Sunday, July 31, 2005

AG Birthday Report

Just what we needed: an excuse to get together and over indulge in the booze. We started at AG’s in a proper grown-up manner, with supper and wine out in the garden. AG had done the cooking herself and everything was delicious. Then it rained so we were inside for opening presents and coffee and cake. But enough of the civilised stuff, let’s get on to the after-party at U Zpěváčků.

There were 8 of us who went on from AG’s: AG, Dr Bellarina, J, Delicia, Delicia’s brothers: the card-carrying Republican and Bubba, the beautiful kd and Max. Mike was there to look after us, and Monkey showed up at midnight (kind of a post-modern whacked-out Cinderella).

AG lamented making it to 60: “I always wanted to live fast, die young and be a good-looking corpse, and it’s already too late.” Hey ho.

Conversation was all over the place, of course, from what is wrong with corporate America to the problem with Dutch men to Delicia not understanding ebonics and Max not understanding American, that there is not enough drive for new knowledge in the US, etc.

Monkey and I learned that the card-carrying Republican had assumed that we must be CIA “because of your language skills and intellect”. Weird. Delicia said we were the “bar version of the NSA”, listening intently to everyone and gathering information and knowledge. Weird again.

We discussed the re-branding of the global war on terror as the “global struggle against extremism” – you know, Bush’s Kampf. And that the FBI is watching all of us look at each other’s blogs.

Back to the card-carrying Republican mentalist. There was a discussion about Karl Rove going on and the Republican once again refused to accept anything. I couldn’t believe that he was so completely towing the party line. As J said to him, “You sound like the fucking White House.” The Republican claimed that the media were “manipulating your interpretation of the facts,” which caused us to burst out laughing. As I had said to the Republican earlier in the week, he is so naïve, he sounds like bloody Francis.

Then weird limey tourist drunk Howard popped into the back room to announce to us that he would be off home to Yorkshire tomorrow, and that his favourite band is the Beatles. Random.

Mike: “People with red asses shouldn’t be so rude.”

Monkey: “I’m not a baboon, I’m a monkey.”

Happy Birthday, AG!!!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Happy Birthday querida Página!!!

May all of your dreams come true this year, especially the one about visiting me and Monkey in Prague.
Don't get too too too drunk tonight.
Make sure Jono gives you a big kiss for me.
Love you.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Rapper Name Vote

DD, Monkey and yours truly have been trying to come up with a rapper name for Max. DD’s, by the way is Snoop Dave Flava Flav. If Monkey has one, he has not admitted to it. So far, these were the two best the lads could come up with for me:

Ghetto-Momma Maxima


Maxima DeBeauvoir-DeGhetto.

Before we make a final decision with which I will have to live for the rest of my life, I would like to ask the rest of my blog homies to tell me your preference or, if you are so inspired, to submit other ideas.

Thanking you.

Max x

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Women, Be Wary

They are writing their new constitution in Liberated Iraq. Islam is to be the official religion of the country and “a main source” of law. All well and good except that women will be deprived of certain rights.

As the draft constitution reads now, a Shiite woman will not be able to marry without the permission of her family, no matter what her age. Women will also be adversely affected with respect to divorce and inheritance laws.

Meanwhile, back in the Land of the Free, Attorney General Alberto “Torture” Gonzales has announced that a Supreme Court Justice does not have to follow a previous ruling “if you believe it’s wrong.” Fair enough: different interpretations of the law are possible and that is why we have a Supreme Court. Except that of course his remarks were in reference to Roe v Wade. Sorry, it’s an issue that just won’t go away.

Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, as we all know by now, served as deputy solicitor general in Daddy Bush’s administration. In that capacity he co-wrote a brief for a Supreme Court case in which he argued that Roe v Wade “was wrongly decided and should be overruled.” I know some of you would disagree with me, but I see Roe v Wade strictly as an issue of women’s rights.

Has anyone read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale? The novel depicts a society where women have lost their rights and have to be dependent on and subservient to men in order to survive. It’s a frightening picture. Think about the Christian Conservatives’ “traditional family values” and try to imagine what their ultimate goals are (assuming Armageddon and the Rapture don't actually happen, I mean).

