Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Bit of Poetry

When I was at university, we had to study this poem:

This Is Just to Say
(by William Carlos Williams)

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

While I was convinced that this was not really a poem but rather a note he'd left on the kitchen table that had fallen out of his ephemera; others in the class got terribly serious about his literary style. Today I was delighted to find this blog. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Story of Susan Travers

The amazing story of the only woman ever to serve in the French Foreign Legion is reported here.

"When France fell to the Nazis she made her way to London and signed up with General De Gaulle's Free French and was attached to the 13th Demi-Brigade of the Legion Etrangere, which sailed for Africa. Volunteering as a driver to the brigade's senior officers, she exhibited such nerves of steel in negotiating minefields and enemy attacks that she earned the affectionate nickname "La Miss" from her thousand male comrades."

She would have been 100 this week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

If James Dean Had Lived

This is an ad for an investment company I think. Nevertheless I like what they have done. Have always been a big James Dean fan :-)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jedi ejected from Tesco's Supermarket

This lovely story via the Telegraph and a fb friend:

"Daniel Jones, 23, who created the International Church of Jediism, claims he was “victimised over his beliefs” by staff at the supermarket in Bangor, North Wales. The religion, inspired by the sci-fi films, is practised by 500,000 around the world and requires believers to cover their heads in public places. But Mr Jones, from Holyhead, said that staff ejected him from the store over security fears when he refused to remove his hood. Mr Jones, also known by his Jedi name Morda Hehol, told The Sun: "I told them it was a requirement of my religion but they just sniggered and ordered me to leave. "I walked past a Muslim lady in a veil. Surely the same rules should apply to everyone." The handbook of the UK Jedi Church, founded by the Star Wars fan last year, states: "Jedis must wear a hood up in any public place of a large audience." Daniel added: "It was discrimination. I was really upset. Nobody should be treated like that.” "I'll advise worshippers to boycott Tesco if it happens again. They will feel the Force."A Tesco spokesman said: "Jedi are very welcome to shop in our stores although we would ask them to remove their hoods."Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker all went hoodless without going to the Dark Side. "If Jedi walk around our stores with their hoods on, they’ll miss lots of special offers.""

To find out more about the Church of Jediism, you might try clicking here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What's In a Name (2)?

Apparently Nigella Lawson's mother originally intended to name her 'Gondola'.

For this, and other tidbits, watch this BBC 5-Minute interview.

Twinkle Twinkle Mega Star

My friend Yuri posted this for me to see, and I thought the musical ones among you might be interested, as I was, to hear the diversity of Indian musical traditions.

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Message From the President

Thank you Mr. President, and congratulations to both the writer of your speech and the person who helped you practice the Hebrew words so they came out right :-)

Happy New Year to you if you are celebrating Rosh Hashana; Eid Mubarak and/or a great weekend to everyone else!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

R.I.P. Mary Travers

Growing up in England, with a mother who was a classical pianist, I was not terribly exposed to American folk music of the 1960's. It wasn't until our friend Bob z"l gave me an album by the Weavers when I was about 18 that I got my first taste of it. To this day I continue to listen, and the songs of Peter, Paul and Mary have a place in that canon. Thus I say thank you and good night to Mary Travers.

Telegraph announcement.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

People Can Be So Rude!

A mash-up of two notable interruptions that took place in the US this week - Joe Wilson heckling the President and Kanye West spoiling Taylor Swift's special moment at the VMA awards.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Shock Value

I begin by conceding that my taste in most things to do with the Arts is highly influenced by the likes and dislikes of my parents and therefore access and experience I had growing up in London in the '70's and '80's. I like Charles M. Schulz, Magritte, Russian ballet music (but not so much the dancing), Preston Sturges, Oscar Wilde, the Beatles, German Expressionism, Dame Judi Dench, Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, The Threepenny Opera, klezmer, Holbein, Queens Park Rangers FC, the Specials, the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy and maltesers. I appreciate wit, imagination and a touch of the macabre. I am grossed out by most comedy that pushes the envelope in the area of bodily functions (think Little Britain). Pretty average tastes really. And then I come across something like this:

"Hard day at the orifice, dear?
The focus of a new production of Le Grand Macabre is a vomiting fibreglass model. No wonder they're screaming in the aisles, says Oliver Marre
The Observer, Sunday 13 September 2009

The instruments in the orchestra pit next week at the Coliseum in London, home to the English National Opera, will include brown paper bags, planks of wood, car horns and an enormous metal saucepan. The performers will be dressed in costumes ranging from body suits in primary colours to nothing very much at all. The action will involve pretty graphic sex and very graphic violence. And the music will be by György Ligeti, most famous for the soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick's weird movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. But it is the set which is really causing a stir.

An enormous, naked, crouching woman (she's called Claudia), made of fibreglass, with enormous hanging bosoms, forms its centrepiece. Claudia will rotate, she will have parts of her peeled away as the opera progresses, revealing anatomically correct insides, and inside her bottom is a fully stocked bar, to be used for an onstage party. When this production, by the Catalan opera company La Fura dels Baus, of Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre was performed in Rome, the audience screamed abuse from the stalls. The ENO's musical director, Edward Gardner, describes the opera as "a crazy fantasy of a piece" and the production manager, Nicholas Sperling, explains how the performance will begin with film of an actress playing Claudia in a dirty flat. She falls ill; she collapses onto her hands and knees; the screen gives way as the curtain opens and there is fibreglass Claudia, 20ft high, vomiting out the first singer. This is just the first of her orifices from which someone will emerge. Ears, nose and the rest come into play as the evening progresses."

