Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mukoko in the Times

Nearly 2 months after the story of Jestina Mukoko's arrest broke, the Times has finally written a proper article about what has been happening. If you would like to read this particular collation of information it is here.

BTW the name for the "alleged" torture of beating the soles of the feet is 'Falanga'. It is also known as 'Bastinado'.

Paddington Bear Sings in the Rain

This has always been one of my favourite Paddington moments. It never fails to cheer me up. In the midst of the snow and the ice and the cold of the moment, I hope that you will enjoy it as well.

Naughty Baroness Murphy

Those of us interested in the life and times of the orchestra may have read about an unpleasant medical condition in the string section called "cello scrotum". Or not. It was recently revealed, however, that the whole thing is a great big hoax. The BBC takes up the story:

"A top doctor has admitted her part in hoodwinking a leading medical journal after inventing a medical condition called "cello scrotum". Elaine Murphy - now Baroness Murphy - dreamt up the painful complaint in the 1970s, sending a report to the British Medical Journal. She came clean when the hoax resurfaced in the 2008 Christmas edition."

Bad doctor. Bad bad doctor. You may read about the consequences here.

Angela Morley RIP

Angela Morley? Never heard of her. Then I read her obituary in the Telegraph:

"In 1974 Angela Morley was nominated for an Academy Award, for her contribution to The Little Prince, and again the following year for The Slipper And the Rose. She attended the Oscar ceremonies on both occasions, and was so encouraged by her reception in Hollywood that she resolved to move to California. In the United States she worked mainly in television, contributing scores to numerous episodes of Dallas, Dynasty, Cagney & Lacey, Wonderwoman and other long-running series. She also formed a firm working relationship with the composer John Williams, working with him on such blockbusters as Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, ET, Home Alone and Schindler's List.

Although never credited as composer of a major Hollywood score, Angela Morley worked as orchestrator, arranger and sometimes conductor with names such as André Previn, Miklos Rosza and Lionel Newman. Over the course of her Hollywood years she gained three Emmy Awards and six nominations. Her last years were spent writing for recordings by soloists such as Itzhak Perlman and Yo Yo Ma, and for symphony orchestras."

Nu, this is not mind-numbingly boring ... always good for the obits to include more women. On the other hand, this is what you really need to know (if you did not already):

"Angela Morley was born Walter Stott in Leeds on March 10 1924, the son of a ukulele-playing watchmaker. He began taking piano lessons aged eight, but had to give up when his father died suddenly three months later. Encounters with the violin and accordion followed, and he finally settled on the clarinet and alto saxophone. Leaving school at 15, he went on tour with Archie's Juvenile Band for a weekly wage of 10 shillings."

the rest is here.

What Shall We Do With the Grumpy Pirate?

It makes me sad when I agree with anything that is said by the Daily Mail newspaper. Today is one such day, although I would probably put it a little differently. In any case, a story today about that old shanty 'What shall we do with the drunken sailor?':

"It is a famous sea shanty sung on the way to battle when Britannia ruled the waves. Handed down from parent to child it has become a nursery rhyme that has amused countless generations. But now the popular ditty 'What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor' has fallen foul of that most modern artillery - the PC brigade. The government-funded charity Bookstart, which promotes reading for children around the country, has changed the lyrics to remove any reference to alcohol"

I wouldn't go bashing the PC peeps as much as just wish that the time, energy and cash had been spent on something a little more important. Athough "tickle him until he starts to giggle" is quite sweet. The Mail goes on to inform us:

"Drunken Sailor was a Navy work song often sung when raising a sail or lifting the anchor - which is the reference for 'Up She Rises' in the song’s chorus. Usually only two or three verses were sung but verses were often added until the task was completed. Such shanties were the only ones allowed in the Royal Navy and were often sung on the way to battle. The lyrics reflect how the ship's crew deal with one of their shipmates after a belly full of rum stops him from helping with his deck duties. The air was taken from a traditional Irish march and dance tune, and the music first printed in 1824. Although the lyrics were not published until 1891, it is likely they were sung well before then."

*sigh*

Back Fat Saved my Sister's Life

The story of my sister's recent experience as a new bod in Los Angeles is now an article in today's Guardian. A brief and good read if I say so myself!

"My back fat saved my life. For a woman who has spent most of her life dieting, this statement rankles. But my muffin top protected me when I was shot with a high-powered air rifle fired by an unknown sniper at 2.15pm in a residential neighbourhood in Los Angeles. Had I been the usual LA size-zero stereotype, I would probably have been killed. Or paralysed."

