Sunday, December 30, 2007

see for yourself - the 'r's end 2007 with a win over watford

the highlight of my final weekend in london (alongside the louise bourgeois exhibit at the tate modern this afternoon with the giant spider that i love so much)

did i not mention - they were second from the top, we were second from the bottom, the game was away, and we were 3-0 up at half-time and managed not to lose to another last-minute goal. hurrah!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

benazir bhutto is assassinated

i just turned on my computer and saw the headline. although she escaped a previous attempt when she returned to pakistan, and has been in danger for some time, it is still unbelieveable to me that she is gone. not to mention the poor people who died with her in the suicide attack. i may not have agreed with her politics, but i admired her achievements as a woman. she was the first democratically elected woman prime minister of a muslim country. i am quite shocked.

yahoo report
the times report
key events in her career
the grauniad
her official website

may she rest in peace, although the aftermath in pakistan may make it impossible.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

qpr 2-1 colchester

and i was there! in my camera, and thus not available until i get back home, are some pics from a lovely day at loftus road. i got all dorky and took pictures of myself with players. luckily i could only recognise about 4 of them since there are so many new faces these days. never mind - just wanted to share with you the joy of being there and the joy of being there when they win and, well, the joy!

come on uuuuu rrrrr's!

Friday, December 21, 2007

the richest club in the world?

that is what today's sun say about my sad darling queens park rangers. it says so right here. lakshmi mittal, the official holder of fifth place in the world's richest person championship, has become a shareholder at qpr.

this is all utterly surreal. in august, we were this close to going out of business. today, mr chelski and his minions are pocket change next to our newest investor. of course, the great worry for us as fans is - what will happen to the soul of our club? it's all very well having pots of money, but what is going to change, and do we want it to?

watch this space :-)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

how to win at rock paper scissors

according to my friends at the telegraph, there is a simple strategy to winning the game of rock, paper, scissors:

"Research shows that stone, also called rock, is the most popular of the three possible moves in the game. That means that your opponent is likely to choose paper, because they will expect to you to start the game with stone. By going with scissors, you achieve an early victory."

and there you have it. Use your power for good, not for evil.

worst xmas cracker jokes ...

an english friend of mine here in boston told me the other day that americans do not know what xmas crackers are. can it be so? well i am too tired today to do the googling and linking so i ask you to take care of that business yourself if necessary. meanwhile, tomorrow's telegraph investigates the worst jokes from such crackers. here is their report, and here is their, and my favourite:

What is Santa's favourite pizza?

One that's deep pan, crisp and even.

ba dump dum!

o alright ... cannot look at those puppy-dog eyes ... here is a link to explain the crackers ... go, enjoy!

desperate diedrich

a photo from goslar in germany, demonstrating a creative way to overcome the local smoking ban in restaurants. or, how to be outside when you are inside.

???

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

looking a gift goat in the mouth

ethical gifts are all the rage these days with many of my friends and acquaintances. indeed, my housemates and i decided this year that instead of exchanging tchochkes, we would pool our $10 maximum and buy some bees from heifer international.

this morning, the bbc posted a story suggesting that while we may feel better about doing something like this, the recipients of our beneficence may feel patronised and demeaned.

"Charity director Ceri Dingle claims this is a prime example of how aid workers do not take into account the dreams and ambitions of people in developing countries. She says: "Giving someone a grasscutter to feed their family reinforces the assumption that these people are not like us. "Would you like a grasscutter for Christmas? People in the developing world are like us - they know the sorts of things we have and they want them too. Giving these things assume they want to continue to scrape by on the land. Survival is not development.""

the rest of the story is here.

o dear o dear o dear.

Monday, December 17, 2007

international year of the potato 2008

o my goodness! for a woman whose grandmother's grandmother was from the city of minsk aka the potato capital of all the russias, this is wonderful news. i have dedicated my life to celebrating the versatility of this tuber, and am delighted that it has now been given the recognition it deserves.

"The potato's story begins about 8,000 years ago near Lake Titicaca, which sits at 3,800 m (12,500 ft) above sea level in the Andes mountain range of South America, on the border between Bolivia and Peru. There, research indicates, communities of hunters and gatherers who had first entered the South American continent at least 7,000 years before began domesticating wild potato plants that grew around the lake in abundance ... Planting tubers remains the most important activity of the farming year near Lake Titicaca, where the potato is known as Mama Jatha, or mother of growth. The potato remains the seed of Andean society."
the official website

Sunday, December 16, 2007

another reason for not growing my hair

yahoo had a spot on scariest hairdos in the movies. this one scared me the most. princess leia's doughnuts have become friendly reminders of the excesses of the seventies, but this is just unbearable. it's probably why she agreed to shave her head for 'v for vendetta'!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

the great turkish delight controversy

yesterday's times has a story about turkish delight. rather than an upbeat recording of another goalscoring exploit by tugay for blackburn rovers; or an analysis of the morals of edmund pevensie, it tells the tale of a trademark war between the loukoumi yeroskipou of the greek cypriot confectioners and the lokum of turkey.

the greek cypriots have called shotgun for the european union trademark for their version of the sweet, and the national pride of turkey appears to be at stake, even though the only place where the confection is called 'turkish delight' appears to be england. it is not as if the turks will not be able to trademark their own version, and it could end up that at least three kinds of sweet will be trademarked. however, turkish nerves are a little jangly at the moment and this situation is not helping.

european diabetics await further developments with extra epipens standing by.

what have i done to deserve this?

a rather depressed baby panda sits it out while being ogled by the masses.

spiderpig

sorry, but i could not resist this:

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

the dark knight

i'm sorry but i can't help it - i do like batman, and especially the dark knight versions. i have the comicbooks, sorry, graphic novels. so i am interested in what they are going to do with the latest films. hence a pic of the new joker, hot off the internet presses - heath ledger.

i quite like the poster as well :-)

mmmmm marlee

only a few weeks until the new season of 'the l word' begins and the p.r. machines are beginning to roll. see dorothy's page for more details. i just borrowed this pic of my favourite guest on the show. am not a tibette fan, and am hoping, probably in vain, that after the writers have messed with bette's heart some more, they will let her end up with jodi. and i just saw a pig fly by my window.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

er, burnley 0-2 qpr. this is not a typo

captain bolder gets stuck in

a cold night up north sees a surprise win for the 'r's against an in-form burnley team. highlight of the evening was the second goal - in the last minutes, the burnley 'keeper came up into the attack for a corner kick. qpr cleared the ball, and rowan vine collected it and sprinted down the field to tap it into an empty net. excellent! of course, all our moods have swung quicker than any hormones could move them :-) what the heck - we have more than 3 days to enjoy this brief lapse from the egregious before the next match.

