Friday, 29 June 2007

A ragbag of aborted Slaps

I have this little book. In it, I write down things that bother me, make me go Grrr!, get my goat, depress me. The idea is that each item might become a Slap at some point in the future. Except that most often I don’t look at it; I write about something I’ve just heard or read or that has annoyed me personally in the hour before sitting at my desk. So, here, in no special order, are a few things that might have become Slaps, but didn’t quite make the grade.

* One in 25 old people are abused in their own homes.
* Until now, when a woman had knee-replacement surgery, the prosthetic patella she would be given was modelled on a male one (and they are different, apparently). Someone has finally cottoned on that women might walk better with a patella that fitted their knee properly.
* One quarter of Russia is owned by 36 men.
* 11% of Mauritanian girls are force-fed because the men prefer fat women. Like in the case of female circumcision, it’s the older women who insist it has to be done.
* China’s fur trade.
* Earphones that get into a tangle all the time.
* A teenager planned to kill his entire family because he wanted to be adopted by a rich couple (he managed to kill his brother and sister).
* Women who are threatened by an all-women environment.
* Motorists who just get a fine for killing people.
* Mariella Frostrup.

Addendum (30/06/07): After listening to this week's Any Answers on BBC Radio 4, I have to add 'Phone-ins' to my list. I try not to listen to such unbelievably annoying programmes, but today I'm waiting for Arcadia by Tom Stoppard to start... just about... now. Aaaaah, bliss!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

The greatest sin

Do you know what it is – according to the Americans? It’s not being rich, filthy rich, obscenely rich.

If you’re not rich, filthy rich, obscenely rich, it must be because you’re not trying hard enough. Anyone, whatever their field of expertise, whatever their abilities, whatever their education (or lack of), whatever the state of their health; whatever the economic situation in their country, can earn oodles of money if only they apply themselves to that goal. No exception.

I thought that the American Dream thing had been debunked long ago; that it had become obvious to everyone that being determined, flexible and hard-working just wasn’t enough; that the world was now a very different place from what it was at the turn of the last century – it may have been true then, it certainly isn’t now.

But, no, it looks like this kind of thinking is still alive. Someone, whose comments weren’t exactly welcome, advised me today to work harder. Er, yes, I would if I could. I would if I wasn’t unwell. I would if there was work to be had – somewhere. But there isn’t.

Quite apart from being astoundingly arrogant, this attitude is staggeringly stupid. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the way the world works. Only someone who has had a sheltered life or who, like the person in question, earns big bucks working for an international bank* in a European city that has, if one is to believe Wikipedia, the best quality of life anywhere in the world, can still come out with this kind of crap.


* Working in a bank: my worst nightmare!

Addendum (25/06/07): I love my hit counter: as well as telling me how many readers I have it tells me who reads me – those who can actually read and also those who can’t. You have been warned. LOL!

Saturday, 23 June 2007

A wasted life

A young girl was stabbed by another young girl the other day, on a London estate. Interviewed on the TV, her distraught mother said, ‘She was a very beautiful, very ambitious, young girl, who one day wanted to become an accountant.’

I’m afraid I couldn’t resist laughing: the juxtaposition of ‘very ambitious’ with ‘an accountant’ was so incongruous. I was expecting her to say her daughter wanted to be a brain surgeon, someone who would make a difference to other people’s life, you know, like Miss World candidates, who answer, ‘World peace!’, when asked what they wish to achieve. But an accountant?!

Apparently, it’s more difficult nowadays for people from a deprived background to go up in the world than it was 20 years ago and I suppose one should be grateful she didn’t want to become a Page-Three model and be famous for the size of her boobs, or take part in Big Brother and earn pots of money selling salacious stories to the press, still...

Who shall I slap? Parents and educators who do not manage to stimulate children and make them want ‘more’ from life? The media who makes us all believe that being a celebrity is the utmost achievement? Who else?

