Saturday, September 29, 2007

pictures from burma

i just watched this on ruth gledhill's blog, and brought it over here. she also has a news report showing the shooting of the japanese reporter, but i could not bear to share that. on the one hand, it is news that shows the outside world the kind of terrible things that are going on in that place at this moment. at the same time, it is the moment of somebody's death and just feels so invasive to me to see such a momentous event replayed from various angles.

btw, as ruth also reminds us, what is wrong with this picture: the prime minister stands up before the world to declare that the monks in burma deserve the right to freedom of speech. at the same time, all protests within one mile of parliament in london have been banned while it is sitting.

random mp3s for r&r

my i-pod has a randomiser? who knew? it is called a "smart list" but nevertheless throws up random selections for when i am too foggy to pick my own. here is an example for today:

go where i send thee - the weavers
milord - edith piaf
la foto se me borro - elvis crespo
dear mr president - pink
pretty things - rufus wainwright
children go where i send you - nina simone
the celts - enya
dark lines - the gossip
promises never made - dan bern
anashim tovim - naomi shemer

hmmmmm - what does this tell you about me? actually, i am quite in the mood for some new music. all suggestions gratefully received :-)

Friday, September 28, 2007

maira kalman

i am sooooo in love with maira kalman, er, i mean her work of course. many years ago my then friend fran gave me a children's book of hers and i was immediately hooked. today i was browsing amid the recently unlocked pages from the ny times online (they decided they got more money from the ads than from making us pay for select items), and was reminded of the blog kalman did for them earlier this year. i think i posted something from it then. go and see for yourself!

here is an interview with her from a couple of years ago.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

to be or not to be

can a chimpanzee be a person? there is a court case currently in austria based on this premise. it is not a question of the chimp being declared human, but rather that he not be classified as a thing or object. let the associated press explain further:

"VIENNA, Austria - He's now got a human name — Matthew Hiasl Pan — but he's having trouble getting his day in court. Animal rights activists campaigning to get Pan, a 26-year-old chimpanzee, legally declared a person vowed Thursday to take their challenge to Austria's Supreme Court after a lower court threw out their latest appeal. A provincial judge in the city of Wiener Neustadt dismissed the case earlier this week, ruling that the Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories had no legal standing to argue on the chimp's behalf. The association, which worries the shelter caring for the chimp might close, has been pressing to get Pan declared a "person" so a guardian can be appointed to look out for his interests and provide him with a home.

... Organizers could set up a foundation to collect cash for Pan, whose life expectancy in captivity is about 60 years. But they contend that only personhood will give him the basic rights he needs to ensure he isn't sold to someone outside Austria, where he's now protected by strict animal cruelty laws. In April, a district court judge rejected a British woman's petition to be declared Pan's legal guardian. That court ruled that the chimp was neither mentally impaired nor in danger, the grounds required for an individual to be appointed a guardian. In dismissing the Association Against Animal Factories' appeal this week, the provincial court said only a guardian could appeal. That doesn't apply in this case, the group contends, since Pan hasn't gained a guardian.

... The Association Against Animal Factories points out that it's not trying to get Pan declared a human, but rather a person, which would give him some kind of legal status. Otherwise, he is legally a thing. And with the genetic makeup of chimpanzees and humans so strikingly similar, it contends, that just can't be.

"The question is: Are chimps things without interests, or persons with interests?""

leona helmsley's little maltese doggie inherits $12M, and the usa has estate lawyers who specialise in pet trusts. it is apparently forbidden for well-wishers to buy this chimp a few meals or a bed for the night. i think he needs to emigrate.

interesting question, though. i have no idea of the legal ramifications, but i'd vote for personhood in this case. of course, i have always been a big fan of dr. zira

good news for frogs

yahoo reports:

"by Miwa Suzuki Thu Sep 27, 2:54 PM ET
TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese researchers have succeeded in producing see-through frogs, letting them observe organs, blood vessels and eggs under the skin without performing dissections."You can see through the skin how organs grow, how cancer starts and develops," said the lead researcher Masayuki Sumida, professor at the Institute for Amphibian Biology of state-run Hiroshima University. "You can watch organs of the same frog over its entire life as you don't have to dissect it. The researcher can also observe how toxins affect bones, livers and other organs at lower costs," he told AFP. Dissections have become increasingly controversial in much of the world, particularly in schools where animal rights activists have pressed for humane alternatives such as using computer simulations."

the rest of it is here.

as far as i can recall, i never dissected anything at school. we were a bunch of wusses anyway in our early days at spgs. the day we were supposed to look at blood under the microscope, charlotte ward slipped with her scalpel and before she was taken to the nurse, we borrowed some of her blood rather than slice ourselves up. nu - well done you japanese researchers!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


bad news from the united states episcopal church. they blinked. here is what the bbc online is saying about it this morning:

"Anglicans to halt gay ordinations

Leaders of the Episcopal Church in the United States have agreed to halt the ordination of gay clergy to prevent a split in the Anglican Church. The Church will also no longer approve prayers to bless same-sex couples. Many African Anglicans threatened to leave the worldwide Anglican Communion after the ordination of the first openly gay bishop four years ago. The American Church was told to meet the conditions by 30 September or lose membership of the communion. US bishops made the decision after a six-day meeting in New Orleans. The meeting was attended in part by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who urged the Episcopal Church to make concessions for the sake of unity. The Episcopal Church is the American wing of the Anglican Communion, which has 77 million members worldwide.

