirement and severance benefits. He countered with appeals to the government, the Supreme Court and the National Assembly for a new hearing of his case – but to no avail. Bereft of any income, and with a family of 13 children to feed, Mendes was forced to sell his estate in Ca*anas de Viria*o [B, T]. When he died in 1954, he had been reduced to poverty. Two of his children were helped by the Jewish welfare organization Hias to relocate to the United States. In 1966, he was posthumously awarded the title of “Righteous Among the Nations,” by Yad Vashem, and a tree planted in his name in the Avenue of the Righteous. In 1987, President Mario Soares of Portugal awarded Mendes the Order of Liberty, and publicly apologized to his family for the injustice against the man perpetrated by the previous government. Finally, in March 1988, ASM was official restored to the diplomatic corps by unanimous vote in the Portuguese National Assembly. Recently, the Portuguese government decided to create a memorial and learning center in the name of Mendes, and ordered damages to be paid to his family. In 1988, Mendes was awarded the Israeli commemorative citizenship, and in 1998, his name and picture appeared, together with other diplomats recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous, on a special stamp issued by the Israel Philatelic service.

After his dismissal, Mendes reportedly told Rabbi Kruger (whom he met again in Lisbon): “If thousands of Jews can suffer because of one Catholic (i.e., Hitler), then surely it is permitted for one Catholic to suffer for so many Jews.” He added: “I could not have acted otherwise, and I therefore accept all that has befallen me with love.”

Copyright ©2004 Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Son of Bear indeed

I went to a talk about kashrut this evening. The rabbi wasn’t ours, he was some important and knowledgeable Kashrut man. I want to tell you the story he told us. I won’t tell you his name bcs I do not want to facilitate google-search-invites unnecessarily. Come-outed I may be, stupid I am not. Hebrew speakers will know, though.

He is of Portuguese descent. His father spoke fluent Portuguese. One day, in some European city, his father stepped outside the synagogue and heard a couple speaking Portuguese. He started talking to them and found out they were Brazilian. He then told them he spoke the language because his mother came from Porto (Oporto in English but the extra “o” annoys me bcs IT’S NOT IRISH IS IT so Porto it is). The lady was very interested and asked what the mother’s maiden name was and he answered B-D. The lady almost fainted and they had to rush her to a place where she could sit down for a while.

This was her explanation: just before dying her father had told her again “Remember, if you ever meet someone from the Porto’s B-D family, KNOW that everything we did, our lives, your life, your children’s lives and their descendents' will forever be intertwined because we owe ours to a B-D.”

This is their story: Second World War. Dictatorship in Portugal. Portugal was used as an escape route to South Africa, Brazil and other countries, and foreigners were allowed in the country only if they had relatives here.

[One day, one fine, clear, crisp, bright-eyed, sad and proud day I will tell you about Aristides Sousa Mendes, Our Consul, a righteous in his own right, a true tzadik, who was made to suffer and die in exile and poverty bcs of it but whose pine tree stands tall in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, and how my friend Lilah, the Israeli soldier kid, and I sat in front of it while she played pioneer songs for him on her flute. Some other fine, clear, crisp, bright-eyed, sad and proud day I will tell you about the Children’s Memorial there, the most moving and horrifying monument I am likely to see in my life, and how I am compelled to visit it every time I’m in Jerusalem even though every time I leave bearing the weight of those souls and am certain I will never ever smile again.]

The Jewish community was flooded with desperate requests from Jews all over Europe for said invitations. They wrote “If you don’t invite us we will be taken and do not know where to or what will happen to us.” We do.
Auschwitz-Birkenau. Maly Trostenets. Majdanek. Janówska. Chelmno. Sobibór. Treblinka. Warsaw. And these are only the extermination ones.

The Jewish community sent hundreds of invitations and hundreds came. The lady’s mother arrived with the two very young daughters first, the father was to join them later. They stayed with the rabbi’s grandfather's family. For weeks they waited for the husband to arrive. There was no way to contact him. All they could do was wait. So they did, they waited. And waited. And waited. The husband didn’t come, the visa for the four of them was almost expired, there was one last ship leaving (for Brazil) before the expiry date, the woman had no choice but to leave with the two little girls. The ship sailed. Thirty minutes later the husband arrived at the harbour and the rabbi’s grandfather was beyond himself with anger and pity and frustration and simply could not accept it had all gone so terribly wrong.

He found a speedboat.

He chased after the big ship, far into the open water.

He caught up with it.

He got the man on board.


They never heard from each other again, until the day a Portuguese-speaking man stepped out into the street and overheard a woman speaking his parents’ language.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Fabulous categories or My pride hurts

OK, I now have categories.

