Wednesday, December 31, 2008

interesting women who died in 2008

looking at the obituaries and lists of death for the past year, i see so many more men deemed worthy of notice than women. here then are some interesting and sometimes famous women whose passing we note at the end of 2008:

Hannah Frank
A Glaswegian artist
Nahla Hussain al-Shaly
A promoter of women's rights in Iraq
Maddie Blaustein
American transwoman voice actress
Ruth Alice Erickson
She survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour
Betty James
She named the Slinky toy
Florence Wald
Credited with starting the hospice movement in the United States of America
Rosella Hightower
Ballerina of American Indian descent who danced with Nureyev
Edith Evans Asbury
Award-winning reporter for the NY Times
Soeur Emmanuelle
One of France's most beloved figures
Dame Daphne Purves
A New Zealand educator who was born in Dunedin and lived her whole life there
Anne Margrethe Strømsheim
A Norwegian resistance heroine during the Second World War
Bonnie Bluh
A feminist novelist and essayist
Maria Esther Figueiredo Ferraz
The first woman to serve as a minister in the Brazilian government
Mary Ellen Garber
A pioneering sports journalist
Francoise Demulder
A French war photographer
Hazel Warp
A Hollywood stuntwoman
Gladys Powers
The last Canadian female WW1 veteran
Margaret Ringenberg
American aviatrix
Jennifer Gale
A homeless transwoman activist who died sleeping rough
Frances Dewey Wormser
Vaudeville and Broadway performer
Maila Nurmi
Vampira the Fifties' tv horror host
Rose Hacker
The oldest columnist in the world
Alma Hogan Snell
Crow tribal elder

Sunday, December 28, 2008

the end of chanukah

the last candles of the festival have gone out in the eastern region of the united states of america. since i am not at all in an observant mood at the moment, i was wondering why i bothered to light the candles and say the blessings each night. i think it is because my father always used to mention the universal human connection at this season up here on the top half of the world, i.e., at the darkest moment of the year we call for the light to return, and encourage it by lighting our own lights. as he would say, so far, it has worked pretty well. i guess i still have at least a glimmer of hope.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

a poem


Adrian Mitchell

Look at your hands
your beautiful useful hands
you’re not an ape
you’re not a parrot
you’re not a slow loris
or a smart missile
you’re human
not british
not american
not israeli
not palestinian
you’re human
not catholic
not protestant
not muslim
not hindu
you’re human
we all start human
we end up human
human first
human last
we’re human
or we’re nothing
nothing but bombs
and poison gas
nothing but guns
and torturers
nothing but slaves
of Greed and War
if we’re not human
look at your body
with its amazing systems
of nerve-wires and blood canals
think about your mind
which can think about itself
and the whole universe
look at your face
which can freeze into horror
or melt into love
look at all that life
all that beauty
you’re human
they are human
we are human
let’s try to be human

another death of the past week was the poet adrian mitchell. this is his most well-known poem. his website is here.


it is the time of year for lists and quizzes. the times quiz has a section on mnemonics, and i actually knew four out of ten. if you need something to do for a couple of minutes, why not see how well you can do?

1. every good boy deserves favour [answer]
2. may i have a large container of coffee [answer]
3. richard of york gave battle in vain [answer]
4. kings play chess on fat girls' stomachs [answer]
5. my very educated mother just served us nine pizzas [answer]
6. spring ahead, fall back [answer]
(i wouldn't count this one but who am i to argue with the times?)
7. sergeant major hates eating onions [answer]
8. you go brown before potting black [answer]
9. bless my dear aunt sally [answer]
(cannot think of any time ever that i will need to use this, so of course i shall now remember it!) goodness but eating hot nachos causes pain [answer]

and if you are not already sick of this, here is a site with a few more examples.

barack obama on arnold jacob wolf z"l

some of the jewish content and knowledge of arnie's life in this piece sound as if the president-elect had help with his homework. however, i still take it as a heartfelt tribute to the life and work of his neighbour the rabbi.

"Letter from President-Elect Barack Obama
Funeral of Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf
December 26, 2008
Chicago, Illinois

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, who was not just our neighbor, but a dear friend to Michelle and me. We are joined in this time of grief by the entire Hyde Park community, the American Jewish Community, and all those who shared Rabbi Wolf's passion for learning and profound commitment to serving others. Today we bid farewell to a titan of moral strength and a champion of social justice.

Rabbi Wolf always remained true to the meaning of being a rabbi: he was a teacher. He took great pleasure in delving into Judaism's ancient texts, drawing out lessons about right and wrong, and inspiring young people to engage the world and strive to improve it. He transformed the historic tradition into a catalyst for Tikkun Olam - the sacred pursuit of repairing a broken world in our own time. He taught us by example that we must pray not just with words, but with deeds - and that we must truly live the meaning of "love thy neighbor as thyself."

