Monday, January 29, 2007

pandas in famous history

the telegraph obit for paul channon contained the following:

"The Lord Kelvedon, who died on Saturday aged 71, was, as Paul Channon, the final Guinness to represent the pocket borough of Southend West and was Transport Secretary at the time of the traumatic Kings Cross, Clapham and Lockerbie disasters. Son of the American-born diarist Sir Henry "Chips" Channon, whose seat, wealth, taste and place in society he inherited, he proved a more accomplished politician, and a gifted administrator. His 38-year Commons career began while still at Oxford and spanned five Tory leaders from Macmillan to Major. Amiable, self-deprecating and intense, Channon was never a self-projector or a dilettante. He did, however, have a sense of fun, including an ability to speak backwards and a penchant for asking his staff to speak in foreign accents.

From the start he moved in charmed circles. *****King Edward VIII interrupted his preparations to abdicate to give him a toy panda.***** Channon and his lifelong friend the Duke of Kent were born on the same day, and their nurses wheeled them round the park together. Terence Rattigan dedicated The Winslow Boy to him "in the hope that he may live to see a world in which this tale will point no moral"."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

qpr r.i.p.

never felt so depressed about my team, at least not since the last time i never felt so depressed about them. they seem to be in freefall. last night they couldn't score in a house of ill-repute, not to mention in front of an open goal. they were lucky enough to be playing a team as bad as they are, yet still they lost. the winning goal, which led to a fourth-round tie on live tv and about 300,000 ukp sorely-needed revenue, was an own goal of course. a shot by luton heading wide, and our guy stuck out a boot and deflected it past his own keeper. i have no more lucky hats, shirts, socks, scarves or rituals. and yet, i still can't quite give up on them. as my sister often says - why couldn't our father have chosen a better team for our family to follow?! not the scum, obviously, but fulham, perhaps, if not a north london club?

Friday, January 19, 2007

scottish football

checking out some dvds in the public library today in this small town on the north shore, i noticed that the lady behind the counter wasn't making eye contact. i asked her how she was doing and she said she was fine, still without looking at me. "looking forward to the weekend?" i asked.
"yes," she said. i asked her where her accent was from and she looked at me and said, "scotland".
"i know that," i said, "but which part?"
"greenock," she said.
"morton," i replied, and she came to life and we had a lovely chat about david beckham and other bits of world news.

i've always told my mother that knowing the names of obscure football teams can sometimes be rather useful :-)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

art buchwald r.i.p.

when i was a child, my father would walk down to the news-stand near the station and pick up an international herald tribune so my mother could do the new york times x-word. on the back page i think, on the left-hand side, i would read and laugh at the column by art buchwald. another person i wanted to be like when i grew up!

the ny times obit:

Published: January 18, 2007
Art Buchwald, who satirized the follies of the rich, the famous and the powerful for half a century as the most widely read newspaper humorist of his time, died Wednesday night in Washington. He was 81.

The cause was kidney failure, his son, Joel, said. Mr. Buchwald, long a pillar of Washington life, died at his son’s home, where he had been living for most of the last eight years. Mr. Buchwald’s syndicated column was a staple for a generation or more of newspaper readers, not least the politicians and government grandees he lampooned so regularly. His life was a rich tale of gumption, heartbreak and humor, with chapters in Paris, Washington and points around the globe.

But perhaps no year of his life was as remarkable as the last. It became something of an extended curtain call. Last February doctors told him he had only a few weeks to live. “I decided to move into a hospice and go quietly into the night,” he wrote three months later. “For reasons that even the doctors can’t explain, my kidneys kept working.”

Refusing dialysis, he continued to write his column, reflecting on his mortality while keeping his humor even as he lost a leg. He spent the summer on Martha’s Vineyard, published a book, “Too Soon to Say Goodbye,” in the fall and attended a memorial for an old friend, the reporter R.W. Apple Jr. of The New York Times. He gave interviews and looked on as his life was celebrated.

“The French ambassador gave me the literary equivalent of the Legion of Honor,” he wrote. “The National Hospice Association made me man of the year. I never realized dying was so much fun.”

Once described as a “Will Rogers with chutzpah,” Mr. Buchwald found enthusiastic readerships on both sides of the Atlantic. Early on he became nearly everyone’s favorite American in Paris for his satirical column in the European edition of The New York Herald Tribune. When he returned from overseas to write a new column, from Washington, he became even more popular. At its peak it appeared in some 500 newspapers.

He delighted in stirring the pot — never maliciously, always vigorously. The world was mad (or at least a little nutty), he said, and all he was doing was recording it. He did it so well that he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1982."

for the whole obituary (there are three pages of it), click here.

