Monday, August 29, 2016

Gene Wilder z"l

My FB feed is filling up with tributes to Gene Wilder, whose death at the age of 83 has just been announced. Whether you loved him as the original Willy Wonka, or at the centre of a film by Mel Brooks; as the first and best Leo in "The Producers", or running amok with Richard Pryor, for so many of my generation this news is sad.

I am particularly fond of "The Frisco Kid", and am surprised how few people know of this film (also featuring Harrison Ford when I was most attracted to his charms, i.e., about a year before "The Empire Strikes Back" (see especially 2:10) ). Wilder plays a Polish rabbi travelling through the Wild Wild West. Here's my favourite scene:

My friend & classmate Geoff Dennis highlighted this clip about in what kind of God the rabbi character believes :-)

Here are some other links to the first responses to Wilder's death (and later obits also):

BBC online
The Forward
The Guardian
Huffington Post
The Independent
Daily Mirror
Mel Brooks mourning Gene Wilder with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight show
The New York Times (if you don't have a subscription, I've pasted some bio info below)
People magazine
Tablet Magazine (by Abigail Pogrebin)
The Telegraph reaction
The Telegraph obituary
The Times obituary
more from The Times

Here's a most popular clip of Wilder with Peter Boyle in "Young Frankenstein", singing and dancing to Irving Berlin's "Putting on the Ritz".

Something about his early years from the NY Times:

"Gene Wilder was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee on June 11, 1933. His father, William, a manufacturer and salesman of novelty items, was an immigrant from Russia. His mother, the former Jeanne Baer, suffered from rheumatic heart disease and a temperament that sometimes led her to punish him angrily and then smother him with regretful kisses.

Young Jerry spent one semester at the Black-Foxe Military Institute in Hollywood. His mother saw it as a great opportunity; in reality, it was a catch basin for boys from broken families, where he was regularly beaten up for being Jewish.

Safely back home after that misadventure, he played minor roles in community theater production s and then followed his older sister, Corinne, into the theater program at the University of Iowa. After Iowa, he studied Shakespeare at the Bristol Old Vic Theater School in England, where he was the first freshman to win the school fencing championship.

He next enrolled part time at the HB Studio in New York, while also serving a two-year Army hitch as an aide in the psychiatric unit of the Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania - an assignment he requested because, he said, "I imagined the things I would see there might relate more to acting than any of the other choices." He added, "I wasn't wrong."

After his discharge, he won a coveted spot at the Actors Studio, and it was then that he adopted the name Gene Wilder:  Gene for Eugene Gant, the protagonist of Thomas Wolfe's "Look Homeward, Angel," and Wilder for the playwright Thornton Wilder."

Wilder lived a long life, and has left a body of work that will continue to make us laugh and cry (but mostly laugh). I suspect that a lot of this initial mourning is for our own youth, and the memories that this death evokes. Sending condolences to his family and friends, and may his memory be for a blessing.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Best of the Bee Pics So Far

Am considering which bee pics to put into a small exhibit. Have been dithering about this for months.  No more! Here are Flora & Fauna (mostly) of Finchley.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Farewell For This Season

The last two home games of the season for QPR should have no influence on this season's achievements for either the home or the away team. I will not be able to attend (see Chris if you'd like my ticket), so today's game vs Charlton was my last. Gosh it wasn't a very good game. We seemed to lack impetus, and after they equalised we collapsed into the centre and left both flanks open again and again. Luckily for us, Charlton could not capitalise on their many opportunities, and the game ended with this dramatic winner by Abdelnasser El Khayati in the final minute of time added on. Hurrah! A la prossima!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Another Rainbow

The other end of a Finchley rainbow this afternoon

I don't remember seeing two rainbows within a week ever before. I got caught in a massive shower that completely soaked me during the short walk from the bus stop to the front door, but when I looked out from my balcony from beneath a towel, I saw blue sky next to the clouds. Could it be? Yes it could! Once again, something good after a rotten day. Thank you!