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Balm for the soul

It’s the middle of June, and summer hasn’t even started here. The lack of sunshine is affecting me. All those years spent on the Côte d’Azur, you know... If it doesn’t begin to get lighter soon, I’ll have to travel somewhere where it’s sunny, and I don’t travel well. Then what?

Since the world has gone mad; since there is no justice, no decency, no consideration any longer, we all need something to soothe our ruffled souls. Here it is, in the shape of the beautiful Leonard Cohen – beautiful face, beautiful mind and most beautiful voice.

This version of ‘Take This Waltz’ (based on a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca) is from a 1988 Norwegian broadcast. The gorgeous backing singers swaying with Leonard are Julie Christensen and Perla Batalla.

My thanks to the person who posted it on YouTube.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Just one more thing

Right now, I feel like devoting this entire blog to the injustices perpetrated against Israel, there’s so much that is making me apoplectic. It might become quite boring for people who don’t give a hoot about that country’s survival or reputation, but I have to devote a post to this: the University College Union (UCU) passed a resolution on 30 May to boycott Israeli universities and academics. It is shameful and conjures up images of books being burned, of respected professors being thrown out of windows by storm troopers. Others, more articulate than I, have written about how repellent they would find such a boycott. Read what they say here and here.

It’s a slippery slope...

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Six heroic days

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the start of the Six-Day War.

Israel won. Calling it a miracle would be belittling the achievement of the men who saved the country from annihilation and, anyway, disparaging Israel is the role of the BBC: it does it so well.

All this week it’s broadcasting a series of programmes about the war, presented by the then BBC correspondent Jeremy Bowen. This is how the first programme started on Monday: ‘The myth of 1967 is that the Israeli David slew the Arab Goliath; it’s more accurate to say that there were two Goliaths in the Middle East in 1967.’

Et voilà! This is how, in one sentence, you give the impression that there was no disproportion between the Israeli forces and those of the Arab countries that were preparing to crush them. But then, as an Arab commentator said yesterday, ‘I’m sure they knew very well that the Arab countries weren’t ready to attack.’

You could have fooled me. Especially since this is what Nasser said, the day after he decided to close the Straits of Tiran (which had provoked a strong reaction from Israel and was in effect the casus belli), ‘The Jews threaten to make war. I reply: Welcome! We are ready for war.’

I was 19 years old at the time and I followed the events very closely with my parents and all our Jewish friends. We were glued to the television and the radio. We heard the crowds in Cairo and elsewhere in the Arab world shout ‘Death to Israel! Death to the Jews!’(I still have a recording of those blood-curdling cries.) There was no doubt as to their ultimate goal. As Nasser said, ‘Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight. [...] We will not accept any coexistence with Israel. [...] Today the issue is not the establishment of peace between the Arab states and Israel. [...] The war with Israel is in effect since 1948.’ The Iraqi president added, ‘Our goal is clear -- to wipe Israel off the map.’

The BBC called the series of programmes, ‘Six Days That Changed the Middle East’. A lot of people were hoping that the Middle East would be changed even more drastically by the destruction of Israel. Fortunately for me, and my fellow Jews, it didn’t happen that way.

Slapping the BBC (again)!

Updates (14/07/07): In case you think I’m a lone paranoid voice, please read what the journalist Melanie Phillips wrote three days ago on her website here. You see: even CAMERA (the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) is up in arms about the BBC’s bias against Israel.

(25/06/07): Norman Lebrecht also mentions Jeremy Bowen’s comment in his review of two books about the Six-Day War in today’s Standard.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Be my guests!

I was listening to Feedback on BBC Radio 4 earlier: among the usual complaints about ‘bad language’, they read out a letter from a listener bemoaning the fact that one hardly ever heard ‘positive’ news on the air.

What ‘positive’ news?

I can’t think of any. Can you? The floor is yours!

If, on the other hand, constant exhortations to be positive make you feel queasy, and you believe, like me, that keeping a positive outlook doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference; that life is for the most part a series of aggravating incidents; that bottling things up isn’t good for you, then feel free to grumble and slap.