Sunday, December 31, 2006

the last post of the year

german graffiti
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
neither philosophy nor reams of resolutions.

in the words of e.t., and my teacher, rabbi dr. a. stanley dreyfus:


wishing you all a healthy and fulfilling 2007
- the ravaj.

goodbyes in 2006

who of us will remember these women?

Marie Tharp, oceanographer.
Anna Politkovskaya, journalist.
Martha Holmes, photographer.
Ernestine Bayer, oarswoman.
Patty Berg, golfer.
Susan Butcher, iditarod champion.
Marion Mingins, priest.
Denice Denton, professor of electrical engineering
Anna Lee Aldred, professional jockey
Louise Smith, race car driver

or these women we thought we knew a little better?

Wendy Wasserstein
Betty Friedan
June Allyson
Jeanne Kirkpatrick
Betty Comden
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Jay Presson Allen
Moira Shearer
Octavia Butler
Shelley Winters
Katherine Dunham
Muriel Spark

may all those we have loved rest in peace, and may we be blessed by our memories of them

Thursday, December 28, 2006

the 'sky torah'

can't believe i missed it - the party at jfk to welcome the first ever torah that will travel the sky. unfortunately, i was just finishing a therapy session and was far too vulnerable and too far away. here is one version of the pr release:

" Israir Airlines Introduces the 'Sky-Torah'

First Ever Torah Scroll to Fly the Skies - Grand Welcome Parade and Celebration at JFK

VALLEY STREAM, N.Y., Dec. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Israir Airlines will soon become the first airline to maintain an authentic Torah Scroll on board its aircraft. The "Sky-Torah," handwritten according to Jewish custom by a professional Jewish Scribe especially for the airline, is the first of its kind. The Torah will enhance the prayers of those who are in the skies, praying in the closest place to God in the world. Keeping a traditional Torah Scroll*, on an aircraft is the idea of Rabbi Shlomo Elharar, Chief Rabbi of Colombia, South America. After years of hard work towards this dream, the Torah is finally ready to be installed permanently on board one of Israir's aircrafts.

The Torah will be completed December 27 in Aventura, Florida, and will be escorted to JFK Airport in New York for a welcome celebration, and then to Israel. The Torah will be welcomed on its way to Israel with a grand celebration in JFK Airport, Terminal 4, December 28, 12:00 pm. The Torah will be carried under a traditional "chuppah," with singing, dancing, live music, children and important Rabbis and dignitaries in attendance. The Torah is dedicated to the Chief Rabbi of Colombia and to the fallen soldiers of Israel, and those still in captivity."

why have a scroll on a plane? yahoo says:

"The Torah will be housed in a compartment on the plane and will be accessible through a flight attendant."

do you think people are going to read from it? i'd be interested to see hakkafah, hagba and glilah at 35,000 feet :-)

picky panda eating habits

i know it is a lot of detail, but i happen to find it fascinating. i never realised that pandas were such purists. mind you, when i fed the ones in london zoo (20 years ago) they enjoyed a bit of blackcurrant jam on their bamboo :-)

By DORIE TURNER, Associated Press Writer Thu Dec 28, 6:36 PM ET
FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. - If you think kids are picky, try feeding a giant panda.

It takes four full-time bamboo hunters at Zoo Atlanta to satisfy the palates of the zoo's panda pair, Lun Lun and Yang Yang. And they are not always successful. The animals' diet consists almost entirely of bamboo, but they will eat only about 20 of the 200 or so species that grow in Georgia. What type they like also varies by the time of year. Sometimes the pandas will eat nothing but one variety for a week, then refuse to eat it anymore. (Sound familiar, parents?) And the bamboo has to be fresh — the pandas turn up their noses at dry or wilted leaves and discolored stalks.

So the zoo relies on a bamboo hunting team to find and harvest local patches of the plant. The bamboo they collect cannot be grown with pesticides or near polluted waterways. And most important, it must be appetizing to the pandas.

Bamboo grows wild — and fast, like a weed — in many parts of the country. The Atlanta zoo could, of course, grow its own, but that would not be very practical, given the pandas' ever-changing tastes.

The finicky black-and-white animals are native to China's Sichuan Province. Lun Lun, the female, weighs around 250 pounds; Yang Yang, the male, is closer to 300 pounds. Each panda eats 20 to 30 pounds of bamboo a day. The leaves and stalks account for about 95 percent of their diet. (They also get soy biscuits and apples as treats.) That means that the bamboo hunters have to haul in about 400 pounds of bamboo each week to provide enough food for the pandas and a few other zoo animals, like the elephants and gorillas, that also eat the plants. The team works five days a week harvesting bamboo from the yards of homes and businesses on a list of about 1,500 approved donors within 100 miles of Atlanta. Their jobs will get tougher in nine months when the zoo's panda cub Mei Lan, born Sept. 6, moves from Lun Lun's milk to the stalk.

On a recent morning, Zoo Atlanta's bamboo hunters trooped through a wooded lot carrying a saw, a lopper and twine. They sawed, chopped and bundled the long, green stalks with ease and efficiency, filling the back of their truck in a couple of hours. They brave yellowjackets, wasps, snakes, fire ants, poison ivy and every kind of weather. They have even been chased by a wild boar. The plants must be free of chemicals, bird droppings or other animal feces, which can be toxic to the pandas. Bamboo grown near a busy road is no good because auto exhaust can contaminate the crop. And the bamboo team cannot use power tools because any oil or gas residue would poison the pandas. The hand-held saw and lopper are greased with cooking oil after being disinfected every day.

