Sunday, March 30, 2008

how gasted is your flabber?

some years ago, i went to see a movie in nyc with some dear friends. it was called 'junior', and it starred the governator as a pregnant man. i did not enjoy the film. it so happened that at that time i was writing my senior sermon, and it was all about infertility. the movie made me cry. anyway ... some fancy newspapers have now picked up the story first broken in the advocate magazine (you may read it here) about thomas beatie and his wife nancy who live in bend, oregon. i read it today in the indy - 'we just want to be a family,' says oregon's pregnant man. Thomas is a ftm transexual who kept his reproductive organs. When his partner was unable to have children, having had a hysterectomy, thomas stopped taking his testosterone until he began to menstruate, and with fertility treatments became pregnant.

is there anything wrong with this? religious groups and so-called family values groups are going mental about it. the situation is certainly a mind-bender. it doesn't particularly bother me. the question that i have is, particularly since a previous attempt by thomas resulted in an ectopic pregnancy that nearly killed him, why go to such lengths to be a birth parent when there are so so many children in the world available for adoption? families are great. families need children. and children need families. it is a great story, guaranteed to make world-wide news and poke with a stick myriad pressure groups. meanwhile, myriad children sit and wait for someone to take them home and give them the family life for which they yearn. that is what upsets me about this story.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

ride me up, ride me down

checking out the latest on ms. bechdel's blog she suggested we check out this film that she saw as part of a porn festival. i found it quite amusing, and hope that you do too. btw, just so you won't be disappointed, there are no naked people or bannable body parts in the following piece:

ravaj does tefillin


i have always found the sight and thought of tefillin to be a little bit scary. the tightness with which most people wrap the straps around their arms, the flesh bulging between the leather lines, made me very uncomfortable. since women are not required to lay tefillin (although they may if they wish), and as a reform and progressive jew i never saw or knew anyone who laid tefillin until i went to israel, i did not feel compelled to have anything to do with them.

ever since i became the ravaj, however, it has occurred to me that it is against my principles to reject something out of hand without knowing anything about it. now and then i would ask someone to show me how to do it when they had a moment, but it never seemed to happen. then it occurred to me that i should at least know how in case someone comes to me and asks me how. but it never seemed to happen.

earlier in the year, i asked one of my colleagues at school to show me. last week he said that he had not forgotten, and would i like to come in early on friday and he would show me. and i did. and he did. it wasn't as weird as i had thought it would be. it did not feel uncomfortable, even though the leather left red strap-marks on my arm when i removed it after only a few minutes. then i had to go straight into solo teaching as my mentor was away, and had no time to reflect further, or sit with how it felt. i may have to try again!

ipswich 0-0 qpr

hogan is back, and w/o the ugly yellow boots!

ipswich have a great home record, and earlier in the season they would have demolished us. as it was, it appears we gave a good account of ourselves. the only downer from my perspective was that the teamsheet did not include buzsaky. o akos, my akos i posted to the qpr list. where was he? a listee who has as a room-mate a hungarian girl that knows akos said that he was in hungary for the week. and then said he was not. this mystery was more compelling than a scoreless game, alas. o well. we are content with a draw.

dexter does something

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

and so it begins

piglet says goodbye

as the 2008 baseball season begins in tokyo, i look forward to the yanks beginning on monday against the blue jays. i cannot believe that they will be moving across the road next year to a brand-new stadium that they really do not need. one of my favourite moments on the train to 162nd street is an instant as you go by the concrete of the stadium. there is a sudden break in the grey, and the bright green of the grass is visible and then gone, as if it were a dream. last time i visited, i managed to shoot this pic of piglet and the instant.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

teaching pandas to procreate

poor pandas. not only are their caretakers trying to encourage more mating by showing them panda "porn", i.e., videos of other pandas doing it; but now they are being given special exercise lessons to develop their pelvic and hip muscles! an apple is dangled from a string just out of their reach, so they stand on their hind legs as they try to get it. at least they are allowed to eat the fruit once the exercise is over.