Monday, December 10, 2007

say what?

akos buzsaky of queens park rangers has been named to the coca-cola championship team of the week. really. honestly. look here if you don't believe me. to tell the truth, i don't believe me, but it is there in all its pixellated glory. okay akos!

scun*horpe utd 2-2 qpr

i believe this is the rare sighting of a qpr goal. scored by an unpronounceable hungarian on loan from plymouth. they did not lose. they did not win. they let a lead go twice. apparently our defence is made of jelly, while the midfield runs through a pit of treacle. meanwhile, the manager cannot speak english, and the team members appear unable to communicate with each other. the fact is, however, that our next-door neighbour in wembley in 1970 was a qpr fan, not an arse or phlegm or scum fan. thus we are forever bound to suffer. and we did not lose!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

beatboxing peter and the wolf

thanks to susie bright for pointing out this youtube clip:


i do so love peter and the wolf. the version i have on cd is narrated by michael flanders.

robot perlman et al

humanoid robots that have such fine motor control - quite thrilling! as long as they remember the 3 laws of robotics:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

isaac asimov wrote these in 1942. they still seem pretty applicable to me in 2007. i think we are a long way from android rights issues. meanwhile, as long as we find viable renewable power sources for such mechanical devices, the idea that they may be able to help older people to be physically safe and cared for is very attractive.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

paddington bear to be arrested!

latest news from the bbc is that paddington bear, who stowed away on a boat from peru when his aunt lucy went into a nursing home, is to be arrested and questioned about his immigration status. we await further developments.

full story here.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

nigella and the weight fascists

in this article, the times talks to nigella lawson (and also a little to vanessa feltz) about the perils of being comfortable with a more rubenesque body. shane watson says:

"“It isn’t great being described as overweight,” Nigella tells me over the phone, matter of factly. “Maybe I have put on weight, or maybe it’s a bad camera angle. But in real life, this is normal size. “Everyone is so critical,” she continues. “All must be sacrificed to the great god of skinny. You must say no to everything. Life has to be pretty fabulous, surely, if you can afford to turn down occasions of pleasure?”"

what a load of poo says the ravaj eloquently! nigella - overweight? what a load of rubbish! enough, however, of this philosophising. the quote in the article that stood out for me was:

"“I associate thinness with dying. My mother had real eating issues. When she had cancer, she said, ‘This is the first time I have eaten without worrying,’ and that is chilling. Something clicked, and I vowed never to say, ‘I am not allowed that.’ ”"

i remember reading a book by nigella's late husband, john diamond, describing his experiences with the cancer that eventually killed him. at one point, he described a moment of joy when he was thin enough to fit into his wife's jeans. i thought to myself, gosh, at least if i am dying, the upside is that i will be able to eat as much of my mother's cranberry cheesecake as i would like. and then there is the movie 'chocolat', where judi dench's character, a diabetic, decides to go out with one last feast - a chocolate dinner where every dish contains some of the dread sweet. again i thought, that makes total sense! i also thought once more of my mother's cranberry cheesecake - it really is that good.

nu - the writer's main thrust turns out to be that women are creating this problem for themselves:

"There is a lot of confusion about this weight fascism. We blame fashion. We blame models. We blame ageism and advertising and celebrity. But who stands to gain from ostracising women because they are too curvaceous or too thin? Other women, that’s who: women who mistrust their own sex and who lack confidence in themselves."

that is a whole other debate. for now, i am just working on finding a safe boundary between the killer threat that sugar is to me as a diabetic, and the struggle to love my body for exactly what it is right now. after all, despite my best efforts to the contrary, my body has kept me alive. it has kept faith with me rather than giving up. surely that is an excellent reason to love it? surely that is an excellent reason for so many of us :-)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

the owl of learning and technology

here i am in the bowels of the brandeis library. this is getz - the technological hub of the campus, and i am waiting for the video of today's maths lesson to be transferred onto a dvd so i may add it to the class collection for viewing and critique on thursday. the room is full of worshipful i-macs, sisters to my own back at 72a. while i wait, i ask the defender of the multimedia loans desk if there is any music by martha schlamme in the collection. there are four vinyl records. i am rather excited by this. sadly, the record players do not work as the needle is broken. i ask j., the kind young man who is supervising my video tape, about turning vinyl music into mp3s. i tell him that the record-player before us was the equivalent of the i-pod when i was batmizvah. he tells me that he has seen record-players but has never used one. i shall have to roll my trousers when i get home. meanwhile, i wait ...

Monday, December 03, 2007

and the turner prize goes to ...

... mark wallinger.

according to the bbc: "Mark Wallinger has been named the winner of the Turner Prize for his replica of the one-man anti-war protest in Parliament Square, State Britain." above is a still from a recording of ten nights he spent alone in berlin's neue nationalgalerie dressed in a bear suit.

more details on the prize here
and here
and also here
nb best comment online so far:

"This is a bit dull. Perhaps he should have called the bear Mohammed.
JLS, London, UK"

gillian gibbons pardoned

the president of sudan has pardoned the schoolteacher who allowed her students to name a teddy bear 'muhammed'. hurrah.

yahoo report is here.
daily mail
telegraph
grauniad

Sunday, December 02, 2007

we are the people we have been waiting for

thanks to tom friedman at the ny times for pointing out this website: vehicle design summit. if you have any interest in alternative resources of energy, and particularly a vehicle "designed to maximize occupant, pedestrian and environmental safety", then you may be interested in these guys. tired of waiting for governments and businesses to put aside short-term goals in favour of long-term solutions, the vds mission statement asserts that they "will begin by assembling a global consortium of the world's leading thinkers, dreamers, revolutionaries and change agents to develop the collaborative framework necessary to harness the world's genius, imagination and inspiration." Who are they? check them out at the people menu on the website. this appears to have begun at m.i.t., so as a temporary local i may feel some local pride. or not. i await further developments.

o yeah, and the title is also from the mission statement!

Friday, November 30, 2007

dawn french is alive and well and moving to cornwall

thank goodness for that!

read about her current plans here.

it is interesting to me that she had been reported as saying that she didn't think she would live to be very old. i have often felt like that. i don't think it is being particularly morbid, it is just a feeling. as long as i am reasonably healthy, i'm happy to hang around. i plan to see qpr win the premiership (which means at least another 30 years i'd say).

as for ms. french - the article begins thus:

"To say that Dawn French is much loved is rather like saying that some women quite like chocolate. If she wasn't a national treasure before The Vicar of Dibley hit our TV screens in 1994, that status was swiftly accorded her after she put on a cassock and answered every village's ideal of how a woman of the cloth should be: compassionate, capable and heaps of fun."

i think i'd like her to play me in the miniseries :-)

evel knievel r.i.p.

somewhat breaking news - evel knievel has died after a long illness. what is it that makes us such rubbernecks? does seeing someone defeating the odds give us hope for ourselves? or perhaps the potential that they will go down may improve the odds for ourselves? the times reports:

"Perhaps his most infamous stunt was an attempt in 1967 to jump the fountain in front of the Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas. Before the jump, Mr Knievel put $100 on the blackjack table. He lost and drank a shot of Wild Turkey bourbon. On the ramp, his motorcycle inexplicably decelerated and Mr Knievel crashed into the car park, putting him in a coma for 29 days.