In the great Rabbinical tradition, Rabbi Wolf was passionate and provoc ative in this work - and my conversations with him were always lively. You knew that if he disagreed with you, he would let you know in no uncertain terms - especially if he thought you were overlooking the moral dimensions of an issue, or rationalizing your own failure to live up to the highest moral principles. But he did it with kindness, and often with a smile or a laugh to let you know that even though you were just plain wrong, and had no idea what you were talking about, he still loved you.

Rabbi Wolf's commitment to justice started early in life. As a young rabbi serving at a turbulent time for our nation, he was determined to fight discrimination of any kind, and his involvement in the Civil Rights movement alongside Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel helped strengthen the bonds between the Jewish and African-American communities.

Rabbi Wolf embarked on an historic experiment with the founding of Congregation Solel on Chicago's North Shore. Solel, which means "trailblazer," describes him well. He was proud to have Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an honored guest speaker. He was among the first to introduce to Chicago the writings of Elie Wiesel and Holocaust studies. And he never shied away from controversy or challenge when he saw an opportunity to advance the cause of freedom.

Throughout Chicago and in Jewish homes and classrooms across our country, Rabbi Wolf's name is synonymous with service, social action, and the possibility of change. He will be remembered as a loving husband and father, an engaging teacher, a kindhearted shepherd for the K.A.M. Isaiah community, and a tireless advocate of peace for the United States, Israel and the world.

And I will always be personally grateful for the support he showed me as I embarked on my own journey. In a piece Rabbi Wolf wrote on my behalf months ago, he wrote that he was proud to be my neighbor and that he hoped to someday visit me in the White House. In the end, however, the honor was all mine. And while he may not have lived to pay that visit to the Oval Office, I hope that his spirit of love, his love of learning, and his deep dedication to serving others will live on in the work I do each day. May his memory be a blessing and a comfort to us all and an inspiration for the generations to come."

ps it has really not been a good couple of days. one of my oldest and dearest friends, with whom i have shared the journey of rabbis' daughters who become rabbis, has suddenly lost her beloved father rabbi barry h. greene z"l

Friday, December 26, 2008

o miss hartigan

*****spoiler alert*****
have just finished watching the xmas doctor who special and am so sad that the evil miss mercy hartigan, as played by dervla kirwin, was destroyed at the end of the programme. kirwin is stunningly merciless, and i am in love with her :-)

i've not seen her in anything before, but she has been the voice of marks and spencer for a while. with regard to the xmas special, she was interviewed here by the telegraph.

here's an interview by paul o'grady ... in doctor who she is terribly londonish, but here you hear her full irish accent:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

o no, and eartha kitt as well

i never did meet eartha kitt i have to admit, but she was still my favourite catwoman in the batman tv series, edging out julie newmar by a whisker. she died today from colon cancer at the age of 81. i read it first on the bbc page:

"Kitt was blacklisted in the US in the late 1960s after speaking out against the Vietnam War at a White House function.
She also caused controversy when she toured apartheid South Africa in 1974, arguing that she had helped wean the regime by raising awareness of racism." more here.

here she is with bronski beat (post jimmy somerville) in 1989 would you believe:

it's been a busy day for the obituary pages *sigh*

ny times.
the independent.

her official website.
wiki site.

harold pinter r.i.p.

news came today that the playwright harold pinter had lost his battle with cancer and died yesterday at the age of 78. i met him once, when he and his wife came to dinner at my parents' flat. he was very emphatic about what he had to say, gesturing strongly with his hands ... so much so that one of my mother's best crystal wineglasses went flying and smashed. the following week at the dinner table, my mother was describing what had happened to our guests that evening, and sent one of her best crystal wineglasses flying into smithereens.

i also remember persuading my mother to come with me to the haymarket theatre (i bought the tickets - 3rd row centre stalls) to see "old times" i think it was. i wanted to go because liv ullmann was in it and i had a majestic crush upon her. we watched and listened - to the words and the pauses - but found it hard to make sense of what was going on. afterwards, as we left the theatre, we noticed many people turning to the right and crowding around something on the wall. as we drew closer, we saw it was a review of the play, including some explanation. we heard "o, now i get it!" and variations on that theme as people walked away. never mind, liv ullmann in the flesh was a sight worth seeing for me :-)

meanwhile, here are the serious retrospectives of the literary world:

bbc online obituary here.
the independent.
the times.
photos from the guardian.
obituary from the guardian.
the telegraph.
the new york times.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

r. arnold jacob wolf z"l

another one bites the dust. this morning, i received the sad news of the death of aj wolf in chicago. he was of my father's generation, i.e., a rabbi and man who stood up for his beliefs and acted upon them. one may not always have agreed with him, but one had to admire his example. the obituaries are yet to come. for now, here is a recent piece he wrote about his neighbour in chicago:

"“My Neighbor Barack” by Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf

Not everyone can claim to be the neighbor of a Presidential candidate – I can, though, because I am. Barack Obama’s Chicago home is across the street from KAM Isaiah Israel, the Hyde Park synagogue at which I’ve served for 27 years. He spoke to our congregation as an Illinois state senator; more recently, his Secret Service agents have made use of our, shall we say, facilities. But it’s not neighborly instinct that’s led me to support the Obama candidacy: I support Barack Obama because he stands for what I believe, what our tradition demands. We sometimes forget, but an integral part of that tradition is dialogue and a willingness to disagree. Certainly many who call me their rabbi have taken political positions far from mine – just as Barack Obama’s opinions have differed from those of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The candidate recently gave a speech which made abundantly clear that he and Wright often disagree. Obama condemned Wright’s “incendiary language,” and “views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but… that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation.” Of course, race is only one issue on which Wright has stepped beyond the bounds of civil discourse. He’s frequently made statements regarding Israel and the Jewish community that I find troubling. But to limit our understanding of Obama to the ill-conceived comments of the man who once led his church is dishonest and self-defeating.

Obama’s strong positions on poverty and the climate, his early and consistent opposition to the Iraq War, his commitment to ending the Darfur genocide – all these speak directly to Jewish concerns. If we’re sidetracked by Wright’s words, we’ll be working against these interests. After all, a preacher speaks to a congregation, not for the congregation. And still many remain concerned that Obama isn’t committed to Israel. Some want him to fall in line behind the intransigent, conservative thinking that has silenced Jewish debate on Israeli policy, and enabled the Bush Administration’s criminal neglect of the diplomatic process. Clearly, though, anyone who thinks Obama waffles on Israel hasn’t been paying attention. In 2007, he spoke to AIPAC about “a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel”; today, his website states clearly that America’s “first and incontrovertible commitment in the Middle East must be to the security of Israel.”

For my part, I’ve sometimes found Obama too cautious on Israel. He, like all our politicians, knows he mustn’t stray too far from the conventional line, and that can be disappointing. But unlike anyone else on the stump, Obama has also made it clear that he’ll broaden the dialogue. He knows what peace entails. Speaking recently before a Jewish audience in Cleveland, Obama did the unthinkable – he challenged the room. He talked about the need to ask “difficult questions” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “I sat down with the head of Israeli security forces,” he said “and his view of the Palestinians was incredibly nuanced…. There’s good and there’s bad, and he was willing to say sometimes we make mistakes… and if we’re just pressing down on these folks constantly, without giving them some prospects for hope, that’s not good for our security.”

Yet, in spite of all of Obama’s strengths, there’s another truth we’ve been loathe to admit: Among some American Jews, race plays a key role in the hesitation to support the Obama candidacy. We’ve forgotten that Black and Jewish America once shared a common vision; in the civil rights era, I and many in our community stood shoulder to shoulder with the giants of our generation, demanding freedom for all Americans. Obama himself doesn’t share our amnesia, however. “I would not be sitting here,” he said in Cleveland, “if it were not for a whole host of Jewish Americans.” That was literal truth, but not everyone remembers it.

I’ve worked with Obama for more than a decade, as has my son, a lawyer who represents children and people with disabilities. He has admired Obama’s dedication and skill as he worked on issues affecting our most vulnerable citizens. Obama is no anti-Semite. He is not anti-Israel. He is one of our own, the one figure on the political scene who remembers our past, and has a real vision for repairing our present. Barack Obama is brilliant and open-hearted; he is wiser and more thoughtful than his former minister. He offers what America, Israel, and the Jewish community need: a US President willing to ask hard questions, and grapple with difficult answers.

I am very proud to be his neighbor. I hope someday to visit him in the White House."

alas that is not to be. may his memory be for a blessing.

eulogies on jewschool
funeral and shiva info here.
a story from last year about his second barmitzvah has a lot of biographical info here.

mukoko is still alive

just read this via the bbc online:

"Prominent Zimbabwean human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, missing for the past three weeks, has appeared in court in the capital, Harare. The state-run Herald newspaper says Ms Mukoko is charged with attempting to recruit people for military training to try to overthrow the government.

