Archive for January, 2011



I was tweeted this and urge everyone to watch it and see what is hapenning in Egypt:

And now via twitter I got this picture of Mubarak’s plane ticket out of Egypt:

Tunisia has lit the flame of hope, Egypt next.


As well as preparing some work for next week today, as yesterday, has been spent following via the BBC but also Sky, Al Jazeera, i-tele and even Iranian Government mouthpiece Press TV, the uprising in Egypt.  After the success of the people of Tunisia(wiki) in riding themselves of their corrupt dictatorial regime it is now the turn of the people of Egypt to take to the streets to fight for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  I cannot think of anything I can do from here, my Safe European Home, but people of Egypt I stand with you in solidarity.

Here’s a piece from someone imprisoned and tortured by Mubarak’s security talking about his experience but also suggesting some secular leaders who should be part of the country’s future and here are some inspiring pictures of people putting their life on the line for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  It’s old and hoary but nevertheless, enjoy:

Another criminal racist atack in Strasbourg


The ugly face of racism returned to the streets of Strasbourg last night with an attempt to kill two families in northern Strasbourg.

Last night two houses in Hoenheim northern Strasbourg were set on fire and three swastikers were left on the walls of one of the houses and a vehicle parked outside the second house.  The family in the first house were awoken by the crackling of the fire and escaped through the window to see that the house opposite was also on fire.  The family who had escaped form the first fire then woke their neighbours who also had to escape through the window.  One family is of Turkish origin and the other is Franco-Turk.

This comes after attacks earlier this month against a Turkish Association and the Royal Air Maroc office in the centre of the City and on 27th December a dentist of Turkish origin in Oberhausbergen had racist grafiti and swastikers daubed on the outside of his premises.

Last nights attacks were condemned by the Mayors of Hoenheim and Strasbourg and the President of the greater Strasbourg Council:

“Il en va désormais de la vie de mes concitoyens” : le cri de colère du maire Vincent Debes

Voici le communiqué diffusé en début d’après-midi par le maire de Hoenheim, Vincent Debes.
“Les actes commis cette nuit au domicile de deux familles de la rue de Mundolsheim, relèvent pour moi de la barbarie et reflètent ce que l’être humain peut révéler de pire, à savoir l’âme du mal.
Jamais je ne pourrai me résigner au fait que la haine de certains envers ceux qu’ils considèrent comme des étrangers puisse les conduire à envisager de commettre l’irréparable.
Si beaucoup me connaissent pour mon extrême modération qui est au coeur de ma culture centriste, j’ai envie de hurler mon dégoût aux côtés des victimes d’aujourd’hui et certainement de demain à la face d’un certain monde politique, trop souvent complice des messagers de la haine.
Nous sommes en effet aujourd’hui dans une véritable situation d’urgence, car il en va désormais de la vie de mes concitoyens et il est temps que les bonnes intentions, les discours et les polémiques politiciennes laissent place à l’action.
J’entends par là que j’attends que la République protège ses enfants,  que tous les moyens soient mis en oeuvre pour appréhender au plus vite le ou les auteurs de ces actes odieux et que la plus extrême vigilance soit enfin de mise pour protéger les valeurs fondamentales de notre République.
Pour ma part, je poursuivrai sur le terrain, plus déterminé que jamais, ce que je considère comme ma première mission d’élu local, d’élu de proximité, à savoir oeuvrer sans relâche pour le bien vivre ensemble. Dans l’immédiat, je mobiliserai tout ce qui est en mon pouvoir, afin de soutenir matériellement et, si possible moralement, les victimes ; ces femmes, ces hommes, ces enfants dont je me sens particulièrement proche et dont certains ont voulu la mort.”

La réaction du maire de Strasbourg et du président de la CUS

Dans un commmuniqué diffusé en fin de matinée, Roland Ries, maire de Strasbourg et Jacques Bigot, président de la CUS, font part de leur “consternation”. Tous deux “condamnent fermement cet acte criminel qui vient allonger une série déjà bien trop longue d’actes à caractère xénophobe ou antisémite”. “Nous en appelons au préfet pour que tous les moyens d’enquête nécessaires continuent d’être mobilisés, ainsi que cela a été évoqué lors de la dernière réunion du conseil intercommunal de sécurité et de prévention de la délinquance. Il est vraiment important que toutes ces affaires soient rapidement élucidées”, écrivent les deux élus.

Here is the report of the incident:

Elementary my dear Watson


The christmas market has long gone and the decorations have mostly come down and the number of visitors is noticeably low so a lot of the infrastructure for tourists is resting. No doubt the operators are taking their main holiday – being too busy to do so during the Summer.  So its the time for repair and the first picture is of the lock which is the exit from the basin of the Vauban Dam (wiki) which can also been seen behind, covered for its own maintenance work.  When I arrived it was possible to go up on top of the dam to the Terrasse Panoramique which was a good viewpoint for a picture of Petite France (wiki) but it has been closed for most of the time I’ve been here.  It also has a passage through it that was a very good shortcut although the old statues from the Cathédrale could make it a bit spooky as the light fell.

