Wednesday, October 29, 2008

pink bungalow

an expression of how ravaj is feeling today, with music

julia pirie r.i.p.

women do the most amazing things. this is from the obituary of a former mi5 agent, i.e., a spy. none of the drama of a james bond movie, or the violence, just a boring old lady on a variety of sightseeing trips:

"Julia Pirie, who has died aged 90, spent two decades as an MI5 agent at the heart of the Communist Party of Great Britain, most of it as personal assistant to the party's general secretary. A small, dumpy woman with the appearance of a confirmed and rather matronly spinster, Julia Pirie was the most unlikely of spies. But her unassuming demeanour masked a sharp intellect and the powers of observation essential for the task of a secret agent."

i particularly enjoyed the bit where she recalls tigers roaming around the convent school she attended as a child. you can read the rest of the obit here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

come on you rrrrr's!

it has been a while since i posted anything about my beloved qpr. things at the club have been a bit messy, with the manager sacked and turmoil reigning. tonight, we played the league leaders, and had one of our best defenders sent off at halftime. o ye of little faith. samuel di carmine (that's him above, pointing for joy) scored his first goal for the team, and r's fans were left on tenterhooks for the last ten minutes as the snow began to fall so thickly that the game might have been abandoned. but it was not. and we won. with ten men. hurrah.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

christian the lion

my late grandmother, not a native english speaker, used to use the term "heart-rendering". this brief video from more than thirty years ago is just that. it is back in the news today as the born free foundation use it to promote the work it is still doing with lions. the full story of christian, bought from harrods by two australian blokes in the sixties and introduced into the wild in kenya by george adamson, may be found here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

agincourt revisionism

for hundreds of years young english people have been told that if they must speak french, the only word that they need to know is 'agincourt'. this, of course, refers to the battle in the middle of the hundred years war (1415) in which the english trounced the french despite terrible odds. you may have heard of it if you remember any of shakespeare's 'henry v'.

anyway it appears that historians got it wrong, and the nasty english behaved like war criminals, or so say the french scholars who are meeting in the town of agincourt for a conference this week. according to the telegraph:

"Academics will suggest that the extent of the feat of arms was massively exaggerated, with claims that the English were hugely outnumbered a lie. More controversially still, they will say that the foreign invaders used numerous underhand tactics against an honourable enemy. These included burning prisoners to death and setting 40 bloodthirsty royal bodyguards on to a single Gallic nobleman who had surrendered."

the rest of the article is here. meanwhile, with regard to anglo-french relations, i can only use my other phrase: plus ca change.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

opie and richie for obama?

not to mention the fonz! ron howard dons toupees and a t-shirt to stump for barack obama. my favourite moments have to be the two when he removes the toupees to talk to us as 'himself'.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

a playground in berlin

almost three and a half years ago, germany's official holocaust memorial was opened in berlin, not far from where hitler hid in his bunker as his evil dreams crumbled all around him. here is the ny times report on the opening.

i went to see the memorial a couple of weeks ago. it appeared to be a wonderful place for children to play. you can have a mean game of hide-and-seek among the steles. i also saw many young people jumping from stone to stone. it was an interesting question to consider: what is one supposed to do when visiting this memorial? there is an underground information centre, for which i was not in the mood. there is a small, separate memorial for homosexual victims of the holocaust. and there are these wonky, crooked paths up and down and at all angles and heights that make a grid between the stones. part of me was annoyed that people could be so happy in a place commemorating such evil and misery. part of me was rather happy that there was some joy in such a sad place. i don't know if it is a very good monument, but it is definitely a wonderful playground.

Monday, October 20, 2008

pat kavanagh r.i.p.

described by the times as a "leading london literary agent", i had not heard of pat kavanagh before now. i had read works by her husband and many of her clients. upon reading this obituary, i thought she belonged in my pantheon of strong and interesting women.