Read the rest of it here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stirring Music

If you can get over the sight of conductor Mark Elder dressed in what looks like a chef's jacket as he leads the orchestra at the last night of the Proms in 2006, then this music should get you up and going. On the other hand, especially with the short homage to the Queen's 80th birthday, one may be overcome by memories of colonial oppression and other misbehaviours. My main thought is usually my poor mother, who lives across the road from Hyde Park, and a couple of blocks down the road from the Royal Albert Hall.

PS I would have posted "Jerusalem", except that it would make me cry and Youtube wouldn't let me.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

no no no no no no no no no!

"LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – The Fox network has picked up the pilot "Absolutely Fabulous," a U.S. version of the cult British comedy about a neurotic fashion publicist, Edina, and her best friend, Patsy, an outrageous fashion editor, who drive Eddie's sensible teen daughter, Saffron, up the wall with their wild behavior. Christine Zander wrote the adaptation, which is set in Los Angeles. Zander is executive producing the pilot with Jennifer Saunders, who wrote the original series and starred as Edina."

Why can some people not let a good thing alone? 'Kath and Kim' anyone?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscars 2009: The Nominees

Here is the list of the main nominees for the Oscars this year. My wish list for winners includes:

Best Movie: Milk (but it will probably be Slumdog Millionaire)
Best Actor: Sean Penn for Milk (but I wouldn't mind Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon)
Best Actress: Angelina Jolie (Changeling wasn't necessarily so wonderful, but I would rather have her filling the screen than anyone else)
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz (ditto)
Best Supporting Actor: no point wishing here - has to be Heath Ledger
Best Animated Feature: Kung Fu Panda, but it will be Wall-E

cue gratuitous photo of aj:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Favourite Pic from the Inauguration

Yes, I cried

It is official - we have a grown-up in the White House. Now we shall wait and see what he is able to do.

It was almost as cold in our living-room this morning as it was in DC. I wrapped myself in a duvet and waited for my feet and the inauguration to warm up. Rick Warren, apart from his regular work, was actually not offensive if I listened to what he said filtered through my belief system rather than his (and I liked that he began with the Shema - Hear O Israel). Aretha was stunning, as was her hat. Until the swearing-in, though, all I could think of was that I wish my father had been here to see this day come to pass. He was one of the foot-soldiers in the fight for civil rights, and I cried the tears of joy he would have cried had he been here.

All the speeches and prayers were too long - Obama could have cut two minutes by simply quoting JFK's 'ask not what your country can do for you'. The old preacher at the end was brilliant - as he staggered up to the mike asking for blessing on those of weary years I was amused but with trepidation. He then wittered on for a while before ending on a high, though, with his colourful flower power note.

The main thing is that the party is now over and it is time to get some work done. Happy Inauguration Day!

President Obama's Inauguration speech here, courtesy of the BBC online.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thought for Tomorrow

I was leafing through a book of poetry today, and came across the following verse of an ode by Arthur O'Shaughnessy (the one that starts 'We are the music-makers'). I thought it fit my thoughts as I think about the inauguration of President Barack Obama tomorrow.

And therefore to-day is thrilling
With a past day's late fulfilling;
And the multitudes are enlisted
In the faith that their fathers resisted.
And, scorning the dream of to-morrow,
Are bringing to pass, as they may,
In the world, for its joy or its sorrow,
The dream that was scorned yesterday.

We love you, Rowly!

Poor old Martin Rowlands, the captain of my beloved QPR, has discovered today that he did his ACL on Saturday at Pride Park. His season is done, and probably ours as well. Another blow to him and to the team. We are already without my beloved Buzsaky and Rowan Vine. Wishing him a speedy recovery.

Tony Hart Montage

Here is a 10-minute tribute to Tony Hart, featuring moments from the programme 'Take Hart'. If you have 10 minutes and would like them to be calm, gentle, and interesting - watch this!

Diary of a Pakistani Schoolgirl

Here is a sample from the few pages that were previously posted at the BBC Urdu online page. Of course it is unthinkable to so many of us that a girl may be forbidden to go to school. It is unthinkable that we might fear punishment and perhaps death for the simple act of going to school. This girl knows nothing else.

"I was getting ready for school and about to wear my uniform when I remembered that our principal had told us not to wear uniforms - and come to school wearing normal clothes instead. So I decided to wear my favourite pink dress. Other girls in school were also wearing colourful dresses and the school presented a homely look.

My friend came to me and said, 'for God's sake, answer me honestly, is our school going to be attacked by the Taleban?' During the morning assembly we were told not to wear colourful clothes as the Taleban would object to it.