Other U.S. zoos with pandas get their bamboo in various ways. The Memphis Zoo has a team that harvests bamboo in the area. The zoo also grows the plant on its own seven-acre bamboo farm. The San Diego Zoo grows all the bamboo eaten by its three adult pandas. The Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington gets most of its bamboo from a private donor's property in Maryland, but it also is trying to grow some at the zoo.

Since pandas are picky, most zoos have found that growing only one species of bamboo won't cut it. Zoo Atlanta keeps files on what types of bamboo the pandas eat each day, but the animals often change their minds.

"You have to kind of play it by ear," Daujotas said. "It's a good thing we have elephants. What pandas don't like, elephants like."

thursday thirteen meme v

Thirteen Favourites for 2006

Favourite ...

1. Film

Little Miss Sunshine

i haven't laughed so much in a long time.

2. Book

The End by Lemony Snicket

finally a little bit of resolution and anyway there is no more room on my bookshelf.

3. Blog

Ken Levine

he wrote 'frasier' and i get to read him every day. nuff said.

4. Cartoonist

Alison Bechdel

just beats out doonesbury in a breakout year.

5. Football Team

Queens Park Rangers

to paraphrase queen mary 1 of england - when i am dead and opened, you shall find qpr lying in my heart.

6. Football Goal

Ronaldinho vs Villareal

just beat out the one against werder bremen.

7. Baseball Player

Bernie Williams of the New York Yankees

am still hoping against hope that the yankees are smart enough to keep him on the roster for the coming year.

8. Memory

Meeting O for the first time

nothing like becoming an aunt :-)

9. Album

St Elsewhere by Gnarls Barkley

at last i like something that isn't by cole porter and ella fitzgerald.

10. Song

Dear Mr. President by Pink

11. Eye Candy

Angelina Jolie

12. Acquisition

my new i-mac. it brought me very close to breaking a commandment (#3)

13. Team to Abhor

the one that plays at stamford bridge

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

brum 2 - 1 qpr

lee cook scores vs brum
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
well birmingham are at the top and we really are not and it was away and well lee cook scored a screamer so if anyone is planning to buy him next month hopefully that will make him worth a bit more and, well,


Saturday, December 23, 2006

qpr 1 - 0 barnsley

rowly scores vs barnsley
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
at last i am able to mention qpr again for today not only did they manage to score their first goal for who knows how long but also they actually won an actual professional game of football. gigantic sigh of relief.

also we got the best parking space ever outside whole foods ... my family (visiting from london) must not be permitted to return to their own homes :-)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Amilcar Hasenfratz Again

and the answer to wednesday's question is:

frederic auguste bartholdi

aren't you glad you know that now?

(he was the father of the green lady you can see at the end of the planet of the apes movie when charlton heston bangs his fist on the ground and screams 'damn you humanity!')

Thursday, December 21, 2006

thursday thirteen meme iv

Thirteen Painters I Love

1. Rene Magritte

2. Fernand Leger

3. Frida Kahlo

4. Georgia O'Keefe

5. Vincent Van Gogh

6. Oskar Kokoschka

7. Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

8. R. B. Kitaj

9. Pablo Picasso

10. Emil Nolde

11. Edvard Munch

12. Giorgio Di Chirico

13. Edgar Degas

wish there were more women in this list ...

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Amilcar Hasenfratz

interesting things that i learned today:

who is/was Amilcar Hasenfratz and for what reason is/was s/he world famous?

before you use google, have a guess. i don't expect you'd put it in the comments section, but feel free to if you'd like to.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

whale vomit

i know, not the most salubrious title for a post, but i wanted to note an article in today's ny times about ambergris. i do like learning about new stuff, y'know :-)

nu - a woman in montauk, long island, just received a seasonal gift from her sister in iowa, which could be a giant hunk of whale vomit worth about $18,000. there are a couple of problems with this - first of all there's been no luck yet in finding anyone who knows enough about it to establish what the lump actually is. secondly, endangered species legislation means that it's illegal to buy or sell ambergris (the proper way to describe whale puke).

the article by corey kilgannon goes on to say:

"Ambergris has been a valued commodity for centuries, used in perfume because of its strangely alluring aroma as well as its ability to retain other fine-fragrance ingredients and “fix” a scent so it does not evaporate quickly. Its name is derived from the French “ambre gris,” or gray amber. During the Renaissance, ambergris was molded, dried, decorated and worn as jewelry. It has been an aphrodisiac, a restorative balm, and a spice for food and wine. Arabs used it as heart and brain medicine. The Chinese called it lung sien hiang, or “dragon’s spittle fragrance.” It has been the object of high-seas treachery and caused countries to enact maritime possession laws and laws banning whale hunting. Madame du Barry supposedly washed herself with it to make herself irresistible to Louis XV.

In “Paradise Regained,” Milton describes Satan tempting Christ with meat pastries steamed in ambergris. In “Moby-Dick,” Melville called it the “essence found in the inglorious bowels of a sick whale.” Old newspapers show clippings every few years describing some whaling crew coming upon a hunk, or some vacationing family finding it on the beach and either cashing in — or discovering it was just ocean detritus."