It is unclear when or where the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project has been over the past few weeks. The police denied opposition claims that they had been holding her. The Herald said earlier today that Ms Mukoko would be one of a group of people facing the charges to appear in court in Harare. The newspaper reported a police statement claiming one of the defendants had tried to recruit a police constable to undergo military training in Botswana. The training would have been used to forcibly depose President Robert Mugabe's government and replace it with one led by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, said the statement. Ms Mukoko is one of more than 40 human rights activists and opposition supporters who Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) say have been abducted in the past two months.

On Wednesday morning, lawyers in Zimbabwe said they had confirmation that Ms Mukoko was being held at a police station in Harare. Her whereabouts had remained a mystery since she was allegedly abducted from her home outside Harare on 3 December by 15 armed men. In an unusual move, a High Court judge had ordered police to search for her and told the national Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to run radio and television appeals for information.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Irene Petras of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said Ms Mukoko and others arrested had "fundamental rights and freedoms which are being violated with complete impunity". Ms Petras claimed the detainees had been held at unknown locations and possibly subjected to torture and degrading treatment. Members of the lawyers group took to the streets of Harare last week to highlight Ms Mukoko's plight, carrying banners banners protesting against other alleged abductions. Ms Mukoko's court appearance comes as international pressure on Mr Mugabe is mounting. The leader of the governing ANC party in neighbouring South Africa, Jacob Zuma, has described the situation in Zimbabwe as "utterly untenable". Meanwhile Archbishop Desmond Tutu had said he is "very deeply disappointed" that South Africa has failed to stand up to Mr Mugabe."

many prayers are answered in that jestina mukoko is still alive. the question now, of course, is what will happen to her after the show trial is concluded. i was trying to figure out why this particular story caught my attention, and i think it was because they wouldn't let her find her glasses when she was abducted. a small thing, but being blind as a blind bat myself, it gave me a minuscule insight into the panic and terror of that instant. i don't think i can get my head round the myriad examples of state violence that have so far occurred - it is those small things for me that help to make visceral connections.

associated press update 25th december here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

unity pandas

pandas on the move! having survived the earthquake in wolong, they have now arrived at their new home in taiwan. the telegraph's richard spencer reports:

"TuanTuan and YuanYuan, whose names when put together mean "Reunion", landed at Taoyuan Airport near the island's capital Taipei. It was the end of a long day, which began with tearful celebrations in Sichuan, their home and home of most of the world's surviving giant pandas. They were given a last breakfast of corn buns and carrots in the city of Ya'an, where they were taken after surviving the May earthquake which destroyed their birth-place, the world-famous Wolong breeding centre. As they were loaded on to a truck for the road trip to Chengdu airport, they were seen off by a party of dancing schoolchildren dressed in panda suits.

They were guarded by 500 security officers and armed police strung out along the route, along with 20 animal experts and their own two keepers. There were more dances at the airport, from the local Qiang minority group who occupy the mountains that are their natural habitat, followed by speeches. "TuanTuan and YuanYuan will sow the seeds of peace, solidarity and friendship on Taiwan's soil," Zheng Lizhong, deputy director of China's Taiwan Affairs Office said.

The pair were offered three years ago as a goodwill gesture by China, after its anti-secession law which set in stone the national policy of using force to prevent any Taiwan declaration of independence raised tensions across the Straits. They were initially rejected by the then Taiwan president, Chen Shui-bian, who favours moving towards independence. But that decision was reversed by his successor, Ma Ying-jeou, who won election in March on a platform of improving ties with the mainland, which claims historic sovereignty over the island.

Upon arrival at the end of their three-hour journey to Taipei - made easier by the resumption this year of direct flights - they were taken away by keepers for a month-long period of quarantine, before they go on show at a specially constructed 6.5 million pound enclosure at Taipei Zoo.

Their journey was welcomed by the city government. "TuanTuan and YuanYuan are finally setting off for the historic trip to Taiwan," said Yang Hsiao-tung, a spokesman. "This symbolises another major step forward in pragmatic cross-strait exchanges." But Mr Ma’s acceptance of the pandas was attacked in pro-independence newspapers as showing he accepted Taiwan’s “vassal status” to China."

the pope's foot

the phrase "the pope's nose" refers usually to the rear end of a turkey or chicken. for some reason it comes to mind when i think about the latest public assertion by the current pope that gender theory could lead to the self-destruction of the human race. the bbc reports:

"Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction. He explained that defending God's creation was not limited to saving the environment, but also about protecting man from self-destruction. The Pope was delivering his end-of-year address to senior Vatican staff."
rest of the story here.

hmmmm. presumably he still believes the canard that homosexual sex does not create children and thus decreases the population, going against god's commandment to go forth and multiply. and he's probably never heard of overpopulation, or orphans, or indian and chinese girls, or sperm banks and turkey basters. or perhaps he is thinking about moral destruction? the broken homes from divorce, and the single-parent families; the addicts; the paedophiles and the other abusers; the perpetrators of all ills in this world - none of whom are heterosexual. danke schoen for doing your bit to spread peace and love for all humankind, mate.