i understand the desire to increase the panda population of the world. i just wish the task were easier! for the rest of the report in the times, look here.

obsession

nu - the queen of procrastination has found a new online game to play. via facebook. if you wish to preserve your eyes, your sanity and your carpal tunnels on no account look at anything called 'scramble'. it is a version of boggle, and you can play live every 210 seconds with strangers across the world while you wait for your head-2-head partners to forget about their lives and take their turns. beware. an hour can disappear *poof* like that. just a couple more. just until half-past. just until i reach the top 100. i can't stop with a score that bad. BEWARE!

thank you for your attention.

england win a sporting contest

monty panesar celebrates his sixth wicket

england won the test series against new zealand. while monty cleaned up the the last kiwi batters, the man of the match and the man of the series was voted to be our old friend r.j. sidebottom. mazel tov to all, and thank you for not embarrassing us again :-)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

the meaning of prayer

rabbi jonathan romain writes in the times:

"While the English word “pray” comes from the Latin precare, meaning to address, to implore - talking to someone, God - the Hebrew word for prayer comes from a term meaning “to judge oneself”. So rather than just looking outwards, Jewish prayer is also focused inwards, and prayer is a matter of self-examination; not only asking God for this or that, but checking up on ourselves in God's presence, whether we are behaving properly and heading in the right direction. It is an important distinction, because it means there is much less expectation of God answering our prayers, and appearing to fail if expectations are not realised. Instead we are asking ourselves to live up to ethical values, and it is then we who succeed or fail, depending on how committed or strong-willed we are.""

the hebrew root p-l-l means to sort, or to put into order. our word for to pray is l'hit-pa-lel. this is the reflexive of that root, i.e., to sort one's self out. isn't that an incredible meaning?! so often in the english-speaking world, we get stuck with the xian interpretation of religious words, without even realising it. we are not imploring. it's not about asking god to do magic, and then getting pissed off when it doesn't work. (ok, that sounds like an awful put-down, and i know many xians who do not see it as that. am not talking about them, am talking about myself) it is about finding the strength to do the best we can ourselves, and the faith to cope when things do not work out as we would have wished. thanks, jonathan, for reminding me :-)

read more here

Saturday, March 22, 2008

what about a bit o' cricket?

r j sidebottom celebrates

a strange-looking man, perhaps. he is celebrating great success in a game that most people i know not only say they do not understand, but also believe that they never will understand. ryan sidebottom has just taken 7 wickets in the first innings of the deciding test match against new zealand, thus bringing england back into the game (if their batsmen do not blow it).

i can try to translate, e.g., the pitcher has got 7 outs. there are only two innings each in the game, and you have to make 10 outs to end the innings. you score runs to win. the team with the most will claim victory. this part is easy. it is only when you start trying to explain that there are two people batting together and they both have to run to score a run, well that is where the trouble starts. suffice it to say that for an england fan, ryan did good today, and that makes us happy. even if he would look so much better with a haircut. but then so would i :-) goodnight all.

causing anxiety to the audobon society

was just over at fetch-me-my-axe's blog, and viewed the celebration of the advent of spring. here is one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite songwriters. my parents used to play us the german version when we were small (georg kreisler - taubenvergiften im park):

gosh, look what else i found on youtube!

wolves 3-3 qpr

dex scores our penalty since rowly went off injured

i would have been extremely happy with a point before today's game up at molineux. however, having led 3 times, and having given away an equaliser in the 95th minute of a 90-minute game, i am not so happy. *sigh* about 6 games left in this season, and we are safe from the relegation that we feared when we were bottom some weeks ago. this is good. i should let go, be glad, and start worrying about the yanks and their pitching in the last season at the house that ruth built!

a rare good defensive moment - delaney tackles

'gay' as children's insult of choice

the word 'gay' has had several meanings through the years, and also depends on one's personal perspective with regard to its current understanding. for example, there is a great moment in the film 'bringing up baby' when katherine hepburn has trapped cary grant in her cottage by sending his clothes out to be dry-cleaned. the doorbell rings, and he opens it, dressed in a very frilly dressing-gown. he responds to the queries of the guests by saying, "i just went gay all of a sudden!" how many ways can you read that? in the context of the film, the era, our era, knowledge of cary grant's personal life, etc.

