“It was a graveyard smash” October 31, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
All this Halloween festivation has reminded me what a girl’s blouse I used to be. OK, what a girl’s blouse I am. When I was a youngster, I was actually TOO SCARED to listen to The Monster Mash. Click on the link for some audio examples. Not very scary really…
Ynys Enlli October 27, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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I wonder if it’s from having grown up on an island – Great Britain – that islands in general hold such romance for me, especially even smaller ones. I am not a religious man. I am not even a believer. But I find the holy islands dotted around the British coast deeply mythic. Bardsey is the latest to come to my attention after another heavenly programme on Radio 4. There’s also Lindisfarne or Holy Island, walk-to-able at low tide, I believe, and there’s another well-known religious community living on Iona. And I heard a fascinating programme about the monks on this island, probably also on Radio 4, some time ago. There’s an undeniable romance in cutting oneself off from the rest of the world and shutting oneself up in some monolithic building with open fires and chanting with the bleak British winter gusting outside (or bleak British summer, even, in the case of Papa Stronsay, no doubt). And some of the most mythic holidays I’ve ever taken have been – admittedly on the mainland – along the Northumberland coast, with endless ruins and mythic bleakness, and along the Welsh coast, taking in Machynlleth and Owain Glyndwr’s parliament, Cader Idris and looking out to the most mythic of mythic sights, the Llyn peninsula. I’ve often thought I could be a monk if only I had a drop of faith. In the meantime, I can just be grateful to them for creating such utterly beautiful and evocative places.
England gets some German beaver October 27, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Lukashenka v Milinkevich October 27, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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I’m not sure how to read the candidates’ ratings in the opinion polls. On the face of it, it’s depressing. Just under half would vote for Lukashenka tomorrow, and a quarter for the opposition candidate. As the article points out, these are the figures compiled by an independent agency. Lukashenka’s administration’s own figures give him between 75% and 80%, corresponding to his normal tallies in his elehant (sic) victories. In any case, and putting to the back of my mind the unlevel playing field for now, this means that the Milinkevich camp clearly has to go for the undecideds and uninteresteds between now and next year. This depends on Milinkevich somehow getting noticed by the population at large – no easy task when he’ll have about as much media coverage as the Israeli song at the Eurovision Song Contest on a Lebanese TV channel… But it does mean under half the population supports Lukashenka. That is cause for some hope, at least.
Murder in Hadera October 27, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I am listening to Kolisrael to hear more on the first suicide murder in a couple of months. This hardens my view that the Israelis don’t seem to get much in return for whatever concessions they make (which is not to say I’m against these concessions, but the logic amongst some that these concessions are met with no reciprocity so why the hell make them is understandable). And then the Iranian president comes out with this. Wiped off the map? And what precisely has the whole Israeli/Palestinian affair got to do with Iran anyway? Admirable to see that Mr. Ahmadinejad’s feelings of solidarity don’t extend to the human race as a whole (and aren’t there rather a few Christians in the Middle East too? Are they also “a move by the world oppressor (the West) against the Islamic world?”).
RIP the victims of crazed hatred and dimness.
World Service October 25, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Historic change over at the World Service. Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Kazakh, Polish, Slovak, Slovene and Thai services are to be axed. I had an initial tingle of sadness at the thought of Eastern European services being cut, but reading and listening about this more, it’s not all grim. Those countries now – apart from Kazakhstan – are all democracies and figures show that people are listening to the BBC less and less. (And the Kazakhs can still listen in Russian.) And the money saved will be ploughed into an Arabic-language TV service. BBC World Service Director Nigel Chapman denied that the BBC World Service is working to a government agenda, saying: “We have no political motive. Our job is to be a broadcaster.” But obviously the World Service bigwigs have decided there’s a job to be done in the Middle East. Nice that some Eastern Europeans are already expressing their sadness. (I can hear the Czech foreign minister bemoaning the loss on the airwaves right now. That’s a compliment to the BBC, that a minister actually welcomes a foreign source of news in his language.) Many Germans rued the German service’s passing too, but they got over it, of course. And, in any case, many World Service listeners losing their native-language broadcasts are likely to be outward-looking (or listening) types and will just as happily listen to the English-language broadcasts. So this is happy axing, almost.