I came back from school and had tuition sessions after lunch. In the evening I switched on the TV and heard that curfew had been lifted from Shakardra after 15 days. I was happy to hear that because our English teacher lived in the area and she might be coming to school now."

The rest of the excerpt is here.

Where are the movies for women?

Wanting to find a new angle in award-winning season from which to write, the showbiz editor of the Telegraph tries to grab the attention of women ignored by Hollywood. Worked for me :-)

"Women have flocked to see Mamma Mia! because they are otherwise ignored by Hollywood, according to Meryl Streep. Mamma Mia! has taken nearly £402million worldwide and is nominated for three Baftas. The feelgood movie has smashed box office records, overtaking Titanic and Harry Potter to become the highest-grossing release of all time in the UK.

Streep, the Oscar-winning star who played the lead role in the musical, said women are woefully under-served by Hollywood and jumped on a film which was made just for them. "I know the studio is gobsmacked by its success, and a lot of the critics have been surprised, but I wasn't. It was a no-brainer," the actress said of the film, which features the songs of Abba and is based on the West End stage show. "I knew it would do well because it was aimed at an audience that has been neglected in recent years in film offerings - women. They are the last group anybody ever cares about.""

This is a perennial complaint. In the end, my attention was grasped by the question of whether or not Ms Streep would actually use the word "gobsmacked".

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Olivia Newton John

Not bad for a breast cancer survivor who turned 60 last September, eh? I have to admit, with some embarrassment, despite "Sam, Sam, you know where I am", that I have always had a soft spot for Olivia Newton John. I know all the words to every song in 'Grease'. I own a vinyl version of 'Xanadu'. Actually, I think my aunt has that record as well :-) I've even seen the film Sordid Lives. And her grandfather won a Nobel Prize for Physics. Nu, I saw this pic in an article and thought I would give her a shout-out.

Here is the title track from the Xanadu film. Blink and you will miss Gene Kelly at the beginning, but there are 3 good shots of the beautifully-coiffed Andy Gibb and lots of lovely Eighties lovelies:

Amnesty International report on events in Zimbabwe

I am continuing to monitor the internet with regard to Jestina Mukoko and her co-workers at the Zimbabwe Peace Project. The latest i can find is from 4 days ago on the Amnesty site:

"Zimbabwean human rights activist Jestina Mukoko was abducted from her home by armed state security agents, at around 5am on 3 December 2008. Her whereabouts were unknown until 23 December. She has now spent over a month in detention. Ms Mukoko, the director of human rights organization the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), appeared in a Harare court on Wednesday after having been tortured. She is yet to be charged. Amnesty International has called for the immediate and unconditional release of Jestina Mukoko, along with two other ZPP members Broderick Takawira and Pascal Gonzo. All three are considered prisoners of conscience.

Following her abduction, Ms Mukoko was held and interrogated at various unidentified detention facilities. Every time she was moved from one facility to another, she was blindfolded. Throughout her detention, she was in solitary confinement. During interrogations, she was forced to place her feet on the table and was beaten on the soles of her feet with a rubber object. At other times, the interrogators spread gravel on the floor, on which she was forced to kneel while the interrogation continued. Throughout her torture, Ms Mukoko vehemently denied interrogators’ allegations that she and others were involved in the recruitment of youths to undergo military training to take up arms against the state.

Jestina Mukoko and seven other detainees are being held at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare.

Please express your solidarity with Jestina and the other detainees by sending cards and letters to them at the following address:
Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison
Chikurubi Prison Complex,
Private Bag 7392 Greendale,
Harare,
Zimbabwe"

Have just written my letter, and will go to the post office when a path has been cleared through the snow!

Who was it?

Did you guess correctly? Did you guess at all? A few years ago I got to see the musical 'Barnum' with Jim Dale in it. One of my favourite evenings ever in the theatre (and waaaaay better than the London version with Michael Crawford imo). The actress playing his wife was the one admiring her Hollywood star in this picture: Glenn Close.

Tony Hart RIP

As I get older, of course more people that influenced me in my youth will die. It just seems that the last few weeks have had a more than average number of such events. Add to the list Tony Hart, who encouraged those of us who wanted to draw but thought we weren't much good to have a go anyway. The Mail on Sunday says:

"Artist and children's TV presenter Tony Hart died in the early hours of this morning. He was 83. Since retiring in 2001, Hart had suffered from health problems over the last few years, including two strokes. During his long career, Hart appeared on numerous TV shows, including Hartbeat, Saturday Special and Smart Hart.