Rights are never lost all at once. Rights are lost one at a time or by one group at a time. Even the Nazis started off in a relatively subtle manner. Our government has started with the Patriot Act and the Department of Fatherland Security. Don’t bother pointing out to me that I have written/bitched about losing my rights before, I am perfectly well aware. I am currently trying to figure out what else I need to do about it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Israel: Myths & Facts

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and repeated.” – JFK

I tend to avoid the topic of Israel because I simply do not have the energy for it. I mentioned it once before in a post entitled “The Fashion of Politics” – 17 June 2005. When discussing Israel-Palestine issues with almost anyone, the first thing I notice is that they do not have any idea what they are talking about. Almost everyone I have ever met has been duped by propaganda without even realising it. The Israel-Palestine conflict is extremely complicated and to really understand it a person has to have extensive knowledge of the history of the Near East, as well as an understanding of the cultures, religions, politics and ways of life that have prevailed there.

But thanks to the “anonymous” commenter on my previous post, I feel I am forced into writing about Israel. The first thing I will say is that if you really want to learn about the history, the best book I know, touted as one of the most thoroughly researched and objective books ever written on the subject, is Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine, 1984.

The second thing I will say is that “anonymous” knows the history and politics of Israel and the Arab-Jewish conflict better than anyone else I know. I just wish he could express himself in a less offensive manner, i.e. without being a total asshole.

I am pro-Israel, meaning that I believe that Israel should and must exist.

I am pro-Palestinian, meaning that I think the Palestinians should also have their own state.

I am against a lot of the policies of the current Israeli administration, analogous to how I feel about the Bush administration.

I have lived in Israel and most recently visited there last Christmas; I probably know better than any of my regular blog mates what the day-to-day reality is there.

What I am going to offer you today is just a few historical points that most people have wrong. Again, I would like to emphasise that you must know the history before you can understand anything that is going on in that part of the world, just like anywhere else.

Myth: The Palestinians have always been in, and had an identity with, the land of Palestine.

Fact: In the late 1800s/early 1900s, Arabic-speaking migrants were wandering in search of subsistence all over the Middle East. Palestine was a wasteland. The Arabic-speakers who did end up in Palestine thought of themselves as Ottomans, Turks, Southern Syrians or simply Arabs, even despite the attempts of the Mufti and TE Lawrence to imbue them with nationalism.

Myth: Jews returned after 2000 years to displace the Palestinian Arabs.

Fact: Jews never left the land, even after the Roman conquest in 70 CE (AD).

Myth: In the 70 years or so leading up to the establishment of the modern state of Israel, the Jews stole the Arabs’ land.

Fact: Most of the Arab land in Palestine was owned by absentee landlords; the people that worked the land were penniless peasants. Jews tried to avoid purchasing land in areas where Arabs might be displaced. They sought land that was largely uncultivated, swampy, cheap and without tenants.

Myth: Palestine = Israel

Fact: The Palestine Mandate included areas both east and west of the Jordan River, i.e. all of Israel and all of the modern country of Jordan.

Myth: Only Jews immigrated to Palestine; Arabs have been there for millennia.

Fact: As an example, between WWI and WWII, the Jewish population increased by 470,000 while the non-Jewish population increased by 588,000.

Myth: Upon the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, the Arabs were expelled from the country.

Fact: Israel asked the Arabs to stay as full citizens with full rights. Some Arabs left earlier in anticipation of a war, the neighbouring Arab countries told the Arabs to flee so as not to be in the way of the invading Arab armies, and many Arabs simply left to avoid being caught in a war zone.

I know this is not much, but as I said before, this subject exhausts me. If you do have any specific questions, please ask. I will try to answer and do the research if I don't know something straight off the top of my head.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Pope is Still a Nazi

Terrorism is wrong, no matter what your politics or your religion. What is the pope playing at?

"On Sunday the pontiff prayed for God to stop the 'murderous hand' of terrorists, during his noontime blessing delivered from his Alpine retreat in Italy's northwestern Valle d'Aosta region, where he is vacationing.Benedict referred to the recent 'abhorrent terrorist attacks' in Egypt, Britain, Turkey and Iraq but did not mention attacks in Israel.

