Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Hoping that we may hold on to the good things from 2014, let the bad ones go, and enter the secular new year with optimism.

best wishes to you all!

Dave Whelan is Punished

This story has hopefully reached its conclusion as the Football Association bans Wigan chairman Dave Whelan for 6 weeks from all football-related activities and fines him UKP50k for having made antisemitic and anti-Chinese remarks. Here is the report from the BBC online:

This story contains language which you may find offensive.

Wigan owner Dave Whelan has been given a six-week ban from all football-related activity and fined £50,000 for making racist comments about Jewish and Chinese people.
The 78-year-old, who has a week to appeal against the punishment, was also ordered to attend an education programme run by the Football Association.
Last month, Whelan accepted a charge but denied remarks he made during a newspaper interview were racist.
The FA Disciplinary Commission said it was "satisfied" Whelan "is not a racist" and did not intend to cause offence by his comments. 
Whelan stated in November that he would resign as Wigan chairman if he was "found guilty of being a racist".

BBC Sport's David Ornstein:

"It is understood Wigan have strongly advised Whelan not to appeal against his punishment.
The Latics do not feel the ban affects their business because the owner is not involved in the day-to-day running of the club. It is understood he is not involved in transfers and is not a signatory on deals, limiting the impact of this in the January transfer window."
Whelan said he was misquoted in an interview with the Guardian last month, during which he used the term "chink". The Guardian also reports the businessman said: "Jewish people chase money more than everybody else."
Whelan subsequently apologised for any offence caused by his comments, in which he was defending the appointment of Malky Mackay as the club's new manager.
Mackay is currently under investigation by the FA regarding allegations the Wigan boss sent "sexist, racist and homophobic" text messages during his time in charge at Cardiff.
Earlier this month, the FA ruled Whelan's comments constituted an aggravated breach of rule E3[1] in that his comments were "abusive and/or insulting and/or constitute improper conduct and/or bring the game into disrepute". 
The governing body also looked into other comments made by Whelan about Chinese people in a December interview with the Jewish Telegraph.
The FA Commission said in a statement: "We are satisfied on the evidence before us that Mr Whelan is not a racist. 
"We are equally satisfied on the evidence before us that Mr Whelan did not intend to cause any offence by his comments."
But the commission added that it had to "view the comments objectively and Mr Whelan's subjective intentions were irrelevant as far the ruling was concerned".
Simon Johnson, a former FA director who is now chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council,  welcomed the governing body's action.
He said: "The decision is an important one because it establishes, and I agree, that Mr Whelan is not racist but that is irrelevant. He came out with comments that were racist and therefore they have issued this punishment for a breach of the rules.
"I have never called for him to resign. I simply called for him to withdraw his comments and apologise for them and that is what he has done."

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Whelan Accepts Charge of Misconduct

So Dave Whelan, chairman of Wigan FC, has accepted a charge of misconduct from the Football Association for recent remarks he made about Jewish and Chinese people.

Forgive my lack of eloquence, but DUH!

He continues to claim that he was misquoted and misrepresented but as I recall there are various examples on film of actual words coming out of his actual mouth. Unless it was his evil twin. Or a clone?

The Guardian's latest report is here.
The Telegraph suggests he may step down as chairman here.
Even the Mail has to acknowledge Whelan is in trouble.

Meanwhile, his team are languishing in the nether regions of the Championship :-)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dave Whelan Accused of Racism

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan in a bit of a mess
We all thought that the problem was Wigan football club's chairman Dave Whelan hiring Malky Mackay as the new manager. Mackay is under investigation by the Football Association for allegedly making racist and antisemitic remarks in texts and e-mails with his assistant when manager of Cardiff City. In today's Guardian, however, David Conn reports that Whelan's explanation for the appointment included some questionable remarks of his own:

One of Mackay's texts commented on a Jewish football agent, Phil Smith, saying:  "Nothing like a Jew that sees money slipping through his fingers." The Guardian article continues:

"Whelan said he does not believe the reference to Smith is offensive, first explaining he believed Mackay was only reflecting that Jewish people 'love money' like everybody does. 'The Jews don't like losing money. Nobody likes losing money,' Whelan told the Guardian.