Monday, December 18, 2006

r.i.p. joe barbera

barbera & hanna
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
i was brought up to be a warner brothers baby, having been sat down in front of bugs bunny with a piece of cheese when my mother needed to get something done.

nevertheless, i loved to watch tom & jerry, top cat (called 'boss cat') in england for some strange reason), the flintstones and especially the jetsons when i was a kid.

mr. barbera died today at his home with his wife at his side. he was 95 years old and died of natural causes.

just wanted to say thank you.

arrest in case of ipswich murders

i don't know if you have been following the debate for the past few days with regard to the dangers that prostitutes face in britain? as far as i can tell, it has focussed mostly on the reasons why women go astray, e.g., supporting a drug habit, and how to protect them from the physical violence that such a profession attracts. also, there is the ongoing question of whether or not to legalise prostitution. why, i wonder, has nobody had much to say about the punters who create the demand in the first place, i.e., (mostly) men prepared to pay for sex?

it is thus that i say today 'hooray for harriet harman', having read the following on the bbc website:

"Target prostitute users - Harman

Ms Harman proposes criminalising men who pay for sex. Ministers should look at prosecuting men who pay for sex, constitutional affairs ministers Harriet Harman says. While kerb crawling and procuring a prostitute for sex are illegal, paying for sex is not currently an offence. Ms Harman, Labour MP for Camberwell and Peckham, said the murders of five prostitutes in Ipswich showed more should be done to end vice in the UK. It would be better to target the men who paid for sex rather than criminalising women, she said. "I think we should be saying we don't want this sort of organised crime in this country, " she said.

She suggested the UK look at the case of Sweden, "where they support young women who have drug problems and who are vulnerable for other reasons, but they actually have a criminal offence of buying sex - they make prostitution illegal, by taking on the issue of the punters rather than the young women.""

aussies win

aussies win
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
the answer to yesterday's question is:


here you see shane warne beginning what will no doubt be a long and national celebration of the poms going down down under.

can't talk about qpr at the moment cos they haven't won in weeks or scored a goal or even drawn. the scum are catching man ure, and the yankees are talking about trading my man melky.

what kind of monday morning is it when the best news is that the suffolk police have arrested a man in connection with the murders of the 5 prostitutes?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

the proust questionnaire

how many times have you received an e-mail sent to all your correspondent's dearest friends asking you to answer questions about yourself then pass on the message to your own nearest and dearest?

it turns out that this is not an internet phenomenon, but has been parlour entertainment since at least the 19th century. a random article that i found notes:

"In the back pages of Vanity Fair each month, readers find The Proust Questionnaire, a series of questions posed to famous subjects about their lives, thoughts, values and experience. A regular reference to Proust in such a major publication struck me as remarkable, and it was only until I'd read Andre Maurois's Proust: Portrait of a Genius that I understood what this was all about. The young Marcel was asked to fill out questionnaires at two social events: one when he was 13, another when he was 20. Proust did not invent this party game; he is simply the most extraordinary person to respond to them."

for the rest of p. segal's notes, and the english version of the questions proust received and his answers, click here

the only question i can think of at the moment is could it possibly possibly be possible for england to last out the whole day and not lose the 3rd test and the ashes? come on freddie and kevin - hang in there!

whose fault is it anyway?

a story from d's buddha book (an excellent little thing to keep in the bathroom fyi)

"There's another story that you may have read that has to do with what we call heaven and hell, life and death, good and bad. It's a story about how those things don't really exist except as a creation of our own minds. It goes like this: A big burly samurai comes to the wise man and says, 'Tell me the nature of heaven and hell.' And the roshi looks him in the face and says: 'Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?' The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won't stop, he keeps saying, 'A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?' Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he's just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, 'That's hell.' The samurai, who is in fact a sensitive person, instantly gets it, that he just created his own hell; he was deep in hell. It was black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger and resentment, so much so that he was going to kill this man. Tears fill his eyes and he starts to cry and he puts his palms together and the roshi says, 'That's heaven.'

from "Awakening Loving-Kindness" by Pema Chodron pp 65-6

you don't have power over anyone else, well you should not. perhaps it works better to say you do not have power over anyone else's heart, only over your own. there is no way to avoid pain, but perhaps there are ways to heal. am i brave enough to try any of them out?

Friday, December 15, 2006

happy chanukah!

however you spell it, it is the festival of light, and we all need light in our lives. as we light our candles, the earth is going through its darkest days and longest nights. anything we can do to bring the light back is worth it.

some chanukah links:

the online menorah

judaism 101 by a conservative jew with a traditional perspective

and last but not least, dear old wikipedia

chag sameach.

quote of the day

reading the blogspot blog of tammy (aka recent mother of twins and partner of melissa e) gave me my first laugh for a while:

"My lesson for the day: don't pump and blog. Any leakage onto the keyboard makes the keys stick.

posted by Tammy, midwestern girl | 30.10.06"

political correctness

this evening (my time :-) ), yahoo headlined a story about the most politically incorrect word of the year:

""Macaca" named most politically incorrect word

The word "macaca," used by outgoing Republican Sen. George Allen (news, bio, voting record) of Virginia to describe a Democratic activist of Indian descent who was trailing his campaign, was named the most politically incorrect word of the year on Friday by Global Language Monitor, a nonprofit group that studies word usage.

"The word might have changed the political balance of the U.S. Senate, since Allen's utterance (an offensive slang term for Indians from the Sub-continent) surely impacted his election bid," said the group's head, Paul JJ Payack. Allen narrowly lost to Democrat James Webb in November, helping make it possible for the Democrats to capture control of the Senate.

In second place on this year's list was "Global Warming Denier," for someone who believes that climate change has moved from scientific theory to dogma. "There are now proposals that 'global warming deniers' be treated the same as 'Holocaust deniers: professional ostracism, belittlement, ridicule and, even, jail," Payack said.

In third was "Herstory" substituting for "History." Payack said there are nearly 900,000 Google citations for "Herstory," all based on a mistaken assumption that "history" is a sexist word.

"When Herodotus wrote the first history, the word meant simply an 'inquiry,"' he said.

In August, Global Language Monitor picked "truthiness" and "Wikiality" -- two words popularized by political satirist Stephen Colbert on his TV show "The Colbert Report"-- as the top television buzzwords of the year.

