Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, March 31, 2008

Music of the Night (how appropriate!)

I've just been listening to this splendid programme from BBC Radio 4 via its "Listen Again" facility. My personal introduction to Howlin' Prowlin' Wolfman Jack was (like most Brits) via George Lucas's American Graffiti. What strikes me now is how much he both looks and sounds like Don van Vliet (Captain Beefheart): almost as though CB deliberately modelled both his persona and his sound on the Wolfman's. It's not unlikely, as they were both in the same part of the USA at the same time, and what counter-cultural type wouldn't want to adopt the Wolf as a role model?

And what else strikes me, listening to Wolfman Jack from 1961, is how far behind the curve we were in the UK then. We didn't even have pirate radio stations domestically: we had to get all our coolness from Radio Luxembourg (wow! exotic! with advertisements!) (hands up all who remember Horace Batchelor's Infra-Draw......) Now while growing up with the BBC Light Programme helped to form my future musical personality, so did exposure to Radio Luxembourg and eventually to Radio Caroline (I remember being off school sick with something, and finding "199 Caroline" on my radio while in bed: nerdy to the last, I did the whole "v=fλ" thing to make sure I could relocate it because my new transistor radio was calibrated in kHz instead of the more usual metres ). How might I have turned out if only I could have tuned in to the Wolfman's "50,000 watts clear"?

Damn I Wish I'd Thought Of That Dept.

Tim also links to this delightful assessment of the characters of the three main US presidential candidates (I see he ignores Ralph Nader entirely, which is a pity) in terms of their Dungeons & Dragons classifications.

A grain or two of truth among the grass

Tim (Kalyr) alerted me to a recent Guardian article where people were asked to nominate their favourite flop (commercial or critical) follow-up albums. A number of people nominated Pulp's This Is Hardcore which seems very reasonable. There was also this perceptive response from 'carefree':

"Pulp - This is Hardcore, although probably already mentioned above its a cut above Different Class"

- actually, if you're mentioning Different Class, I'd argue the reverse of the original proposition - Pulp's great tragedy was that they became massive one album *after* their masterpiece - His'n'Hers is their best album by a country mile, and they followed it up with some crowd-pleasing hit songs and bloody Sadie Frost larking around in a supermarket - I ask you!

I once read a genius comment along the lines of "Jarvis Cocker's entire career is founded on the fact he knows he will never write a better song than 'Babies'" - very cruel, but a grain of truth in there. 'Don't Let Him Waste Your Time' comes pretty close to Babies though...

I have always had a soft spot for Glory Days on This Is Hardcore, which contains my favourite Cocker couplet:

Well I used to do the I Ching, but then I had to feed the meter;
Now I can't see into the future, but at least I can use the heater.

(Note for the perplexed: the most common way of casting I Ching hexagrams involves tossing three coins.)

Someone else suggested Pink Floyd's A Saucerful of Secrets, to which I would add both Animals and Obscured By Clouds. Relayer by Yes lay undeservedly in the shadow of its massive predecessor Tales From Topographic Oceans, and I always seem to have liked Kevin Ayers's The Confessions of Doctor Dream more than most people I know. Then there's Richard & Linda Thompson's Sunnyvista, sandwiched between Pour Down Like Silver and Shoot Out The Lights and unjustly overlooked as a result. Possibly the best example, though, is the Abba album that hardly anyone remembers (and no, I don't mean Abba Live, though that has its moments too): The Visitors. If anything, the strains in the band added to the strange left-field quality of the album which evidently put off a lot of people expecting another Super Trouper. It only has one real clunker (Two For The Price Of One) and several bona fide masterpieces (the title track, When All Is Said And Done, One Of Us, Slipping Through My Fingers - the last two having received a new lease of life via the musical Mamma Mia!)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Back in the day

Browsing around last.fm and Youtube for videos of blasts from my musical past, I found this. While the video component is only swirls it isn't inappropriate to its music, and the music itself is the opening track of the album I posted about here.

One of the things I was looking for was this video of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention doing Cosmik Debris. I saw it on TV in a tribute to Frank just after his death, and thought then that his solo was one of the best I'd ever heard. FZ didn't often play in what I'd call the Eric Clapton blues style, but here he demonstrates just how well he could do it. If you want guitar histrionics, go somewhere else. (Frank could do them ,of course,when he wanted to.)

And finally, I couldn't find a video of FZ doing My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama as I'd hoped, but here is a marvellously comic video with his son Dweezil covering it. How many people could do such a good version? And how many sons get such great material from their fathers in the first place?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Acme Dehydrated Earthquake

...or the joy of Group I of the Periodic Table of the Elements.

You never get too old for that kind of stuff.

It may not actually Pay To Increase Your Word Power the way Reader's Digest says, but it looks cool on your blog

Results of your quiz (thanks Chip for the link).

You answered correctly 12 out of 12 questions.
This is equivalent to 100 %.

Your grade is


The average number of correct answers is 5, which corresponds to 41 %.

Among those who took this quiz so far, the average grade was:


What do you expect from someone whose fictional hero boards planes by harpooning them from the ground?

Home from my ski-ing trip, only slightly bashed and sunburned, to be greeted by this piece by Anthony Horowitz in the Guardian. While I agree that the whole Terminal Five affair seems to havebeen a disaster, it was as I neared the end of his article that I was filled with a desire to murder the smug London-centric bastard:

The real "21st-century gateway" that opened this year did so at St Pancras, and it did so with enormous style and comfort. All of Europe is suddenly available and I can reach it in less time than my bags reached me.

Well, lucky you, Mr Horowitz. For those of us not lucky (or unlucky) enough to live close to London, the St. Pancras "gateway" is as much an irrelevance as the Channel Tunnel has always been. We have just had a week ski-ing in Courchevel. We flew with EasyJet from Edinburgh to Geneva (2.5 hours), and then continued by hired car (about another 3.5 hours - less on the way back). Leaving out time we deliberately spent en route sightseeing in Annecy and so on, our journey took about six hours, for four people and a carload of skis and other luggage. All our luggage arrived, and so did we (delayed by about 15 minutes on the way back).

To use Horowitz's wonderful "gateway"would take around four hours from Edinburgh to get to St Pancras in the first place. If we were lucky we would have seats, but how our luggage would accompany us heaven only knows, as the pitiful space provided on the trains would leave the skis and snowboard blocking about three rows of seats and a gangway. Then we could lug it all off and put it onto another train (and I bet the luggage provision would be no better). Finally, after a further, what, two and a half hours, we could get off in Paris, haul all the stuff across town on the metro to a different station, and spent a further few hours (and hundred more Euros) transporting people and luggage to Geneva, where we could pick up a car (sorry, Mr H, Courchevel isn't on the railway) only, ooh, twelve hours or so later than we would have got there by plane, and about three hundred times more tired and ragged.