Am I getting old? All I could think of when I read this was 'what is the point?' It annoys me. It just seems like a colossal waste of time and energy. And thence the shock value. O my goodness, I am turning into a fuddy-duddy! The cool and liberal; laid-back, open and always interested image I imagined for myself is a tissue of lies! Help!!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Atheist T-Shirts

I have a dear friend who is an atheist. This one's for her!

NB A list of a top twenty of atheist t-shirts may be found here.

Caster Semenya

Salon.com responds here to the assertion by the Times of London that Caster Semenya is a hermaphrodite. The press is propagating a stolid belief that gender identity is polar, rather than promoting the understanding that it runs along a spectrum. This isn't going to end well. Meanwhile,I hope Semenya gets to read the Salon article:

"It’s also worth noting that Semenya is far from the first person to fail a sporting gender test. In 2006, Santhi Soundarajan, an Indian runner, was stripped of her Asian Games silver medal after being discovered as intersex ... She ... had moving words of advice for Semenya. “She is a woman and that’s it, full stop,” she said. “A gender test cannot take away from you who you are.”"

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

What is Wrong With This Picture (iii)?

Absolutely nothing is wrong with this picture from the September issue of Glamour magazine. Well that's what I say. Strangely enough, the comments have come not because the model is, albeit tastefully, naked. Rather it is the small, the o so small roll of fat on her stomach that has caused a furore. "Hurrah for showing a real woman" was the main sentiment of the myriad e-mails that flooded the magazine's website. The model herself, one Lizzie Miller, was less gung ho about it. She "admitted that seeing her small roll of flesh in the magazine made her cringe. "I'm just like every girl or person with insecurities," the 20-year-old said. "You zone in on the (worst) part. Let's just say you're your own worst critic." "

Look here for more or just google Ms. Miller

Sunday, September 06, 2009

And We Return With ...

from the Lego reconstruction of the New Testament book of Revelation - The "Saving" of 144,000 Jews. This is on a website called The Brick Testament. I might have found it amusing, except that the picture preceding the above was this:
on the other hand, there are some interesting ecumenical pics out there as well:
This is Siddhartha Gautama under the bodhi tree.

The Hiatus is Over

If any of my three formerly regular readers are reading this, hello! The ravaj has been in the process of moving to another country, and this has seriously interfered with her blog-writing. The move has now taken place, although there is, as yet, no permanent location for person and possessions. In any case, this page has been empty for too long. Hope to see you here again quite soon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

All About the President's Trousers

Meredith Vieira discusses the comfy jeans President O wore to throw out the first pitch at the All-Star Game last week. Why were they not more fashionable? A new high in obfuscation, as real news might prove too distressing for the poor audience, or maybe the poor anchors. Where is Walter Cronkite when you need him? O yes ...

Monday, July 20, 2009

First View of New Doctor Who

Here is Matt Smith in his Doctor Who costume. His bottom half is rolled-up trousers and bovver boots. Glad to see he is continuing David Tennant's tradition of impossible hairdo.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite RIP

I did not grow up with Walter Cronkite, so his iconic status is beyond me. If you had asked me, I would have guessed that he was already dead. If someone is alive to you through the airwaves, once they retire and go back to their private lives, isn't that a kind of death?

Another Great Shot

This is from the second day of the second Test match against Australia. The wonderfully-named Graham Onions smashes a four past the despairing grasp of an Aussie fielder. I love this photo!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Angelo Balanta 2 - 2 A Slovenian team



Sorry non-footie peeps but as the season begins I am returning to my first love - QPR. These goals were from a friendly game last night. Love the first one especially.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Perils of Smoking

From the Telegraph tomorrow:

A New Hampshire man has said he swiped his debit card at a gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes and was charged over $23 quadrillion (£14 quadrillion).

Josh Muszynski checked his account online a few hours after the purchase and saw the 17-digit number – a stunning $23,148,855,308,184,500 (twenty-three quadrillion, one hundred forty-eight trillion, eight hundred fifty-five billion, three hundred eight million, one hundred eighty-four thousand, five hundred dollars). Mr Muszynski told WMUR-TV that he spent two hours on the phone with Bank of America trying to sort out the string of numbers – and the $15 overdraft fee.The bank corrected the error the next day.

Bank of America said the card issuer, Visa, could answer questions. Visa, in turn, referred questions to the bank.

Monday, June 29, 2009

o fffffffffalafel

David Mitchell has been writing about swearing for the Observer newspaper. He believes saying "fuck" is no big deal. I happen to find it very difficult to swear, and am a right little prude about it. It sounds ugly to me, and this is because I was brought up to believe this. Not by my mother, who swore freely throughout my childhood. In fact, I don't really know why I have such a problem with the word. Like most everything else, it is probably a class issue. Meanwhile, Mitchell writes:

" "Is 'fuck' a rude word?" Everyone accepts it's a rude word - it would hardly be used if it weren't. The disagreement is about whether using it (and other swearing, but "fuck" is the Gaza Strip here) is an offensive act.

I don't think it is. I don't think it matters a shit, damn or piss if someone says "fuck" or how many times they say it. My friends and colleagues unthinkingly use it all the time and, as far as I can tell, it hasn't resulted in the poisoning of their souls or their becoming unable to express themselves because of the effect of linguistic inflation.

That's the argument often deployed against swearwords: "If you overuse them, they'll lose their effect." Well, so what, if you hate them so much? Or is the prospect of a rude word losing its offensive power too unsettling for the offendees, as it would reveal that it was only ever a word and the power was an illusion of their own making? It would emasculate their attempts to censor with their censure."

read the rest here.