Born in Maidstone, Kent, in 1925, Hart became interested in drawing from an early age. After leaving school in 1944, Hart signed up with the Indian Army and became an officer in the 1st Gurkha Rifles in World War II. Once he released from the forces, Hart decided to take his love for art further and signed up at the Maidstone College of Art. Hart's television career began in 1952 after a chance meeting with a BBC producer, during which he displayed his art skills with a paper napkin.

His first TV role was as the resident artist on Saturday Special, before going on to appear on Playbox, Titch and Crackers and Vision On. In 1963, Hart created the first Blue Peter badge for the children's TV show, several years after the programme first started. In 1970, Hart found a popular co-star in the form of plasticine character Morph, who appeared in segments on the artist's TV shows Take Hart and Hartbeat. Hart was noted for encouraging art in schools and children across the country sent in their artwork to his TV shows in the hope of being displayed in 'The Gallery'. His most popular show Hartbeat, which ran from 1985 to 1994, attracted 5.4million viewers and he received between 6,000 to 8,000 letters and drawings a week.

In 1978, he won his first Bafta for a series of comic shorts about a plasticine character called Junfan, before claiming a lifetime achievement award in 1998.

After suffering ill health, Hart retired in 2001 and was devastated two years later when his wife Jean in 2003. Last year, he told of his distress at being unable to draw after strokes left him unable to use his hands properly. He told The Times: 'Today my studio lies abandoned, and I spend most of my day confined to my chair. 'Not being able to draw is the greatest cross that I have to bear, for it has been my lifetime passion. But, I endeavour to stay cheerful, as there is nothing to be done about my condition.'

Hart is survived by his daughter Carolyn and two grandchildren."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Patrick McGoohan, r.i.p.

"I am not a number, I am a free man!" A wonderful tv programme, that some idiot has decided to remake. Noam and I are very sad.

Atheist Buses

Better late than never, here is my acknowledgment of the recent furore over a set of advertisements presented by British atheists for the edification of their friends and neighbours. My friends at the Telegraph told us last week:

"Organisers originally hoped to put the message on just a handful of London buses, as an antidote to posters put up by religious groups which they claimed were "threatening eternal damnation" to non-believers. But after the campaign received high-profile support from the prominent atheist Prof Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association, the modest £5,500 target was met within minutes and more than £140,000 has now been donated since the launch in October. Enough money has now been raised to place the message – "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life" – on 200 bendy buses in the capital for a month, with the first ones taking to the streets . A further 600 buses carrying the adverts will be seen by passengers and passers-by in cities across England, Wales and Scotland, from Aberdeen and Dundee to York, Coventry, Swansea and Bristol. In addition, two large LCD screens bearing the atheist message have been placed in Oxford Street, central London, while 1,000 posters containing quotes from well-known non-believers will be placed on Underground trains for two weeks starting on Monday.

Some atheist supporters of the campaign were disappointed that the wording of the adverts did not declare categorically that God does not exist, although there were fears that this could break advertising guidelines. Prof Dawkins, the renowned evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, said: "I wanted something stronger but with hindsight I think it's probably a good thing because it makes people think. It's just food for thought – people will have conversations in pubs when they see these buses.""

The whole article, and a vid, is here.

Follow-up note: the Advertising Standards Authority is being called upon to rule on the likelihood of God's existence after official complaints were made about the bus ads. Story here.

Stan Lee's gay superhero

The Telegraph reports that Stan Lee - the creator of Spider-Man - has come up with a new character that is homosexual:

"Lee has reportedly created a character called Thom Creed, a high-school basketball player who is forced to hide his sexuality as well as his superpowers. It is not known what kind of powers Creed will display. Lee, the former head of Marvel Comics - who also created the Hulk and the X-Men - will unveil Creed in an hour-long television special made in the US. If he proves popular with audiences, the programme will be shown in Britain. Lee developed the idea of a gay character from the award-winning novel Hero by Perry Moore, the Sun reports. A television industry source told the paper: “It was only a matter of time before we had our first gay superhero. And if there is one man who can make him a success it is Stan Lee. “There’s a real buzz among comic book fans.”"

Don't you just love it that our liberal societies have advanced so far that homosexuality is now considered a selling-point for public consumption of a product?

Here is a review of Moore's book.

Zimbabwean activists lose bid for bail

Nelson Banye of Reuters reports:

"HARARE - A Zimbabwean court on Tuesday ruled that a leading human rights advocate and eight other activists should remain in custody, in a case that has raised further doubts over a power-sharing deal. The state has charged Jestina Mukoko, who leads a local rights group, and the other activists with recruiting or trying to recruit people for military training to topple President Robert Mugabe's government. The arrests have raised tensions in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe and the opposition are locked in a long dispute over allocation of cabinet posts under the power-sharing agreement, seen as the best chance of easing a deep economic crisis.

