March 2008

Nine years ago, this month, self was in Tel Aviv.

It is painful to read her blog posts from that time because her sister-in-law, Ying, eventually died there. September 11, 2008.

She got back from Tel Aviv, and self believes it was that same month when she got called in to the Dean’s office at Foothill and he asked her why she flunked two particular men — whose grade she had to change to a C. Even though they did not turn in a single assignment. They actually told the Dean that self threw something at them. And he believed them. Cause self is so YUUUUGE! She’s so fiery!!!

And, only months after, self’s stint as the only Asian American teacher (adjunct) in the English Dept. at Foothill was over. Because she got charged with discriminating against those two men.

Can you imagine the irony? The minority woman being accused of discriminating? Against two men?

Way to go, Dean! Enter slow clap emoji here.

If you can believe that self would do that (throw something) at two men who are obviously bullies, you would have to be nuts!

Nobody, absolutely nobody, believed self when she denied throwing anything. So then began endless years of wondering whether she had forgotten this incident?

And then came to the conclusion that, since she’s never thrown anything at anyone in her entire life, she couldn’t actually have thrown anything.

Case went up the complaint lines, until — after months of terror and stress — self changed the students’ grade.

Sucks to be an adjunct. Self’s just saying.

She wishes she could remember those two students’ names. Because they will forever know that if they bully a female teacher, all they have to do is accuse her of blah-blah-blah. Raise that ugly word. And voila! Done! Teacher’s toast!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Hanoch Bartov: “A Familiar Face,” translated by Riva Rubin

Reading (in addition to the Daniel Mason novel The Piano Tuner) the anthology 50 Stories From Israel, edited by Zisi Stavi.

Self is very much taken by the tone of the story by Hanoch Bartov. Here’s how it begins:

  • A few days earlier, I had returned from landscapes and climates that were the opposite of this headlong pacing in the dazzle of a Tel Aviv summer. Perhaps that is why I did not remember that I had never been to Yarmous’ office, which is where I was going in connection with the arbitration — postponed until my return — concerning the spiritual and financial insult suffered by my friend, the writer. It was only when I reached the corner of Ibn Gabirol and the street I was walking towards with such dizzy energy that I realized that the number of the building — 29, 17, or 37 — had been wiped from my memory, and that I had left my diary in the car.

Love it, just love it.

Second Looks

A Church in Bethlehem (2008)

New York City Skyline (2006)

Backyard, Redwood City, California (2006)

Plan for the morrow:  watching Liam Neeson’s new movie, “The Grey” —  or, as Eric Snider puts it on his blog:  “Liam versus Lobo”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Saw “Biutiful,” Cried Buckets

See, it doesn’t work if Javier Bardem plays a hunk.  No!  He has to play a long-suffering sort, someone who is mystifyingly attached to a woman with an ugly nose, who mis-treats him in every possible way.  That is the Javier Bardem we all know and love!  (And, also, it helps to see him in a movie with sub-titles, as one can forget about his voice and simply focus on that physique; and those hooded eyes; and that shambling air.  And you, too, like self, can ask:  why why why does no woman around him seem to notice his hot-ness?  Well, that is what you call “suspension of disbelief.”  A really gigantic suspension of disbelief!)

Self is quite the Iñarritu newbie, as she can’t remember the last movie she’s seen him direct (might have been over a decade ago).  By the last half hour, though, self was simultaneously appalled and grieving, and she kept clutching her hair, and wiping her cheeks, and trying not to sob in such an obvious manner, which caused her to make audible gulps …  Woman seated next to self was also weeping, self could tell because of the way she kept making surreptitious movements with her hands across her cheeks.  As if self hasn’t seen this sort of behavior enacted hundreds of times in her long, long movie-going life!

Oh, Americans!  No use pretending our tear ducts are not getting a full work-out in this movie!

Self also thought she would faint when she saw the people on the ceiling.

Then, self was suddenly seized with a mad impulse to return to Tel Aviv, city of Dear Departed Ying’s last couple of months.  She was an angel, self saw her when she was five months from dying.  In April she still had energy and vitality.  But at the end of a long day, she waited for self with hungry eyes and listened avidly as self made up hilarious tales of her mis-adventures all around the city. (But self’s attachment to Tel Aviv, and to Ying, was no joke.  She loved the city from the start, from the first moment.  And she also loved Ying and still misses her terribly.  She said as much to Dearest Mum, on her last night in Manila, only a few weeks ago)

And in fact, as self left the theater — walking rather quickly, because there was a sign posted by the ticket clerk’s station saying that movie-goers should not park in the slots reserved for xxxx law firm, and that the tow warning was in effect 24/7 (Self wishes she had seen the warning before she parked, but of course that was impossible, as she would have had to go all the way inside the theater lobby before she saw it.  And after she saw the sign, she proceeded to watch the movie, thinking she might run out and check on her car from time to time.  But after the movie began, self didn’t feel like missing even a few minutes of this two-hour and forty-five minute weep-athon:  yes, even with the threat of having her car towed hanging like the Sword of Damocles over her head!) —  she began to formulate a wild plan.

