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Purim Disqus

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It will soon be Purim; a Jewish Festival of enjoyment and celebration. I wrote about this very same festival last year around the time I celebrated with friends in North Manchester, great fun. But what is Purim? What is the story?

Purim is the story of Esther and how she saved the Israelite people of Persia:

There once lived a King by the name of Achashverosh, who ruled over Persia in the third century, BCE.

The story begins with a grand feast that the King was throwing at his palace. Irreconcilable differences propelled the King to divorce and seek a new queen. In search of a new queen, the King commanded his men to travel throughout the kingdom in search of the loveliest of maidens so that he could view them and choose the most beautiful to be his wife and the new Queen.

Around this time there lived a gorgeous woman named Esther. She lived in a small province with her uncle Mordechai. She knew that being the Queen of Persia would be good for her people, so she prepared herself to be brought before the King.

Once the King saw Esther he stopped looking and she became the new Queen of Persia.

One day while passing by the palace gates, Mordechai overheard two guards plotting a revolution with the intent to kill King Achashverosh. Mordechai informed Esther, and the militants were captured and executed. Mordechai saved the King’s life.

The King had an advisor named Haman. This advisor was power hungry and conniving. Haman disliked the Israelites, especially Mordechai. When Haman would travel throughout the towns, he expected the people to bow down to him, as he was second in command to the King. Mordechai refused to bow.

In order to gain favor with the King and rid himself of Mordechai and his people, Haman devised a plan to kill them all. Haman used his sharp tongue and twisted the thoughts of Achashverosh, alleging that Mordechai’s people would cause a problem for the King and that the King should lend his seal to a petition to have them destroyed. The King authorized the genocide and letters were written and sent to all the provinces of Persia bearing the King’s seal.

Haman drew lots to pick the date upon which the genocide would begin. The thirteenth of Adar (the month of Pisces) was the selected day for the mass extermination of the people. Remember this date.

When Mordechai caught word of this, he tore his clothes in mourning, dressed in a sackcloth and cried before the King’s gate.

When Esther was told about her uncle’s behavior she sent him new clothes, but he refused them. He sent her a message telling her to go to the King and plead for the lives of her people.

The law in Persia at that time was strict; no one was to approach the King unless they were summoned. To disobey was punishable by death. Esther sent word back to her uncle that the townspeople should fast for three days, she would do the same, and after the three days she would approach the King.

After three days, Esther went to the King who was so pleased to see her that he held out his scepter and asked her if he could grant her a request. Esther asked the King and Haman to join her in her quarters for a banquet that she would prepare on the following day.

As Haman left the Palace that evening he saw Mordechai. So full with hatred was he for Mordechai, that he resolved the next morning he would ask the King’s permission to hang Mordechai in a public spectacle on gallows fifty feet high.

That same night the King could not sleep and he asked to hear the daily chronicles, which recorded the events of the palace. There the King learned that Mordechai informed the King about a scheme to overthrow the kingdom and kill the King. Mordechai had saved the King’s life, but had not been rewarded for his loyalty.

When Haman arrived in the morning, the King asked Haman’s advice as to the appropriate manner to honor a person that has found great favor with the King. Haman, assuming that it was he who was to be honored, said that the man should be allowed to wear the King’s crown, the King’s clothes and should be led through town on the King’s horse, proclaiming that this man is favored by the King.

King Achashverosh accepted the idea and told Haman to give this honor to Mordechai. Enraged, Haman followed the King’s orders. That night was the banquet that Queen Esther had prepared for the King and Haman. The King was so pleased with her, that again he asked Esther if he could grant her a request. This time Queen Esther asked her husband to save her life, the life of her people, and her uncle, Mordechai, who the king had honored that day. The King was horrified that the life of his queen and his devoted Mordechai were threatened and demanded to know who was responsible for this. Esther replied that it was Haman.

Haman fell to his knees before the King and pleaded for his life, but the King ordered that Haman be hung on the very gallows that he had intended for Mordechai. Mordechai was then made the new advisor to the King.

However, the order of genocide could not simply be revoked, so the King ordered that the Israelites be informed and armed to fight in their own defense. Due to their awareness of the kabbalistic tools of unity, the 72 Names of God, and their understanding of the cosmic cycles of the kabbalistic calendar, the Israelites of Persia triumphed over the Persian Army. They awakened the power of miracles available in the month of Adar/Pisces. And moreover, they were able to alter their destiny.

(Story c/o livingwisdom/kabbalah.com)

purim

So what does this story tell us? what does it teach?

The story of Purim is a story that teaches that we must overcome one of our greatest enemies; doubt.

Esther could not affect the destiny of her people until she affected the cause of their impending calamity. By saying her people should fast for 72 hours and give succor to one-another she helped her people come together, to overcome the desire for self alone and awaken the energy of unity through the experience of sharing. The king armed them, they fought and overcame their impending doom.

For Jews the time of Purim is a time of celebration. If you go to a Jewish area wherever you find yourself, in whatever country you are you will almost certainly find a community in festive mood. Parties, cake, drink, face-painting for children and general merriment – a time of joy.

Doubt is an enemy of achievement an enemy of aspiration. Doubt of others is bad, but Doubt of yourself is worse. Be sure of yourself, know who and where you are in your life. Know who and where you would like to be in your life. Do not doubt yourself and go and achieve.

These are the lessons from Esther.

Pussy Riot Free – PR Stunt!

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Free Pussy Riot
Free Pussy Riot (Photo credit: gaelx)

Today the jailed band members of Pussy Riot have been freed under a controversial amnesty by the Russian Government. I am not sad but I am not happy either.