When he awoke, he was a world-wide celebrity."

i have to admit that i just don't get it, but then i am someone who thinks that the sounds i hear in the car park at six flags are more like screams from a battlefield than sounds of people having fun.

times obit

"Knievel also worked in the Montana copper mines, served in the Army, ran his own hunting guide service, sold insurance and ran Honda motorcycle dealerships. As a motorcycle dealer, he drummed up business by offering $100 off the price of a motorcycle to customers who could beat him at arm wrestling. At various times and in different interviews, Knievel claimed to have been a swindler, a card thief, a safe cracker, a holdup man."
ny times

Thursday, November 29, 2007

trivial questions

the science page in yesterday's indy online has some examples of trivia questions texted to "any questions answered". here are a few of my favourites:

"How do you say "I love you" in binary code?
I love you in binary code is: 01001001 (I) 01101100 (l) 01101111 (o) 01110110 (v) 01100101 (e) 01111001 (y) 01101111 (o) 01110101 (u).

Are there more cows than cars in the world?
Yes, there are more cows in the world than cars: an estimated 1.4 billion cows compared to about 1 billion cars. Cows produce 20 per cent of all methane.

Can a turtle breathe through its bottom?
Yes. Many species of turtle have special sacs opening off the cloaca (anal chamber) permitting take-up of oxygen. Sea-cucumbers also "buttbreathe" .

In which town or city in the UK do people have the highest life expectancy, and what is that age?
The London borough of Kensington & Chelsea, at 80.8 years (men) and 85.8 (women), has the highest life expectancy. Glasgow, at 69.3 and 76.4 years, has the lowest. (hurrah - my mother lives in k&c!)

What is the world's oldest tree?
At more than 4,800 years old, the oldest living tree is "Methu-selah" , a bristlecone pine in the White Mountains, California. Its exact location is a secret.

How much does an elephant poo in its life?
An elephant would produce around 2,492,000kg of excrement over its lifetime. On an average day, the average elephant produces around 100kg. For a human, the daily amount is around 250g.

What time is it at the poles?
Time zones divide along lines of longitude and meet at the poles, causing them to be in all time zones. The South Pole is on the same time as New Zealand.

What was measured in Gillettes?
The strength of early lasers was unofficially measured in Gillettes, named after the power needed to burn a hole in one razor blade."

muhammed the bear

have you been following this awful story? the gist of it is that a british teacher named gillian gibbons has been arrested in the sudan for blasphemy. yesterday the telegraph thought that she might be released. they described the incident thus:

"Miss Gibbons arrived at Unity High School - which caters for wealthy Sudanese children as well as expatriates - in August, after leaving Liverpool in the summer. She asked one of her pupils to bring in the bear and let the children choose the name Mohammed, prompting complaints from several Muslim parents. It is seen as an insult to Islam to attempt to make an image of the prophet. The seven-year-old student who inspired the naming of the teddy has insisted the teacher was not trying to insult Islam. The boy, called Mohammed, told the Daily Mail: "The teacher asked me what I wanted to call the teddy. I said Mohammed. I named it after my name.""

today the bbc reports:

"Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, has been sentenced to 15 days in prison and will then be deported. She escaped conviction for inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs, and will now appeal."

wtf? the idea was that each night a student took the bear home and wrote down what happened to him that evening. the reports were then collected in a booklet. kind of like flat stanley. anyway, again according to the bbc:

"Sudan's top clerics had called for the full measure of the law to be used against Mrs Gibbons and labelled her actions part of a Western plot against Islam."

insulin may be causing me to lose my mind - what is their excuse?

ps a perspective from jemima khan

don't mind me ...

tourists everywhere may be devastated - the voice of the underground, the woman who recorded those immortal words "mind the gap", has been given the sack by london underground. a spokesperson said that it was because she had publicly criticised london underground. she claims that she was misquoted.

more details from the bbc here.

verity lambert r.i.p.

i am mourning the death of verity lambert, who amid myriad successes was the the producer of the first ever doctor who. the telegraph obit includes the odd sentence:

"Verity Ann Lambert was born on November 27 1935, the only child of a Jewish accountant, and educated at Roedean, where she frightened herself watching Great Expectations on the school projector."

for me, at least, a strange collection of facts for a single sentence. anyway, the rest of the obit is linked at the bottom of this note. i note her passing for being in the vanguard of women who made successful careers in television. also, it happens that she was behind many programmes that i enjoyed, e.g., the naked civil servant, minder, rock follies, edward and mrs. simpson, and rumpole of the bailey.

telegraph obit

"The common factor was Lambert's tenacity and drive. A small, energetic woman, she kept up a ferocious schedule and refused to accept the conventional wisdom. Although not a writer she had an instinctive grasp of whether scripts worked and she also had a strong business sense. She was renowned for having a short fuse, and Jeremy Isaacs, her boss at Thames Television, once remarked that she could reduce grown men to tears."
the times obit

"n drama, not the controller nor even the writer, let alone the accountant, was king, but the producer, now a creature extinct in all but name. He (Verity, was a very rare she) was poised professionally on that rich cusp between the management and the talent - writers, directors and the hundreds of skilled creatives - outside. If the bosses trusted the producer, and often they did with a combative generosity, it was the producer who made a crucial difference to the health and vitality of the entire system. Verity was at the very top of this steep, wary tree. She had the greatest range, charisma and durability. Not only the producer's producer, but the audience's finest ally."
grauniad

hurrah!

while the following quote from a recent interview in the telegraph throws a little wobbly into my respect for patricia cornwell:

"She flies helicopters, rides motorbikes and is terrier-like with her causes. Several years ago she set out to prove that the British Impressionist painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper, and she is still on the case. "The Sickert Trust had better watch out," she warns tantalisingly, "when copyright expires on his letters in 2012.""

i was still excited to discover that she is now prepared to be more open about her spouse, Staci, and their relationship. the rest of the interview may be of interest if you are a fan of her books. you may find it here.

ravaj is back!

too boring to explain absence. meanwhile, was home sick today and what i want to know is: if i spent all day in my room and mostly in bed, how did my fingernails manage to collect so much dirt?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

more on social participation

let us just say that when a friend tries to set up two of her other friends with each other, things that the first friend finds endearing may not be so to one or the other of the other friends ... thence the early dialogue during disastrous date three:

"(our friend) says that you like to drink milk?"
"why yes, i do (goes into cute story about why no coffee or tea)."
"hmmmm. i am a vegan."

BA DUM DUM!