Monday, December 22, 2008

sir albert of twain

an interesting document that i found recently. apparently the father of ravaj was dubbed a knight of mark twain by the mark twain journal. all i could find about the journal was this. i wonder about the blurbs on the notepaper, especially since the late sir albert had carte blanche from various friends to make up jacket blurbs on their behalf for his own work :-) all i can find about the book in question online is this. finally this is some info with regard to the signatory of the letter, c clemens.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

blinded by delight

a terrible pun i know but i am delirious with joy as my r's managed to pull off a last-minute win this afternoon at home to preston. something to warm me up in the face of nearly a foot of snow over here.

harvey milk - the background

i have not yet seen the new film about harvey milk, but have been preparing by reading up about the real person. follow the link to read the guardian version of his story here. an excerpt:

"California's reactionary Proposition 8, which recently rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, recalls a similar ballot initiative that was faced down by Milk and his constituents in the years before his death. Moreover, as liberal hero, political pioneer and potential assassination target, Milk resembles no one so much as the US president-elect. Subjected to increasingly violent death threats as his public career flourished, Milk recorded on tape who he wanted to succeed him if he were killed, adding: "If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.""

first the banks, then the pandas

a story from the independent newspaper last week - the prime minister of great britain, gordon brown, has lent his support to the attempts of the edinburgh zoo to borrow a pair of pandas from china:

"Not content with saving the world's banking system, Gordon Brown yesterday turned his attention to giant pandas. He gave his backing to attempts by Edinburgh Zoo to bring two of the endangered animals from China to a new Scottish home. If the zoo's project is successful, they will be the first pandas in Britain since 1994. In a letter to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which hopes to get the pandas on loan from China in 2010, the Prime Minister said the Government "strongly supports" international co-operation to promote the conservation of wildlife. The society announced its proposal to include a pair of breeding pandas in its animal collection at Edinburgh Zoo in May. It has been proposed they would be on loan for 10 years, in which time, it is hoped, they will have cubs. Zoo representatives have visited China to establish a closer relationship with its officials in the field of conservation and research. A "letter of intent" has been signed by both parties, signifying a commitment to bring pandas to the Scottish capital. If successful, Edinburgh would be only the eighth zoo in the West to care for a species which has become a symbol of endangered wildlife. However, negotiations with the Chinese are sensitive. In the past, pandas were given or loaned to Western zoos, including London, with the aim of opening up relations between China and the West, in so-called "panda diplomacy".

In Mr Brown's letter to David Windmill, the chief executive of the society, he said: "The Government strongly supports international co-operation to promote the conservation of the world's wildlife. We therefore welcome the progress which the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has made in its discussions with the Chinese authorities and wish you continuing success in bringing these discussions to a satisfactory conclusion." Mr Windmill said yesterday: "The process of bringing giant pandas to Scotland is a long and detailed one that requires political co-operation at the highest level, so having the support of our Prime Minister is essential."

London Zoo has kept several pandas from 1938 onwards. Some of the animals became famous as a result of exposure on television – the first was Chi-Chi, who was acquired in 1958 for the then enormous sum of £12,000. Attempts to mate her with the only other giant panda outside China, An-An from Moscow Zoo, attracted international interest and ensured her fame. In 1974, "Ted Heath's Pandas" – Chia-Chia (a male) and Ching-Ching (a female) – were presented to the British people by the Chinese government on the occasion of the then prime minister Edward Heath's visit to China. London Zoo kept two more animals, Bao Bao and Ming Ming, in the early 1990s but there have been no giant pandas in British zoos since."

chi-chi was the first giant panda that won my heart. i still hesitate to enter the natural history museum since they stuffed her and posed her there. apparently she was originally destined for the united states, but was branded communist goods and not allowed into the country, so she ended up in london. i am a bit confused by the last part of the article - i thought that bao bao was from berlin, and came over to mate with ming ming but their foreplay turned a bit rough and he injured her and was sent home. there were a couple of pandas there in the late '80's i think that i got to feed during a photo op for qpr.

anyway, pandas. in britain. wow. i can hardly wait :-)

Friday, December 19, 2008

mice suspects in deadly cat fire

this is not a joke, and is one of the most popular stories currently on the front page of the bbc online news page. here it is for you:

"Mice may be responsible for a blaze that killed nearly 100 cats at an animal shelter near the Canadian city of Toronto, officials say. The fire at the humane society shelter in Oshawa also killed three dogs and some rats that were up for adoption. An initial report from the fire marshal says mice or rats chewing through electrical wires in the ceiling are likely to have sparked the blaze.
Offers of help have been pouring in from animal lovers across Canada. "It's unfortunate and ironic that mice caused the fire that killed the cats," Toronto Humane Society spokesman Ian McConachie told the BBC News website. "Unfortunately, the mice probably perished in the fire as well," he added.