With the tourist visitors being at their lowest numbers the retailers near the Cathédrale are more happy about losing trade from their shops being taken over for a few days for filming.  This week the area around the centre of Strasbourg is being transformed in to the 19th century for the filming of Sherlock Holmes II.  There is quite a lot of disappointment about the non-arrival of Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law for filming.  Here’s a video from about the preparations of the city for the filming.

Yes I did know that in the book Sherlock Holmes never said the words in the title.  As a philosopher I’ve been stunned at the greater interest in the subject here.  Most of the major newspapers have a philosophy correspondendent who write regular comments, they turn up on chat shows – of which there are a lot on French TV – pontificating.  So, I shouldn’t have been surprised to se the following advert but I still was:

Back in black


I don’t usually post pictures of myself here as I do not want to frighten away the few readers there are, however today I will.  Normally I wear a head of blonde hair.  For my age I am pleased still to have so much of it and it being so thick.  I have been red, in fact I was married with red hair.  For a while I had it combed forward until a kind friend pointed out the resemblance to Coronation Street character Ivy Tilsley resulted in a rapid change.  But most of the time my hair has been blonde and combed back.

As you will see from the picture, that changed yesterday.  For the first time in my life I have black hair.  I wondered when younger what I would look like with black hair, there were times when I actively wanted it – having lovely blonde curly hair I should have been happy with my lot but we always want something other than what we have.  Why the change?  Its all for the sake of art.  Next weekend I appear in a play ‘Picasso at the Lapin Agile‘ at the Au Camionneur.(Some tickets left bu selling out quickly)  Afterwards it will be back to blonde.

Oh dear he didn’t want to have said that.


On  a visit to Alsace yesterday French President Nicolas Sarkozy has committed a ‘lapsus’ or slip of the tongue.  Talking about competition to farmers from India and China he said “I can accept distortions of competition from China or India, but not from Germany. I’m not saying that simply because I’m in Germany.”  He then added quickly: “I am in Alsace.”

Funnily enough the gaff was not reported on the national news and most of the reports of it from most of the regional press have disappeared, although here it is from L’Asace.  I got this one from StrassTV although the report has now made it across the continent.  Funnily enough II, I had been having lessons with students yesterdsay using this piece from the Economist talking about the President’s language.



I finished last night shocked by the shooting in Tuscon Arizona.  Having worked for an MP and taken part in public events its appalling that someone has just gone up to a public representative at a public event and shot them and then continued shooting the crowd, including a 9-year-old child and a judge.

Security was always something thought about, particularly at surgeries where the MP and a member of her staff were alone in a room with a member of the public – I was particularly uncomfortable the time we had someone in who was clearly several sandwiches short of a picnic and was sat with two Kukri (wiki) type knives.(His complaint was about crushed beetles being added to the burgers at MacDonald’s in Bracknell as a sex drug)  Following the Nigel Jones MP disaster security was reviewed and we put measures in place to make sure the MP was as safe as possible; there was always someone with the MP, the MP was always nearest the door with a table or something else between them and the constituent.  Fortunately the public weren’t encouraged to come to the office and were not let in so measures were not needed there.

Watching the news I was struck by the words of the local Sheriff Dupnik when he said a consuming atmosphere of political vitriol centred on Arizona may have been a factor in the attack.

“When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government,”  he said, “The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous. And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

This anger had spilled into violence before, with Ms Giffords’ office being vandalised last March after she upset Arizona conservatives by supporting Mr Obama’s healthcare reform bill.  Sheriff Dupnik said the congresswoman had been threatened by someone with a gun during her re-election campaign in November, adding that there had been other threats.

“We understand that at her headquarters right now, there is a suspicious package being investigated,” he told reporters.

Typical of that attitude of hatred was the graphic put on the Sarah Palin website with gun sights trained on opponents, gun sights?  I’m not blaming Sarah Palin for what’s happened but it can’t have helped.  I found this helpful to get an idea of the situation in Arizona and for balance here’s the view of the Tuscon Tea Party.

The Goddess tour


One of the reasons for my absence between Christmas and a couple of days ago was that I have been out of the country relaxing and enjoying some fine weather.  Whilst Strasbourg suffered in the cold and under 6cms of snow I was having to brave the 21C temperatures, beaches etc of Cyprus.  This was my fourth visit to the island and the second New Year  I have spent there.

This visit we decided to see some of the sites on the island connected to Aphrodite,(wiki) the goddess of love.  The picture is of Petra tou Romiou (wiki) which is refered to as Aphrodite’s birthplace.  The Encyclopedia Mythica says of Aphrodite’s birth:

According to Hesiod, she was born when Uranus (the father of the gods) was castrated by his son Cronus. Cronus threw the severed genitals into the ocean which began to churn and foam about them. From the aphros (“sea foam”) arose Aphrodite, and the sea carried her to either Cyprus or Cythera.

