Friday, 29 January 2016

The world's most famous carrot

I refer to the carrot that works overtime drawing us not only into good eating habits but also into good citizenship habits.

Well, perhaps it's not the same carrot. But what are the chances that there are two such benevolent carrots out there?

Friday, 22 January 2016

Great political adverts

Here is Bernie Sanders.

Here is Ben Carson.

Those are good adverts. Not funny like the Bibi-sitter, but quality adverts.

Now look at this one, from Jeb! supporters. Oh dear.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

George Soros and the "EUSSR"

"EUSSR" is one of those leaden memes that crops up 'below the line', i.e. in the comments section of an online newspaper. You'll find it a lot in the Guardian, used by people who read the Guardian to enjoy getting annoyed about it (the Daily Mail has a similar readership). The idea is ... well, I think you've spotted the oh-so-clever comparison being made.

So I was surprised to see George Soros making the EU-USSR comparison, and in a much more interesting way.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Graeme in Walthamstow and the future of Europe - UPDATED

The Liberal Jewish Synagogue's website tells us that Rabbi Rene Pfertzel "is currently sharing his time between the Liberal community in Lyon, Keren Or, and The Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London". He was born in Strasbourg but he has other links with the UK: He was assistant Rabbi at the Finchley Progressive Synagogue and visiting Rabbi at Wessex Liberal Synagogue in 2014/15, and he has an MA from King's College, London. He lives with his partner Graeme in Walthamstow.

The Evening Standard has a rather more colourful take on Rabbi Pfertzel's move to London: "London is now the most popular destination after Israel for French Jews — and French children make up more than half the intake in some Jewish primary schools in the capital." It quotes Rabbi Pfertzel as saying that “thousands” of people had come to London in the past two years because of anti-Semitism on the Continent and that about 100 French people had joined the synagogue recently. It refers to this story about an unpleasant attack in Marseille and adds that the number of anti-Semitic acts doubled in France in 2014 (from what base, I don't know). Apparently, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldsmith, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, has called France “the main battleground between hope and fear for the future of Europe, especially for the Jewish community”.

Well, there you have it. On one side of the Channel, a battleground between abstract nouns; on the other side, Walthamstow. Wikipedia tells me that Walthamstow is recorded c. 1075 as Wilcumestowe, "the Place of Welcome". Long may it deserve its name.

UPDATE: And here is a report on Rabbi Pfertzel's service: "I thought their rendition of Lecha Dodi was especially bitchin'".

Monday, 18 January 2016

Striking phrases and sentences

1. "the man in the ironic mask" - Frederick Raphael on Joseph Roth in the TLS. I bet he had been saving that one up for some time

2. "... for Crow it was like a lovely bin full of chip papers and ice cream and currywurst and baby robins and every nasty treat, physically invigorating like a westerly above the moor, like a bouncy castle elm in the wind, like old family pleasures of the deep species." From what looks like an extraordinary book, also reviewed here (a review which made me think that the book was more straightforwardly autobiographical than it seems to be).

3. "But what U.S. citizen today feels a pain at the thought that Toronto lies north of the U.S. border? I know I do." The whole thing (really about what great powers should do with rising great powers) is worth reading - and then thinking why Rhodes Scholarships were open to Germans, and what difference that made.

4. "Here are some prominent immigrants and children of immigrants, all intensely, identifiably English, all of whom arrived long before Britain’s postwar immigration waves: Hans Holbein, George Frederick Handel, Frederick William Herschel, Isaac and Benjamin Disraeli, Christina Rossetti, Gustav Holst, Augustus Pugin, Louis of Battenberg and his son Louis Mountbatten, Hilaire Belloc, Joseph Conrad, George Louis du Maurier, Winston Churchill, Leo Amery, T.S. Eliot, Lewis Namier, Learie Constantine, Alexander Korda, Michael Pressberger, Nicholas Pevsner, Isaiah Berlin, Geoffrey Elton, the two Michael Howards, Solly Zuckerman. // This list illuminates a fundamental point: although these figures immensely enhanced English life, they did not make their adopted nation cosmopolitan; their adopted nation made these cosmopolitans English." From a pessimistic but well-informed piece in the American Conservative, of all places. (But then link 3 above explains why I should not be surprised.)

5. "in Sweden ... currently there are 106 male 14- to 17-year-olds for every 100 women. If all asylum applications are granted, this will change to 116 men to 100 women," says the Economist.

6. "... when Goffman was a child, she was sent on the full-time, perpetual errand of collecting noteworthy linguistic misunderstandings for her parents’ collection." That is how a sociologist child prodigy is formed. (What does it say about me, after reading this piece and sympathising hugely with Ms Goffman, that I worry particularly about her taxes? I think she might have overpaid, and her friends in Philadelphia might have underpaid.)

7. "She had a diaper on from a site that specialises in bird diapers ...". That's from the BBC.