Sunday, June 15, 2008

nuala o'faolain

here is a transcription of a cutting sent by the mother of the ravaj with the comment "how far the times has come". it is from the past month, but there is no date on it. it is in the 'lives remembered' section:

"nell mccafferty writes: your obituary of nuala o'faolain (may 21) declares that she had a 'lesbian affair' with me and 'romances with men'. please explain how you arrived at the conclusion that love between two women is not romantic and that living together for 15 years, as nuala and i did, is a mere 'affair'.

also, you write that she had 'sexual encounters' with a lorry driver and a jewish lawyer. you do not state if the lorry driver and the lawyer were female or male.

you describe me as being 'a militant journalist from the bogside, the catholic area of the city of londonderry'. what exactly does a militant journalist do - hold a petrol bomb in one hand and a computer mouse in the other?

you say that i was a 'fellow columnist' of nuala's. now there, sir, you have really gone too far. i am no fellow.

nuala was, as we say in gaeilge, 'mo bhean cheile' - the woman of my togetherness, a term that existed in ireland thousands of years before the invention of the institution of marriage, and the later imposition of the english language, which translated it as 'wife'. (i am not trying to start another war here, between sexes or countries. brian friel's play 'translations' will explain all.)

your description of nuala's life has left me quite exhausted, trying to figure out what exactly you were trying to tell readers.

allow me to guide you. did the deceased consider herself or himself beloved? the beloved nuala and i loved each other, for quite some time, in the ordinary way of two people."

interview with marian finucane 1 month before nuala died.
newspaper report on funeral mass

colin murdoch r.i.p.

the telegraph had this to say about the pharmacist from new zealand who patented 46 inventions including a plastic disposable hypodermic syringe, a tranquiliser gun and a silent burglar alarm that alerted the authorities:

"Murdoch won many awards, among them, in 1976, one at the World Inventors' Fair in Brussels for his design of a childproof bottle top. This device required a digital strength and technique that was beyond a child's capabilities. Murdoch never became a rich man. He declined to pursue through the courts those who violated his patents, taking the view that if the products were benefiting humans and animals it would be wrong to sue. "

it's a pity, but the mold may have been broken when this guy was made. o yeah, and he was dyslexic.

read more about him here.

frank blackmore r.i.p.

never heard of the guy until he died. then i found out that he invented mini-roundabouts. the times says:

"Blackmore’s controversial solution, developed at the Government’s Road Research Laboratory (today known as Transport Research Laboratory), was a smaller roundabout with a 2 to 4m-wide mini-island in the middle that minimised the curve for the vehicle driving around it, thus aiding traffic flow. The mini-roundabout was also safer than its large counterpart because drivers tended to approach it with greater caution. The new roundabout, which first appeared in Peterborough in 1969, revolutionised junction design that had up to that point been characterised by large unwieldy roundabouts with huge traffic islands in the middle. Blackmore developed the concept further with the painted traffic island first used at Benfleet, Essex, in 1970. This was “over-runnable” by traffic, making it easier for larger vehicles to manoeuvre the junction."

the rest of the obit is here.

i for one am extremely glad that someone moved beyond the big roundabouts - i failed my driving test the first time i took it because i was not aggressive enough at a honking great roundabout (after that eddie, my instructor, offered me a fiver if i could run over a pigeon. one time i found one someone else had splatted, but eddie had already seen it). i like the mini ones. so thank-you mr. blackmore.

poor old thierry

a picture of sadness - thierry henry cannot believe what just happened to him and his team. he goes and puts france back into the game at 1-2 and within 45 seconds the opponents score again. whatever an english upbringing has taught me about france, e.g., this lovely web page, i still think henry is a great player and cute also. however, since the opponents were my oranje chaps, i was delighted by the final score of 4-1. lest anyone think i am jumping on a bandwagon please note that i know who this is:

birthday greetings ...

... was e-mailing a note to a facebook friend on his birthday to wish him many happy returns of the day, and suddenly wondered what that actually means. i've not heard it here in the states, but it used to be around quite a bit i think when i was growing up in london. anyway, wiki and a couple of other googled sites have this to say:

"Many Happy Returns is a greeting, usually reserved for birthdays. The term itself refers to the passing year. Since the 18th century this has been used as a salutation to offer the hope that a happy day being marked would recur many more times. It is now primarily used on birthdays; prior to the mid 19th century it was used more generally, at any celebratory or festive event.
Current usage is often as a more formal option than 'Happy Birthday'. It is also often to be found on greetings cards.

Its earliest attributable use was by Lady Newdigate in a letter written in 1789 (and published in Newdigate-Newdegate Cheverels in 1898)[1]: "Many happy returns of ye day to us my Dr Love.""