Monday, November 19, 2007

a question of free speech

in the wrong exam that i took yesterday, i had to write a brief essay about whether or not universities in the usa should place any limits on free speech on campus. luckily they said "any", which made the argument much easier for me. anyway, now comes the following news from oxford university:

"Police are bracing themselves for violent clashes between university students and far-Right groups after the Holocaust-denying historian, David Irving, and the leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin, were invited to speak at the Oxford Union. ... The speakers were invited by Luke Tryl, the president of the union and a former chairman of the Halifax branch of Conservative Future, the Conservative Party's youth wing."

the details of the story are here, in the telegraph online.

i am an utter idealist at heart, who hopes that the individual will be able to make up her/his own mind based on the ethics and reason that underpin the culture and civilisation that i believe are most likely to lead to tolerance and peace in our world. i am always being told to be realistic, and sometimes i even am.

nu - what does one do with holocaust-deniers and fascists? and is there a difference between institutions of education, i.e., those that hope to shape and develop young minds; and other, public, forums? of course i do not know. i feel that if these people are not inciting others to violence and hatred, there are few grounds upon which to ban them. according to the article, the real problem is the people beyond the university who are planning to go up to oxford to fight for their guys. *sigh*

Sunday, November 18, 2007

woody allen notes on morality

today's ny times has excerpts from more eric lax interviews with mr. allen. it also has bites from short stories old and new - if you decide to have a look, it may help to have a pocket oxford english dictionary at your fingertips. i have to admit that i still like the way this man's mind works. consider the following sentence, describing a piece of junk mail he receives from a new age goddess:

"There is a fervid endorsement by someone named Pleiades MoonStar — a name that would cause no end of consternation for me if I were told at the last minute it belonged to my brain surgeon or pilot."

i am rather fond of his tangents :-)

in the eric lax selection, allen comments on his well-documented belief that god does not exist:

"People jump to the conclusion that what I'm saying is that anything goes, but actually I'm asking the question: given the worst, how do we carry on, or even why should we choose to carry on? Of course, we don't choose — the choice is hardwired into us. The blood chooses to live. [Laughs.] Please note as I pontificate here, you're interviewing a guy with a deficient denial mechanism. Anyhow, religious people don't want to acknowledge the reality that contradicts their fairy tale."

while i suspect that he may have been traumatised in his youth by either emily dickinson or a negative experience with a rabbi, he is addressing a question in which i have some interest: wtf is the point of it all? or, with a little less melodrama, if god is not at the centre, what is? on what may morality be based? r. hillel is quoted in pirkei avot: in a place where there are no men, strive to be a man. allen says:

"Now, there are plenty of people who choose to lead their lives in a completely self-centered, homicidal way. They feel, Since nothing means anything and I can get away with murder, I'm going to. But one can also make the choice that you're alive and other people are alive and you're in a lifeboat with them and you've got to try and make it as decent as you can for yourself and everybody. And it would seem to me this is so much more moral and even much more "Christian." If you acknowledge the awful truth of human existence and choose to be a decent human being in the face of it rather than lie to yourself that there's going to be some heavenly reward or some punishment, it seems to me more noble."

i don't know for myself how important it is to be noble, but i do find it helpful to have as many reasons as possible to try to be a mensch.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

the vienna vegetable orchestra

i have just watched the following video. while for me it has served as the perfect antidote to examination stresses and the nadir of november, it may not be so appealing for you. nevertheless, i urge you to watch it. a few moments of modern music, played on lettuce and carrots and cucumbers and peppers. i am particularly enamoured of the carrot recorder, and also the yellow pepper/carrot trumpet where the top of the pepper serves as a mute. here you go:


how did i discover this? thanks to the telegraph online, at a page you may view here.

also, please note the lack of waste. wherever health and safety services permit, at the end of most concerts the audience is offered fresh vegetable soup made from the instruments.

the owl of learning - bad news, good news

today ravaj took the first examination of the three that are necessary to be licenced in the state of massachusetts as an elementary school educator. the fogginess of sleep-deprivation brought on by a desperate blitz on overdue work meant that she was not exactly sure which exam she was going to take. however, she prepared as her classmates did, and spent hours making flashcards for all the technical terms about reading that she needed to know. she should have realised something was up when, instead of calling out the correct positions in italian for her swordfighting teacher, she kept saying, "phonemic awareness!" and "graphic organiser!". thanks to some coaching by a kind housemate, ravaj thought it possible to make a passing stab at the 'foundations of reading' test today. imagine her surprise when the test papers were handed out and she found she was taking the literacy exam instead! luckily, she is semi-literate, and thinks she found enough spelling and punctuation mistakes in the multiple-choice section to make the passing grade. luckily indeed. imagine how she would have felt if things had been the other way round!!

Monday, November 12, 2007

migrating and emigrating pandas

the associated press reports that pandas in southwestern china are being forced to move as the bamboo that they eat is in its regenerative phase and thus there are massive food shortages. henry sanderson writes:

"Most of the pandas' favorite arrow bamboo in a 217,000 square-mile region of Sichuan province is going through a once-in-60-year cycle of flowering and dying before regenerating, said Yang Xuyu, deputy head of the province's Wild Animal Preservation Station. The pandas are moving to other areas of Sichuan, which has about 40 reserves of various sizes. "No wild panda has been found dead of starvation," said Yang. But more than 80 percent of bamboo in the affected region, called Ruoergai, is now unfit for the animals to eat, he said. Pandas will not touch the plant once it flowers.

About 1,200 pandas — 80 percent of the surviving wild population in China — live in several mountainous areas of Sichuan. Hundreds of pandas died of starvation in Sichuan in the 1980s when arrow bamboo in some reserves flowered and then died. Pandas derive most of their nutrition from arrow bamboo and can starve once the plant enters its dying-off stage. The bamboo produces seeds before dying, and takes 10 to 20 years to grow back. Yang told a conference on panda survival in Chengdu, Sichuan, on Sunday that a shrinking habitat due to farming and industrial development makes it increasingly hard for the animals in the wild to find food during the bamboo life cycle, according to the Xinhua news agency. China's forestry bureau is carrying out a panda rescue drive and working with the World Wildlife Fund to try to restore panda migration paths, Xinhua said."

on a more positive note, mei sheng (which translates as "born in the usa"), arrives safely at the wolong nature reserve in china. mei sheng was born in the san diego zoo, and returns as part of the agreement with china that allowed his parents to go to san diego in the first place.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

remembrance sunday

poppy day is here. bbc online has memories from survivors of the First World War here.

this is one of my favourite poems by the war poets:

Break of Day in the Trenches

The darkness crumbles away
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet's poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies,
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver -what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.

Isaac Rosenberg
(1890 - 1918)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

ahhhhh, bless


a pleasant image to bear in mind before i go to sleep.

kate moss mess


this is absolutely fabulous. reports are just coming out that kate moss met david cameron, and thought he was a plumber. it's going to be on parky, or maybe was already this evening. in any case, here is what yahoo had to say about the event:

"Conservative Party leader Cameron said in an interview to be broadcast Saturday that he met Moss at a charity bash recently and inexplicably found himself engaged in a conversation with her about flood damage to her home. "So I went on like this, twittering on, and she turned around and said, 'God, you sound like a really useful guy, can I have your phone number?'" he told the Parkinson chatshow on ITV1. "I went back to my table and said, 'The good news is, I met Kate Moss and she wanted my telephone number. The bad news is, I think she thinks I'm something to do with drainage'."

social participation

have been writing for class on the skills and opportunities for the social participation of children in the classroom. and then it occurred to me to consider my social participation beyond the classroom. there has been little opportunity and less time and energy for the ravaj to rampage through the social whirl of waltham. there was one first date in brooklyn which ended in disaster as my car was locked into the parking lot for the night (it closed at 10 pm. in new york city. !!!) and i ended up sleeping the night on the couch of said date. needless to say we are no longer in contact with each other. then there was the friend of a friend who invited me to a holocaust survivors' lunch to set me up with a friend. that was just scary. let us hope for third time lucky. let us hope for a third time. meanwhile, back to discussion of good ways to encourage students to make eye contact when greeting each other.

norman mailer is dead

i've never been a big fan of the work and/or person of norman mailer. i have to acknowledge that issues of masculinity kind of dip below my radar. i did, however, enjoy reading the following sentence in the bbc online obit today:

"Mailer's obsession with masculinity and violence often got him into trouble. He once beat up a sailor on a Manhattan street because he believed that the man had questioned the sexuality of his dog."

elaine is correct

owls of learning have been very demanding in the past week, leaving little time for blogging. just in case there may actually be the possibility that one person wondered for a nanosecond who the actor in the last post was, there is a comment to that post which reveals the answer.

or i can just tell you.

