Sunday, 20 September 2009


This shot of Amedeo Modigliani has nothing to do with the following, but I like to put a picture on the blog. There should be something interesting to look at, at least.

Of late, I have been involved in a friendly discussion with an old friend, Jeff, supposedly about the Middle East. It is really about Israel.
Jeff is - or was - I think, paid to put that troubled country in as good a light as possible. Or perhaps he really does see it as the promised land. Both, I expect. Fair enough. It takes all sorts, etc.
As our chat has been to-ing and fro-ing, I have also been reading a book called 'The Rest Is Noise,' by Alex Ross. I cannot recommend the book highly enough. It is more or less a history of 'serious' music during the previous century. Don't be put off by this. The book is a compendium of gossip and scandal replete with jealousy and hate, as the song goes.

On the face of it, there is no real link between the two subjects, but, as Forster put it somewhere, 'Only connect.'
Two quotes from 'Noise' struck me as relevant. One is from a French poet, Charles Peguy in 1910 (of whom I am afraid I know nothing).

'Everything begins in mystique and ends in politics.'

The second is from Leonard Bernstein:

'It is only after fifty, sixty, seventy years of world holocausts, of the simultaneous advance of democracy with our increasing inability to stop making war, with the simultaneous magnification of national pieties with the intensification of our active resistance to social equality - only after we have experienced all this through the smoking ovens of Auschwitz, the frantically bombed jungles of Vietnam, through Hungary, Suez, the Bay of Pigs, the farce-trial of Sinavsky and Daniel, the refueling of the Nazi machine, the murder in Dallas, the arrogance of South Africa, the Hiss-Chambers travesty, the Trotskyite purges, Black Power, Red Guards, the Arab encirclement of Israel, the plague of McCarthyism, the Tweedledum armaments race, - only, after all this can we finally listen to Mahler's music and understand that it foretold all. And that in the foretelling it showered a rain of beauty on this world that has not been equalled since.'

A truly splendid rant, no question, and no more than Mahler deserves. If Bernstein were to write it today, he might omit maybe South Africa, but add several later horrors - 9-11, Bosnia, Chechnya, Ethopia, Iraq, Guantanamo, Gaza, Abu Grahib, Afghanistan. It would seem things are not improving much.

Peguy's quote struck me as particularly apt for Israel. Of course, it could just as well apply to almost everything.

Of Bernstein, as a liberal myself, I am in agreement with him on virtually all - Mahler especially.

To talk of 'the Arab encirclement of Israel,' though, strikes me as odd. Surely when the first Israelis arrived, they must have known that they were surrounded by Arab states? How could they fail to be encircled? Maybe they thought the Arabs would not mind their arrival. The Arabs minded very much from day one.
It seems as if Bernstein was trying to shoehorn Israel's predicament into a list where it did not comfortably fit.

Still on the ceaseless hunt for knowledge - in Moratinos, we never sleep - I looked up what countries constitute the Middle East. Here is the list I found:

Gaza Strip
Saudi Arabia
United Arab Emirates
West Bank

No Egypt? Surely an oversight. Even so, a pretty shabby bunch, I reckon. Even shabbier including Egypt. Afghanistan would fit right in as well.
It's a bit late to start asking what Israel is doing rubbing shoulders with such company - but I do. In Spain (or is it Russia?) we have a saying: Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. Can anyone have thought that any good could come of all this? Or is it that people feel they have no choice? Gotta do what they gotta do? The result may well be the end of civilisation as we know it. If global warming does't get us, racial hatred and aggressive nationalism can pick up the slack.
Might not be so bad a thing, though. After all, Mahler is nice, but not necessary.
Maybe the cockroaches will can a better job of it.

Friday, 18 September 2009


The following is a cut-down version of an AP story today. Clark has not been charged with anything yet. He might just be innocent. Imagine. But he is being lynched as surely as many innocent blacks were in the last century..

