All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Sunday, 30 November 2008

George Harrison 1943-2001, The Undercover Interview

By Paul Cashmere

The highlight if my media career was definitely having the chance to interview George Harrison. George was funny, informative and up for a chat. Today marks the 7th anniversary of the death of what we all called `the Quiet Beatle`. Here is a a candid chat with Beatle George.

Paul Cashmere: I'm going to start off by talking about movies. I don't know how many times I've see "Monty Python's Life of Brian," in which you have a cameo. I've searched for your part, even on freeze frame. The problem with that movie is that everyone in it looks like George Harrison. Put me out of my misery. Where are you in it?

George Harrison: Well if you're looking for me, then everybody's going to look like that. There's just one little shot, it's probably about 12 frames. Do you know the scene where he comes out of the room and there's crowds of people in the house and John Cleese is there saying, "Those people with gifts form a queue on the left. Those possessed by demons over to the right," and then he comes out and he says, "Brian, Mister Papadopolus has promised to loan us the mount for Monday." You have to go through it again and see that scene and it cuts across and I'm in the crowd. And I just say "Eh, hello, thank you or something ... hello". That's all it is!

Paul Cashmere: And you never got an Oscar for that, George?

George Harrison: No, no, but I'm still hoping. Well, actually they wanted me to do the part of Christ in there, you know, at the beginning where he's doing the sermon on the mount. That's what they tried to get me to do, but I thought that's a bit too controversial.

Paul Cashmere: Yes, for someone from Liverpool, England, that is a bit over the top, isn't it!

George Harrison: (Laughing) Yes, it is.

Paul Cashmere: You and Eric Clapton go back a long way. When did you first meet?

George Harrison: I think I met him ... I'm not sure which year ... it was probably '63. No, must have been after that ... must have been '64 or '65 at the Hammersmith Odeon. He was in the Yardbirds. We did a Christmas season there ... two or three weeks we played there. That's the first time I met him. Then, later I met him ... somehow Brian Epstein was managing the Cream and the Bee Gees, and I used to see him hanging around at that point. That was when that guy (Robert) Stigwood had come to work for Brian Epstein. That's when I really got to know him quite a bit. It must have been 1966, '67.

Paul Cashmere: Considering Eric ran off with your first wife Patti, how have you managed to remain friends?

George Harrison: Well, he didn't really run off with her, because we'd kind of finished with each other basically anyway. And, you know, for me, this is what I think is the main problem, not the fact that he got married to Patti. I think the fact that makes the problem is that I didn't get annoyed at him and I think that has always annoyed him. I think that deep down inside he wishes that it really pissed me off, but it didn't, because I was happy that she went off, because we'd finished together, and it made things easier for me. You see, because otherwise we'd have had to gone through all these big rows and divorces. And you know, she went off to live in the same style she became accustomed to and it was really very convenient for me. So there.

Paul Cashmere: You've done a great version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" with Eric on both "The Beatles" album and the live album. Let's set the record straight. Going back to the original version, there was a version recorded with John on lead guitar, one with yourself on lead guitar and one with Eric. Now which one was the one that actually made the (Beatles') White album?

George Harrison: Well, I don't know about one with John on guitar. There was one that just a kind of demo. When I wrote it, that was done with just an acoustic guitar. And then there's the version that was on the Beatle White album, the version with Eric Clapton. There's only ever really been the one's the Eric on it. Even the one I did on the Princes Trust album was still Eric playing on it.

Paul Cashmere: Who came up with the lead break for it?

George Harrison: Yeah, Eric just played that, you know, live as we were figuring out the song. Paul played piano on the original record in 1967. There was Ringo on drums. I don't believe John was there. I played acoustic guitar, Paul played piano, Ringo on drums and Eric played live with us, and then Paul overdubbed the bass later. So Eric just made up the guitar part spontaneously. So this is the thing ... when we went to rehearsal for the Live in Japan tour, he consciously listened to the old version and tried to re-learn, at least, to use the old version as the basis for where he started, and I guess sometimes you forget about good stuff you've already done. So he picked back up on what he'd done originally, but the solo on that one is brilliant, I think, on the live version now.

Paul Cashmere: Can you tell me about "Something". Now, you wrote that about Patti, is that right?

George Harrison: Well no, I didn't. I just wrote it, and then somebody put together a video. And what they did was they went out and got some footage of me and Patti, Paul and Linda, Ringo and Maureen, it was at that time, and John and Yoko and they just made up a little video to go with it. So then, everybody presumed I wrote it about Patti, but actually, when I wrote it, I was thinking of Ray Charles.