Asked whether he did not think what Mackay said was offensive, because the claim that Jews 'love money' has been used as a negative stereotype, Whelan said: 'Do you think Jewish people chase money a little bit more than we do? I think they are very shrewd people.' Asked if he himself believed that, Whelan, the multimillionaire former owner of JJB Sports, said:  'I think Jewish people do chase money more than everybody else. I don't think that's offensive at all.'"

The whole of Conn's piece is here.

BBC Sports editor Dan Roan writes:

"For many, Wigan owner Dave Whelan's appointment of Malky Mackay - and now his controversial comments in defence of that decision - will provide further evidence that professional football exists in a moral bubble of its own, which all too often appears to be out of touch with modern values."

Roan also notes that in the USA, the National Basketball Association banned an owner - Donald Sterling - for life for his racist comments.

BBC report is here.

The Jewish News currently has this brief report online, and when I typed "Wigan" into the Jewish Chronicle online search (having found nothing via "Whelan"), I got this lovely report on Yossi Benayoun's blues at seeing red when QPR played Wigan last season!

Are Whelan's comments another example of the general sense that has developed since last summer that it is somehow ok now to make such statements openly and publicly? I have no doubt, and quite a lot of experience, that such thoughts are common and timeless. But when did it become permissible to say them out loud?

The Board of Deputies rejects Whelan's 'apology' here.
The statement by the BoD here.
"World's worst apology" as per Huffington Post UK here.
The Daily Mail has a vid of his 'apology' here.

Meanwhile, each time this idiot refers to 'Jewish' people 'AND' 'English' people I go nuts. Does he actually believe that if you are a Jew you cannot be a Brit? Ouch.

Goodnight Jack Ego - Mike Nichols z"l

This was the album I found in my mother's stash of non-classical music when I was about 11. She had seen Nichols & May on Broadway, and bought it as a souvenir. The record was moved to its new home in my bedroom next to my father's Woody Allen, Mort Sahl and Nina Simone albums. There were only four tracks from the show, but I memorised them all, and waited for moments in my life when I might quote them. 1970's England wasn't quite the place, although I had a close shot with the spelling gag … "K as in knife, A as in aardvark, P as in pneumonia, L as in luscious, A as in aardvark again, N as in newel post". However, not knowing what a newel post was, I didn't have enough conviction, and it all went a bit flat.

A couple of years later, visiting our friends Bob & Elizabeth in Hamden CT, I discovered there were 2 more albums:  Examine Doctors and Improvisations to Music. I also discovered that there were no more albums, as the duo went their separate ways after 4 or 5 years.

Now Mike Nichols is dead. When the news broke, most of the online reports referenced the same opus:  The Graduate movie. It may well be his most well-known work. I've even seen it seventeen or eighteen times. I'd love to think, though, that the obituaries might introduce people to the improvisational comedy. It's (mostly) timeless and absolutely humorous even if you don't know what a newel post is.

I'm off to listen to "Disc Jockey" & "Telephone". Here are a few links to the obits. If you only have time to look at one item, the Vanity Fair interview with the duo is excellent.

Who's Afraid of Nichols & May - Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair obit
The Guardian obit
New York Times obit
Telegraph obit
BBC online obit
Daily Mail report
The Independent obit

Telephone - sketch
Mother and Son - sketch
1959 Emmy Awards speech
(from a man who actually won a Grammy, an Oscar, Emmys and Tony awards)
It's Not Nancy - sketch
$65 Dollar funeral - sketch

ok, am going a bit mad here but whatever - here's an 1960 ep of What's My Line that featured N & M. They show up at 16:47. Of course Bennett Cerf guesses who they are.

15/1/5 UPDATE

all the links to the sketches are down - they appear to have been removed due to copyright infringement. The company noted as making the complaint is named as Hamilcar & Icarus. They don't appear when Googled, although I have learned that Hamilcar is apparently a Carthaginian name and a version of it was a given name of Mussolini. Sigh. And then of course there's our old friend Amilcar Hasenfratz.