"'The pope deliberately failed to condemn the terrible terror attack that occurred in Israel last week,' a[n Israeli] Foreign Ministry statement said."

Team Metropolitan Police – fuck yeah!

Shooting victim had expired visa – BBC News. Oh well, better dead than deported.

And the whole thing suddenly reminded me of Team America – Woo! Yeah! We saved Paris from the terrorists! Unfortunately in the process, the Eiffel Tower has been toppled, the Louvre has been blown up, the Arc de Triomphe flattened and all the rest of it. So here is one man that was killed, not by terrorists, but by police who were, ironically, trying to protect him (as an innocent member of the public) from terrorists. How many more?

Friday, July 22, 2005

On the Subject of Motives

In his post of 12th July, Devastatin’ Dave introduced the subject of motives in respect of the orchestration of acts of war or terrorism by governments.

Today the US House of Representatives voted to extend indefinitely the Patriot Act. I find it very interesting that the vote came up today, just one day after the four acts of terrorism that happened, and yet did not quite happen, in London.

At the same time, New York City has decided to initiate “random” searches within its subway system. The NY Police Department’s chief spokesman, Paul Browne, said that they had been considering bag searches for the past three years, and now the events in London have “forced their hand.”

It would seem that most people in New York are not objecting to the searches because of their desire for some semblance of security, but then again, most Americans do not object to anything. At least the New York Civil Liberties Union is speaking up against the searches, rightly comparing them to a search for “a needle in a haystack”. The rule right now is bag searches only; what about in winter when someone can easily conceal a bomb under his or her coat?

Rep. Martin Meehan (D-Mass) described the Patriot Act as “an effort to answer the most difficult question a democracy faces: How much freedom are we willing to give up to feel safe?”

It is a valid question, but here is the answer, as previously quoted somewhere on these blogs:
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin

(Thanks, DD.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Live free or die

There are some weird state mottos. Now that I have signed up to move to the state with the best motto, I decided to research what some of the other states had to say for themselves.

Best motto
New Hampshire: Live free or die

Good mottos
Alabama: Audemus jura nostra defendere - We dare defend our rights
Delaware: Liberty and independence
Iowa: Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain

Mottos that somehow missed the mark
Indiana: The crossroads of America
- sorry, sounds like a shopping mall
Kansas: Ad astra per aspera – To the stars through difficulty
- 1950s advert or communist slogan
New Mexico: Crescit eundo - It grows as it goes
- what the fuck does that mean?
Oklahoma: Labor vincit omnia – Work conquers all
- my favourite - Arbeit macht frei
Washington: Al-ki (Chinook) - By and by
- mañana?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Why I never feel guilty when I shag a married man

I just had an e-mail from a friend in Edinburgh, to whom I happened to have been engaged at one time. Since I left Scotland in 1990, I have seen him only twice, once in 1999 and once in 2004. We had planned to meet again in March of this year, but Hamish came down with the flu so we cancelled.

Of course Hamish is not his real name, but it’s just so over-the-top Scottish that it makes me laugh.

Hamish and I both got married in 1995. When we had our first tryst in 1999, I had already filed for divorce and he was still married. When we had our second tryst 5 years later, I was single and he was still married. After we cancelled our March meeting, we agreed that we should not see each other again. I had lost interest, frankly, and Hamish said he had been feeling guilty.

Today I e-mailed Hamish to tell him about Jarda’s death and we subsequently exchanged a couple of e-mails. In Hamish’s last e-mail he told me how happy he was with his wife, how he loved her to bits, and that he was seeing someone regularly for sex on the side.

My conclusion: if a man is going to cheat, he is going to cheat - if not with me, then with someone else. If I do not even know the wife or the girlfriend involved, there is absolutely no reason for me to feel guilty. If I betray a relationship of my own, I am at fault, but I am never responsible for someone else’s betrayal of his relationship.

Jarda again

Jarda always called me Žirafa (giraffe) or Žirafička (little giraffe), and it really hurts that I will never hear that again. All of my giraffe-themed things are still in storage in Gareth's dad's garage in Hemel Hempstead; now I am afraid to see them again. I used to call Jarda "Bunny" (sometimes my nephews would call him "Uncle Bunny" - they thought that was hilarious), but that won't keep me away from my rabbit (inappropriate, perhaps, but it made me smile).