Paul Cashmere: He's not as good looking, but well, you know ...

George Harrison: Yeah, but he's a better singer. (Laughs) But that's what I was thinking of. I could hear in my head Ray Charles singing it.

Paul Cashmere: Were you frustrated by the fact that it took just about the entire career of the Beatles before you were granted the "A" side of single, and then the band broke up?

George Harrison: Well, it wasn't so much the "A" side of a single, but it was frustrating at times when we had to wade through millions of "Maxwell's Silver Hammer's" before we could get to one of mine, you know. Because I think now that when you look retrospectively, that there were a couple of my tunes that were good enough ? or better ? than ones that Paul or John had written occasionally. But you know, that's just how it was. It doesn't bother me, really. I was just on hold for a while.

Paul Cashmere: Which of your solo hits do you think would have made great Beatle songs?

George Harrison: This is the funny thing, isn't it? If the Beatles had continued making records, all of the solo stuff that we'd done would have been on Beatle albums. So "Cloud 9" would have been a Beatle record and all that stuff like that. So I don't know. Somebody just asked me about the songs on the "Live in Japan" record, saying did I worry about putting so many Beatle songs on. But so much time has elapsed. I don't even think of them as being Beatle songs so much, you know. When you go back to "I Want To Tell You" and "Taxman," they, to me, were just tunes I wrote, and they were recorded at that period, and it was the Beatles. And "Cloud 9" was a song that I wrote, but I recorded it with those other guys, and it was a solo album. Basically, the thread that binds it all together was that I wrote it, so I don't really see things as Beatles or solo. I just see it as a body of work that I've been involved with one way or another.

Paul Cashmere: What's the story with the Traveling Wilburys?

George Harrison: Well the story at the moment is that we've all been doing our day jobs, and the Wilburys being a kind of hobby has been just put on hold. So Tom Petty had just done an album, and he did a whole bunch of tours at the end of last year and going into this year. Bob Dylan, as you know, is continually on tour. And I did that live album and tour, so I'm not sure when we'll do a new record, because, you know, I'm planning to start planning and writing a new studio album ... although we all got together in New York for Bob Dylan's Madison Square Garden show, which was for 30 years of Bob Dylan kind of celebration. We all went on to do Bob Dylan songs.

Paul Cashmere: Have you heard Guns 'n' Roses "Knocking on Heaven's Door"?

George Harrison: Yeah, didn't even get the chords right, did they?

Paul Cashmere: So I take it you're not a big fan of that one, then?

George Harrison: There's only three chords in it, but they managed to get one of them wrong. (Laughs)

Paul Cashmere: Bob Dylan's been a great friend of yours over the years. Were you in awe of him when you first met him?

George Harrison: You know we'd had our first number one in America when we first met him, and I don't think he'd ever had a number one record. He just had two albums ... the first album didn't do that well and the second album, you know. He was definitely hot at the time. No, we weren't particularly in awe of him, but we really loved his album. We just heard his second album, "Freewheelin'." We'd just spent a month in Paris prior to going to do the Sullivan shows in 1964, February. We'd just spent a month listening to this album of his and it blew us away really. It was just something special about him obviously.

Paul Cashmere: You must have that same effect on new artists now when they meet you.

George Harrison: Yeah, I don't know. I don't know. Sometimes you do and sometimes you don't. But with Bob, he has proven to be special, you know, the words he wrote, the songs he's done. And I think one of the best things about him is that he's true to today to how he was back in 1963, and not a lot of people still believe in the same stuff they believed in then.

Paul Cashmere: Do you enjoy doing sessions, like when you played on albums by Belinda Carlisle and Jimmy Nail? How do you decide what you will or won't do?

George Harrison: I don't know. I'm not so sure now. The deal is usually I'll play on it if somebody just sends me the tape and they take whatever I do. I don't like having someone saying, "Do this, do that and no, can you make it sound like this?" Basically if they want me, they get what I am. Usually they want slide guitar parts. I don't know. Sometimes it works out good and sometimes I can't work out what to do with it when it's the type of song I normally wouldn't normally play myself.

Paul Cashmere: When your live album came out it ended with a nice touch, "Roll Over Beethoven". That was the "With the Beatles" track, the old Chuck Berry thing. That was the song you actually did the duet with yourself on originally.

George Harrison: Oh yeah. Well that's the kind of tune I would have forgotten totally about, but a friend of mine, who's into rock and roll, said, "You've got to do 'Roll Over Beethoven.'"And as it turned out, we went to do this press conference in Tokyo, and one of the questions, they said, "Mister Hallison, will you be playing Loll Over Beethoven?" (sic). And I said yes, and the whole room stood up and applauded. (Laughs) And I said, "It's a good job. We are doing it." The Japanese are very into "Roll Over Beethoven".