The BBC's religious affairs correspondent, Robert Pigott, says the agreement will help defuse the crisis triggered by the US Church's consecration of an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003. But traditionalists in the US are already making plans to set up their own independent Church. Conservative churchgoers believe homosexuality is contrary to the Church's teachings. However, liberal Anglicans have argued that biblical teachings on justice and inclusion should take precedence. The Episcopal bishops did reaffirm their commitment to the civil rights of gay people and said they opposed any violence towards them or violation of their dignity."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

happy snaps

melky is mobbed as he drives in the winning run in extra innings last night against toronto

carlos tevez scores the first goal in manure's 2-0 victory over the chaps from stamford bridge

and again, from the other side

qpr were not, as generally expected, decimated by the top team in the division yesterday. instead they drew 1-1 with watford, our goal being scored by the much maligned stefan moore. we are, however, the only team in the league without a win. :-(

man of the match lee camp

marcel marceau r.i.p.

i wonder how many people will say to themselves when they hear this news that they didn't realise he was still alive?

my favourite memory of marcel marceau is, of course, his cameo in mel brooks' film 'silent movie'. marceau is the only person that speaks. he says, "non!" :-)

a brief clip from a tv commercial:

bbc news obituary

from the telegraph
"Michael Jackson admitted drawing on Marceau's work to create his moon-walk."

the times
"In our age of incessant noise, zapping and multi-tasking, it is hard to imagine anyone making a career out of silence."

the grauniad report
"In 1944, Marceau's father was sent to Auschwitz, where he died. Later, he reflected on his father's death: "Yes, I cried for him." But he also thought of all the others killed: "Among those kids was maybe an Einstein, a Mozart, somebody who (would have) found a cancer drug," he told reporters in 2000. "That is why we have a great responsibility. Let us love one another.""

grauniad obit
"Perhaps, in the end, Marceau's most valuable gift to the art of mime was that, having perfected it to a level where no one could successfully imitate him, he forced mime actors to find new directions that he himself never explored. Today, mime is no longer synonynous with Marceau and his white face: it is much more. "And that," he once told me, "is the greatest tribute one could have.""

ny times
"One of his most famous sketches was "The Cage," in which he struggled to escape through an invisible ring of barriers, only to find that one cage succeeds another and there is no escape. In Czechoslovakia before the Soviet-led invasion of 1968, he recalled that audiences understood it as an allegory about capitalism. After the invasion, they saw in it an image of themselves under Russian domination."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

free the jena six

this story has been around for a while, but has suddenly begun to appear on the big websites. here is the version from the bbc:

Cries for justice in small-town Louisiana
By Andy Gallacher
BBC News, Jena

They came in their thousands, protesters from across the United States carrying banners and signs that declared "Free the Jena six" and "Enough is Enough". There were nowhere near the 60,000 people that some had predicted. Nonetheless, this small town was swamped by people eager to show their support and have their voices heard. Monica Pearson made the relatively short journey from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "This is a worthy cause and, like my sign says, justice for justice," she said, holding a placard. "It's a very peaceful march and it's about justice," she added. That was a word on many of the protesters' lips in Jena.

They came, primarily, to show their support for Mychal Bell who has been locked in a Louisiana prison since December. He, along with five other black teenage boys, was initially charged with attempted murder after they allegedly attacked a white pupil at their school in Jena. Racial tensions had been running high at the school after three nooses were found hanging from a tree in the school yard, the day after a black pupil had sat in its shade. The three white pupils responsible for that act were not disciplined and that was at the heart of what the protest in Jena was all about. "What do you call hangman's nooses but racism," said the Reverend Al Sharpton, a prominent civil rights activist and one of the organisers of the rally. He, along with many other high profile speakers and politicians, has been backing the six boys since the incident last September. The charges against Mychal Bell were dropped from attempted murder to attempted battery.

Whilst some of the speakers in Jena thought the six boys should face some kind of disciplinary action, this case for many is an example of a justice system skewed against African Americans. But some of the members of Jena's white community saw the day very differently. One woman, who did not give her name, was typical of many: "I don't agree with all this, it's just a mess, it's ruining our town. We live a simple life and I'm not racist. This is just blown completely out of proportion."

The case of the Jena six, as they have now become known, has now received worldwide attention. But many of the protesters said that it was just one case among many that demonstrate a racist judicial system. "All of these families are suffering," said the Reverend Al Sharpton, shortly after visiting Mychal Bell in jail. "The people in Jena underestimated the kind of support they would get. We brought in these thousands of people. It's about these six kids walking out of this unfair situation together." Other prominent speakers, including Martin Luther King III, also came to show their support. Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have reportedly issued statements voicing their concerns about the case.