It is only a word, of course. I knew a 5-year-old whose brother had taught him that the worst word in the world was 'mushroom' so when he was really angry he would say 'youuuuuuuuuu MUSHROOM!' with deathly fury. Personally, I prefer to say 'o FFFFFFFFFALAFEL!"

Friday, June 26, 2009

What about Roger Williams?

Having been interviewed last year by the third and fourth grade students in my alter ego of Roger Williams, I was disturbed to hear of the controversy surrounding the full and proper name of the state of Rhode Island, known to most of us as "Rhode Island". Ray Henry reports for the Associated Press:

" The country's smallest state has the longest official name: "State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." A push to drop "Providence Plantations" from that name advanced farther than ever on Thursday when House lawmakers voted 70-3 to let residents decide whether their home should simply be called the "State of Rhode Island." It's an encouraging sign for those who believe the formal name conjures up images of slavery, while opponents argue it's an unnecessary rewriting of history that ignores Rhode Island's tradition of religious liberty and tolerance.

The bill permitting a statewide referendum on the issue next year now heads to the state Senate. "It's high time for us to recognize that slavery happened on plantations in Rhode Island and decide that we don't want that chapter of our history to be a proud part of our name," said Rep. Joseph Almeida, an African-American lawmaker who sponsored the bill.

Rhode Island's unwieldy name reflects its turbulent colonial history, a state that consisted of multiple and sometimes rival settlements populated by dissidents. Banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his unorthodox religious views, minister Roger Williams set out in 1636 and settled at the northern tip of Narragansett Bay, which he called Providence Plantations. Williams founded the first Baptist church in America and became famous for embracing the separation of church and state, a legal principle enshrined in the Bill of Rights a century later ... Opponents of the name charge argue that "plantations" was used at the time to describe any farming settlements, regardless of slavery.

Stanley Lemons, a professor emeritus of history at Rhode Island College, said changing the state's name ignores the accomplishments of Williams, whose government passed laws trying to prevent the permanent servitude of whites, blacks and American Indians. "There are different meanings for this word," Lemons said. "To try to impose their experience on everyone else wipes out Roger Williams.""

Michael Jackson?

Bored now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson RIP

This is the Michael that everyone loved. Reuters is reporting that the 50-year-old singer is dead from a heart attack. He was such a troubled man, and it's hard to get that image of him dangling his baby from a window out of my head. But 50 - that's my generation just about. Have to admit I am a bit shocked about this. Now we must watch the vultures land.

Triumph and Disaster

Love this photo - wish I'd taken it. England win. New Zealand lose. End of.

farrah fawcett r.i.p.

Charlie's Angels - one of the great guilty pleasures. Sabrina - the dykes' Angel. Farrah was still a big part of it though, and it is sad to hear of her demise.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sillies

I need cheering up today because it is Father's Day and I miss mine. Here are some stupid airport names:

1. Batman Airport (BAL) Turkey

2. Useless Loop Airport (USL), Australia

3. Black Tickle Airport (YBI), Canada

4. Beaver Creek Airport (YXP), Canada

5. Moron Airport (OZP), Spain

6. Ogle Airport (OGL), Guyana

8. Eek Airport (EEK), USA

9. Pickle Lake Airport (YPJ), Canada

10. Deadhorse Airport (SCC), USA

Others here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Betrayed!

If there was one person in the world that I was pretty sure would never be seduced by the world of fitness, it was my hero Stephen Fry. Long has he mocked the svelte and the running. Now, the Daily M announces that not only is he a convert to the religion of exercise, but he has lost 6 stone in 6 months (a stone = 14 lbs). How could he do this to us? Look at this picture of the new Stephen:


He looks gorgeous! grumble grumble congrats grumble whine grumble

Hillary Clinton stole my bruise!

The ravaj had quite a heavy fall last Saturday, landing mostly on her left arm. While the bruised dignity was instant, the actual purpliciousness of her elbow that would indicate the reality of her pain has not yet come through. Now she realises why. The NY Times reports:

"WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will have to undergo surgery to repair a fractured right elbow, caused when she slipped and fell on her way to a White House meeting on Wednesday evening, the State Department said Thursday. Mrs. Clinton, 61, was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where doctors determined the break would require an operation, said a State Department spokesman, P. J. Crowley. “She is at home, resting comfortably, or uncomfortably,” he said.

The mishap occurred as Mrs. Clinton was walking to her car in the basement of the State Department. She was headed to a meeting with President Obama, accompanied by the administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke. After Mrs. Clinton fell, Mr. Holbrooke said, “She struggled to get up to go to the meeting, but the pain was very intense.” Still lying on the ground, she instructed Mr. Holbrooke to go without her and reminded him to brief the president about a visit to Afghanistan planned by the State Department’s new ambassador for women’s issues, Melanne Verveer.

“She said, ‘Go to the meeting, that’s an order,’ ” Mr. Holbrooke said."

She stole my bruise! Despite this crime, I still wish her a speedy recovery.

Premiere Nigella

Bruno may not look interested, but I am. Nigella has a penchant for dresses where the straps fall gently onto her upper arms.

You Can't Shut a Bad Man Up

Just received notice that Congregation Beth Simchat Torah in NYC is going to be picketed by Fred Phelps and his gang this Sunday. The CBST website says the following:

"June 18th, 2009

CBST has received warning that members of the Westboro Baptist Church are coming to protest against our congregation this Sunday at our Bethune Street location. They have targeted other New York synagogues this weekend.

Led by Fred Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church is a hatemongering organization known most widely for picketing the funeral of Matthew Shepard, for their protests at the funerals of servicemen killed in Iraq, and most recently, for protesting at the funeral of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, the security officer killed at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington.

