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.

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 :-)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Catching Up

Here are a couple of stories that I found interesting during the sad hiatus of the past week. Was just too sad to post. Better now.

1. Horror of horrors, from the Telegraph:

"Chocolate should be taxed to control obesity epidemic, doctors are told ... Chocolate should be taxed in the same way as alcohol to control Britain's obesity epidemic, a medical conference has heard"

What is wrong with people? No, let me restate that - what is going on in the UK? It seems like the government has decided to make laws to fix every problem, rather than finding ways to encourage people to fix themselves. Tax chocolate? Not while I am alive! Of course, that may not be long if I eat it since I am diabetic. Nevertheless, surely this is not the way to go:

"Dr David Walker said chocolate used to be a treat, but has become a harmful addiction, causing weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and back pain. Consumers are often eating more than half a day's worth of calories when they polish off a bag of chocolates in front of the television, he claimed."

Excuse me for a moment, I think there is an old piece of Ritter Sport with hazelnuts in the back of my cupboard. Back soon.

2. The Prince must be fumigated, from the Times:

This turns out to be an ecological issue, rather than a political statement.

"The normal procedure for greeting royal visitors involves a red carpet, an official welcoming committee and possibly a fanfare or two. Last night, however, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall received a rather less gracious reception on their arrival in the Galápagos Islands, when they were thoroughly fumigated before being allowed off the plane."

The rest of the story is here.

3. England win the World Cup of cricket, from the Telegraph:

"Charlotte Edwards thus joins Rachel Heyhoe-Flint and Karen Smithies as the only English cricketers - of either gender - to lift a global trophy, "I don't think it will sink in for a while," said Edwards afterwards, "but this is a special moment and we'll remember this for the rest of our lives. The team have been amazing."

No-one can doubt that England were the best team in a tournament they dominated from the start. They only lost one match - and that a dead rubber against Australia with qualification already guaranteed. Claire Taylor finished as the World Cup's leading run-scorer and off-spinnner Laura Marsh the leading wicket-taker, but the real quality of the squad was in its depth."

Yes, ok, I snuck a sporting reference in here at the end. However, this is a major achievement. And a major achievement for English women. So three cheers for the English cricketers: Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

OMG Two Wins in a Row for QPR

Jordi Lopez initiates the win over Bristol City last Saturday with a right Ronaldinho of a free kick. It was one of those good days: we won, Chelscum lost, the sun shined and all was right in the world for a couple of minutes.

The Duelling Elmoes

We had fun today in the toy shop. looking for gifts for our nieces. Maybe too much fun!

Whose Mother is This?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Peace in Our Time?

Most of my American friends are blissfully unaware of the magnificent kitsch that is the Eurovision Song Contest. I have blogged about it before, and now it is again that time. Above is a photo of the Arabi-Israeli singer Mira Awad, who is co-representing Israel this year with Achinoam Nini (aka Noa). The BBC reported:

"The story began several months ago when Achinoam Nini, known as "Noa" - a Jewish-Israeli singer - was asked to represent Israel for the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow this May. Noa, a long-time peace activist, insisted that her old friend and co-performer Awad should also be involved. For Mira, it was a golden opportunity. "I believe that by representing this country I am nailing to the wall my existence here," she told me. She sees it as a way to make Israel's Arabs more visible. "I am here, I am not moving when its tough," she says."

Awad was already known to Israelis as a star of the comedy 'Arab Labour' (Avodah Aravit), and wrote the duet that was voted for by the public. However, this happened around the same time as the recent events in Gaza, and the Arab community decided that she was being used for Israeli propaganda purposes.

"Against this background of polarisation, Mira has had to defend her decision to sing under Israel's banner in Eurovision. Yet ... the articulate actress was confident and robust about what she stands for. "It's not so easy to banish me," she says. "This whole operation in Gaza was such a painful time, I am still Palestinian and I will always be Palestinian." But she says she's not representing Israel in spite of these beliefs - she's doing so because of them. "We do not have equal rights yet, but the way to get our equal rights will not be by boycotting the country that we live in," she argues."

If only there were more like this woman, from both polarities.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

RIP Tasha

Shocked, sad and speechless.