"21st century gateway" my arse, unless you live in Islington and want to nip over for a quick weekend in Brussels. OK if you make your living writing James Bond-lite fantasies for children. Those of us living in the real world (remember us? there is sentient life north of Hatfield) and wishing to visit other parts of same (not just the major cities of Belgium and northern France) and who have more luggage than a laptop, more companions than a secretary, and who are footing our own travel bills? We'll just stick with air travel, thanks. You know, from all those other airports and with all those other airlines Anthony Horowitz seems not to know about.

We are all Kojo

Further to my review of Lyceum Youth Theatre's production of Abi Morgan's Fugee, here are a couple of "proper" reviews.

From the Edinburgh Evening News.

And from The Scotsman.

And a further review here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A miscellany

Or at least a collection of items generally relating to Islam and Islamophobia.

First up, Inayat Bunglawala on the recent attack on an East End (of London, that is) priest which has been seized on by Mel Phillips and others as an excuse for more whining that we're under attack from militant Islam. To Mel and the rest, I have two words to say: bollocks, and Buckfast.

Draught Jihad.

(And yes, I know it was actually vodka the London assailants got smashed on. That's because they were soft Southerners with no understanding of the proper nuances and subtleties of bevvy-fuelled battery such as they might learn in Glasgow or Leith.)

Then Noah Feldman in the New York Times has a great piece on Shariah law Why Shariah? It's quite lengthy but worth persevering with.

Let's Hear It For The Bad Guys

In the comments to a post by Osama Saeed on the yeshiva shootings, joe90 from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign links to some interesting documents. As he says:

Hamas wants peace, Israel doesn't -
Hamas Leader: We'll Accept Israel Within 1967 Borders - An interview with Khaled Meshaal
by Rainer Rupp
20 Dec 2006

Syria wants peace, Israel doesn't
(choose any article from this random db list list)
The Israeli government rebuffs Syrian proposals for negotiations without preconditions

The Arab League wants peace and normal relations, Israel doesn't -
Carrots-and-Sticks in the Middle East - The Five Percent Solution
By John V. Whitbeck
01 Aug 2007

Perhaps not very comfortable reading,but I have to suppress the urge to yell "I told you so" as I have long maintained that the principal, and sometimes the only, barrier to peace in West Asia is the rejectionist attitude of successive Israeli governments. How those guys sleep at night I don't know.

Joe also commented on a recent UN report, which has, as he says, been, er, under-reported here:

In case you missed it, as the likes of the BBC have yet to even acknowledge the existence of this recent UN report, here is the difference between Palestinian terrorism and Israel war crimes:
Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories

UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard
21 Jan 2008

(4) I.B "Common sense, however, dictates that a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror, such as acts committed by Al Qaeda, and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation. While such acts cannot be justified, they must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation."

(5) I.B - "Israel must address the occupation and the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law it engenders, and not invoke the justification of terrorism as a distraction, as a pretext for failure to confront the root cause of Palestinian violence - the occupation." (my emphasis)

This time it's hard to imagine anyone to whom this report would come as a shock. As it states near the beginning:

It is true that reports on the OPT follow a familiar pattern and deal with substantially similar factual situations. They record violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that have occurred in a systematic and consistent manner over many years, some going back to the start of the occupation 40 years ago. Settlements, checkpoints, demolition of houses, torture, closure of crossings and military incursions have characterized the occupation for many decades and have featured regularly in reports. Reports inevitably, and correctly, continue to report on such matters and to record their consequences and frequency in a changing environment. New violations of human rights and humanitarian law are added as they occur, such as the construction of the wall (since 2003), sonic booms, targeted killings, the use of Palestinians as human shields, and the humanitarian crisis produced by the non-payment of tax money due to the Palestinians. In short, reports are repetitious because the same violations of human rights and humanitarian law continue to occur in the OP.

In other words, sorry to bang on about this, but we only keep repeating ourselves because the Israeli occupiers never improve their human rights performance.

Maybe someone should do an "Israeli Occupation in Five Seconds". You could imagine the soundtrack:

Bang! (man falls dead)
Bang! (woman falls dead)
BOOM! (huge explosion brings house down onto family)
Shriek! (woman forced to give birth at checkpoint holds dead baby)
Bang! (teenager falls dead, shot in back by settler)
Ha ha ha! (settlers admire "Arabs to the gas chambers" graffiti)
The end.

Except fortunately we know it isn't the end.

Taking Liberties

I have always been interested in the story of the USS Liberty. The one thing that everyone agrees on is that during the 1967 Six-Day war the Israeli Air Force attacked and severely damaged a US spy ship with considerable loss of life. The Israeli authorities have always maintained that the attack was a mistake and that they thought ths ship they were attacking was a much smaller Egyptian freighter. Without entering the realms of conspiracy theory it's quite hard to see why the IAF would have deliberately targeted an American ship. On the other hand there is the pretty unanimous testimony of the surviving crew members of the Liberty, from her Captain downwards, who were in no doubt that the IAF were aware of the nature and nationality of the ship they were attacking. One or two such accounts might be put down to confusion or some kind of score-settling, but the sheer weight of numbers rules that out (unless like the passengers on Agatha Christie's Orient Express the crew were all in on some plot to discredit Israeli armed forces).

Anyway, here is a recent article which I found interesting. Probably still not the whole story, but maybe we're getting there.

OBL sets out his priorities

You have to wonder about Osama bin Laden.

I mean, OK, some of the Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammed were rather tasteless, and the one that was recently reprinted was particularly vile in my opinion, but if he really thinks that those cartoons are the most important thing he should be getting upset with the EU about then I think he's been smoking too much of the Afghan national product. Um, troops in Iraq? Troops in Afghanistan? Boycott of the legitimately elected Palestinian government and support for the Israeli-backed coup? Yeah, well, I suppose put alongside a few million dead Muslims a tasteless cartoon is always going to be the priority issue.

At least now Muslims can see bin Laden for the irrelevance he is. He'll still have fans, no doubt, but I don't think this week's video will have picked him up any new ones. Certainly not in Iraq, Afghanistan or Palestine.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Down down, deeper and down

Yesterday I was off work with a stinking cold which is a bit better today. Thus I missed all the excitement whereby a person or persons unknown conspired to spread wicked rumours about my employer, drive down our share price, and then make tons of money by short-selling. This is of course illegal, and as the Financial Services Authority and the Fraud Squad take a very dim view of it I would suggest he spends the money very quickly, as he may be due to spend a lot of time where there isn't much to buy.

Here is the story.

Here is a report on the aftermath.

And here, amusing as ever, is the Daily Mash's take on it.

Always look on the bright side of life

OK, so I got packed a bit earlier than I expected....so I'm back on for another evening.

Let's begin with this story which caught my attention on the BBC's site.

Health officials in the Philippines have issued a warning to people taking part in Easter crucifixion rituals. They have urged them to get tetanus vaccinations before they flagellate themselves and are nailed to crosses, and to practise good hygiene.