I'd be even more thrilled IF THE BLOODY LINKS WERE ALL WORKING!!!! Argh. I've checked the posts and the template and everything seems fine so I don't know. I'll look into it later. I'm fed up with HTML. Me, saying that!

So I'll now smoke a fag and hit the road to bed - and it's 22.00, who knew?


Categories are working and always have been. The problem was, when I clicked on some links i did get that error message but it wasn't from my poor coding abilities. It was Blogger. AGAIN.


I WILL get round to writing a post about how to do it so you lot can exhaust yourselves redecorating. Think of me as a
Trinny and Susannah wannabe (rather true actually, I absolutely ADORE them!). Some of the links in the categories are indeed grey instead of blue and when you click on them, what do you know, ERROR 90210!!! Anyway, my MOST heartfelt thanks to Dany who couldn't be bothered to tell me he knew how to do it but thank you Universe (er, and DM) for MSN, through which I managed to find out HE IS AN HTML EXPERT. He could then explain it to me in V.E.R.Y. S.I.M.P.LE. terms and thus beauty was created.

So you can fully appreciate how this HTML journey of mine is a careful and well-balanced mix of genius (yeah yeah yeah) and ignorance, this is what I remember from a particular stretch of conversation in summed-up mode [this was after I'd managed to eradicate the permalink that updates Previous Posts automatically and ended up doomed to for ever *shudder* MANUALLY UPDATE!][ note to self:WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???] [I imagine something along the lines of "This tiny isolated tag has no place here really, who'd ever miss it"] [ego-sprain] [I could actually cry NOW] [but I will wait till you have read the next bit and spare some salt]:

L: So I don't know how to find out if I did delete it bcs I don't even know what I should be looking for! Argh!
D:I can help you with that.
L: You can?
D: Sure, I used to work in that field. I can tell you what the tag looks like and help you with the categories.

[Fast-forward the insults, I'm trying to keep this as neshemah-friendly as possible][oh, and failing miserably] [but I suppose you can READ so you don't need me to tell you THAT do you]

D: Do you think it is at all possible that you may have deleted the tag? [Note how sensitively phrased]
L: YES!!!
D: Ok, I'll tell you what to look for.
L: Thank you!
D: brb
L: brb???
L: Just like that?
L: Doesn't look much like a tag but what do I know.
L: Oh.


Monday, October 25, 2004

Weekly Pro Bono

I've had a new idea: to sponsor a new blog every week, starting last Sunday. We are now hosting the Survival Guide to Homelessness.

If you've found interesting blogs, send me an email, go on. This could be fun.

(Oh oh and maybe we could even have an Award at the end of 3 months! And we could all dress up like grown-ups and go have dinner in some really brilliant place like Domino's, and maybe if you asked your parents really nicely they'd let you sleep over and all that and we could have a hen party! I'd invite the boys too but Mummy wouldn't much care for that so sorry. But she'll let us stay up till one!!!)

"It's like a random mammal generator!"


If you click on my profile picture, the one that shows ME, you'll be able to see MY DOG. In Noorster's words again: "What happens if you click on the dog? Ta-da!!! A whale!"


I love Blogger VERY MUCH today.

So sexy it hurts

Template: *singing* *Off-key* I’m too sexy for my blog, too sexy for my blog, blog’s going to leave me!
Me: Stop it! Is there something you want to tell me? Go on then.
Template: As a matter of fact, there is!
Me: Yes?
Template: *preens*
Me: Well, are you going to tell me?
Template: Ah, you see… *Bursts into VERY loud singing AGAIN* I'm a model you know what I mean and I do my little turn on the catwalk, yeah on the catwalk, on the catwalk ye -
Me: Stop that! No I DON’T see, tell me what it is you want!
Template: This is disgraceful.
Me: What is?
Template: This *gestures vaguely around*, this is… so squallid.
Me: Template, you are trying my patience, WHAT is squallid?
Template: My surroundings. And here I look so fabulous! Simply mahvellous!
Me: Your surroundings??? You ARE your surroundings you twit!
Template: *sulking* You KNOW perfectly well what I mean!
Me: I DO NOT!!! Now tell me and stop this nonsense.
Template: You don’t seem to care really.
Me: ?
Template: *stamps foot* You don’t, you don’t, if you did you’d have tried harder at making me prettier so there! *crosses arms and pouts*
Me: I have been looking at countless codes, I have been working on this thing - YOU! - for hours and hours! It’s almost 4 am! And you DID say you looked fabulous so what schizoid conversation is this we're having?
Template: Well… *whiny voice* I don’t have any categories! I STILL don’t have any categories! You promised to get me some, YOU PROMISED!
Me: *deep sigh* I did, didn’t I. Sorry about that but I can’t seem to figure it out.
Template: I’ll say! And it’s very hard, I’m sure…
Me: It is rather hard you ungrateful blue imbecile, why don’t you try it yourself!
Template: All I know is you promised! I’d have all my animal posts grouped together, and everything about the Middle East (especially Israel, oh I so like Israel!), and those silly political rants you insist upon for no good reason and oh and the kibbutz stories - though THERE AREN'T ANY ARE THERE, weren’t you supposed to be working on those? Why haven't you written any yet? *wailing* See, I knew you didn’t love me! You’ve never cared for me AND I'M SO DELICATE! YOU’VE NEVER CARED FOR -
Template: *speechless shock*
Me: Now that you’ve calmed down a bit -
Template: *disbelieving* You… You… You SLAPPED me!!!
Me: Prescribed action for hysteria onset, I had to really.
Template: But you slap-
Me: QUIET! Now, I did try but AS I SAID I can’t quite see how to do this permalinking, if that's what I need, so I am in a bit of a bind.
Template: Then I’ll do it!
Me: ...You?
Template: YES, ME! I’ll ask the people! Surely someone out there knows how to create those cute categories - frankly, I’m appalled that you spend so much time in front of your computer…
Me: I’m warning you…
Template: … and still you DON’T KNOW A DAMN THING DO YOU!!!
Me: THAT’S ENOUGH you horrible little thing! If you go on like this you’ll go back to being white and borin- template? Template? Oh bloody hell!