The six boys are still awaiting their fate but those who turned out in Jena have promised to continue supporting what is now one of America's most high profile cases.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

the girl can't help it

nigella on the town last night

i was looking for information about jose mourinho, honestly i was. he just left the scum, and travis mentioned a rumour he might become our new manager. o that would be amazing but it is also truly unbelievable. anyway, went to the mail website for gossip and found this picture of nigella lawson. the article was praising her steadfast devotion to remaining rubenesque. i am taking a moment to procrastinate some more about my homework for tomorrow and to objectify her utterly. sorry.


doug mientkiewicz

mientkiewicz scored the winning run on a wild pitch as the yankees swept the orioles. and detroit lost again. and the blue jays got a grand slam in the bottom of the 8th to rip the heart out of the red sox. the yankees are only one and a half games out of first place!

my students will be shunning me when next i see them :-)

under paddington's hat

there was a bit of a stink yesterday in the times when michael bond, creator of paddington bear, felt he had to write a letter to the editor with regard to paddington appearing in an advertisement for marmite. since, as we all know, paddington keeps marmalade sandwiches under his hat, some of his fans decided that mr. bond had sold his soul for some filthy lucre. this was his response:

"Sir, Natalie Haynes wrote an amusing piece that managed to combine, among many other things, words of wisdom from Samuel Goldwyn, nude Plasticine models, Bagpuss, apple sauce, Scrabulous and Ivor the Engine; no mean feat (report, Sept 17)!

However, somewhere along the line she unwittingly perpetuated an ill-founded rumour doing the rounds that I was responsible for the script of a television commercial featuring Paddington Bear testing a Marmite sandwich, adding that one of the reasons may have been that Marmite paid me a truly vast sum of money.

I should be so lucky – particularly since I didn’t write it. In fact, I have to report that although Paddington found the sandwich interesting, bears are creatures of habit. It would require a good deal more than the combined current withdrawals from Northern Rock to wean him off marmalade, if then. Besides, Squeezy Marmite may spread well, but it doesn’t have any chunks.

London W2"

you go, michael.

here is the terribly clever article by natalie haynes.

the ellsberg paradox

there is a piece in the ny times earlier this week that blames jane fonda, only slightly tongue-in-cheek, for global warming. it suggests that her 1979 film 'the china syndrome' created an anti nuclear power panic.

"The nuclear industry, already foundering as a result of economic, regulatory and public pressures, halted plans for further expansion. And so, instead of becoming a nation with clean and cheap nuclear energy, as once seemed inevitable, the United States kept building power plants that burned coal and other fossil fuels. "
(the rest is here)

jane fonda has always been an easy target. not interested. my eye was caught, however, by these other sentences in the article:

"How do people weigh risk versus uncertainty? Consider a famous experiment that illustrates what is known as the Ellsberg Paradox. There are two urns. The first urn, you are told, contains 50 red balls and 50 black balls. The second one also contains 100 red and black balls, but the number of each color is unknown. If your task is to pick a red ball out of either urn, which urn do you choose? Most people pick the first urn, which suggests that they prefer a measurable risk to an immeasurable uncertainty. (This condition is known to economists as ambiguity aversion.)"

i've not heard of this before, and found it fascinating. my response, however, was very run-of-the-mill since, unless i happened to be in an odd mood, i would surely pick from the first urn. how about you?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

my sports updates

qpr were abominable tonight, according to my listmates that were there. down at the bottom of the table, with no motivation, no interest and apparently no ability.


over here - the yanks just pulverised baltimore, and detroit lost, as did the red sox.

does this mean there is balance in the world of ravaj the fan?

eva crane obe r.i.p.

long, but worth reading. another amazing twentieth century woman - a physicist who became a bee research maven.

From The Times
September 15, 2007

Eva Crane was a towering figure in the field of beekeeping, one of its most knowledgeable practitioners and prolific historians, and a powerful champion of bees as a scientific subject. Her career in the field began when she was given a hive as a wedding present in 1942; she became interested not in the bees themselves but in, as she put it, “how they worked. . . how different peoples have kept bees, which bees and why, and why they keep them in the hives they do”.

Unable to find anything much of use in the way of articles she became a member and secretary of the British Beekeepers Association research subcommittee, and in 1949 founded the Bee Research Association (a charity, renamed the International Bee Research Association in 1976). She was its director until she retired in 1984, by which time it had become a key resource in bee research, primarily through its journals.

Crane never lost her hunger for “exciting bee things”, travelling all over the world in search of them, and she produced numerous books admired for their encyclopaedic and authoritative treatment of their subject matter.

Ethel Eva Widdowson was born in 1912 and grew up in Dulwich. She was educated at Sydenham Secondary School in Kent and King’s College London, where she read maths, one of only two women. After completing her degree two years later she took an MSc in quantum mechanics, and was awarded a PhD in nuclear physics from London University in 1938. She was appointed lecturer in physics at the University of Sheffield in 1941.