Eine Kleine Pause

...while I jet off via Geneva to Courchevel for a dose of fun, falling over and fondues. See you in just over a week.

Well this sucks

The British government is considering closing down Jodrell Bank.

That would be the most famous radio telescope in the world. The world's largest radio telescope when it was built, and still the third largest steerable one after fifty years. The one that brought us the first gravitational lens, the first bleep from Sputnik, the first pictures from the lunar surface when Luna 9 landed, and some of the first pulsars. The one proposed as World Heritage Site. The one which has probably inspired more interest in astronomy than any other telescope until, perhaps, the Hubble.

Please could all my British readers sign up to the petition to save it?

There It Is

Have you encountered the hilarious Movies In Five Seconds YouTube group? Remembering Arthur C Clarke reminded me of 2001 in Five Seconds, though my favourites so far are:

The Princess Bride
American Beauty
Rain Man
Pulp Fiction

And yes, I know some of them are a little over five seconds. Whatever.

It's Full Of Stars!

So Arthur C Clarke has died. May he be well. May he be happy.

It's A Fair Cop

I'm currently following with great interest two "police procedurals" which could hardly be more different.

Firstly Dixon of Dock Green on BBC Radio 4. This is a radio adaptation of the first scripts (by Ted willis) for what would become a national institution on television. back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was on just after the news, early on Saturday evenings (and so shortly after Dr Who when that first appeared) and made a household name of Jack Warner as PC George Dixon. The series was a spin-off from the feature film The Blue Lamp, although George Dixon was unceremoniously offed in he film by the villain (a very young Dirk Bogarde). By the time I came to watch the programme in the early 1960s, George's sidekick and foil (and indeed son-in-law) was Detective Sergeant Andy Crawford. Back in the first episodes in the radio, Andy is still a humble Police Constable, and has only just (episode 2) moved in with George Dixon and his daughter Mary as their lodger. So part of the fun is in knowing what stretches out ahead for the characters. Much of it, though, is in the sheer 1950s naivete, where gangs of young hoodlums steal potatoes from vegetable stalls along with a bottle of barbiturates which the stall-holder was hoping to sell illegally. The beauty of the plotline is that the kid who stole the pills (probably) had no idea what they were, whereas nowadays the average big city 11-year-old knows more about drugs than most non-specialist policemen. So it's like stepping back into the lost innocence of my youth. Oh, and PC Andy Crawford is played by one David Tennant. Talented young chap, it would seem. Could go far. (Actually, I was amused to read about his early TV success as an unctuous cleric in a Trollope adaptation. Now who else might have made his big TV break in a similar role?)

The other programme which has me hooked is on ITV, and is Dexter, based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. It could hardly be more different from the world of Dock Green: set in Miami, it stars Michael C. Hall (of Six Feet Under) as Dexter Morgan, a blood-spatter analyst with the Miami Police Department. Oh, and he moonlights as a serial killer, specifically of bad guys who have escaped justice on technicalities. When I first read a description of the series I thought "Oh, wow, another far-fetched gimmick for a cop show" but in fact the character of Dexter is extremely well-developed, for which we must thank not only Jeff Lindsay and the hugely believable Michael C Hall but also James Manos Jr. who made the (apparently very faithhful) TV adaptation. Dexter is damaged and disturbed, but has his own peculiar morality, a legacy from his policeman adoptive father who recognised the boy's murderous urges and persuaded him to channel them into what Dexter terms "taking out the trash".

Whatever would George Dixon have said?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Way to go, Dilbert!


Fugee, Traverse Theatre, 14 March 2008

My son Ruairidh has recently been playing Boyfriend/Passport Controller/Kid With Gun 3 in Lyceum Youth Theatre's production of Abi Morgan's Fugee at the Traverse Theatre, directed by Xana Maclean. (He's on the far left in the rehearsal shot above, as Kid With Gun 3.) The play tells the story of Kojo, an asylum seeker from Cote d'Ivoire. The 17 young Scots in the cast are called on to play people of very different racial characteristics, and sometimes gender, from their own. This is quite deliberate, and the script refers in several places to"the actor playing me", sometimes with humorous effect . The idea, as far as I can tell, is to universalise the story, bringing home to a mostly white middle-class audience the tale of an eleven-year-old boy abducted from his (murdered) family and forced to become a child soldier; of his processing three years later through the system in the UK, and of our government's strenuous - and successful - efforts to classify a fourteen-year-old boy as an adult and thus shrug off responsibility for his welfare. I am neither naive about government treatment of asylum seekers nor easily shocked, and I found Fugee deeply disturbing. The cast met real asylum seekers from Rwanda and Somalia during rehearsal and this seems to have given their portrayals an extra edge.

The production was very imaginative (while the script was immutable the production details were worked out with the cast in rehearsal). A collection of red boxes of various sizes formed all the set, as well as holding all the props. Four ghetto-blasters operated by the cast provided all the sound. As to the acting, Kojo (Danny Miller) was exceptionally good, as was Ara (Natalie MacKinnon). It will be interesting to see how the production translates to the Lyceum itself (going from a small in-the-round space to a large proscenium theatre) in June.

Lord, if it be thy will, let this cup pass away from me

If I'd realised that Terry Pratchett had a weird form of early onset Alzheimer's disease, I'd forgotten.

Anyway, if you're a fan, whether of the Discworld books or any of his other wonderful creations, you might like to visit this site and give them some money. Alzheimer's isn't a glamorous disease; it doesn't particularly affect people in Africa (so doesn't get Geldof and Bono fundraising for it), it doesn't affect winsome kiddies like, say, leukaemia, and so far the main celebrities afflicted with it have been literary (Pratchett, and before him, Iris Murdoch) rather than TV stars. So it doesn't attract as many donations from the public as other (no less unpleasant) diseases such as cancer and HIV. Most of its victims are elderly, unphotogenic, and drool quietly as they fail to recognise their heartbroken relatives. I suspect most of us, if we think about it at all, rapidly put it out of mind in the hope that it won't ever affect us. And maybe it won't, though it may affect those we love.

I am extremely fortunate that so far nobody close to me has been seized by either Alzheimer's or any of the similar dementias. I can think of few worse fates, personally. So go on, give them some money. The price of a Pratchett paperback.


A friend posted on LiveJournal that she'd been delayed getting to work because an unexploded bomb dating from the 1940 raids had been discovered in the centre of Coventry. One of her commenters mentioned that the workmen who first found it thought it was a piece of old boiler and were whacking it to try to break it up.

While it does bring to mind the unexploded bomb episode in Iain Banks's The Wasp Factory, it vividly recalled to my mind a case I read about when doing Business Law for my MBA. O'Reilly v National Rail and Tramway Appliances Ltd [1966] 1 All ER 499. [*] In a nutshell, Mr O'Reilly had been injured at work but his claim was disallowed for contributory negligence. You see, he worked in a scrap metal yard, and his colleagues (assuredly not his friends) had found an unexploded shell among the scrap. "Hey, Paddy!" they shouted, or something along those lines, "Why don't you give this a whack with your sledgehammer?" Shortly thereafter Mr O'Reilly discovered why, in fact, he would have been well advised not to do so.

