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."