The $250,000 (£137,000) fire is still under investigation by the Ontario Fire Marshal's office. Mr McConachie said it would be some days before a final report would be released. In all, only nine dogs, two cats and one rat were rescued in Wednesday's early morning blaze. They are being housed in a nearby municipal shelter, while volunteers rebuild the burnt-down shelter for the Humane Society of Durham Region. "

well, i did pick it to share with you, but then i am stuck indoors while the snow ploughs rule the roads.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

jay leno impersonators' convention

something a little more cheerful now - i just love this photograph of the actor george clooney and his father, nick. not quite sure what is going on, maybe a little tie-fixing? meanwhile, excuse me for a moment while i go find some photos of the father of ravaj and get a little emotional.

mukoko update

i have been searching for further news of jestina mukoko, but have not found anything via google that is more recent than when first i posted. thus i found myself at the home page of her zimbabwe peace project, where i was able to read this harrowing story:

"Rachel wept as they buried her 6 year old daughter. Who would have known that going to school would mean death for her bright eyed child? Who knew that she would come home barely able to walk, continuous diarrhoea a deadly torrent down her legs. They buried her frail body wrapped in a plastic bag thrust into a cheap coffin, purchased by the dozen by the do-gooder aid agencies. That day they buried 30 men and women. Was it supposed to be consolation that 600 women, men and children had also lost their lives to this plague? Rachel only knew that her child, flesh of her flesh, blood of her blood was gone."

on the first page they cite these words from osip mandelstam:

"You took away all the oceans and all the room.
You gave me my shoe-size in earth with bars around it.
Where did it get you? Nowhere.
You left me my lips, and they shape words, even in silence."

let us hope this remains a tribute, rather than becoming an epitaph.

update 20th december: still no news that i can find about her fate. from 14th dec, cna - the catholic news agency - has an article here recording a response by cardinal maradiaga, president of caritas internationalis calling for her release

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

i just thought you should know ...

[thanks to noam's facebook friend for this important message]

responses to the throwing of shoes

the independent newspaper reports today:

"Thousands of Iraqis poured into the streets of Baghdad yesterday in support of Muntazer al-Zaidi, who was catapulted from obscurity to worldwide celebrity after hurling his shoes at the US President, George Bush. As the Iraqi journalist remained in detention for what authorities called "a barbaric and ignominious act", a crowd in Baghdad pelted US troops with their shoes in one of many street protests called in support of the reporter's action."

while mr al zaidi can be prosecuted for insulting a visiting head of state, the bi-partisan support he has engendered may make it difficult for an iraqi court to follow through. as noted in the comments at the end of the article [here] , it could only have happened in a democracy.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

weapon of mass indignation

this wasn't a very nice thing to do to the leader of the free world.

reuters reports:

"In a sign of lingering anger over the war that will define the Republican president's foreign policy legacy, an Iraqi journalist shouted "this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog," and hurled his shoes at Bush during a news conference with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki."

would we could dispatch osama bin laden with the same ease as the security men who dragged this screaming protester from the room.

where is jestina mukoko?

first question is - who is jestina mukoko? she is a woman in zimbabwe, currently the director of the zimbabwe peace project, a group that monitors human rights in the country. the sunday times reports today:

The terrifying ordeal of Jestina Mukoko, a television news anchor turned human rights activist, began at 5am on December 3 when seven men and one woman forced their way into her house at gunpoint in Norton, a quiet, leafy town 25 miles west of Harare. The intruders were not in uniform, although one of the men claimed to be a police officer. They refused to let her dress, find her spectacles or pick up the blood pressure pills that she is supposed to take three times a day. Her 17-year-old son Takudzwa and a six-year-old niece, Tofara, who was in her care, were left shocked and alone after seeing her led away in her nightdress. Mukoko, 51, who was widowed 13 years ago, has not been seen since by family, friends or lawyers. The regime of President Robert Mugabe has said nothing about her whereabouts or her condition. Fears for her safety are growing."

nobody knows who took her, or where she is. the only thing everyone knows is that robert mugabe will be much happier when she is not around to catalogue the evidence of his tyranny. for example, the st tells us that:

"Jestina Mukoko recorded 20,143 incidents between January and September 2008 including:

- 202 murders
- 463 abductions
- 41 rapes
- 411 cases of torture
- 3,942 assaults
- 907 cases of malicious damage to property
- 444 cases of unlawful detention
- 10,795 cases of harassment/intimidation
- 73% of victims are said to be supporters of the opposition MDC
- 80% of perpetrators of violence are claimed to be Zanu-PF supporters"

how do the powers in this world decide which countries need to be invaded in order to save their people and which do not? is zimbabwe being left alone because all available forces are currently deployed in afghanistan and iraq? if such invasions ultimately do not achieve their goals, e.g., bringing democracy to the region, or flushing out and removing despots and their followers, then what can be done to help? mugabe is utterly bonkers, but it is not just a question of political violence ... MILLIONS are going hungry, and the economy has collapsed. jestina mukoko has probably been murdered already. i wish i could be brave like she is. and i wish i knew what to do with such courage.

sunday times article.
press release amnesty usa.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

sign him up!

the football transfer window opens again in a couple of weeks. is this photo evidence that qpr have already made some pre-contract arrangement for a new player? after all, wallace is wearing a qpr super-hooped shirt. kaiser so(u)sa won't you tell us?

rest in peace ivor wilcox

i love it when i find obituaries of people that were not famous but did something memorable and cool. so it is with ivor wilcox, aka bjarni eriksson, who shared his love for and knowledge of the viking period with thousands of children through living history events and visits to schools. the guardian said:

"A typical day would see Ivor in a primary school hall wearing full Viking costume and surrounded by 90 or so pupils. He would often have a cart, laden with goods - jewellery, weapons, household items - to demonstrate Viking life. Teachers would be present but they would have little to do. Bjarni was in charge. As Elaine Saunders wrote in the Times Educational Supplement in 2001: "Bjarni is mesmerizing. One moment a dominant and raucous martinet, another a cuddly comic, he can lead hordes of youngsters in ear-splitting battle chants ... But the next moment he can achieve instant hush, with a single 'Quiet!'""

anything creative that opens people up to different cultures and experiences gets my attention - i like to think that it will teach me about the subject, and about how to better teach my students. i know from experience that when i appear in the classroom as an historical character, the kids rarely forget our interview; and when they play the characters themselves they have great ownership of the material. bravo mr. wilcox! it is such a shame you died so young (well, 47 seems young to me ... and it is the age of our president-elect).

the rest of the obit is here.

what is that whatsit anyway?

recently the telegraph made a note of some of the thingummys that abound in our lives and what they are actually called. i present ten of my favourites:

(Pronounced bor-buh-rig-mus) is the name for the rumbling sounds made by the stomach. These are caused by the movement of fluids and gases, as food, acids and digestive juices migrate from the stomach into the upper part of the small intestine. The average body makes two gallons of digestive juices a day. The hydrochloric acid in your stomach is so strong it could eat into metal, but a special form of mucus protects your inner linings from this acid along the length of its journey.

Is the small pink protuberance in the corner of the eye. It contains glands which produce sweat and tears. These tears are then secreted onto the surface of the conjunctiva. These glands are known as Ciaccio's glands, named after Italian anatomist Giuseppe Vincenzo Ciaccio, who first described their function in 1874.

(pronounced drah-zhay) Are those little silver balls to be found on birthday cakes. They're smaller than a cultured pearl, made of sugar and adorned with a metallic coating to resemble a ball bearing.

Is the type of paper that lines boxes of chocolates or truffles and cups single chocolates. In a special manufacturing process, paper pulp is beaten to break down the fibres, and pressed into moulds, then allowed to dry into sheets. After that, a process called ' calendering' presses the sheets through hot rollers, making the paper grease- and air-proof. This is ideal for protecting chocolates from that white 'bloom' that can sometimes appear.

The Interrobang
Is the combination of an interrogative point, or question mark, and a bang (printers' parlance for the exclamation mark). These are some sentences which require one: 'She said what?!'; 'He ate how many slices of cake?!'; 'You're going to have a baby?!'
No one uses them more eloquently than Captain Haddock in Herge's Tintin stories.

Phloem bundles
(Pronounced flo-em bundles) are the squidgy, stringy bits between the skin and the edible part of a banana.

Are the pink and blue aniseed-flavoured jelly sweets in bags of Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts - and the only ones that contain no liquorice.

If you've dotted an i, you have tittled, because the little dot above the i and the j is called a tittle. Hence the phrase 'jot and tittle', which indicates that every small detail has received attention.

Is the cardboard holder for a coffee cup that has no handle. The word comes from the Arabic for container or envelope, because the device (originally a metal holder for a handle-less glass) originated in the Middle East.