- 10 min later -

Template: *Moans* Ohhhh… Where am I? What happened? Why can’t I talk?
Me: You’re intubated, you collapsed and stopped breathing. Some vagal something or other.
Template: I did? Of course I did, I TOLD you I was delicate! Hey - why can you still hear me? It's a miracle!!
Me: I'll say. I was wondering about such blessings myself but I think I know why.
Template: So tell me!
Me: You see, my Great-grandfather once found a sealed ivory box with runic inscriptions and opened it. He had the inscriptions translated. They read ”He who disturbs my sleep shall forever be accursed but more so his Great-granddaughter who shall be made to suffer at the hands of a git of monumental proprort-”
Template: HEY HEY HEY! No need to be rude is there.
Me: Wasn’t there something you wanted to say?
Template: I’m afraid of you now - and you always talking abt Amnesty International and Human Rights blablabla and common decency when dealing with others blablabla so what am I, A LOG??
Me: Uhm. Yes actually. That is PRECISELY what you are.
Template: Oh. OH.
Me: You do see. So hurry up now, some of us have classes in the morning.
Template: Alright: HELP! I need help! She doesn’t know what she’s doing, I need Internal Affairs! I’m perfectly disorganised and I can’t can’t bear to be disorganised, I’m too sexy for this bl - OUCH! You bloody cow, that's going to BRUISE!

*Curtain falls*

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Former FBI agent on Bush, Iraque, Brazil, the Falklands

The Portuguese newspaper Expresso published today an interview with Carlos Alberto Costa, a Portuguese with North-American nationality who worked with the FBI for 22 years. He defines himself as a conservative, following in the footsteps of Nixon and Reagan. I won't have this particular interview until tomorrow, when I'll translate it and post it, but I'll leave you with these declarations by CAC to Carta Capital (the whole interview is very much worth reading, he discusses things like the aborted radioactive bombing in Washington 2 years ago):

