Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Panda Express

Hurrah Hurrah there are pandas in the UK!
See them arrive here.
Ok, you don't see too much of them but they are here.

Am rather excited about this.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Reason to be Cheerful

Here's the latest thought for the week from the Liberal Judaism website:

Parshat Vayetze
Genesis 28:10-32:3

“And Jacob uttered a vow saying, “If God will be with me, and will guard me on this way upon which I am going, and will give me bread to eat and a garment to wear; and if I return in peace to the house of my father, and Adonai will be my God; then this stone, which I have placed as a monument, shall be a house of God, and everything that You give me I will surely tithe to You.” (Gen. 28:20-22)

Jacob is a canny chap. He is currently fleeing for his life from the wrath of his brother Esau, having tricked their father into giving him the birthright anticipated by the elder twin. He has just had a dream in which God speaks to him and promises protection for the present and great rewards in the future. To be addressed directly by the deity is a great honour. Nevertheless, Jacob will not make any commitment until he sees some tangible proof that Adonai is not all mouth and no trousers. He cannot afford any more mishaps if he is to survive.

As Liberal Jews, we are not so very different from our ancestor Jacob.  We remember the eighteenth-century heroes of the Enlightenment telling us that Reason will guide our current paths and lead us to a bright future. We wait for Science to prove a theory before we might believe it. Our chequered past leaves us reluctant to trust in anything or any one. If God cannot protect us, what is the point?

On the other hand, why does a post-Enlightenment perspective have to deny the possibility of God actively working in our world? I recall meeting with a Bar Mitzvah student who took great pride in telling the rabbi that he did not believe in God. “Ok,” I said, “I cannot argue with you. I’m not even sure that I could disagree with you. Here’s a thought, though, that I would like you to consider. When you wake up in the morning, are you glad that the air is still there?” He looked confused. “Well, you’d be dead without it, wouldn’t you? Your body would not survive. Yet how often do we appreciate the fact that the air is there? And do we ever question its existence? We don’t see it, smell it (on a good day), or touch it but we know it is all around us. ” He nodded. “This is my idea,” I continued. “we know our bodies need food – what about our souls? Might there be something out there that we cannot see, or smell, or touch; yet we know it exists because our souls are alive?”

My student questioned the very existence of God. I asked him to consider whether or not there are forces in our world that might work with us in a positive way. Jacob does not question the existence of God but rather wishes to know what powers God has before he will publicly affirm his belief. And for those of us interested in theodicy, perhaps Jacob shows us a place to start – what do we see today in the world around us that might demonstrate the positive influence of a power beyond our comprehension?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's the Difference Between Pithy and Pith?

How about this for a mantra:

 Accepting how things are does not mean they'll never change.

John Neville R.I.P.

Reason #48 why I never miss a chance to read the Telegraph obits:

"In 1956 he (John Neville) and Burton performed a memorable double-act, alternating the roles of Othello and Iago. Neville later recalled how, before one matinée performance, they had gone out for a liquid lunch at The Ivy: "Staggering out of the restaurant a little the worse for wear, we returned to the theatre and both played Iago. The audience noticed nothing unusual and nor, in the state we were in, did we.""

To continue reading please click here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dulcie Gray R.I.P.

Reason #47 why I love to read obituaries in the Daily Telegraph - paragraphs like this:

"Her performance in the play certainly impressed Aleister Crowley, the notorious diabolist, who sent her six lines of doggerel in appreciation, ending “A young thing stole the show away/Her dulcet name is Dulcie Gray”. She wrote a brief letter of thanks but lived to regret it when he invited her to be sacrificed as a virgin at dawn in a midsummer rite at Stonehenge. With tongue firmly in cheek, she sent her regrets on the grounds that she disliked getting up early; Aleister Crowley bothered her no more."

the entire obit may be found here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guess What Happened to the Blue Flag?

They fouled us and Helguson scored from the penalty.
They fouled us and off went Bosingwa
They fouled us and off went Drogba
Terry couldn't handle it. 1 - 0 to the Soooopa Hoooopsa!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Blue Flag (a bit rude)

Vid taken by my camera of the devoted QPR support at Craven Cottage. Visuals demonstrate the newness of the apparatus for the camera-rav, but it is the sound in which she was interested.

Where's the Footie?!

If this page has seemed dominated by the ravaj's professional hat/yarmulke, it's probably because this is quite a busy time for the ravs and their co-religionists. Also, about a week ago, the ravaj was present at Craven Cottage for her beloved QPR's utter humiliation. Despite taunting by the opposition (as seen above), the away support relied solely on vocal responses. However, the shame went deep, and all of us have been regrouping during the international break. Normal service will soon be resumed!