Monday, April 04, 2016


Last vestige of the rainbow over North Finchley this afternoon
I know it seems away with the fairies, but rainbows really do make me happy. There is something about the vivid colours in the sky just after the dark of a rainstorm that is simply joyous.

There's a moment between the rain and the sun that, if you notice it, you know you must look for the rainbow. I had an inkling on the #460 bus, but couldn't see enough of the sky until I got out at my stop. Then I searched the horizon and eccolo! I was so happy that I looked around to find someone with whom to share the sight, and accosted some poor lady crossing the road. Luckily she smiled, and agreed on the beauty of the view before continuing her journey. It was only then that I thought to take the photo above.

Rainbow :-)

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Women's Football

Jess Clarke takes a penalty for Notts County after extra-time in the FA Cup quarter-final at Arsenal
What a pleasant afternoon I had today. Popped up to Borehamwood on the train. Paid £6 at the gate to get in (I was one of 709 people who attended the match). Excellent value - an FA Cup quarter-final with extra-time and penalties. Standing terraces at each end. I was able to wander round a bit to get the best view. Fiercely contested game with several goals (2-2 at full-time) and a sending-off, but no rolling around or crying for fouls (although there were a few words with the ref regarding some pretty stonewall penalty shouts). My camera really isn't designed for sport, but seeing what I can do with it helps me get to know it better. Am looking forward to the next time!

Sari van Veenendaal saves the first Notts penalty, helping Arsenal to a 4-3 win

Sunday, March 20, 2016

H - E - Double Hockey Sticks No I Won't Go

Just about a year ago, my beloved QPR played their last game in the Premier League before being relegated to their current division. Over the weekend I was searching for an old photograph, and came across this one from that afternoon. The crowd had "invaded" the pitch at the end of the game, aka running joyously across the holy sward and taking selfies for posterity. The police and security officers decided the best way to remove the unwanted hordes was to kettle them back into the stands. This was the last guy in the last corner by the Loft & South Africa Road.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Should I Have Turned the Worm?

A few weeks ago as I rushed out of the house to catch the bus to work, I noticed a worm sitting on the brick path between the two grassy parts of the garden. I wondered if I should move it to the grass, and ran on. When I came home, I saw that the worm had been squashed and killed on the path. Don't laugh - I felt guilty.

Today there was a worm on the path just in front of the main door. I decided that if it stayed there someone would certainly squish it, and so I moved it to the grass. Now I'm wondering - why did the worm cross the road (path)? Have I just undone two-thirds of its life's work? Did I place it on the side to which it was heading, or the side whence it came?

Some people say I think too much. Perhaps. Shabbat shalom!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Beloved Dog: A Short Film by Alex Kalman

I love Maira Kalman. If you've never heard of her, or if you have but your boat is not floated by her work, yet you are a dog lover, then this film is also for you. Enjoy!

Thanks for the Update Mr Fry

Stephen Fry in Look Look by Michael Frayn 1990 (photo:  Ariel J Friedlander)
For those of us who were concerned by the announcement that Mr Stephen Fry was planning to quit these shores for a California dream after having had enough (again) of Twitter trolls, I am pleased to share a message from his blog yesterday:

Yesterday and today I have been bombarded by texts and emails asking me why I am leaving Britain to go in live in America. This caught me not a little by surprise, since I have no plans at all to swap the UK for the US.


Showing Iry the Ropes (& Chains)

er, you've got a bit of a thing ...

I asked Iry for the name of an artist she admires. She said "Tracy Emin". Not my cup of tea, but this post is not for me. So here's a bit of Tracy for Iry:

and for me? The source of the title comment, i.e., Rowan Atkinson's sketch when he was the devil welcoming people to hell. It's the original version, so only audio I'm afraid.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Don't Look Back. Or Maybe I Should!

Grant Hall intercepts a Wolves attack

This is a photo taken from my season ticket seat in the upper tier with a compact camera at the last QPR home game. It's not bad. It's probably not as good as I used to be, but I don't get to practice that much. 