Erik the soon-to-be-happy Viking October 25, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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A nice human interest story. Poor Erik Ramgren set off from Sweden for the Caribbean and ran aground in Norfolk. But this is a happy story, in my view. Erik sounds a bit of a misery, which I love, of course. Alone in the world – ‘partner’ (makes me think he must be in the club) and son (makes me think not) both dead – and couldn’t bear the thought of another lonely Swedish winter. OK, so he hasn’t made it to the Caribbean, but he’s been met with great kindness and generosity in Yarmouth. That should have him perked up like nobody’s business. He can get some nice little job to complement his Swedish pension, get his boat fixed, and then store it nicely when he realises he doesn’t want to leave Yarmouth next year after all. A happy ending.
Berlin October 25, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I wonder if I secretly have a bit of a славянская душа. I see Chagall (English also available) had the right idea and only stayed in Berlin for a year. He must have understood that the city would smother his creativity. And although Nabokov stayed much longer, I’ve heard he couldn’t stick the place and never read a German book. (This is an awfully good resource for Russian literature, by the way, but reading online is hell.) Maybe it’s because I came to Berlin via St. Petersburg that I’ve found it so hard to settle here. Or maybe that’s nonsense. It could well be nonsense. In any case, my favourite Belarusian site is making me have a bit of a yearn for the East this morning. Or, if not quite the East, then at least Slavic Mitteleuropa. In many ways, it’s easy for an Englander to live in Berlin or Germany. The locals are cold, rational beasts, like the natives back on the island. And I have nothing against a bit of cold rationalism. But occasionally, it would be nice to have a bit of irrational passion in the equation… Anyway, I have promised myself that I must not think happiness and place are linked. That’s what everyone tells me. I could be as happy in Murashi as I could in any other village…
Eurovision Ping Pong October 24, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Now far be it from me to make you think I have a personality disorder, but I’m still obsessed with all things Eurovision. It’ll be over by Christmas, I’m sure. I’m awfully happy to see that my humble efforts in spreading some funky Hebrovision cheer have met with Lukeski’s approval, but what’s this about a Norwegian song being better than any of my Israeli entries? I refuse to believe it. Well, in sticking with my ‘No Goy trash’ policy as far as the Eurovision is concerned, I’ve come across another Israeli gem. A total, out-and-out, corkingly good (in a bad sort of way) tune. Yes, it’s that link again, then the same lateral thinking test to see if you can find the Israel in Eurovision link, and then click on the entry for the year 2000. I’m guessing they weren’t taking themselves too seriously, Ping Pong, and they managed to get disowned by the Israeli Eurovision… what? Ministry? …well, the folks in charge, anyway, by insisting on waving Israeli and Syrian flags together at the end of their performance. And the lyrics,
All day long I’m sitting in the kibbutz
Another cigar and it feels a little sour
All the time just depression and boredom
If I won’t finish, it will end up in a boom
Oh oh happy…
All day long wars on television
And in Australia floods have begun again
Here comes Sunday’s depression
I want, I want a cucumber
Oh oh happy…
aren’t majorly earnest. But it’s all a jolly old piss-take and, in a gay way, I fancy the blonde chick. Now that I’m Ping Pong’s nambawan fan, I’ve come across this video, so it would appear they’re still going strong (but I don’t fancy the blonde so much now that she’s gone dark-haired) and there appears to be a London connection…
Funky Heebs October 23, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I am fiendishly, spine-chillingly, breathtakingly busy at the moment, and I’ve pretended to myself that I have to be at the computer at the crack of dawn to get to work. But the truth is a little different. Yesterday, mid marathon-working-sesh, I understood all my Christmases had come at once and that 2005 was a very special year indeed. No, not because I’ve reached some milestone age, or because peace and lurve have broken out everywhere and we’re all going to live in perfect harmony for ever. No. This year has TWO Eurovision Song Contests (of sorts). And why I’m really at the computer so early is to look again at some of the clips I chuckled myself to sleep over last night.