Even before she’d arrived at her car, self had grabbed her cell phone and begun text-ing niece G:  “Want to come with me to Tel Aviv?”  Then she stopped.  Self, are you forgetting that you promised hubby, you crossed your heart and said you hoped to die, but you would only leave the country one more time this year, and that wouldn’t be until a long time from now, possibly just before Christmas?  Since when have you turned into such a dissembler ??!!

And by the way, what makes you think niece G would enjoy going to Tel Aviv with you ???  As opposed to someone her own age, with loads more energy?

After self arrived home, she blithely informed hubby (She was so blithe, when only a short while earlier, anyone looking at her would have thought she was in the depths of despair) that he was “lucky” he hadn’t accompanied her to see the movie:  it was “so depressing,” Javier Bardem’s character had cancer, etc etc etc.

Which brings self once again to the topic of Javier Bardem’s appeal:  In “The Sea Inside,” he played a man who was completely paralyzed, but whose inner life was absolutely rich and compelling.  This was a movie that really mined, to the fullest extent possible, the contrast between Bardem’s hunky inert body and the true hunkiness of his inner spirit, and, and —

The phone rings and —  my Lord!  It is son!  It’s been so long, self almost forgot what his voice sounded like!

Her first question:  When is Amanda’s birthday?

March 26, he says.  Great!  Thankfully, it is ahead and not before, and self already knows just what to get Amanda:  In fact, she saw it just yesterday afternoon, in the Emily Joubert store in Woodside.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reuven Rubin’s “The Pinwheel Vendor”

Hubby is switching back and forth between ESPN and a station showing execrable “Troy.”  It is amazing how many good actors there were in this movie  —   Brad Pitt; Eric Bana; Diane Kruger; Orlando Bloom; Saffron Burrows; the-man-who-plays-the-evil-Director-of-Spy-Operations in the Bourne movies  —   and how lacking in spirit it is.  Compared to “Gladiator” or even “300,” this movie is so, so  —   limp.

But, once again, self has succumbed to a digression.  What she really wants to post about is the aforementioned painter, Reuven Rubin, whose house (converted into a museum), self visited last year in Tel Aviv.

When self left Tel Aviv, she bitterly regretted not having bought a book called Reuven Rubin:  Dreamland, in the gift shop of the Rubin Museum.  At the time, she thought it was too expensive.  But later, when Dearest Mum went back to Tel Aviv to be with Ying, self asked Dearest Mum if she could go to the Museum and get the book (How very sneaky of you, self!  You of course figured that Dearest Mum had more money than you!)  And, in all fairness, though those days after Ying’s passing were very very hard, Dearest Mum did find her way to Bialik Street, she did get to the Rubin Museum, and she did buy self this book.  Which self is looking at this very evening.

For weeks and weeks leading up to September 11, self has been thinking of Ying and Tel Aviv —  yes, even when she is being at her silliest.  How self hates to give in to even the slightest hint of maudlin emotion!  So she only wrote one post about the day, which was also Ying’s birthday and was also the day she passed away, last year.

But tonight, a week after that awful anniversary, self feels calm.  And so she turns to the Rubin book, which is so beautiful.  Each color plate has an accompanying analysis.  Here’s the one for a painting called “The Pinwheel Vendor,” painted in 1923:

An Arab of Sudanese descent sits facing the sea while a Jewish pioneer stands beside him.  The Sudanese man’s pose, his elevated chin and the fixed gaze focused on a faraway point on the horizon create the sense of a character operating within the dimensions of “inexhaustible time”  —  time which is not measured in the units of “here and now” but by means of an hourglass in which the sand grains do not run out.  The Sudanese man has so much time that he does not even bother to blow at his pinwheels.  Sooner or later, the wind will come.  If not sooner, then later.  And if not later, then after later.  The pioneer at his side stands barefoot like the natives and carries a hoe —  a symbol of Zionist activism  —  on his shoulder, his back turned to the sea.  The Sudanese man looks as if he could keep crouching on his heels for a long time.  He is in no hurry, and patience is the trait ensuring his survival.  He operates in another temporal sphere.  By contrast, the “New Jew” —  bearded and wearing a European hat  —  is full of movement and impetuosity.  He has no time, and must begin his task.

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