We are responding in two ways:
CBST will be holding a non-violent prayer vigil and service during the time of their protest. We cannot allow this group to go unchallenged as they engage in hateful speech at our synagogue. The most powerful response to such hatred is our demonstration of what makes us strong and powerful in the face of bigotry. We will not engage in any confrontational action or shouting matches. They would love it if we were to lose our composure. We will present who we are in a strong and meaningful way.

If you have a tallit, please bring it. If you would like to make colorful signs, please consider using:

"We are all created in God's image"
"God loves all of us"
"God made me gay"
and similar messages

8:45 AM on Sunday, June 21st at our Bethune location

__________________________________________________________

Inspired by a gift from Mitchell Gold, CBST will be participating, as many other LGBT organizations have, in a fundraising effort to counteract the attacks on us by this group.

Mitchell Gold has pledged $10 per minute that the Westboro Baptist Church representatives are picketing us. Their presence will benefit us! We can tell them each minute how much they are raising for us!!

Once the total amount has been raised, we will be sending an acknowledgement letter to the church to let them know that their appearance helped to raise money to support LGBT causes. Many other organizations around the country have done this and raised funds to defeat those who would attack us. (check out phelps-a-thon.com to be inspired by other stories like ours).

As of the writing of this email, we have already raised $40 per minute!

we are delighted that Fred Phelps will help raise money to strengthen the work we do to create a progressive religious voice"

You go peeps!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Welcome back Bees!

The BBC reports:

"A bumblebee which is extinct in the UK is to be reintroduced from New Zealand under plans being announced. The short-haired bumblebee was exported from the UK to New Zealand on the first refrigerated lamb boats in the late 19th Century to pollinate clover crops. It was last seen in the UK in 1988, but populations on the other side of the world have survived. Now Natural England and several other conservation groups have launched a scheme to bring the species home.

Poul Christensen, Natural England's acting chairman, said; "Bumblebees are suffering unprecedented international declines and drastic action is required to aid their recovery. "Bumblebees play a key role in maintaining food supplies - we rely on their ability to pollinate crops and we have to do all we can to provide suitable habitat and to sustain the diversity of bee species. As many as 100 of the bees will initially be collected in New Zealand and a captive breeding plan established, with the aim of eventually releasing them at Dungeness, Kent, where they were last seen. They will be flown back on planes in cool boxes, and will not be disturbed, according to Natural England, as they will be in hibernation during transit.

The scheme's project officer Nikki Gammans, of the Stirling-based Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said the bee was a "keystone species" which was key to pollinating around 80% of important crops. "By creating the right habitat for these bumblebees, we are recreating wildflower habitat that has been lost, which will be good for butterflies, water voles and nesting birds." The partnership project is being run by Natural England, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust the RSPB and Hymettus."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Old News

The stream has turned to a trickle, but there is still incredulity at the absolute chutzpah of those British Members of Parliament and their expenses. This is my favourite at the moment - a $2500 duck island. It is actually hard for me to believe that such a group of bland bottom-kissers could be so bizarre and so incredibly corrupt. It is just a pity that Sir Peter Viggers did not buy a Canada Goose Island (known for their large and hard-to-remove poo)

Viva Vincent

Whether you say 'van go' or 'van gokh' or 'van khokh', Simon Schama says this picture is the progenitor of the modern art movement. I like it anyway.

Friday, June 05, 2009

tickling a gorilla

Scientists tell us this week that tickling a gorilla makes him/her laugh much as it would a human. It sounds different only because our vocal chords developed differently. Have a look at the vid - maybe it will cheer you up too.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Happy Pride Month!


The President has officially announced June to be Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual and Transgender Month. This photo is of a memorial in the Nollendorfplatz in Berlin, commemorating the homosexual victims of National Socialism. We have come a long way, and yet there is still so far to go.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Anyone for tennis?

This is an old pic the ravaj took in her photographing days. It reminds her that the serious tennis season is upon us. The quarter-finals on the red clay are coming up, and then all too soon it is time to slump in front of the tv and watch the rain pouring down on Wimbledon in-between wonderful old matches like Navratilova vs Evert or a bit o' Borg 'n' Mcenroe. Hurrah for Major Walter Wingfield!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Bibliomule

How to bring books to peasant children in the outer reaches of Venezuela. Hurrah~

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Tattoo

Wouldn't this make a great tattoo?

Desperately Seeking the Self

Looking through some old papers today, the following story was discovered amid the writings of the father of ravaj:

Once, there was a man who forgot everything when he went to sleep. In the morning, he could not remember where he had placed anything. Finally, he made a list before going to bed. As he took off his garments, he noted them down one by one: his shoes, socks, trousers - even his hat - and noted where he had placed everything. The next morning, he followed that list triumphantly and then inspected himself in the mirror. This time, he recognised everything. It was all there. But then he cried out in anguish: "Everything is in its place; but where, where am I?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Boo Hiss

The California Supreme Court has upheld Proposition 8. Although the c. 18k marriages that took place while it was legal in California will remain legal, there will be no more same-sex marriages for now. Utterly disappointing. Hey, Californians, don't give up the fight though!

Read a brief summary of today's decision via the BBC here.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Eyes Beware!

Here it is, the German entry for Eurovision, in the live version. Note the silver trousers, paired with the 1940's cigarette girl outfits, swing music and, not shown by the cameras until the end, Dita von Teese with a whip. We didn't know where to look!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

PIng Pong

The Independent newspaper reports that it is the new cool thing - table tennis, aka ping pong.