Succot Stories

Here is the latest collection of thoughts from the fried brain of the rabbi:

If you are in need of a Jewish calendar, look no further than the Book of Leviticus. Chapter 23 lists all the holy days of the Biblical era, including the one we observe this week:

“on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruits of the land, you shall keep the feast of Adonai seven days; on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest ... you shall dwell in booths seven days ... that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am Adonai your God.” (Lev. 23:39-43)

Tradition teaches that on Succot, we are commanded to make the Succah our main dwelling place. We should eat, sleep, study and pray in this temporary shelter, unless the weather is too harsh for it to be a comfortable experience. If it rains in your soup, then you may move the meal indoors! The minimum requirement is to eat the first night’s meal beneath the leaves and fruit. When I was young, my mother would take out the fondue set she had received as a wedding gift, and make a cheese fondue for my sister and me. We lived in the synagogue building, so we would take the left-over pieces of challah from the evening service, and the two of us would have a sit-down dinner in the Succah on the roof garden. We felt so terribly grown-up, and it was truly zeman simchateinu, a time of our joy!

The Zohar, or Book of Splendour, first published in Spain in the thirteenth century, says that ‘righteous guests’ should join you when you sit in the Succah. There were seven of these ushpizin: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. Each one represents important spiritual attributes through which the world may be nourished and perfected. In recent years, a list of women ushpizin has been created. Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel; Miriam and Esther are obvious candidates, but the seventh visitor may be any one of Abigail, Deborah, Hannah, and Huldah; or indeed any great Biblical heroine.

The synagogue of my childhood had a strong connection with the city of Prague, and so it was that when the lady responsible for decorating our Succah had to make an unexpected and immediate departure (for tax reasons) the day before the festival, the rabbi took one of his robes, a pumpkin and some sheaves of corn; and when the congregation entered the Succah they were greeted by their own special visitor: the Golem of Prague. He was an honoured guest for many years!

The mitzvah of hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests, is a core value across the spectrum of Jewish belief. Maimonides writes:

“while eating and drinking himself, one is obligated to feed the stranger, orphan and widow, along with the unfortunate poor ... [one who does not] is not enjoying a mitzvah but rather his stomach.” (Laws of Yom Tov 6:18)

We know we should contribute time and money to soup kitchens, food banks and other organisations that feed the hungry in our towns and cities. We should not forget to include the vital spiritual nourishment that feeds our hearts and souls and gives us the courage and strength to make a difference in our world. Perhaps it is time to make a list of your own ushpizin. Who will inspire you? With whom would you like to study? Who would you like to emulate?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The Ten Days Are Almost Over

This little poster has done the rounds on Facebook, and received quite a rapturous response. I liked it so much I brought it over here.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Thought for the New Year

Jews throughout the world are preparing to observe and celebrate the festival of Rosh Hashana. It is a time when family members come together. It is a time when attendance at religious services increases. We read the old words and sing hymns old and new. It is, however, difficult for so many of us to feel that we are praying with sincerity. In response to this feeling, here are 2 quotes:

"How do I learn to pray? There is really only one answer: pray! Pray other people's prayers. You will appropriate them to yourself by using them and pouring your own personality into them. Do not wait until you 'feel like' praying, or until you know how to pray. You never will." (R. Steven S Schwarzschild)

"Prayer cannot mend a broken bridge, rebuild a ruined city, or bring water back to parched fields. But prayer can mend a broken heart, lift up a discouraged soul, and strengthen a weakened will." (Ferdinand M Isserman)

Wishing us all a year of health and fulfillment.
Shana Tova!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Notes on Nitzavim

Another religious post from the ravaj. No, not Queens Park Rangers again (o let her enjoy these brief moments of glory). Rather, a short piece on the weekly Torah portion as written for the Liberal Judaism website. Be gentle - her head is still sore from the bus accident the other day!

Parashat Nitzavim

It is all so simple in the Torah:

“Behold, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil ... I command you this day to love Adonai your God ... so that you will live and increase, and Adonai ... will bless you. But if your heart deviates and you do not listen ... you will surely perish ... choose life, that you may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:15-19)

Obeisance to God is rewarded, and defiance will receive the ultimate penalty. The way to go seems obvious. Yet Maimonides teaches:

“Freedom of choice has been granted to every person ... This concept is a fundamental principle and a pillar of the Torah and its commandments.” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 5:1)

Why would one choose death? What, then, may we understand the freedom of choice to mean? As Liberal Jews, we will not accept the Biblical statements that present such a polar perspective. We have seen evil prosper in our world, and we cannot accept the death of six million as punishment. The equation does not work, and thus the choice is not clear. The rabbis of the Talmud also questioned the logic of such teaching. They spent much time and space differentiating between suffering that they did see as a direct consequence of sin, and what they called “sufferings of love”. The Tanakh told them:

“Do not despise God’s chastening, nor spurn God’s rebuke; for whom God loves, God rebukes.” (Proverbs 3:11-12)

Should we believe that suffering is a sign of God’s care and attention? The ideal that hovers in our minds and our hearts suggests that love is the triumph of joy over pain. We try so terribly hard not to hurt the people we love – if God truly loves us, why would God cause us to suffer?

Perhaps the problem is that we are looking at what the choices are, rather than what ‘freedom’ means. Is freedom the licence to do as we wish? Or is our will affected beyond our control by the limitations of nature and/or nurture? Each of us may have our own understanding of these questions. All of us, however, will encounter options. We shall have to consider the consequences each one may engender, and we will make a decision.