(pronounced zoo-ket-oh) Is the skullcap worn by Roman Catholic clergy. The colour of the zucchetto (which means pumpkin in Italian) denotes rank. Cardinals traditionally wear red, bishops and abbots wear violet, priests black and the Pope has a white one."

now aren't you glad you know that? although i would argue that the skullcap worn by the bishops and cardinals and popes is actually a kippah/yarmulke. just like mine, except theirs don't have the new york yankees or blue's clues or rainbow magen davids on them.

the rest of the article is, i hope, here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

what's in a name?

from the ny times today:

"The Yankees got their C. C. The Mets countered with a J. J. — Putz, that is. His initials stand for Joseph Jason, but no one calls him that. Perhaps of greater interest is his surname, which is pronounced “puts.” Definitely, most certainly, not “putts.” The pronunciation of Putz’s last name is a frequent topic for the Baltimore Sun columnist Peter Schmuck, who laments “that it never occurred to me to tell everyone that my last name is Schmook.”"

so i have the sense of humour of a nine-year-old boy in that i still snicker when i walk past a jewellery shop in germany. *sigh*

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

oliver postgate r.i.p.

this is an episode of the clangers, one of my favourite children's tv programmes ever. i watched it recently with some american friends, and the pace was much too slow for them, whereas i am calmed and comforted still by these gentle stories. i post it today in memory of one of its creators, oliver postgate, who died yesterday at the age of 83.

the telegraph obit comments:

"His programmes were simple and uncluttered, yet stimulating and not unsophisticated. They eschewed the frenetic matiness of later generations of children's television, winning the trust of their audience instead by old-fashioned reliance on plot and characterisation and by an appeal to a child's instinctive belief in magic. In short, they did not treat television as a special art but as a three-dimensional extension of the story book."

the rest is here.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

hurrah hurrah for qpr

fickle fate once more affects my weekend. qpr were on live national tv against the top team in the league and we were all hoping for a draw. since, however, i was not only unable to watch the game but also fell asleep around half-time, it was inevitable that we pulled off a shock win. hurrah for martin rowlands. hurrah for formerly desolate qpr fans. it shall be a good weekend after all :-)

not an aid for sleep

was having trouble sleeping, and thought i'd calm myself down with a couple of music videos. while the song is very gentle, for some reason i really cannot get to sleep now :-)

seriously, if you haven't seen this film, i highly recommend it. '8 femmes' is the name.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

walking the walk

up there with charles m. schultz i have to say that i have always loved the drawings of jules feiffer. i first saw them on sundays in the observer newspaper magazine - feiffer near the front, and peanuts on the inside back page. after discovering at the age of 5 that it was too late for me to become the first ever female rabbi, if you'd asked me what i wanted to be when i grew up then i would have told you: a syndicated cartoonist. so why did i not become one? the minor problem of not being able to draw very well :-)

Friday, December 05, 2008

at last ....!

o.j.simpson is going to jail. i did not grow up with the images of him as an heroic football player or any of the other positive images of him in the past. my first exposure to him was via the so-called "trial of the century" when he was acquitted of killing his wife and her friend. i thought he did it, and so did those who judged the civil suit. now he's going down for charges including:

"two of first degree kidnapping, two of armed robbery, two of assault with a deadly weapon, two of coercion with a deadly weapon, burglary while in possession of a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit a crime, kidnapping and robbery."

finally some consequences. more details here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

prop 8 - the musical?

o i do love margaret cho, and i have a sneaking secret liking for jack black (after all, he was po in 'kung fu panda'), and that doogie howser chap turned out quite well, didn't he? well, please enjoy marc shaiman's musical solution to the problem of the economy.

ps the more times i look at this the more people i recognise. how could i have missed allison janney, or kathy najimy, or possibly the woman who was the fake becky on roseanne for a while?

odetta r.i.p.

odetta, the folk singer that influenced luminaries such as harry belafonte and bob dylan, died yesterday in new york city.

""What distinguished her from the start was the meticulous care with which she tried to re-create the feeling of her folk songs; to understand the emotions of a convict in a convict ditty, she once tried breaking up rocks with a sledge hammer," Time magazine wrote in 1960. "She is a keening Irishwoman in `Foggy Dew,' a chain-gang convict in `Take This Hammer,' a deserted lover in `Lass from the Low Country,'" Time wrote.

Odetta called on her fellow blacks to "take pride in the history of the American Negro" and was active in the civil rights movement. When she sang at the March on Washington in August 1963, "Odetta's great, full-throated voice carried almost to Capitol Hill," The New York Times wrote."

i happen to be interested in family trees, although i prefer the german word "stammbaum" because for me it has more of a sense of origin not just via blood. odetta was part of one of my favourites: dan bern by bob dylan by odetta by woody guthrie by leadbelly. i know there are myriad branches ... this is how i see it today!

associated press obit here