the bbc online magazine reports:

"The word has had many meanings over the centuries, often sexual, says Clive Upton, professor of Modern English Language at Leeds University. "In the early 19th Century it was used to refer to women who lived off immoral earnings," he says. Around the 1970s it was claimed by the homosexual community as a descriptive term for their sexual orientation, now its most popular meaning. By the 1980s it was finding its way into schools as a playground insult. "Every generation grows up with a whole lexicon of homosexual insults, in my day it was 'poofter' or 'bender'," says slang lexicographer Tony Thorne. "They were used much more because they were considered more offensive than 'gay', which is more neutral.""

mr thorne goes on to say that the current slang is again a different meaning:

"One reason for this increase in use could be because "gay" has partly lost its sexual connotations among young people, he says. While still pejorative, for the majority of youngsters it has replaced words such as "lame". "I have interviewed scores of school kids about this and they are always emphatic that it has nothing at all to do with hostility to homosexuals," says Mr Thorne, compiler of the Dictionary of Contemporary Slang. "It is nearly always used in contexts where sexual orientation and sexuality are completely irrelevant.""

that would be lovely if it were true, but g/l/b/t/q teens are still in great danger, and it just feels a bit too soon to start making allowances for various forms of linguistic coinage. i think it should be put in the same place as the 'n' word. the message needs to be that clear.

here is the story.

the peace sign


the bbc reports on the 50th birthday of the peace sign, harking back to its origins with the easter peace march on the aldermaston weapons factory. the full story is here.

as a matter of interest, check out the comments section at the bottom. the origins of the sign are disputed, with claims including its use as an SS regimental symbol, and a hopi indian sign.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

death death death number 4, paul scofield r.i.p.

paul scofield, the actor, has died. he was in his eighties, so this is not tragic. it's how it goes. i am noting his death in particular, because i admired his work greatly. Most people who know who he was may recall his oscar-winning performance as sir thomas more in 'a man for all seasons'. for my part, the only play i have ever chosen to attend 3 times during its run is 'amadeus', and that was because of his performance as salieri. to this day i remember the anguish of the man who recognised and appreciated brilliant music, and not only was unable to reach such heights himself, but also had to endure the placing of such a gift in a boor such as mozart. simon callow played mozart, i think. when the movie came out, written by peter shaffer and directed by milos forman, it won a gazillion oscars. however, simon callow was reduced to a bit part, f. murray abraham got the lead, and the focus was much more on the story of mozart, as related in flashback by a salieri committed to a psych ward. more bankable, perhaps, but utterly losing scofield's agony.

btw. was amused to note that while the broadsheets online highlighted the death of scofield, the mail ran it as a footnote to the death of the actor who played foggy in 'last of the summer wine', and officer barraclough in 'porridge' on tv.

the telegraph
the indy
the times
the grauniad
bbc online

who on earth am i?

this pic was taken in 1996 on the first of september, a day of celebration for me because it was my birthday, and one for this chap because this was his first ever game in this particular shirt. who is this man? boy. man.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

chinglish

as the major influx of foreign visitors to the olympic games in beijing approaches, those in charge want to make sure that the signage is comprehensible and appropriate. this is a sign that at first i thought was one of the facebook photos in the album 'remembrance of things ravaj'. the one below, however, seems quite philosophical to me. what is the nature of suddenness? why do they wish to keep us away from it? etc.



more signs here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

not to mention sir arthur c. clarke, r.i.p.


and the third man today whose obituaries i feel compelled to post is arthur c. clarke, he of '2001: a space odyssey'. one of the reasons i loved 1950's and '60's science fiction was because of the things that the writers imagined that later came true. the bbc obit notes:

"Clarke's ideas and gadgets engaged his readers because of, not despite, their plausibility. Quite often, his fictional musings formed the basis of what we now see as science fact ... during the war, he published a paper in which he predicted that, at 22,000 miles above the Earth's surface, communications satellites would sit in geo-stationary orbit, allowing electronic signals to be bounced off them around the globe. His vision, soon proved, revolutionised the communications and broadcasting industry."
bbc online