If you have a law library handy it's well worth ten minutes of your time.

[*] It recalled the case: the detailed citation took a little Googling. Come on, I'm not that nerdy.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Market Rates

bedroom toys


I have no idea how they got this figure. I suppose I should be flattered, below average though it is.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Schrodinger's Gondola

Went to see the Edinburgh Gilbert & Sullivan Society's production of The Gondoliers on Thursday. I knew most of the orchestra (my wife among them) and at least one of the chorus. The principals were mostly the usual suspects: Ian Lawson as the Duke of Plaza Tora, Barbara Brodie as the Duchess, Sandy Horsburgh as Don Alhambra, Neil French as Luiz and Fiona Main as Gianetta were all very good. However, I was most impressed by the new kid on the block, Amanda Stewart as Casilda. Her voice is quite light but her diction and acting are both excellent, and I look forward to seeing her in further principal roles.

The Gondoliers is best known these days for a few musical numbers: "Take A Pair of Sparkling Eyes"and "Dance a Cachucha", along with a few lines from Don Alhambra's songs "Of that there is no shadow of doubt/ No probable possible manner of doubt/ No possible doubt whatever" and "When everybody's somebody, then no-one's anybody". But as I watched the plot unfold, with its pair of gondoliers, one of whom is heir to a crown and betrothed from childhood to a Spanish noblewoman - the problem being that nobody is quite sure which one it is- I thought how very far ahead of his time Gilbert was. As well as all the fun he has with the two gondoliers running a court on highly egalitarian lines, he also makes considerable play of the fact that they share the crown and the betrothal for now because nobody knows which is the rightful heir, but when the knowledgeable nursemaid turns up all will become clear: one will be a king, the other a commoner, one the husband of Casilda, the other free to marry his own choice. And I thought of Schrodinger's cat, half alive and half dead until someone looks to see how it is, when it becomes either dead or alive. Marco and Giuseppe are in a quantum superposition of states, in which they remain until the nursemaid arrives to collapse their wave-function and resolve everything nicely. And Gilbert managed this before quantum mechanics had been invented. Imagine the fun he would have had with relativity and quantum physics to work into his plots. He'd have been writing The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, or The Lass Who Loved a Vogon.

I'm Mahmoud Ahmedinajad, and I didn't approve this one

And my son alerted me to this one (the last gag is the best).

I'm Rob Saunders, and I approved this blog post

My daughter alerted me to this wonderful spoof.

For the benefit of non-US readers, Jack Nicholson recently put out this ad in support of Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Democratic nomination. It's made up of clips from his old films with lines taken out of context to imply support for HC. Quite apart from reminding us all of Jack's huge acting talent [/irony] (the man makes Hayden Christensen look like Dustin Hoffman) it definitely called out for a response.

Well, nature abhors a vacuum, especially one doing Clinton ads, so here is that response.

I know you can eat it between meals without ruining your appetite.....

Ten things you didn't know about the Milky Way (from Bad Astronomy Blog).

I knew five of them, so does that make me not half bad?

(Title is a reference to an old British confectionery ad, BTW.)

I think Sarah Green is the one who needs a hard hat

I noticed that someone had found my blog via the Google search term "I hate Stockport Grammar". As Stockport Grammar School is my alma mater, this caught my attention and I took a look at what hits had been returned. Rather a lot of them concerned this story which strikes me as rather sad. While I can see why the ad in question might shock the more humourless of parents, it isn't as though Miss Green made it while she was teaching at SGS, or anywhere else for that matter. She was employed as an actor, to make an advertisement which went on to win several awards. How many of her pupils at SGS will be able to say as much when they're her age?

I can see that the affair has probably caused her a good deal of embarrassment, and perhaps suspension was a smart move on the part of the headmaster to let the whole thing blow over. But for parents to be calling for her to be sacked suggests to me that the school should be vetting its prospective parents more carefully and rejecting the unsuitable ones.

Or as one of the commenters on the Sun's report has it, "What a bunch of sanctimonious, self-important morons". And she's not wrong. (Several of the Sun's commenters also pointed out that the ad promotes safe sex, incidentally.)

I must agree though agree with one of the Manchester Evening News's commenters, Simon Grant, who said:

With hindsight, a wise person in Sarah Green's position would be well-advised to bring up this matter of past history on appointment (not necessarily at interview), and agree with the head teacher a strategy to cope with the fallout if it came. It is unrealistic these days simply to hope that such information will not leak out.

The key word there, though, is "hindsight". Anyway, I shall be watching this story carefully to see how it ends. Until then, good luck, Sarah Green.

Miss Green, BTW, is the woman in the "Action Jacket" segment.

Lest We Forget - 16 March 1968 - My Lai

I have just been listening to The Archive Hour - The My Lai Tapes on BBC Radio 4. It tells the story of the infamous My Lai massacre in Vietnam, the ensuing cover-up and the eventual Pentagon enquiry. This last enquiry (under General Peers) was subsequently suppressed, but the tapes of its deliberations have now been made available. They make grim listening. The total destruction of two villages, the murder of between 300 and 500 unarmed civilians, the rape and gang-rape of women as young as twelve years old. Many of the My Lai vilagers were herded into a ditch and machine-gunned in a heap.

Q: What were the children in the ditch doing?
A: I don't know.
Q: Were the babies in their mother's arms?
A: I guess so.
Q: And the babies moved to attack?
A: I expected at any moment they were about to make a counterbalance.
Q: Had they made any move to attack?
A: No.

To try to adduce a moral from this episode would be glib. It would be too easy to assume that the My Lai massacre was typical of the US Army, or that the army in Iraq continues to behave in general in that way. Neither would be true. No massacres on such a scale have been uncovered since, and one of those interviewed in the BBC's program points out that the US Army's lawyers have become sensitised by My Lai and its aftermath to issue of what is and is not permissible, which is why in many cases they are at the forefront of opposition to the White House over such matters as the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Mad magazine at the time (like many of my schoolmates I was a big fan) ran a cover based on Lt Calley, the only soldier ever convicted in connection with the massacre. I found my sympathy for him as a scapegoat evaporating, however, as I listened to his tearful description of having his men killed by an enemy he couldn't see. Evidence from other participants in the events makes it very clear that there was no incoming fire whatsoever, and Calley was simply lying through his teeth to garner sympathy. The commanding officer who ordered the massacre and orchestrated its cover-up was court-martialled for obstruction of investigations - and acquitted.

The best thing we can do is to remember those who died at My Lai, as well as those who were brave enough to testify about what happened there.