(daniel radcliffe)

Monday, November 05, 2007

name the actor

do you recognise the person seen here in his upcoming role as the son of rudyard kipling? today we may be remembering the fifth of november (well, those of us ex-pats for whom it still is the fifth of november), but it will soon be remembrance sunday, when this drama will be shown on british television.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

qpr 2-0 hull city

celebrating the first goal

remember remember the third of november.

the first goalscorer for qpr this afternoon, pictured above, was the delightfully-named hogan ephraim. in the second half, we scored again, thanks to mikele benjamin leigertwood. five games without defeat, conceding only one goal in that time. first game with our new italian leadership. we won! and i am off out to celebrate ...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

o to be in manhattan ...

... now that cyrano's there.

cyrano de bergerac by edmond rostand is my favourite play of all time. i have only seen the film versions with gerard depardieu and mel ferrer, as well as steve martin in 'roxanne'. now it is on broadway, starring kevin kline and jennifer garner. and it even got a good review today in the new york times.


if the owl of learning did not feel as if she were in the last stages of trichomoniasis (the owl kind, not the people kind. yuck!), she might consider going to nyc for a weekend to see the play. however, we have entered the nadir of november, and all time and energy must be directed to her studies and her work. :-(

thursday thirteen xxi


Thirteen Word Definitions that I can Never Remember

1. GIBBOUS
an adjective meaning humpbacked and (of a heavenly body) convex at both edges, as the moon when more than half full.

2. INCHOATE
an adjective meaning not yet completed or fully developed; rudimentary; just begun; incipient.; not organized; lacking order.

3. KINESTHESIA
a noun meaning the sensation of movement or strain in muscles, tendons, and joints; muscle sense.

4. JEJUNE
an adjective that can mean without interest or significance; dull; juvenile; immature; childish;lacking knowledge or experience; uninformed.

5. TRENCHANT
an adjective that can mean incisive or keen, as language or a person; caustic; cutting: trenchant wit. clearly or sharply defined; distinct.

6. HEURISTIC
an adjective meaning serving to indicate or point out; stimulating interest as a means of furthering investigation. also, encouraging a person to learn, discover, understand, or solve problems on his or her own, as by experimenting, evaluating possible answers or solutions, or by trial and error.

7. ALGORITHM
a noun meaning a set of rules for solving a problem in a finite number of steps, e.g., for finding the greatest common divisor.

8. AQUILINE
an adjective that when referring to a nose means shaped like an eagle's beak; hooked. otherwise, of or like the eagle

9. EPISTEMOLOGY
a noun that means a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.

10. PALAVER
a noun meaning Idle chatter. or talk intended to charm or beguile. it used to mean a parley between european explorers and representatives of local populations, especially in africa.

11. MOOT
this one is still confusing even though i looked it up! on the one hand, it is something that has been previously decided or settled and is therefore not relevant to discuss; and on the other hand it can be understood as bringing something up in order to discuss it. for more information, look at the usage note near the bottom of this page.

12. PHLEGMATIC
an adjective that can mean having or suggesting a calm, sluggish temperament; unemotional.

13. ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM
a noun meaning originally, opposition to the disestablishment of the Church of England, now opposition to the belief that there should no longer be an official church in a country. usually used, however, as an example of the longest word that someone knows :-)

phew! now, use them all in a sentence!! happy tt ...

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

ps not for the faint of heart, well, not for anyone who faints easily ... the first tt i viewed after posting was really quite fascinating - 13 operations. those of you with a medical bent may enjoy it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

who is this woman?


her name is cristina fernandez de kirchner, and she has just won the election to become the next president of argentina. here is a profile of her from the bbc. she follows her husband, nestor, as president, and becomes the first elected female president of her country. the bbc online reports:

"Mrs Kirchner, candidate for the governing Front for Victory, has promised to continue her husband's centre-left policies. As well as facing comparisons with Eva Peron, Argentina's legendary former first lady, Mrs Kirchner has been compared to former US First Lady Hillary Clinton, who is also a lawyer and senator seeking to become the first elected female president of her country. "I don't want to be compared with Hillary Clinton or with Evita Peron, or with anybody," she said recently. "There's nothing better than being yourself.""

Monday, October 29, 2007

the top 100 living geniuses (or genii)

tomorrow's telegraph has this list. no information on the page how it was compiled. is it designed to create conflict? how can one make such decisions, and who made them? criteria please.

meanwhile, dealing with what is on the page, the greatest living genius according to the telegraph is (drum roll ...):

and it is a tie, between Albert Hoffman and Tim Berners-Lee!

according to our friends at google and wiki, albert hoffman is probably albert hofman, a swiss chemist, the creator of lysergic acid diethylamide (lsd). tim berners-lee is, of course, the reason we are here at this moment.

ok, but then look at the list:

4th is matt groening, and equal fifth is nelson mandela.

the first woman in the list is flossie wong-staal, credited as the co-discoverer of the hiv virus. she is equal 32nd with, among others, prince, noam chomsky and bobby fischer. and rupert murdoch is 12 places above her.

bill gates is equal 43rd with osama bin laden, philip roth and mohammed ali.

j k rowling is equal 83rd with ken russell and kalashnikov of the weapon.

no, this is too much procrastination even for me! if you need to get a bit aggravated yourself, however, do have a look at this list. meanwhile, all i can say is poppycock and balderdash!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

charlton 0-1 QPR!

bolder scores

that's it, really. i could rant about how pathetic the qpr site is, and that i found this pic on the charlton site, but i need the energy to try not to procrastinate re homework. amazing what a lift the win has been, though. of course i know the bosox are about to sweep the world series, but in the end all my fan mojo belongs with qpr :-)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

anti-semitism in english football

just read this article in the observer online. i've been away a long time, but i really thought things were better than in the 1980's when i was living on the edges of the world of top-flight professional football as a photographer for qpr.