"celebrity" big brother

have you been following all the fuss about 'racist' comments in the big brother house in england? the chavs are lining up against a middle-class bollywood movie star. that's the real issue, i think, it is a class war. i don't get the programme because it is on british television and i am in america. also, i don't have television in my apartment :-) but i have been following it through the bloggers in the times newspaper. the press appear to have stirred it all up into an international incident, with protests across india and questions in the houses of parliament. meanwhile, those who watch get to look at a group of stupid and bored people bullying someone who is different. it's just like school :-(

i was amused by an item about one of the protagonists, the deposed miss great britain (relieved of her tiara for being in a relationship with one of the judges):

"Lloyd made a memorable appearance on BBC One's Test the Nation. When asked "Who was Winston Churchill - a rapper, US President, the PM or King?", Lloyd answered "Wasn't he the first black president of America? There's a statue of him near me - that's black.""

thursday thirteen meme vii

Thirteen Favourite Cities I Have Visited

1. Amsterdam, Netherlands
when we went to visit the anne frank house (i was about 12), i wasn't sure how i'd feel. i'd read the diary, the play; seen the movie, etc. etc. ... i was excited to see shelley winters' oscar on the shelf, and the secret door behind the bookcase. what touched me, though, were the pictures of movie stars cut out from magazines that she had pinned on the wall, just like i had at home.

2. Berlin, Germany
berlin is where my father was born, where my niece now lives, and where my great-grandparents are buried. and there are pandas in the zoo :-)

3. Chicago, USA
chicago is a city that i would love to live in one day. it has all the culture of the east, but the people are so much nicer. it has american and national league baseball. it is by the water, and it is near (a four hour bus-ride) to my aunt's house.

4. Dublin, Eire
after a game between the republic of ireland and romania, john byrne (qpr & eire) invited me to the players' bar for a drink. i was well taken care of, and rather wobbly when it was time to go to the house of my cousins where i was staying the night. i had the address on a piece of paper, and asked the bus driver if he could get me there. he said that he could not, but he would take me to a guy who could. he put me on the second bus and told the driver to take good care of me. he really did - he drove the bus up to the front door of my cousins' house!

5. Edinburgh, Scotland
i could not wait to get to holyrood house and see the permanent stain on the floor made by the blood of david rizzio. when we entered, i noticed that all the floors were carpeted. i asked a docent why this was, and he told me that people still got very excited about mary queen of scots all these years later and the museum was trying to prevent vandalism.

6. Jerusalem, Israel
i'm just taking a moment now to imagine myself going into the king of falafel and ordering my favourite: hummous and chips. they do the chips properly, i.e., the english way. after i finish eating, i wipe my hands carefully and go into the maven bookshop for a bit of a browse.

7. London, England
london is my home, although i no longer live there. it is where my mother and my sister and my dearest friends live. it is where qpr lives. it is where my father is buried, alongside leo baeck and hugo gryn and jackie du pre and leslie hore-belisha who invented the belisha beacon. it is the city where my feet know where they are going, and i don't have to look at the map to use the tube

8. Munich, Germany
the best time to see the amazing paintings in the alte and neue pinakothek is during oktoberfest - the museums are pretty empty around then :-)

9. New York City, USA
the city of my birth and my ordination. the home of the chrysler building, the brooklyn bridge and the lions outside the public library. the empire state building lights up blue and white for chanukah. it's a wonderful town. (the bronx is up and the battery's yeah yeah yeah)

10. Paris, France
a stunningly beautiful city in which one may walk for hours. here i like it best after quatorze juillet, when the parisians all leave the city for the summer. it's a bit nicer then :-)

11. Prague, Czech Republic

i visited here in 1988, so i expect it is a lot different now. we had three days to explore, and i spent most of them in the cemetery looking at the amazing tombstones. we went to visit the jewish community centre behind the altneushul, and as we entered the large social hall it was quite dark. high up on the wall was a portrait, with a spotlight pointed at it. we moved closer to see which revered rabbi was so honoured, and found it to be a signed picture of barbra streisand from when she filmed 'yentl'.

12. Sidney, Australia
it was such a thrill to see the iconic opera house with my own eyes. i went to be with dayenu, the g/l/b/t group that was coming out as jewish in the parade. we danced through the streets and were hugged and kissed by many many people. i met lots of popes and nuns, but the costumes that remain on my mind were a group dressed as giant tampons to protest a tax on feminine hygiene products. people were so friendly ... if only oz was a couple of thousand miles nearer ...