Our portion this week raises much existential angst. At the same time, it consoles us with these words:

“This commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, nor is it far away. It is not in heaven, that you shall say: ‘who will go up for us to heaven and bring it to us and make us hear it so we may do it?’ Nor is it across the sea, that you shall say: ‘who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us and make us hear it so we may do it?’ No, it is very close to you, in your mouth, and in your heart, that you may do it.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14)

In other words, don’t worry so much, it is really not that difficult! All you have to do is take a good look at yourself, and you will figure out what you have to do. In these days of contemplation that precede the Days of Awe, may we find the clarity of vision that will lead us to choose life and freedom for ourselves, and all the nations of the world.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Football Joy

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Queens Park Rangers by Remsteeg
Until BBC copyright issues cause this link to be shut down, I invite you to enjoy a smashing win by my beloved Queens Park Rangers away to Wolverhampton Wanderers yesterday. Our new captain Joey Barton was previously regarded by me (and many others) as an utter thug. Now, of course, he is OUR thug. He scored a goal, and provided a smidgeon of controversy at the end. This week we shall be enjoying pride and joy at a moment of success in our new top-flight league. Hurrah!

Monday, August 22, 2011

London Statuary - The Hand of God

Early yesterday morning on our way to a funeral, we noticed that our beloved sculpture of a Fiat being clutched by a ginormous hand was being taken down, and another set in its place on Park Lane. It turns out that "Vroom Vroom" was on temporary loan as part of the local council's cultural preparations for the Olympic Games next year.

The latest piece to sit across from the Dorchester Hotel is by the same artist - Lorenzo Quinn. It is called "The Hand of God", and is pictured above. I am still getting used to it, particularly as I had thought of that exact title for its predecessor.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Euphoria Comes Easy at Everton

Here we see Tommy Smith delighted at having scored what turned out to be the winning goal for QPR at Everton today as the remaining professional Neville brother holds his head in his hands.

After the utter misery for our fans of a summer under the now-departed owners of the team, and the abject defeat at home to Bolton last week, I was ready to spend my time moaning about the new "mango"- coloured away shirts. Without hoops, it just is not a Rangers shirt. However, Mr. Akos Buzsaky (O Akos my Akos) passed the ball to the afore-mentioned Mr. Smith, who kicked it into the goal. Suddenly the afternoon, the day, the entire weekend became sunny and bright. Hello clouds. Hello sky. We won!


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Feminist Cartoonist Fights Back!

This is one of a series of Orangina ads in France. The ravaj has always thought Orangina to have the best-tasting diet orange soda. But if you know as much French as the ravaj, or more even, then after reading this (via the fascinating Blog d'une Chienne de Garde) you might have to join us in rejecting the product because of its sexist advertisements.

Ms. Chienne has also shared her perspective via the following cartoon:
If that doesn't put you off the boisson ...

Reality Bites

It didn't take long for a positive attitude about QPR's chances in the Premier League to shatter in the face of a 0-4 defeat at home to Bolton Wanderers yesterday. There was the first-minute goal that was disallowed:
Then there was Bolton's second goal, which we kindly scored for them:
Not to mention the rush of blood to Clint Hill's head that got him sent off about ten seconds before the end of the match:
But the resilience of the human spirit is amazing, and QPR friends and fans are already trying to find silver linings and looking forward to next week's game up at Everton. And isn't it nice to see a Premier League shirt without a stupid sponsor's name splashed all over the front?!

Bring on the Toffees!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Premier League Here We Come

Ok so those who own and rule my beloved football team Queens Park Rangers have shown their disdain for us - the long-term hardcore fans. They have not invested they way they should have this summer, and they have priced the regular fan out of the stadium. They are still sticking with the ugly club badge that looks like a pair of fallopian tubes. Nevertheless, there is always something about the first day of the new season, some hope and a bit of anticipation. It's up to the players this afternoon, and I cannot help but root for them. Nu - good luck my QPR heroes, this afternoon against Bolton Wanderers and all season long.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

A Thought for Last Week

Here's a little bit I wrote for last week's online thought for Liberal Judaism:

"The Shabbat before the fast of Tisha B'Av is sometimes referred to as the Black Sabbath. It marks the third Shabbat between the 17th of Tammuz, when the Babylonians breached the walls of Jerusalem; and the 9th of Av, when they destroyed the Temple (in the year 586 BCE). These three weeks are historically a period of misfortune for the Jewish community, and traditional observances follow various aspects of mourning, for instance, no weddings are celebrated, listening to music is prohibited and haircuts are eschewed.