She married James Crane, a stockbroker, the following year. On receiving her first swarm of bees, intended as as a contribution to the war effort, she subscribed to Bee World and became a member of the Sheffield Beekeepers Association: “It consisted mostly of elderly men who said ‘You’re a beginner for the first 20 years’. ” When her husband left the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve she gave up teaching and was able to focus on her bee studies with new seriousness.

Crane was keen to draw attention to the very great potential of beekeeping in the tropics, and from the beginning her research association, whose mission is to “increase awareness of the vital role of bees in the environment and to encourage the use of bees as wealth creators”, was international in outlook.

Crane became editor of the nontechnical magazine Bee World in 1949 and expanded its content to include summaries of scientific papers and books relevant to the science of bees and beekeeping. When it became clear that an entirely new platform for such content was desirable she founded The Journal of Apicultural Research. In 1950 she also founded Apicultural Abstracts, which aimed to give a complete survey of research and technical developments concerning all bees and bee-related subjects.

Crane began to travel all over the world, lecturing and advising governments on beekeeping practices (but, by her own account, learning much more than she taught). She visited, among many countries, Vietnam, Nepal, Uganda, Egypt, Malaysia and Russia, observing along the way that “this curious passion for a small insect can transcend barriers of politics, race and language, and bring strangers together as friends”. Her many discoveries included, in the Upper Indus Valley in Pakistan, the use of horizontal hives exactly like ones discovered in excavations of Ancient Greece.

By the early 1960s the association was communicating with more than 400 research institutes worldwide, and producing material exported to 80 countries. Crane was an impressive figurehead who, as one journalist observed, could “quote Herodotus or apicultural research figures with equal ease”. After an appeal in 1961 for £25,000 the association was moved in 1966 from Crane’s house to new headquarters in Chalfont St Peter. In 1985 it was moved again, to Cardiff.

Crane established the Eva Crane Trust to advance the science of apiology and encourage bee research for the public benefit, and the Eva Crane Library, now held at the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth, holds about 60,000 scientific papers and a unique collection of 130 different bee journals, many of them dating back to their first issues in the 19th century and in some cases representing the only complete sets in existence.

Crane was fanatical about accuracy and contributed more than once to discussions in The Times (adding in a letter of 1953 that “A most intriguing report has come, via Argentina, of a new wartime use for bees – it is stated that the Japanese used them as messengers for carrying microscopic documents across Russian lines. How this was done I have not been able to discover: it is possible in theory but would present many difficulties in practice”).

Crane produced more than 180 scientific papers, articles and books on bees, honey and beekeeping; her books include Honey: a Comprehensive Survey (1975), A Book of Honey (1980), The Archaeology of Beekeeping (1983), Bees and Beekeeping: Science, Practice and World Resources(1990) , The World History of Beekeeping and Honey Hunting (1999) and, a book about her travels, Making a Bee-Line (2003).

They embrace all eras and peoples, from Aristotle, who wrote that honey “falls from the air principally at the rising of the stars and when a rainbow rests upon the earth”, to Arthur Dobbs of Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, who discovered the important role bees play in pollination, to the British troops in East Africa who left trip wires in the jungle so that log hives of bees would fall on the Germans.

In 1986 Crane was made the honorary life president of the International Bee Research Association, and the same year she was appointed OBE.

Crane’s husband died in 1978.

Eva Crane, OBE, authority on beekeeping, was born on June 12, 1912. She died on September 6, 2007, aged 95

Monday, September 17, 2007

the emmys

having read other blogs and reports on the programme i didn't watch because i was on the other channel supporting my yankees, my favourite quote so far is from ken levine:

"Has Helen Mirren ever NOT won? If there’s a nuclear attack I want to be under Helen Mirren."

i'm not sure i understand it but i'm terribly drawn to it.

gosh that was close!

joba chamberlain gets another out

joba's streak of hitless innings ended, but he still got the win against the red sox tonight. i watched the whole game on tv, and was so engrossed i didn't even check out the emmys on the other channel. first of all a duel between two aging greats - clemens and schilling. they score an unearned run when damon drops a fly ball in front of his former fans. later, out of nowhere, robbie cano hits one over the green monster. the game continues tied as the pitchers throw everything they've got. then, as all yankee fans can almost predict, our captain stood up at the plate and bangs a three-run shot almost out of the park. joba allows a home run in his two innings, and then the sandman enters. rivera has more blown saves against the red sox than any other team. he walks a couple of guys, and hits another. two outs, bases loaded, and big papi up to bat. big papi, who has already hit one walk-off shot this week. and mo pitches to him, and again, and finally jams him into hitting a fly ball for which jeter waves everyone off so he will make the final out. yankees win. whew!

again, the joy of such a moment :-) priceless!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

some notes on indian english

the telegraph had a lovely piece today about how standard english is finally being replaced by indian english these days in india. read the analysis here. on this page, i present you with some of the examples for your edification and delight:

A glossary of the latest lingo as spoken on the streets of India

A driver, when asked what he does, may refer to his occupation as "drivery". He keeps his "stepney" (spare tyre) in the "dicky" (boot).