[Costa] Currently, the United States is increasingly becoming more isolated from the international community. Since last October the world is investing less in the United States than it used to. It is with foreign investments that the United States, the greatest debtor in the world, pays its debt. If U.S. policy continues this way, the credibility in the dollar will disappear. The U.S. foreign debt is not worrisome to the rest of the world because it is secured in the investors' faith and total credibility in the U.S. Government; that is, in its good reputation and in its economic and political stability. Such faith means confidence in a belief that is not based on evidence or facts. Nowadays, there is increasingly less faith and trust in my country's administration.
[Fernandes] Why?
[Costa] With the excuse of seeking weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration trampled on the United Nations, demoralized it -- at least then -- and acted unilaterally.
[Fernandes] Did you have access to classified documents on Iraq? Were there secret reports confirming the existence of arsenals of weapons of mass destruction?
[Costa] Until I left the FBI in October, I was one of 45 FBI chiefs in the world working outside US borders. In my position I had access to top-level, Secret, Top Secret [preceding three words in English] documents, to each and every secret document that was made, including by the CIA. I here state that I have never read a secret document indicating the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. On the contrary, what I read during my four years in Brazil, and even in Washington, were reports stating the opposite. Many times I discussed this with FBI and CIA colleagues from different parts of the world and we agreed that the Bush and Blair administrations were only looking for a justification to invade Iraq. They fabricated information for the press, saying the contrary of what we all asserted, and that demoralized our intelligence community. Of course there are also people at the top of the intelligence services who are always more interested in their careers than in facts, and these people rearrange the facts the way the Bush administration wants.
[Fernandes] Can you give a personal example?
[Costa]I have often had great disputes over my intelligence reports because Washington wanted me to adapt facts to its paranoid needs... The problem is that Mr. Bush has not the least understanding of the world, and not even of his own country. Such arrogance will isolate the United States...
[Fernandes] From the rest of the world...
[Costa] The world is about to see that its faith and credibility in the US Government is simply a belief in a hesitating, arrogant, and paranoid administration. Do not forget that in other times it was us, the United States, all of us from these services, that at some moment or circumstance armed Noriega in Panama, supported the Contras in Nicaragua, were present in Chile during the Allende administration, and in the whole of Latin and Central America as well as in Asia...
[Fernandes] Always as a government policy...
[Costa] As a government policy; just as it was us and all our services who trained and gave support to Bin Ladin. Well, that is something we already know, you can say. OK, but who is speaking here now is someone with the authority of having worked for 22 years in the FBI and having commanded an international industrial spy and counter-intelligence section in Washington.
[Fernandes] You trained and armed Bin Ladin when he...
[Costa] While he combated the Soviets in Afghanistan. We supported Saddam Husayn so that he could restrain the ayatollahs in Iran, we gave him chemical weapons...
[Fernandes] When and how did you give him chemical weapons?
[Costa] For example, we supplied him with the anthrax, as well as other chemical weapons that we recently announced -- deceitfully -- we would go to look for now.
[Fernandes] Did you directly provide him with the means to produce anthrax?
[Costa] We gave him the technique and assistance.
[Fernandes] Who did that? At what time?
[Costa] Donald Rumsfeld, current U.S. Secretary of Defense, when he was a special emissary of President Ronald Reagan; at the beginning of the eighties, during the Iran-Iraq War, in which more than 1 million people died on both sides. We did not maintain diplomatic relations with Iraq, as it was considered a country that supported international terrorism and was on the State Department's list of excluded countries. Nevertheless, the United States removed Iraq from that list in 1982, and on 20 December 1983 the same Rumsfeld of today met with Saddam Husayn in Baghdad. He befriended Saddam and gave him all the U.S. political and military support...
[Fernandes] What do you mean by "all" support?
[Costa] As I said, we gave him the technology for some of the weapons we were looking for during the war, but not only that. The White House and the State Department ordered the Export-Import Bank to finance the war for Iraq. This was well before the United States reestablished diplomatic relations with Iraq in 1984. Officially, our position was neutrality.
[Fernandes] Regarding neutrality, what was the real position of the United States, of its secret service, during the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom in 1982?
[Costa] We gave the English total intelligence support, especially through satellites. We took photographs, we learned the positions of the Argentine military, and we passed the information to the English. Simultaneously, we played with the Argentines. There was a doubt: If the English afterward decided to return the islands, which allegedly have oil beneath, to Argentina, we would want the Argentines to facilitate our access to them. We sold weapons to the Argentines, and even more: the British ships -- two destroyers, if I am not mistaken -- were sunk based on our satellite information, which provided the position of the British ships. The British were surprised. How is it that the Argentines found us? They found them because we supplied their position. Margaret Thatcher was in Washington at the time pressuring President Reagan. It was only then that we stopped passing information to the Argentines. We began to confuse them.
[Fernandes] It is known that things were that way in the real world, especially regarding great world powers, but this story...
[Costa] That is U.S. foreign policy. Those are the reasons why we currently do not enjoy peace. It is a country that has always been isolated by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans but now this has reached a peak situation. No one doubts that Saddam Husayn is a criminal, but our administration's hypocrisy is matchless. When Saddam used our chemical weapons and our money to commit those atrocities against the Kurds in the north and the minorities in the south, we ignored it and looked away. We even gave him support. Now we use that as an argument to justify war. But you cannot fool everyone all the time...
[Fernandes] What does that mean nowadays?
[Costa] The credibility and faith in the United States are no longer the same as -- for example -- in the European Union. The euro is stronger than the dollar, the Europeans are trying to invest in their own house. The dollar value is based on the faith and credibility of the US Government. What is the current scenario in the United States?
[Fernandes] Tell us.
[Costa] Clinton had achieved a $127.3 billion surplus. In three years Bush cut taxes, increased expenses, especially defense expenses, he cut social programs, and so far he has produced a $541 billion deficit. This deficit creates risks for the world. There is great truth in the adage that says: "When the United States sneezes, the rest of the world catches the flu." The dollar devaluation will at some point bring as a consequence a hike in interest rates.
[Fernandes] What will Bush's economic legacy be?
[Costa] To balance its external accounts, the United States needs a volume of foreign capital investment equivalent to its deficit, something like $1 billion per day of foreign capital investments. The United States can no longer live on its own production. At the same time, the international community is beginning to understand that it can do without the United States; but the United States cannot do without the rest of the world. In predatory fashion, the United States takes from as much as it can from the world economy. In order to maintain its hegemony and standard of living, the United States will very soon need to fight diplomatically and militarily. We are 4.5 percent of the world population and we consume 45-50 percent of the world's raw materials. We are the biggest consumers of oil, and we emit 19.7 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year, which is pollution. Brazil emits 1.8 tons of carbon dioxide per person. Do not be deceived regarding the United States; what matters are its interests.
[Fernandes] Are you secret agents fully aware of that?
[Costa] Obviously. But no country is going to fight for the interests of others. U.S. Government leaders do what is in their interests, and we came here to look after our interests. Period. The rest is rhetoric.

