Depends on how you look at it

13 06 2009

I am living in the usual nightmare of screaming babies and a multitude of bills. On the plus side I have piles. Actually that isn’t much of a plus side at all really.

But its all about attitude, perspective- how you look at it.

I’ve tried to be a bit more buddist about it and look at it philosophically.

I have the greatest admiration for the buddists because I just cant see what they are getting at.

This whole thing about karma, well there is something wrong with that for sure.

The way it should work, textbook like, is that you give charity one day and you win the lottery the next, but it doesn’t fucking work. Or you help an old lady across the road, and she dies the next day and leaves you a vast fortune in her will. In my case she screams and tries to have you arrested for assault.

So karma doesn’t actually work, its tried and tested, Hitler killed six million Jews and the VW Beetle went on to be a best selling car world over. It just doesn’t work.

There are some other schools of philosophy, which I have been researching recently, but none make mention about poverty being linked to piles. Talk about being squeezed, I cant seem to get any answers anywhere.

In Jewish philosophy, we have a school of thought that states that we are put on this earth to achieve something, to accomplish a specific mission. If you don’t complete that mission, you are sent back again and again until you get it. To be honest after being sent back for the tenth time, you sort of forget what it is you had to achieve in the first place. The trauma of being born each time and having to fill in tax forms generally numbs the mind of any sense of purpose in any event, unless you were wise enough to write it down in a safe place, the chances are you are going to forget.

I cant understand what this has to do with my piles or my crying daughter, who is almost two years old and still cant drive or sleep for any length of time worth mentioning.

Of course statistically, the chances of winning the lottery are very slim, but I was never very good at maths and particularly this whole thing of calculating odds. The way I figure in my primitive method of odds calculation is that you have as much chance as anyone else and that means that is that. To quote the Night Raid “If there’s a bomb made for you, you are going to get it.” Although, with my luck overriding even the law of averages and odds, I am more likely to get the bomb than the winning lottery numbers.

Still not everything is bad- not anything that a bit of cash, sleep and pile cream wouldn’t help.


Speaking Out

5 02 2009


The recent criticism surrounding the recent decision by the BBC and Sky not to devote air-time to the Gaza appeal, has provoked much debate on the questions of media bias and impartiality. Many Jewish readers would be forgiven for viewing the debate with a sense of irony, as the BBC could never really be described as being impartial when it comes to their reporting on Israel.

Many of us may spend a lot of time on the other side of this debate, defending Israel’s actions during times of war, but none more so than Israeli Defence Forces spokesman and Manchester born Captain Elie Isaacson.

As part of the IDF’s spokesperson unit, Elie has recently found himself being interviewed by the BBC, Fox news to name but a few international media agencies, and for once, these interviews were a welcome refreshing change to the usual interviews with Israeli spokespersons as the interviews were given in fluent, flowing English. “I think that there’s definite added value in people being able to hear the situation described in their own language and from someone who hails from their own culture. It’s often hard to relate to events happening thousands of miles away but I think that when it’s relayed by someone with the exact same language or even the same accent as you, it has a certain resonance.”

The IDF policy of not admitting journalists and media crews into the Gaza strip, met with widespread criticism but also lead to many unreliable witness accounts of the combat taking place within Hamas territory. Although there was an element of Hamas manipulating these reports, Elie expressed caution to those reading the witness accounts.“It is important to remember that there is a media element to every war and that there a large number of people who have a direct interest in damaging our well-earned reputation for being an ethical army who do everything in our power to avoid the risk of harming anyone but terrorists. For this reason, it is imperative that journalists and readers are discerning in the types of sources that they rely on, and that they do not rely on hearsay.”

29 year old Elie has not forgotten his roots, growing in up in Broughton Park and regularly visits his family who still live there. His experiences growing up in Manchester have helped lend perspective to his work in Israel and the recent rocket attacks from Gaza. “Having grown up [in Manchester] I feel that I have the ability to put recent events into proportion, in that, had residents of Manchester or any other city been targeted indiscriminately in their homes by terrorist rockets, there’d be no doubt in anyone’s minds that this would be a situation that was both unacceptable, and that demanded action.”

Much has been made of the high number of civilian casualties during the three week conflict, and the ensuing Humantarian Crisis surrounding the lack of aid reaching Palestinians in the Gaza strip. In such a densely populated area like Gaza it is inevitable that there would be a number of civilian casualties, but Captain Isaacson maintains that the welfare of civilians and distribution of Humantarian Aid were always a priority.