The group defined "truthiness" as used by Colbert as meaning "truth unencumbered by the facts." "Wikiality," derived from the user-compiled Wikipedia information Web site, was defined as "reality as determined by majority vote.""

not exactly sure how the reuters reporter is defining 'politically incorrect'. is it
a. a label that offends a minority or marginal group?
b. basically an insult?
c. a mistaken assumption?

i am, of course, utterly offended that the reporter is insulting my intelligence as a woman by refusing to recognise the wikiality of the use of 'herstory'!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

of that ilk

a last thought before midnight ... was reading an obit that mentioned an aristocrat named moncreiffe of that ilk. i've always wondered what that meant, so i looked it up:

""Of that Ilk" means "of that same place", i.e. it is a contraction of "Moncreiffe of Moncreiffe" (a common mistake is to assume it means "with the same name" or "of the same type")."

good old wiki-peeps :-)

so, not that it works with polish-jewish peasants, but my original ancestor from friedland might have been called 'friedland of that ilk'!

monty panesar rules!

panesar's ashes debut
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
although england have already lost their first wicket, the day belongs to the spin bowler monty panesar. left out of the first two tests (remember, the ones that england lost rather embarrassingly), he has just taken 5-92 in his first ashes test. this has sent me into a silent frenzy, since it is almost 4:30 am and there is nobody to dance around the room with me. it has also made duncan fletcher look like a bit of a wally for not picking panesar earlier. first english spinner ever to take 5 wickets at the waca. c'mon england - the rugby is rubbish, the footie is feeble - give us some cracking cricketing for a change, eh?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

thursday thirteen meme iii

Thirteen Animated Children's TV Shows I Loved to Watch

1. The Clangers

2. Dangermouse

3. Trumpton (pugh, pugh, barney magrew, cuthbert, dibble, grubb)

4. Dexter's Laboratory

5. Captain Scarlet

6. Pinky and the Brain

7. Hong Kong Phooey

8. The Funky Phantom

9. Mary, Mungo & Midge

10. Roobarb

11. The Pink Panther Show

12. The Banana Splits Show

13. BUGS BUNNY #1 in my heart

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

andy pettitte

Originally uploaded by ravaj.
welcome back to the yankees, andy. i still have your rookie card :-)

the demise of tower records

stopped by huc today for a meeting and saw the going-out-of-business sign across the street at tower records. i went inside to see what was left. mainly fixtures and fittings, e.g., for $250 a neon sign with an arrow and saying 'jazz & everything else'. i knew every corner of that store - where to find the soundtracks, and the old vinyl singles; the comic books and the music from israel. it was the same in the flagship store in london at #1 piccadilly. i knew where the lift was hidden, and in which corner of the basement i could find the captain scarlet videocassettes. now all that's left is what they could never sell. bands of which nobody except a cousin had ever heard. there were audio cassettes for a dime each. and, only in new york, a few kids' dvds in hebrew.

what did i buy? it was really hard to find anything. i left with some early works by kate clinton & suzanne westenhoefer, a chanukah cd including a song by they might be giants; two music dvds (the boomtown rats live in 1978 and one of the corrs to show d.), and the pete 'n' dud version of the hound of the baskervilles. if i had a job and some cash and a place to put it, i might have considered the neon sign (there was another lovely rainbow one in the window next to the asteroid-sized poster of diana krall going for $30). if it had not been a closing-down sale, if it had not been tower records closing down, the first cool record shop of my youth, i would never have bought any of this stuff. except, perhaps, the rats dvd. and, of course, the first chanukah collection i have ever seen that does not include the evil evil EVIL dreidel song. but that is a story for another day :-)

Monday, December 11, 2006

bishop of southwark - 'the boozy bish'

o dear o dear o dear. another clergyperson bites the dust. of all the pieces in all the papers, i present to you ruth gledhill's blog from the times. why this one? she is the newspaper's religious correspondent, she writes well, and she was always nice to my father :-)

it is, however, a conundrum for me - to be a spiritual leader, that everyone expects to be an exemplar; and at the same time to be oneself, which includes some percentage of imperfection and major messing-up. i tell you, who'd be in the religion business?!

"Bishop of Southwark: 'Bished as a newt'

Mass at my heavenly church of St Anne's Kew this morning was chacterstically high and, after the children came back in from Junior Church, noisy too. Then at the end Father Nigel gave his flock a little unexpected bonus track. He lowered his eyes and said: "Now I want you all to say a prayer for our Bishop, Tom Butler, and his wife, who as some of you may realise have been in the papers recently." He didn't elaborate on why, just urged caution before any of us rushed to judgment, and, with characteristic generosity of spirit, repeated his admonition to pray. Never before have I known such silence in our beautiful church, packed as usual with standing room only. It was a silence of stunned profundity and wonderment. Father Nigel had left them all flummoxed, wondering indeed at what on earth had happened. Because as became clear from the number of people who discreetly probed me over coffee afterwards, few in Kew read The Mirror (from whom my headline is borrowed), The Sun or The Mail on Sunday. And if they read The Sunday Times, as I would hope, they clearly do it only after church. Definitely worth reading though is Stephen Bates in The Guardian. I also did a piece with Sean O'Neill, who is Irish and was actually at the Embassy party in question. "I don't know the Bishop of Southwark personally," he told me. "But there was a very garrulous clergyman there, walking around saying: 'I am the Bishop of Southwark'."

Some of them do read my blog, however. They were slightly perplexed, given my report, about our parish priest's request that we be generous in our response to events. I offered them my own sober analysis, adding my concern that sending the Bishop a bottle of high quality champagne, might not perhaps have been the best thing to do in the circumstances.

"Bished", of course, was in the 1950s a Jennings-style term meaning done for, useless, no good. I am not saying poor Tom Butler is now bished as well as bashed, but this case does raise some interesting issues.