He was fired upon refusing to spy on the Muslim community alleging it was anti-constitutional. He further explains how the Brazilian Federal Police has been bought by the US years ago, how FBI spies such as himself move around freely, how they manipulate the press (one of their most important roles). He says he's taken precautions against coming down with "lethal flu". Good luck to him.

More to come soon.



  • See the sofa’s armrest from whence you are initiating those adorable take-off-at-any-minute motions?
  • See the table you are aiming for?
  • The table has a HIGH stack of magazines (In-Style) on it - you can see them quite clearly because they are EXACTLY on your wishful landing site.
  • Also, your beloved armrest is at least ONE FULL METRE away from the afore mentioned landing site.
  • Finally, DIRECTLY in between both and STARING YOU IN THE FACE is a floor lamp.


Cat, you have THREE LEGS ONLY and are SOLID. Don’t be daft.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Your very own Agony Aunt

I have joined Dany's blog at his instigation (read COERCION). He needed a feminine touch. I can now be found there as well (posts are the same ones you find here with one introductory exception but come over to say hallo anyway).
This means that if I don't post here for a while it's not bcs I'm busy with school or copy-editing, no. It's because I'm over there vacuuming, reorganising the furniture, putting up frilly Laura Ashley curtains and keeping the toilet lid down.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Dull, dull, dull, dull (except for the Quiet Foxes)

I'm holding an espresso cup that I (misteriously) found in my cupboard and it's now half-filled with passion fruit liqueur.
I took 2 sips and my hands are heavy typing this.
I think I'll be alright tonight.
(I also posted this thrice)
[NOTE TO SELF: do NOT EVER touch this shit again, Self, or I'll be forced to kick your sorry arse. You ALWAYS forget you get the hangover BEFORE you even go to sleep and I am fairly sure you DO NOT relish still being up at 1.36 nursing a BLOODY MIGRAINE that bizarrely settled ON TOP of your head. Next time STAY WAY FROM THE LIGHT.]
[UPDATE: when I wrote that note I had already taken 3/4 of a Numbom pill, which I dislike bcs I'm absolutely knackered the next day and my head and neck feel physically heavy and it's hard work to keep them vertical, head keeps tilting sideways. But it did work and I must have fallen asleep at around 2.30, which, let me tell you, is BLOODY BRILIANT! Should have skipped the BEVERAGE FROM HELL and gone straight for the pills. I woke up w/ alarm clock at 11.30 still migrained and nauseous but 2 Ibuprofen tablets and loads of green tea have turned it into a not so annoying headache (plus I'll live MUCH LONGER now). I think the migraine might also have been caused by MOST SEVERE COKE DEPRIVATION since I only had 2 yesterday, on purpose. None today. OH GOD!!! Before you know it, I'll have saved coke drinking for very special occasions and will have quit smoking as well - and will then be utterly viceless, how very BORING of me. I want to go back to sleep RIGHT NOW but will stay awake. It would help if the weather were not as grey and oppressive as it is.
If you really, REALLY read this, which is NO DOUBT the most APPALINGLY dull post in the world, you need to be rewarded for extreme loyalty or low intrigue threshold, or simply compensated for lack of own life. Allow me to share this BREATH-TAKING THING OF BEAUTY with you (this is THE one link you should click on, you WILL NOT REGRET IT, I promise.). Are you ready for the QUIET FOXES? No one ever is, I suppose. But I hope you will enjoy it.]

An almost CHICK post (oh and I'm getting drunk tonight)

I bought one KILLER black jacket, waist tucked in, amazing material, suede-like; one black shawl with tiny beaded fringes (bloody heavy but so adorable); a pair of dark blue jeans that make my butt ALL BUT DISAPPEAR, plim!, how user-friendly; and a lovely soft suede mokka-brown belt. I feel SO MUCH BETTER!!! What is it abt clothes and books that makes my endorphin levels SOAR? So lovely. I'm floating in an ocean of smileys.