Jarda and my Aunt Cookie absolutely loved each other and stayed in touch long after Jarda and I split up. Yesterday Aunt Cookie sent me the last couple of e-mails Jarda had sent her; here is the very last one dated 23rd February 2005.

Dear Cookie,
How are you? It’s been a while since my last email, I am not even sure whether it’s my turn to write. As you can see from my address I have changed jobs again. I am staying in the automotive/ quality assurance. Working for the Germans is way more pleasant than working for the Japanese. Siemens is a huge company, here in Brandýs nad Labem (20km from Praha) we produce stuff for most of the largest European car manufacturers ...Mercedes, BMW, Opel, VW, Renault, Scania, DAF and many others. I joined the company at the begining of this month.
I also have a new girlfriend, her name is Vlaďka, she is 24, very beautiful. I am thinking about getting married again. When I met her, her life was not very nice, she left home when she was only 17, she had been addicted to metamphetamines for years...she just came out of the rehab center last week, I have arranged a job for her here in Siemens. I dont think I am making a mistake helping her. Fell in love with her the second I saw her first.
I better get back to work now.
Take care, love

Monday, July 18, 2005

London and Iraq

I was reproached on my post of 7th July about the bombings in London for writing “… unfortunately the war in Iraq has increased the likelihood of such attacks.”

Today in the news: “A respected think-tank has claimed that UK involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan could have fuelled the London terror bombings.”

The Blair government has, not surprisingly, criticised the report.

The thing is that neither the report nor I mean to say that the bombings could not or would not have happened eventually no matter what. There is, of course, no way to know. What the report claims, and I agree with it, is that UK involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased the likelihood of such attacks in Britain, and has certainly contributed to terrorist recruitment and fund-raising.

We are caught up in a self-perpetuating cycle of violence and murder, and I fear that our governments are not even interested in trying to break the cycle.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Česká Lípa

One of my favourite places to be is in the garden of Arn’s family’s cottage just outside Česká Lípa. The first time I went there was with Jarda and the rest of the kids 11 years ago. Yesterday was perfect, and it made me very sad to think that Jarda would have loved to have been there with us too.

We drank, we ate, we played with the kids (it was good to have little children around yesterday – they lifted my spirits), we talked about Jarda, we talked about other stuff, we drank lots more, we ate again, we drank and drank and I think Arn kept the barbecue going till about 3 a.m. Sometime, very late, it must have been around 2, the guitars came out and Arn and Tom played and we sang. I think everyone else had left or gone to bed by then except me and Jeanie Weenie. And somewhere in there I wandered off further into the garden and sat in the grass and cried and cried and cried. I don’t think I had ever cried that much before in my life.

We figured out that the last time I had seen Jarda was March 2004. The last thing I ever heard from him was a text message he sent a couple of months ago telling me that he was getting married on the 9th of July. I had hoped he might finally be happy. Arn said that even if he only saw Jarda once or twice a year, it was still incomprehensible to think that now he will never see him again. We all felt the same way.

We talked about how Jarda had been when we all had first met him 12 or 13 years ago. A good friend, funny, entertaining and kind were on the list of his attributes; we also talked about his depression and drug use, and the other group of friends he had on that darker side of his life.

Arn has already put a tribute to Jarda on the Lingers website - see link at right.

I want to thank everyone who has called or sent a message. All of the support has really helped. Jarda’s death is turning out to be a lot harder for me than I would have thought, being that we had split up over 6 years ago.

And thanks especially to Arn, Tom and Petr for yesterday. Absolutely perfect. XXOO

Friday, July 15, 2005


Petr called to tell me. He told me in Czech so I tried to convince myself that I must have understood wrong. Jarda is dead. He threw himself under a train in Děčín. Martin (Jarda's little brother) said that he had had a fight with his wife. What the fuck?!! They had been married for all of four days. Petr and I wanted to find some confirmation. Martin used to be a heroin addict and we could never really be sure with him.

