Thursday, December 21, 2006

All I want for Christmas are my two front teeth

What would I like for Christmas?

I mean, apart from world peace. And fifty thousand dollars.

Let's assume that they are not going to turn up.

I am very fortunate. I am among the world's wealthiest people, although it doesn't always feel that way. But I have plenty of electrical goods, two cars, always enough (often too much) to eat and drink, enough CDs that I can forget I own one and surprise myself at how much I like it (listened to Rogue satellite by Omni Trio today and remembered how much I liked it on first listen). There is nothing material that I lack. Any "stuff" that I was given would just be more junk. I really don't want for anything. We forget how lucky we are when we can say that.

I am a bit short of work but I expect something will turn up.

I'd love a publishing contract but I doubt a publisher is just going to bring one to me. I suppose I can give myself the present of writing something I love enough that I won't fear that others won't love it enough.

What I would like is a friend. Before I get emails saying "but I'm my friend", yes, you are, but you do not live next door to me. If you did, that would be fantastic. I need someone to hang out with, to drink a few beers with, to go to the football with maybe, to laugh with.

Life can never be festive if you have no one to laugh with.

And I already have my two front teeth.

The Warne is over

Those who love cricket (and many who don't) will remember Shane Warne's first ball in Ashes cricket. I doubt Mike Gatting will forget it. Warne announced himself as something very special, a new force in cricket.

The ball that dismissed Robin Smith in the same test was, in my view, better, one of the finest deliveries I have seen. Only a player of Smith's talent could even get a bat to it, as it spun square.

So many times I have seen this fat boy bamboozle our batsmen, and those of other nations, often dragging Australia from the brink. He has been endlessly fascinating and never less than brilliant, consistently the best spinner of our day -- Murali notwithstanding -- and arguably the best bowler of any kind -- only Glenn McGrath can offer any argument, in my view. He is the best I have seen, better even than the brilliant West Indian quicks of my youth.

I do not have anything to say about his private life. I doubt I would like him as a man. That is immaterial when considering him as a cricketer though, and as a cricketer, he is a legend. I tips me hat to Warney. Perhaps we'll have a chance in a couple of years!

BBC SPORT | Cricket | The Ashes | Shane Warne ends his Test career
Selvey, as usual, right on the money.

Maugham talk

Here is something to horrify your inner pedant:

The film is based on the eponymous W Somerset Maugham novel about a British doctor and his wife whose relationship comes under strain when they travel to a remote Chinese settlement hit by a cholera epidemic.

Somerset Maugham did not write a novel titled "W Somerset Maugham" that I know of. If he had, it would have been "eponymous", which means "with the same name as its creator" when applied to books or CDs.

"Eponym" is the word we use for words made from people's names: "atlas", "gatling", "bowdlerise" are all eponyms. "Georgian" houses arguably use an eponym and when one uses a name as an adjective, as in "my Madonna record", this too is eponymous. The title of this post -- oh, so wittily, yawn -- uses one. We use "eponymous" for selftitled works by extension. It's quite rare for fiction to be eponymous, but one could consider the Mencius to be eponymous, and, of course, there are autobiographies that are.

The hack on the Guardian was looking for "of the same title". I don't know whether there is an English word that says that. Doubtless the Greeks had a word for it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Vale Tom and Jerry

America is often slagged off for the pernicious influence on world culture, the way its icons push out local favourites. Sometimes it is just the overwhelming marketing that creates the push, but just occasionally it is the sheer brilliance of its product. With such a vigorous culture-production industry, it's bound to happen. When I was a kid, I loved Tom and Jerry, so I was sad to read that Joe Barbera has died. Animation becomes more sophisticated year on year but storylines and characters cannot match technology. The vicious, eternal squabble between cat and mouse, like some hand-drawn Zoroastrian fable, is still beautifully eloquent, touching something the child can respond to. Well, let's be honest, it's something the adult can respond to as well: the little guy fighting against the odds, using his wits to defeat strength that would, given the chance, crush him. And yet, who could really hate Tom. Pity rescued us from hatred. How beautifully created that cartoon was, that rather than slide into one-dimensionality, the characters were allowed to appeal to us each in their way, and we could sympathise just a little with Tom's failure at the same time as celebrating Jerry's success.


