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.