Monday, July 30, 2007

When your loved ones die

A poignant piece by the documentary film-maker and author, Olivia Lichtenstein on the pain of bereavement.

Friday, July 27, 2007

"Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani"

Matthew 27:46
Psalms 22.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Can We Trust The BBC?

First it was L'affaire Liebowitz when the exposure of doctored footage showing Her Maj supposedly stalking out of photography session in a huff forced the Beeb into an embarrassing apology. Days later Auntie admitted to mixing up the chronology of events in a Newsnight piece about a documentary maker attempting to interview Gordon Brown. Now the Beeb has also admitted conning viewers with fake phone-in contests. Can we trust the BBC? Not until she gets her act together.
Such cases make the case for root and branch reform of the Beeb - a process which only kicked off with the resignation of the complacent BBC board of governors in 2004 after the publication of the Hutton Report - that much more urgent. The signals being given out by director general, Mark Thompson, are positive. He recognises there is a problem and intends to deal with it. It's a start but he's certainly got his job cut out.
The problem of BBC bias is a pressing one. Examples of egregiously partisan 'factual' programmes are far too numerous and well-documented to be ignored. Uncritical coverage of political campaigns because they are supposedly non-controversial is a related problem.
Robin Aitken is author of the recently published 'Can we trust the BBC?', which explores these issues in detail. He's well-placed to have written such a book, being a former BBC man himself. He was a reporter on The Today programme when the Gilligan affair was kicking off. One of the many pleasures of his book is the vivid character sketch he gives of Gilligan, describing him as "... a very singular type of reporter. A loner, secretive and conspiratorial." Aitken reveals some genuine shockers, such as the presenter of the Today Programme in the 1970s Jack de Manio being kicked off the programme following pressure from pro-EEC lobbyists who perceived him as hostile to their cause and the spiking of a critical story about the background of murdered Belfast lawyer, Pat Finucane. This was justified on the improbable grounds that it rested on a single source, though they didn't have such scruples about Gilligan's output.
The BBC likes to think of itself as the voice of the nation but as Aitken convincingly shows too often its been a foghorn blaring at the nation.

She is a Grandmother

Dolphinarium extends its congratulations to neo-con poster girl, Melanie Phillips who has recently become a grandmother.

The proud father is her son, Gabriel Rozenberg, economics correspondent on The Times.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Breaking News ... Conrad Black Trial verdicts

Black GUILTY of three counts of fraud.

Black GUILTY obstructing justice, a serious charge carrying a penalty of up to 25 years in prison.

Black NOT GUILTY of racketeering.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Live Earth Nonsense

A few days after that jamboree of dumbness called Live Earth (and what the f*** is Auntie doing giving all that free air time to political interest groups for their propaganda purposes anyway?) Dominic Lawson writes an excellent column exposing the enviro-mentalists for the misanthropic extremists that they are. Naturally, the Green lobby doesn't like any emphasis on its population-control policies, preferring public focus on cuddlier stuff like climate change but its always lurking somewhere in the small print.
The well-funded Green lobby has got too big for its boots. Its spokespeople arrogantly refuse to debate critics and scientists who challenge Green doctrine find themselves threatened or hauled before creepy sounding committees on scientific dishonesty.
This is obviously disgraceful but how has it come to this? One answer is that with some honourable exceptions the Fourth Estate has not been doing its job. The Green lobby has had a ridiculously easy press for years. Hacks who should treat it with the same caution they would any other political movement have instead given it the kid-glove treatment, possibly because they naively view it as a 'good cause'. It isn't surprising - large Green pressure groups bask in charitable status with all the public goodwill that accrues from that - but it isn't good enough.
My suggestion: farm environmental stories out to financial journalists. Finance hacks who routinely have to check claims against results are used not to taking things at face value. After all, it was Lawson senior - who began his career on Fleet Street as a financial hack - who memorably critiqued The Stern Report as 'fraudulent'.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Chicken Soup and other thoughts