I have often been impressed by Rabbi Lerner. He is a true humanist, the kind of man who reminds me why I so disliked Brisbane's "humanists", who equated "humanism" with hatred and exclusion, when it is, of course, the religion of inclusion. I am above all else an inclusionist. I want us all in the same boat, no one left to drown.

I loved his piece on the theft of Christmas. In the UK, of course, Muslims are the people accused, not Jews. Islamophobia sells better than antisemitism in the UK.

Rabbi Lerner's ideas are great. I love that he wants to rescue Hannukah from the materialists, and his solution is quite beautiful. I was wondering what on earth to get my wife for Christmas. Now I have a great idea. She will love it too.

Even so, in many ways, we would all benefit from celebrating a secular Hannukah1 rather than Christmas. We should all light a candle and say a prayer to whatever we believe in that ignorance is illuminated and that the world can be in a tiny way better in the next year than it was this, and that we can contribute to its betterment, in no matter how small a way, more than we contribute to its detriment, which, usually inadvertently, we know we will.

1 I don't know much about Hannukah, and my apologies if I have it wrong, but my understanding is that it is a festival of renewal (because it commemorates the rededication of the Temple). In any case, that is the meaning I intend: thankfulness for what we have perhaps, but above all, hope for renewal. Return

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

What childhood smells of

Seasalt, jam, suntan lotion, damp earth, gorse, cut grass, cowpat, warm pasties, mashed banana, gravy, fishnchips, John Player No. 6, Vosene, dog, rain, cider, Christmas, my mother.

Hat tip to Hopey

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cut off

It seems inexpressibly sad that a woman's life can end at 24, strangled, a prostitute. That that should be your epitaph, what your life amounted to. Men fucked you for money and one sad soul killed you. Like a piece of fluff, you are blown into oblivion.

Did she have a mother who loved her? You think she cannot have done but people go wrong. They can be beautiful kids and life sours them. I look at my own girls and I think... no, I don't think at all. I dare not think anything. They are not going to be women. They are not ever going to have sex. They will always be my beautiful, golden girls, running up and down the hall, laughing. They won't ever grow old in my heart.

But I am not writing about my girls. I am writing about someone else's girl. But I do not have words for it. I do know that I hate men who use prostitutes. I think they are raping them, using their superior economic power to have sex they would not otherwise have. Yet the women are despised in our world. I do not know much about prostitutes, but I imagine that many felt they had no choice but to sell themselves. We all do things we don't want to.

I have no words about the man who did this. What can you say? You cannot imagine what makes a person lonely enough to feel that this is a course worth pursuing. He will be caught, of course, and sent to jail for the rest of his life. His name will be known, and then fade, as all our names do. I feel terribly sad that all he left this woman was to be the victim of some nutter.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


This amusing dialogue poses an interesting question about the Christian god.

God could have made humans any way he pleased and chose to make them just how they are. So he made them capable of sin.

So whose fault was it that man sinned?

I know that God gave us free will. But how can free will be free if God created that too? He knows all outcomes, all possibilities.

So what kind of favour is God doing us by "redeeming" us when he created us damaged in the first place? Did he send Jesus because he'd realised he fucked up?


And how can a "loving" god think it is reasonable to give you a 70-year trial for an eternal reward? Eternity is very long.

Would it not be fairer to give you a chance to recant once you're better informed about the consequences? It's one thing to demand faith in God, quite another to demand faith in your eternal torture.


One can go on for hours. It's child's play to pick holes in the Christian belief. It's such frank nonsense that it doesn't really bring much joy to do so. If you were to invent a belief from scratch, you'd take more care, but Christianity accreted and shoehorns dozens of different, incompatible traditions in with each other.

I have a question though. I've never found a compelling answer. It's why? If God loves me, why doesn't he just give me the eternal reward? Why give me a life first? Why bother? What is the purpose of the trial? What kind of love puts the beloved on trial for his or her life?

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

No denial

Millions of Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Nothing Israel does will change that. No amount of wishful thinking in the form of a "scholarly" conference will change that. No nation with pretensions to greatness would suggest otherwise because to tell a lie of that magnitude in the face of the enormous body of evidence that supports it is the province of a charlatan and a scoundrel.