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Staffers in white coats reported to work Friday at the end of an extraordinary week at Yale as police considered whether a graduate student's grisly death might have stemmed from a dispute with an animal research technician described as an overbearing "control freak."
A law enforcement official said police are looking into the possibility that Raymond Clark III's attitude led to a deadly workplace confrontation with 24-year-old Annie Le. She vanished Sept. 8, and her body was found in a utility compartment in a Yale medical school building five days later, on what was to be her wedding day.
Police charged Clark, 24, with murder on Thursday, arresting him at a motel a day after taking hair, fingernail and saliva samples to compare with evidence from the crime scene.
Bond was set at $3 million for Clark, who kept his head down and said "Yes, your honor," when asked whether he understood his rights. He did not enter a plea.
The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing and many details remain sealed, said Yale workers told police that Clark was a "control freak" who clashed with scientists and their proteges in the lab where they both worked at the Ivy League school.
Investigators haven't decided whether the theory will ultimately lead to a motive but don't believe they'll need to establish one when Clark goes to trial because they have an abundance of strong forensic evidence, the official said.
Authorities are offering few details about the crime. They would not discuss a motive, largely because Clark will not talk to police, and would not disclose the DNA test results or how they connected Clark to the slaying.
Yale students are relieved that a suspect is in custody, yet shaken that the crime happened there.
"It's important to the community to know that something's been done and that somebody's actually being brought to justice," Juliana Biondo said Thursday.
But that doesn't comfort Doug Lindsay.
"Despite the fact that they found somebody ... it was still, to me, kind of scary," he said.
Two friends of Clark's since childhood, appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Thursday night, said they were stunned by the murder allegations and could not reconcile them with the young man they've known for years.
"That's not the Raymond Clark I've talked to my whole entire life," Bobby Heslin said.
"I just can't picture him doing something like this," Maurice Perry said.
The New York Times reported that Clark at times grew angry if lab workers did not wear shoe covers. "He would make a big deal of it, instead of just requesting that they wear them," said a researcher who asked not to be identified.

If your newspaper is running this kind of story, I advise canceling, right now.

I put the fifth paragraph in bold for obvious reasons. The fact that 'the investigation is ongoing and many details remain sealed,' will be of small consolation to Clark. His name was not one of the sealed details.

Thursday, 17 September 2009


WHICH DISNEY DWARF - no, let's no do that one again - how about..

Which of these countries will decide to get its nuclear retaliation in first?

A: India, B: Pakistan, C: Israel, D: Iran
Answers on a flameproof postcard please. Happy Facebooking!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

More Oh, God

MEXICO CITY – A Bolivian religious fanatic briefly hijacked a jetliner from the beach resort of Cancun as it landed in Mexico City on Wednesday, police said. All passengers and the crew were released unharmed.
The Bible-carrying hijacker used a juice can he said was a bomb to hold the 103 passengers and crew on the tarmac for more than an hour.
Masked police stormed the aircraft with guns drawn and escorted several handcuffed men away without firing a shot. Police later said there was only one hijacker, and the other men aboard were detained because the suspect had told a flight attendant he had three accomplices. The others were quickly released.
Jose Flores, 44, later told police his three companions were "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."
Flores hijacked Aeromexico Flight 576 after a divine revelation, according to Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna. Flores said Wednesday's date — 9-9-09 — is the satanic number 666 turned upside down.

Well, that's all right then. Until I read the last sentence, I thought Senor Flores must be some kind of nut.
But has God nothing better to do than go around hijacking planes?

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Oh, God

There is a very interesting and thought-provoking article in The New Yorker of 31 August, called God In The Quad. It is based partly on a review of a book by Terry Eagleton who is apparently a Marxist Catholic. The book is a repudiation of the 'new atheism' of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins among others. I have not read either the Eagleton book or the Dawkins book, The God Delusion, and will not - Eagleton because I won't agree with it, thanks to the New Yorker article, and Dawkins because I already agree with it.
So, no need.
I shall read 'Notes from the Underground,' which has just arrived, instead.
In fact there is no point in writing any any more about this topic. I would have to go on for thousands of words and nothing would be solved and people would either get bored or angry.
But, do try to read the article. I agree with most of it.

This, says the site, is my 150th blog. An intoxicating - or sobering - thought. One or the other.