"The paradox of Clarke's fiction is that the writer most associated in the public mind with accurate "hard sf" predictions, based upon existing and potential technology and grounded in "real" science, returns again and again to themes of an almost mystical or metaphysical sort, in which advanced cultures, often benevolent, allow humanity to transcend its Earth-bound beginnings. These were expressed in Clarke's laws, of which the best-known was his dictum that "any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic"."
the telegraph

grauniad death notice

"Marking his “90th orbit of the sun” in December, the author said he did not feel "a day over 89" and made three birthday wishes: for ET to call, for man to kick his oil habit and for peace in Sri Lanka."
the times online

"Mr. Clarke was well aware of the importance of his role as science spokesman to the general population: “Most technological achievements were preceded by people writing and imagining them,” he noted. “I’m sure we would not have had men on the Moon,” he added, if it had not been for H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. “I’m rather proud of the fact that I know several astronauts who became astronauts through reading my books.”"

"Mr. Clarke’s standard answer when journalists asked him outright if he was gay was, “No, merely mildly cheerful.”

Mr. Clarke reveled in his fame. One whole room in his house — which he referred to as the Ego Chamber — was filled with photos and other memorabilia of his career, including pictures of him with Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon."
ny times

not to mention mikey dread r.i.p.

while searching for minghella obits, i also came upon this in the telegraph, and also this in the indy - the death of mikey dread, producer (e.g. for the clash), and reggae singer.

anthony minghella r.i.p.


the rather young (54) and extremely talented writer and film-maker, anthony minghella, has died unexpectedly today in london. we thank him for such pleasures as 'truly, madly, deeply', 'the english patient' (for which he won an oscar), and cold mountain. he also wrote for one of my favourite programmes as a kid - 'grange hill'.

bbc entertainment news
grauniad collection of news and video
the independent
the times obituary
the telegraph

Sunday, March 16, 2008

what's up with eddie izzard?

for those of us who don't have premium cable, and have been wondering where eddie izzard is, today's ny times presents an interview by caryn james right here.

it would appear that in order to progress with his career, the famous tranny has had to put his dresses in the closet for a while. i happen to think that he looks a whole lot sexier when he wears a dress, but that won't wear with studio execs when he goes up for serious dramatic parts. *sigh* meanwhile, for me he is still one of the funniest men of my generation. here is one of my favourite sketches - the death star canteen:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

another three goals and a win

this weekend, we showed ourselves able to come back from going an early goal down. of course we were at home. and we were playing one of the bottom teams. but then it has been against the bottom teams that we have struggled the most. so hip hip huzzah.

rowly scores the equaliser from a disputed penalty

pat gets back on the scoresheet at last

rowan knocks one in at the death

Friday, March 14, 2008

the general synod's life of christ

after conversation with a lovely housemate this evening, i felt compelled to blog something from the old television programme 'not the nine o'clock news'. lots of you probably know rowan atkinson by now, although i have never liked mr bean. i just do not go for farce, it makes me anxious. these guys were 'it' when i was in high school. here, if you can live through the rotten synchronisation of sound to mouths, is their response to the furore around the release of 'monty python's life of brian'. it may help to enjoy this if you are a pythonist yourself.

the bear and the bees

news from macedonia, where a local bear was recently convicted for repeatedly stealing honey. the beekeeper brought the case, having tried to protect his hives but failing miserably. the bbc reports:

"For a while, he kept the animal away by buying a generator, lighting up the area, and playing thumping Serbian turbo-folk music. But when the generator ran out of power and the music fell silent, the bear was back and the honey was gone once more."

since the bear was without an owner, and is also a protected species, the court ordered the state to pay for the damage.