In Central London earlier and feeling hungry after a seasonal excursion to Selfridges to flex the plastic, wandered around until I happened upon a branch of Harry Morgan's tucked away behind Oxford Street. A smaller version of the St John's Wood original, it offers all the usual comforting nosh which so appeals to a shopper with tired feet and an empty stomach. So it was chicken soup with kreplach to start followed by a plate of salt beef with pickles and potato salad. I'm a connoisseur of chicken soup, so its invariably a mistake for me to order it as it rarely fails to disappoint. This one was no exception. It was far too salty and tasted strongly of stock cube. How many times does one have to say it? Don't adulterate chicken soup with these horrible synthetic additions. Chicken soup should be a limpid golden colour. It should have been simmered for hours over a gentle heat so its ingredients, fowl and root vegetables, release their deep, rich flavours to the liquid. An authentic chicken soup gladdens the senses and lifts the spirit; a second-rate version does little more than warm your insides. The salt beef wasn't much of an improvement, being dry where it should have been silky-moist, the potato salad was similarly mediocre. Mercifully, the lockshen pudding was unavailable so I was spared further disappointment.
But enough preamble, there's a larger issue at stake here. What on earth is happening with heimische food? Cooked sympathetically with quality ingredients, its one of the world's great cuisines. Yet so often one is presented with meanly made, inferior versions of classic dishes. My own experience does not seem to have been out of the ordinary. Jay Rayner wrote a lacerating review of Blooms in his column this week.
It shouldn't and neither does it have to be like this. Heimische restauranteurs should consider themselves ambassadors for their cuisine. They should take pride in the heimische culinary canon and treat it with the same reverance that exponents of haute cuisine do theirs. Heimische food has nourished generations of Central European Jews and inspired the creative. Back in 1850 the German poet, Heinriche Heine, composed the parodic poem, Princess Sabbath about assimilated German Jews in which he celebrated cholent, that delicious stew of meat and beans, which "alone unites them still in their own covenant".

Cholent, ray of light immortal!
Cholent, daughter of Elysium!
So had Schiller's song resounded,
Had he ever tasted Cholent,
For this Cholent is the very
Food of heaven, which on Sinai,
God Himself instructed Moses
In the secret of preparing.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Luminarium Nullus

Speaking of the smoking ban, one of the dumbest requirements of the legislation is that churches display 'No Smoking' signs. When has anyone ever smoked in a church, for heaven's sake? This aquatic creature is not alone in being outraged. Father Tom Grufferty of St Joseph's in Havant, Hampshire said: "You could say I'm fuming but that would be too obvious. In 30 years as a priest I have never once had to tell a parishoner or a visitor in the church not to smoke. There was an occasion when a choir at a wedding opened a bottle of champagne but I soon put them right. But if I don't put up a 'No Smoking' sign I will be breaking the law."
Priests being law-abiding types, Father Tom is complying with the letter of the law - but with a twist. The sign he has afixed to his church entrance reads 'Luminarium nullus', which aquatic creatures being the cultivated, erudite species that they are will know means 'No Smoking' in Latin.
Well done, Father Tom. That has to be the most elegant f*** you to petty officialdom Dolphinarium has come across for some time.
It turns out that Father Tom isn't the only one and that a number of priests have opted for signs in Latin. At the Holy Name Church in Mansewood, Glasgow, Father Noel Burke has a sign saying: 'Non Licet Fumare'. Father Tom Grufferty disagrees with the translation, saying that 'Fumare' is too Italian.
Typically, the matter has aroused controversy among Latin scholars. Mgr Antonio Pelosi of the Vatican's Latin office suggested: 'Non licet tabaco fumare'. But Fr Reginald Foster, who was described by The Tablet no less as 'the Vatican's top Latin scholar' was suitably scathing about all these offerings. He insists that it is impossible to say 'No Smoking' in a few words and has come up with 'Non licet tabaco uti'
"That means, 'It is not permissible to use tobacco' whether to smoke it, or chew it or spit in a spittoon. Just use that and be done with it!" he declares.