Now go and listen to the radio programme, which will be available until next Saturday.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rotten to the core

After the Defence Minister's genocidal threat to the Arabs in Gaza, Knesset member Avigdor Lieberman expresses similar views on Israel's domestic Arab minority. You know, the ones who are treated equally with Jews and have full civil rights, according to Israeli apologists if not the US State Department. Lieberman of course is not a lone voice in the Knesset on this matter.

We are forever hearing about the hatred of Jews which permeates Arab societies and is encouraged by Arab governments; and how there is no equivalent in Israel, where Arabs are treated as equals and the government doesn't incite hatred against them. To which one must say: bull-SHIT! If hatred of Arabs is confined to a few flakes on the fringes of Israeli society, why does behaviour like this by Israeli soldiers, which causes genuine revulsion among many normal Israelis, go unpunished? Why was Baruch Goldstein allowed to continue serving as a medical officer in the IDF after disobeying a direct order and violating his oath as a doctor by refusing to treat a non-Jew? (The link also has good examples of the hero-worship of the mass murderer and denigration of his victims, in a way we are usually told is characteristic only of those who murder Jews.) Israeli Jews are not all racists and Islamophobes, any more than Arabs are all racists and anti-semites. But some of them are, and they are distributed from top to bottom of Israeli society. And if you need further proof of the extent to which their vileness is officially sanctioned, consider this: Eitam was not ejected from the Knesset after his remarks, but an Arab MK who complained about his racism was.

It just is

OK, I agree with Marcus at linkbunnies.com: Garfield Minus Garfield is very funny in a surreal way.

Religious school or terrorist training centre? More on Mercaz HaRav

Further to my post about the murders at the Jerusalem yeshiva, here's an interesting piece (from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign's site) on the history and character of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva and its relationship with the illegal "settler" movement. While it doesn't make the murders any less murderous, it does provide a perspective lacking in most reports of the killings (certainly in the British media).

Come Lie With Me

Did anybody spot this story last week? Opinions at my office were divided into "Where but in Italy?" and "The French would probably take the same attitude".

Well, I suppose chauvinism is named after a Frenchman.......

Either way, it's definitely not something you'd get in a British or German (or American) court.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Monday Nothing, Tuesday Nothing, Wednesday and Thursday Nothing...

Some of us have trouble storing things and then retrieving them effectively, whether they be pair of socks or relatives' birthdays. I am therefore extremely impressed by the physicists who successfully stored nothing, and then successfully retrieved it. I feel an IgNobel coming on, though of course when this stuff turns into the basis of every computer in the world maybe they'll get a real Nobel.

Anyone remember which group had a cult hit (I doubt it ever charted) with the song Nothing which provides my title?

And no post on the topic of nothing would be complete without John Cage's 4'33". The idea of the piece, of course, is to bring to the audience's attention all the "background noise" we experience along with a piece of music in a concert but simply don't pay attention to (subway and traffic rumbles, people coughing and turning programme pages, air conditioning, the phone downstairs in the box office). The title is rather neat as well. If you read it as "273 seconds", it is intended to call to mind the temperature of minus 273 Celsius, otherwise known as.....Absolute Zero.

Mesh / Jumper

No, not that kind of "mesh jumper" (though it probably won't do my blog statistics any harm if previous experience is typical).

Last weekend I went to a concert by Meadows Chamber Orchestra, Edinburgh's (if not Britain's) foremost amateur orchestra. As well as a Bach keyboard concerto and Schubert's 9th Symphony, the MCO gand their conductor Peter Evans gave the premiere of Mesh by Jonathan Pitkin. Mesh is a work whose harmonies all derive from two interlocking chords (augmented triads) . Pitkin uses thes sometimes chordally and sometimes to generate melodic fragments, which in turn are developed by the use of various rhythmic procedures such as repetition with progressively shorter durations (a technique which the composer rightly pointed out as being used in the Schubert symphony as well).

I wasn't familiar with any of Jonathan Pitkin's previous work, but I certainly liked Mesh. The description of the interlocking triads sounds somewhat dry, but the opening instantly called to mind the First Sea Interlude from Peter Grimes by Britten (though in his case the paired triads are diminished rather than augmented). That gives a flavour of how the music comes across: spare, atmospheric and, yes, complex, but never simply an academic exercise but a composition with real emotional power. I'm sure we shall hear more of Mesh, and of Jonathan Pitkin. (Oh, and while I'm still not a fan of Schubert's Ninth, the MCO's performance was the least boring I've ever heard. I think I only zoned out for a few minutes in the interminable last movement, which really is quite an achievement on their part.)

I also went with my son to see Jumper, starring Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell and Samuel L Jackson. I wasn't expecting too much from it, and certainly Hayden Christensen's acting was as wooden as in the Star Wars films. The plot was simplistic (a group of people with the ability to teleport; another group dedicated to killing them) and not too well-developed, though as the makers are obviously planning a sequel that probably explains that. Samuel L Jackson was watchable as always, though his lines weren't brilliant. The film, though, belonged to Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, Hallam Foe). His arrival on the scene lifted the film from mediocrity to enjoyable hokum. I hadn't seen him in an action role before; but mostly I was struck by how much like Robert Carlyle he is beginning to look. One must also mention the special effects, which are extremely well done (e.g. when jumpers arrive at a place, the floor is stove in underneath them by a sphere of air that goes with them). Not a great movie, but not a bad one either.

Reading 11 on my weird-shit-o-meter

I am endlessly fascinated by some of the people who post comments on Melanie Phillips' blog. Oh, I'm sure they're fascinated by me too: as with Kesher Talk, I'm a comparatively rare bird, not being an uncritical adorer of the blog proprietor and her ludicrous ranting. I must say, though, that (so far) however heated the exchanges have got, nobody has insulted my dead parents in Hebrew or descended to sexually obsessed personal abuse. Which just goes to show that there is a staircase of slimeballs, and Mel and her fan club do not sit at the bottom of it. No, really.

I've had some funny encounters though. There's Phil, who isn't all bad but comes out with some priceless stuff. I posted this:

where is the "nonsense" in my statement that Israel has used its arsenal to invade its neighbours? Do you reckon it never invaded anyone and is still inside its 1967 borders? Or perhaps that it fought its way into Jordan, Egypt, Syria nd Lebanon armed only with water pistols? And the "nonsense" in Israel's use of its arsenal to kill civilians? Look at the news any day of the week and you can see it, still happening now.

and was met by this:

As for killing civilians that is really beneath contempt .even you cant think that

That's right, Israel doesn't kill civilians, and all those pictures on the TV of them doing are faked by the wicked terror-supporting BBC. And the IDF spokesmen who apologise for killing civilians, they must be self-hating Jews, I suppose.

Then there's Ahad Ha'amoratzim, who believes that Israel is fully compliant with UN Resolution 242. Hmm, let's see: Clause 1.(i) "Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict". Yup, that's happened. Not.