I've decided I will not go the pill road tonight. I'm scared neither the Stilnox nor the Numbom I still had from my terrifying insomnia crisis in 2001 would take hold. And if they didn't there would MOST DEFINITELY be a fair amount of whining and tear-shedding done around the flat - and self-whining increases my testosterone levels dangerously and I'm not in the mood for Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown so it was a good thing I was reminded of this alternative by 2 people:


I never really drink. I don't much care for the taste of any alcoholic drink, with very few exceptions: the Martini Bianco that comes in a bottle; Asti champagne, VERY sweet; Caipirinha - very VERY weak and LOADS of sugar; Bailey's; Mon Cheri - you know, the chocolate thingies with the liquor cherry inside, I eat too many and my legs fail me. I SWEAR (if you knew me IRL you'd know how pathetically true this is, my friends mock me mercilessly but are oh so happy with the permanently designated driver, plus I'm very low maintenace, one sip and you get your very own lapdance) (trying to live up to this whole LIONESS business). This is also why I don't appreciate alcohol, bcs it gets to my body - forget the head - too fast and too exponentially. Even when something doesn't TASTE alcohol-y (V. this word is for you! ;D) I know it's there bcs my eyebrows ALWAYS feel funny. I can't explain it, it sounds silly but I always know. Plus - and this is SO VERY humiliating - I start lisping a bit. LISPING, I ask you! In all languages. In Hebrew it's made much worse bcs 1) my Hebrew ain't so brilliant anyway [insert mild sobbing session here, Wiggle, the Maladjusted has temporarily taken over]; 2) I already do this funny thing with the ש (shin, "SH" sound - VERY cute link!) for some reason, which I don't do in any other language where the sound also exists - which is EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!!! So I will now go to C. (if I can get Blogger to gracefully post this and not swallow whole paragraphs and get stuck) to buy something devilish to drink, and a barbequed chicken bcs I am NOT going to cook tonight, my angst is quite enough as it is without my having to add my terrible cooking to it (and here you thought I was so feminine, didn't you).

And this not-even-worthy-of-such-a-name drinking binge might (please please please!) be just the thing I need is to be able to fall asleep at a decent time one evening, wake up at 7 am the next day, repeat the process, BREAK THE CYCLE and I'll slowly leave the
Circles of Hell behind me.

On the other hand, if I BY ANY CHANCE end up making a lush spectacle of my very wasted self on the roof tonight,

Whack me on the head with a heavy object now SFFF

It's 8.13, morning, ugly, cold, rainy day and how was my night, you wonder. IT WASN'T. Amazingly, and against ALL medical expectations, I HAVEN'T FALLEN ASLEEP YET. Yesterday I took half a pill and fell asleep around 8 am. Woke up at 15 pm. Today I took a whole pill at around 23 pm and here I am. AWAKE. At 8.27. These pills are sleep-INDUCERS, thus called bcs they indeed INDUCE sleep. Apparently I'm not INDUCEABLE, my ferocious metabolism standing in the way of my mental health. My friend G, who is a Dr., will look into getting me an appointment for the Sleep Clinic. The time for drugs, at least these ones, has come and gone. And now I am a bit scared. My hands are shaky but yesterday they were worse, I've had these rampant insomnia crises before but whenever I eventually relented and took the pills my body responded to them and I did fall asleep in less than 10 min. And bcs I'm too tired to be able to think properly i'm sitting here contemplating a bizarre world where there is this slightest chance I MAY NEVER SLEEP AGAIN and I know there are reasons for it not to be necessarily so but I am TOO TIRED to remember them And I wish I could laugh bcs this is probably funny, I'm pretty much an adult now, I mean I am, that's what I am now - and I'm lying here curled up trying not to cry, bcs I want to, I really really want to, I can feel my lower lip trembling bcs I am so exhausted, I'm too old for this but I KNOW I'mn half pouting, and I feel so demented and desperate right now, I really fear I'll end up mad as a hatter, PLUS I LOOK LIKE SHIT, unfair, I should at least be allowed to waste away in beauty like those terribly taxing and fully unbearable heroins from authors I can't really remember right now and I just want to be able to fall asleep again, I need~an instant fairy tale ending, please. I need for someone, anyone, you, to come round, tuck me in, read me an absolutely magical bedtime story and make me fall asleep. ~JUST LIKE THAT. Instead I'll go buy books, in English, paperbacks, and clothes, because I'll try to keep busy, I'll try not to sleep this afternoon and who knows, maybe I'll get lucky, and I don't mean a SHAG- and if it is let it please please please let it be Morpheus or that freaking Sandman