the original story is here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

the real mozart

this just in - a portrait of mozart from 1783. this is an incredible rarity. although these days wolferl would probably be gracing the covers of all the magazines and tabloids, the lack of paps in his time means that until now we really have had no idea what he looked like. until now. this portrait, and another of him as a child, are about to be revealed at the weekend, along with documentary evidence of their credibility. the times has more info here.

billy crystal signs for the yankees

wow, what an incredible birthday present. billy crystal turns 60 (how can he be 60 already?), and gets to sign for the yanks for 2 days and play in a spring training game. hey, when i turned 40, noam announced it to the world and loftus road on the scoreboard:


but imagine if i had been able to play for them for a few minutes in a pre-season friendly? the fact is, though, that the only way i might get onto the pitch these days would be if i could fit into the playing kit of a 12-year-old and the flying pigs currently coasting past my window suggest that i have more chance of playing for the yankees than that ever happening :-) speaking of which, congrats to mr. crystal and good luck today!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

ok, a word about governor spitzer

ok, more than one word. first of all, with my usual naivete i am utterly disappointed. i voted for this guy when i lived in nyc and he was making his way up. i like to believe in people who are anti-corruption. which makes it all the more depressing when they are caught out.

an interesting piece in the tv section of the ny times by alessandra stanley. she dissects her own assertion that men and women respond differently to sex scandals. a couple of bits that caught my eye:

"“Are you saying the women should feel guilty, like they somehow drove the man to cheat?” a visibly aghast Meredith Vieira of “Today” asked Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a radio host. Dr. Schlessinger replied, “Yes, I hold women accountable for tossing out perfectly good men by not treating them with the love and kindness and respect and attention they need.”"

aaaaargh dr laura! say no more!!

then there is david letterman's monologue from last night:

"“Holy cow,” Mr. Letterman said. “We can’t get bin Laden, but we got Spitzer.”"

the rest of the article is here.

qpr 3-2 blackpool

rowan vine scores our second

the jekyll and hyde versions of qpr continue to manifest themselves. after coasting into a 3-0 lead by the start of the second half, the team then invited us to rely on a variety of heart and stomach medications as they almost threw the game away. i suspect the only thing that saved them from doing so was that time ran out. we are now in the top half of the division, but still only a couple of losses away from the relegation area. *sigh* the best news was that buz is back in form! here he is celebrating another fantastic goal:

Sunday, March 09, 2008

a british view of the democratic primaries

another peter brookes cartoon

this is what we look like to people who used to like us? o dear o dear o dear.

what i just learned about tove jansson

what is it about finding out that someone famous whose work you enjoy is gay? the moomintroll books were among my favourites as a child - i still have my puffin boxed set. i don't like them more or less because i now know tove was a lesbian. but i am pleased to know. i suppose it's a kind of eff you to the homophobes - look what we can do! or maybe it just feels cool to be on the same team as someone you admire? go moomins!

unfair to hillary!

i just saw this youtube piece (actually on ruth gledhill's blog). it is barack obama's entrance on the ellen show. he looks gorgeous, and shuffles a nifty shoe (shoes a nifty shuffle?):



just to remind people out there - DANCING IS NOT A PREREQUISITE FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY.

joshua nelson rocks!

joshua nelson at temple sinai in sharon last night

as i may have said before, there is nothing better than hearing a live performance of music that you really like. it was not so long ago that i heard some interesting sounds coming from the kindergarten classroom. i heard jewish liturgical music being sung in a black gospel style. and i loved it! and i borrowed the cd!! then, whaddya know, i was invited by some kind and lovely people to join them down in sharon. joshua nelson, an african-american jew, who last night compared jeff klepper and debbie friedman to harry belafonte and mahalia jackson in terms of their musical influence on their communities, was live in concert as part of temple sinai's 50th anniversary celebrations. (sorry, that was a terribly constructed sentence. am a bit tired) although it was really hard for we yekkie jews to loosen up and dance, i found the music uplifting. afterwards i had to run away because the dessert in the social hall had too many tasty and evil sweet things. i just had time, though, to take this pic:

josh nelson and friend

brett favre retires


weep for my darling aunt - her beloved quarterback is finally calling it quits. they have been together for so long - it will be a tough act to follow for the chap the packers choose to replace ol' brett.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

goodbye french and saunders


it is absolutely the last time they plan to tour as a double act. dawn and jennifer are saying their farewells. until they blow all their savings on investing in hybrid pushchairs that run on cow methane and they need some more dosh. meanwhile, the reviewer at the telegraph critiques them one last time.