An inconvtrovertible fact is that what he claimed about the incident has been shown to be untrue. According to the information he conveyed to his spokeswoman Wendy Robbins, which she conveyed to me when I first enquired about the story early last week, he was asserting that he had been mugged.

Well if being thrown out of a Mercedes, in Crucifix Lane of all places, after throwing the owner's children's toys off the back seat constitutes being mugged, I suppose he was. He claimed he could remember none of this and I choose to think he was not being less than truthful in his mugging story. "I'm the Bishop of Southwark. It's what I do," was his memorable response when the owner of the car confronted him after the car alarm went off on the Mercedes.

According to the reports, he had drunk copious amounts of Portugese red wine at the embassy function he attended in Belgravia beforehand. It was the Irish embassy. Possibly, he was drunk. One of the symptoms of extreme drunkenness is the "alcoholic blackout". Few people without a drink problem suffer these frightening episodes, even if they drink heavily at Christmas functions. "Normal" people who have never known what it is like to be addicted to alcohol might find this difficult to believe, but when blackout kicks in it is possible to lose an entire evening, day, even a week from one's memory. The excess alcohol effects some weird chemical reaction in the brain which disables the memory receptors. It also disables the usual societal inhibitors, so it is during those times that alcoholics do the most inconceivably awful and embarrassing and sometimes hateful things. Many murders, as prisoners will testify, are committed in blackout. It is understandable that those left with cleaning up the mess afterwards are sceptical when the perpetrators of these heinous acts claim not be be able to remember, but it is true. You really cannot remember a thing after blackout.

I don't understand the process but I certainly understand the effects. It has to be a possibility that the Bishop suffered one of these blackouts. So it would be unfair to assume the mugging story was a lie. It seems far more likely to me that he genuinely believed he had been mugged, given the evidence of the black eye, bump on head and missing mobile, briefcase and glasses. (It was of course the briefcase's appearance in the back of the Mercedes that alerted the owners to the illustrious nature of their temporary passenger.)

The other possibility is that he has suffered a cerebral medical problem, a minor stoke or something similar. This would be truly awful. But there seems no doubt, from the reports in the Sunday papers, that he had been drinking.

One issue, as far as I can see, is how this reflects on him given his own treatment of clergy in the Southwark diocese. As someone who has worshipped for the past 15 years at the very least at three different churches in the diocese, and who meets clergy from Southwark and neighbouring dioceses regularly at General Synod, I have been witness to the effects of Bishop Tom's inimitable pastoral approach to his own errant and indeed inerrant clergy. Put simply, as one lay person said to me when they telephoned yesterday: "Ruth, I feel sorry for the man but let's face it, if my vicar had done this he probably would not have survived."

To me, this all represents a fantastic opportunity for the Bishop, who naturally enough, heads the Church of England's social responsibility arm. (Doesn't God have a fantastic sense of humour sometimes?). He should not resign. Or at least not yet. He is 66 for goodness sake, and surely cannot be that far of retirement in any case.

But let's remember the churches' advertising campaign this Christmas, one done with the support of the Church of England and other mainstream churches. The posters show an empty beer glass, with the face of Jesus etched out in the foam on the side. Let's hope the Bishop of Southwark can now also be inspired to find Jesus in his cups, and take advantage of the powerful opportunity for witness to the nation that this represents. In the end, all I can personally do is look with awe at the headlines, whisper, "There but for the grace of God...", and pray."

holocaust deniers in iran

below is a report from the ny times today describing a conference currently being held in iran. call me naive but i am gobsmacked if not flabbergasted that there are people out there who truly believe that the shoah is a myth. where did all my relatives go? o, apparently they all died of typhus, like my uncle bubi who must have caught the disease just before they kicked away the chair and the rope tightened about his neck.

nu - is there anything that can be done about this? ok so maybe you don't care so much about the jews; but if these guys succeed, who is next?

"TEHRAN, Dec. 11 — Holocaust deniers and skeptics from around the world gathered at a government-sponsored conference here today to discuss their theories about whether six million Jews were indeed killed by the Nazis during World War II and whether gas chambers existed. In a speech opening the two-day conference, Rasoul Mousavi, head of the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Institute for Political and International Studies, which organized the event, said it was an opportunity for scholars to discuss the subject “away from Western taboos and the restriction imposed on them in Europe.”

The foreign ministry had said that 67 foreign researchers from 30 countries were scheduled to take part. Among those speaking today are David Duke, the American white-supremacist politician and former Ku Klux Klan leader, and Georges Thiel, a French writer who has been prosecuted in France over his denials of the Holocaust. Mr. Duke’s remarks late this afternoon are expected to assert that no gas chambers or extermination camps were actually built during the war, on the ground that killing Jews that way would have been much too bothersome and expensive when the Nazis could have used much simpler methods, according to an advance summary of his speech published by the institute. “Depicting Jews as the overwhelming victims of the Holocaust gave the moral high ground to the Allies as victors of the war, and allowed Jews to establish a state on the occupied land of Palestine,” Mr. Duke’s paper says, according to the summary. One of the first scheduled speakers, Robert Faurisson of France, also called the Holocaust a myth created to justify the occupation of Palestine.

The conference is being held at the behest of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who likewise called the Holocaust a myth last year, and repeated a well-known slogan from the early days of the 1979 revolution in Iran, “Israel must be wiped off the map.” He has spoken several times since then about a need to establish whether the Holocaust actually happened.

Most of the speakers at the conference today praised Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments.