Defence lawyers had argued that the activists had been abducted, not legally arrested, and that Zimbabwe's High Court had already ordered that they be freed. "All the accused should remain in custody pending determination of the matters in the superior courts," said magistrate Olivia Mariga in her ruling. Mariga postponed proceedings to Jan. 14. "The court is of the view that remand proceedings should be postponed, as the defence is pursuing applications in superior courts," Mariga said.

The activists' lawyers have lodged applications in the high court, seeking to set aside a magistrate's earlier ruling that they be placed on remand. They are also seeking permission for their clients to get medical treatment from doctors of their choice. Defence lawyers say they have been tortured. In affidavits, the activists said they were severely beaten on the soles of their feet. They said they were beaten with fists and blunt instruments.

Morgan Tsvangirai has threatened to pull his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party out of negotiations over the issue. Many of the activists in custody are MDC members and the party has said they were abducted. Two are colleagues of Mukoko, a former state television broadcaster who has emerged as one of Mugabe's toughest and most influential critics. Mukoko was taken away at gunpoint in a dawn raid in Harare on Dec. 3 by a group of men in plainclothes who stormed her house and identified themselves as policemen. A High Court judge last week declared the detention of Mukoko and her co-accused unlawful and ordered their immediate release, but the government appealed against the ruling."

There was a rumour the other day that Mukoko was dead, so it's good to hear that this is not the case. Meanwhile, I cannot understand why there is not more worldwide coverage of and interest in this situation. These people are in just as much trouble as many in Gaza.

guess who?

do you have any idea who this might be? btw she has not tripped over the red carpet but rather has chosen to present herself in this way.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Welcome back, Winnie the Pooh

It is hard not to be cynical about the upcoming publication of "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood" - a sequel to the beloved Winnie the Pooh books by the late A A Milne. The publishers say:

""We hope that the many millions of Pooh enthusiasts and readers around the world will embrace and cherish these new stories as if they had just emerged from the pen of A A Milne himself.""

Excuse me, but yeah, right! Why would anyone even think of doing something like this? Could it be that some marketing person had the brilliant idea of trying to exploit a ready-made audience? Why do we need more of these stories, new ones? Who will benefit most?

Maybe I got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning ... read the BBC article yourself here, and make up your own mind. Feh!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Spider-Man meets Obama

Spidey was always my favourite comic-book hero. I collected the comics of the Fantastic Four (loved the Thing) and Spiderman. The thing that was cool about Spidey was that most of the time he was a normal geeky kid with lots of problems in his everyday life, rather than being an alien or a millionaire or a scientific genius. Plus he was a photographer :-)

Anyway, next week he manages to help out President-elect Obama at the Inauguration, and gets a thank-you fist-bump

Bye Bye Bush 1

The BBC online peeps have published their favourite verbal lapses of the outgoing US President and, in turn, I have selected a few for your amusement and edification:

""There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on... shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again."
Nashville, Tennessee, 17 September, 2002

"I want to thank my friend, Senator Bill Frist, for joining us today. He married a Texas girl, I want you to know. Karyn is with us. A West Texas girl, just like me."

"The war on terror involves Saddam Hussein because of the nature of Saddam Hussein, the history of Saddam Hussein, and his willingness to terrorise himself."
Grand Rapids, Michigan, 29 January, 2003

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." Washington DC, 5 August, 2004

"The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the - the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice."
Washington DC, 27 October, 2003

"Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?"
Florence, South Carolina, 11 January, 2000

"You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.''
Townsend, Tennessee, 21 February, 2001

"I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully."
Saginaw, Michigan, 29 September, 2000

"I have a different vision of leadership. A leadership is someone who brings people together."
Bartlett, Tennessee, 18 August, 2000

and, perhaps most apt of all:

"I'll be long gone before some smart person ever figures out what happened inside this Oval Office."
Washington DC, 12 May, 2008

There is not really anything else I can say after that. The whole article is here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sylvia Plath's only play

Viv Groskop reports in the Guardian about the current London production of Sylvia Plath's verse play 'Three Women':

"Most people consider the writer Sylvia Plath to have been a poet first (with the superlative Ariel), a novelist second (with the wrenching The Bell Jar), and that there her talents ended. The theatre director Robert Shaw begs to differ. His production of Plath's verse play, Three Women, has just opened in London - the first time it has been professionally staged. And Shaw believes the work shows Plath's brilliance as a dramatist."There is something magical about it that I have not tried to analyse too carefully," he says. "People respond to it and find things in this piece that they understand and relate to; things that perhaps Plath was able to express in a way no one else has.""