Paul Cashmere: The Apple catalogue, George, is slowly being re-released on CD. Why has that taken so long?

George Harrison: I would imagine because EMI, who have the original deals with the Beatles and Apple Records, you know, they went through years and years of re-negotiation. And it could have had something to do with that, you know, when they finally got it all cleared up, and also because it took a number of years when everybody started re-issuing everything back onto CD.

Paul Cashmere: I hear "Wonderwall Music" (George's first solo album) is coming up soon.

George Harrison: Oh good, because you can't find it on vinyl. If you've got a vinyl copy of that thing, it's really rare.

Paul Cashmere: I might head down the markets with mine if that's the case.

George Harrison: Yeah, you want to put it into one of them Beatle sales.

Paul Cashmere: Who are the bands you're most proud of from the Apple stable?

George Harrison: Anybody who had a hit, probably ... like Badfinger was pretty good. It was a very sad story, though, because the guy, he ended up killing himself. Pete Ham, who was a lovely fellow, he was a good guitar player and a great singer. He wrote ... the most famous tune I would imagine is "Without You", you know, the Harry Nilsson record.

Paul Cashmere: Tell us about Anthology and what's happening at Apple?
George Harrison: There's a lot of activity going on in Apple at the moment. We made this series of films, nine or 10 hours of film, because we've virtually completed 1962 and it's 75 minutes long, and there's also one about the same length for 1963 and then it will go through each year, 1964, '65, and it will go through like that. It will be a bit like "The Civil War," (editor's note: the Ken Burns TV miniseries) you know. Hopefully, a whole box of video cassettes or a TV series. But it's really interesting because of the years that elapsed, everybody's put out Beatle footage or videos. They think they've just about told all the stories, but the real story is the one that only we can tell, from our point of view, and we know all of the little intimate details. So we've been compiling all this footage from our own cameras, and there's just tons and tons of material. It's really exciting. I was very pleased to see it, because it's got all of our influences. It's this finely woven web of intrigue.

Paul Cashmere: How do you feel about "My Sweet Lord" these days. How did the court case surrounding that song effect your songwriting?

George Harrison: It didn't really affect my songwriting. I did record "This Song," which was kind of a comment about the situation. The thing that really disappoints me is when you have a relationship with one person and they turn out to betray you. Because the whole story of "My Sweet Lord" is based upon this fellow, Allan Klein, who managed the Beatles from about 1968 or '69, through until 1973. When they issued a complaint about "My Sweet Lord", he was my business manager. He was the one who put out "My Sweet Lord" and collected 20 percent commission on the record. And he was the one who got the lawyers to defend me, and did an interview in Playboy where he talked about how the song was nothing like the other song. Later, when the judge in court told me to settle with them, because he didn't think I'd consciously stolen their song, they were doing a settlement deal with me when they suddenly stopped the settlement. Some time elapsed, and I found out that this guy Klein had gone around the back door. In the meantime, we'd fired him. He went round the back door and bought the rights to the one song, "He's So Fine," in order to continue a law suit against me. He, on one hand, was defending me, then he switched sides and continued the law suit. And every time the judge said what the result was, he'd appeal. And he kept appealing and appealing until it got to the Supreme Court. I mean this thing went on for 16 years or something ... 18 years. And finally, it's all over with, and the result of it is I own "My Sweet Lord," and I now own "He's So Fine," and Allan Klein owes me like three or four hundred thousand dollars 'cause he took all the money on both songs. It's really a joke. It's a total joke.

Paul Cashmere: There's a movie plot in there somewhere.

George Harrison: There's definitely a book, because, now with any kind of law pertaining to infringement of copyright, they always quote this case. It's become the precedent in all these law students' books.

Paul Cashmere: So we might be seeing George Harrison make a guest appearance on "LA Law."

George Harrison: (Laughs) I doubt it, but we did keep a lot of lawyers employed for years, and we still are in one way or another. There's always some kind of bullshit going on.

Paul Cashmere: You've already documented your own anthology. For the benefit of Aussies, tell us about "When We Was Fab".

George Harrison: Yeah, until I finalized the lyric on it, it was always called "Aussie Fab". That was it's working title. I hadn't figured out what the song was going to say ... what the lyrics would be about, but I knew it was definitely a Fab song. It was based on the Fabs, and as it was done up in Australia there, up in Queensland, then that's what we called it. As we developed the lyrics, it became "When We Was Fab". It's a difficult one to do live because of all the all the little overdubs and all the cellos and the weird noises and the backing voices. Who knows ... maybe next time, we'll attempt it. We'll try it in the rehearsal and see.