Bendikt Frings, 48, a psychologist from Germany, said he believed Mr. Ahmadinejad was “an honest direct man,” and said he had come to the conference to thank him for what he had initiated. “We are forbidden to have such a conference in Germany,” he said. “ All my childhood, we waited for something like this.” Toben Feredrick, from Australia, said Mr. Ahmadinejad has opened an issue “which is morally and intellectually crippling the Western society.” “People are imprisoned in Germany for denying the Holocaust,” he added. Mr. Feredrick said he was jailed for six months in 1999 because of his ideas, and that a court in Germany has ordered him arrested if he speaks out publicly again denying that the Holocaust took place.

Other Western “revisionists” presented what they called new facts about the Holocaust at the conference, which also attracted attendees from some ultra-Orthodox Jews belonging to anti-Zionist sects that reject the state of Israel. One participant wearing the traditional long black coat and hat of such groups wore a badge saying: “A Jew, not a Zionist.”

It was not entirely clear how the lineup of speakers at the conference was set. The Institute’s website had invited scholars and researchers to submit papers in advance for consideration, but revealed little about how they were evaluated. The Iranian foreign ministry also provided little information about participants, saying that it feared they would be prosecuted by their home countries.

The conference included an exhibition today of various photos, posters and other material meant to contradict the accepted version of events, that the Nazis murdered millions of Jews and other “undesirables” in death camps during the war. New captions in Persian on some familiar photos of corpses at the camps argued that they were victims of typhus, not the German state. Anti-Zionist literature, including a 2004 book by the American author Michael Collins Piper, about Zionist influence in America, was offered for sale to visitors at the conference. So, apparently, was a video recording of 12 Holocaust survivors telling their stories, suggesting that the views represented at the conference may not have been entirely one-sided.

The conference prompted outrage in the West. The German government summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires in Berlin to complain. The French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, warned that the conference would be strongly condemned if it propagated claims denying the Holocaust.

Iran also organized an exhibition last summer of cartoons about the Holocaust, which outraged Jews inside Iran and out.

Iranian Jewish leaders reacted angrily to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust-denying comments last year, issuing a statement saying that his words were spreading fear among Jews in Iran. “We consider the Holocaust as a fact and a disgrace for humanity,” Haround Yashayai, a leading voice among Iranian Jews, said today. “We cannot say that such a conference cannot be held here. We have condemned similar events in the past, and see no reason to condemn it again.”"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

condoms 'too big' for indian men

i wonder how many hits this title will get just for the word 'condom'? this story is currently one of the top 5 e-mailed on the bbc website, along with the death of general pinochet and kate winslet speaking out against zero-size women.

here are some snips from the article:

"A survey of more than 1,000 men in India has concluded that condoms made according to international sizes are too large for a majority of Indian men. The study found that more than half of the men measured had penises that were shorter than international standards for condoms. It has led to a call for condoms of mixed sizes to be made more widely available in India. The two-year study was carried out by the Indian Council of Medical Research. Over 1,200 volunteers from the length and breadth of the country had their penises measured precisely, down to the last millimetre. The scientists even checked their sample was representative of India as a whole in terms of class, religion and urban and rural dwellers."

interesting to consider the priorities for allocation of research funds, eh? but let's not be too judgemental, ok, for buried somewhere in the middle of the article is this:

"And the country already has the highest number of HIV infections of any nation."

nevertheless, it is clear what the point of it all is:

"Indian men need not be concerned about measuring up internationally according to Sunil Mehra, the former editor of the Indian version of the men's magazine Maxim. "It's not size, it's what you do with it that matters," he said. "From our population, the evidence is Indians are doing pretty well."

where is sarah silverman when you need her?

Saturday, December 09, 2006

more ronaldinho (can't help lovin' dat man)

qpr just lost another game, which makes four in a row. meanwhile, ronaldinho continues to show his critics that he's not past it at all. here is a brilliant free kick in the champions league match vs werder bremen last week. the guys in the wall always jump in the air to try and block the ball. so what does ronaldinho do? he sends a daisy cutter along the ground, right under where they all were just standing!


Friday, December 08, 2006

buffy is back!

buffy comic cover
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
well, sort of. joss whedon is planning a comic book version for season 8, according to this interview in tv guide.

i think it is a particularly american kind of economic pressure to drag out or resuscitate a successful programme. doing it in comic-book form is an interesting way to go, and i will be checking it out like the others in the buffysphere. generally, though, and with buffy in particular, i feel these successes should be left to rest in peace.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

a little teshuvah from the conservative movement

the latest news from the conservative movement of judaism in the usa is that it has accepted a teshuvah permitting same-sex ceremonies and the ordination of lesbian/gay people.


a perspective from ha-aretz newspaper as an early response:

"Rosner's Blog
Shmuel Rosner Chief U.S. Correspondent
The abomination debate: Jewish conservatives on the verge of a new era

Twenty-five Conservative rabbis began a thorny debate yesterday on the place of homosexuals in their movement. The debate will continue today, in the hopes of reaching a decision, but regardless, a press conference has been called for noon. Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, said he finds it hard to believe that a decision will once again be postponed, as it was when the assembly first discussed the issue several months ago. The rabbis must decide: Can homosexuals become Conservative rabbis and cantors? Can Conservative rabbis conduct same-sex commitment ceremonies? (Update: the Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards allowed the Movement's seminaries to ordain openly gay and lesbian rabbis and cantors)

The Conservative Movement - once the largest Jewish movement in America, but now steadily shrinking - has been debating the issue for some time. In 1992, it rejected proposals for homosexual equality, but since then, the pressure has intensified. The problem, explained one Rabbinical Assembly member, is how to explain rabbinic decisions to Conservative laymen, many of whom "don't understand the halakhic issues involved. They live in a liberal society, and they simply want us to change the laws, just as America changed its laws to give homosexuals equal rights."