13. St. Petersburg, Russia

as a child i had often wished i was a fairly rich (but not enough to get into trouble) noble around the time of catherine the great, riding through snowy fields in my troika. i was a bit overwhelmed to actually be in russia. the hermitage was my favourite tourist attraction. in fact, i'd seen many of the paintings in exhibitions back home. this meant that i was able to look at the building itself, and enjoy that as well. i remember that i loved a frieze of cherubs that all had weapons in their darling little hands!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

back in town

been away for a while unexpectedly but time to re-enter the cyberworld. i begin with a confession. sacha baron cohen makes me laugh. a lot. i thought his speech at the golden globes was hilarious. the shots of american actors kind of wondering if it was ok to laugh were also amusing. laughter can be so healing. nu - i found the clip on youtube for you:

sorry it's gone ... this is what youtube said:

"This video has been removed at the request of copyright owner Dick Clark Productions, Inc. because its content was used without permission"

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

iwao takamoto r.i.p.

what is it with me and obituaries? hmmmmm ... i do love reading them, and have a preference for those in english newspapers. my tradition teaches that when someone dies, their memory should be for a blessing. if i note the death of someone whose life/work gave me pleasure, it feels like a way of thanking them. remembering how they touched my life is a blessing for me.

thence mr takamoto.

creator of scooby doo, astro (the jetsons' dog) and muttley.

when i was in single digits i never missed any of these cartoons (and i do have a wacky races video in my home right now). thank you, sir.

Monday, January 08, 2007

magnus magnusson r.i.p.

the master of mastermind has died, of pancreatic cancer.

i absolutely loved the programme - it was one of the few quiz shows in which the general knowledge questions were challenging for me she said modestly :-) . true, though.

magnusson was the guest speaker for the class of '86 at the university of nottingham. my entire family was therefore able to hear his discourse on icelandic literature. i'm afraid that all i can remember is that it was about icelandic literature. the american studies department graduates were the first to receive their diplomas and it was a very long day.

reactions from:

the bbc
the times
the independent
the grauniad

Saturday, January 06, 2007

pot noodles inventor is dead

yahoo news reports:

"Inventor of instant noodles dies at 96
Sat Jan 6, 6:02 AM ET
TOKYO - Momofuku Ando, the Japanese inventor of instant noodles — a dish that has sustained American college students for decades — has died. He was 96. Nissin Food Products Co., the company Ando founded, said on its Web site that he died Friday after suffering a heart attack. Born in Taiwan, Ando founded his company in 1948 from a humble family operation. Faced with food shortages in post-World War II Japan, Ando thought a quality, convenient noodle product would help feed the masses. In 1958, his "Chicken Ramen" — the first instant noodle — was introduced after many trials. Following its success, the company added other products, such as the "Cup Noodle" in 1971. "The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum" opened in 1999 in Ikeda City in western Japan commemorating his inventions. Ando gave a speech at the company's New Year ceremony and enjoyed Chicken Ramen for lunch with Nissin employees on Thursday before falling ill, Japan's largest daily Yomiuri reported. He is survived by his wife, Masako.

wiki notes: "Maruchan (マルちゃん) is a brand of popular ramen noodles. It can be found in a packaged form to be cooked on a stove, in a cup to which boiled water is added, or can be microwaved. It is a division of Toyo Suisan, a Japanese conglomerate. Maruchan is easily the most familiar brand of ramen in the United States and Mexico. Indeed, most Americans will think of ramen as the packaged instant noodle soup. However, in Japan, ramen is usually a fresh dish sold as fast food, often in train stations and at roadside stands, or at special "bars".

Rivalries (sometimes violent) have quickly developed between Maruchan and Nissin, the other leading instant noodle company in North America. Confrontations have developed in some college towns. Proponents of Maruchan insist that the company produces a wider array of flavors, and offers more cost friendly 6-packs."

noodle wars, eh?

one of my favourite poems by Roger McGough just jumped into my head. it is in my commonplace book:

Noodle Bug

One bright Thursday morning
P.C.Plod was on point duty in Williamson Square
when he was approached by an oriental gentleman,
new to the city, who wanted to know
the whereabouts of a certain Chinese restaurant.
To Plod, one Chinese restaurant was as good,
or as bad, as another, and so he
directed the old man to the nearest.

Ten minutes later, the old man returned:
'Please could you dilect me to Yuet Ben Lestaurant',
'That's a coincidence', remarked Plod
'You're the second Chinaman to ask me that in ten minutes, is there a party on?'
'Me same Chinaman', explained the same Chinaman.
To cover up his embarrassment,
Plod gave detailed directions
of a restaurant on the far side of the city.
The old man trundled off.