Apart from nursery rhymes, I believe that Sylvia Plath's poems were the first poems I ever read. I may have mentioned before that at the age of 5 I saw the book called 'Ariel' on a shelf at home and, recognising the name, took it down. Later, my father found me drawing pictures to go with the poems. He was somewhat concerned about my interest in the lines, "Daddy I had to kill you." :-)

When I studied 20th century American lit as part of my undergraduate degree, Plath was the only woman whose work was included in the course; and the professor still felt that she was second-rate. I was, of course, infuriated, since she was a goddess to me, a kind of literary version of James Dean. Am thus always delighted to read of public appreciation ...

"The play is a powerful expression of pregnancy and maternity, but Shaw does not feel it is simply a "women's piece". "It has a kind of universality," he says. "She expresses someone's internal life in the most extraordinary way." How people will respond to the play, meanwhile, remains to be seen. "It is a risk," admits Shaw, "But it's an important risk to take. What we see is Plath the dramatist.

It gives us an idea of what we missed and what we might have had if we had had her for longer. Six months after it was broadcast, she died. It gives us a strong idea of what might have happened if she'd had a chance to develop it." He pauses. "It's really quite tantalising.""

Monday, January 05, 2009

something to cheer us all up

I love this pic. I wish I knew who took it so that I could credit and thank them. It's the best photo I have seen all year! Well it is. It made me smile for a nanosecond, and I hope you do also.

Jestina Mukoko update

I cannot find anything definite so far online - Mukoko was due to be in court today. There are, however, some alarming rumours floating around, e.g.

* Silobreaker.
"Former ZBC newsreader and now political prisoner Jestina Mukoko is being force fed poison at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison, according to the UK Sunday Independent newspaper."

* Denford Magora's Zimbabwe Blog
"Guys, the real business of this Jestina Mukoko court case is being done outside the courtroom and what we see happening in the courts is simply a show."

* Jurist
"This news comes after a high court rejected Mukoko's petition for release to receive medical treatment on Friday. Mukoko's attorney Beatrice Mtetwa has ordered a toxicology test to corroborate the allegations, saying that Mukoko is psychologically traumatized and it is not sure that she has been able to tell the whole story about her treatment because of the constant presence of state officials."

Folly feet

Strange news in the Telegraph yesterday - a horse broke into a cinema:

"The horse was one of three which escaped from a farm and ran through the automatic doors at the Cineworld complex in Boldon, South Tyneside. The incident was caught on CCTV and was put on the YouTube website, but it has since been removed. The horse walked down a corridor before turning round and fleeing through the exit as filmgoers looked on. One witness said: "The horse noticed the cinema and headed towards us, and when it got close, the automatic doors opened and in it came. "It was a bit of a surprise but it was all over in 20 seconds." No-one was hurt and the horse was captured safely soon after the incident."

I guess it was disappointed that 'Black Beauty' wasn't on ...

Who deserves to be in Poets' Corner?

Friends and family of the late Harold Pinter have apparently suggested that he deserves a memorial in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey (see here). The rumour is that Pinter's "anti-religious" views may lead to the consideration that it would not be an appropriate gesture. Not to mention the fact, I expect, that he was a Jew. Are there any Jews in Westminster Abbey? Permanently, I mean ... I've been in there myself on one or two occasions.

Having read the article, I later came upon this poem:

A REFUSAL

Said the grave dean of Westminster:
Mine is the best minster
Seen in Great Britain,
As many have written:
So therefore I cannot
Rule here if I ban not
Such liberty-taking
As movements for making
Its grayness environ
The memory of Byron,

Which some are demanding
Who think them of standing,
But in my own viewing
Require some subduing
For tendering suggestions
On Abbey-wall questions
That must interfere here
With my proper sphere here,
And bring to disaster
This fane and its master,
Whose dict is but Christian
Though nicknamed Philistian.

A lax Christian charity -
No mental clarity
Ruling its movements
For fabric improvements -
Demands admonition
And strict supervision
When bent on enshrining
Rapscallions, and signing
Their names on God's stonework,
As if like His own work
Were their lucubrations:
And passed is my patience
That such a creed-scorner
(Not mentioning horner)
Should claim Poet's Corner.