Now there might well be a bit of judophilic bias here, but top hoots in my view are some of the Israeli entries. Go to this glorious Israeli Eurovision site and click (all in Hebrew, but let it be an IQ test) just to the left of the Athens 2006 link to bring up an ‘Israel in Eurovision’ window. And there, in all their glory, are all Israel’s entries, videos ‘n all. Personal favourites are 1978, when Israel won for the first time. The line-dancing and all-round funkiness are just heaven. The singer is clearly a crazed drug fiend, and his two male backing singers look just stoned. But look out for the slightly frumpy one of the three female backing singers. She has danced so hard her floral headgear seems to be falling out. And the song does every tempo: racy, slow and downright frantic. 1983’s pretty spesh for the costumes and line-dancing too, and I think that’s Ofra Haza doing the singing. I have a fantasy of going to some gay bar in Tel Aviv and seeing the blond male backing singer, now a bitter 40-something hardened alcoholic, propping up the bar and slurring, “I could have been somebody.” And who’s that in 1985? Not our 1978 champ again surely? 1998 provides more glory, of course, with Dana International. Enjoy. It beats work any morning…
Britons polite 59% of the time October 21, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Awfully important research shows that Brits are polite 59% of the time. I bet Germans can’t compete. Anyway, this presumably means that Britons are pretty damned impolite or – let’s throw caution to the wind – actually RUDE 41% of the time. That means for 590 minutes and 24 seconds a day, Brits are walking around effing and blinding and tripping people up and not letting others off the Tube before getting on and slamming doors in folks’ faces and refusing to say please and thank you. Hopefully, 480 of the 590 minutes and 24 seconds of outright rudeness are spent being rude asleep. I’m constantly telling folk, “No I will not give up my seat,” and daringly spitting when I’m asleep. Which means that there’s only 110 minutes and 24 seconds of rudeness ‘up-time’ to avail of a day. Not even two measly hours for a nice bit of rudeness… Well, for the sake of the nation’s mental health, maybe folk should spend as much of this time alone as possible. I propose cabins – called something catchy, like ‘impolitesses’ – being dotted around the country, rather like those nice nuclear shelters in Albania, where people could go and have their lunch, say, and a bit of a swear and a scowl. They could perhaps be fitted with cans of spray paint, so you could make the most of your rudeness up-time to do some rude graffiti, say, with extra swearing (for example, “blast” or “flip”.) But you probably can’t have folk slinking off to the impolitesse, or impo, for almost 2 hours a day. An hour at most. So there’s still 50 minutes and 24 seconds to be coped with a day, but if that’s spread nicely through the remaining 849 minutes and 36 seconds of polite time, perhaps we might just manage to cope with it…
A good catch October 20, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Journalist’s death in Belarus October 20, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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One mustn’t jump to conclusions about this, of course, but the fact that the dead journalist in question – found in his house with head injuries – worked for a paper in Belarus in open conflict with the government line is cause for suspicion.
More Theodore Dalrymple October 20, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Via Laban Tall’s blog, excerpts from an awfully good piece about Theodore Dalrymple, whose writing never fails to impress me while making me feel deeply wicked and degenerate at the same time. From the piece comes this:
“Lost in the Ghetto” starts: One of the terrible fates that can befall a human being is to be born intelligent or sensitive in an English slum. It is like a long, slow, exquisite torture devised by a sadistic deity from whose malevolent clutches escape is almost impossible.
Hauntingly well said. There’s also this:
Before he moved to Birmingham in 1990, Mr. Daniels* worked as a doctor in various parts of Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific. All his work has been with the indigent, but he denies any missionary impulse. He has traveled all over the world and, North Korea aside, says the “mental, cultural, emotional, and spiritual impoverishment of the Western underclass” is the worst he has seen.