Apart from the famous Icarus, the only other cultural reference that comes to mind is that the spaceship whence came Charlton Heston in the original Planet of the Apes movie was called Icarus I think.

The What's My Line link, however, is still working as of today.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Photo of the Week: Looking at a Leica

In the 1930's, when Nazi laws limited the amount of money Jews were allowed to take out of Germany, Aunt Judith invested in a couple of Leica cameras. She was allowed to take them out of the country, and she held on to them just in case.  She bequeathed them to Auntie Dorrit, who also held onto them just in case. When Aunt ravaj became a photographer, she was given the cameras, but held onto them just in case. The case is now here, and our Leica friend came over today to assess the situation. It looks promising, and we shall see!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Woman's Hour & Homotopia

in the studio

Next Wednesday in Liverpool the ravaj will be taking part in the Homotopia festival panel "You Gotta Have Faith". In advance of that event, the female panellists were invited to speak during Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4 yesterday morning. Jenni Murray was moderating from the Salford studio. Nadia (in for Rose) was in Birmingham. Vicky Beeching and I were at Western House in London. You can hear our spot here.

I was a bit disappointed with Dame Jenni, or at least with those that wrote her script. She seemed more interested in our suffering and rejection by our faith groups rather than the work we are doing to foster change and develop understanding in our communities. However, it was a great introduction to the subject, which we will discuss further, and with Peter Tatchell, on the stage of the Unity Theatre next week. Feel free to stop by if you're in the neighbourhood.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Photo of the Week: Yun & his Shadow

Who knew when Yun Suk Young was warming up earlier this afternoon in preparation for his start against Liverpool that the last ten minutes of the match would be so dramatic, and utterly heart-stopping if you were a QPR fan?

Yun had an excellent game, and deserves to keep his place. With the help of two own goals, Liverpool were victorious 3-2. The ravaj was drained by the experience, and needs to go lie down!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Photo of the Week: An Autograph? Feh!

Thanks to the kindness of an old friend who invited me to his book launch, I ended up sitting in the VIP section with him and behind this hero of my youth.

I've always been a bit proud of having noticed this chap at the beginning of his career with his hometown club of Leicester City.

Nevertheless, I've no idea whence came the chutzpah or the speed that fuelled my move to block his exit so I could ask for a quick selfie.

As my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and now Blogger friends can see, I am delighted to share this moment with Mr Gary Lineker. It's a crap photo, and posterity may prefer an autograph, but this is not for my heirs. This reminds me of a happy moment during a great night.

Thank you DW (check out his book here).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Photo of the Week: A Visitor to our Balcony

We awoke this morning to find a beautiful web on the balcony and its designer firmly ensconced in the centre. The only down side to this was that in my excited attempt to photograph it, I stepped back to frame the shot and smashed the pot housing our TuBishvat rose. Shhhhh, don't tell L!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Traore est Triste

This is my favourite photo from yesterday's match between QPR & Stoke. It's near the end of the second half, and QPR are 1-2 down. A long cross field pass just evades Armand Traore on the left wing.

Luckily, Nico Kranjcar restored some kind of parity in the final minute. Having been viciously fouled a couple of times and the perpetrators receiving minimal punishment from the referee, he equalised with this fantastic free kick:

That feeling of denying victory to an obviously superior foe does not get old. What is it about thwarting the opposition that is so delicious? 

Hoping this is not the best moment of what currently looks like being a long and painful season for my beloved R's.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Not Another Post About the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

I'm blaming issues with Google for not blogging earlier about the ALS Ice bucket challenge. But even though everyone is probably fed up by now and you've moved on to other challenges like the Hummus one, I'm still up for this.

First of all, am not exactly sure why, when the actual challenge is make a donation to the charity OR ELSE dump a bucket of ice on your head, people are donating and still sluicing themselves. I'm with my friend young David P who gave his money and absolutely refused to do the ice thing. Also, I do wish that my government would use more of the money I've already given through taxes as funding for all kinds of vital medical research and treatment.

Back to the topic of this post ... actually, first of all should be what on earth is ALS, or MND as it's known in the UK? Here's a link to a simple explanation from Huffpo.