'Tis urged that some sinners
Are here for worms' dinners
Already in person:
That he could not worsen
The walls by a name mere
With men of such fame here.
Yet nay; they but leaven
The others in heaven
In just due proportion,
While more mean distortion.
"Twill next be expected
That I get erected
To Shelley a tablet
In some niche or gablet.
Then - what makes my skin burn -
That I ensconce Swinburne!

The author of this poem is a gentleman by the name of Thomas Hardy. Where is he buried? His heart is allegedly buried in Stinsford, Dorset. His ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey, in the Poets' Corner.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

On the buses

A British lecturer in mental toughness says that where you sit on a Routemaster bus is an indication of your personality type:

"He concluded that bus passengers fell into seven distinct groups. Those at the front on the top deck are generally forward thinkers and those at the back are rebellious types who do not like their personal space being invaded, he found. Sitting in the middle are independent thinkers - usually younger to middle-aged passengers more likely to read a newspaper or listen to a personal music player. On the bottom deck at the front tend to be gregarious meeters-and-greeters while those in the middle are "strong communicators". Travellers who automatically head for the rear downstairs are said to be risk-takers who like to sit on elevated seats because it makes them feel important. He defined a final group as chameleons - travellers who do not care where they sit because they feel they can fit in anywhere."

Hmmmmm. I like to sit on the elevated seats on the left, particularly the first seat. I think, however, that this has something to do with being as near to the door as possible and thus being able to jump off quickly if I need to - so lessening the risk. See the rest of the article.

Helen Suzman z"l

I didn't post anything earlier in the year because I didn't want the blog to start with death death death death death. However, Helen Suzman was a hero of mine when I was a child. My mother's one big political stance was against apartheid, and so we were very conscious of both a lack of citrus fruit in winter (the main imports before Jaffa oranges were Outspan from South Africa, and my mother boycotted them), and those in the vanguard of the fight against it. Thence the respect for Ms. Suzman. She was buried today, as reported thus:

"JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – Leading South Africa's anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman who died on New Year's Day was on Sunday buried in a private Jewish ceremony attended by top politicians and close friends in Johannesburg. Among the mourners was apartheid South Africa's last president, F.W. de Klerk, current President Kgalema Motlanthe, Winnie Mandela and leader of the opposition party Helen Zille. "I spoke to her a few weeks before her death and she was very concerned about the current state of politics in our country," said De Klerk. "She is was one of South Africa's great icons," De Klerk added. Suzman, a white Jewish immigrants' daughter served in South Africa's legislature from 1953 to 1989-- a lone voice of parliamentary dissent against white minority rule. She died peacefully on Thursday at her home in Illovo,Johannesburg.

"Suzman was my mentor, she was opposed to the abuse of power by the old apartheid government, she was also opposed to the current abuse of power by the current ANC government," said Zille. Prominent rights lawyer George Bizos who represented former Nelson Mandela, during his treason trial described Suzman as an icon who relentlessly fought for equal rights during a difficult period. "She knew that she may not solve all the country's problems but she never gave up," said Bizos.

The diminutive Suzman was born in the mining town of Germiston east of Johannesburg on November 7, 1917 to Samuel and Frieda Gavronsky, both Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. She used her debating time to rail against forced removals, racial inequalities, the erosion of the rule of law, capital punishment, torture, censorship, police abuses and other trademarks of white minority rule. She was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and awarded the United Nations Award for Human Rights in 1978. A public memorial service in her honour will be held in few weeks's time, her family said."

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Surprise, surprise - and the new Doctor who is:

MATT SMITH.

Who? The BBC reports:

"Matt Smith has been named as the actor who will take over from David Tennant in Doctor Who - making him the youngest actor to take on the role. At 26, Smith is three years younger than Peter Davison when he signed up to play the fifth Doctor in 1981. Smith will first appear on TV screens as the 11th Doctor in 2010. He was cast over Christmas and will begin filming for the fifth series of Doctor Who in the summer. Tennant is filming four specials in 2009. Smith was named as Tennant's replacement in Saturday's edition of Doctor Who Confidential on BBC One. He said: "I've got this wonderful journey in front of me where I've got this six months to build this Time Lord - and that's such an exciting prospect."

Piers Wenger, head of drama at BBC Wales, said that as soon as he had seen Smith's audition he "knew he was the one". "It was abundantly clear that he had that 'Doctor-ness' about him," he said. "You are either the Doctor or you are not." Wenger said a broad range of people had been auditioned, but they had not set out to cast the youngest Doctor.