It is also Shabbat Chazon, the Sabbath of Vision, named for the Haftarah portion read at this time. The prophet Isaiah tells his vision of God's frustration and anger with the Children of Israel, who have strayed far from the path of righteousness. "The whole head is sick," says God, "the whole heart is ill. From head to foot, nothing is sound." (Isa. 1:5-6) The Israelites continue to pray and make sacrifices, but God considers it to be lip service, "Bring me no more futile offerings ... I cannot endure festivities along with evil!" (ibid. v 13) God's people have turned their backs on the teachings handed down through the generations, "O how the faithful city played the whore! Once [she was] so full of justice; righteousness dwelt there; and now - murderers!" (ibid. v. 21)

It is easy to distance ourselves from the behaviour of ancient people following ancient practices. Yet we too are Children of Israel. We also live in times of misery and destruction. We make mistakes, and we behave badly - are we really so different from the people portrayed in the Tanach? Why then is it so hard to learn from their examples?

Perhaps we are embarrassed by the wrongdoing of our ancestors. We glance at the stories now and then with the same disdain with which we would consider a prurient article in a tabloid newspaper. Jews don't do things like that. Or is it that our Progressive perspective distances us from the simple descriptions of reward and punishment related by the prophets in their books? Jews are more civilised than that. The fact is: for every human being in every era the pull of the yetser ra - the evil inclination - is equally strong. Ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu; we have all been tempted, we have all betrayed our potential, we have all wasted time and energy inappropriately. It is disingenuous to think that any one of us is exempt from reciting the litany of misdeeds included in our High Holyday prayers.

What then is the example that the prophet Isaiah is presenting to us in this portion? First, we might note that rather than lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem itself, he focuses on the reasons for its downfall. While it is important to mourn what has been lost, it is essential to consider what caused such a calamity. With such information we may begin to repair the world. Isaiah highlights the hypocrisy and the corruption of his generation. In turn, we need to look at the relationships that trouble us, and try to find the source of the discord. Then we must approach the problem and start to solve it. If our vision is not clear, Isaiah's is: "Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes, cease to do evil. Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." (Isa. 1:16-17)

From the famine in Somalia, to an argument at work; the sister with whom you do not speak, to the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo; from children in need, to a lie you told to save face; the advent of Tisha B'Av reminds us that it is never too soon to turn away from temptation, nor to be proactive in the healing of ourselves and the world around us. The vision of Isaiah gives us hope that it is not yet too late to avert a disastrous fate. We can make a difference. If we choose to."

Are The Boris Bikes Behind It All?

This weekend the World Triathlon for men and for women was held in Hyde Park. One event. One weekend. I hear that Brits won both races. Hurrah.

It is the plan that next year this will be an Olympic course. For these races Hyde Park Corner and roads leading to it were closed. That means Park Lane, Piccadilly and arteries towards Victoria, Chelsea and Kensington. Buses were diverted but no signs shared to where. People were prevented from entering the Underground because it was too full. Streets were gridlocked. Taxis? Feh! Mounted police patrolled Knightsbridge. Walking was certainly possible but the rainfall was severe and very wet.

Nu? This was just one summer weekend full of shoppers and tourists. What on earth is going to happen during the Olympics when sports fans join the mix? Currently, Londoners are being advised to make alternative transport arrangements for getting to work at that time. Unless we shall be issued with personal jet-packs, I fail to see what those alternative arrangements might be. Except, perhaps, to sign up for the Mayor of London's bicycle scheme?

Monday, August 01, 2011

A Very Important Question

As usual, Calvin asks the important question. But there is always the possibility of a change of mind and/or heart. Take, for example, a cricket match in Nottingham yesterday. An England batsman was given out just before tea, but after a discussion in the pavilion, the Indian captain decided to reinstate him. He did not have to.

Today's Guardian asks: "Is upholding the spirit of cricket more important than getting rid of an in-form opposition batsman?" Votes are currently running at over 70% for Yes. While I am glad to see such a percentage, it is also sad that such a decision has been a cause for praise and rejoicing, rather than accepted as standard practice.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tragedy and Terror

Many are wondering why the death of Amy Winehouse appears to be engendering more emotion here in the UK than the bombing and massacre that just took place in Norway. The former seemed inevitable, and the latter unimaginable. Of course I have no answer to this question. A couple of thoughts, however, do come to mind.

Firstly, the two events are not comparable - it was just the timing that brought them together.

I watched a survivor of the shootings on the news last night. He reported quite calmly how he had hidden beneath dead bodies to try and escape; then pointed himself out in a newspaper photo that showed the pile of corpses. He was in shock, as we all are. It is impossible to get one's head round the idea that a person could do what the murderer has done. It will take time for it to sink in, if it ever does. For most of us it happened far away, and to other people.

Amy, on the other hand, was a well-documented disaster waiting to happen. While we were all pretty sure that she was on the traditional rock-and-roll road to destruction, there was always hope that at the last minute she might save herself, or be saved. Hearing that her body had been carried away from her home on Saturday killed that hope. That was tangible, and we felt it immediately. That was something that happened to us, it was our hope that died with her.

My heart goes out to the friends and family of the victims in Norway; and to the Winehouse family. As for me - I need to find someone I love, and give them a big hug.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Who Is To Blame?

The allegations about the phone-hacking by people working for the News of the World continue to grow both in size and in awfulness. You don't need me to find you a link if you want to read the latest reports. I would like, however, to raise a point that occurred to me this morning: am I culpable?