"Pat Kavanagh was a rare combination of disconcerting wide-eyed beauty, honeyed voice and incisive literary acumen. For 40 years with the literary agents A. D. Peters (later Peters, Fraser and Dunlop) she had supervised the professional lives of an array of top writing talents — a galère that was bound to contain a variety of supercharged and sensitive egos — with a mixture of cool professional appraisal and fierce financial protectiveness."
the rest of the obit is here.

papier mache pandas take over paris

the associated foreign press reports:

"Paris city hall was swamped by 1,600 papier mache pandas on Thursday, part of a WWF campaign to highlight the urgent need to protect the vanishing species. According to the environmentalist group, which uses the bear as its logo, there are only 1,600 giant pandas left worldwide, making it one of the most striking examples of biodiversity in danger. "Through this symbol we want to show our attachment to the whole of the living world," said Serge Orru, head of WWF France. "Of course, the panda is the most touching, the most tender. But worms are just as important as pandas."

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one in four mammals, one in eight birds, a third of all amphibians and 70 percent of plants are under threat from global warming, deforestation and pollution. The hand-painted Paris pandas, around 40 centimetres (one and a half feet) tall, are to travel around the capital's monuments in the coming weeks before setting off for sites across France."

i do have to agree - WORMS ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS PANDAS - and don't you forget it.

amy poehler rocks!

politics aside, i gotta say that governor palin is a good sport. she was a guest on snl this week in a couple of sketches, including the above rap with eskimoes and moose.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

from worst to first

congratulations to the tampa bay devil rays who have just followed their first ever winning season by beating the boston red sox in the alcs to win the pennant. they now move on to the world series against the philadelphia phillies. go tampa! schadenfreude? moi?!

shazia mirza stand-up comedienne

shazia mirza appears to be an intelligent woman. she makes the jokes about muslims we are not allowed to make ourselves. margaret cho still makes jokes about her asian family. judy gold usually includes her jewish mother. i do hope that sometime soon mirza will be able to apply her humour to more general subjects. i did laugh. i laughed the most, though, at the canadians laughing about the american joke.

why aren't there more successful female comedians?

as i write these words, sarah silverman is appearing live in london. the broadsheets have printed many words about how such a cutie can have such a potty-mouth. it is a question that interests me - what are the qualities of a woman that is considered to be funny. the above promo for a filmfest that happened earlier this year contains some sound-byte opinions of women well-known in britain for their work.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

the bonobo

this weekend, i heard for the first time of the chimpanzee known as bonobo. i was wondering to a scientist friend why human beings have such a proclivity towards aggression and being mean. she said that it had to do with survival, and being descended from the common chimpanzee rather than the bonobo. according to her, the bonobo was more like a kind of laid-back hippy kind of creature. "i want to be descended from the bonobo!" was my immediate response. and then i did a bit of googling ...

wiki says:
"The Bonobo (IPA: /bə'noʊboʊ/ , Pan paniscus), until recently usually called the Pygmy Chimpanzee (and less often the Dwarf or Gracile Chimpanzee), is one of the two species making up the chimpanzee genus, Pan. The other species in genus Pan is Pan troglodytes, or the Common Chimpanzee. Although the name "chimpanzee" is sometimes used to refer to both species together, it is usually understood as referring to the Common Chimpanzee. The Bonobo is endangered, and is found in the wild only in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Along with the Common Chimpanzee, the Bonobo is the closest relative to Humans. Since neither species are proficient swimmers, it is possible that the formation of the Congo River 1.5–2 million years ago lead to the speciation of the Bonobo, which live south of the river, from the ancestors of the Common Chimpanzee, which live north of the river. The species is distinguished by relatively long legs, parted hair on their head, a matriarchal culture, and the prominent role of sexual activity in its society. This primate is mainly frugivorous, but supplements its diet with leaves and sometimes small vertebrates and invertebrates. Bonobos also sometimes hunt and kill monkeys for food."

matriarchal and frugivorous sounds good, although i'm not sure about living in the congo (a bit hot for me).

scientific american (march 1995) says:
"The species is best characterized as female-centered and egalitarian and as one that substitutes sex for aggression. Whereas in most other species sexual behavior is a fairly distinct category, in the bonobo it is part and parcel of social relations--and not just between males and females. Bonobos engage in sex in virtually every partner combination (although such contact among close family members may be suppressed). And sexual interactions occur more often among bonobos than among other primates. Despite the frequency of sex, the bonobo's rate of reproduction in the wild is about the same as that of the chimpanzee. A female gives birth to a single infant at intervals of between five and six years. So bonobos share at least one very important characteristic with our own species, namely, a partial separation between sex and reproduction."