Paul Cashmere: What do you think of the Beatle sound alike bands, the bands that have drawn influence, not the copy bands, but bands like Crowded House, for instance?

George Harrison: I don't think I've heard that Crowded House ... is that the latest one? You know, it's good, because there were some really good sounds in the mid-'60's Beatle records. Thats's really why I wanted to do that "Fab" one as well, to recreate some of those sounds.

Paul Cashmere: Were you ever disappointed that the Beatles stopped performing live when they did?

George Harrison: Not really. I was disappointed retrospectively. I was disappointed that we got so famous, because as musicians, we were a really good band in the early days. And the more fame that we got, the more the audience screamed and the more that we did just 20 or 30 minute shows of our latest singles. The musicianship kind of went out the window. And when I hang out with somebody like Eric Clapton, who, on the other hand never stopped touring and never got into that situation, he always just changed bands, he really became so fluent on his instrument. You know, we pigeonholed ourselves by the mania that was going on and the inability to perform for longer periods at a time, because of the way it was.

Paul Cashmere: The works got so intricate. You could never have done "Sgt Pepper" or "Abbey Road" live, could you?

George Harrison: But then again, if we'd have kept touring, we might not have gone into the studio to do those kind of intricate works. But the last tour we did, I remember trying to do "Paperback Writer", which had a kind of double-tracked vocal and all that stuff, and it was a bit embarrassing at the time. I remember, "This isn't making it. This doesn't sound very good." So I don't know, but the Beatle tours were something else. You would have had to have been there to know how ridiculous it was. There was no way we could have continued under those circumstances.

Copyright 1996-2008 Cashmere Media Pty Ltd

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Poisoned Minds

I was a teaching a non computing class earlier this week. The students and I strayed away from the main topic of conversation (as one does in these types of lessons) and for some reason started talking about Judaism. I can't remember what the catalyst for the conversation was, but I won't forget some of the comments for a long time to come.

Some of these kids seemed convinced that all Jews are rich (nothing new there then) and that the reason why Charedim/Hasidim wear large hats is solely because they need somewhere to hide their money under. This is obviously an idea that they will have heard from home or in the media or in their place of worship.

I ridiculed this suggestion by taking my kipah (skullcap) off in front of them and shaking it a few times to see if any money would come out. I then put my hands into my hair, ruffled it a little and waited for the notes to fall out. Unfortunately, I wasn't successful. My hair was definitely moneyless.

The kids then replied that they weren't talking about "you Sir", but the others who wear large hats.

Despite my protestations and evidence to the contrary, these young adults are already eagerly buying into the age old anti-Semitic lies that we have had to contend with since the days of Abraham. Nothing I could say or do could convince them that they were talking utter rubbish. I even told them that I had met a lot of Jews and had not once ever seen money leaking out of either a streimel, spodek or any type of headgear.

Of course they didn't believe me.

I had another student in a different class talk about "you lot", continuing with the usual crap about money, power etc. Unfortunately, it's not only the kids in the school who believe this hogwash, but that's another story that I'm not going to elucidate on.

I write about this with a clear image of what has just been happening in Mumbai clogging the arteries of both my heart and brain.

It was no accident that the terrorists (and not "militants" as the BBC, CNN and so forth call them - these people are terrorists. They terrorise and kill, so let's make sure we use the correct terminology instead of this watered down crap) specifically targeted the Chabad House and killed the Rabbi, Rebetzin and anyone else they could shoot. It was a blatant act of anti-Semites, irrespective of what any Palestine adoring left-winger will want to tell you.

Let's rewind five, ten years ago when these young terrorists were sitting in a classroom as teenage students. Did they also believe that the Jews were rich and powerful? Did they also come to lessons with their minds poisoned from what they heard at home, in the media or in their place of worship?

Thinking about the way this week has panned out, I feel a chill traverse it's way through my very being. The poisoned minds of today's children could, might or might not lead to the kinds of twisted logic those young men felt when they stormed into the hotels, restaurants and particularly the Chabad House and butchered innocents.

I'm not saying that the children I teach will ever carry out such actions, but the fact that they are already poisoned with the vitriol of antisemitism makes me wonder how many others of their age, who also believe the same lies, will move on from ridiculing our people, to despising them and wanting to make the next logical bloodthirsty move.

It's a downright depressing thought but then again, if you're the one person reading this who has taught his or her child or student that all Jews are rich and powerful, you've got some real explaining to do.