I am not so well-travelled, and daren’t nearly claim a quarter of his life experience and intelligence, but I have to agree. Having worked with some pretty desperately-off Russians in St. Petersburg, I always thought the level of impoverishment Mr. Dalrymple mentions was not as bad there as in England. (Obviously economically it was worse.) And whereas Mr. Dalrymple appears to chiefly put this down to the woes of British education, I can say that I’m sure that why things weren’t so impoverished in Russia was precisely because education was still held in such high regard (although I’ve got a feeling this may be changing for the worse). I never failed to be impressed in Russia by the level of articulation. Yes, people could talk nonsense, but the mental faculties still seemed sharp… On the wickedness front, I worry, of course, as an atheist, hearing the opinion of someone you respect confirm that much of this is due to a lack of spiritual discipline. I still want to think that I can be as morally ‘correct’ as a believer. Encouraging words from saintly, older-than-mid-30s atheists would be greatly appreciated!
*(Theodore Dalrymple’s real name is Anthony Daniels)
Battleships – морской бой October 19, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Dave De Hugard – Waltzing Matilda October 18, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
I am in a particularly wistful mood today. I don’t know if this is from Gorby reminiscences – see earlier post – or because it’s a particularly beautiful, crisp autumnal early evening, or because I’ve got a massive fucking translation to do, but I suddenly had the urge to hear Waltzing Matilda, a song which I know virtually nothing about and hardly know any of the words to. But it had just the right level of romance to meet my mood. I dashed to google and was directed here. Turns out the song is based on an earlier Scottish one, which I shall track down. Click on the download icon on the right and prepare your hankie. Total, absolute, unadulterated bliss. Romance. Tragedy. Heaven, heaven, heaven. When I’m eventually invited onto Desert Island Discs, which can only be a matter of time now, I wouldn’t be surprised if I make quite a fool of myself…
Как Горбачёв стал генсеком (or Gorby and Grayson) October 18, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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For the Russian-speakers amongst you, if you fancy a bit of a reminisce. Gorbachev – I hate that transliteration, but what can one do with that ё? – is one of those people that makes me want to shed a tear. I think it’s for their sincerity. These two figures can rarely have been mentioned in the same paragraph, but Larry Grayson does the same. I’ve never gone in for the Gorby-bashing that followed his political demise. The fact that he’s performed so badly in post-Soviet Russian elections should be compliment enough to the man. And I defy even the heterosexual men reading this to maintain a dry eye when you hear Gorby talk about his wife’s death. Can there be anything more romantic than a happy, old couple?
Мир праху его October 18, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Where are they now? October 17, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Mark’s post in reaction to Trevor McDonald in the Telegraph got me reminiscing about some of our lovelier dictators past and present. Here are another couple of photos for the Where-Are-They-Now? dictator range.
Admittedly, Luka and Slobbo aren’t having a good old manly hug or snog, but they make the kind of nice, laddy couple you’d like to go and have a couple of slivovitzes with. Or, if you’re strictly a vodka strongman groupie, what about this pair of handsome beasts?
Two nice smiles there, you’ll agree… Strictly speaking, I suppose I shouldn’t have Vladimir Vladimirovich (English available) in the Dictators-Past-and-Present range. And, to end on an even brighter democratic note, let’s not forget that Slobbo was got rid of at the ballot box. Pack your bags, Alex. Return your key…
Big love October 17, 2005Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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Is this photo, although admittedly not quite a snog, and far be it from me to question the robustness of Mr. Mugabe’s heterosexual credentials, just a little bit reminiscent of this mural,
uploaded from this college’s website (hope they won’t mind awfully)? “God help me survive this fatal love,” goes the quote under Brezhnev and Honecker, who probably comprise what is the most famous panel of the chunk of wall, known as the Eastside Gallery, left between the Ostbahnhof and the Oberbaumbrücke, backing onto the Spree. I’m yet to find an equally warm photographic embrace between Lukashenka and Putin/Kim Jong-Il/Castro/Obiang, but I’ll upload it for your pleasure just as soon as I do…