Monday, October 18, 2004

Mafalda helps tidy up the room where the closet now stands semi-empty

Before I got my Anthropology degree, I had to defend my thesis. I'd written about Quino's
Mafalda, a comic book character who, along with her other friends and little brother, terrorises her parents with constant questions and general precociousness. She is very political, worries terribly abt the world, and must always know MORE and WHY. You'll no doubt be most shocked to hear that I've been faithfully re-reading her for 20 years now - and I ADORE the kid! [Though truth be told, I haven0t been able to since I wrote my thesis, abt a decade ago. I became over-saturated, hope it wears off soon.]

I wrote
abt her in self-defence. I'd gone to the kibbutz in 1995 to do fieldwork on the genesis of rumours and gossip - which positively flourish in such closed settings - but a cow had broken my wrist (I'll get to that story, promise, but need to scan some pics first), the volunteers' leader disliked me immensely and made my life miserable whenever possible [Oh, you wanted to go to the embassy to vote? You should have told me you wanted the day off! Whaaat, you did??? I'm sooorry, now it's too late.], and my laptop was being held hostage by customs who were busy ringing the kibbutz eminences daily to fully make sure I was kosher, and I couldn't use my arm nor did I have the time or the means (the delights of Israeli bus services and how it takes you 2 hours to travel to some place when the car would get you there in 15 min will come later too) to go to the library as I should, long story short for now, I found myself in 1996 back in Portugal with 2,5 months to go till I had to deliver a perfect thesis and nothing in the way of data to work from.

I did some rather furious thinking. I needed to write abt something I knew well already so forget abt anything involving fieldwork. My best chance was what we call the Closet-Under-the-Stairs Anthropology, the newly-emerging Anthropology that made place for the non-places. From the thesis' Introduction: Cartoons, minor gods for the longest time, have been fighting for a status that truly reflects their ever-incresasing importance.There is something sacred in heresy when its fervour is almost religious but, be that as it may, yesterday's heretics are slowly becoming fully-fledged members of the legitimised Order - and to me it seems as though Anthropology is one of the sciences better shaped to welcome them. I also wrote that Mafalda, the work, belongs to the restricted group of dwarves carried on the shoulders of giants. It does, it is a magnificent, endearing, insightful, piercing piece of work. And so I had a quick talk with my adviser (excuse me while I laugh hysterically at the use of the word "adviser" and its meaning), who agreed to it (more hysterical laughter) and off I went. I spent the next 2 months slaving away at it, writing the introduction, the content and the conclusion simultaneously, finishing books and updating till the very last moment, all the while battling a reluctant computer (this was 8 years ago) that wouldn't let me save the .doc as a whole, plus I'd managed to fly down the stairs, badly sprain my foot and be sofa-bound for 2 weeks AND my very first cat died the very day I finished typing the very last word of my very first thesis (I dedicated it to her. And to my parents. And Jerusalem).

Eventually it was finished and the discussion went well despite: 1) my absolute horror of all things oral (written words are my medium, I've been known to squeak upon opening my mouth during oral examinations - TWICE, and it was about ENGLISH BOOKS.) 2) the main arguer (?) having started it off by asking what I THOUGHT ABOUT Umberto Eco's sense of humour when I'd only put in a QUOTE from The Name of the Rose at the very beginning and it had no relevance whatsoever to the subject discussed, for fuck's sake! 3) Said arguer being obviously wasted out of his mind, sprawled on the table waving his arms about, smoking, and asking my male colleagues entering the room if they were my lovers IN ENGLISH (I kid you NOT, this story is still making the rounds). In fact, it went so well my grade was through the roof and the President of the Jury strongly urged me to get it published.

[Let me just get this off my chest: I met with my ultra-busy ADVISER exactly once, for exactly 10 min, to ask him whether I should use the term neothenia or paedomorphosis - both loosely meaning the retention of larvar/juvenile traits upon entering adulthood, as seen e.g. in Mickey Mouse today, all big eyes and round face and head 1/3 of the whole body. He said I should go on using neothenia, it didn't matter. I did, and, wouldn't you know it, got my head properly chewed off by the excentric Professor who, while taking a deep drag, berated me for my use of such an outdated term and I should have known to use paedomorphosis - and at that moment I looked at my adviser bcs he was going to say something, surely, and my adviser, who'd been kind enough to read the thesis for the first time only 3 days before, KEPT MUM. And for a long time after that I was still hearing how fabulous for me that he'd DEIGNED to be my adviser bcs it had SO, like, PAID OFF, such an outstanding classification was soooo, like, very typical of his advisees and one could JUST detect his finger EVERYWHERE. I've very much wanted to tell all of them exactly what it is THEY CAN DO with said finger. Oh wait, I'm being so unfair. He DID say during the discussion that I was brilliant, my thesis was brilliant, my Portuguese was brilliant, my writing was brilliant and I most certainly had the "breath of wording" (a respiração da escrita). THANK YOU SO MUCH. Alpha-male lauding does make my heart beat that much faster but IT DIDN'T HELP ME WRITE THE DAMN THING ONE BLOODY BIT, DID IT!]