"It has to be one of the unlikeliest Hollywood pastimes yet, involving two people, a couple of vaguely S&M wooden paddles and a hollow plastic ball. Whisper it: ping-pong is cool. Forget scout huts and church halls – on Saturday, the latest achingly hip New York table tennis venue will open its doors to an adoring star-studded following. SPiN New York will be an exclusive ping-pong parlour big enough to house the sport's growing number of A-list devotees who turn up, bat in hand, at ping-pong social clubs around the city. Among the Hollywood elite captivated by the craze are the actors Ed Norton and Matthew Broderick, and the actress Susan Sarandon – who will be cutting the ribbon at SPiN's glitzy launch. Even the rapper 50 Cent wants to be seen at America's cult table tennis parties."

How can this be possible? This is a game at which the ravaj excels, and now it is in? Don't worry, by the time she sorts herself out and gets into a game, the fad will have passed. Or maybe not. Watch this page ... !

Bunnies and Puppies and All Things Fluffy

And the winner of this year's Eurovision Song Contest is Norway, with their cute little boy singing while half-decent gymnasts tumble around him. There appeared to be 3 main types of songs this year: ones that tried to include elements of their country's ethnicity in their costumes/songs; ones with gymnastic routines that may or may not interpret the song; and, as my roomie pointed out, Shakira lookalikes. I was most stunned by the German silver lame trousers, and least impressed by the ones I cannot remember. Thanks to CKC for IMing with me during the contest so I did not have to go it alone. Next year in Norway!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Taste of Eurovision

Yes it is almost that time again. Eurovision buffs are already debating the merit (or lack of) the first ten finalists selected this week. Here are some clips of the contenders, courtesy of the BBC.

Monday, May 11, 2009

An Interview with Susie Orbach

Was just reading Decca Aitkenhead's interview with Susie Orbach in the Guardian today. Orbach is probably best known for her book 'Fat is a Feminist Issue', written about 30 years ago. Nu - I'd love to fill this post with quotes from the interview, because it is having a strong impact on my thinking - today is supposed to be the beginning of my new eating regime! I shall content myself with one, and let you read the rest here if you wish.

"Her latest book, Bodies, maps the progress of our alienation, from a time when we took our bodies for granted to one where they are an endlessly perfectible work in progress. "When I was growing up," she explains, "one or two girls were beautiful, but it was not an aspiration, right? We didn't expect to be that sportsman or that beauty queen. That was OK, that was what movie stars were for. That wasn't something that was essential for all of us." Yet today, movie-star looks are not just an aspiration but an imperative, and ordinary people think nothing of starving or surgically enhancing their bodies in a tireless campaign to make them look as though they belong to somebody else altogether."

And how did that evolution come to pass? Insert rant about diet and cosmetic industries. *sigh* It so happens that losing some weight should cause a drastic improvement in my current health. I need to reach that goal first, before obsessing about the looks of forty-something movie stars and why I don't look like them. To tell you the truth, I am more likely to lust after such women. The bodies that I really admire would be those of footballers like Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo; or the physical strength of the Williams sisters, although my mind does keep slipping back into thoughts of Nigella :-)

Friday, May 08, 2009

Margaret Gelling RIP

I wasn't necessarily so interested in the life of Margaret Gelling until I read the following in the Telegraph obit:

"Margaret Gelling revealed the extent to which Anglo-Saxon names were invented by ordinary people and established the myriad connections between place names and features of the local landscape. She established, for example, that the Anglo-Saxon peasant farmer had as many words for "hill" and "valley" as the Inuit has for "snow". Just as importantly, by going out and actually looking at the landscape, she established that none of these was a synonym. Each of the 40-odd different terms which can be translated as "hill", for example, referred to a different size and shape of hill.

The topographical vocabulary of the early Anglo-Saxon settlers was highly nuanced and exact, she argued, because in an age without maps or signposts, the distinctions between a "knoll" and a "creech", a "don" and a "brough" or an "ofer" and an "ora" would have been very important navigational concepts. As a result of her work, place-name scholars no longer indulge in etymological speculation without looking at the landscape first."

I love the idea that our ancestors knew the shape of the land well enough to fit their language around it. That kind of relationship with one's surroundings is, I think, sorely missing from our life today. I have this bizarre idea that if we were closer to the land, we might treat it better. *sigh*

obit here.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Bifengxia Panda Breeding Centre in Sichuan

6 pandas rescued from the earthquake at their original home are reunited with others at the panda centre in Sichuan. At last a chance to relax. Hurrah.

Colloquial French

I see from today's cartoon and via Google and some french translations that 'un macchabee' is slang for a stiff aka a dead body. How on earth did a word which to me represents a hero in battle (Judah Maccabee and the whole Chanukah story) come to mean this? It can also be used as bored stiff, i.e. to death. Any suggestions?

NB Here is an article about the closure of the Our Body exhibition in France

More About Gloating

Just to tell you that the great and influential gloaters in the life of the ravaj appear in Rudyard Kipling's book "Stalky & Co." viz:

"Fids! Fids! Oh, Fids! I gloat! Hear me gloat!" They spun wildly on their heels, jodeling after the accepted manner of a "gloat," which is not unremotely allied to the primitive man's song of triumph,

"_Ti-ra-ra-la-i-tu_! I gloat! Hear me!" Stalky, still on his heels, whirled like a dancing dervish to the dining-hall.

"_Ti-ra-la-la-i-tu_! I gloat! Hear me!" Beetle spun behind him with outstretched arms.

"_Ti-ra-la-la-i-tu_! I gloat! Hear me!" McTurk's voice cracked."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Supreme Gloat


and then there is:


o frabjous day - 90 seconds from the final and then it all turns to dust. QPR fans and their ilk today are joyous at the win by Barcelona and the loss of their opponents: that team from Stamford Bridge. We are momentarily full of glee. Hurrah for the Catalans!

