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Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Bavarian Dining Hall

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Here’s where we ate last night in Munich. Our party consisted of three Brits, one Parisian, one Finn (now living in Paris) and two Bavarians (one of whom is now living near Frankfurt.

The animal heads on the walls are carved from wood. The best food on the menu has worst[/] in it, and is washed down with beer. The portions are large and extra-large. You wouldn’t come here for nibbles.

Posted by bigblue on 27/01/2009 at 06:35 AM
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Monday, 26 January 2009
The BBC and Gaza

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There was an explosion and white smoke. I saw my cousins screaming . . . I saw them burning and their clothes burning. I saw their skin melting.

~ Muhammad Tahseen, 20, who was sitting outside his home in Al-Qarara when a shell exploded above

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The use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas of Gaza violates the requirement under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian injury and loss of life

~ Statement by Human Rights Watch.

For the past three weeks I have heard almost every night statements broadcast by the BBC from people (Israeli spokespersons) arguing that I should have no sympathy for the Palestinians under attack in Gaza. They deserved it. They had elected a nasty bunch of people as their government. It was due to circumstances that they were themselves responsible for. And somehow it also gets suggested that even if the ordinary Palestinians weren’t responsible, then the nasty people that they elected should be held accountable for civilian deaths as they had been hiding among the civilians and shooting rockets at Israel.  And now we have the consequences. The balance of forces between Hamas/Israel has not significantly altered. We have another (predictable) cease-fire. But thousands of Palestinians are dead or injured, and there is a full-blown humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian lives are still at risk in the aftermath of the violence.

Yet last week the BBC decided not to broadcast the apolitical humanitarian appeal by the Disaster Emergency Committee:

the BBC made a rare breach of an agreement dating to 1963, saying it would not give free airtime to the appeal. Other broadcasters followed suit. Previously, broadcasters had agreed on the video and script to be used with the DEC, to be shown after prime-time news bulletins. The BBC, which has been criticised in the past over alleged bias in its coverage of the Middle East, said it did not want to risk public confidence in its impartiality. A BBC spokesperson said: “The decision was made because of question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation and also to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in the context of [a] news story.”

The DEC’s chief executive, Brendan Gormley, said: “We are totally apolitical … this appeal is a response to humanitarian principles. The BBC seems to be confusing impartiality with equal airtime.”

I think Brendan’s comment applies even to the BBC’s coverage of the conflict since the Israeli army attacked Gaza. Why has the BBC not broadcast the voices of ordinary Palestinians and Israelis who want peace? In what other conflict do they give such prominent airtime to apologists for violence? You could say that the BBC has already risked my confidence in its impartiality by giving nightly airtime to Mark Ragev, spokesperson for the Israeli Prime Minister.

Here’s an interesting article which explains some of the background and contextual analysis to this story

And in the interests of “balance” and “fairness”, as I see it, I would like to highlight Jewish Voice for Peace and their Petition to President Obama. Also see Muzzle Watch who write about how “dissenting” voices for Peace are suppressed in Israel.

Donations for humanitarian, non-political aid can be made to the DEC.

Note: The photographs above (photo 1 and photo 2 are from illuminating_911’s flickr photo stream, and republished under the Creative Commons Licence. Here’s an article on the growing evidence of use of White Phosphorous.

Posted by bigblue on 26/01/2009 at 07:41 AM
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Sunday, 25 January 2009
Time passes

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The resident student at chez Meanie is conducting a time lapse experiment. Most interesting. It involves starving some flowers of water and then reviving them again, and finally getting the buds to open. Here they are in their revivalist phase. All of this is done over a 24 hour period.

Posted by bigblue on 25/01/2009 at 10:02 PM
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Twitter on BBC Breakfast (spoiler)



This is the “offending” clip with Patricia Davidson, “internet expert”. It seems she’s actually a shopping expert, and has written some books on on-line shopping (or basically repackaged the same book under different guises).

Within a short time of this broadcast yesterday, the interviewee came in for some criticism, for example:

Documentally: How strange to wake to BBC News 24 talking about Twitter. How not so strange to see the Internet expert they bring o n knows very little.

boncey: ...Twitter was on BBC News this morning too but they didn’t “get it” and sorta dissed it

matb811: Watching @stephenfry talk about Twitter on the BBC Breakfast News. Now two women talking about it who have no idea what they’re on about.

Winebuff: If Patricia Davidson writes with as little clarity as she talked with on BBC this morning I doubt she sells many books- Whats Twitter again?

I agree that the BBC could have invited a better expert for this topic. On the other hand they no doubt have a set of selection criteria which takes more into account than whether the person is a subject matter expert: Do they come across well on TV? Do the presenters get on well with them? Are they available at short notice? Are they the producer’s friend? (joke).

I tend to think Patricia did quite well, considering that the target audience for BBC Breakfast are the types whose response to the report must have been along the lines of “oh, so Twitter is on that internet thing is it?”. Certainly some of their presenters seem to need explaining to what the words internet and email mean.

By the way here’s the spoiler - the expert who was interviewed, Patricia Davidson, twitters under the nom-du-plume of ShopaholicGuide.

Posted by bigblue on 25/01/2009 at 10:26 AM
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Saturday, 24 January 2009
Anti-smoking

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Just what part of the no smoking notice did the woman in this photo not understand? I would like to see our government actually enforce the anti-smoking legislation they introduced a few years ago. As a born-again ex-smoker I know I’m a bit fanatical on this subject, but cigarette smoke irritates me (I am allergic to it). I have my own vices, for example I drink alcohol (moderately) but I wouldn’t exhale/relieve my alcohol in public onto your clothes and into the air that you breath.

Talking of which I opened and drank an 18 year old bottle of 1991 Zonnebloem cabernet sauvignon last night. It was surprisingly good - much improved on the harshness of what it tasted like in 1993 when it was released. Still I suspect it hasn’t improved over the last nine years or so, and keeping it for eighteen years was unnecessarily sentimental. I noticed that the 18 year old in whose honour I opened the bottle didn’t have a second glass.

Posted by bigblue on 24/01/2009 at 01:59 PM
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Friday, 23 January 2009
Fire on the road

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Spotted two days ago in Oxted, Surrey. This man seems to be preparing the road for repainting.

Posted by bigblue on 23/01/2009 at 08:15 AM
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Thursday, 22 January 2009
Barack and Michelle Obama do WHAT together?



No comment. Via Children of a Lesser Blog.

Posted by bigblue on 22/01/2009 at 08:11 PM
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Wednesday, 21 January 2009
African Football painting

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I found this painting in a restaurant in London the other night where I met up with an old colleague. It’s a typical scene, and I love the way the artist expresses movement in the figure in the foreground. The painting is expressive and it’s so different to European football paintings, which tend to imitate photography.

And I’ve noticed that the sports photography (and video coverage in particular) itself seems to be imitating video games these days. Unfortunately the photograph that I took of the painting is not such great quality.

It’s another cold day today - I look out and see frost in my garden and a layer of ice on the pool of water on the trampoline.

Posted by bigblue on 21/01/2009 at 08:08 AM
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