This is a dreadful disease, and hurrah for everyone helping to find a cure!

Meanwhile, here are some of my favourite Ice Bucket Challenges to inspire and/or please you:

Actor Orlando Jones poured a bucket of bullet casings over his head to highlight the case of Michael Brown in Ferguson MO. There is an article about it here. The vid is here.

Matt Damon is committed to sanitation issues in the developing world, so he decided to use toilet water for his challenge. Read about it here. Watch him here.

Patrick Stewart made a really classy video that I found here. However, at the moment the YouTube video is telling me that the film is now private. If that doesn't work, this link may.

This one is cos I love Tina Fey.

This is for L who loves Sex in the City.

This one is cool and a bit political I suppose.

Dolly Parton is a good sport here.

It's fun seeing famous people get soaked I guess. If you enjoy that, then browse a whole lot more for yourself right here.

Finally, if you still want to take part, both donating and dousing, the UK link for the Motor Neurone Disease Association is here.

I've Missed You All!

Sorry it's been so long since I blogged - a bit of an issue with Google accounts and access to Blogger. Am back now though :-)

Here is a happy photo I took from my seat last Saturday with my little pocket Lumix camera - Rob Green making a save early on from Sunderland's Fletcher to keep us in the game. The first points of the season for QPR were a great early birthday present. Also just glad to keep my reflexes in shape!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Macklemore's Wardrobe Malfunction. Offensive or Stupid (or Both)?


This is the costume that an American rapper called Macklemore wore for a concert the other day. Shortly afterwards, photographs were published with a story accusing him of being anti-semitic. Since he is quite popular at the moment, this was big news in some areas.

So was his outfit offensive? The angle in this photograph is certainly not flattering. Macklemore writes in his blog that some people thought he looked like Ringo Starr and others that he looked like President Lincoln. I would add Howard Wolowitz (from The Big Bang Theory). Was he a bit thick not to anticipate that a beard and a hooked nose might evoke a strong prejudicial stereotype? CNN refers to him as someone who "won a Grammy for a song praised for its cultural sensitivity". HuffPo notes that Macklemore & Lewis have been "lauded for their progressive messages". The general consensus appears to be that Macklemore is basically a decent chap. His apology is also contrite and sincere:

"Family, friends and fans alike who know me well, know that I'm absolutely not the person described in certain headlines today. There is no worse feeling than being misunderstood, especially when people are hurt or offended ...

My intention was to dress up and surprise the people at the show with a random costume and nothing more. Thus it was surprising and disappointing that the images of a disguise were sensationalised leading to the immediate assertion that my costume was anti-Semetic (sic). I acknowledge how the costume could, within a context of stereotyping, be ascribed to a Jewish caricature. I am here to say that it was absolutely not my intention, and unfortunately at the time I did not foresee (sic) the costume to be viewed in such regard. I'm saddened that this story, or any of my choices, would lead to any form of negativity ...

I respect all cultures and all people. I would never intentionally put down anybody for the fabric that makes them who they are. I love human beings, love originality, and … happen to love a weird outfit from time to time.

I truly apologise to anybody that I may have offended. I hope this better explains the situation and my point of view.

with love,

You can read the rest of it here.

So nu, it seems pretty clear to me that, unlike for example Nicolas Anelka, Macklemore's behaviour had neither a direct or indirect intention to make any kind of social or political point. He was just trying to disguise himself to surprise his fans, and picked a costume that others interpreted in a way he had not considered possible.

Having said that, some people were apparently offended. I hope that if they were, they will have seen from his explanation that it was a genuine mistake. There are certainly anti-semites out there that need our attention. However, particularly when Macklemore's statement concludes with this:

"Out of a negative can come a positive. Through this situation I've got hip to some incredible groups like the ADL and I encourage people to check the great work they, and others like them, do"

I choose to conclude that this boy is ok. And this evening, the Guardian reports that the ADL accepts Macklemore's word regarding the matter. Abraham Foxman, National Director of the ADL, has referred to the incident as 'a tempest in a teapot' (Guardian article here, ADL press statement here).