“Despite being engaged in intense warfare, we were aware that the Hamas deliberately put their people in harm’s way and did not care at all for their welfare. During the mission, The IDF coordinated daily with the worlds biggest aid agencies including The World Food Program, The Red Cross, Medecins sans frontiers to name but a few, as well as foreign governments such as those of Turkey and Jordan in order to do everything in our power to help the people of Gaza who are essentially being held hostage by the Hamas.”

Getting aid to civilians in those circumstances was extremely challenging, especially when faced with an enemy that would stop at nothing to attack Israeli troops.

“On hearing rumours that it was difficult for Gazan civilians to reach the aid meant for them, The Israeli government took further action and established a daily ‘humanitarian corridor,’ designed to allow them to do so. Then Hamas decided that they would attack both Israeli civilians and soldiers during the time corridor in an attempt to engage the IDF at the expense of their own people’s ability to reach vital aid. This further stresses the need for people to remember that the root cause of any humanitarian situation is not Israel’s actions, but those of the Hamas, who brought this on their own people by attacking Israeli civilians while using them as human shields. It was the Hamas who chose to fire rockets before, during and since the ceasefire leaving us no choice but to act.”

In his role as spokesperson , Elie is mindful of the efforts made by Jews and Israel’s supporters living in England and throughout the world. “I think that all citizens abroad, Jewish or otherwise, have an obligation to ensure that they are seeing things objectively and to realize that Israel faces some of the most cruel and violent terrorists in the world today and has a duty to protect its citizens.

People should not be afraid to speak up in favour of the side who are a democracy and to whom human rights, civil rights and women’s rights are paramount, rather than automatically siding with those who at first glance may appear to be an underdog, who, in actual fact invariably condone indiscriminate murderous attacks on civilians.

Anyone, Jewish or otherwise, should defend Israel or any other democracy that falls victim to terrorists who indiscriminately attack their civilians.”

Going Nuts- Consider the Squirrel

19 10 2008

Just Some Innocent Fun- No Squirrels Were Harmed In Writing This Piece

If like me, the mind numbing drudgery of everyday life, makes you wonder why you bother getting up in the morning- spare a little thought for the squirrels.

What have they ever done to deserve the credit crunch, freak floods, freak storms, global warming, HIV and radical Islam?

I was passing a squirrel just the other day, gnawing on a nut. As I handed the nut to the squirrel, I decided that on reflection it’s probably a preferable option to be a squirrel as opposed to a human fighting their way through the shit-storm of everyday life.

The very next morning, I climbed in a tree and began working my way through a bag of mixed nuts. By eleven AM, I was beginning to suffer vertigo and was developing a terrible thirst from all the nuts I had eaten. That’s when I got to thinking. What do squirrels drink? In fact, come to think about it, I had never seen a squirrel drink anything before. Perhaps that’s how squirrels die.

I woke up an hour and a half later, nursing a large, throbbing bump on the back of my head and picking bits of tree out our my hair. It was then that I decided I wasn’t cut out for Squirreling.

So I walked back into work, and tried to convince them to give me my job back.

“But your exact words were, ‘Shove your oppressive job up your capitalist arses and go fuck yourselves’. No I don’t think we will reconsider your hasty ‘resignation’. “

So much for sympathetic management.

Death of A Salesman

16 10 2008

So its official, we are all going to hell in a handbasket (what a phrase). At least for anyone lucky enough to have been tuned in to BBC1’s special this evening on the state of the economy. Determined to squeeze the last drops of the will to live out of a fearful nation crowded round their wireless tellyboxes, Jeremy Vine and co, told us how a) Our fate is in the hands of incompetent jugglers between the Banks and the government. b) We are powerless and were probably always unwitting patsies to the global credit conspiracies. c) Theres no way out of this and we will all be wearing sackcloth and eating ashes until the end of days (which is probably scheduled for next week).

I dont agree with all of this scaremongering and badgering the public into feeling helpless victims. It is another example of media irresponsibility scaring the public into not spending their money anymore and thereby worsening the financial recession. But perhaps the biggest act of irresponsibility is towing the line that the banks and governments are the criminals whilst the consumer public were unwitting victims – a line of thinking that I find hard to accept.

Each member of the public knew what they were doing when they signed a credit agreement. Each member of the public should have known whether or not they could afford their mortgage. But, yes, I am willing to conceed that not all of us knew that our savings and pensions would be swallowed so quickly by this finanicial holocaust.