Teachress - a female teacher.

Timepass - a trivial activity that passes the time.

She freaked out last night - she had a good time.

Your lyrical missive has enveloped me in the sweet fragrance of our love - from a book advising lovers on how to write to girlfriends.

Pritam Singh has left for his heavenly above - a death notice.

Hue and Cry notice - title of police missing person newspaper advertisement.

Don't do nuisance in public - government admonition against urinating in public

In railway offices, a standard opening line in correspondence is: "Dear Sir, with reference to your above see my below."

A government official urged farmers in Rajasthan to grow "herbs in their backsides" (backyards).

Saturday, September 15, 2007

the power of chocolate?

damn and blast the bbc! today they had a report online that debunks the well-known scientific fact that eating chocolate makes us feel better.

"Peter Rogers, professor of biological psychology from Bristol University who is speaking at the BA Festival of Science in York, has carried out research that suggests this is not the case.

... he suggested that chocoholics were chocoholics because their favourite food was often deemed "naughty but nice". He explained: "The nice bit is its sweet taste, lovely melt-in-the-mouth texture, and our associations that we have in our food culture - we use it as a gift, a reward and as something to treat ourselves with - which gives it extra appeal. On the negative side, it is something we shouldn't eat too much of, it's not a staple food in our diet, it is relatively high in fat and sugar, and therefore potentially unhealthy. It is this that makes us want it so much. We are wrestling with the desire to eat it because it is so nice; but we restrain ourselves, because we perceive eating it as being naughty. And this unfulfilled desire, said Professor Rogers, was experienced as a craving, which in turn is attributed to addiction.

"It is explained by culture and not chemistry," he added."

if you really want to, you may read more about this here.

catching up

what with feeling so sorry for myself the last few days because of a measly cold (no no no no spots) and i do actually have a temperature sniff sniff ANYWAY here are a couple of items that i want to note:

alex the parrot is dead.

this news stood out for me because the report mentioned brandeis and you know me and birds and brandeis. it also seemed to stand out for the independent:

"Alex the parrot could do a lot of things. He could count to six, and was working on counting to seven. He could name 50 objects, seven colours and five shapes. Scientists who kept him in a lab at Brandeis University near Boston, said he had the emotional maturity of a two-year-old child – they meant that as a compliment – and the intellectual capabilities of a five-year-old. He was, in short, no bird-brain. But Alex is no more. The 31-year-old African grey, one of the great treasures of US scientific research, has joined the squawking choir invisible. Last Thursday, his chief keeper, avian researcher Irene Pepperberg, said goodnight to him as always. "You be good, I love you," she said. "I'll see you tomorrow." Alex responded: "You'll be in tomorrow." But next morning he was dead in his 2ft by 3ft cage. A veterinarian who cut short her holiday so she could examine him found nothing obviously wrong."

the new york times also devoted column inches to the life of this parrot:

"In 1977, when Dr. Pepperberg, then a doctoral student in chemistry at Harvard, bought Alex from a pet store, scientists had little expectation that any bird could learn to communicate with humans, as opposed to just mimicking words and sounds. Research in other birds had been not promising. But by using novel methods of teaching, Dr. Pepperberg prompted Alex to learn scores of words, which he could put into categories, and to count small numbers of items, as well as recognize colors and shapes. “The work revolutionized the way we think of bird brains,” said Diana Reiss, a psychologist at Hunter College who works with dolphins and elephants. “That used to be a pejorative, but now we look at those brains — at least Alex’s — with some awe.”"

of course the family of ravaj has known about such things for many years, for we were once regular birdsitters for a parrot named mervyn. there are many stories about the feats of mervyn. when i find a pic of him i shall return to that subject!

ok forget about the spanking we got today but what about my yankees last night, eh? down 2-7 in the 8th inning at fenway and coming back to win 8-7!!!!!!!!

excuse me for a minute, i have to go blow my nose ...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

the owl of learning bites back

so there i was so happy that i was attending services as a grad student and taking part as a grad student. it was the first time in my life i was not either with my family or working. but could i keep my mouth shut? is that a rhetorical question? the rabbinic intern serving brandeis this year goes to the huc ny campus and i had to start asking questions and so i had to come out. o well - she wanted to honour me and i didn't want to dishonour her by not letting her honour me since she still believes being a rabbi is an honourable thing to be (ok ok and so it can be) so she called me up to read from the torah as ravaj.

the flip side of this is that after services were over a student came up to me and said hello rabbi do you remember who i am? of course at first i did not but when she gave me context i did. she told me that she was sitting with her friends in the congregation when i was called up to read the torah and said to them gosh that looks like my rabbi o my gosh that IS my rabbi! i batmitzvahed her in staunton five years ago. we caught up a bit and it was nice. the thing that had an impact on me, however, was that she said to her friends that is 'my' rabbi. made me feel durned good it did, and it has been a long time since anything connected to the congregational world has done that!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

happy new year!

from me to you:

shana tova!

moslem 'trembling before god'

as a member of the jewish community, i am pretty much in the loop when it comes to information about what relationship its different streams have with the g/l/b/t/q community in its midst. however, i know nothing about the g/l/b/t/q community in the moslem world. i was thus extremely interested to see a story today about a documentary examining an aspect of that very subject. a gay indian filmmaker named parvez sharma has made a film called 'jihad for love', which was premiered this week at the toronto film festival.