Jesus. I was shocked and I cried. My heart hurt for his new wife and his parents. Now I am a mixture of angry and numb, definitely still in shock. I called Monkey, my mom, Jono and AG. I sent an e-mail to people overseas who had known Jarda, who I knew would never hear if I didn’t tell them.

Finally I checked an old e-mail address that I no longer use for personal correspondence. There it was: a message from Jarda’s responsible big brother dated yesterday with the news. Now we had to believe it.

We already had a plan for this weekend: Petr, Jeanie Weenie and I (and Lukáš, the giant back-breaking baby) are going up to Česká Lípa to see Arnošt and Tomáš tomorrow. Petr, Arn and Tom were three of Jarda’s best friends at university. None of us really still talked to Jarda, but the four of us have remained close with each other. I just talked to Arn on the phone, and we agreed that it’s great that we will all be together tomorrow. We can get drunk and talk about what a jerk Jarda was.

Jarda had threatened suicide at least a couple of times before. One night right after I had left him just over six years ago, he called me from Nuselský most, the "suicide bridge", to tell me he was going to jump off. I think I wanted to tell him to go ahead, but I didn’t. Still, I never thought he would really do it.

Jarda had problems with drugs, on and off. I know the girl he just married did too. I don’t know if that had anything to do with his suicide; I guess it must have in one way or another.

Jarda was actually a good person. He was intelligent, funny and kind. He was a bit aimless and never really found his place in the world, which was obviously a big problem for him. I can’t say that I will miss him because I haven’t even seen him for a year or 2, but still, I didn’t want him to be dead.

Jarda obviously did not want to be here anymore and I have to accept that. Taking pills is a cry for help; throwing yourself under a train is a certain way out. I can already feel the shock and anger starting to turn to grief.


My ex-husband is dead. He threw himself under a train two days ago. He had just got married four days before that. I don’t get it.

Ode to a Monkey

monkey /'mungki/ noun 1 any of the primate mammals, with the exception of human beings and usu the lemurs and tarsiers… 2 informal a mischievous child; a scamp. 3 any of various machines, implements, or vessels, esp the falling weight of a pile driver. 4 Brit, informal the sum of £500. 5 slang a desperate desire for or an addiction to drugs. * have a monkey on one’s back slang to be addicted to or dependent on drugs. make a monkey of (somebody) to make (somebody) appear ridiculous.

monkey verb intrans informal 1 (often + about/around) to act in an absurd or mischievous manner. 2 (+ with) to meddle or tamper with something.

monkey business noun informal mischievous or underhand activity.

monkey flower noun any of several species of plants with yellow or red flowers resembling those of the snapdragon…

monkey jacket noun a short fitted uniform jacket reaching to the waist.

monkey nut noun Brit a peanut.

monkey-puzzle noun a widely planted S American evergreen conifer tree that has a network of intertwined branches covered with spirals of stiff sharp needlelike leaves… [from the notion that even a monkey would have difficulty climbing it].

monkey shines pl noun NAmer = MONKEY TRICKS

monkey suit noun informal a dinner suit.

monkey’s wedding noun SAfr, informal a mixture of sunshine and rain.

monkey tricks pl noun informal mischievous or underhand acts.

monkey wrench noun a large spanner with one fixed and one adjustable jaw.

Definitions taken from The Penguin English Dictionary, Czech edition 2005.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Vašek and Good Karma

Vašek is this awesome Czech kid who is going to London on Saturday to find work and learn English. Here’s the story:

Jono met Vašek in Austria where Jono was on a snowboarding holiday and Vašek was waiting tables. They chatted together for maybe a total of 20 minutes during the course of one lunch and then agreed to meet in Prague. So 6 weeks later Jono and I went out with Vašek on a Monday night and we drank and chatted together until 3 or 4 in the morning. The conversation was excellent: 3 people, 3 languages. Jono and Vašek spoke German together, Vašek and I spoke Czech, and Jono and I spoke English.

Jono is maternal in his own weird way. When Vašek said he was planning to go to London to learn English, Jono nearly adopted him on the spot. So last night I met Vašek to talk about London, brief him on how to get from the airport to Jono, confirm that he had at least some English money, etc.