Am I culpable? I don't buy tabloid papers. But I do check out the Daily Mail regularly online. I try to avoid the stories that refer to avoirdupois, but I have been reading about the troubles of Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco. I don't care about reality show celebrities, but will generally look at something about a movie star. I don't care what the Duchess of Cambridge is wearing, but a picture of her and Prince William looking healthy and happy will cheer me up.

It seems harmless, or it seemed harmless until now. People are interested in this stuff. There is a market, and it is extremely competitive. Of course I am not condoning any of the reprehensible and possibly criminal behaviour. I just wonder - if more people decided not to pay attention to such stories, then would the NOTW and others not fall so far down this slippery slope?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tennis B*ll*cks

Marion Bartoli of France lost to Sabine Lisicki of Germany today in the Wimbledon Ladies Tennis Quarter-Final. Bartoli, who had knocked out the reigning champ Serena Williams in the previous round, has been noticed for the unusual stance and wind-up of her serving motion. It got her several aces against Williams, who has possibly the world's greatest female serve. However, in combination with her perpetual twitchy jerky motions between each point, it appears to have offended the tennis purists.

The journalist Alix Ramsey writes on the Wimbledon website:

"Her serve is all arms and legs, a collection of mismatched limbs that makes the whole motion look like a giraffe going for a spin in a tumble drier."

Amusing, perhaps. Bloody rude, though. She beat Serena Williams with it! Ramsey should be so lucky.

That's my mind made up. The ravaj is going to get herself some tennis lessons!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Thank You New York State Senate

Last night the New York State Senate passed a bill that legalises same-sex marriage. And when Governor Cuomo signed the bill soon after, it became law. In 30 days, the legal marriages, and the rights and benefits with which they come, may begin!

Thank you to the Republican senators who crossed party lines and voted for equality. Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard and for so long to make this happen. Today I am proud to be a native New Yorker.

Now, come on California, for what are you waiting?!

Governor Cuomo's speech after the vote is here.
Reuters make a good point about divorce here.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

When is a Jew not an Israeli?

This may be a provocative header, but I am confused. This should not surprise anyone who knows me. The particular situation that is confusing me today, however, is trying to figure out the differences between a Jew, an Israeli, and an Israeli Jew. Not all Jews are Israelis. Not all Israelis are Jews. That seems quite clear to me. But when an Israeli Jew does something that is criticised by foreign media, how does that act become definitive for all Jews?

The question is in my mind because of a story that has been picked up by the BBC, and many other internet media outlets: a Rabbinic Court in Jerusalem has sentenced a dog to be stoned to death. Read about it here. The Yahoo headline is "Jewish Court sentences ... etc".

We know that the quickest way to the heart of the British public, apart from marrying a prince, is to be a maltreated animal. Especially if you are a dog. This is a story about the unjust treatment of a dog. I'm all for animal welfare - that's why I will not eat them. It is also a story that shows an Orthodox Rabbinical Court behaving in a medieval way. The court may well have behaved exactly as the reporter suggests, i.e., believing that the dog was the reincarnated soul of the court's enemy returning to mock the judges. So what is my problem?

This is not the Judaism I live and teach, but many in the wider world will use this story to support their negative perspective of all Jews. Just look at some of the comments below the story, e.g., someone "recently read an article by a prominent Jew criticising written works apparently full of 'rampant anti-semitism' - with acts like this he can hardly blame people's attitudes against them", or "I can't believe that they should be so utterly stupid. And they want the world at large to give them credibility as a nation! No chance".

This is also not part of the life led by secular and progressive Jews in Israel. Much as millions of Muslims are neither terrorists, nor sympathetic with those who are, yet they are feared and blamed by others for the actions of their co-religionists; so it is for Jews within and without the Land of Israel. Stirring up feelings with stories like this will not help us find our way towards peace.


A link to the original YNet story may be found here.
BBC version here.

report that Ma'ariv newspaper has apologised about misleading headline on this story found here.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Long Time No See

It's been a while since this page has been disturbed. The fact that the ravaj has been arranging a new job is not a real excuse, but the best she can do on a rainy miserable Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bits and Bobs of London

On the way to an estate in Wandsworth to get a haircut from a Swiss man with a stepson called Denzil.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Love Douglas Adams

The guy who wrote the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy is one of my heroes. After the Torah and the Talmud, I am most likely to quote from his texts. I think it is healthy to balance the religious with the atheist!

It is ten years today since Douglas Noel Adams died, and it would only have been his 59th birthday. Gone, but very much not forgotten.