Venetia Phair RIP

In 1930, Venetia Phair named the planet Pluto. The Telegraph reports:

"On the morning of March 14 1930 she was having breakfast at the house in Oxford in which she lived with her grandfather, Falconer Madan, the retired Librarian at the Bodleian, when he drew her attention to an article in The Times which noted that the newly found frozen planet had yet to be named. Being keen on Greek and Roman myths, young Venetia suggested that Pluto, the Roman god of the underworld who could render himself invisible, would make a good name for the dark and remote world. The idea so impressed her grandfather that he immediately promised to put it to his friend Herbert Hall Turner, Professor of Astronomy at Oxford University."

here is the rest of the story.

The ravaj is actually related to a comet, for her cousin Steve found one and got to name it. It is Comet Kilston 1966b.

Absolutely Adorable Ass

Remembering that the ravaj speaks British English, she hopes you enjoy this lovely animal photograph. A tip o' the hat to Mr Stephen Fry.

Hurrah for Maine

From the BBC just in:

"Gay marriage is to be permitted in the US state of Maine after a bill was passed by both houses of the state's legislature and signed by the governor. Maine will be the fifth US state to allow gay marriage, after Connecticut, Masschusettes, Iowa and Vermont."

Go Governor Baldacci!

(the rest of the report is here)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

It Was All Paul's Fault!

The latest news out of Germany is that Van Gogh did not cut off his ear himself. Rather, Paul Gauguin did it with a sword, and then the two of them made up a story to tell the police. The BBC tells the story here.

Monday, May 04, 2009

I Love Stephen Fry

It is entirely possible, I believe, that Stephen Fry is the cleverest person in my generation. I enjoy almost everything that he presents to his public, whether travelling around the USA in a London taxi (strangely, though, one with left-hand drive), or interviewing bipolar celebrities. There were a couple of podcasts that went on a bit too long, but otherwise I just love him.

I have not been moved to tears, however, until reading his article last week "Stephen Fry's letter to himself: Dearest absurd child". When he was 16, he wrote a letter to his adult self, and in this piece he replies to that letter. You may read the whole of it here. I believe it is an edited edition of a previous article, but I found it in the Guardian on Thursday. Anyway, read this at least:

" I finally know now, as I easily knew then, that the most important thing is love. It doesn't matter in the slightest whether that love is for someone of your own sex or not. Gay issues are important and I shall come to them in a moment, but they shrivel like a salted snail when compared to the towering question of love. Gay people sometimes believe (to this very day, would you credit it, young Stephen?) that the preponderance of obstacles and terrors they encounter in their lives and relationships is intimately connected with the fact of their being gay. As it happens at least 90% of their problems are to do with love and love alone: the lack of it, the denial of it, the inequality of it, the missed reciprocity in it, the horrors and heartaches of it. Love cold, love hot, love fresh, love stale, love scorned, love missed, love denied, love betrayed ... the great joke of sexuality is that these problems bedevil straight people just as much as gay. The 10% of extra suffering and complexity that uniquely confronts the gay person is certainly not incidental or trifling, but it must be understood that love comes first. This is tough for straight people to work out."

In this article he is not just clever, he is real. I am pretty close to adoring him :-)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Real Madrid 2-6 Barcelona

I am definitely a Barca fan anyway, loving Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi. This was a brilliant demolition of their rivals, and one can only hope that they can do something similar at Stamford Bridge later this week. Go Barca!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Handy Tip

The ravaj has just discovered that when wishing noisy teens would stop talking so loudly outside her bedroom and abandon the porch, the first movement of Janacek's Sinfonietta played quite loudly by an open window is most efficacious.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The French View on Swine Flu

from my favourite french feminist (check out the blog in the blogroll):

swine flu is transmitted from man to man
for once, women are safe from something!

First Female Poet Laureate. Hurrah.


The BBC reports that the official announcement of the new Poet Laureate is imminent, and that it will be Carol Ann Duffy. She will be the first woman appointed, as well as the first Scot. Read about it here.

"The reigning monarch chooses the Laureate on the advice of the government. Part of Duffy's role over the next 10 years will be to write works commemorating royal events. Her predecessor, Motion, told the BBC he had found these "very difficult poems to write" and there are signs Duffy may also struggle with this side of the job. After being passed over for the Laureate job in 1999, she commented: "I will not write a poem for Edward and Sophie. No self-respecting poet should have to.""

The Guardian writes:

"Duffy, 53, narrowly missed out on the laureateship to Motion in 1999 after Ted Hughes died. Despite being widely held as favourite at the time, she was reluctant to take up the prominent role given her status as a mother in a lesbian relationship (with the Scottish poet Jackie Kay; the relationship has since ended). There were also suggestions that Tony Blair had ruled her out because of her sexuality."

full article is here.

NB A Poet Laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government and is often expected to compose poems for State occasions and other government events. The plural form is poets laureate. Wiki notes that "In ancient Greece the laurel was sacred to the god Apollo, and was used to form a crown or wreath of honour for poets and heroes. This custom has since become widespread, both in fact and as a metaphor. The word laureate or laureated thus came in English to signify eminence or association with glory."

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kelly McGillis Comes Out. Duh.

I know I have read this in the Daily Mail, so take it with a pinch of salt, but here is the article that makes the statement about Kelly McGillis. I think my friend J told me this "news" about 20 years ago. On the other hand, it is nice to see that this is not a scandal, but rather a commentary, covering the actress's personal struggle with her sexual identity:

"Miss McGillis, who is currently single, came out during an interview with lesbian website Shewired.com. She has claimed to have battled with her sexuality for more than 40 years and that for long periods of her life she was convinced she was being ' punished by God' for being gay. However, she told the website that she had finally decided to 'move on with her life' and admit she was a lesbian."