At one point, Vašek had said that he was not going to stay with Jono after all, that he didn’t want to trouble him, and that he had arranged some accommodation elsewhere. I was imagining some grim foreign workers’ housing, and quickly talked him out of it. I managed to convince Vašek pretty easily, because it was true, that Jono would be horribly disappointed if he were robbed of the chance to look after him. Vašek looked at my London A-Z (street atlas) and said, “I’ll need to get one of those.” I said, “Jono already has one for you.” Then he talked about a pocket Czech-English dictionary. I said, “Don’t buy one, I’ve got one in my box that’s under Jono’s bed - just take that.” Then I gave him my A-Z just so he will be able to follow where he is on the tube until he meets Jono at South Kensington.

Then Vašek started talking about what a serendipitous accident it had been, meeting Jono in an Austrian ski resort, and that Jono had plans to be in Prague 6 weeks later, and then we managed to meet and now he is going to be taken care of in London. That was the beginning of a very long discussion about karma and people who do things for other people, and that you never really have to return favours directly because you always end up doing something nice for someone else. It’s all about inviting someone you hardly know to stay with you, or taking a weird limey girl from Moscow to a party with you in Prague only because she is a friend of a friend, or sending e-mails advising a total stranger who is going to be visiting the city you live in only because she happened to talk to your big sister’s mother-in-law in a yarn shop in bloody Buffalo, New York. Use whatever cliché you like: “what goes around comes around” or “pay it forward” or whatever. Vašek and I discussed the positive energy that you actually feel amongst people who participate.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Lightness of Being

Upon meeting long-term ex-pats, many Czechs will ask us why we live here. I have learned over the years that no matter how hard you try to explain, most of them are too closed-minded to ever really understand. Tomáš was one of the few people who had ever asked with a really open mind and genuinely wanted to talk about it. During our discussion, I realised that it may come down to the fact that I need to be a foreigner somewhere in order to avoid the pressures that would almost certainly be imposed upon me were I at home.

Both of my sisters are married, own houses, have children, dogs and cars; the older has a career as a geotechnical engineer and the younger has her own business. Most of my school and uni friends are in similar circumstances. That is how the people I know in the US live their lives; that is how they are expected to live and they often do not explore other possibilities. Parents are troubled when you don’t follow the path they had envisaged for you and, frankly, I don’t need the baggage.

Americans leave professional jobs at home to come here and teach English or tend bar. They would have a much harder time doing something similar in the US because their families and friends would not accept it. “Are you crazy? Give up your career? How are you going to pay your rent/mortgage/car loan?” etc. But because we are here, we are able to live a lighter life.

Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being examines, amongst other things, the dichotomy of the lightness and heaviness of being. The title of the book, however, is misleading and, for some, oxymoronic -- it is in fact the lightness that we desire and the heaviness that we find truly unbearable.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

How to Let the Terrorists Win

Yahoo headline this morning: US tells troops to stay out of London after bombs

My name is Max, I am a girly girl, I have never been in the military or learned karate or how to kill with my bare hands, but I was not afraid to be in London last weekend.

We have 12,000 USAF personnel stationed in Great Britain and our military has issued a “battle staff directive” forbidding them from going into London. Put into simpler terms, this is our government telling 12,000 of its own free citizens where they can and cannot go within a country that is lauded as being our best friend and biggest ally.

Amongst our troops in Britain are special forces, men and women who have been to Afghanistan and/or Iraq, some of them on several tours, and now they are being told that London is too dangerous. Does anyone else see the irony? We will enjoy the freedom you are protecting, but you will not. Thank you for your service to your country.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

This is Max, reporting from London

I arrived yesterday afternoon. The airport and the Gatwick Express were a little quieter than normal; otherwise it seemed to be business as usual in London. Londoners have said "Up yours" to the terrorists and are just getting on with it.

The emergency services were very well prepared for these attacks because they had been through them over and over again in simulations. When I saw the first pictures on the internet on Thursday, I remember thinking that they looked exactly like the news reports of those exercises. One difference was that the emergency services actually worked faster and more efficiently on Thursday than they had in any of the simulations.

A couple of other interesting facts I have learned:

The bus blew up right outside the British Medical Association offices where some doctors were having a meeting so there were 20 GPs on the scene within seconds.