"For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons."
(The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

Monday, May 09, 2011

Unacceptable Situation

What is wrong with this picture of the Situation Room? Where is the Secretary of State? Both Hillary Clinton and a woman at the back have been edited out of the photograph by the Chasidic newspaper Der Zeitung (based in Brooklyn, NY). Ms. Clinton does not appear to be dressed immodestly, but she is sitting in the same room as some men. Apparently this would threaten the spirituality of the Jewish community if it were to be publicly printed, and so the women were photoshopped out of the shot. I wonder why the editor would choose such a photo in the first place. So might the editor, if the White House decides to do something about his flouting of the disclaimer that accompanied the picture: that the photograph "may not be manipulated in any way".

o yeah, this is what it should have been:

10/5/11 THIS JUST IN
After international exposure of this event, the newspaper apologises.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Championes, Championes, Ole Ole Ole

So tired from the release of tension and emotion that it is hard to process the fact that it is all over. The Football Association allowed my beloved QPR to claim their rightfully-won Championship trophy. It is the old Football League trophy, and it is beautiful in its blue and white ribbons. Now for a summer of speculation - who shall stay and who shall go? Now for a summer of anticipation - how will we do against the Arsenals and the Manchester teams? Now for a summer of exposure - the Americans who watch the EPL on Fox will finally learn about the Superhoops! Three cheers and it's time to try and sleep.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Thoughts on the Death of Osama Bin Laden

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that"
— Martin Luther King Jr.

Also, most quoted by my Jewish friends and colleagues, the words of God to the excited angels who wanted to celebrate the drowned Egyptians, who had died in order that the Children of Israel might escape to freedom: "The works of my hands are drowning in the sea and you want to sing" (Talmud Megillah 10b).

An enemy is dead. This is not an occasion for singing and dancing.

Ole Ole Ole Ole!

At least until the Football Association decides its punishment for something that happened a couple of years ago, my beloved QPR has won the Championship of the Football League, and should be better known by you all next year when we face the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. So we are almost happy.


Friday, April 29, 2011

The Cartwheeling Verger

So if you weren't interested in a single moment of the wedding in London today, not even the lovely reaction of the bridesmaid on the balcony:

you should still have a look at this vid. Less than a minute of your life to see a moment of exuberance. Go on .....!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The (Un)Happy Hum of Helicopters

Living across the road from the Household Cavalry Barracks, and within a couple of miles of Buckingham Palace, one has become used to the occasional helicopter hovering overhead. Tonight, however, the noise is non-stop. Thousands may be sleeping on the Mall tonight, but the ravaj is being kept awake by the security choppers. Boo!

Wedding? What Wedding?

la la la la la la la la
la la la la la la la

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Quote of the Week 2

An excerpt from the latest volume of Shirley MacLaine's autobiography:

"An actress needs to know where to sit. If it’s daytime, you should sit facing the outside light. Natural light is flattering for the skin, as long as it’s not direct sunlight.

Never sit where there is an overhead light — it makes you look like Grandma Moses.

The actress Marlene Dietrich taught me how to light myself when we made the film 80 Days.

She also taught me a new use for small pearls — putting them in the centre of my bra cups so they looked like nipples.

Marlene also showed me how to string a small, nearly invisible chain under my chin which was then attached to hair-grips on either side of my face. This was the Dietrich facelift. I had a headache by lunchtime, but it was worth it."

Quote of the Week 1

From an interview to be published in Harper's Bazaar, Lady Gaga talks about fame and fortune:

""Am I going to try and embrace Hollywood and assimilate to that culture?" she said. 'I put my toe in that water, and it was a *Kegel-exercise vaginal reaction where I clenched and had to retract immediately. 'I ran furiously back to New York, to my old apartment, and I hung out with my friends, and I went to the same bars.'"

*According to the Mayo Clinic, "Kegel exercises can help you prevent or control urinary incontinence and other pelvic floor problems." Learn more about them here

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Wayne vs Wayne

On the one hand, the nation goes mental when Wayne R-ooney swears right into the camera after getting a hat-trick for his table-topping team to come back and win a football match. Broadsheets and tabloids alike discuss his motivation and his punishment.

Little mention today, however, for Wayne R-outledge, who after scoring twice in his table-topping team's win last night, also turned to the camera and:

blew the world a kiss!

Being nice doesn't make news.

Monday, April 04, 2011

The R's Are Going Up!


I am sorry about the naughty word. Chels*** are the traditional rivals of QPR, and sometimes people get a bit carried away.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bad. Idea. Disney.

Hot off the broadband from California comes the news that Disney is to try its hand at filming Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. It will be an edgy, contemporary version so they say. Ok, edgy. Like Margaret Rutherford, and Joan Hickson; Geraldine McEwan, Julia McKenzie and Angela 'Cabot Cove' Lansbury. Utterly edgy for sure. Hey, it worked with Sherlock Holmes. Just needs a little tweaking. Here's a concept: let's make Ms Jane a couple of years younger ... Jennifer Garner (aged 38) younger!

I had thought that the point of Jane Marple was that she was a fussy old lady who knew all the village gossip and liked to knit. Nobody took her seriously because she was old. And then she trumped them all by figuring out the plot. Not only do edgy and young cut the heart out of that character, but they also feed into the prejudice against old ladies being past it when that is exactly what Miss Marple is not.

Boo! And shame on you, Disney!!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Not Football Crazy?

