What Does A Fat Cat Do In The BBC?

Johnny and I were sitting  in the train when he drew my attention to one of the headlines in the freebie that was lying about. It took me a few seconds to decipher that title. Then it occurred to me that those  kind of titles were incomprehensible to many of the tourists who were travelling with us in that London train.
Teaching my students how to write the topic and the main idea sentence of a passage, I instruct them first to look at the title and the subtitle of the article. We usually practice this skill on articles from newspapers such as the New York Times and even The Guardian.
But this technique would never work with the Metro and the Evening Standard, which are full of puns, idioms and slang.  As they belong to the culture and the history of the people who speak the language, puns and idioms are the hardest to learn and to use correctly in a foreign language.
I was discussing with my students an article which appeared in several newspapers in the US, the title of which was, “Would your child pick up a gun? Don’t kid yourself.” Perhaps because of the gravity of the subject, some editions refrained from including the pun.  It seems to me that, in contrast to most American publications, the British freebies never resist a good pun.
When I first came to Britain in the late 70s I was fortunate to meet the grandfather of an English friend. He was a real Cockney who used to work on the Thames docks.  He taught me  some Cockney rhyming slang: a beer was “Pig’s ear” and a sister was “a skin and blister.” The issue became more complicated when a beer was replaced with “pig’s,” and a sister with a “skin.”  I had to know the whole phrase in order to decode the part which didn’t rhyme. Like Alice in Wonderland, I felt confused. It was a though I was introduced to a secret language, which in a way was what this Cockney rhyming slang was.
 London is full with tourists most of the year, and many of them have a good enough mastery of the English language. But  if they happen to look at the freebies they would  lose all confidence in their language skills. Perhaps this is the sweet revenge of the British, whose island is conquered every year by millions of foreigners: in their own quiet and understating way they make sure that we remain outside.
Oh, and I almost forgot, so what does a fat cat do in the BBC? She draws a fat-cat pay cheque of course.


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Lot’s Wife And The Danger Of Curiosity

At a conference devoted to the influences of the Old Testament on Hebrew literature, a speaker discussed Lot’s wife (Genesis 19, 26) as a source of poetic inspiration. In Hebrew that dramatic story is summed up in 6 short words: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”
I have been so used to these words that their actual meaning was almost lost. But rexamining the sentence I thought about the danger of curiosity and the high price of the desire to learn.
We learnt  in school that Lot’s wife was punished because she disobeyed God. Yet, in Genesis 19, 17 God says to Lot: “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee.” There is nothing in the text about Lot's  responsibility to warn his family not to ldo so as well. Moreover, although God talks only to Lot, he is not held accountable for the actions of his wife, and she is the only one who is punished.
It is intriguing that the Bible states that the wife (who remains nameless) looks "behind him,” and not behind her. It seems that Lot is very much part of the action.
Curious, eager to learn, and independent: those have always been the qualities of women in pursuit of knowledge and education. They fought to advance themselves in their societies and strived to contribute to their communities. But those were also the exact reasons why Paternalistic societies have regarded education as dangerous.
Only yesterday I suddenly saw the source of and the justification for the zeal and conviction of those men who made sure that education would not be available to women. From the account of the Fall we understand that knowledge is synonymous with disobedience. But in the case of Adam and Eve they were both punished. I never before had traced the beginning of male oppression to the unjust act of God, who punished a woman for a non-sin, in Genesis 19.
Until fairly recently women  in Europe and in the US were denied education, in the introduction to Equality for Some: The Story of Girls’ Education, Barry Turner states: “The female intellect is a recent educational discovery. Traditionally Western civilization has distrusted and discouraged clever women, initially because they were regarded as a threat to the spiritual well-being of the community” 
It wasn’t thank to God of Genesis 19 that Western women won their battle for education, they did it all on their own.
But in other parts of the world, women and girls are not so fortunate, a good example is the  Saudi Arabian film Wadjda. It tells the story of  a bright girl who is determined to win money to buy a bicycle she’s forbidden to ride. She hopes to accomplish this feat by winning a Koran competition. Learning, she trusts, would bring about independence and freedom of mobility. But when she honestly and naively admits that she intends to do with the money, she doesn't get the prize.
Riding a bicycle has been a feminist symbol of self reliance since Victorian time: at that time the safety bicycle became available for skirted women. While bicycle gave them physical independence, education had given them some measure of mental independence and self control.
Wadjda is not different from the hundreds of school girls who were kidnapped on April 14th from the Girls Secondary School in Nigeria. In the name of God, His male executors on earth have taken upon themselves the mission to eradicate education from their country.
In the Biblical story Lot moved on leaving his wife behind, we could no longer afford to do so.
PS  And of course I should not forget Malala Yusafzai.
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Cervantes, Rimbaud, Chekhov, Yeats

