All entries for February 2006

February 27, 2006

Dictators with a sense of humour…

Yup Saddam is an evil guy. He's committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. But I've just this minute remembered something my father told me when I was younger – probably a year or two after the Gulf War when we were discussing the subject.

After the invasion of Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar were condemning Iraq and threatening action. Saddam Hussein was questioned about this and replied:

"Qatar? Ha! Bahrain? Ha! I took Kuwait in a week… I'll take Bahrain in a day and I'll take Qatar by fax."

On reflection I'm guessing that this was just a common Arabic joke at the time… but if anyone can find something like this attributed to Saddam then that would be brilliant :D.


February 21, 2006

I like sugar, I like tea.

Apparently Weapon G has friends in high places. :'(

Another wonderful win for freedom of speech in Europe!

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4734648.stm

Right on the back of some Muslims being mightily miffed, famed Holocaust-denier David Irving was sentenced to a prison term in Austria.

Now David Irving's crime is, essentially, shitty scholarship. He deliberately misinterpreted and twisted the available data, tried to undermine existant scholarship on the most spurious of grounds and went some lengths to falsify information in order to polemicise the issue. Deborah Lipstadt (and others) have brought good rebuttals to his work (well ironically so in Lipstadt's case). But in essence his work and arguments were no different from a piece of work such as From Time Immemorial. There are plenty of works of dubious scholarly worth, claiming to be scholarship, that pass under the radar or are even praised for their claims (see again Joan Peters' From Time Immemorial).

It will be interesting to see how this sentence adds to the ongoing debate.


February 19, 2006

A(n interesting) note on the Libyan Riots…

I wonder if the cartoons aren't the only issue in this specific case. It seems that the fact an Italian Minister wore the shirt amplified the response. I wonder if there's still any latent anti-Italian hatred for what the Italians did in Libya last century?

February 18, 2006

SCIENTISTS DISCOVER AMAZING NEW DINOSAUR!!!!

Writing about web page http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=joke&btnG=Google+Search&meta=

The Coprophagosaurus Scientificus

Oh my God! I nearly wet myself today when I heard the news. Scientists are already hailing this as the most amazing discovery since the last dinosaur. Details are sketchy at the moment, but here is what we know so far:

  • It was big. Really big. Bigger than T-Rex, Spinosaurus and Gigantosaurus combined. x 2
  • It had big scary teeth.
  • It lived somewhere during the formation of Pangea-3000BC.
  • Its femur was discovered at a dig in Shaanxi, China. 4 of its Phalanges were found in New Mexico and part of its cranium was discovered quite by accident in Essex.

Scientists are trying to control their excitement but the hypotheses won't stop coming! So far it's been speculated that copraphagosaurus scientificus:

  • Shot acid from its nose.
  • Breathed fire and cooked its own food.
  • Had big, purple, scythe-like claws.
  • Had a giant skin/bony "fan" on its back which "probably" acted as a radiator.
  • Had a short whip-like tail which it probably used to kill stuff.

Stay tuned for more updates on Coprophagusaurus Scientificus!!!!

Coprophagy


February 16, 2006

On banning the glorification of

Writing about web page http://politics.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,,1710761,00.html

A good thing so long as they word the legislation appropriately so as to deprive the Government for using it as a policy measure as opposed to a moral/legal measure. I hope that the legislation is applied equally and that people who glorify State use of terror will be affected.

It will be interesting to see how they define terrorism (or whether it is defined at all and it is left up to judges to interpret what terrorism will mean). I have not yet read the statute or proposed statute – if anyone has any links they'd like to share, they'd be most welcome.


Why the '70s and '80s were clearly the best decades for the BBC

You can tell by drum roll – Theme Tunes. The best and most successful TV shows also have the best and most memorable intro themes. Some of these programs are still the best the BBC has to offer and some have, unfortunately failed or lost appeal mostly to modern Beeb mismanagement. Let's have a look:

1) Newsnight (little-known factoid – Newsnight's format and first presenter actually based the show on the Arabic BBC World Service programme).

2) Question Time.

3) Have I got News For You? (yes, technically has a nice, but 1990 is still part of the same decade as the eighties :P)

4) Match of the Day.

5) Eastenders (which used to be a British staple as opposed to a British embarrassment).

