Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Queer Eye for the British Guy

It's no secret that I'm a diehard anglophile. So it's no surprise that I'm addicted to the BBC America program "Cash in the Attic". Basically, people try and raise money for a vacation or some house renovations. So they invite the experts from the BBC to rummage through their homes and find stuff that could turn out to be antiques.

Maybe the Brits know how to sell drama (the good kind, not the reality-TV kind) or maybe I'm just getting old enough to be excited by the mundane thrills of a good auction. Regardless, screw you for judging me.

Paula Abdul on Steroids

Actually, it's just Barry Bonds. Who's also on steroids.

Kircher’s Cat Piano

Athanasius Kircher first described the cat piano in his landmark 1650 work Musurgia Universalis:

In order to raise the spirits of an Italian prince burdened by the cares of his position, a musician created for him a cat piano. The musician selected cats whose natural voices were at different pitches and arranged them in cages side by side, so that when a key on the piano was depressed, a mechanism drove a sharp spike into the appropriate cat’s tail. The result was a melody of meows that became more vigorous as the cats became more desperate. Who could not help but laugh at such music? Thus was the prince raised from his melancholy.

From the very entertaining book "Instruments and the Imagination", by Thomas Hankins and Robert Silverman.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Is it Cologne with its great cathedral?
Milan with its glamour and its pace?
London with its river and its bridges?
Lisbon with its beauty and its grace?

Funny looking buses
Climb its pot-bellied hills
And a solitary jogger
Times the time he kills

Do you know where I'm gonna go?
None of you have guessed, so none of you can know
If you've been, that's not where I mean
It's got class and it's got excellence like you've never seen

Your town is dragging me down
Dragging me down, down, down
Your town is dragging me down
Dragging me down, down, down

Egyptian Actress causes a Stir

Nahla Salama gives the Gippos something to ogle.

Twelve Underrated Songs by Obscure Artists

(Song below is Drinkin' in L.A. by Bran Van 3000)

Twelve Underrated Songs by Established Artists

(Electronic is actually a pseudonymn used by the Pet Shop Boys)

(The song below is 'All Dead, All Dead' by Queen)

The 101 Best Free Online Games

Play them here.

Man sentenced for ride-by bottom slap

Seems excessive to me. I would have let him off with a slap on the...wrist.

BOGOTA, Colombia, Feb 24 - A Colombian man has been sentenced to four years' house arrest for slapping a woman's bottom as he rode by her on his bicycle, sparking debate on whether the punishment fit the crime.
Showing re-enactments of the incident, television news shows were filled on Friday with legal experts offering opinions about the judgment handed down earlier in the week by Bogota's district court.

Some said that to confine bicycle messenger Victor Garcia to his home for four years for smacking Diana Marcela Diaz's buttocks was excessive. Others said it would deter other men.

One program showed three models having their denim clad bottoms smacked so hard by a phantom hand it could be clearly heard by television viewers.

The women said that while the punishment seemed extreme, they hoped the case would mean they would be safer while on foot.

"It happened to me once," one of the models said. "I was walking very relaxed and a guy rode by on his bicycle and, 'ta!' He smacked me. I took off my shoe to hit him with it but he was already too far away."

Normality? It's just an illusion

"This agreement is intended to give the Palestinian people freedom to move, to trade, to live ordinary lives," said Condoleezza Rice, confidently speaking about a deal she helped broker, with much fanfare, between Israel and the Palestinians after the Israeli disengagement from Gaza last August, writes Laila El-Haddad.

Now, maybe, it's just me, but six months on I wouldn't say my life was "ordinary" by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think it's quite outside the entire realm of the ordinary.

Just ask my two-year-old son, Yousuf. He often mistakes Israeli helicopter gunships for birds, dances to the revolutionary songs blasted out during the political rallies that march past our house and has learned to distinguish between the Israeli tank shells that pound Gaza daily and the nightly machine-gun banter.

When not making our own yoghurt at home owing to shortages in the market, which is heavily dependent on Israeli-controlled crossings, we scavenge Gaza City to find him size-five Pampers because Israel has again closed down the only commercial crossing to Gaza in peak harvest, despite promises not to do so.

As one Palestinian woman, observing the new, democratically elected, Hamas-led
parliament convene last week, noted on being asked her thoughts about possible Israeli sanctions: "Our lives are incomprehensible."

I live in a territory that is neither a state, nor fully autonomous, nor even fully occupied, by military standards, with a parliament that has to convene via video conference. And I, along with the vast majority of Gazans, cannot even travel to the other, non-contiguous half of my non-state (even though the Golden Globes - but not necessarily the Oscars - appears to recognise it as an entity.

You see, I am barred by Israel from traveling to the West Bank, for "security reasons".

It might have something to do with Yousuf's chili incident. My son found an atomically, nauseatingly hot Gaza chili pepper lying around my kitchen counter, tore it open and, inevitably, rubbed his eyes, resulting
in an hour of agonising wails and a mild, subconjunctival haemorrhage.

I would later learn that chili - or capsicum extract, to be exact - is listed as a chemical weapon, right up there with mustard gas and nerve gas in a manual distributed to healthcare providers in Los Angeles.

So it is not difficult to see how I, a Harvard-educated Palestinian mother and journalist, can be considered a security threat by Israel.

But hey, we've always got Rafah crossing, right? I mean, the battle is done, after all, and we kind of won. And, to quote the flag from the Chairman Arafat Shop down the street, we now have a "free Gaza" and a "democratic Gaza".

Unfortunately, control over the crossing, as brokered by Condoleezza Rice after Ariel Sharon's much-lauded unilateral disengagement, like the end of Israel's occupation of Gaza, is completely fictitious.
My own friends and family can't even visit me here in my lonely little open-air prison.

Two US peace activist friends of mine, one a Harvard colleague (who would have thought they could graduate so many threats to security?) and two French aid workers were last week denied entry by Israel from entering Gaza via the supposedly Palestinian-controlled Rafah crossing, which is the only outlet to the outside world for 1.5 million Palestinians.

The reasons cited: "affiliations with groups that are considered terrorist groups". Pat helped Palestinian villagers plant olive trees and non-violently resist the encroachment of the Israeli wall on their land in the West Bank last
year. He was coming to Gaza to volunteer with a local agricultural NGO.

This is not to mention my own husband, who cannot visit me because, along with 50,000 other Palestinians, he lacks an Israeli-issued ID card and, as a refugee, cannot visit Gaza except perhaps under extenuating circumstances rendering him "a humanitarian case". Even then, there is always the chance that he may be denied. After all, his son handled a chemical weapon.

Ordinary? Hardly. As one senior Palestinian official put it to me: "It's all a masterful illusion."

Freelance journalist and blogger Laila El-Haddad lives in Gaza City. Laila's blog, Raising Yousuf, http://www.a-mother-from-gaza.blogspot.com is named after her two-year-old son

This is why I can't move to the UAE

Harmless old BoingBoing is banned there..

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Best of China Town Knock-offs