One last thought … is it ridiculous of me to note that the stereotype of a Semitic man with a big beard and a giant nose is surely not limited only to members of the Jewish community? 

Monday, March 03, 2014

I Love Panda Bears

If there is one thing in the world guaranteed to make me feel calm, and peaceful, and better, it is being in the presence of a panda bear. A Native American friend once told me that the panda is surely my spirit guide. Since it's hard to hang out with live pandas in Finchley, here are some alternatives that are quite helpful:

1. The San Diego Zoo PandaCam  LINK

ok there's an 8 hour time difference and sometimes the pandas are behind a tree or somewhere else, but so far it's the best way to get a live fix when necessary

There are also PandaCams in Edinburgh, Atlanta, & Memphis.

2. Cute videos, e.g.,

Baby pandas team up to resist taking their meds here.

3.  Wildlife Documentaries
(this is a clip from the David Attenborough film where the panda does a handstand)

Perhaps one day I will experience a moment of joy as I hold a small panda in my arms, like the lucky lucky film-maker gets to at the end of this clip

Best Picture at the Oscars Last Night

Apparently a selfie taken by Bradley Cooper with Ellen DeGeneres and the other movie stars sitting in the front two rows at the Oscars last night crashed Twitter because so many people connected to it.

IMHO, if a picture from the Oscars is going to go viral, I'd choose this one:  Benedict Cumberbatch photobombing a group shot of the band U2.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Anelka is Banned

Nicolas Anelka has been found guilty of breaking Football Association rules by making a quenelle gesture to celebrate a goal he scored for his team. The FA writes:

"An Independent Regulatory Commision has found an aggravated breach of FA Rule E3 against Nicolas Anelka proven and has issued a five-match suspension and a fine of 80,000 pounds, pending appeal.

The West Bromwich Albion player has also been ordered to complete a compulsory education course.

The Independent Regulatory Commission will provide written reasons for its decision in due course."

A summary of the decision may be found here.

The Guardian notes that:

"the punishment was the most lenient that the FA could have imposed under their new anti-discrimination rules. However, the governing body reported that the three-man panel 'did not find that Nicolas Anelka is an anti-Semite or that he intended to express or promote antisemitism by his use of the quenelle.'"

A link to the whole article is here.

The BBC website report quoted the response of the President of the Board of Deputies, Vivian Wineman, who told them that he welcomed the decision to make Anelka undergo a compulsory education course:

"That's one of the most attractive parts. We want to educate people. Anelka said he didn't realise it was anti-Semitic, well that kind of ignorance is dangerous … the quenelle is something that few of us in the UK recognise. In France it's known as being a vicious anti-Semitic gesture."

That article may be found here.

The Telegraph reports that Anelka continues to deny the charges and has asked for an appeal. Their coverage includes a quote from Dieudonné, supporting his friend:

"Anelka is a descendant of slaves and if he wants to remark on this history he has the right to - and we are all very proud of him doing so."

The Telegraph link is here.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Naughty Shirley Temple!

You may think that butter wouldn't melt in little miss Shirley Temple's mouth, but according to her obituary in the Times:

"In 1935 she was taken by her parents to Washington to meet President Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor. The President invited the Temples to a barbecue at the Roosevelt home in Hyde Park, New York, where Eleanor, bending over a grill, proved too much of a temptation for the impish child star. Temple unleashed a pebble from the catapult she carried in her lace purse and hit the First Lady smartly on the rear."

I'm Not a Cartoonist But ...

What did I want to be when I grew up? Easy - a syndicated cartoonist. My hero was Charles M Schulz, and I covered my schoolbooks with Snoopy and Charlie Brown. I even created my own character, a round baby in a romper suit called Pomme de Terre.

So nu, what happened? I guess it depends how you look at things. On the one hand, I've always been pretty sure that I'm not much good at drawing. I consoled myself with the knowledge that SJ Perelman began as a cartoonist, and eventually the captions grew, the drawings dropped out, and he became a writer. On the other hand, I never did put in the time needed to create and develop Pomme's world.