There was a meeting of air ambulance personnel at the Royal London Hospital that morning, just 400 metres from Aldgate East station so staffed helicopters were right there.

Pleasure boats were ferrying commuters home along the Thames, and overland trains kept running so that Paige did not have to walk home from Canary Wharf, as I had feared she would have to do.

Jono could not go into work yesterday morning because of a suspicious package in a sandwich shop next to his office (and Liverpool Street Station). It turned out to be nothing but Jono took the opportunity to hang out with Kitsch and then go to Jamie Oliver's Fifteen for lunch. Monkey, you should have been here.

Have a great weekend, everyone.


Thursday, July 07, 2005


I have not got much work done today as I have mostly been on the phone, text messaging or e-mailing with friends in London. I have also been the point of contact for friends in Oz and the US who have not been able to get through to London. I am happy to say that so far it seems that my friends in London are all right, and I am still planning on going there tomorrow.

I had lunch today with my colleague Richard. We had a couple of beers, each spent a bit of time on the phone or texting, both waiting to hear from friends, also relatives in his case, and talking about the pathetic state of the world.

I want to make it clear that only the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks are to blame for the attacks. But unfortunately the war in Iraq has increased the likelihood of such attacks. After 9/11, it seemed that there was so much impetus in the international community to unite against terrorism; even Islamic countries were a part of that determination. But not anymore. Young men from “friendly” Islamic countries have been going in great numbers to fight against “the infidel” in Iraq. The government of Saudi Arabia, ostensibly an ally in “the war on terror” distributes pamphlets within the US and elsewhere instructing Muslims to “hate the infidels”, and worse.

I do not know if withdrawing from Iraq would help to end the violence or if the damage is irreversible for the foreseeable future. I am certain, however, that terrorism will continue worldwide for the duration of our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. I am not saying that we should allow the fear of terrorist attacks to dictate our actions; in fact, I think that we must not. I only know that hatred for the US and “the West” has grown since we invaded Iraq, and I wonder if there is anything at all we can do about that.

Another Blow for Freedom of the Press

We have been through this before: a free and independent press is required to maintain liberty within a democracy. Most courts have upheld the validity of confidentiality agreements between journalists and anonymous sources in order to preserve a free press. Only in times of fear, courts, and even publishers, have been less likely to follow this trend.

The Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) declared that “the freedom of the press is one of the greatest bulwarks of liberty and can never be restrained but by despotic governments.”

The Constitution of Massachusetts (1780) stated, “The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restrained...”

And, of course, the First Amendment to our Constitution, adopted in 1791, says that no law shall abridge “the freedom of speech, or of the press”.

Judith Miller of the New York Times was sent to prison yesterday for refusing to divulge an anonymous source as a result of Grand Jury proceedings in connection with the naming of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. Miller never wrote a story naming Plame, and it is not known why she has been called upon to name her source, except that it is vaguely connected to the investigation trying to pinpoint the leak.

Miller: “I do not make confidentiality pledges lightly, but when I do I must honour them.”

Yet another blow to our free press.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

U Zpěváčků

On one of the chalkboards outside the bar:

In tonight’s presentation of “Unflattering Roles”, all of the actors appear as themselves

A Scottish man who had come in with AG (she’s always picking up weirds and strays) made the mistake of engaging me and kd in a discussion of the role of the US in the world. He got his ass kicked (verbally, of course) by the American birds.

Tim brought out the notes he had made a couple of nights before when he could not get to sleep because a nullifying theory of physics had just suddenly come into his head. We discussed it, Nelson, Tim and I, and its tangent ideas: perpetual exchange of motion from the positive to the negative and the negative to the positive, yin & yang.

Nelson told a story about a baby playing in the mud. When his mother was telling him to stop eating the mud, she made him open his mouth. She looked inside his mouth, gasped and hesitated for a moment, and then said, “You can close your mouth now, my lord Krishna.” Inside the baby’s mouth, Krishna had shown her the entire universe.

Nelson drunkenly played his saxophone – he was fabulous.

Two monks walked into the bar. They weren’t really monks, they were just two stragglers from a Brummie stag party dressed as monks.

The next night at St Nick’s when the waitress came over to take orders for drinks, Monkey asked for 2 grams of coke, some ecstasy, and “Do you have any tar heroin?”