Smith's TV debut was in the 2006 adaptation of Philip Pullman's The Ruby in the Smoke, which starred former Doctor Who companion Billie Piper as Sally Lockhart. He has also acted opposite Piper in the follow-up, The Shadow in the North, and in ITV2's Secret Diary of a Call Girl. In 2007, he had a leading role in BBC Two's political drama Party Animals, in which he played a parliamentary researcher. Smith's stage work has included stints with theatre companies such as the Royal Court and National Theatre. His West End debut was in Swimming With Sharks opposite Christian Slater. He was born in Northampton in 1982 and studied drama and creative writing at the University of East Anglia."

Hmmmm. I did like him in the Philip Pullman programmes. I also remember how we all said nobody could replace Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant did quite well. At least the wait is over. Still wish it would have been Colin Salmon!

Friday, January 02, 2009

these shoes weren't made for walking

What is going on in Miami? Thousands of shoes were dumped on the Palmetto Expressway today, causing massive traffic jams and horrible puns for headlines ("Lost Soles" anyone?).

wait for it, waaaaaait for it ...

at 12:35 EST on the BBC or thereabouts, the name of the actor playing the next regeneration of Doctor Who will be announced. Anita Singh writes in the Telegraph:

"The 11th Doctor will be unveiled in a special BBC One programme, Doctor Who Confidential, at 5.35pm. The hype surrounding the announcement is so great that the show will be broadcast on giant outdoor screens around the country. Negotiations with the actor who will take over have taken place over the last three months and the deal signed in recent days. Tennant will remain on screen throughout 2009 in a series of special episodes but the new Doctor is expected to make an introductory appearance in one of them. A campaign for a black Doctor Who has gathered pace and earned the backing of the show's outgoing writer, Russell T Davies. Favourites for the role include Paterson Joseph, who appeared in two Doctor Who episodes in 2005, Hustle star Adrian Lester and Dirty Pretty Things actor Chiwetel Ejiofor. Despite Davies' tongue-in-cheek lobbying for Catherine Zeta Jones to become the next Time Lord, it is thought unlikely that a woman will be given the role. Cold Feet's James Nesbitt, Shakespearean actor Ben Whishaw and the little-known Russell Tovey have also been linked to the job. David Morrissey, who appeared in the Christmas Day special as a man who mistakenly believed himself to be the Doctor, is another contender. Tennant recently described Morrissey as "perfect casting" for the role.

Piers Wenger, the show's executive producer and head of drama for BBC Wales, where the series is filmed, said: "We are so pleased to have been able to cast this person as the new Doctor. We believe the actor is going to bring something very special to the role and will make it absolutely their own. "I just can't wait to tell everyone who it is. It has been a nail-biting Christmas trying to keep this under wraps."

Personally, if they go for a black doctor, which would be like Obama rather than Hillary, I'd vote for the lovely Colin Salmon, who was Dr. Moon in the library eps. Meanwhile, I am on at least a couple of tenterhooks!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Misbeehaviour in the honey world

The Telegraph reported yesterday regarding the nefarious activities of foreign honey exporters:

"So-called "honey laundering" involves elaborate schemes in which cheap, diluted or contaminated honey from China is brought in after being "laundered" in another country to disguise its origin and evade tariffs and health inspections. A five-month investigation by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper found the international honey trade rife with criminal enterprises designed to take advantage of the demand for imports created by the mysterious collapse of bee colonies across America."

The rest of the story may be found here. Meanwhile, do check the origins of your honey, since some of the scam products may have harmful chemicals within.

Mukoko remains in prison

From Radio Netherlands worldwide online yesterday:

"Zimbabwe's Mukoko must stay in jail
Published: Wednesday 31 December 2008 10:55 UTC
Last updated: Wednesday 31 December 2008 15:45 UTC

In Zimbabwe, a Harare court has ruled that the prominent Zimbabwean human rights activist Jestina Mukoko must remain in jail. Ms Mukoko and 15 co-defendants will appear before a judge on Monday. They are accused of plotting a coup against President Robert Mugabe. Ms Mukoko was taken from her home three weeks ago and held in a secret location. This led to fierce protests both in Zimbabwe and abroad. The European Union demanded her release and that of the other suspects. The Zimbabwean opposition views the case as the latest attempt by the government to silence protesters. Almost all the 15 others accused with Ms Mukoko are members of the MDC opposition party.

The Zimbabwean Supreme Court ruled last week that the secret detention of Ms Mukoko and the other suspects was unlawful. The government appealed against the ruling."

happy 2009!

thank you to everyone who has visited, and sometimes even read these pages. wishing us all a year in which our journey goes ever closer to peace - in our hearts, and in the world around us.