"The film ... focuses on a few dozen men and women who seek to reconcile their sexuality with life as Muslims. The title defines jihad as personal struggle, rather than as holy war ... One of those shown in the movie is South African Muhsin Hendricks, a gay Imam who "came out" to a storm of protest and angry phone-ins to local radio stations, including callers calling for his death. In the film, he argues that censure of homosexuals from Islamic texts is a censure of forced male rape, rather than of loving relations between two men, and he's had discussion sessions with a local Islamic welfare council."

the yahoo report in full (by janet guttsman) may be found here.
from the grauniad
sharma's blog on the film

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

a rasp from the owl of learning

ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!

this is the way i am trying to present the fact that breathing is making my throat hurt this morning. heck, it is making my ears hurt!

however, i am not sick. in north america, feeling the way i do this morning is a good reason to go to the doctor. but i am not ill - i just have a cold. some generous student of mine shared a few germs, and now i have to get my act together and go to the chemist to collect a bag of goodies such as sudafed and sugar-free robitussin and soft soft tissues for my poor red nose.

there is no point going to sit in a corner of the classroom today while the other teachers wave garlic and magen davids at me to protect themselves from the lurgey that i carry. i shall, however, consider going to my class this afternoon, albeit under the influence of benedryl.

the best part is over, and by that i mean the gorgeous cabaret voice that had me doing bad marlene dietrich impersonations for friend and foe alike. *sigh* all that remains is wondering how many calories there are in post-nasal drip.

but i am not sick!

Monday, September 10, 2007

anita roddick r.i.p.

breaking news from about 5 hours ago as i write:

"LONDON (Reuters) - Anita Roddick, founder of beauty retailer The Body Shop and one of Britain's best known businesswomen, has died at the age of 64 after suffering a major brain haemorrhage, her family said on Monday. "Anita Roddick was admitted to St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, close to her home, yesterday evening when she collapsed after complaining of a sudden headache," her family said in a statement. "Mrs Roddick was admitted to the hospital's Intensive Care Unit and her husband Gordon and two daughters, Sam and Justine, were with her when she died," it said.

A multi-millionaire, Roddick campaigned against human rights abuses and was an environmental activist. The mission statement of The Body Shop was: "To dedicate our business to the pursuit of social and environmental change." Roddick said it was her mother's frugality during World War Two that inspired her to campaign for environmental issues and question retail conventions."

my favourite of her selected awards on her cv: 1999 - Chief Wiper-Away of Ogoni Tears, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, Nigeria

yahoo report here.
bbc online
her website
her internet resume/cv
recent interview in the telegraph
the independent
another lovely interviewfrom the telegraph

baghdad burning is back!

after nearly 5 months of silence, there is a new entry for bb's blog. she has finally escaped from the dangers of her home and country, and is now in syria. do read the whole piece! meanwhile, here is a part that really got to me:

"The Syrian border was almost equally packed, but the environment was more relaxed. People were getting out of their cars and stretching. Some of them recognized each other and waved or shared woeful stories or comments through the windows of the cars. Most importantly, we were all equal. Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds… we were all equal in front of the Syrian border personnel.

We were all refugees- rich or poor. And refugees all look the same- there’s a unique expression you’ll find on their faces- relief, mixed with sorrow, tinged with apprehension. The faces almost all look the same.

The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death?

How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe- even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don’t rattle as the planes pass overhead. I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I’m trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest…

How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?"

yankee ravaj

outside the house that ruth built

a-rod and his mates continue to have the best record in the majors since the all-star break. i have blogged lots of pics of the players. for my birthday, i treated myself to a shirt. i've always preferred the away shirt to the pinstripes. in my haste and exhilaration at finally getting a shirt after wishing for one for 30 years, i think i got one at least 2 sizes too big. nu - now i have a new dressing-gown to wear in the boston suburbs :-)

anyway, here is a total fan pic - me and my shirt @ the stadium after a yankee win. hip hip hurrah!

nb the white collar and blue of the t-shirt peeping out from under the yankee uniform is, of course a qpr shirt.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

harry potter overdose?

better late than never - another facebook list that amused me and i shall never admit that any of the selections are relevant to my own life :-)

You're Too Much of a Harry Potter fan when...

You call your least favorite teacher Snape.

Your computer says "You've Got Mail" and you run outside looking for an owl.

You mutter "lumos" under your breath every time you turn on a flashlight.

You sort everyone you meet into the four Hogwarts houses

You had to go to the hospital after you broke your nose running headfirst into the wall between platforms nine and ten.