"'Spurs are on their way to Belsen, Hitler's gonna gas 'em again...' It's not a song you would expect to hear on a family day out at a Premier League game, but it is one of several anti-Semitic chants still heard at some top-flight grounds. While the message about anti-black abuse is in the public consciousness, campaigners say that anti-Semitism is alive - and unchecked."

to the tune of 'one man went to mow', i remember being shocked at hearing 'one man went to gas, went to gas a yiddo' sung at loftus road by visiting supporters. i had no idea what to do about it. i told my friends, and they nodded sympathetically. the thing is, most jews in england don't want to stand out, and so they don't say anything about it when something anti-semitic happens. it has always been like that:

"Many of those approached by Observer Sport declined to be interviewed for fear of alienating themselves in the football world. Others did not want to draw attention to their Jewish identity and in some cases clubs felt it too controversial for their staff to discuss. The reticence reminds some of the days when black players were too frightened to speak about racism."

when i was at uni, the vice-chair of the student tory party was found dead drunk outside the halls of residence with the paintbrush in his hand, having painted 'juden raus' and 'death to the jews' and swastikas all over the walls. the school was prepared to fine him and have him pay for fixing the mess. being students, we were feeling a bit militant and so the j-soc (hillel) members sent a photo of a graffiti-ed wall to the jewish chronicle. it was published, the vandal got suspended for 6 months, and we felt good. a rare response, i think. that was more than 20 years ago.

am i surprised that the reporter has found the evidence she presents? absolutely not. are things going to change? i doubt it. yours pessimistically - the ravaj.

qprrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

adam bolder is quite happy

another frabjous day - qpr won, they won away, and i got to see it live on sky thanks to wembley d. i almost scared myself with my scream of delight when we scored. it was such a guttural roar, and before 9 a.m. - i hoped i hadn't woken my flatmate :-)

i have been sleeping a lot this weekend, so i hope it isn't all a dream ... naaaaah i do not have such happy dreams, and if i were dreaming this, i would have dreamt better presenters and commentators :-)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

not-yet-sir ravaj salutes you


today before class cd let me wear the gauntlets, and i gathered the courage to put my head in the helm (nearly took off my ears, and there was no room for my specs). what the heck i have signed the membership forms so we put it all on, gave me a sword, and took a couple of pics.

later, in more 21st century attire, i got to practice hitting someone with a sword for the first time. i cannot tell you how satisfying it was to whack that helm, although during the practice i kept apologising (moi?!). there is so much to remember, and cd said now i can start thinking about preparing to test for a yellow belt. me with a belt? cool :-)

tired now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

eighth heaven?


a la tevye, is this the little girl i ... watched with my dear aunt on my aunt's favourite show about a minister and his family? lots of rumours going around about jessica biel's preferences (go visit dorothy snarker, whose blog just introduced me to this one). i'm torn. on the one hand, i hate prurient celebrity gossip. on the other hand, i find it very ... not sure of the word i want here ... it is kind of comforting to see homosexual relationships, or possible ones, being out in the open.

we do not lose again!


gazza flies (literally, it would appear) down the wing as qpr hold preston to a 0-0 draw up at deepdale. lee camp saved a penalty and, although we could not score, again we did not lose, which is a massive improvement. since the boston baseball team are currently crushing the rockies in the first game of the world series, i realise how much of my fan mojo has been invested in qpr since the yankees were eliminated!

thursday thirteen xx


Thirteen Fantastic Female Comediennes


1. Sandra Bernhard

she scares me because you never know quite where she is going to go, but when she gets there you can wet yourself laughing. not such a big fan of the singing. nothing wrong with it, just not what i want from her. here is a diva moment for you from youtube.

2. Margaret Cho

like so many of her fans, my favourite thing is when she does jokes as her mother. here is a site that has a lot of audio files where you may make up your own mind.

3. Dawn French

for me she is one of the most talented comediennes alive today. she has the ability to inhabit the character she plays to the point where i no longer see her natural zaftigheit. however, i just found this article in the sunday times last august that highlights a morbid streak in her that was hitherto unknown to me.

4. Judy Gold

last year when d & i saw her live in nyc, she announced that she was single, and i realised that except for one small detail i had found the love of my life. unfortunately, the detail is that we have never met. but i am trying to get to know her, mostly by checking out her here.

5. Madeline Kahn

most people who know her know her from the mel brooks movies in which she appeared, especially 'blazing saddles' and 'young frankenstein'. she actually won a tony award in 1993 for her role in wendy wasserstein's 'the sisters rosenzweig'. died waaaay too early.

6. Kathy & Mo

otherwise known as kathy najimy and mo gaffney, who were an off-broadway smash in the mid-'80's before going their separate ways. created wonderful characters, especially kathy's 'maddie' talking about her gay nephew. here is a brief interview with more details from the early '90's.

7. Elaine May

with mike nichols part of the greatest comedy improvisers ever imo. ok she was responsible for one of the most disastrous movies ever, i.e., 'ishtar'. just find some cds of their improvisations, and you will see how they were the parents of all those we know today. all i could find on youtube was this., but it is not too bad. also check out wikipedia for more.

8. Bette Midler

funny, zaftig and jewish what's not to like? i first fell in love with the divine miss m when i saw her on tv whizzing around the stage in a wheelchair whilst wearing a mermaid costume. for some reason, the one line of hers that is permanently tattooed on my memory is: "what is a kreplach? a kreplach is a person from kreplachia!" this never fails to make me laugh. yes, getting a life is on my list of things to do when i have done the homework i am supposed to be doing while i am writing these notes.

9. Gilda Radner

i didn't grow up with 'saturday night live', but my sister bought a vinyl record of some sketches from the show back from a trip to the usa and that got us started. before all-night (or even all-day) tv and videos it was hard to find more of gilda's work, until i got an lp of her one-woman show. after that, every time i went to the usa i would haunt the tv looking for repeats that had emily litella et al for me to enjoy. unbelievably sadly she died of ovarian cancer at the age of 42.

10. Jennifer Saunders

"french and saunders, bee bup di do" beginning with their parts in 'the comic strip presents ...', jen and dawn changed the appearance of women in british comedy. and then, of course, there is abfab. brilliant writer, performer, and presumably anything else she wants to do.

11. Catherine Tate

maybe more people will know who catherine tate is after the next series of doctor who where she returns to be his companion for a while. i first heard of her when my mother brought me a dvd as a gift when she visited me in ny. a woman with a sketch show. another woman with a sketch show. post little britain, however, these were characters that were just very rude! the old woman who can't stop cursing, the schoolgirl who always talks back, etc. yet she makes me laugh.

12. Tracey Ullman

according to wiki, tracey is now a u.s. citizen. hmmmmm. she is of the french and saunders generation (it was all a bit incestuous back then) but left early on to try and make it in america. she seems to have done that quite well, although she is quoted as saying that maybe one day she might get a 2-minute spot on the simpsons :-) i think she is one of the most versatile actors i have seen in this genre. she is bloody good at accents!