And Adam B. who told me in all sincerity that Hamas seized power in Gaza in a coup, which is a funny way to describe a free democratic election. And when I mentioned Benjamin Netanyahu's celebration of the King David Hotel terror bombing he wrote:

And bringing up the King David Hotel, jeez that's desperate - it only happened 60 years ago

I asked him (in a comment that was suppressed - free speech? ha!) how long ago the Holocaust was and whether he felt is was "desperate" for supporters of Israel to go on about the gas chambers when they were last used over 60 years ago.

Finally Mel herself, who recently posted this on the Lisbon Treaty (one must remember that her anti-Muslim paranoia is equalled by her loathing for the European Union and for believers in man-made global warming):

One thousand years of British history have been extinguished without a shot being fired

which forced me to ask:

.......how "One thousand years of British history have been extinguished" when Britain only came into being with the Union Of the Crowns in 1603? To a Scot there's not much difference in being ruled from Brussels or London, except that Scotland has never fought a war against Belgium.

Ah, the variety of British insect life...........

I Saw This And I Thought Of You

Or more accurately of you thinking of me.
Dedicated to my long-suffering wife Hilary, whose best nights' sleep come when I fall asleep on the sofa watching television.

(Cartoon from here)

Monday, March 10, 2008


The recent attack on the Jerusalem yeshiva was an indefensible murder of civilians. Let's get that straight.

However, the yeshiva in question wasn't simply a religious school the way you might think of a Sunday School or even a Convent High School. No, this place was a "religious" school like the ones the UK and USA spend their time searching out and destroying in Afghanistan and Iraq: a political indoctrination centre for would-be murderers and ethnic cleansers.

Don't believe me? How about Ha'aretz, the main Israeli newspaper?

Looks as though it was just as much a "targetted killing" as the ones the Israelis inflict on civilians in Gaza. Which is to say the target looked good on paper, but the aim was lousy and a load of innocent people wound up dead. Not to condemn it would be to let the Israelis off the hook for their far more numerous murders (or "TKs" as they like to call them to avoid even the word "killing"), and I'm not about to fall into that trap. Israeli Jews, Palestinian Arabs, al-Qaeda killers; they all have mothers and families; their deaths all cause grief to someone. The grieving relatives may cry alone, or may do so for the cameras. In many cases they then dig out a gun and head off to encourage more killing, because that's the way martyrdom works. I saw a story earlier today (I think it was on the BBC site, but funnily enough it's been pulled now) that families of the yeshiva victims had vowed to found a new illegal settlement for every dead student. When you consider that every new settlement means the ethnic cleansing of a hundred or so Palestinians, that's no different from the cheering AK-47-firing ghouls celebrating in Gaza at the Jerusalem shootings.

Wait, no, of course it is. It has the official backing of the peace-loving-only-when-negotiating-an-aid-package Olmert government. So why does anyone give credibility to all this talk of Israel's longing for peace? Only the peace that comes when all its neighbours have been exterminated and their land stolen. Olmert wants a one-state solution: one Jewish state of Israel from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. (He's a patient man.)

Of course, deck-chairs are being shuffled. Illegally, on someone else's deck, but does anyone care about that? When Palestinians (or indeed Israeli Arabs) build homes without permission the Israelis demolish them, sometimes with the Arabs still inside. Yet the pampered freeloading ultra-orthodox parasites get the world's sympathy for their plight as the government forces them from their "homes" (stolen Palestinian farms) to trudge as whingeing refugees a few miles down the road to a different stolen farm (God forbid these people should ever have to farm their own land: they wouldn't know where to begin). If they weren't so overprivileged they'd be being forced out of their squalid squats by bulldozers and cluster bombs.

Blogging with sound

Petite Anglaise has been interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. Yay!

Now I have to go and read her book.

Things we learned this week

1) This site is the #10 hit for the Google Egypt search "fuck sex with pygmies picture" .

2) Somewhere in Egypt is a deeply strange person whose internet searches could take a little refining.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A strong early contender for Twit of the Year 2008

I loved this story from the Guardian last week. I'm always amazed by people who are so totally unable to distinguish symbol from reality that they imagine that money itself, as a universal repository of value, is in some way a bad thing, and that a return to a barter society has anything to offer mankind at all. Let's face it, when I want to buy a box of clarinet reeds for my wife if I wish to do so without money then I need to find someone with a supply of Vandoren #3 reeds who happens to require an IBM mainframe program designed, tested or debugged. There aren't too many such people. Of course, such minor concerns are unlikely to stand in the way of someone who imagines, in best insular English upper-class-twit manner, that he can get to India by SPEAKING ENGLISH VERY LOUDLY to Johnny Foreigner.

I loved Boyle's bemusement at the French public's misunderstanding of his lofty goal. "The idea was to ask people if I could help them and in exchange receive food and a place to stay. But they thought I was begging." Um, yes, Mark, they would.

It must be OK, he isn't comparing anyone to the Nazis

Last Tuesday the Guardian's letters page contained a post from Tom Carew in which he compares the deaths of civilians in Gaza to those of US soldiers in the first Gulf War.

In the 1991 Gulf war the US army lost one in four of its dead in accidental "friendly fire". By that standard, the tragic loss of some civilians in Gaza during Israeli operations shows not any malice, incompetence or indifference by Israel but the unavoidable result of the fog of battle.

Well, first of all, there is no "fog of battle" because there is no battle, simply a long-range bombardment. "Friendly fire" incidents are where someone thinks they are aiming at an enemy and majke a mistake in identification. But Israel's bombardment, like its blockade and its illegal denial of water, food, medical supplies and electricity to Gaza, makes no attempt to target anyone more closely than "Lives In Gaza". And finally, of course, the US troops in the Gulf War had volunteered for the job, were being well-paid for it, and were at least supplied with some kind of defensive protection, however ineffective in the end. The inhabitants of Gaza didn't come halfway round the world for the pleasure of being bombed. They have no protection from the murder that Israel is visiting on them. And not only are they not being paid by Israel, they are having their normal sources of income systematically destroyed by Israel.

Who could make such a loathsome comparison? Could the writer be this Tom Carew, just spinning another fantasy?

At least the other letters on the page are full of good sense.

Sauce for the Goose

While reading Mad Mel's outpouring of bile against the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, I followed this link which she helpfully provided. It has some simple but effective guidelines for countering the omnipresent pro-Israel bias in the UK media and especially the BBC. For example:

Proof of simple but intelligent action: ‘A member of the public who had supported MPAC was watching the BBC News, at 10am he saw a BBC news 24 report about the conflict where it claimed ‘100 people’ had ‘died’ in the invasion. Having been trained by MPACUK, he picked the phone up and called the BBC. He then made an official complaint saying that the BBC, should stop using the word ‘people’ since it was not the Israelis who were being killed it’s the Palestinians, so they should tell the British public the facts and mention they were Palestinians, and also stop saying they ‘died, since they had not died due to a disease – they were killed.’ By the 11am news – the words ‘100 Palestinians have been killed’ was featured. That is what MPACUK means by ‘Intelligent Action’. 10 Million People watch BBC News 24 every day

MPACUK Intelligent Action ALERT– Call the Media

Please call the following channels and demand they feature the Gaza tradgedy and true extent of its brutality on the news. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. If you see ay pro Israel bias call them immediately. The Israeli side is doing just that. Also get a reference number for your call, so you know the operator has taken it down. Keep up to date with this campaign on our website www.mpacuk.org or write in with your own comments and let thousands of Muslims read them – we now get ten million hits a month.