egalitarian and no chimp version of homophobia, eh? anyway, it was also explained to me that aggression and competition in humans were a vital part of our survival and development, and there was a reason why the bonobo are still stuck up a tree in africa. it's a pity, but that's evolution. *sigh*

a step towards a liberal islam?

the telegraph reports today:

"A female professor has become the first woman to lead a mixed congregation in Islamic prayer in Britain.
By Chris Irvine
Professor Amina Wadud gave the sermon at a centre in Oxford in what is being called a "leap forward" for equality in Islam.
The sermon was controversial as tradition holds that Muslim religious leaders, called Imams, must always be men when there are services with both sexes. Some Muslims also believe it is against Islam for a woman to conduct such services. Prof Wadud took the service, known as a khutbah, to mark the start of a conference on Islam and feminism at Wolfson College, Oxford.
"There's nothing in the Koran that prohibits it," she said. "My own theological research into the essence of Islam indicates the necessity for us to be able to move away from the tradition that restricted women from the practice of leading prayer."

The move has angered many Muslims and a small group gathered outside the college to voice their opposition. Aishah Samah, from Oxford, said: "We're here to uphold the traditions and the values of Islam and uphold the ways of the prophet - peace be upon him." Fellow protester Maryan Ramzy said: "We have no objections to women being heads of state, or organisation leaders. "Women are highly-respected in Islam. But in Islamic law, women cannot lead prayer."

Chairman of the Muslim Education Centre Oxford Dr Taj Hargey, said earlier this week he was undeterred by the possible protests, arguing the prayer service is a step in the right direction. "We believe Islam is a gender-equal religion," he said. "There is a record that the Prophet Mohammed allowed a woman to lead a mixed-gender congregation, but this precedent has been ignored. "Women have led prayers in South Africa, Canada and the US and this is a first time here – it is a celebration." Dr Hargey added: "People thought it was a bad idea to give women the vote. "When Emmeline Pankhurst chained herself to the railings in protest there was uproar, but things move on. "This is about theological self-empowerment - women as well as men have the right to determine their own theological destiny." Prof Wadud has attracted controversy before - in 2005 she led a service in New York City, which had to be held in an Anglican church after mosques refused to host the event."

more about amina wadud.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

uk honey shortage

even though i am a diabetic, i still find these stories about bees rather alarming. from tomorrow's telegraph:

"English honey to run out before Christmas
By Paul Eccleston

English honey is unlikely to feature on Christmas menus this year as supplies run out. The catastrophic decline in honey bee numbers has continued with populations down 30 per cent on last year. Combined with another wet summer - which prevented the bees gathering pollen - it has resulted in a honey shortage. Stuart Bailey, chairman of the UK's biggest producer, Rowse Honey, said: "Supplies continue to dribble through and we might have enough for another six weeks or so but I expect it to be gone before Christmas." Amateur beekeepers in England produce about 3,000 tonnes annually but the bulk - 80 per cent - is distributed to family and friends or sold at the garden gate or at farmers' markets. Supermarkets and shops rely on a few dozen big commercial honey farms for their supplies of English honey but there is much less available this year. Rowse, who have a third of the market in the UK, had hoped to supply supermarkets with 250 tonnes but Mr Bailey thinks it may be only half that amount. "It has been a terrible, terrible year possibly the worst for 28 years. Bee numbers are down again and the weather has been so bad it has prevented them from foraging. We will be lucky if the total honey crop this year amounts to 2,000 tonnes," he said."

the rest of the story is here.

add to that an earlier telegraph story that israel will soon no longer be the land of milk and honey but just the land of milk:

"The land of milk and honey is in danger of becoming just the land of milk after a 60 per cent fall in local honey production because of poor rainfall. Apiarists across Israel are reporting honey harvest levels well below half the norm following poor winter and spring rains. The poor rainfall meant there were fewer nectar-bearing flowers available for the bees. The bad weather has compounded already reduced levels of honey production caused by the mysterious global phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) where hives across the world have suddenly been deserted. Israel has suffered its fair share of CCD incidents and local scientists have identified a virus spread by a parasitic mite that could be the cause of CCD. This has yet to be confirmed. When Israeli academics reported the discovery of the new virus anti-Israeli articles started appearing on the internet accusing Israel of creating this virus as part of biological weapons programme."