13. Victoria Wood

if i had to pick one out of all the others, victoria wood is my absolutely most fabulous favourite. here is the intro to the wiki description:

"Victoria Wood OBE (born 19 May 1953 in Prestwich Village, Lancashire) is a BAFTA award winning English comedian, actor, singer and writer, educated at Bury Grammar, an all girls school. Wood has written and starred in sketches, plays, films and sitcoms, and her live stand-up comedy act is interspersed with her own compositions, which she accompanies on piano.
Wood is often regarded as among the top sitcom writers in Britain. Much of her humour is grounded in everyday life, and abounds with references to popular British media, stereotypically English pastimes, attitudes, prejudices, and even brand names of quintessentially British products. She is noted for her skills in observing culture, and in satirising classes."

as you can see, pretty english. very simple, and utterly brilliant.

i guess this list is pretty old-fashioned. but then, may i kick myself later for saying this, i am somewhere near something that some people might refer to as middle age, and these are the kind of people that make me laugh. although i did download sarah silverman's "give the jew girl toys" and like that a lot.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Monday, October 22, 2007

r.b.kitaj r.i.p.

an original, and an original kitaj

during r.b.kitaj's period of interest in jewish culture and the holocaust, my late father came to know him. there were a few connections between our families, e.g., i was his son max's sunday school teacher when max was little. and, as you can see, he painted my father. in my mother's flat, there is a preparatory sketch for this painting. i never cease to be amazed that kitaj captured the essence of ahf in about six strokes of a piece of charcoal.

it seems to be breaking news at the moment as this is all i can find:
the times

more later.

from the grauniad
the telegraph
ny times
the independent

Sunday, October 21, 2007

poppy day is coming ...

sparky, aka charles m schulz

as seen by kim scafuro

there is a new biography of charles m schulz out that presents him as a depressed and melancholy man who worked out his issues through his drawings. the ny times reviewer discusses the book in the context of our cultural stereotype of the tortured artist, and suggests that the author:

"(depicts) Mr. Schulz as a much more self-aware and autobiographical artist than has been understood previously, a conduit for his times and the timeless subjects of art: longing, love, heartbreak, disappointment, distrust. (One strip, drawn when Mr. Schulz’s first marriage was breaking up and his wife, suspicious of an affair, was questioning his phone bills, shows Charlie Brown yelling at a lovesick Snoopy: “And stop making those long-distance phone calls!”)"

while, as the reviewer quotes schulz:

"“All the loves in the strip are unrequited; all the baseball games are lost; all the test scores are D-minuses; the Great Pumpkin never comes; and the football is always pulled away.”"

i think i shall have to read the book myself before i may make up my mind. if you are interested in the suffering artist question, please read here.

nb thank you to alison bechdel for the tip re the above pic - below is its inspiration.

views of benazir bhutto

imran khan writes in today's telegraph:

"I have known Benazir since we were at Oxford together, but we have drifted apart politically since then. Perhaps I could have warned her that her life would be in danger if she returned to Pakistan and had a parade, but I doubt she would have listened. After all, there has been no shortage of warnings from other quarters. But I can tell her this: it is not going to get any easier for her. Whenever she goes out campaigning in public, her life is going to be threatened. It is different for me campaigning in public, even in the frontier region, because I am not perceived as an America stooge, or a supporter of the war on terror." more here.

imran is standing for a different party. how do we know what to believe?

first i think how amazing it is that a woman has been prime minister in a country like pakistan, and instinctively want to support the return of bhutto to her home country. i read an account by a correspondent for the times, who was on the bus when the bombers struck. she recalls the beginning of the journey:

"She looked stunning, dressed in an emerald-green-and-white shalwar kameez, the colours of the Pakistani flag, to symbolise national unity. Her jacket was finished with tiny white pearl buttons, and over her head was a trademark floaty white dupatta, which as usual rarely stayed on. As she said goodbye to her two daughters and her husband, Asif, in the VIP lounge, she announced: “This is the beginning of a long journey for Pakistan back to democracy, and I hope my going back is a catalyst for change. We must believe that miracles do happen.”"

as they ride on the bus through the streets, bhutto says:

"“This is the real Pakistan, not the militants or the military. We are giving a voice to the moderates that don’t want to see their country taken over by terrorists.” For a moment she grew sombre. “I just hope I can meet all these expectations . . . but also that I am allowed to.”"

lots more here.

these are the kind of words that move me, the kind in which i wish to believe. this is a brave woman. her father was hanged by the military, and her brother was poisoned, and another brother was shot. yet she wants to return. but this is also someone who made a deal with the current dictator to drop corruption charges that were hanging over her head so she could return without being arrested. were the charges real, or trumped up? is she an american stooge? is she a western stooge? can she be a voice for democracy in her country?

aaaaaaaaargh! said ravaj impotently. i want to believe that miracles do happen, that she won't end up like indira gandhi, and that she will make a positive difference.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

joe torre has left and gone away


thank you joe torre for giving me my best years as a yankee fan. i agree that the offer made to you was derisory. unfortunately, to give up my allegiance to the team (NOT the owners) to protest the situation would involve ripping my heart from my breast, and i have a non-refundable ticket to visit my mother in december. i wish you good luck for the future.
sincerely
- ravaj.

a biological moment ...

look at those muscles!

or should that be a physiological moment? i do not know. i do, however, see an awful lot of muscles in the man's leg, many of which i am sure i have never seen before :-)

meanwhile, even though the recent flux of personnel changes at qpr mean i have no idea to whom the leg and those muscles belong, i am happy to report that we did not lose again today. of course we did not win again today either, but maybe some of that mojo will rub off on the rugby? or did i use it all up finding my lost qpr hat? hmmmmm ... hard questions for a shabbat afternoon. nu - just look at those muscles!

j.k.rowling outs harry potter character

as i just read here, j k rowling has told us that dumbledore is gay. interesting ...

a little more here from the bbc

or, as the germans said:

"Die Autorin der Bestseller-Romane um den jungen Zauberer Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, hat das Geheimnis eines der größten Helden der sieben Bände über Hexer und Zauberlehrlinge gelüftet. Dumbledore, Schulleiter des Zauberer-Internats Hogwarts und mächtiger Mentor des jungen Harry, war homosexuell. Die überraschende Information lieferte Rowling bei einer Lesung in der New Yorker Carnegie-Hall am Freitagabend. "Um ehrlich zu sein, ich habe ihn mir immer schwul vorgestellt", sagte Rowling."

p.s. the next day - a leader from the telegraph

Friday, October 19, 2007

egg-chasing and prime ministers

as the whole of england (except those who couldn't give a toss about rugby) prepares for the world cup final tomorrow night, here's another great peter brookes cartoon commenting on gordon brown the pm. btw, he is pictured as standing in the exact pose that johnny wilkinson, england's kicker and inspiration, takes before taking a penalty or attempting a conversion.

advice for writers from the late alan coren to his son


from today's telegraph:

"“When I was about 11 and doing creative writing at school,” Giles recalled, “I would always go to my dad and say, 'What shall I write?’.