BBC News 24: 02086249022
SKY News: 02077053232
Guardian: 02072782332
Mail: 02079386000
Mirror: 02072933000

There can be no doubt that it was a similar campaign by Zionists that led to the BBC's ridiculous twisting and turning over the Israeli threat of a "Holocaust". Good to see the other side getting itself organised.


A great interview with Melanie Phillips from a couple of years back, in which the woman is unable to open her mouth without making a bigger and bigger ass of herself.

Jesters: licensed to speak uncomfortable truths

Last week I found this.

It's a spoof, of course, but the sad thing is that there are thousands of people both in my own country (which allows Melanie Phillips to make a living from peddling anti-Muslim hatred*) and in the USA (where publishing a picture of Barack Obama in a turban is considered an insult, and where a staggering number of people still believe Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11) who have yet to benefit from such insights.

* For example, this week she has blamed the occupants of Gaza for the genocide being waged against them, which is rather like laying the blame for Auschwitz on self-gassing Jews. Then she is diverted into strident opposition to any liberalisation of our draconian and utterly pointless drug laws, and into denouncing man-made global warming as a myth. Yes, she really is a caricature of a right-wing idiot. Never mind, the attack on the Jerusalem yeshiva brought her back to her main purpose in life, which is blaming all Muslims for every murder committed by one. " They deliberately target Jewish teenagers in a religious school". They? One man, and as far as I know his actions haven't been claimed by any of the usual suspects normally so keen to take "credit", such as Islamic Jihad. Still, it all provides a terrific excuse for Mad Mel to demand the banning of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, and anyone else not toeing the Mad Mel line.

The Joy of Xxx

Terrific news from Clare Sudbery (she of the integral pencil-carriers). A publisher in Germany has bought her novel! This does now raise the intriguing possibility of her novel coming out in German and not in English, but that's a minor quibble. Go Clare!

Clare has been being secretive about the title. The original title was "Xxxx Xxxxxx", and in that case I do know what the Xs stand for. However, its new title is "Xxxxx Xxxx Xxx xx Xxxxxxx Sex". I can't see any way in which it could still refer to Xxxxxx being Xxxx, so I'm as much in the dark as everyone else. Clare has invited guesses over on her blog.

And may the best xxx xxx.

Proportionate Responses

Chip Clark posted a link to this cartoon (on this site) in my comments box recently.

Here are a couple more on a similar theme:

(The Israeli soldier is saying to Gaza , which is biting him: “Oh, my finger.” )

These were helpfully collected by the Anti-Defamation League, American Zionism's whiners-in-chief, who appear to regard them as wicked anti-Semitism rather than the legitimate commentary on Israel's disproportionate violence that they obviously are. Once again, you couldn't make it up. (Hat tip: Xymphora)

And in view of Israel''s recent threat to visit a Holocaust on the people of Gaza, this final cartoon from the ADL's handy resource seems sadly apposite:

Emergency Gaza demonstration. London, Parliament. 05/03/08

Video footage here of the demonstration outside the Westminster Parliament last Wednesday in support of the Palestinians of Gaza. Some good points made by Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Burden, explaining what action the British government could and should be taking.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign's website is here.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

It isn't only Mark Twain whose death occasions exaggerated rumours

An amusing piece in The Daily Mash.

I've been saying pretty much the same thing for years. We live on a planet that had a huge percentage of its biota - more than the worst climate predictions suggest are now at risk - removed 250 million years ago, and again 65 million years ago. Look around you: does the place seem barren and lifeless to you?

Whatever indignities we contrive to inflict on it, whether by global warming, nuclear war, or annything else we come up with, the planet - and the future of life on it - is secure until the Sun expands and engulfs it. Whether humanity remains comfortable, or survives at all, is another matter altogether, but not an important one from the biosphere's point of view. Lets's face it, any visiting extra-terrestrial in 2008 would conclude on a strictly numerical basis that this was a planet most of whose occupants had six legs. If we screw the place up to the extent that we don't survive, the six-legged majority will pick up the baton.

Or if not pick it up, then lay eggs in it.

Bishop Kuninga supports a vicious, racist dictator. Archbishop WIlliams opposes the demonisation of Muslims. Spot the anti-Christ?

The cretinous squawking of Mad Mel notwithstanding, Rowan Williams' recent suggestions regarding a possible role for Sharia law in the UK do not demonstrate a senior figure in the Episcopal communion abusing his position for political ends.

But this does.

I'm not sure whether the relative volume of reporting here of the two stories is indicative more of British - I was about to write "xenophobia", but it's more "apathy" where Africa is concerned - or of British Islamophobia. Certainly Mel P and her fellow-travellers have every reason to whip up anti-Muslim sentiment and no interest whatever in the human rights of a bunch of beaten-up black Christians a long way away in an area with practically no Muslims or Jews in it.

Darwin and the CD collection

My car was broken into yet again last week. This time the thief got away with a working radio/CD player, but I was rather amused to see that a carrier bag of CDs was left behind. While these were for the most part less obscure than the ones stolen last time, I suppose they were saved by the precedent, like the harmless moths that have the same colours and patterns as unpalatably bitter ones.

The car isn't that long for this world, I suspect, and not worth surrendering a no-claims bonus for, so I have simply had the door locks fixed and will leave a hole in the dashboard to signal the pointlessness of any further incursions.

Then I fetched the stick; now I'm a retriever

Apparently the BBC featured these dogs on Thursday night's coverage of Crufts. I have to say that the idea of a hunting dog whose technique is to run up and down fetching sticks and wagging its white-tipped tail so as to attract ducks within gunnery range (and then to fetch their corpses ashore) rather appeals. I mean, that's a heck of a job description.

Condemnation of Degenerate Art - from Munich 1937 to Melbourne 2008

Not sure where to begin with this piece by Dr Dvir Abramovich of the University of Melbourne. It would be nice to think it was a spoof, but apparently it isn't. The guy really is that humourless, that stupid, that far up himself.

Exhibit A: US senators Dick Durbin, Rick Santorum and Robert Byrd compared the actions of American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to Nazi tactics.