The ravaj has noticed that there have been quite a lot of sporting posts recently, especially football ones. She is sorry if that turns you off the blog and would like to say that the season ends on 8th May so not long to go now. She would like to say that, but in fact it probably has less to do with QPR doing so well for the first time in over 15 years and more to do with the world outside being in such a sorry state. This evening's news included:

The father of a young woman whose body was just found after she had been missing for 10 days. She was naked and in a shallow grave and the minicab driver who allegedly murdered her appeared in court today. Meanwhile, the father made a statement to the press on camera. Why did he have to do that?

Interviews with pro and anti Gaddafi fighters with explosions and shots going on in the background.

The latest on the torso of an African child found floating in the river Thames that may have been part of a ritual killing.

The Royal Wedding - how the police may use that as a reason for greater powers to stop and search individuals.

And let's not talk about the drama re the England football team captain position! So, you see, recently I have needed to focus on less terrible events. I try my best to contribute to making things a little better. But sometimes, it is too awful out there. Back asap. Shalom.

Showboat - the Adel Taarabt Special

A bit of skill to take us through the desert of the international layoff. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jews with Horns 1

Do you recognise this sculpture? It is the head of Moses (the guy from the Book of Exodus), as imagined by Michelangelo Buanarroti in the early 16th century. And he has a lovely pair of horns growing just above his brow.

Horns? Like a goat or a devil? From where on earth did that idea come? Wikipedia has a lovely explanation:

"The marble sculpture depicts Moses with horns on his head. This was the normal medieval Western depiction of Moses, based on the description of Moses' face as "cornuta" ("horned") in the Latin Vulgate translation of Exodus. The Douay-Rheims Bible translates the Vulgate as, "And when Moses came down from the mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord." The Greek in the Septuagint translates as, "Moses knew not that the appearance of the skin of his face was glorified." The Hebrew Masoretic text also uses words equivalent to "radiant", suggesting an effect like a halo. Horns were symbolic of authority in ancient Near Eastern culture, and the medieval depiction had the advantage of giving Moses a convenient attribute by which he could easily be recognized in crowded pictures."

We might deal with that last sentence later, or I could just scream APOLOGETIC and move on. So here's what I know: in Exodus 34:29, Moses comes down the mountain for the second time after getting a new set of tablets, and the Hebrew says "ki karan or panav", i.e., that his face was beaming with light. The verb 'karan' is key here. I know it from traditional Jewish texts as light shining forth, which suggests rays coming from his face.

Perhaps the horn-like protuberances are Michelangelo's attempt to portray such rays. Or not. Because in the 5th century, Jerome (who created the Latin translation of the Hebrew for the Vulgate) made the connection between the verb 'karan' and the noun 'keren' which means horn. This is what he wrote:

"cumque descenderet Moses de monte Sinai tenebat duas tabulas testimonii et ignorabat quod cornuta esset facies sua ex consortio sermonis Dei
(And when Moses came down from the Mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord.) "

Interesting that the latin word for horns is 'cornuta' ... krn, not unlike 'keren'.

Ok, some people therefore believed that a Jew might have horns. Moses was a good guy, so where's the problem?

Next we turn to the Gospel of John in the New Testament. In chapter 8, a conversation between Jesus and the Jews is recorded. The highlights for me are these three verses:

38 - "you do the things that you have seen with your father"
41 - "you do the works of your father"
44 - "you are of your father the devil and the desires of your father you will do"

Everyone knows that devils have horns. But in case that is not enough, have a look at First Thessalonians 2:14-15:

"the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and the prophets, and have persecuted us, and please not God, and are adversaries to all men".

Your bible tells you that the Jews killed your god, that the Jews are the children of the devil, and that their leader had horns. What reason would you have to believe anything different?

AND IT'S STILL OUT THERE. It is a while since the ravaj was a child. However she came home one day from school and asked the father of ravaj why a kid in the playground asked to see her horns. Her father explained the background. She asked what she should answer if it happened again. Her father told her to tell them that she had shaved them for the summer.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Up, Up and ...

Celebrating the first award of what QPR fans still hope will be a season of promotion - the team captain Adel Taarabt has been chosen as the player of the season in the Championship. The presentation may be seen here.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sad News from Germany

The Guardian newspaper reports that Knut, the cute polar bear in the Berlin Zoo, has died unexpectedly at the age of four. No cause has yet been announced. Could it possibly have something to do with the fact that a polar bear belongs in the Arctic Circle rather than the capital city of Germany?

Do you remember Gus, the polar bear in Central Park (yes, the one in the Tragically Hip song)? He became news in the early 1990's when he began swimming in circles. The zoo hired an animal shrink to examine Gus's neurotic behaviour, and it was decided that he was bored and depressed. They gave him a bucket as a new toy to play with, and he swam in circles again, pushing the bucket before him as he swam.

It may be cool for us to stop off and see a polar bear on the way home from work or the shops. Not so cool for the bears. Gus is still a big attraction in Central Park. Poor Knut is dead. Save the Polar Bears!