And I wouldn't leave it for too long either.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Mumbai Madness

Those sickening images we are seeing from Mumbai, wending their way through the global telecommunications that we all plug into begs one single question.


Why is one human being spending his/her time planning the murder of countless others? Why is this person not working in a decent job, trying to make a living, just like the rest of us?

I went to school today, interacted with the kids, showed them that I gave a damn about their futures and came home. This evening, I sat there for three hours, planning lessons, wondering how I would teach them tomorrow and how they might react to my methods.

At no single moment did I think about how I could harm them. It didn't occur to me that maybe tomorrow, Heaven forbid, someone would be sitting in a room planning to kill either them, their friends, relatives or neighbours. For me, the amount of time I spend awake is given over to fanning a different sort of fire, the kind that encourages young adults to go out there and make their existence on earth worthwhile.

I looked at the coverage on TV with feelings of despair, frustration and anger.

Tomorrow, I will go to school and plant some seeds. I only hope that out of the hundred I sow, at least one will go out into the world and add a little light to the very frightening darkness.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Why Does Everybody Hate My Car?

I don't know what my poor little blue Fiesta ever did to hurt anyone because for some reason, it seems to be a constant target for other people's anger/poor driving/aggression.

A few months after I got it, some shitty little teenagers decided to go joy-riding down my street and inflicted on my little Fordy what would turn out to be one of the first in a long line of serious attacks.

If that weren't enough, another little teenage angel ran his key along the bonnet and driver's side, adding more hurt and shame to this long suffering automobile. I was definitely starting to worry about leaving my Fordy alone in a street or school car park.

I really felt her pain (but not enough to shell out money to relieve it).

Then, I get to my new school and someone backs into Fordy - again in the car park. If that weren't enough, another little darling took out his anger and smashed the driver's mirror, but a few yards away from the previous misdemeanour.

Now you'd think that my Fordy would have had enough pain to last a lifetime of cars. However, it was not to be because on Sunday, whilst driving the car, Dana had someone smash into the back bumper as she waiting on a roundabout (or as you Americans like to call it, a ro-ta-ry).

Battered, bruised and pretty much pissed off (we're talking about me now), I looked at the remains of my car and thoroughly frustrated, wondered as to what on earth it could have been in a former life, to deserve such hate. I even toyed with buying a personalised numberplate bearing the legend "WTF", but as I said, I'm not as financially attached to Fordy as I should be - or rather as she deserved her own to be.

Fordy is being taken away tomorrow to be looked at, assessed and probably written off by the insurance company- the last ignominious detail in a pretty sad history. I only hope that if and when I get a new car, people will treat it with a little more respect.

I can honestly say that I've never driven such a battered car in my life. Even worse, not one single dent was caused as a result of my driving.

Poor little Fordy, I could only protect you so much - it looks like you didn't do very well on your own. Ironically, I had an "All You Need Is Love" sticker on the back window.

If only.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Japanese Wizardry

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

In Space, No-One Can Hear You Scream (with frustration)

I shouldn't find this funny, but I can't help myself.

CNN) -- Things didn't go quite according to plan for astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper during her spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Tuesday.

Astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper maneuvers by the tail of the docked space shuttle Endeavour.

Astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper maneuvers by the tail of the docked space shuttle Endeavour.

First, a grease gun inside her tool bag leaked, coating everything inside with a film of lubricant. While she was trying to clean it up in the absence of gravity, the whole bag floated away.

Stefanyshyn-Piper and Steve Bowen were outside the space station on the scheduled six-hour spacewalk, the first of the space shuttle Endeavour's stay at the station.

After completing a few preliminary tasks, Stefanyshyn-Piper was beginning the job of cleaning and lubricating the gears of the station's malfunctioning starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint, or SARJ, when she discovered the grease gun leak and then lost the bag.

The starboard SARJ is designed to allow the solar panels on the left side of the station to rotate and track the sun. It started malfunctioning soon after it was installed, and astronauts soon determined the gear assembly is full of metal shavings, a sure sign that metal is grinding on metal.

Cleaning and lubricating the starboard SARJ is a time-consuming job, and will take several spacewalks to complete. When finished, the joint should be partially functional again. More extensive repairs are planned for the future.

Stefanyshyn-Piper was able to share tools with Bowen, and NASA mission controllers expressed confidence that the lost tool bag would not be too much of a problem for the duration of the spacewalk.

Mission controllers were also tracking the lost bag, which they say is floating well clear of the station and drifting further away.