Question of the day: How many writers keep getting better until the end? Or how maybe, how few? You could throw Shakespeare in there, since the Tempest is masterful. Truman Capote and Harper Lee don't count, since Capote could never finish another book after In Cold Blood and Lee could finish only one. Joyce disappeared into Finnegans and never reappeared. Who am I missing?

And I wonder why? Does genius require a physical vigor, or emotional, or both, lost over time?

Sorry, that's three questions.


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Jewish And Arab Women Refuse To Be Enemies

The announcement on Facebook read: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” and next to it a call for a demonstration in the Arab Israeli town of Tira. I knew right away that I wanted to go.
This morning we gathered,  about 1000 participants, Jews and Arabs, many carried signs in Hebrew and in Arabic. My favorite was one held by a young woman, which said in Hebrew: "Jewish .and Arab women refuse to be enemies." I could sense the good-will and the positive energy all around.
The speakers were Jews and Arabs and I appreciated the fact that everyone’s suffering was acknowledged: that of the Palestinians civilians in Gaza whose life is in danger because of the Israeli air raid and that of the Israelis civilians, especially in the south, who suffer the Hamas rockets attacks..
In preparation for today’s demonstration I  reread  a small British pamphlet written in 1952 by that period Feminists, in the Conference on The Feminine Point of View.
On the topic of “World Peace” the women  claimed:
“It has been  generally believed through the ages that women are more averse to war than men (a view expressed in the Greek play Lysisstrata  over two thousand years ago). Certainly war disrupts the home life which is the woman’s main interest and concern. In so far as women are in general less aggressive than men, more averse to physical violence, and more concerned for the suffering of the individual, there are grounds for hoping that their greater influence would make for world peace in the long run. The monstrous absurdity of modern weapons of obliteration is likely to make an increasing number of women reject war altogether on ground of commonsense as well as mercy.; whereas many men seem to be fascinated by exhibitions of vast power”
In 1952 the conference expressed the hope that  women will  “become better educated politically and more confident in their own point of view, they may be expected to be critical of war propaganda and the claims of national prestige. The tendency of women to be more emotionally disturbed by the idea of war and its horrors may bring about clearer thinking on the whole question of that “inevitable necessity” of war which so many men seem to accept with the kind of mesmerized acquiescence.“
In the demonstration today one of the speakers, an Arab woman, talked directly to the women in the audience and said very similar words. She said what all women know (and often say), that not a single woman from Gaza or from Israel is involved in the attacks, but that it is always the women who pay the price for men’s war.

The conference of the Feminine Point of View was seven years after the end of the Second World War. There were hopes for a better future, and fear of the consequences of  the cold war.

 Today more than sixty years, women are "better educated politically," but so far we have not been able to make a real difference, or to promote peace in this area. Publicly not much has changed, most of the politicians are still  men, and  they have no interest in finding a solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

In the past Israeli mothers were influential in getting the Israeli army out of south Lebanon. The men have failed us, let women have their say. b2ap3_thumbnail_izru.jpg
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Latest Comments

Rosy Cole Lord Nelson's Hat
18 October 2018
Thanks for reading and commenting, Katia. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. For me, posting poems is essen...
Monika Schott Seducing seas
12 October 2018
Thanks Katherine
Katherine Gregor Lord Nelson's Hat
12 October 2018
Truly beautiful and evocative.
Katherine Gregor Seducing seas
12 October 2018
What a feast of words! Magnificent!
Rosy Cole Love is just a Word
08 October 2018
...and it is the Word that was 'in the Beginning'.

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