Get Well Soon, Tasha

English actress Natasha Richardson is in a NY hospital today, after a skiing accident in Montreal. Tabloid muck-rakers are having a field day about this so-called story, broadcasting the most terrible rumours. The hell with that! I just hope she can somehow feel the myriad wishes that are out there for her speedy recovery.

Quote of the Day

"A jester unemployed is nobody's fool!"

Danny Kaye
The Court Jester

Shock. QPR Win First Game of 2009.

Now be fair, it has been months since I forced ye who be bored by sport to skip over one of my posts because you saw the footie pic at the top. Just give me a moment to celebrate with the boys in the pic the lovely goal by Mikele "Legs of Wood" Leigertwood that beat Swansea at Loftus Road last night.


Thank you.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Quote of the Day

"To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it."

A Short History of England
by G K Chesterton

Chelsea Pensionerelles

The time has come, the time is now! The Telegraph reported this weekend that for the first time in its history, the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, which is for war veterans without dependents, has accepted women as pensioners. The article quoted Winifred Phillips (on the right):

"Declaring "I like men", Miss Phillips said: "It's been fabulous. It's just like the Army all over again but you don't have so much to do." After a 22-year career in the Army, she raised the question of why women were not allowed to become Chelsea Pensioners. She said: "When I was living in Shropshire 10 years ago I read a magazine called The Legion and it said they wanted more men, so I wrote and said 'why not women?'. Then they wrote back to me later saying they agreed, but it's taken me 10 years to get here." Miss Phillips, who moved from Deal in Kent to the site, said she has always preferred male company.

Am not so fond of the clear emphasis on the lady's heterosexuality. Perhaps a better quote is from her comrade, Dorothy Hughes:

""This is fantastic. There are a lot of women staff around anyway, so you don't feel isolated, and once you've been in the army, you don't see them as men, they're mates.""

Make your own mind up here.

Here is the Times' take on this story.

The Mail, of course, has to one-up everyone else, and has found the story of a woman admitted to the hospital in the year 1717:

"The Royal Hospital's admissions roll for November 1717 states that a 'fatt, jolly woman [who] received several wounds in the Service in ye habitt of a man' was admitted in recognition of her valiant behaviour. Her name was Christian Davies, though she was also known as Christian Welsh or Mother Ross."

Read Christian's story here.

PS Don't get them mixed up with Beefeaters!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lorca was Censored

Did you know that Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca was gay? I did not. But then I am a philistine who knows only one word of spanish (mantequilla), and who hasn't read much foreign poetry. I was therefore interested to read in the Indy of a new book coming out - 'Lorca y el mundo gay' (Lorca and the Gay World).

Lorca was assassinated by death squads at the start of the Spanish Civil War. In the book review, the author of the biography, Ian Gibson:

" describes how the poet's works were censored to conceal his sexuality. It was not until the late 1980s that Lorca's sexual identity became grudgingly acknowledged, in the face of denials and evasions. Gibson blames the decades of silence on a deep-seated Spanish homophobia. "Spain couldn't accept that the greatest Spanish poet of all time was homosexual. Homophobia existed on both sides in the civil war and afterwards; it was a national problem. Now Spain permits same-sex marriage that taboo must be broken.""

LIttle steps ...

The whole piece should be found here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bored Now

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

So that its subjects will view it with admiration, as a chicken which has the daring and courage to boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom among them has the strength to contend with such a paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the princely chicken's dominion maintained.

Darth Vader
Because it could not resist the power of the Dark Side.

Emily Dickinson
Because it could not stop for death.

Ernest Hemingway
To die. In the rain.

Dr Johnson
Sir, had you known the Chicken for as long as I have, you would not so readily enquire, but feel rather the Need to resist such a public Display of your own lamentable and incorrigible Ignorance.

That is not the question.

and finally: Why did the chicken cross the Moebius strip? To get to the other ... oh .....

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is Anybody Surprised at This?

"WASILLA, Alaska – Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin, the teenage daughter of Gov. Sarah Palin, have broken off their engagement, he said Wednesday, about 2 1/2 months after the couple had a baby. Johnston, 19, told The Associated Press that he and 18-year-old Bristol Palin mutually decided "a while ago" to end their relationship. "

And yet lesbigay unions threaten the "sanctity" of marriage?