These days I'm coming up to 18 years since rabbinic ordination. As you can see from the pic, cartoons are occasionally part of my work. And now that I've found Laydeez do Comics, it has crossed my mind that it may still be possible to try drawing some more ...

Wednesday, February 05, 2014


Blogger has this lovely page where one may see how many people have viewed one's posts and from which part of the world they have done this. I had a look at the breakdown today after a little surge in views, and saw that 52 people in Bulgaria have stopped by my blog in the last 24 hours. Or possibly one odd person 52 times. In any case, it made me think:  what do I know about Bulgaria?

The answer to this question is a bit embarrassing. Acknowledging that Geography has never been my strong suit (once I woke up in Geography class to find that the class had ended and I was alone in the room), all I could come up with was Sofia is the capital, people there shake their head for yes the way I shake my head for no, and Dimitar Berbatov.

I now feel the need to redress the balance a little. Here are ten things I just found out about Bulgaria:

1.  Bulgaria is Europe's 16th largest country by area (the UK is 11th & Belgium 34th out of 49)

2.  This is the Bulgarian coat of arms (I do love lions):

The motto says:  Saedinenieto pravi silata
(Unity is strength)

3.  the artist Christo is from Bulgaria. I enjoyed his Gates in Central Park a few years ago:

4.  The Bulgarian national airline is called Bulgaria Air.

5.  The Bulgarian monarchy was abolished in 1946.

6.  This is the flag of Bulgaria:

7.  Nestinarstvo, also known as Anastenaria, is an ancient Bulgarian fire ritual which involves dancing barefoot on smouldering embers.

8.  Bulgarian currency is the lev:

9.  According to the Divine Wiki, as of 2004 there were more than 10 million native speakers of Bulgarian in our world.

10. Rakia, popular across Southeastern Europe, is considered to be the national drink of Bulgaria:

I feel a bit better now. I hope you do also.

Приятен ден!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Who Was Tesi Balogun?

Walking by the Players' Entrance on South Africa Road this evening, I had a closer look at the design of the glass wall. It's the place where fans leave tributes to dead players, e.g., Alan McDonald & Kiyan Prince, and I've never looked at it closely before. The names of stars from QPR history are etched on the glass. As I read them, and remembered, I saw this name:  Tesi Balogun. I am quite proud of my knowledge of QPR history, and was feeling good that I knew about Evelyn Lintott, but this name was new to me. Another humbling moment :-)

Nobody I asked outside the stadium before the game had heard of him either. I was inside and heading for my seat before I thought of googling him, and there's no ****** reception inside the stadium. However, a chap in the row behind who first of all remembered as a child seeing Arthur Longbottom score from the halfway line then said, "O yes, I remember him. He always used to turn up with a bible in his hand, and leave with a girl in each arm!"

Now I am home and with the benefit of broadband have googled him:

From a site called Yoruba Nation, I quote:

"It is told in Nigeria folk lore that in a football match played in the 1960s, NEPA FC, Lagos needed a goal to win the Challenge Cup, and with time running out a fan shouted at Teslim Balogun - 'do not forget your left' and the rest as they say is history. The ball went through the midriffs of the goalkeeper and through the net and the moniker 'Thunder' was born. The nickname stuck with him because of his skills and lethal shots at goal."

It also says:

"He was one of the first Nigerian players to take his trade abroad. Teslim played professional football in England at Peterborough United, Holbeach United and Queens Park Rangers and was the Nigerian coach that led the national team to the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. He also played for the national team for 17 years (1945-1962). After his playing career in 1962 (sic), he coached until he died on July 30, 1972."

There's a wikipedia entry for him here. I look forward to hearing what my friend Martin would like to add to this note.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Anelka is Finally Charged for Quenelle

The Football Association has finally got its act together and charged the WBA footballer Nicolas Anelka for the quenelle gesture he made after scoring against West Ham United last December. They released this statement:

"The FA has charged the West Bromwich Albion player Nicolas Anelka following an incident that occurred during the West Ham United versus West Bromwich Albion fixture at the Boleyn Ground on 28 December 2013.