The fact is that a lot of us are waking up feeling like Willy Loman these days. The rules have all changed. There is no security in the things we held as being true and indestructable. Thousands have been given redundancy notices and millions already in unemployment.

So where does it end? Well we all know what happened to Willy Loman, but I cant see that happening here. What we need to do is move on and start taking responsibility for our individual and in turn, collective, actions.

The UK have to stop relying on the media to dictate their spending habits and beliefs about the financial system, and start realising that we all understand the basic rules of business whilst we’re at it. The US have to make the right decision in November and vote Obama into power. If anything, this will at least affect an air of change, if not proper change itself. The world needs a change, and the US needs to wake up in November to hope and not some angry white old man with a military history.

World take a note from the story of Kind David. Kind David was denied the opportunity to build the temple in Jerusalem because he had so much blood on his hands from waging so many wars. There is a lesson in the responsibility of governance here: An effective politician and leader cannot lead build for peace and the future with a background of war. There is always an alterior motive and agenda in their policies. McCain will undoubtedly be a rash decision maker and war mongerer far worst than the current administration (although given Bush’s military history maybe this theory has been proven wrong).

Lets begin effecting change, lets begin taking responsibility: for our finances, for our environment and for our actions. The alternative is Willy Loman.

Carry the can or else.

27 09 2008

The interviews that littered the recent news broadcasts about the emergency talks around the US treasury’s desparate plans to save the US banking system, had the average Joe on the street saying “I don’t see why I should have to carry the can for Wall Street’s mistakes.”

Like it or not, if average Joe wants to continue living his American dream or nightmare, he will have to listen to Hank Poulson for the time being. Perhaps its not everyone’s idea of a prudent plan, but inaction and apathy would be far worse.

The fact that some stores and gas stations are no longer accepting credit cards as valid payment options, shows that the overall faith in the banking system is at an all time low. Imagine not being able to underpin your daily purchases with a credit card. For the many of the world’s citizens, let alone the US, this scenario is unthinkable.

But those of us worried about the security of our savings or future of our credit cards are missing the point, a very valid point raised by a man that doesn’t normally talk sense. In his address to the American nation, unusually, George Bush used draconian language for the possible consequences of inaction mentioning possible “collapse” and “danger” and explicitly “major sectors of America’s financial system are at risk of shutting down.”

Neither George Bush nor average Joe can afford to let this happen. This means much more than a threat to financial security. This is a threat to US national security and the stability of the western world.

The consequences of a collapse in the American economy would send resounding shockwaves across Europe and the rest of the world, but it would also leave America looking and feeling vulnerable and weak. Open not just to financial attack but also physical attack, the US economy and tax system supports a huge number of military projects that has helped to keep America as a one of the world’s superpowers. Military spending alone is not sufficient to keep the status quo, and general economic strength also dictates America’s standing on the world stage. For the first time in many years, Americans face becoming downgraded from superpower to has-been.

Senator John Mccain’s recent hijacking of the crisis talks have done little to boost his own credibility and arguably threaten the future of the western world. Many see this as just a taste to come of what life would be like if Mccain sees victory in the upcoming elections, others see little more than a transparent and ill-timed delay tactic.

Unless Mccain wants to inherit a defunct superpower, average Joe better pray that the US government strike a deal this week. With Russia riding the crest of a gas fuelled economic boost in military spending, the US needs to maintain its image and the integrity of its dollar.

The Large Hadron Dilemma

14 09 2008
Large Hadron Collider
Large Hadron Collider
Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel

The Large Hadron Dilemma

So as it was way back in Babel,
That man had the idea,
Let us see the face of God,
Let us see if he is real,
And so they built brick upon brick,
Miles higher than Cern,
But with the same intention,
And the same cynical sneer

The man on the street,
He drives a nice car,
He has a nice wife, a job,
His father was a doctor and his mother a barrister,
You couldn’t tell he was adopted,
Save for the lack of physical resemblance,
That might be forgiven or forgotten,
But it itched and niggled

So he looked and he searched,
And he found them out,
They lived far away,
But it was worth a try,
So he found the bitter truth,
That Mummy was a drug addicted prostitute,
And Daddy the dealer,
But now he knew

He liked it better when he didn’t know,
The noble stock from where he sprang,
But he couldn’t go back to normal,
The nice wife, the nice job,
So he bought a gun,
And did the deed,
In the back of his car,
The guilt and knowledge began to bleed,

And so the Large Hadron Collider,
With its noble intentions,
To find the so called God particle,
Like so many inventions,
It might not work,
But if it does,
Would you perhaps rather not know,
We all came from dust and back there we go

The Death of Autumn – Short Story

25 08 2008
The Death Of Autumn

The Death Of Autumn

The road leading down to the house meandered through the forest and for the most part was covered in dead leaves. The charm of autumn had gone, leaving the stale smell of rotting leaves in its path.

