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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 10, 2014 / 12 Tammuz, 5774

The office

By Paul Greenberg




JewishWorldReview.com | The scene would be familiar to those of us of a certain age: a gray sea of metal desks at which clerks sit from 9 to 5 clacking away at typewriters or old-fashioned adding machines, making carbon copies (remember them?) of letters or records that no one may ever look at, or recording rows of figures to be filed away.

If it were a landscape, such an office could be entitled the Sea of Futility, a place Charlie Chaplin anticipated in "Modern Times" back in the Depression year 1936, only without the hectic pace he was so good at transmitting on the screen.

But nothing so fast and dramatic could happen at this kind of corporate shrine to ennui. The typical office in those days was Franz Kafka without either the art or mystery. Surely it's no coincidence that Kafka's day job was that of actuary in a state bureaucracy.

To appreciate or rather apprehend the dismal quality of that kind of modern office, all it takes is a scene or two from a latter-day movie like "The Apartment" (1960), in which an innocent schnook -- lovable Jack Lemmon -- is exploited by the office jerk, played by Fred MacMurray.

Every office seems to have one: the villainous climber to whom the little people out there are just furniture to rearrange from time to time.

In another but similar movie, "Office Space" (1999), one of the characters captures the wisp of despair that seemed to hover over such places. "We don't have a lot of time on this earth," he says. "We weren't meant to spend it this way."

Lining this Bay of Boredom in the 1960s were private offices for those slightly higher in the pecking order, the kind of offices with doors that could actually be shut -- and which afforded a minimal privacy where middle managers could study their spread sheets when they weren't giving full attention to office politics. Those offices were coveted, and there's no telling how much ingenuity was expended in conniving to get one.

All that changed, or at least took on a different configuration, as the Sixties melded into the Seventies, and Robert Propst came along to redesign the office. A talented designer with Herman Miller, the office furniture company, he called the American office of his time a wasteland that "saps vitality, blocks talent, frustrates accomplishment. It is the daily scene of unfulfilled intentions and failed effort." And of Thoreau's lives of quiet desperation that he said most of us live. Robert Propst's diagnosis was all too accurate.

What to do? Mr. Propst had the answer, or thought he did. Just change the design of the office! For what are we but the products of our built environment? Change our offices, change ourselves. Make the office more human and we would all be human again. Voilą!

So was born the concept and reality that would change the office world, and become the most dreaded word in the American lexicon, Cubicle.

That's a lot of weight for a single word, and idea, to bear. Especially when the cubicle was so simple an innovation: just a three-sided, open-ended box that was supposed to assure privacy and at the same time invite cooperation ("meaningful traffic"). What's more, the sides of the box could be moved around to fit the status of its occupant at the time, small or great, little cog-in-the-wheel or big cheese, as he -- or she -- rose or fell in the corporate structure. For a personal touch, the only thing needed was a family photograph or two, a few unread books, and maybe a fern.

No wonder Action Office II, introduced in 1968, was born to rave reviews. Eureka! By 1985 the World Design Conference hailed the cubicle as the most successful design of the past quarter-century. By 1998, an estimated 40 million of us worker bees were busy in 42 different variations of Action Office II. I worked in one at the late once great Chicago Daily News for an excruciating year.



When interviewed for a job at Time magazine by one of its top editors in the 1960s, I couldn't help but notice that his spacious office was just a cubicle writ large. Its walls could be expanded to suit an executive's rise--or constricted as he fell in the corporate table of organization.

We spent most of the interview talking about J.D. Salinger and John Updike, who were all the rage at time. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" remains a kind of underground bible for young people who think they're the first generation to discover that their elders are a bunch of phonies.

By the time Time came through with a job offer, I was already headed back South in not so quiet desperation. It was no surprise to learn years later that the exec at Time, a nice enough fellow of no particular talent, had been squeezed out. The walls had literally closed around him. The cubicle had claimed another of its own.

As for the father of the cubicle, Robert Propst was too intelligent a designer not to recognize that his wonderful design had turned out to be not so wonderful after all.

"The dark side of this," he commented a couple of years before his death in 2000, "is that not all organizations are intelligent and progressive. Lots are run by crass people who can take the same kind of equipment and create hellholes. They make little bitty cubicles and stuff people in them. Barren, rathole places ... I never had any illusions that this was a perfect world." Any more than his famous/infamous design was perfect.

The fault, it seems, lies not in our office design but in ourselves that we are underlings. In the end, we must rely not on our furniture but on our own code, if we still have one, to stay human. And the surest guide through the modern malaise of the office remains an old, simple one called manners.

"Be nice," as Ma used to say, "and they will be nice to you." Being an immigrant to this country, she may have had a romanticized view of America, having escaped Europe still early in its most terrible century. Yet her advice remains valid. Being nice may not change others' behavior, but it elevates one's own. Which is the important thing, for it's the one outcome we may have some control over. So love your enemies. In addition to its therapeutic benefits, it offers another great advantage: It drives 'em nuts.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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