yes, they wanted me to publish - and what do I do? Obviously, I recoil IN HORROR, isn't that what most people would do upon just having heard their university wants them to publish their thesis? What, everyone and their dog being able to read what I write??? Perfect strangers seizing my words??? People I know learning things abt me I may not want them to learn??? There's the indians with their soul-photographs, there's me and my texts. I BLED for that thesis, I POURED myself into it. Too bloody personal, that's what it was. So I successfully evaded that particular quicksand and managed to not get it published. Doesn't this make you want to weep?

I'll have to tell you this now, I recently re-read the thesis and it impressed the hell out of me. It truly WAS brilliant, he got that right. I could not believe it. I found myself wishing I had written it, in that funny schizoid way. I doubt that I could, today, produce such a work. I don't know that I could keep so many notions and anti-notions perched on my brain, and eventually be able to integrate them all and spawn something that made sense. I wrote some incredibly complicated sentences! I'll translate an excerpt so you'll be able to see what I am talking about:

Maffesoli makes use of two mythical characters to, in a dychotomy which is very dear to him, express two tendencies, opposite and complementary, which weave our daily lives. One, Promethean, is centripetal and tends to maintain, tends to a necessary neutralising of efervescences (...); the other, Dyonisian, centrifugal, finds those very efervescences to be the departure point to a new appropriation of existing realities and myths (...) Therefore, regarding Mafalda, the question may be posed in terms of formal content: that the anguish should be Dyonisian and the apparent chaos (such as we perceive it today) is accepted, thereby being transformed into an enriching and regenerating force; or Promethean, leading to the sinking of the characters in the primordial chaos, which did not represent disorder but rather the void, the limbo from which no thing or person was ever returned.

hell, isn't this scary? I've had to re-read some sentences twice to fully grasp whatever it was I was saying - mind you, I still don't know that I fully did.

Anyway, NOW WE ARRIVE TO MY POINT! (Lollipops to the survivors among you) My point is, my closet. My absolute need for reserve and privacy. My UEBER-NO-LONGER-HEALTHY need for reserve and privacy. I was talking to my friend G abt this the other day, and how much I dread this year bcs we'll have oral examinations and I HATE having to talk before people, my mind goes blank, my mouth goes dry, and she said the most amazing thing, which I found perfectly silly at the time - she said my having a blog which people read was bound to be therapeutical in that respect bcs it would help allay some of my fears of [over-]exposure.

Because it's true, on some level I AM uncomfortable with so many people finding this blog and reading it even though no one was ever anything but lovely and I DO SO appreciate having you here, and I would NEVER EVER wish to go back to not having met you lot, SERIOUSLY. But now that I know that there are people reading me for sure, I tend to be even more cautious when it comes to personal things. I even went back and set some old posts, the very first ones, written in English or with an English translation (bcs this is what I do, I write in a language and then MUST translate into the other one and am driven mad by my inability to convey the exact same meaning with the exact same rythm blablabla) to Draft bcs God forbid anyone should read them and realise that - BIG INTAKE OF BREATH, CLOSE YOUR EYES, JUMP, HERE WE GO!: I've had a perfectly normal life, I've loved and let go, I've taken chances and lost, I've had the ground taken from under my feet, I've had my breath taken away in gratitude.

There. And in bold too. The posts are up. Fully readable. And do you know, again, IT DID NOT KILL ME. There are many brave people on the internet. And I do I tend to go on and on abt the need to make our days count, to not look back and regret not having done, been, tried, dared - it was only fair that I, too, took the plunge. Besides, if you notice my profile, I DID want to be able to breathe underwater. Today seemed like a gorgeous day to start - and what better company could I hope for, my dahlings? You are part of what has made me braver.

Mafalda found at:, © Copyright 2004 - Tutti i diritti riservati; Group image found at:]

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Well done, Lioness, WELL DONE!

Remember this, and this, and this, and this as well?

It's 2.57 am
I am awake.
I debate whether I should.
I decide I MUST.
I go get a Stilnox.
I swallow it.
The shape feels vaguely funny.
I look at the box.
I realise I've swallowed a worming pill.

I may be a cursing insomniac,
But my inner beauty will ASTOUND you.