The next place we went to the the Temple of Aphrodite, or Sanctuary of Aphrodite, at nearby Palea Paphos. The description by Sacred Destinations is not far wrong:

The ancient Sanctuary of Aphrodite consisted of rustic, relatively impermanent buildings, like most temples in the pre-Hellenic Middle East. This, in addition to the damage done to the site over the centuries, means that little has survived of the temple except the low foundations on the north.

The other part of the site worth visiting are the Leda Mosiac House which has a replica of a mosaic depicting Leda (wiki) emerging from a stream and baring her behind to the lustful Zeus-swan, who is tweaking her garment in its beak.  The original of the mosiac is in the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia.  There is also a museum in the former headquarters for the Crusaders sugar plantation.

The third place we visited was Loutra tis Afroditis, or the Baths of Aphrodite, where:

after swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Bay, Aphrodite used to bathe in this pond, surrounded by idyllic landscape with the sweet smelling wild flowers. It is here that she met her beloved Adonis for the first time. Adonis was hunting in the Akamas forest when stoped over the woderful spring to quench his thirst. He was struck by the sight of the naked goddess bathing in the crystal waters. Aphrodite and Adonis were instantly bewitched by each other’s extraordinary beauty.

There was a man stood there in a suit, presumably to make sure that we didn’t avail ourselves of the Goddess’ bath, especially any Aphrodites and Adonises who should wish to follow their illustrious forebears.  Here endeth the Goddess part of the report from the New Year excursion.

Mau-mauing the flak catchers


Is the title of one of two stories set on the west coast of America at the end of the sixties in a book (wiki) (Tom Wolfe) by the writer Tom Wolfe.

As a digression I found Tom Wolfe by mistake.  As a teenage fan of Jack Kerouac I was interested in finding out about his inspiration as a writer and the name Thomas Wolfe (wiki) came up so I went to buy one of his books at my local bookstore and went home with the doyenne of ‘New Journalism’.  Not that I’ve minded as I ‘ve enjoyed both the collected journalism – from which I’ve usually leant a lot – and the novels, particularly, ‘A Man in Full.'(wiki) says:

Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, Tom Wolfe’s fourth book of social commentary, consists of two devastatingly funny essays, closely related in theme and substance, dealing with political stances and social styles in a status-minded world.


In the companion essay, Wolfe travels west to San Francisco to survey another meeting ground between militant minorities and the liberal white establishment: the newly emerging art of confrontation developed by young blacks, Chicanos, Filipinos, Chinese, Indians, and Samoans in response to the bureaucracy that grew up in and around the poverty program. Wolfe’s account of the performances of such masters as the Mission Rebels, the Youth for the Future, and the New Thang, and the responses of the catchers of the flak, including the Mayor himself, makes for uproarious farce. But the points he makes about racial and ethnic game-playing in America’s class wars are inescapably valid.

Roland Ries, (wiki) the Mayor of Strasbourg, (with the red scarf in the pictures above) organised a meeting today at a local venue to listen to the views of local people.  It was very different from the encounters in Mau-mauing the flak catchers.  As the pictures show the Mayor and his Adjoint (On the right of the Mayor) listened respectfully to the local residents who had turned up.  The residents were not seeking to access funding but raising concerns about the nuisance caused by some rowdiness on New Years Eve, the problems caused by visitors to the entertainment complex we were meeting in and the main concern, as in my experience it usually is in city centre areas where there are a lot of people living in high density housing, was about ‘le parking’. The Mayor said he wasn’t Father Christmas coming with a solution to the concerns but that the issues raised would be borne in mind as plans are made for the future of the area.  As I have also experienced at such meetings most of the people present were active in one way or another.  Take away the staff of the Mayor and the Council, the people who worked at the establishment and the local councillors, then there were the people I recognised from the local branch of the Parti Socialiste, and that was about it.

The last picture is the mural from the wall outside the Laiterie that I’ve always quite liked.

Easing back in


After some time away in sunnier climes with three pin plugs, driving on the left and English as a main language I’m back to write.  Today no reports or pictures though and a Hat Tip to the increasingly G-d-like wonderful Normster, although its more like a recognition for having taken the thing wholesale.  Anyway, he(Hitch) calls it the Blair Hitch project and its wonderful:

When Tony Blair took office, Slobodan Milošević was cleansing and raping the republics of the former Yugoslavia. Mullah Omar was lending Osama bin Laden the hinterland of a failed and rogue state. Charles Taylor of Liberia was leading a hand-lopping militia of enslaved children across the frontier of Sierra Leone, threatening a blood-diamond version of Rwanda in West Africa. And the wealth and people of Iraq were the abused private property of Saddam Hussein and his crime family. Today, all of these Caligula figures are at least out of power, and at the best either dead or on trial. How can anybody with a sense of history not grant Blair some portion of credit for this? And how can anybody with a tincture of moral sense go into a paroxysm and yell that it is he who is the war criminal? It is as if all the civilians murdered by al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Iraq and Afghanistan are to be charged to his account. This is the chaotic mentality of Julian Assange and his groupies.

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