Twenty minutes later, tired and angry,
he was back in Williamson Square.
Lest a member of our Police Force be thought
less than wonderful and idiotic to boot,
Plod sought immediately to pacify
the stranger with polite conversation.
'Now then sir what have you there in that large bag
that weighs so heavily upon you?'
'In bag there is special Chinese flour'
'And what's that used for sir?'
persisted the trafficontrolling seeker
of eternal truth and wisdom.
'Ah well, special flour is mixed with water until velly soft and then whole family arrive for ceremony and everybody pull and roll and pull and roll and pull and roll until we have big soft noodle six foot in length.'
'Garn, silliest thing I ever heard', scoffed Plod
'What could you do with a big soft noodle six foot long?'
'You could put it on pointduty in Williamson Square'
suggested the old man and




qpr 2-2 luton

dexter scores in the cup
Originally uploaded by ravaj.
a fan myth shattered - for the last 2 games i have worn not one item of qpr attire neither hat nor shirt nor socks ... and we have not lost. indeed, we won last week, and today, after being denied a blatant penalty in the first half, we equalised through shabazz, who knocked the ball in with his hand.

this is, of course, cheating. the commentator seemed to feel, however, that justice was served.

now i have a decision to make: should i continue to avoid wearing qpr clothing during a match since it is having such a positive effect?

such are the dilemmas of the true fan :-)

Thursday, January 04, 2007


another interesting article from qpr fan and science editor of the times mark henderson here

apparently, leading scientists claim that fusing human dna with animal eggs can lead to effective treatments for people with incurable crippling diseases such as motor neurone and alzheimers. they also say that their research falls completely within the regulation of the human fertilisation and embryology act. glad to know that there is one, although i think it dates back to 1990 and is probably in need of review.

next to this story, we have that of ashley x, a young girl whose parents have had her physical development arrested through surgery and hormone treatment so that she will never reach puberty. the parents believe that doing this will improve her quality of life since she is severely disabled. there is an op-ed in the times today by sarah vine supporting the parents here

vine says: "The key ethical question here is not about whether Ashley is being denied her right to reproduce — a right that is academic anyway because of her condition, which is incurable; it is about what keeps this family together. It’s about common sense and human decency. It’s about parents of disabled children — who, after all, have a right to an existence too — and the limits of their mental and physical endurance."

i am knocked sideways by this one. there i was teetering on the brink of thinking that stem-cell research using human dna and bunnies might be justified for medical reasons ... and then i saw the story of ashley and am a bit flummoxed.

maybe it is apples and oranges. not sure. why am i repulsed by the thought of surgical removal of a child's reproductive organs, and not by a frankenbunny? partly, i suppose because i also have a uterus and am responding rather viscerally.

i do find vine's statement incongruous. her use of the term 'ethical' does not make sense in this sentence. here it's definitely apples and oranges, the apple being ashley's basic rights as a human being, and the orange being the issue of what kind of support the family is obligated to provide. i do not believe that making it easier for the family to cope is justification for sterilisation of a child.

a link to the telegraph summary of the case, which includes links to the blog of the parents and some photographs of ashley here.

having read it, and found out more about the situation, i feel less judgmental. ashley has the mental and physical abilities of a 3-month-old baby, and is deemed incurable. nevertheless, it does not feel ethical. here is part of the telegraph report:

"Her parents want to care always for her at home but feared they might not be able to if she was larger.

"As a result, Ashley can continue to delight in being held in our arms and will be moved and taken on trips more frequently and will have more exposure to activities and social gatherings (for example, in the family room, back yard, swing, walks, bathtub, etc) instead of lying down in her bed staring at TV (or the ceiling) all day long."

Her smaller, lighter body is better suited to constant lying down and is easier to be moved around, her parents argue.

Rounding on their critics, they wrote: "Some question how God might view this treatment. The God we know wants Ashley to have a good quality of life and wants her parents to be diligent about using every resource at their disposal (including the brains he endowed them with) to maximise her quality of life.

"Knowingly allowing avoidable suffering for a helpless and disabled child can't be a good thing in the eyes of God.""

Thursday thirteen meme vi

Thirteen Science Fiction Novels/Novellas I Love

1. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

2. The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

3. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

4. He, She & It by Marge Piercy

5. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

6. Dune by Frank Herbert

7. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

8. Glory Road by Robert Heinlein

9. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

10. Foundation by Isaac Asimov

11. Time for the Stars by Robert Heinlein

12. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

13. The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

novocaine is cool

and the first exciting event of the gregorian new year was a visit to the dermatologist. as the direct progeny of two moley people, i am blessed with markings on my back that if you were to connect the dots you would discover a detailed map of a norwegian fjord. in any case, a mole in a visible and non-embarrassing place went funny the other day. having just watched an episode of 'bad girls' where one of the julies has a lump and doesn't want to deal with it and ends up having a mastectomy, i decided to make a call immediately to my gp for a referral. she took one look at it and told me she would be removing it right away. that's where the novocaine came in. i was a bit surprised, actually, since i have no teeth in my thigh, but after the initial stick, and the strong burning sensation, a lovely calm feeling came over my leg. i wished my whole body could feel like that :-)

the mole is gone, and in a week i shall know more about it. meanwhile, a little bit of austin powers and his need for novocaine when dealing with a mole ...