Anne Kaiser is one of those who favor such a change. Not that she wants to be a rabbi - she likes her job as a Maryland state legislator, to which she was reelected last month as an avowed lesbian. And she said that her rabbi gave her to understand that she and her partner could hold a commitment ceremony in the synagogue, regardless. Nevertheless, she would like to see it official.

For opponents, however, such a radical break with tradition is not only unacceptable, it could also even be grounds for leaving the movement. This is the most divisive debate the movement has experienced since its debate 30 years ago over equality for women.

Rabbi Joel Roth, who formulated the movement's 1992 opinion against any change in the status of homosexuals, said at the time he simply could not identify any halakhic loophole that would permit such a change - and because the Conservative Movement defines itself as a halakhic movement, such a decision would require some basis in the religious sources.

"An inability to legitimate homosexuality halakhically makes no negative claim whatsoever about the humanity, sanctity, worth and dignity of homosexuals," he stressed in a lecture on the subject. But the Torah's blunt statement on homosexual relations - that a man lying with another man as he would lie with a woman is an "abomination" (Leviticus 18:22) - leaves no wriggle room, say Roth's adherents.

The Rabbinical Assembly's Committee on Jewish Laws and Standards that will vote today in New York, however, is not that of 1992: Only nine of its 25 members are the same. Meyers said the current committee maintains a balance between "liberals" and "conservatives," but acknowledged that the generational change might also have changed the meaning of these terms, which in turn could result in a different outcome at today's vote.

Opponents of Roth's view argue that the Torah prohibition, as well as subsequent rulings by the rabbis, related to a different time and a different type of homosexuality. The Torah, they say, banned what existed then, but could not have banned today's homosexuality, because the current incarnation of same-sex relations is an invention of the modern world.

"Sex, in antiquity, was an activity, not an orientation," explained Rabbi Bradley Artson, one of the advocates of this view. "The meaning of the activity was determined by its context. In the case of same gender sex, that context was always one that treated a human being as an object, or [one] of oppression." And that, he argues, differs from today's model of consensual, caring, same-sex relationships.

"The rabbis were never at a loss for ways to transform or circumvent a biblical institution when later on it came to be viewed as ethically unjustifiable," added Rabbi Howard Handler.

Five different rabbinical opinions have been submitted to the committee for consideration, ranging from no change through limited rights to complete equality for homosexuals. This gives the panel some room to maneuver, and the prevailing view is that it will opt for a compromise: It will adopt one opinion that forbids homosexual ordination and same-sex commitment ceremonies, and another that permits them.

The rules make such an outcome possible: The committee requires a majority of 13 to adopt a binding ruling, but only six votes in favor are needed to adopt a "responsum" - defined as one possible interpretation of a halakhic issue, but not the only one. Thus the committee is widely expected to adopt two contradictory responsa but no binding ruling. That way, each Conservative congregation could decide for itself. "

a slightly later report from the houston chronicle has more details:

"Conservative Jewish leaders ease gay rabbi ban
Three differing policies leave the final decision to local synagogues

Associated Press

NEW YORK — A panel of rabbis gave permission Wednesday for same-sex commitment ceremonies and ordination of gays within Conservative Judaism, a wrenching change for a movement that occupies the middle ground between orthodoxy and liberalism in Judaism.

The complicated decision by the Conservatives Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards leaves it up to individual seminaries whether to ordain gay rabbis and gives individual rabbis the option of sanctioning same-sex unions.

Like many Protestant denominations, Conservative Jews are divided over homosexuality: torn between the Hebrew scriptures' condemnation of it as an "abomination" and a desire to encourage same-sex couples to form long-lasting, monogamous relationships.

Reform Judaism, the largest branch of the faith in the U.S., has ordained gay men and lesbians since 1990 and has allowed rabbis to perform same-sex commitment ceremonies since 2000. Orthodox Judaism does not countenance same-sex unions or the ordination of gays.

After years of discussion and two days of intense debate behind closed doors at a synagogue on Park Avenue, the law committee accepted three teshuvot, or answers, to the question of whether Jewish law allows homosexual sex. Two answers uphold the status quo, forbidding homosexuality.

But a third allows same-sex ceremonies and ordination of gay men and lesbians, while maintaining a ban on anal sex.

Four of the law committee's 25 members resigned in protest of the decision.

It takes the votes of six panel members to declare an answer to be valid. Thirteen members voted in favor of allowing gay ordination and same-sex ceremonies, and 13 voted against — meaning that at least one rabbi voted for both positions."

thursday thirteen meme ii

Thirteen Things about ravaj's favourite movie moments

1. The Philadelphia Story - opening scene when Hepburn breaks the golf club over her knee and Grant goes to punch her then pushes her over. Next frame says: Three Years Later.

2. Tootsie - Bill Murray saying to Dustin Hoffman "You slut!"

3. On the Town - seeing from behind a blonde little moptop and her mother going down the stairs and she says "I don't wanna look like Margaret O'Brien!"

4. Dangerous Liaisons - when Michelle Pfeiffer first gives in and Malkovich doesn't take advantage.

5. The Big Chill - the morning after montage

6. Bringing Up Baby - what else but the dinosaur collapsing

7. Love and Death - the dance with death through the trees under the end titles

8. To Be or Not to Be (1942) - when Colonel Erhardt visits Lombard at the end and bumps into Hitler at her apartment

9. The Man Who Came to Dinner - all the attacks upon Miss Preen leading up to her leaving to work in a munitions factory (honourable mention to the penguins)

10. Notorious - Ingrid Bergman's first view of Cary Grant upside-down in a doorway

11. Trouble in Paradise - at the end in the taxicab when Herbert Marshall & Miriam Hopkins realise they have both stolen from each other

12. His Girl Friday - Mother disappearing over the gentleman's shoulder and heading who knows where

13. Kiss Me Kate - Ann Miller singing 'Tom Dick or Harry', and dancing of course!

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

more on george's pig

i am sorry i cannot help myself - this is from today's independent newspaper:

"Max was famous enough in his own right, in fact, to generate a hoax story of his death at the beginning of last year. Clooney himself hasn't been shy to discuss his pet's character defects. "He's eating his way through life," he cheerily admitted in one interview. "I'd put him on a diet, but he screams like hell if he's not able to stuff himself the way he likes it." Occasionally, all that squealing can come in handy, like the early morning hours of 16 January 1994, when the Northridge earthquake shook most of Los Angeles, prompting shortlived but very real fears that the Big One had struck.