Stefanyshyn-Piper is a member of the crew of the Endeavour shuttle that docked at the ISS Sunday to help install more living areas and upgrade amenities at the station

(c) CNN 2008

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Eight Years On

I had a frightening thought this evening.

Dana came home with some photos of our, taken when they were babies. Whilst looking through the photos, it occurred to me as to how our little have changed over what is a very short amount of time in my life.

Only 8 years ago, my eldest daughter was just three; Talia was 1, Michal was just about something and Shira....well, she wasn't!

We live with the same people day in and day out and we don't realise how they've changed over time. A chance look at some photographs suddenly brings it all home.

Ten years ago, I remember what was happening to me. The same can't be said about 80% of the people living in this house!

Economic Models explained with Cows - 2008 update

You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbour.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and gives you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and sells you some milk.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both and shoots you.

You have 2 cows.
The State takes both, shoots one, milks the other, and then throws the milk away...

You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

You have two female giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons

You have two cows.
You sell one, and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit
opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with
an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax
exemption for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman
Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights
to all seven cows back to your listed company
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more.
You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States , leaving you with
nine cows.
No balance sheet provided with the release.
The public then buys your bull.

You have two cows.
You go on strike, organise a riot, and block the roads, because you want three

You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce
twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'Cowkimon' and market it

You have two cows.
You re-engineer them so they live for 100 years, eat once a month, and milk

You have two cows, but you don't know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.

You have two cows.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
You count them again and learn you have 2 cows.
You stop counting cows and open another bottle of vodka.

You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.

You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim that you have full employment and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

You have two cows.
You worship them.

You have two cows.
Both are mad.

Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No-one believes you, so they bomb the **** out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least now you are part of Democracy....

You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Nir Barkat - Our Champion

I was delighted to read that Nir Barkat, the secular candidate in the Jerusalem mayoralty race, won the election. He proved that you don't have to be Orthodox or indeed Charedi to love the focal point of our nation.

Having been to Jerusalem more times than I can remember, I have seen with deep alacrity the taking over of the city by the Ultra Orthodox Jews - with the result being the flight of moderates like myself and our secular brethren from the city we so adore.

I didn't like Teddy Kolleck but respected what he had done over the years. I didn't like Olmert (I still don't) as Mayor and was indifferent to the incumbent, although apparently, he was far less bothersome that I'd imagined.

Nir Barkat is a "new" face with a young, fresh approach - a man whom I believe can do a lot of good in the city, if only to re-balance the population and make the city attractive to non-Charedis.

We have enough of a problem with the Arabs trying to divide our city - we don't need to do this by ourselves.

Mazel Tov to Nir Barkat and good luck.

Your victory is hailed by the moderates amongst us, who still see Jerusalem as the capital of the whole Jewish nation.

Into White

I built my house from barley rice
Green pepper walls and water ice
Tables of paper wood, windows of light
And everything emptying into White.

Those lines from the beautiful Cat Stevens song really describe what has been happened at our abode over the last fortnight.

When we moved here, nearly a decade ago, we were faced with pepper(mint) green lined walls that frankly looked vile. We lived with these because re-papering/re-painting the walls was out of the question, not least because my DIY skills aren't what they used to be - i.e. they were never too hot and now...they're abysmal - and money wasn't exactly flowing.

Fast forward to the last two weeks and, as Dylan puts it, things have changed. Our walls are now a gleaming shade of white and the house has been transformed into a place that I am happy to show off to friends - as well as to come home to after a day at work.

The chief architect behind this endeavour was my good lady who found a fantastic decorator, the kind that I would have no hesitation recommending were he to have the time to do any more jobs. Yes, he's that good. Between her resolve and his skills, we have our very own White House.

Our green pepper(mint) walls are indeed no more and it definitely feels as if the hallway, landing, first floor and upstairs toilet have definitely been emptying into white.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Two Minutes

As I stood in front of my students at 11.00 a.m. observing the two minute silence, I tried to imagine what it must have been like going over the edge of the trench into the barrage of bullets and bombs.

What could these poor young men have been thinking, running towards their inevitable deaths? What would have happened if WW1 hadn't taken place? Would the computer I am typing this on exist if Archduke Ferdinand had lived?

It is so easy to pass these moments by. You don't have to stand for two minutes channelling your thoughts. You could just ignore the moment and get on with your life in the same manner. No-one forces you to watch the parades, wear the poppies or mourn the dead.

Then again, no-one forced people to vote for Hitler.

In life, you can be a passive observer and it's probably makes life simpler if you are, but then, what exactly will you have achieved by the time your flame blows itself out?