It is alleged that, in the 40th minute of the fixture, Anelka made a gesture which was abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper, contrary to FA Rule E3[1].

It is further alleged that this is an aggravated breach, as defined in FA Rule E3[2], in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief.

Anelka has until 6 pm on 23 January 2014 to respond to the charge."

A full report on the current situation may be found in the Telegraph or on the BBC website. Of course the Daily Mail also has something to say.

Sky News notes that because of this incident, West Brom have lost their sponsors Zoopla, who were "founded by an American Jewish businessman".

The Board of Deputies of British Jews published a statement supporting the FA's action.

The Mail also focussed on early responses to the charge. It presents Anelka's link to a video of a French Jew supporting him, and quotes British Jews who feel strongly that he must be punished. Jonathan Arkush from the Board of Deputies notes that Anelka has not shown any signs of remorse or apologised to anyone. Of course Anelka is still insisting that his gesture was anti-establishment, not anti-semitic. Can he really be so immature? Or so stupid? Considering his celebrity status in France, and that he doesn't exactly live a counter-culture life, this seems utterly disingenuous.

That's just my opinion. Romelu Lukaku, a footballer under contract to the Stamford Bridge team but currently on loan to Everton, made this statement in an interview on Monday after his team had drawn against West Brom:

"He was my idol since I was a kid and he still is. He should never have been banned for that. He showed support for a stand-up comedian in France. We don't need to make such a big deal of it. He's an adult and I hope he isn't suspended because he's a player that people want to see play on the pitch."

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Charlie is My Darling

Another Saturday afternoon, another QPR victory thanks to the goals of Mr Charlie Austin. I've had a go at him for a few months, frustrated by the amount of chances that he misses and that are not even on target. Yet here he is at the beginning of January with 14 goals already, and single-handedly winning games for us that we might otherwise have thrown away. I am now prepared to state publicly that I've fallen for his charms and have become a firm fan.

PS I do have some raw footage of the winning goal, but currently Blogger is not letting me upload it :-(

Monday, January 13, 2014

Failing the Bechdel Test

In 1985 my cartoonist idol, Alison Bechdel, drew the strip above. The concept that for a feminist to watch a movie it should have at least 2 women characters that talk to each other about something other than a man has become known as the Bechdel Test. Bechdel writes about it in her blog, here.

I've known about the Bechdel Test for a while, avid follower of Dykes to Watch Out For that I am. However, I didn't realise that Bechdel was influenced by Virginia Woolf. She notes that in chapter 5 of A Room of One's Own, Woolf talks about the comment "Chloe liked Olivia" in a fictitious book. I've just discovered that of the 6 Virginia Woolf books I can find on my shelves, none of them is A Room of One's Own, so I will quote Bechdel's selection from her copy of that text:

"All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. So much has been left out, unattempted. And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends … they are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men …

Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them:  how literature would suffer!"

Meanwhile, I think that "12 Years a Slave" fails the Bechdel Test magnificently.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

12 Years a Slave - Some Thoughts

We went to see a movie yesterday. Everyday life in its current state for us has been short on visits to the cinema. It's easier to pull off the shelf a DVD that has been waiting for a couple of years for its turn. First run movies are expensive. The seats are uncomfortable and the light of the neighbours' phones is distracting. Yet somehow we found ourselves paying UKP14.50 to sit on a little sofa at the Hampstead Everyman and watch "12 Years a Slave".

It was long. It was brutal. We cried. At one point L had to walk out because she couldn't bear it any more. The acting was excellent. The cinematography was stunning. The story was harrowing. And knowing that men and women in the world today still treat people as inhuman hurt so much.