Why do I still take pictures, even though nobody uses them and they are mostly rather pedestrian? I say to myself that I am keeping my eye in. I think it's probably being a bit of a fangirl. I suspect I may kind of miss the good old days when I used to be on the pitch, and had a proper photographer's view of the action.

Possibly it is time for a kick in the pants, ravaj! If I had wanted a longer career as a football photographer, why did I give it up and go to rabbi school? I was very clear at the time, saying to anyone who would listen that when I was older and looked back on my career, I didn't want to see that all I had done amounted to some random bits of newspaper floating in the wind. I wanted to look back and see a life that had been useful and hopefully made a positive difference.

It's all very well being nostalgic for the "good old days". However, if I'm going to look back, then perhaps it's better to agree that I had some great experiences, enjoy some of those memories, and then turn to the question - if I am waxing so nostalgic, what is that telling me about now? What is the problem that needs to be addressed!

John Elway at Wembley Stadium
Nu, hurrah that I got to see the Denver Broncos play at Wembley in 1987 (1987, how can that be 29 years ago already?!). 

I've seen great moments at the Oval ...

Sir Viv clean bowled
... photographed icons at Wimbledon ...

Jimmy Connors
...  & in the theatre.

The Cherry Orchard 1989 with Dame Judi Dench
I've been welcomed by people at their office ...

Kermit with his boss
... and have been thrown out of Hammersmith Odeon by another (I'm looking at YOU Joan Baez).

accidental double exposure after reusing Baez slide film for Arlo
Lots of stories to tell. Meanwhile, it's time to stop procrastinating, look forward, and go do my Italian prep for my class on Monday. A presto!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Tu Bishvat Greetings

an oldie but a goodie!

Nu, yesterday I was interviewed by a class of 7-year-olds in their Religion School who wanted to know what rabbis do. They asked some great questions, the very first of which was 'do you ever make mistakes in your Hebrew?' (Of course, I said, but the more I practice, the fewer there are!)

A girl at the back asked why I'd wanted to become a rabbi. I found that both easy and terribly difficult to answer. The easy part was telling them that my father had been a rabbi and rather a good one IMO so I wanted to follow his example. At some point, I don't remember when, I must have mentioned that he had died some time ago.

What felt more difficult was how to explain why I love what a rabbi does. I looked at the class, and saw the plastic pots on the tables filled with dark earth into which they'd just planted cress and sprout seeds. I said to them that the best part of being a teacher was that you get to plant seeds and help them to grow, but instead of putting them in the earth, we get to plant them in the hearts and minds of our students. I wasn't sure if I'd explained it well enough. A boy in the middle raised his hand with what looked like an urgent question. His teacher called on him. He looked at me and said gently, "I'm sorry about your Dada."

Happy Tu Bishvat!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cool David Bowie Tributes

When Elvis died there was no Internet. We read the newspapers and cut out the reports and obituaries. And we watched the news on TV. For a couple of days.

David Bowie has died. The first single I ever bought was Space Oddity (the second time round). I listen to at least one of his songs on the radio most days of the week. Everyone has such a lot to say about this death. What a lucky man, to be so loved and respected. How lucky we are, those of us who have enjoyed and will enjoy his work.

Here are a couple of photo tributes that caught my eye:

(What used to be called the) Hammersmith Odeon

The many incarnations of David Bowie from a Whovian perspective

kol hakavod to those who thought up this stunningly brilliant liturgical play on Lecha Dodi

Finally, he's just so charming when Jonathan Ross tries his best to get something juicy out of the interview:

With condolences to family and friends who knew and loved him, may his memory be a blessing.

PS  follow the link for Space Oddity for an unexpected treat
PPS Just seen link and wanted to share it with you all:

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Angouleme Grand Prix Lacks Women Nominees

Who is going to start the French branch of Laydeez Do Comics?