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Independence Day, Everyone!!

...But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

...He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

...He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

...For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent.

...He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us...

...A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Just a few little highlights for you from our Declaration of Independence.

Be careful with your fireworks.

Have a great 4th!


Friday, July 01, 2005

Muslim Big Brother

There is a Muslim concept called velayat-e faqih, which is generally translated as “guardianship of the jurist”. Originally the concept of velayat meant that the clergy would assume responsibility for orphans, the insane and abandoned or untenanted property. In 1970, during the period of his exile in Najaf, Iraq, the Ayatollah Khomeini wrote a treatise in which he explained that velayat should be extended to the whole of society. This would mean that a supreme religious authority would be a parent to everyone. Khomeini later claimed the role of faqih (supreme leader) for himself.

I am going back to Christopher Hitchens’ article in Vanity Fair which made a very big impression on me. There was so much that was inspiring in it that I had a very hard time deciding what to write about, hence this 2nd post about Iran.

What I found frightening is that while a lot of people in Iran apparently want change, they are afraid to bring it about themselves. Hitchens describes them as living in an “as if” society, i.e. they “live as if they were free, as if they were in the West, as if they had the right to an opinion, or a private life.” But the fact is that they do not have freedom or any of that. And what they lack most of all seems to be the motivation or inspiration to do anything about it.

Two quotes from the article that particularly struck me are as follows:

“Do you suppose that the West will ever come to our aid? Or is it all hypocrisy?” – a man in the city of Mashhad.

“Do you think that the West could come here and remove the rulers but only stay for a week and then leave?” – a woman in the city of Esfahan.

And then Hitchens: “It’s also among the young that one most often hears calls for American troops to arrive and bring goodies with them. Yet, after a while, this repeated note began to strike me as childish also. It’s a confession of powerlessness, an avoidance of responsibility, a demand that change come from somewhere else.”

It seems to me that the Ayatollah Khomeini succeeded in creating the ultimate nanny state, one in which everyone feels like a helpless child. Where are the dissidents? Where are the courageous underground leaders? If the US goes into Iran, it will not be to “save” the people, our soldiers will not be handing out “goodies”, we would not leave in a week, and the whole country would descend into chaos. If the people of Iran really want change, they need to rise up and bring it about for themselves.

3 Faces of Iran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President-Elect of Iran

As a student, Ahmadinejad joined an ultra-conservative radical student group spawned by the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and staged (i.e. planned and participated in) the capture of the US Embassy. He was later a revolutionary guard. When he became mayor of Tehran in 2003, he curtailed many of the reforms that had been put in place by the moderates who had run the city before him. Ahmadinejad was the only presidential candidate who talked against future relations with the United States. As an unabashed conservative, he resurrected the fervour of the 1979 Islamic Revolution during the campaign by saying Iran "did not have a revolution in order to have democracy, but to have an Islamic government."

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, President of Iran 1989-1997

Here is a partial list of crimes committed by the state of Iran while Rafsanjani was president:

- massacre of Iranian Kurds in a restaurant in Berlin, 1992

- bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, 1994

- bombing of the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, 1996.

Rafsanjani was billed as the “moderate” in last month’s presidential election. He supported the Ayatollah Khomeini in prolonging the war with Iraq, later convincing him to accept the UN resolution to end it. He preached against the US as the “Great Satan”, then was happy to deal hostages for arms with Satan’s government.

“He’s what our lazy press means when it describes some opportunist torturer and murderer as a 'moderate' or a 'survivor'” – Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair.

Hossein Khomeini, grandson of the Ayatollah Khomeini

Khomeini is a “strong supporter” of US intervention in Iraq and he shares the traditional Shia belief that clerics should not have political power. “I stand for the complete separation of religion and the state.”

Hitchens in July’s Vanity Fair: “In terms that would make the heart of a neocon soar like a hawk, [Khomeini] goes on to praise President Bush’s State of the Union speech, to warn that the mullahs cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons, and to use the term ‘Free World’ without irony: ‘Only the Free World, led by America, can bring democracy to Iran.’”

Sources: Al Jazeera, BBC News,, Vanity Fair, Wikipedia.