is this real, or is it photoshopped?

yahoo has posted this pic of mccain's reaction to heading the wrong way off the set after the debate last night. while i do love the camera for being able to isolate a nanosecond that may otherwise go unnoticed during the action, it is hard to believe that such a perfect moment really occurred.

this is who that was

"fishface". hard to believe, eh?

happy 50th birthday blue peter!

here is a photo someone else prepared earlier: my favourite presenters john, val and peter (but then i am one of them old bods).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

what are they thinking?

the final debate is over. mccain seems quite pleased with himself, while obama wishes he had never heard of joe wurzelbacher. i listened to the debate on bbc radio five live. thought it would be more interesting to hear a non-american commentary. most brits i know are baffled that there is any doubt about who is the most bonkers. i am just sick of all the spin from everyone.

day is night, up is down

what kind of world have we allowed this one to become when our leaders believe that all they have to do is to repeat a lie often and with enthusiasm and that will make things right?

vote no on prop 8


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

fish face

any idea who this could be? i certainly did not recognise her at all. do you want a clue?

will the real sarah palin please ...

over on dorothy snarker's page, it is tina fey tuesday. she has posted this picture, and i am a little confused. it could be still some jet-lag, or maybe the fumes from our dying treadmill that engulfed me this morning. am i becoming so obsessed with the threat of sarah palin ruling my life for real that i see her in every fortysomething woman with those kind of glasses and a cutesy voice that stands near tina fey?

official jewish tartan

did you know that there is now an official jewish tartan? of course not - why would one? i happened to discover this vital piece of news yesterday when going through the post that came while i was away. in an edition of the hadassah magazine (i am a life member - it was a gift), there is an article about jewish scotland. meanwhile, good old google came up with a few words by tom hamilton in the daily record:

" A SCOTS rabbi has created the world's first official Jewish tartan. Mendel Jacobs, 32, consulted the Scottish Tartans Authority and religious scholars to come up with a design to reflect Scotland's Jewish history. He said: "As the only Scottish-born rabbi living in Scotland, I felt it was important to celebrate the rich tapestry of culture and history we share and it is particularly fitting for Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations. "The Jewish people have been an integral part of Scottish culture for more than 300 years, with the first Jew recorded in Edinburgh in 1691."

The colours, weave and number of threads in the new tartan have all been picked for their relevance to Judaism. Rabbi Mendel added: "The blue and white represent the colours of the Scottish and Israeli flags, with the central gold line representing the gold from the Biblical Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant and the many ceremonial vessels. "The silver is from the decorations that adorn the Scroll of Law and the red represents the traditional red Kiddush wine. "The cloth is also 100 per cent kosher - being a non-wool linen mix."

Internationally renowned weavers Lochcarron of Scotland have vested an interest in manufacturing the tartan. There is expected to be a huge global demand for the design from the estimated 15million Jews worldwide. The biggest markets will be the US and Israel, each with about five-and-a-half million Jews. At the last census in 2001, there were 6400 Jews in Scotland.""

so there you have it. if you want to demonstrate your loyalty to clan mcmoish, you know what to do. ps what do you suppose jewish men wear under their kilts?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

keeping up with the news

having been in berlin for a few days and thus without access to television or e-mail - although we did look at german newspapers in the hotel and found a lovely article on how the candidates have to be careful where they eat because of how it reflects on their characters - ultimately we fell behind with regard to coverage of the election in the usa. luckily i was able to find this clip to help update me.

piglet visits the book-burning memorial in berlin

on the 10th of may, 1933 (the 6th birthday of the father of ravaj), the german students association held a massive burning of 'un-german' publications in berlin. this memorial is in the bebelplatz, on the exact spot where the burning took place.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


the ravaj went to berlin and saw her niece and has promised to limit the viewing of photographs to five or fewer. i am now back in london to continue atoning, and will then be able to catch up with you all.

ps photo credit to the mother of ravaj

Friday, October 03, 2008


am off to berlin to see the niece of ravaj. hurrah. see you all anon!