6) Panorama (yes 50s but let's say it was better with David than with Richard :P)

Now tell me what lasting programme the BBC has genuinely produced over the past decade which has been memorable? There have been off-moments of genius in documentaries and the like but in terms of politics and sitcom, the BBC has had its day. It's wonderful that Newsnight has more-or-less kept its high level of quality. This is mostly down to Jeremy Paxman's wonderfully-watchable confrontational style (which he picked up from his predecessor who in turn picked it up from the BBC World Service). Indeed the BBCs political programmes these days hold their hopes as much in individual personality as it does in its theme tunes.

Hums


February 14, 2006

On People's Perceptions of Democracy…

Democracy is set upon certain principles… And those principles are:
Number 1, respect for human rights, equality regardless of your gender, regardless of your colour, regardless of your political creed and regardless of your religion…
And also democracy is peaceful change, and also a renunciation of violence… violence does not figure as a tool in democracy.

We hear variations of the same kind of idealistic, cloy statement all the time and everytime someone says it the fundamental hypocrisy of it smacks me in the head.

I don't disagree with the idea that some forms of modern democracy do conform to the first set of principles. So I don't mind hearing that despite the actual development of these modern forms has never been rigid but has always been a mixture of fluidity and sudden, abrupt change.

I do, however, take exception to the idea that violence does not figure as a tool in democracy. Nearly all democracies have been founded in some way, shape or form upon violence and consistently use it as a tool both for protection and for wider, more offensive (militarily-speaking) "security". France, Britain, The US, Italy etc. – Take a look at all the nations you consider democratic and they will have been founded upon violence and not only defensive violence or violence to gain independence but often restrictive violence. In order to maintain the union, the US launched a civil war against the breakaway states. The Risorgimento, the American and French Revolutions, the February Revolution in Russia etc. were all violent struggles and subsequent overthrows and restorations of democracy were similarly based upon violence.

Violence has been and continues to be a tool of modern democracies and while less likely to use such a tool on the voters, they are now more than happy to go about and use it on others. You can't beat someone over the head saying "Violence is bad" whilst having invaded several nations in the past two decades.

Democracy does not equal Pacifism.


Great quotation from Tariq Ramadan on last week's Newsnight…

It's not a clash of civilisations… [but] it's becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy the way we're talking about it.

February 13, 2006

The primary reason Arabs are misunderstood… (part 1)

is that hardly anyone outside the Arab world knows our food! Sure, everyone's had a kebab and quite a few of you will know what homous or filafil are…

Argh – I have to go on a little aside/rant here. Everyone thinks they've had a kebab and quite a few think they know what homous and filiafil are but they are mostly wrong! What those random Turkish Takeaways sell (ie the meat Mac Donald's wasn't prepared to use, stuffed to the brim with thick chillie sauce) are not proper kebabs! If you want to try real Arabic kebabs pop over to Edgeware Road in London. Go into any of the great restaurants there (al-Dar and Maroush spring to mind!) and you will get to taste real (scruptious) kebabs. Yum-yum. And Homous isn't Greek.

OK now that that's over, let's get onto what real Arabic cuisine is all about:

Zait wa Za'atar

Zait is oil in Arabic. Here it's Zait Zaitoon (Olive Oil). You put this zait in a bowl and fill another bowl with Za'atar. Za'atar is a mix of various herbs in different measures (so you have different types of Za'atar) but the primary ingredient is Thyme (but you'll also have Summac, toasted Sesame etc.). This is a basic of any Arabic breakfast and it's good for you. You dip bread into the olive oil and then dip it into the za'atar which will then stick to the bread. Absolutely delicious!

Halloumi Cheese

Now I'm not going to get into whether this is originally Arabic or Greek (but the Arabs cook it better :P) but this is also typically found in breakfasts or as an accompaniment to various meals. It's either fried in a little bit of oil, grilled or served raw. My personal preference is to heat up a pan, pour about half a teaspoon of olive oil into the pan and let it sit in the centre. To test when the pan is ready, cut a little bit of the cheese and drop it in. If it's sizzling, the pan will be ready. Cut fairly thin slices of cheese and place them on the outer edges of the pan. Using a wooden spatula, quickly push each slice into the centre and pull it back so it stays on the fringe. Wait about 40–50 seconds , checking one of the slices to see how brown/dark it is and, when ready, turn over and do the same with the other side.