PS Latest news from Berlin - they want to stuff Knut for posterity. Noooooooooooooooo!
Read it here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sick as a Parrot

We knew it. We knew it! It has been so hard to enjoy this season of QPR footballing superiority. All those wins and unbeaten runs were always under a shadow. We could not imagine what might be causing that shadow, but we knew that we could not trust and hope that the R's are going up. Then, last week, with his goal against Leicester, Ishmael Miller released a tsunami of belief that it was going to happen. It still may. QPR might still be promoted at the end of the season. We might be planning trips to Manchester and Liverpool. Or. OR the Football Association may punish the club and all the fans for the machinations and misdeeds of one Gianni Paladini. I do not have the words to express my disgust at what this man has done to my team and my football friends and to me. Read what Clive Whittingham has to say instead. He has some excellent words.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Ishmael Miller? Call Me Delighted!

So my beloved QPR win another match and are eight points clear at the top of the table with eleven matches to go. Today they were well-matched by Leicester City, but nicked it in the 88th minute with a great goal by substitute Ishmael Miller on loan from WBA.

It sounded on the radio as if the crowd is beginning to believe that we'll be playing with the big boys in August. Is it safe to believe yet? Is it safe? Excuse me while I go look for some oil of cloves ...

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Gaga Galliano

So the fashion designer John Galliano is to stand trial for making anti-semitic remarks. As presented by Rupert M's Sun newspaper, a video is out showing Galliano slumped at a cafe table talking to people sitting nearby.

He sounds totally hammered and says he loves Hitler (yemach shemo) and something about how if today's Jews were alive then they would have been gassed. Stupid stupid stupid drunken man. Worth sending him to prison for 6 months for being a jerk? Are there not more important issues upon which to concentrate?

For example, UK Prime Minister travels around the Middle East pimping British-manufactured guns with one mouth and with the other decries Colonel Gaddafi's violent response to rebel forces in Libya. O don't get me started ...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

F(orget) You

I don't know for how long this vid will remain on YouTube, but until it is disabled I am enjoying Gwyneth Paltrow's bowdlerised version of the Cee Lo Green (formerly of Gnarls Barkley) song. If you'd like to see the original, it is here. It's ok, but more clearly cleaned up and twice as long. You kind of get the point by the time that Gwyneth has finished. Wish I had some of that attitude.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Not Long Now!

Position players have reported for their first full workout today. It's not too long until baseball season begins, and the Yanks open up at Fenway. What better way to start?! Meanwhile, we fans still have our hopes and dreams intact.

The Beauty of Lego

Thanks to the Shakesville blog within which I saw this wonderful photograph.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mad Max Redux?

Beware of the cassowary.

Latest from the Daily Telegraph:

"Australians trying to rebuild in the wake of Cyclone Yasi have been warned to stay away from cassowaries – huge flightless birds with claws that can disembowel a human – on the hunt for food after their habitat was destroyed by the storm."

These creatures weigh as much as a medium-sized goalie but may disembowel a human with one kick (unlike most goalies except German ones). Has Oz post-cyclone become such a dangerous wasteland? Read all about it here.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Make 'Em Laugh

Have you laughed today? If not, then I have a couple of jokes for you. If you like them, I shall take full credit. If not, then I shall have to admit that I pinched them from Michael Winner's column in the Sunday Times a week or so ago, and he pinched them from John Landis. Here they are:

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian

A vulture boards an aeroplane carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess says, “I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.

I laughed. You didn't? O go watch a Fatty Arbuckle movie for goodness' sake!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Cheeseheads Rejoice!

A touchdown for the Green Bay Packers, who have just beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Superbowl. The aunt of ravaj, who has lived in Wisconsin for 60 years, is elated.
the friend of ravaj who is a Pittsburgh fan is sad.

The thing is - the Packers are owned not by some magnate or other, but by the fans. So this is an excellent result. Hurrah.

And so to bed.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Exp...

All you ever wanted to know about England, er, Great Britain, um, the United Kingdom. And not forgetting Tuvalu. I thank you. And Mr. Grey.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Hmmmm. Just found this online - and wondering what to think about it. You see, when Jim Henson died, and his son started mimicking Kermit's voice, I knew it was a fake. Kermit is dead, but he has left a great legacy on tv and in movies.

I never knew Lamb Chop very well. Apparently Shari Lewis is no longer with us, and her daughter Mallory is now working with Lamb Chop. I rather enjoyed this portion of their night club show, and Lamb Chop seems to enjoy working with the daughter ... so I suppose it's ok in the end.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Fourth Plinth

And the winner is ... NOT the sculpture of the Battenberg cake (which was, as you should know, my favourite option), but this blue cockerel, preceded by a boy of gold on a rocking horse of gold. The blue is most blue, and should stand out against the grey upon grey of Trafalgar Square. But come on, people! What's not to love about a giant piece of teacake? Grrrrr.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First Class Stamps!

Hurrah! New English stamps out today, which made the front page of the Times! The mother of ravaj was not so excited (if she had not been so yekke she would have said "Feh!") but I was happy indeed I exulted. Which is as it should be for one who spent many years collecting the complete Captain Scarlet adventures on VHS, and who has a metal model of Thunderbird 2 on her office desk (when she has an office). Thank you very much Stamp-Choosing Committee. You made my day.