Friday, June 13, 2008

bathroom reading update

nu - i returned from my last visit to london with a fistful of books gleaned from the shelves my mother wishes to decimate. since shelf space is also at a premium in our flat, the tomes are double-stacked right opposite the bathroom door, which makes them handy when reading material is required. so it is that i am currently dipping into poetry. yehuda amichai, t carmi & dan pagis, john betjeman, william blake and the faber book of comic verse. there are also a couple of newish asterix books lying around, and an english translation of struwwelpeter. the israelis are also in translation, although perhaps looking at the original might be more helpful re the bathroom part of bathroom reading. finally, there is a selection of midrashim by my father's old friend hyam maccoby z"l with the lovely title of 'the day god laughed'.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

aspiring novelists beware!

while checking a fact for a project I've been working on with the children, i came across the following quote from the author allegra goodman:

"creative-writing teachers are always telling to you to write about what you know, so now we have countless novels that sound like unedited therapy sessions. At some point you have to move beyond that. You have to know more, you have to learn more. If we all wrote about our childhood forever, books would be rather monotonous." (ny times 15th jan, 2006)

well, there goes two-thirds of the novella so far :-)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

uncle barack's cabin?

outrage yesterday at this front cover picture from a german paper called 'die tageszeitung'. i found it in the times, here. read the comments for a spectrum of responses!

i have to admit that i am starting to become rather confused. when is it ok to say something and when not? who may say it and who may not? what counts as satirical, and when am i allowed to laugh?

i have not written about the end of hillary's campaign - too many others have already covered the plusses and minuses. i am very disappointed. i also listened to her speech and am following her wishes to transfer my support to the chosen democratic candidate. thus i now support senator obama. this means that i have to worry about fist-bumping, and possible videos of mrs o saying something politically incorrect, and other incredibly minutial occurrences that will be blown up into vote-denying importance.

meanwhile, the quest to find believable information continues.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

the ainu of northern japan

the last of my bear-related posts for the morning: after 140 years of repression, the ainu, original inhabitants of hokkaido island, are to be officially recognised by the japanese parliament as an indigineous people. the telegraph reports:

"The Ainu are one of Japan's most marginalised groups. Government estimates put the number of people with half or more Ainu ancestry at around 50,000. The century-long repression of the Ainu has all but rendered their dialect extinct. The cultural differences are also significantly at odds with mainland Japanese culture. Ainu men preferring full beards and long hair and women tattoo around their mouths for decoration. Traditional clothing is made from tree bark and the Ainu are animists – believing that everything in their rugged homeland contains a spirit. They worshipped natural landmarks and animals, especially bears."

the rest of the article is here.

paddington bear falls foul of immigration

michael bond has written a new book: "paddington here and now". in it, paddington has to deal with issues of the modern world, e.g., being an undocumented alien. the bbc reports:

"Bond, 83, told BBC World Service's The World Today programme that Paddington's roots - and his new life in London - had always been the essence of his character, and that he wanted to make it the heart of the new book. "Refugees are very much on people's minds and in the newspapers," he said, adding that his creation was partly based on his seeing evacuees from London with labels round their neck. "It always stuck with me, because I thought it was a very sad sight," he added. "Equally, going to the cinema in those days, one saw so many pictures of uprooted families - that kind of thing is still with us, and I think it's very sad.""

the rest of the article is here.


as a first step back into the outside world, the ravaj accompanied her friends lily and eli to the cinematic performance of 'kung fu panda'. apart from the fact that she never wanted to leave the movie theatre ever again for the summer because of the wonderfully meat-freezer level of a/c within, she also has to admit that she really rather enjoyed the film. not a big contemporary cartoon fan (except maybe for 'dexter's laboratory'), she was delighted to see that this was quite beautifully drawn. the characters were ok - the scenery and backgrounds were stunning. and the panda ends up as a proper hero, so we all lived happily ever after for the rest of the day.

ps the image above is of a kung fu panda cake made specially for the hollywood opening of the movie. i include it because of the random connection that the guy who made it is the son of a woman who was married to her first husband by my friend r. steve!

hup holland!

wesley sneijder scores a stunning second goal

and the ravaj is back. a week or so of medical issues, and much personal experience of the variety of testing methods currently available to the medical community, and at last it is once again possible to post.

we begin with the european championships that do not include a british team. the ravaj has had a soft spot for the netherlands since the early seventies era of cruyff, rep, neeskens et al. she has thus chosen to follow them this year, and they began with a stunning 3-0 defeat of italy in the so-called group of death. it would have been even more exciting if she had managed to remain awake during the live presentation on espn but, alas, this was not to be.

these championships are played every four years. that means that it was almost exactly 4 years ago that the father of ravaj died. as you may recall, the last words she ever heard him say were: "the greeks have won!" since he was watching the final while she was talking to her mother on the phone. *sigh*