As Clooney recounted it: "Max was in bed with me and woke up minutes before it happened. And I was yelling at him for waking me up, when everything just exploded. So, I'm naked with Max, and running ... because I'm in a house on a hill, and if it's going down I want to be up on the street, dodging the next house.

"My buddy, who lives in the downstairs guesthouse, comes running up. And he's naked. With a gun, because he thought someone was breaking in. And I'm trying to write a note to my folks, trying to explain to them in case we die that it's not what is seems: two naked men, a gun and a pig.""

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


one of the best goals in a very long time - ronaldinho scores barca's 4th vs villareal. here it is from every possible angle. the commentary is not in a language that i understand, but with or without it, the screen tells the tale:


w.r.p. george r.i.p.

obit of the week from the telegraph for me - william richard philip george, nephew of david lloyd george, who died recently at the age of 94. recalling the era when his uncle was prime minister, the telegraph notes:

"... many of young William's earliest memories were of visits to his uncle. He recalled kicking a ball around in the walled garden at the back of No 10 Downing Street, and getting stuck in the lift, from which he had to be rescued, to his embarrassment, by his uncle and members of the cabinet. On a visit to Chequers, aged eight, he was bitten on the ankle by a guard dog and needed medical treatment after the wound became infected. He recalled being driven with his uncle through cheering crowds to Downing Street at the end of the First World War."

mr. george was a former archdruid of wales.

potbellied pigs

as a person with some passing interest in pigs, i noticed recently a report that george clooney's pet potbelly pig, max, had died at the ripe old age of 19. further investigation of this news led me to the pigs4ever website, where i found the following important advertisements fyi:

"Bulky Lax Plus

An extremely high source of fiber. A high quality source of necessary vitamins. Keeps stool in good condition. To be fed as a supplement on all feeds.

Reduces likelihood of aggressive pigs. (Those that want to nip and snip.) has used this particular product for years, particularly in the winter when our pigs do not get much exercise. It helps in keeping them regular.

Elder-Aide GM

For pigs that are suffering from: loss of memory, loss of hearing, poor muscle tone, un-thriftiness, alertness, arthritic conditions and general pain and discomfort.

We have combined ELDER-AIDE, GLUCOSAMINE, AND MSM, three of the best pain relief remedies available for pet pigs today, and established the best over-all pet pig pain product.

The first all-natural biological source of vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, digestive bacteria, yeast culture, yucca shidigera extract, along with Glucosamine, and MSM, ELDER-AIDE-GM will provide significant relief, or totally eliminate stiff and painful joints, usually within 10 days."

i have just spent a couple of minutes wondering how one can tell if a pig has lost his/her memory, and what exactly is 'un-thriftiness'?

Monday, December 04, 2006

harry potter auf deutsch!

the day after coming back from a trip always seems rather long and tiring, even though there are still a couple of things left in the suitcase waiting to be put away. england look like they are throwing away the second test in adelaide, and i needed something with which to amuse myself. hence this trailer for next year's 'order of the phoenix' film:

ps sorry about the non-hp stuff at the end - lifted clip from youtube as-is.

mobile phones

had a lovely few hours in the mall today. i went to the verizon shop to get a new battery, since my phone cannot stay awake for more than 60 minutes. i bought it only 2 years ago, and it has served me well.

the gentleman in the verizon shop gave me the following advice: you can buy a new battery for $40, or you can sign up for 2 more years, and then you can have any new phone in the store for up to $150 absolutely free, if you pay $50 and then get a rebate. well, a free, fancier phone - or a forty-dollar battery and an old battered phone. no brainer, right?

i did get the new phone. unfortunately, while it came with a home charger, the old car charger that i had bought for the old phone would not work with the new phone. if i were to buy a new charger, it would work with the old phone, although that phone would be deactivated once i bought the new one. but it would only be $29.99 plus tax for a new one.

i did get the charger as well. after all, it only cost me 2 more years of verizonitude, and about $80. great deal, eh?

a view from the art institute

chicago skyline
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
it's funny how physical reality fades in memory even if your mind knows what it should be like. what am i going on about? i know quite a bit about the architecture of chicago, at least i'm supposed to since i studied it at university and also have a book about it from paula dietz. i have been to chicago quite a few times, and looked at lots of buildings. nevertheless, the other day, standing in the first nipple-crumbling cold of winter, i saw this view. the intensity of seeing it in person was quite surprising. it's not that it is so particularly amazing ... i was just struck by the variety of styles in such proximity. my kind of town :-)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

chicago visit

piglet & the face
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
here is piglet facing a sculpture outside the art institute of chicago. i was mostly in evanston and skokie, with the final morning in the city.

the focus of my visit was my new best friend noa who turned 3 yesterday. we had such a good time together, singing 'old macdonald' 23 times (and wondering why there were no pandas on the farm), and playing house, and airport, and reading books about maisie, and going to the museum for the very first time. we are terribly proud of noa, because when she saw the monet painting of the bridge with the lilies, she recognised it. 'the book in the bathroom!' she cried.