I told my Year 8's that standing there silently for those two minutes was not something they could chose to do. I instructed them to do it because I fervently believed that those soldiers, the ones who didn't carry on their family lines, deserved to have two minutes in the year dedicated to them.

My students stood still and probably didn't understand what they doing but if one single child did "get it", then those soldiers won't have died in vain.

And that's my little bit for 1918 and 1945 and 2008.

Two minutes is not nearly long enough to do those soldiers justice.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

1938 And Then Some

70 years to the day since Kristallnacht, I still hear the haunting sound of a Synagogue burning to the ground. I feel the earth tremble as yet another innocent Jew loses his life .

How much has really changed in all those years. How much have we really managed to recover from the night of broken glass?

Conditional Respect

I believe that Jews, just like everyone else, should be allowed to live where-ever they please. If that means settling land that has always been ours, in places like Hebron or Jerusalem or even Bethlehem for that matter, so be it. Hell, if they even want to live in Gaza, why shouldn't they do so?

My belief and support of the Settler movement stems from this idea. There has been a continuous Jewish presence in Hebron since Biblical Times and I don't see any reason for this not to continue, irrespective of whether the wonderful world agrees with us. Frankly, I didn't see the world doing that much to stop the massacre of six million Jews, or for that matter, coming out against one-sided resolutions blaming Israel for every problem in the Middle Easy at the UN (and we're not even going to talk about either Durban I or II), so I don't really care what they think.

That said, I have a big problem with the behaviour of some of the Settlers who go out of their way to antagonise their Arab neighbours and are now turning their vitriol and malevolence against the IDF and the State of Israel.

Supporting the Settlers in their wish to live in Judea and Samaria is different, at least in my eyes, to condoning the behaviour of the bad apples who bring the movement into disrepute. If it gets to the point where an Israeli soldier feels threatened by a member of his or her own nation, we are indeed in dire straits.

I didn't like the Gaza withdrawal but I went along with it, because I felt that it was an attempt to ameliorate the situation between the Jews and Arabs. I hadn't banked on the Hamas terrorists using the newly vacated land as a launching pad (quite literally) to send rockets into Israeli towns like Sderot. I was probably as naive as the next person and wonder whether the whole exercise wasn't a mistake - but it's happened.

Jews and Arabs are going to have to find a modus-vivendi to allow our grandchildren the opportunity to live in peace. Going around uprooting olive groves, attacking soldiers and acting in a wholly unacceptable manner is going to help no-one and only serve to erode the little bit of support that the Settler movement still has from ordinary Joe's like me.

The Yesha (Settler) Council must bring these extremists to account if they are to retain any credibility with the people who don't have a problem about their presence in places like Hebron and they must act as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Admission of Wrongdoing

Yes I was wrong. I know. I've spent the entire day wondering how I could salvage any credibility on this blog after backing the wrong horse.

One thought though kept on making its way through the inner chambers of my brain. In fact, I vocalised it on the way to the downstairs toilet at about 2 a.m - I stayed up till almost 03:00 to find out how wrong I actually was about who would win the race.

The thought was simply - why am I upset? After all, as an orthodox Jew, I believe that G-d's presence lies behind everything that happens i our world. What if He has engineered it so that Obama will be the right president at the right time in the right place? How could I dare to suppose that I had greater understanding than the Supreme Being?

I mulled the thought over the next fourteen or so hours, facing the students who teased me with aplomb and grace. Coming home, it suddenly occurred to me that had Chamberlain not fluffed it in the late 1930's with Herr Hitler, the UK would not have been blessed with a leader of the calibre of Churchill. Similarly so, wasn't Bush the most appropriate man to helm the good ship "Administration" when Al Queda struck in the first year of his primary term?

I decided to look at the bigger picture (i.e bringing the Good Lord back into the thinking process) and came to the conclusion that it would indeed be foolish of me to try to second-guess the reason for Obama's victory.

I don't know much about him ( does anyone, aside from his close family and colleagues?), but I didn't know much about Bush either and although I know you'll probably disagree with me, he didn't turn out as bad as I had feared (vis a vis Israel).

We are entering new times and in this spirit, I admit that I was wrong. I forgot that the most powerful man on earth can only claim his throne if the most powerful force on earth wishes this to happen.

I may not have internalised Obama into my inner sanctum, but I've certainly brought G-d back into the equation and that makes me a feel a whole lot better.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I'm Backing The Next US President

I know that the following comments will either come back to haunt and humiliate me (i.e I'll be a laughing stock) or show me to be rather prophetic in nature.

Here goes.

I believe that the election will be won by McCain.