Tweet of the Day I

"I don't know why I even bother chewing corn anymore."
Tina Fey

Calling God?

The BBC reports on an art exhibition in Holland that presents a telephone through which people may telephone God:

"Dubbed God's Hotline, it aims to focus attention on changes to the ways Dutch people perceive religion. Dutch artist Johan van der Dong chose a mobile phone number to show that God was available anywhere and anytime ... Critics say the project mocks those with religious beliefs.

Forming part of an art installation in the town of Groningen, the voicemail message says: "This is the voice of God, I am not able to speak to you at the moment, but please leave a message.""

I wonder if they charge it as a local call?

The rest of the article is here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Laugh for Doctor Who Fans

I seem to be on a bit of a Dawn French kick at the moment. Here is a moment from the Vicar of Dibley when Alice reveals the bridesmaid outfits. Made me laugh out loud, which is good medicine in the current dour climate.

Jan Winkler RIP

I just found out this morning about the untimely death of the Czech Ambassador to the UK - Jan Winkler. He was a lovely man that I met last year when he attended the opening of my mother's museum (about the Czech Scrolls). He dropped dead from a brain haemorrhage at the age of 51 a couple of weeks ago. Dreadful. *sigh*

Here is a little of what the Times has to say today in his obituary:

"Jan Winkler was not only a highly effective ambassador for the Czech Republic but also one of the outstanding figures of its post-communist national scene.

Since the beginning of this year the Czech Republic had assumed the presidency of the EU, which inevitably places a heavy additional workload on its European embassies. Winkler had undertaken this task with energy and imagination and relished the opportunity it presented for projecting his country. In January he launched the presidency by organising a concert of Czech music by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Winkler was indefatigable in developing British-Czech relations and he was a great supporter of the British Czech and Slovak Association in this country. He initiated the establishment of a British-Czech chamber of commerce and became its patron. He was also very keen on rejuvenating Czech studies at British universities.

Winkler persuaded the Mayor of Prague to erect a sculpture commemorating Sir Nicholas Winton, who heroically rescued several Czechoslovak children just before the Nazis marched into Prague. The statue will stand on the very platform of Prague Main Station from where the trains with the rescued children departed for this country. He also organised events in 2007 to commemorate the Bohemian engraver Wenceslaus Hollar, whose meticulous depictions of London before the Great Fire caused him to be known as “the man who drew London”.

Winkler even found time to write poetry. He was a man of wide culture and great charm and distinction, well respected on the London diplomatic, political and cultural scene as well as in his own country."

Monday, March 09, 2009

Last. Sketch. Ever.

Now who could this be? And what are they doing? This is a still from a sketch for Comic Relief - an annual UK charity event. Although the comedy duo (it's French and Saunders, or the Vicar of Dibley and Eddie from AbFab) officially retired their partnership with a farewell tour last year, they have produced one last skit for us with their spoof of Mamma Mia. Here is an article sort of about it (but it is from the Mail so be warned).

Meanwhile, Red Nose Day 2009 is this Friday. Check the Comic Relief site here for more details. Presumably, for those of us exiled from the reach of the BBC (and its iPlayer), we shall be able to watch the sketches via YouTube not long afterwards.

Part One of the sketch is here.
Part Two

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Anti Fur Sketch

Was looking around for some good French and Saunders sketches for a Vicar of Dibley fan friend, and came upon this early one that says everything I would ever want to express about why we don't need to wear animal pelts any more. Unless you are Inuit, you are not absolved!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Team-Mates for a Day

No, that was not a pig that just sailed past your upstairs window. This is, indeed, a photograph of Larry, DJ & Moe standing side by side as they prepare to play for the USA team in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Don't worry, normal hostilities will resume as soon as possible :-)

No Laughing at the Wheel!

A gentleman in Liverpool was recently stopped by the police for laughing while driving. The man was using a hands-free phone, and was amused by a joke he had just heard. The traffic cop told him that laughing while driving can be an offence. This is not a Purim story. Read the report here. The driver said:

""The officer accused me of throwing my head back in a dangerous way, which I denied since it is definitely not something I do. It became a bit ridiculous when he wanted to know the colour of my hair as I have alopecia and there isn't a hair on my head. When I pointed this out he asked: 'What colour was your hair when you had some?'"