Of course today would not be pleasant, it was never meant to be. Originally, he had tried to plan his emotions well in advance of the occasion, but that never works. One can never account for the other sensory stimuli that will flavour the event like the subtle seasoning of pepper. The cold, the crispness of the air, the smell of the leaves.

In his imaging of the day, these items had never featured.

He was meant to be detached and dutiful. This was a duty more than a pleasure or a painful process. This was a chore, pure and simple.

He had even come prepared in the event that no one else would come, in the boot he had his own shovel and a pair of Wellington boots.

But that was ridiculous, of course people would come, however in his imagination he had always discounted anyone else’s presence from his mother’s funeral. It was meant to be a quick affair, just him and the Rabbi, and maybe the cemetery groundsman.

Pulling up to the house, he could see the other cars already there. His sisters had come with their husbands, he could hear their kids playing in the garden somewhere. His own children were now grown up, but did not remember their grandmother in anyway and so he made the decision to leave them be, not to bother them with what was after all meant to be a chore. He hadn’t even told his wife where he was going. When the call came in, he accepted the news with very little emotion or sound and she had been oblivious to events on the other end of the line.

She would have wanted to have known and he knew that she would have wanted to come with him today, but he refused to let his mother hurt his wife any further a long time ago. Today was no exception, even in her death, the difficult emotions would take some processing and he did not want her to be present on the day he finally shut the chapter on his mother’s life.

Getting out of the car, he was surprised to see the building still standing. It was ready for demolition a long time ago, the masonry was starting to crumble round the edges and looked as if the roof might collapse in on itself, at any moment. Perhaps the house itself was just waiting for the old woman to die, before collapsing and burying all her effects along with her.

His sister had been present with her mother at the time of her death. She was a doctor, but her devotion to her mother went beyond the Hypocratic oath she had sworn many years ago. She described her mother’s final hours as distressing, as her mother complained of being lonely and continually cried until she finally passed away in her sleep.

Of course, to him, she was bound to be lonely. She had successfully pushed everyone and anyone that could possibly have cared for her so far away that there was no chance that they would be around at a moment like this. Except for Leah, who seemed to be blind to the brand of venomous hatred that her mother preached.

As he stepped into the house, there were a lot of old faces that looked to him like they were waiting for some sort of inspiration. For someone to tell them how they should be feeling today. His other two sisters, looked upset and confused. Whether they should be mourning their mother or the life she robbed them of.

He walked straight up to his father and said “Ok, its time. Lets get going.”

The undertakers took this as a sign and loaded the hearse with the coffin, which seemed shorter than he remembered her being.

They all drove in silence towards the cemetery, each of them desperately trying to find the meaning in the occasion.

“Its all duty. Just a duty. Respect for the dead, but not the woman.” He kept telling himself, separating the corpse and the personality that inhabited it twenty four hours ago.

She was a young woman, comparatively, at sixty four. But she had chain smoked much of her adult life, leaving her with heavy lungs laden with cancerous tumours that finally sucked the life out of her.

Of course, she could have lived longer, only she had refused treatment or diagnosis a long time ago. Her understanding of medicine and doctors had always been primitive and superstitious but ultimately any treatment would only ever had prolonged her existence and could not prevent the inevitable.

The Rabbi meant well. The words he spoke, praised her as a woman of virtue, a good mother and a Jew. She had been none of these things, but everyone forgave him because he was at least brief. They all needed to get this over with as soon as possible.

The earth was soft and they buried the coffin more quickly than he had anticipated. It was an unceremonious moment that somehow lacked the sense of closure he had hoped for, but there it was. A life reduced to a mound of earth and the tears of an old man who had never managed to stop loving his wife.

Difficult to believe, this wasn’t how he had planned it, almost like he had been cheated of an emotion.

Ironically, this is just as she would have wanted it.

At least she was gone.