“He would always say, 'Whatever the first thing is that comes into your head, don’t write that because that’s what everyone will write. When the second idea comes into your head, don’t write that either because that’s what the bright kids will write. Wait for the third idea, because that’s the one that only you will do”."

alan coren, a humorist i admired greatly, died today. condolences to his family, friends and fans.

times obit
"The son of a plumber, he was born in North London in 1938 with, as the New Statesman put it, “a silver spoof in his mouth”"

from the grauniad
"Coren, as an editor of Punch, presided over an office that was often filled with laughter. This was especially so at the weekly formal lunches, which gathered together the prominent people of the day - he also had a useful trick of tearing a London telephone directory in two, a genetic gift, he claimed, that he had inherited from a circus strongman grandfather."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

deborah kerr r.i.p.


where have i been for the last 24 hours? how could i have missed the news that deborah kerr is dead? ok she was 86 and had parkinsons and has not been seen much in public for years. nevertheless, she has always been one of my favourite actresses. she was beautiful, and even though it was everything to which a nice jewish girl like me could never aspire, still i loved her. the films that most people remember - the king and i, an affair to remember, from here to eternity - were great. i think, though, that one of my favourites has to be black narcissus. the descent of the other nun into madness terrifies me yet. i also loved all three of her in the life and death of colonel blimp. hollywood saw her as the epitome of an elegant englishwoman. in an interview during her latter years she noted that she most probably survived because she never took being a star too seriously. now i must go and dig out my dvd of 'a woman of substance', that best of the eighties' mini-series. it's going to be an emma harte weekend!


telegraph obit
slide show from the bbc online
bbc obituary
the times
an appreciation from the grauniad

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

the great omani, r.i.p.


being a great houdini fan, as well as a fan of the great houdini (who lived in appleton wisconsin and whose museum is on my aunt's street there), the obituary of the great omani caught my eye. it never ceases to amaze me why people decide to try and do tricks like eating light bulbs (or bicycles) and plunging themselves into flames.

from the telegraph:
"Ron Cunningham, who died on Monday aged 92, was an escapologist and end-of the-pier artiste specialising in feats such as eating light bulbs and removing a straitjacket while hanging upside down with his trousers on fire. The Great Omani, as he was known to his public, began in the 1950s as a regular draw at music halls and piers around the south coast. His career reached a high point in 1977 when, to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee, he performed a handstand on the cliff edge at Beachy Head with a Union flag between his toes; it made the front page of The People, and film and television appearances followed.

...Perhaps determined that the suspense should last to the very end, Cunningham even wrote his own epitaph: They have put the Great Omani in a box / They're using nails instead of locks / But at the funeral, do not despair / There's still a chance Omani won't be there."

the whole piece may be found here.

charges in politkovskaya murder

the bbc online reports this morning:

"Russian prosecutors have charged nine people, including a security service official, over the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, reports say. Ms Politkovskaya was shot dead near her flat in Moscow in October 2006. She won fame by exposing atrocities committed against Chechen civilians by Russian-backed security forces. Last month, a former Chechen politician was charged with being an accomplice in the murder. Ten suspects were arrested in August, two of whom were then freed.

The nine suspects were formally charged by a Moscow city court on Wednesday, Russian news agencies said. Interfax also quoted a source close to the investigation as saying charges had been brought against Lt Col Pavel Ryaguzov from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) for abuse of office. Investigators believe that he could have passed on details of Ms Politkovskaya's address to another suspect, who in turn gave them to the killer, the source said. In August, chief prosecutor Yuri Chaika said 10 suspects - including serving and former security officers - had been arrested in the investigation. Their ringleader was a Chechen gang boss, he said. At least two suspects have since been released. Mr Chaika said there were indications that the murder plot had been masterminded abroad with a view to destabilising Russia.

Ms Politkovskaya was a strong critic of President Vladimir Putin - especially his military campaign in Chechnya. Her former colleagues at Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta accused Kremlin hardliners of interfering in the murder investigation after a lead prosecutor in the case was replaced in September."

we shall, of course, never know who really commissioned the murder. *sigh*

Monday, October 15, 2007

the one true bionic woman

i'm sorry, but however wonderful the make-over of michelle ryan from an eastender to jaime sommers or even the almost-compelling katee sackhoff as her nemesis have been, there is only one bionic woman: lindsay wagner! thanks to jc for reminding me:


i'd rather watch her in a commercial for a sleep number bed than many other programmes, including, i'm sad to say, the current revival of the bionic woman tv show. gosh, even the c. 1980 miniseries 'scruples' was worth it just for lindsay. *sigh*

which dyke to watch out for are you?

just did the quiz on alison bechdel's site through a link to another site. to my great surprise, this was the result:


Which Dyke to Watch Out For Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com
You scored as Lois

You are Lois, the ladykiller who's mellowed into an awesome, loyal girlfriend. Give yourself permission to read the newest Harry Potter at Camp Trans.


who'd'a thunk it, eh?

the meme of unread books (long)

sorry but could not resist this meme. in order, these are the top 106 books unread. no idea where the list originated! one is supposed to bold books one has read, italicise ones that you've started but cannot finish, and strike through those you couldn't bear. the shortcuts are not working so i shall be putting an asterisk for those i have read, dot dot dotting those i did not finish, and ignoring the unread. go on, have a go! one of the better tools of procrastination i have found in recent weeks :-)

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
**Anna Karenina
...Crime and punishment
**Catch-22
One hundred years of solitude
**Wuthering Heights
**The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The name of the rose
Don Quixote
...Moby Dick
...Ulysses
...Madame Bovary
**The Odyssey
**Pride and prejudice
**Jane Eyre
**A tale of two cities
...The brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
**War and peace
**Vanity fair
The time traveler's wife
**The Iliad
**Emma
The Blind Assassin
...The kite runner
**Mrs. Dalloway
**Great expectations
American gods
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
Atlas shrugged
...Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex
Quicksilver
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
**The Canterbury tales
The historian : a novel
**A portrait of the artist as a young man
Love in the time of cholera
**Brave new world
The Fountainhead
Foucault's pendulum
Middlemarch
**Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
**A clockwork orange
Anansi boys
**The once and future king
**The grapes of wrath
**The poisonwood Bible : a novel
**1984
**Angels & demons
The inferno
The satanic verses
**Sense and sensibility
**The picture of Dorian Gray
**Mansfield Park
**One flew over the cuckoo's nest
**To the lighthouse
**Tess of the D'Urbervilles
**Oliver Twist
**Gulliver's travels
Les misérables
The corrections
**The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay
**The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
**Dune
The prince
**The sound and the fury
Angela's ashes : a memoir
The god of small things
A people's history of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
**A confederacy of dunces
...A short history of nearly everything
**Dubliners
The unbearable lightness of being
...Beloved
**Slaughterhouse-five
**The scarlet letter
**Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (48)
**The mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud atlas
The confusion
**Lolita
**Persuasion
**Northanger abbey
**The catcher in the rye
On the road
The hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
...Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance : an inquiry into values
**The Aeneid
**Watership Down
...Gravity's rainbow
**The Hobbit
**In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
**White teeth
**Treasure Island
**David Copperfield
The three musketeers

having now done this list, i am a bit embarrassed *blush*. haven't read as many as i thought, and also seem very light on the contemporary books. excellent - the worrying about this is more procrastination. and worrying about appearing pretentious, and worrying about editorialising, and cetera ad nauseam. help, i'm a procrastinator. somebody get me out of here!