How can I say this? How can I be so foolish to assume that all those opinion polls are wrong? Listen to the radio, talk to people and they are walking around saying that Obama's already won. The thing is - he hasn't and everything we hear based on both the opinion polls and people's perception of what the result is going to be.

The truth is that we don't know, but at the end of the day, something inside me, some strange feeling tells me that there is going to be a different result and that enough Americans will vote for the older guy to make the difference between winning and losing.

As I said, I'll probably be a laughing stock in twelve hours time - but what if I'm right?

scacchi clay stop motion - chess clay stop motion

Crunch Time

Well, here we are. The big day has arrived and the world holds it breath. Will America vote in its first black president?

We are, without a doubt at a historic time and not one of us can deny it. The presidential race that has us hooked to our TVs and radios, balancing on the edge of our seats, gasping for breath - is within a hair-breadth of the finish line. It is crunch time.

I don't want Barack Obama to win. I have nothing whatsoever against the man and wish him the very best, but I don't want him to win. I don't like his stance on the Middle East. I'm not enamoured by the people he chooses to get advice from and I'm afraid that, although I do sense the sheer wright of the moment, the world needs a leader with experience and most importantly clout.

I fear that Obama is too wishy-washy, for want of a better word, for that role. Hate Bush as you might but he stood up to the Arab world and terrorism. He stood up to Iran and Hamas. He stood up to Hezbollah and Syria. He stood up to Al Queda and he made it clear that America would not compromise their values to suit these regimes. Bush's commitment to protecting the world from terrorists, showed those of us who cared that for once, Israel wasn't the only one actively fighting terror.

Obama has said that he wants to "understand" Iran and Hamas and that frightens the living daylights out of me because I and many of my ilk, understand these terrorists and don't feel the need to get them to re-explain themselves in a genteel discourse over tea and biscuits. We know exactly what their agenda is.

I fully comprehend why Obama seems so attractive a candidate. He speaks about Change as though it heralded the birth pangs of a new religion. He's young, handsome, dynamic. He is the shining knight in the morass of filth that the world finds herself in. To many of my fellow human beings, he is the last hope.

Maybe I'll be wrong. I'll probably rue these words and eat them as though they were the finest delicacy on the planet but at this moment, at 05:06 on Tuesday 4th November 2008, in the intimacy of my kitchen, sat next to the darkened window, I'm scared. I'm frightened that America will go for Obama and the next four/eight years will bring about a shift in world power, where America the feared, the despised but respected, will become America, the liberal pushover. America the pathetic. America the sucker.

I'm also scared that some supremacist fruitcake will decide that America's first black president should also be the first to die in office in the 21st Century and that would be a tragedy beyond compare.

As I said, I like Obama. I really do - but not as President of the United States of America.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

The "Not So Great" Schlep

Last night, I watched Sarah Silverman's ad for the "Great Schlep" where the idea is for Jewish grandchildren to go over to Florida and convince their grandparents to vote for Obama. It was a funny skit and Sarah Silverman is a very amusing young lady, but I really wondered whether the whole exercise was not condescending in the extreme - after all, are the people of Florida that stupid that have to rely on their grandchildren to traverse the United States to make their minds up for them.

I'm not doubting that the whole exercise is a very clever marketing ploy and granted Florida's ignoble voting record, perfectly understandable. It is also quite flattering that Sarah Silverman believes that Jewish vote is so crucial as to think of the idea in the first place. That said, it could also be seen as a pretty cynical way for the younger generation to manipulate their elders for a stated political agenda - and that's the bit that leaves a bitter taste, certainly in my mouth.

If I were to be one of those Floridian pensioners, I don't know how I would feel if my grandchildren came over to see me with the express purpose of convincing me to vote for a certain politician, albeit in an electoral race.

Surely, I'd be more interested in seeing them and finding out about their latest news and progress through life. I'd want to know what they were up to, whether they were dating anyone seriously, where they'd been for their holidays. I can't imagine wanting to discuss politics with them - in the knowledge that the main reason they were visiting was to get me to vote for Barack Obama.

Bad taste.

In two days time, the Americans will go to the polls and decide on the man who will lead them through the next four challenging years. How many of the pensioners who are voting on Tuesday will be alive when the next elections come up? No doubt, some won't see 2012 and wouldn't it be terrible if the last time they had their grandchildren coming up for a visit would have been as a result of partaking in the Great Schlep campaign.

One last thought.

I wonder how these future grandparents will explain to their grandchildren that their motives for visiting bubbe/zeide on that very last occasion, back in 2o08, had little to do with a genuine desire to bring pleasure and naches to a doting elder.