Good luck to her and her ilk.

The Producers' Pretzels

Just a quick pic to present photographic proof that the pretzels as previously reported do, indeed, exist :-)

(view from Friedrichstrasse station)

Bea Arthur RIP

A little late on this one, but nevertheless sad and grateful. I need to listen to my CD of her one woman show this weekend. Check it out, she is cool. I was particularly excited to hear about her time in the Broadway cast of the Threepenny Opera, the cast including Lotte Lenya! (Regular viewers of the ravaj will know her great love for that musical piece)

Wiki
Hallmark Channel tribute
Surviving Golden Girls in People
Guardian obit
LA Times Appreciation
NY Times
Telegraph obit
Times obituary
Variety obit

the ravaj is definitely back

Sorry for the break in communication, but the ravaj was in Europe, with minimal computer access. Many new Piglet pics, and a few shots from London, Berlin and Prague to come. One of the more amusing things about Prague was its lack of decent translators for public signs. It began from the very moment we got embroiled in the organism that is the public transportation system:
although I would have to say that one of my favourites is this menu from the trout restaurant to which zina took us:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Poznan, Where the Elephants are Gay

Reuters has reported the news of a gay elephant in a polish zoo:

"WARSAW (Reuters) - A Polish politician has criticized his local zoo for acquiring a "gay" elephant named Ninio who prefers male companions and will probably not procreate, local media reported on Friday. We didn't pay 37 million zlotys ($11 million) for the largest elephant house in Europe to have a gay elephant live there," Michal Grzes, a conservative councilor in the city of Poznan in western Poland, was quoted as saying. "We were supposed to have a herd, but as Ninio prefers male friends over females how will he produce offspring?" said Grzes, who is from the right-wing opposition Law and Justice party.

The head of the Poznan zoo said 10-year-old Ninio may be too young to decide whether he prefers males or females as elephants only reach sexual maturity at 14."

My grandfather was born in Chodziez, not far from Poznan. Is it my fault?

First Ladies

Thank you Dorothy Snarker for this:
Not content with the sleepless nights you have evoked through your tank-top Tuesday photos, now you've really done it! How am I ever supposed to sleep again?

Springtime for Pretzels

'The Producers' is about to be produced in Berlin. The trouble is that it is illegal to show a swastika in, I believe, just about any situation in Germany. Thus the hooked cross symbol has been replaced in the production by ... a pretzel. Thanks to the mother of ravaj for pointing this story out to her this morning!

Personally, I think Charlie Chaplin did it better:

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A Passover Striptease

I see in the Jewish Chronicle this week the following story of Talmudic logic:

"by Keren David

Scrubbing brushes and vacuum cleaners are the recognised weapons in the annual war against all things leavened. But one religious man has found a novel use for the humble sock. Arieh Yerushalmi, 28, of Bat Yam was so angry about the sale of chametz during Pesach that he stripped naked in a local supermarket — save for the strategically placed sock. Yerushalmi had been incensed by a court ruling allowing the sale of leavened goods in supermarkets because they are not designated as public places, unlike open air markets. In protest, the yeshivah student stripped off his regular Charedi clothes to reveal the message “This isn’t public?” in large writing on his abdomen. He told reporters that he had deployed the sock because of his religious principles, but “the shame is not mine”.

Yerushalmi argued that he should not be prosecuted because he had not stripped in a public place. The police are expected to ask Rishon Le-Zion Magistrates’ Court to seek a psychiatric report. He also stripped off for a Pesach protest last year and police fear it may become an annual ritual. For now, he is worried about the reaction of family and friends: “I guess they don’t see things like I do.”"

Latest from London

One of my average 12 readers recently told me that he had been enjoying this blog, even though the last post was not as witty as a previous one. The ravaj will try not to let the pressure crush her. Meanwhile, there has been little posting because for ten days she has been away from her computer having a life. Easter is approaching, so normal service should be resumed asap.

This is a difficult time of year, with many religionists thinking a lot about suffering and hoping for renewal and redemption. I am dealing with it by going to Berlin and getting a hug from the niece of ravaj. I can think of nothing more healing, and wish for you all to find something that works for you.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Newsweek Names Their Top 50 Rabbis in the USA

One of those lists that usually appears near the end of the year, Newsweek magazine is looking forward and naming the rabbis they think are the top 50 now and will continue to be for the rest of 2009. The whole list is here. Have a look and see if it matches your personal favourites. Of note to the ravaj: the top woman at number 18 (chai, noch) is Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, old friend to the ravaj and recently elevated to head of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). I wonder how she feels about this honour?

NB the ravaj was once the only girl on the West London Under-11 Chess team that won the league. She got a medal and was very proud.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

You Gotta Hand it to Michelle

As part of the G20 summit in London, the great and the gracious have been doing a bit of networking. The big question about which people, well, some people are up in arms is: should Michelle Obama have touched the Queen? British and Commonwealth protocol, which goes back to the days when monarchs were believed to have a magic touch that could heal, says no. However, those ole republicans who started anew in 1776 said that no American has to bow to any queen or king. Also, if the queen touched Michelle first, that may be considered as an invitation to respond. I am just happy that they are all becoming such good friends, and think it is just jealousy, since everyone wants a piece of those sleeveless biceps at the moment :-) .

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Odd One Out?