Shared from the BBC website:

French comics festival marred by sexism row

  • 6 January 2016
  • From the section Europe
Visitors attend the 42nd Angouleme International Comics Festival (Festival international de la bande dessinee d'Angouleme) on Friday 30, 2015 in Angouleme, central FranceImage copyrightAFP/Getty Images
Image captionOnly one woman has ever won the Grand Prix award in the Angouleme festival
A prestigious award for graphic novelists in France is facing calls for a boycott after its long list of nominees failed to include any women.
The 42-year-old Grand Prix at Angouleme has long faced criticism for its failure to recognise women cartoonists.
This year, a pressure group is calling for a boycott, saying "it is no longer tolerable" that "renowned female creators" are left off the list of 30.
At least three male nominees have publicly backed the protest.
They have asked for their names to be removed from the list.
The Grand Prix is a highly prestigious prize, recognising the lifetime achievement of a cartoonist. It is handed out each year at the Angouleme International Comics Festival.
In its long history, only one woman, Florence Cestac, has ever won the prize.
A group called BD Egalite, or Women in Comics Collective Against Sexism, said the prize was significant, because as well as being honorary it could also boost an artist's career and book sales.
"What is the message sent to women cartoonists and those in the process of becoming such?" it asked on its website. "We are discouraged from having ambition, from continuing our efforts. How could we take it otherwise?
"It all comes back to the disastrous glass ceiling. We're tolerated, but never allowed top billing. Will we require women in comics to perpetually play second fiddle?"
A number of cartoonists on the long list have since asked for their names to be removed.

'Ridiculous, embarrassing'

American Daniel Clowes called it a now "totally meaningless 'honor'."
"What a ridiculous, embarrassing debacle," he added. 
Riad Sattouf on Facebook listed a number of female cartoonists he would "prefer to cede my place to", including Rumiko Takahashi, Julie Doucet, Anouk Ricard, Marjane Satrapi and Catherine Meurisse.
The Festival's Franck Bondoux was quoted in French media as saying that Franco-Belgian graphic novels, known as "bande desinee", had traditionally been dominated by men.
"The festival cannot distort this reality, although I concede that the list might contain one or two female names," he said. 
But he rejected accusations that the festival ignored the contribution of women artists, giving examples of steps it was taking to promote their work.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Piglet is Back!

It has been a while since Piglet visited a new city and posed for his adoring fans. However, the opportunity to go to Barcelona and see the Sagrada Familia church with his own eyes was irresistible.   For more photos from his trip, do look at his FB page here. Piglet is back!

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Lives of Interesting Women 2015

At the turn of the secular calendar year lots of people make lots of lists. Having always loved lists, I'm in the mood to recall notable women whose lives have ended in the past year. It's not that easy to find them, but I'll have a go. Meanwhile, the start of the search brought me to a list of women scientists that should be better known. I'd not heard of any of them except Rosalind Franklin. Have you? Have a quick read about:

Emilie du Chatelet
Caroline Herschel
Mary Anning
Mary Somerville
Maria Mitchell
Lise Meitner
Irene Curie-Joliot
Barbara McClintock
Dorothy Hodgkin
Rosalind Franklin

So many admirable women, often discouraged from studying science, often not acknowledged for their contribution.

In 2015 we also lost:

Claudia Alexander 
(geophysicist & top NASA scientist) Astronomy Magazine obituary

Grace Lee Boggs
(philosopher & feminist) obituary

Eugenie Clark aka "The Shark Lady"
(ichthyologistTelegraph obituary

Ronnie Gilbert 
(singer, the Weavers) obituary

Mary Ellen Mark
(photographer) Vogue retrospective, obituary

Melissa Mathison
(screenwriter, best known for ET the Extraterrestrial) obituary

Cynthia Robinson 
(trumpeter for Sly & the Family Stone) obituary

Dorothy "Dottie" Thomas, considered the mother of bone marrow transplantation.

This is, of course, a tiny and random selection of names. I present them for consideration and possible inspiration. Happy 2016!

Nivchar shem may-osher rav - a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches (Proverbs 22:1).