You point at normal things like parking meters and say "Look at the things these Muggles dream up!"

Before getting up to get something, you always try to summon it first. Accio TV remote!

You refer to your Chemistry class as Potions.

You get thoroughly overexcited every time you see a word somewhere that is distantly linked with HP (ie. Saint Hedwig's).

You were kicked out of the movie theater for standing on your chair, throwing your shoe at the screen and yelling "THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN IN THE BOOK!"

Saturday, September 08, 2007

england vs israel

owen shoots and scores

england just went 3-0 up. i realised who i would be supporting the moment that i heard hatikvah being sung before the match and tears came to my eyes. it is the first official competitive international at new wembley, and the israel senior side's first appearance there.

am watching live via something called slingbox which, i think, means that via my mac i am looking at dave's tv in london. isn't technology amazing?

israel are not playing very well, and michael owen did score an excellent goal. too many scummers on the field though.

happy monty python day

the bbc reports that:

"Hundreds of fans from across the world are set to descend on Doune Castle this weekend for the third Monty Python Day.
The 14th Century keep was made famous as Castle Anthrax in the 1975 classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Tickets have been restricted to 500 for the event near Stirling, which sees fans taking to the castle's battlements to enact scenes from the famous film."

in the extras on my tragically damaged holy grail dvd there is a documentary in which terry jones returns to the site of castle anthrax. at one point he talks to the gentleman who runs the gift shop, and discovers that the man keeps a set of coconuts behind the counter for those tourists who wish to be photographed with them. grown people galloping around a 14th century scottish castle clickety-clacking coconuts. what fun!

grauniad article about the first day

Friday, September 07, 2007

belgian blues

according to tomorrow's times, the dutch-speaking north and the french-speaking south of belgium cannot find enough consensus to form a coalition government, and various media speak of 'the czechoslovakia option' and 'velvet divorce':

"Living together in one country is impossible if year after year the minority prevents the majority from realising its most important desires,” said Het Laatste Nieuws, Belgium’s largest daily, voicing the frustration of many in Flemish-speaking Flanders, where 6 million of the population of 10.5 million people live. “Prepare for divorce,” announced the cover of Le Vif, an influential French-language weekly magazine, which spelt out the far-reaching costs for the impoverished region of Wallonia of splitting the health and social services, railways and the national debt."

while belgium, if it means anything at all (in the hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy the word is the worst of expletives), is chocolate and beer to most and the bit on the way to germany that i got to drive because they were strict about speed limits and my mother preferred that i do that ... don't forget that its capital is home to the european union and to nato. so this story is of interest even to americans.

here is the story.

madeleine l'engle r.i.p.

the author of one of my all-time favourite books - a wrinkle in time - madeleine l'engle died yesterday of natural causes at the age of 88. the first response by the new york times is here. with regard to "wrinkle", it says:

"The “St. James Guide to Children’s Writers” called Ms. L’Engle “one of the truly important writers of juvenile fiction in recent decades.” Such accolades did not come from pulling punches: “Wrinkle” is one of the most banned books because of its treatment of the deity.

“It was a dark and stormy night,” it begins, repeating the line of a 19th- century novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, and presaging the immortal sentence that Snoopy, the inspiration-challenged beagle of the Peanuts cartoon, would type again and again. After the opening, “Wrinkle,” quite literally, takes off. Meg Murray, with help from her psychic baby brother, uses time travel and extrasensory perception to rescue her father, a gifted scientist, from a planet controlled by the Dark Thing. She does so through the power of love.

The book used concepts that Ms. L’Engle said she had plucked from Einstein’s theory of relativity and Planck’s quantum theory, almost flaunting her frequent assertion that children’s literature is literature too difficult for adults to understand. She also characterized the book as her refutation of ideas of German theologians."

as with the narnia books of c.s.lewis, especially "the last battle", there was a strong xian background to l'engle's writing. when i first read these books it went right over my head. these days, while i am no longer so drawn to the final narnia book, i still love to read "wrinkle" and also "the young unicorns".

the ny times ends with the following:

“Why does anybody tell a story?” Ms. L’Engle once asked, even though she knew the answer.

“It does indeed have something to do with faith,” she said, “faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”

have a great weekend!

yahoo obit
new york magazine
grauniad recommendations for readers who've finished harry potter

Thursday, September 06, 2007

more on the decline of the bees

the bbc science and nature news online reports the latest on the mysterious plague that has more than decimated the honeybees of north america:

"A virus has emerged as a strong suspect in the hunt for the mystery disease killing off North American honeybees. Genetic research showed that Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) turned up regularly in hives affected by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Over the last three years, between 50% and 90% of commercial bee colonies in the US have been affected by CCD."

my first response was WHAT? what are they blaming on israel now? i was relieved to find the following further down the page:

"As its name would suggest, IAPV was first identified in Israel, but the symptoms it produces in bees there are quite different. Whether this is down to a small genetic difference in the virus between continents, or whether IAPV is acting in concert with different environmental factors, is an open question"

i love bees, and am fascinated by this continuing story. it is not the kind of subject matter that usually gets much bandwidth in my cyberworld. the bbc reporter concludes his piece with a suggestion regarding why there is more interest in this issue nowadays:

"With commercial honeybees worth an estimated $14bn to US agriculture, the political pressure on scientists to come up with some answers is considerable."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

returning owl of learning

the DeLeT term began last night, and our first full day of the week is tomorrow. strange to be on campus, even near the end of the day, and to see so many people. the sparse population of the summer gave us a sense that the school was ours, but no longer :-)

today, meanwhile, was the first day of being a student teacher for the ravaj. she met parents and students (one of the parents grew up in england and, bless him, knew of rabbi albert h z"l). she did a crayon and watercolour wash painting of something that could make the world more beautiful. she helped the students to learn how to walk quietly in the hallway. for the very first time in her school life anywhere ever she went inside the boys bathroom (it is part of the first day tour for all students). best of all, at recess she got to play football with noah.

i had such deja vu. this kid picked up a football and was dribbling a little but everyone else already had something to do. i volunteered to kick it around with him and we spent the rest of recess playing together. later, i looked at the dirt on my trousers and the scuffs on my shoes and suddenly heard my mother's voice from 35 years ago. 'i can't believe you were kicking things while wearing your good shoes!!' etc. i e-mailed her to tell her about it - plus ca change, eh?!

now i have to go and do my prep for tomorrow.

a-rod hits 2 homers in one inning

congratulated by the yankee captain

in these two qpr-less weeks (a league break for international games - england are playing israel on saturday and israel have a real chance of winning), more joy re the work of mr. a. rodriguez of the new york yankees tonight against seattle. he got another curtain call:

some questions for you ...

i just found these questions that i put together for a project a couple of years ago. would love to know what you all think of them ... and also even if you have any responses :-)

1. What is the source and/or basis for the emotional, mental and physical strength that you have?

2. What do you think are the characteristics of a religious person?

3. What is your sense of God/the Divine?

4. What sense do you have of evil? Does it exist? If so, how? Where? Why?

5. What do you want from a religion?

6. What does religion expect from people?

7. What do you think are some negative aspects of religion?

8. What do you think are some positive aspects of religion?

9. What do you think are the characteristics of a person of faith?

10. Do you consider yourself to be free? Why/why not?

11. Do you consider yourself to be a member of a community (e.g. colleagues, a sports team, a class (for learning), a social action group, etc.)?
* What do you enjoy about it?
* What do you not enjoy about it?

Monday, September 03, 2007

the first female beefeater at the tower

Yeoman Warder Moira Cameron, the first female Beefeater.

reuters reports:

"Moira Cameron started duties as a Yeoman Warder after beating five men to secure the coveted position. She wore the traditional dress of a scarlet and gold tunic, white ruff, red stockings and black patent leather shoes. Her duties include guarding the crown jewels, participating in the Ceremony of the Keys and giving visitors guided tours."

the full story is here

piglet's eye views of yankee stadium

it's not easy being pink (and small)

goodbye to the house that ruth built

an action shot from an old digital camera

this was my view of the home run alex rodriguez scored in the bottom of the first inning at yankee stadium on saturday. of course to be accurate the photo is of a-rod going from 2nd to 3rd base as he runs round having actually scored a moment earlier.

it's the best view i've ever had at a baseball game :-)

piglet rides the ny subway

on the way to yankee stadium, piglet makes some new friends in a carriage on the number seven train. i never feel shy about asking japanese people if i may take their picture. a gazillion years ago, when liz was working near the british museum, the two of us were asked to pose on the steps with twenty japanese businessmen. i've often wondered what happened to that photograph (pre days of digital and easy scanning).

Saturday, September 01, 2007

happy birthday to me :-)

ian kennedy: first start, first win

here is a pic from yahoo. i have some lovely pigletty ones on my camera, but won't be able to post them until i get home monday night. the yankees won! which is good because poor old qpr lost again. a-rod got a home run in the first inning, and i shouted "happy birthday to me!"

yes, today i was at yankee stadium. let's go yankees! i decided that if i am prepared to pay broadway prices for broadway tickets, then i could jolly well pay them for a birthday seat in the house that ruth built. thank you to stubhub, and the nice man in their grubby little office at grand concourse & 164th. it is the first time i have ever been to a baseball game and not had to climb any stairs to get to my seat! and it was in the shade. halfway between 3rd base and the foul pole, about 30 rows back. luverly.

apart from the homer, my other favourite part was the final inning. m. called from san diego, utterly oblivious that it was a day i might expect a call from him :-) he called during the top of the 9th, when rivera struck out all 3 batters. let's go yankees! lucky m. had me calling the game down the phone to him then singing ny ny with frank sinatra :-)

and so to a new year. it's always good to have another chance for another beginning. plus there is still a week or so left of elul to check in with our friends, family and co-workers before we dare speak of divine forgiveness in our high holyday services. let's go!