Today I wondered what the purpose of the movie was. It is being mentioned in connection with all the seasonal awards for excellence. I am bruised by its violence, and do not understand how my social conscience should be enhanced by the experience. So I googled some reviews, and began with this from the Guardian:

"The appearance of this film coincides with an upsurge in the debate about Hollywood's traditional reticence on the subject of slavery's everyday existence; recently, it has taken iconoclasts and pulp provocateurs such as Quentin Tarantino and Lars von Trier to break the tactful, diplomatic hush with refreshingly tasteless pictures such as Django Unchained (2012) and Manderlay (2005). Victor Fleming's stupendous epic Gone With the Wind (1939) always looked culpably naive historically – and McQueen's movie has made that perspective even clearer – but perhaps no more culpable than the placidly apolitical, ahistorical output of modern white Hollywood." (Peter Bradshaw)

So it's a blow against the hegemony of Hollywood? Hurrah from the north of Finchley. I tried another commentator - Mark Kermode writes in the Observer today:

"That McQueen may be on the verge of becoming not only the first black film-maker to win an Oscar for best director, but the first to do so while in possession of a Turner prize, lends enough historical precedent to merit your attention. But more important is the reward of seeing an artist using the medium of film for its highest purposes: to elevate, educate and ultimately ennoble the viewer by presenting them with something that is visceral, truthful and electrifyingly "real"."

Hmmmmm. I'm a pretty decent old liberal child of a man who marched with MLK. I've got a resume full of activism. The raping and the beating were certainly visceral, but I fail to see how their presentation on screen may "elevate" and "ennoble" me. How does traumatising me help to heal the world?

I stopped looking at the reviews. They are mostly all full of praise. The first six I read were all written by men. If you find a female perspective, please tag me on it.

I'm trying really hard not to define my response along gender lines. A film made by a man showing men being brutal, most viciously towards women (yes I know there was one evil woman who scratched  another woman), is reviewed by men who see within this work something that helps them to understand how evil men can be. Ok. So will people be altered by this knowledge? Will it encourage them to act on what they have learned?

Of course I am no longer living in the USA, where the fictional wounds depicted in the film are real and still raw and yet to heal. But when the shock has run its course and the next thing takes its place, what will have changed? Another product of the entertainment industry will duly take its place on the DVD shelf.

your thoughts?

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Kosher Parchment

Yesterday, the Memorial Scrolls Trust museum was privileged to receive two visiting sofrim (scribes), who wanted to look at the scrolls currently on display in our main room. They spent the afternoon scrolling through parchments, with dust flying and crumbs falling; and allowed me to sit with them and ask questions. I also took a couple of pictures (with my iPhone in low light), including this one of some small holes pierced in the parchment. The sofer explained that these are a kind of code to show that although the parchment may have been prepared by a non-Jew, it was under the supervision of a Jew who knew how to do it properly, and thus it can be considered acceptable, or kosher.

When I posted the photos on my Facebook page, Sofer Marc Michaels commented:

"This is referenced in Keset Hasofer 2:6 (see my translation below) as there are circumstances when a non Jew can do the processing of the klaf as long as a Jew stands behind him and directs him and days the appropriate declarations - . "When the processing is done by the hand of a non Jew (lit. idolator) one should mark the hides with perforations with an awl, with a letter-like sign and not be concerned afterwards that perhaps he substituted them [i.e. the hides] and forged the signs1 because [the non-Jew] will be afraid [to do so] lest the Jew know by a discerning eye that he has for the signs or because the holes were made more recently [than his]. And there are those that say that one should not mark with an awl rather with letters on the top (i.e. well outside the writing area) in an area not usually processed so it remains after processing (Baruch She'amar). Moreover we must look very carefully after the work for sometimes the idolator puts patches on the holes that were in the skin and these patches are probably from skins that were not prepared for the sake of the commandment (and perhaps also from unclean [animals]). They may be detected after the processing each one against the sun (Machatsit Hashekel paragraph 32:11)." So in all likelihood these skins were prepared by a non-Jew with a Jew standing behind him."

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A Frabjous Moment

A frabjous moment with which to begin the year 2014 - this is Charlie Austin heading in the winner for QPR vs Doncaster Rovers.

It's a particularly special moment because for a QPR fan who had to sit through hours of freezing soaking rain in her face while watching a group of talented individuals totally fail to work as a team not to mention offering up turgid play to the paying (and did I mention frozen and wet?) and frustrated customer, this injury-time goal erased all those feelings and replaced them with jubilation and utter joy.

And maybe, maybe it's good to be reminded that there's always a chance until the very very end.