Within two minutes you'll have perfectly cooked Halloumi cheese. It'll be crispy on the outside, soft and delicious on the inside. I'll post some pics when I next cook it :D.

Mensaf

The first REAL dish I'm going to mention (i.e. a complete meal as opposed to side dishes). This is my favourite Arabic dish and I can't properly describe to you how wonderful it is. It's composed of:

Stone Yoghurt (condensed and dried goat's milk)
Rice (with one of the yellowing spices)
Snobre (pine kernals)
Lamb (mmmm)
Shiraq (a kind of large, flat Arabic bread)
Semneh Beladi (a bit like Pakistani Ghi)

You powderise the yoghurt rocks and then blend with water. Meanwhile, you put your lamb meat in a large pot (pressure cooker!) and slowly fry it in just a touch of oil. you don't want the meat to burn or to cook too much, you just want to take out the redness of the meat. When it's ready you pour on the Stone Yoghurt (which is now liquid) and start slow-boiling it.

You prepare the rice as usual. To serve the meal you take a large tray and break up the bread to use as a kind of base. You pour a bit of the stone yoghurt over the bread so it absorbs the yoghurt and then you place the rice on top of the bread. You have to fry the snobre quickly in a bit of oil, being careful not to burn them but only to brown them (they cook very quickly) and sprinkle ontop of the rice. You then take some of the meat from the pot and place ontop of the rice and serve the yoghurt + meat in bowls for you/your guests to add as they wish to the rice.

Mmmmm-mmmmm. Delicious.

—————————————————————————————————————————

More dishes to be descirbed + possible photos in part 2!


February 12, 2006

Seems that Sharon's finally about to pop his clogs…

Writing about web page http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,184553,00.html

Not as undignified a death as I would have hoped, but a war criminal being kept alive while bits of him die off and get removed? That'll do, that'll do.

February 09, 2006

It's all about free speech… or is it?

Writing about web page http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060208/wl_nm/religion_cartoons_denmark_jesus_dc_1;_ylt=AsOoA5n5eTZsRmU5KWj26kDbEfQA;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

The Danish newspaper really wanted to test the measures of freedom of speech right? It didn't set out to offend Muslims but, essentially, to bring us the important message that some Muslims are giving all Muslims a bad name right?

Well, no. They deliberately set out to offend Muslims and they weren't acting as bastions of free speech. The paper (and no, I'm not confusing singular and plural – I'm interchanging the paper and "they") had previously refused to print cartoons of Jesus in a variety of silly poses because it would have been offensive to readers. The editor is now claiming that "offensive" was the wrong word and the cartoons were simply "bad". Which makes sense of course, considering these 12 cartoons depicting Mohammed PBUH were veritable works of art.

The self-same paper is now planning to shore up its publicity by publishing comedic/critical/offensive (one presumes) cartoons in relation to the holocaust. Can't wait to see B'nai B'rith, ADL et al. get their panties in a twist.


February 07, 2006

One of the problems with some modern Feminism(s)...

The recent issue in Japan strikes me as representative of the problems of feminism(s) in many liberal countries. They are seeking to have the right for female heirs to ascend the Crysanthemum Throne when they should, instead, be seeking to abolish it. I find it ironic that some of these feminists are seeking sexual equality within classes rather than complete equality for classes.

Disclaimer: I realise that "Feminism" is heterogenous. I realise that some forms of "Feminism" have some forward-thinking ideals and feminists do some great work. I am speaking of a kind of feminism (or some of the forms of feminism) which predominently exist within Western Europe and the US which either miss the point of equality or attempt to find gender inequality issues in places where no such inequality exists.


February 05, 2006

The genius of Dean Martin

I used to listen to a lot of Dean Martin/Frank Sinatra when I was a kid, mostly because my father was of the Rat Pack generation and loved the old crooners (along with Louis Armstrong and a variety of old Arabic singers). So I grew up listening to Memories are made of this.

I haven't listened to much of his music for the past few years but I've had a bit of a music risorgimento and I'm constantly listening to some of my old favourites: Sway, Volare, Amore etc.

He may not technically have the best vocals of any singer but his charisma and charm blend perfectly with his often mischievous vocal flourishes. What a singer. I wish we had more like him nowadays instead of the crop of crap pop we have to suffer.


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