Gosh. While I realised of course that the word "Holocaust" was now a trademark registered for use by Jews only, and that any comparison of Israeli state atrocities to those of the Nazis was strictly verboten, I had not previously appreciated that any comparison of anyone's conduct, anywhere, to that of the Nazis came under the Holocaust trademark infringement. Even when it's being done by Jews: Offensive representations found their way into the Jewish Museum in Manhattan. Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery used Nazis as pop culture symbols to attack consumerist culture and argue that there are parallels between the Nazis and modern capitalism.

Exhibit B: Life is Beautiful, an absurdist fantasy, irresponsibly dared to set a comedy in an extermination camp, raising the stakes of bad taste and shallowness. Never mind that it pulls no punches in its depiction of the camp, or that Roberto Benigni's lead character ends up just as dead as the 5,999,999 other Holocaust victims. The story is not of unleavened gloom, and any suggestion of brightness amidst the horror must be airbrushed out of history in a new kind of Holocaust revisionism. I shudder to think what this self-regarding balloon would make of the decidedly chirpy Diary of Anne Frank if he ever read it. Perhaps he doesn't complain about its "irresponsible" suggestion that a teenage girl could remain cheerful under the most terrible conditions because like many Holocaust deniers he considers the book a fake?

Exhibit C: The Brooklyn Museum exhibition Sanitation by Hans Haacke featured anti-art declarations by politicians, including former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, that were written in Frankfurt Gothic typeface, the same lettering used by the Third Reich. OMFG, this is beyond parody. He really believes that use of the same typeface as the Third Reich (and I bet he couldn't readily distinguish it from dozens of other Gothic typefaces used in Germany for hundreds of years before Hitler was born) is forever forbidden because of the Holocaust. Is the depiction of Egyptian hieroglyphics banned because of the privations of the Israelites in Egypt? Or cuneiform because of the Babylonian captivity? Is history to be reduced to Jewish history? (Well, he is "Director of Jewish Studies" so that would be a logical position in terms of career advancement.)

Exhibit D: Mel Brooks' The Producers is Broadway's biggest hit. The finale has a chorus of leggy women in black boots dancing on a revolving swastika giving the Sieg Heil while Hitler and Braun romped at Berchtesgaden. What great fun — unless you were a victim. If I were a parent considering sending a child to study at the University of Melbourne, I would have second thoughts if they employ people this stupid in senior positions. Has anyone ever missed the point of a play (or film) so completely? Does he think Airplane! is a fearless exposé of safety issues in American aviation?

Exhibit E: Jerry Seinfeld made out with his girlfriend during a screening of Schindler's List. Colour me shocked. Clearly he should have been reverently on his knees. Perhaps he'd been reading Benjamin "Cunt" Kerstein's opinion of the film as an example of Spielberg's antisemitism: Spielberg is a fantasist after all, and we can hardly expect a filmmaker whose primary cinematic influence is ‘50s television to be capable of putting together an entirely credible narrative out of life and death events. Let alone in struggling with the complexities of the Jewish reacquisition of the capabilities for power, violence and, yes, we shall speak the dread word, vengeance. Schindler’s List will, of course, be cited as an exception, but in that case Jews were quite comfortably victimized, and so we could spend our time pondering the possible humanity of a mass-murdering Nazi officer.

I am amazed beyond belief that this unbelievable walking pile of ignorance has yet to post a complaint (at least, anywhere Google can find it) about Matan Vilnai's use of the word "Holocaust" to threaten the Palestinians with genocide. I realise that the genocide itself wouldn't bother him, but the copyright infringement and concomitant insult surely has him chewing the rug over Vilnai's failure to "privilege" the pain of the survivors of the One Genuine Holocaust.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Play again (Y/N)?

Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons (let's not forget Dave Arneson), died on Tuesday.

I failed to spot this earlier in the week, but Aric Clark has a good post on it.

I still have my original copy, looking just like the one in this picture, and bought as a student when D&D was still something new and edgy.

Update: xkcd has a GG tribute strip.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Shoah And Tell

See here for a good round-up of the frantic lying and spinning being undertaken by those whose comfortable livelihoods are threatened by the exposure of Israel's intentions toward its Palestinian neighbours in Gaza. Mad Mel, of course, has stormed in with a piece whose arrogant ignorance is remarkable even by her standards, perhaps because this time she wrote it herself. Not only does she demonstrate her ignorance of what a definite article is, she manages to accuse the BBC's cringingly diluted coverage (remember?) of taking Hamas's side. Meanwhile, the charmers at Engage have called for Vilnai's resignation because it's anti-Semitic to compare Israel to the Nazis. You couldn't make it up.

He Said, She Said

What he said, with regard to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

What she said, with regard to immigrants.

The Daily Mail demonstrates its day in, day out anti-Muslim bias, and how it happily recycles three-week-old "news" from another paper if it supports its agenda of hatred. (via)

Naomi Klein on the pervasive Islamophobia that makes a picture of Barack Obama in a turban seem like a bad thing.

Mad Mel Phillips, Britain's leading ignorant Islamophobe, who writes for the Daily Mail because she couldn't spell Spearhead, exports her uniquely repugnant brand of filth to Australia. Sadly Phillips herself remains here. Actually, I say "uniquely repugnant" but her article is actually far from original, some of it being plagiarised from a book review by Ibn Warraq in the City Journal. Ibn Warraq may be an Islamophobe, but at least he writes the stuff he gets paid for. Phillips appears to be a fraud and a thief as well as a racist bigot. Well, I suppose it's a kind of career development.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Shoah Must Go On

Israel's Deputy Defence Minister threatened Gaza with a Shoah (the word generally used in Hebrew exclusively to refer to the Nazi genocide of the Jews). Or more exactly with a "bigger Shoah", implying perhaps that the inhabitants of Gaza are already suffering genocide. (Whoops.) In any case, his meaning was perfectly clear: we don't like the government you elected (in free, fair and wholly democratic elections) so we will slaughter you all. Look, we've started.

Now of course he may have said more than he meant, but when one compares the slim coverage given to his remark when compared with that given to, for example, Iran's President Ahmadinejad's call for Israel to be "wiped off the map", it's almost as though there was some kind of systematic pro-Israeli bias in the Western media. But that can't be true, because we're always being told how anti-Semitic they all are.

Now of course if there was really a systematic bias towards Israel at, say the BBC, they might have bowed to pressure to modify their reporting of the story. Their site might have changed its story to airbrush the word "holocaust" from the headline and bury it deep within the small print. But the BBC would never do that, would they?

Actually, it's even better than that: the BBC made nine revisions to the story during the day. The first corrected a typo; thereafter they progressively made more and more references to Hamas attacks on Israel, before "holocaust" was diluted to "risking disaster" and finally "invasion". Presumably the Israeli embassy just kept on ringing back until they took down the dictation correctly.

Hands up all those who believe the BBC is impartial.
Hands up all those who believe the BBC's reporting is biased against Israel.
Hands up all those who think the BBC's reporting of this story is whitewashing an inconvenient truth regarding the Israeli regime's intentions?

When the cartoon below was published a month or two back I thought it was rather over the top. Now I know better.