1. Everton Weekes
2. Dwight Washington
3. Mahendra Nagamootoo
4. Kennedy Brighton
5. Berkeley Gaskin

These are names of West Indian cricketers. One of these names is not like the others. That is because it it not real. Which do you think is the odd one out?

Answer in the comment section later today ...

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Facebook Haggadah

Passover will soon be here. For Jews who observe this festival, we get together for a big meal with family, friends and strangers; we wait forever until the actual meal begins, and we stay up quite late drinking a minimum of 4 cups of wine (or juice). The purpose is to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, so that we remember that we were slaves, and now are free. This is to encourage us to work for freedom in the world today for everyone. It is considered a good deed to be creative with ways of telling the story, and a kind friend on facebook just shared this with me. I enjoyed it greatly, and hope you do too.

Whatever it is that you celebrate at this time of the year, when spring is finally springing; or the other side of the world is doing what it does, may it be a time of reflection and peace.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sue Jones-Davies

This is a picture of the Mayor of Aberystwyth, Sue Jones-Davies. She may look familiar to you, especially if you can imagine her about 30 years younger with very black hair. Or not. Here is a picture of her then:
Yes, it is Judith Iscariot, from the film "Monty Python's Life of Brian". She is in the news this week for finally lifting the local ban on the showing of the film. There was a special performance, attended by Pythons Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Hurrah.

UPDATE
for some reason the Daily Mail decided to do another story on Sue Jones-Davies. No new information, but the photo may be more recent. If you are interested, have a look at this.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour 2009

I got a bit carried away by our hour without electric light as we waited for dinner to be ready from the oven, and took a lot of pictures of the flames. Here is my favourite one. But we were part of Earth Hour, and hope to be part of future green-ness.

PS UK friends don't forget to change your clocks tonight. Spring forward!

Eri Yoshida

Opening Day for the baseball season is under a week away in the USA. In Japan, it has already begun, and the first big story covered over here is a female pitcher playing with the big boys:

"OSAKA, Japan (AP)—Japan’s first female professional baseball player made her debut Friday, striking out one batter in the ninth inning. Eri Yoshida, a 17-year-old who throws a sidearm knuckleball, took the mound during Kobe 9 Cruise’s 5-0 season-opening win over the Osaka Gold Villicanes in the newly formed Kansai Independent League. The 5-foot, 114-pounder walked the first batter leading off the inning on four pitches and allowed a stolen base before striking out the next batter swinging at Osaka Dome. She was then replaced after facing two batters.

“I wasn’t thinking about anything other than just going out there and giving it my all,” said Yoshida, who is hoping to stick with the Kobe team. “I think this was a bad result but the stadium is great and the fans were really cheering me on. I want to be able to pitch more innings and become a pitcher who can be relied upon.” Yoshida created a stir when she signed a contract in December. Some speculated the move was more of a publicity stunt to generate interest in the new league. There were 11,592 fans in the 45,000-seat stadium Friday.

Yoshida started playing baseball when she was in second grade and hopes to emulate Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Until now, no woman had played against men in Japan. A women’s professional baseball federation was established in 1950 but it stopped after two seasons. The Cruise and the other three teams in the Kansai league are more like farm teams and are a far cry from Japan’s mainstream pro teams."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Out of the Sacred Closet - Beauty, Belief and Identity

The title of this post refers to a new exhibition that has just opened in Jerusalem at the Hadassah Art Gallery. It contains 14 pieces by homosexual artists from religious (Jewish) backgrounds. I post out of pride that my Liebling is one of the artists. Here is what the Jerusalem Post had to say:

(with regard to whether or not there is a clash between one's sexual preference and one's religious upbringing) " Avi Rose certainly has no problem combining the two. In 2006, New York-born, Toronto-bred Rose, a doctor of psychology by academic training and now a Jerusalem-based purveyor of Jewish education, and his British partner became the first homosexual couple to be recognized as such by the Interior Ministry.

"My father is a rabbi and I have three brothers who are rabbis, and they have all been very supportive of me," says Rose, who has two paintings in the exhibition. His works offer a new angle on classic Zionist posters of yesteryear. In one of his paintings, for example, the original image of a benign Zionist man nurturing an adoring youngster's nascent pioneering spirit has been replaced by two male adults with a youth in a similar adulatory pose. "That conveys the idea of a male couple having a family," explains Rose."

Article in full here.

Learning to Draw

It is a longtime ambition of mine to learn how to draw. I have not had any lessons ... yet! Meanwhile, it occurred to me that I could just try, and see what happens. So I just did that. Here is a photo of a friend of ours:



and here is my attempt to draw him:



the drawing is a bit fuzzy cos i held it up to the webcam. I can see many mistakes already. The question is, though, does it look anything at all like him?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Pangolin

Lovely Mr. Stephen Fry just posted this picture on his Twitter feed. I'd never heard of this animal before. Now I have. For the rest of you, here is a wiki explanation:

"Pangolins (pronounced /ˈpæŋgəlɪn/) or scaly anteaters or Trenggiling are mammals in the order Pholidota. There is only one extant family (Manidae) and one genus (Manis) of pangolins, comprising eight species. There are also a number of extinct taxa. Pangolins have large keratin scales covering their skin and are the only mammals with this adaptation.[2] They are found in tropical regions of Africa and Asia. The name "pangolin" derives from the Malay word pengguling ("something that rolls up"). Pangolins are nocturnal animals, using their well-developed sense of smell to find insects. The long-tailed pangolin is also active by day. Pangolins spend most of the daytime sleeping, curled up into a ball.[3]"

Am trying hard to resist an aaaaahhhhh how sweet. Nope. Can't resist it. Aaaaahhhhh, what a cutie :-)