4 games on the spin without a loss ...

... ooooops i just broke fans' commandment #2 :-(

rowly wandering round midfield at the ricoh yesterday

what makes elementary school teachers laugh?

this, apparently!

"A little girl was talking to her teacher about whales. The teacher said it was physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it was a very large mammal its throat was very small. The little girl stated that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Irritated, the teacher reiterated that a whale could not swallow a human; it was physically impossible. The little girl said, "When I get to heaven I will ask Jonah". The teacher asked, "What if Jonah went to hell?" The little girl replied, "Then you ask him". "

thanks to lt for sending it to us.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

pig farming in britain

pig farmers are about to march on westminster to demonstrate their fears about the economic issues in their industry. i was going to blog about winnie the pig, who is a veteran of these demos, until i found the following in the bbc report this morning online:

"A cross party Early Day Motion tabled by British pig industry supporter Richard Bacon MP - Tory MP for South Norfolk - will also call for the government's support for British pig farming."

Monday, March 03, 2008

the goals and the joy!

akos slots the ball past the stoke 'keeper for the 3rd goal

today the qpr list has been full of messages celebrating the first 45 minutes of yesterday's victory over stoke city (the second 45, when the game was already won, was not so pretty). i had 3 whole moments of pure joy during this game, and i thank leggy and buz and the rest of the chaps for giving them to me :-)

leigertwood scores his second

mikele has had a bad few weeks, and fans were recalling his less pleasant nickname, i.e., "legs of wood". after his double yesterday, though, he is "leggy" again and we all love him to bits. bring on coventry city!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

cotillard is cuckoo?

marion cotillard, recent oscar winner for her rendition of the life of edith piaf, has claimed that the usa made up the terrorist attacks of 11th september. the mail on sunday quotes her as saying:

""I think we're lied to about a number of things," [Cotillard said], singling out the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center as an example of the US making up horror stories for political ends. Referring to the two passenger jets being flown into the Twin Towers, Cotillard said: "We see other towers of the same kind being hit by planes. Are they burned? They [sic] was a tower, I believe it was in Spain, which burnt for 24 hours. It never collapsed. None of these towers collapsed. And there [in New York], in a few minutes, the whole thing collapsed." She added that the towers, planned in the early Sixties, were an outdated "money-sucker" that would have cost more to modernise than to rebuild altogether, which is why they were destroyed. She said: "It was a money-sucker because they were finished, it seems to me, by 1973, and to re-cable all that, to bring up-to-date all the technology and everything, it was a lot more expensive, that work, than destroying them.""

hmmmmm. she also doubts the 1969 moon landings. read it all here. there are quite a few celebrities who believe in some kind of a conspiracy with regard to the world trade centre, e.g., rosie o'donnell. so i wouldn't automatically diss this report or cotillard. it's when she starts going on about the moon that i start to worry. it would be one hell of a hoax, and maybe i don't want to think that what i saw was fake. on the other hand, maybe this is just a brilliant piece of publicity - say something outrageous and get yourself back in the news. let us hope so!

we are the rangers boys (& girls of course)

first photo of fantastic 'r's footy today. josh was out of town, so i got to watch the whole thing live via slingbox on my computer. luckily the housemates were out, as i was yelling a lot, since we scored 3 goals and they got none. the thing is, though, the first half was magnificent. it is so long since i watched a qpr team that played such beautiful football. ball to feet, one-touch passing, speed, energy and creativity. even the commentators were praising us! *sigh* queens park rangers three, top of the table until they lost today stoke city nil.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

jack nicholson for hillary clinton

i went off jack nicholson a long long time ago. however, i approve of the way he has allowed clips from his work to be used in a campaign ad for hillary clinton. good on ya, jack!