If it wasn't so depressing this would be quite funny. *sigh*

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Jestina Mukoko out on Bail!

Just got the following message from my Jestina Facebook group:

"GOOD NEWS: Human rights activist Jestina Mukoko was released on bail this monday after three months in jail. Several other activists from the MDC party has been released too- an encouraging sign that newly appointed prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai's calls for political prisoners to be freed were finally being heeded.

Tsvangirai, who last month joined a power-sharing government with President Robert Mugabe, last week said it would be difficult for the new administration to move forward while a list of outstanding issues, among them continued detention of Mukoko and others, remained unresolved.

Jestina Mukoko is still facing charges of terrorism, though. And she was not released unconditionally. Mukoko was asked to pay $600 in bail, surrender her passport and the deeds to her house or deposit US$20 000 with the court as surety. She was asked to report to police twice a week.

The MDC activists released earlier were also slapped with similarly tough bail conditions and some of those granted bail remained in custody either because they had not satisfied all conditions or because the state was still to establish whether they held passports or not.

Nevertheless, Jestina is happy: "It's so good to be free. I need to call my son and tell him that I am a free woman," said Mukoko, as prison guards unshackled her hands from the railings of a bed at a Harare hospital where has been admitted for the past two weeks."

BBC report here.
latest from This is Zimbabwe here.
Amnesty International

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Major Character Comes Out on The Simpsons?

Could it be? Is it true? Sadly, for me in any case, the above image of Marge in a more-than-friendly clinch with another woman turned out to be from a dream of Homer's. It was a nice thought for a nanosecond ...

Monday, March 02, 2009

Oh. My. Dog.

Not sure whether or not to thank the person at the Guardian Fiver for sharing the website that is to be found here. The photo is called "Leonardoodle". Is this not a case of cruelty to animals?! It's certainly like a car crash - you want to pass on by, yet cannot resist sneaking a quick peek. And then, my eyes! My eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyes!!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Snow Day!

We still await the blanket that has been promised, but many places have already declared a snow day for tomorrow. Congratulations to all those who were wishing for such an event. Commiserations to those who cannot believe that it is March and still we are being buried and frozen, (or perhaps the other way round) and the poor buds that were fooled this week into venturing out will now be crushed and it's not like we live in Canada or Minneapolis or anything like that and when will it stop?????

Tony Hart Tribute

Dozens of models of Morph - a regular co-host with Tony Hart for many years - cover the ground outside the Tate Modern museum in London, as fans paid tribute to their hero. The Telegraph reports:

"Nearly 200 of the small orange models drew a large crowd of human onlookers at the Tate Modern gallery on London's South Bank. Each model was formed in the shape of children's television favourite Morph. The event was organised on social networking website Facebook by a group of friends who wanted to remember Mr Hart, who died earlier this year. His constant companion on his long-running television show inspired group members to some unusual interpretations of the well-known figure. One Morph was wearing a bikini, another sported wings and a third was dressed as a reggae rap star. Members of Mr Hart's family came to see the rows upon rows of little Morphs and judge a competition on the best effort."

Never mind Wallace and Gromit or Creature Comforts - Morph is the Man!

Lindsay Lohan goes to Synagogue

This is not a fan pic. I am posting this to record the fact that Lindsay Lohan went to services at the Westminster Synagogue this weekend. I am noting this because this is my home. The mother of ravaj lives upstairs. This is the house in which I grew up, and this is its fifteen minutes of fame!

Angel Pagan

Yes, folks, baseball spring training has begun and thus my reader who doesn't find sport very interesting is already reading her next e-mail. However, since QPR-related posts have been few and far between (I am trying not to dwell on negative things), I feel no guilt. In any case, I just came upon the following quote by the manager of the Mets in the NY Times today:

"Ángel Pagán continued an impressive start to spring training by going 2 for 4 in the leadoff spot and improving his Grapefruit League batting average to .500. “He’s a guy that you have to consider very strongly,” Jerry Manuel said"

and I thought, what a brilliant name for a baseball player. If he makes the team, I do hope the sub-editors are imaginative with their headlines.

PS If anyone happens to remember that I referenced Pagan on a previous blog about 10 months ago, do let me know, and I shall send you an excuse. If not, as you were.