I don’t believe the amnesty is a humanitarian act, its a PR stunt aimed at softening the image of the Russian Government and specifically Mr. Putin.

I would accept that the stunt the band pulled was ill-advised and that it was totally disrespectful in the extreme to those who feel the church has a place in their lives. But honestly, imprisonment for being a real pain in the backside? I ask was justice served by sending these women to prison? NO! it was revenge plain and simple. And now when it suits the governments purpose the women are released.

As a PR stunt I’d say its pretty blunt and unsophisticated – Russia government – try again cos we aint convinced!

Marsha Alyokhina (one of the jailed band members) spoke on Dozhd TV, saying she would have preferred to have stayed in prison, but had no option but to accepted the amnesty, calling it a “profanation.” Human rights activists were waiting to greet her as she came out of prison, with Alyokhina telling reporters she wanted to meet her band-mate Nadia Tolokonnikova before speaking to journalists.

Nadia Tolokonnikova is expected to be released imminently from a prison hospital, where she has been following a hunger strike.

The pair are freed under a controversial amnesty bill passed by the Russian parliament last week, which grants the release of 25,000 “vulnerable” inmates, those who are elderly, sick or pregnant. Both Pussy Riot members qualify because they are mothers of young children. Indeed?

Analysts believe that the amnesty, as well as the release of Russia’s most famous prisoner, the Kremlin critic and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khordokovsky, is an attempt to stem criticism of Russia’s justice system and human rights before the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The Arctic 30 Greenpeace protesters are also free under the amnesty.

The third Pussy Riot protester, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was given a suspended sentence in October last year, because she had been thrown out of the cathedral before reaching the altar to perform.

Pussy Riot may not make great music or give fantastic performances but they are artist’s nonetheless. For anybody who disagrees look-up situationalism and dada as examples of what Pussy Riot do.

Good Luck Pussy Riot and all who go in their wake.

Are they worth it?

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Publicité pour Twitter et Facebook sur la vers...
Publicité pour Twitter et Facebook sur la version hébreu de Wikipédia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Youth (yoof) culture in the UK to a large extent is informed in attitudes by Hip-Hop Culture, or certainly the gift-wrapped version we see on MTV, Virgin Music… Critics may be easily prompted to dismiss this version of ‘yoof culture’ as the ramblings of uneducated and lazy youth. But I point to the growing levels of violence practiced against the youth by older and wiser (?) generations and by youth on youth or gang violence mostly in our urban centres.

The State terror that drove Aaron Schwartz to commit suicide; the domestic violence that killed Kasandra Perkins; the communal violence that killed Trayvon Martin and fatally wounded Malala Yousufzai; have all become commonplace. Not UK violence but for sure the violence that we meet every evening on the 6 pm news broadcast. The message is clear, people of youth are violent! Its a crisis!

Education can and often does address the underlying causes of violence but is not the sole key to addressing this crisis.Teachers must help reclaim the public by affirming with youth that life is worth living. Pedagogy must wrestle with the fact that the worth of youth largely swings between being targeted as (new) consumers and being seen as a disposable population fit only for the prison.

Renewed societal values are absolutely central to the improvement in youth experience; by showing how racism, sexism, and economical exploitation shape the outcomes and therefore the values of the youth, teachers have an opportunity to use the past experience of youth to improve the possible future experience of youth. Some Feminists building on critical views of the traditional nuclear family have illuminated the complex ways that power and violence function in the nuclear family and heterosexual relationships. Yet the buck stops there – the family is to blame?

I think not, well not entirely anyway. We lack the language and values necessary to address the states of terror that have escalated into youth-on-youth violence.

As we move into a more technologically-integrated society (Facebook, Twitter, Google+…), the pressing question is how to elevate the experience and contribution of the youth through these social networking platforms. The first task in answering this question is to challenge the notion that the youth are aloof and normalized to the violence in their midst. If we look closely at these social media hangouts, we find that youth are driven by two goals: the need to share information, and the need to be content creators.

Our next task, then, is to engage them in transforming their ingenuity and passion to share and create content that revises the modern world. Obvious blueprints have been offered. The revolutionary maneuvers of youth in North Africa have been realized through Twitter as a cabal for strategy. The Occupy movement illustrated how we can create webs of inclusion in a leaderless movement, and introduced the public speaking platform known as mic check. These ideas engender a generational attitude encapsulating a way of being. Of social awareness on a grander scale.

This isn’t however, the Marxist dream of a classless society. The economic, social and educational carnage youth face in the streets makes us culpable for failing to create effective institutions that integrate youth into society. If the future belongs to the youth, we must engage them by transforming the ideas of identity management on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram into community management by asking them to help share and create ideals we can live by.

“Look at the weak and cry, pray one day you’ll be strong
Fighting for your rights, even when you’re wrong
And hope that at least one of you sing about me when I’m gone
I am worth it?”
— Kenderick Lamar

Voyager 1

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Planets of the Solar System
Planets of the Solar System (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last Thursday (19 Sept. 2013) NASA announced its official; the spacecraft has left our solar system.

So that’s 36 years and 18.5 billion kilometers (11.5 billion miles) to get to the edge – WOW! According to NASA the craft actually left the solar system about a year ago, they just wanted to be sure and I suppose at that kind of distance and the level of knowledge we have that’s a reasonable margin for error. There isn’t a clear boundary, just that the craft exited the plasma bubble that surround the solar system and that they say is the edge.

Right, so we’re on a new journey now, into the truly unknown of open space. The craft will encounter (so we are told) exotic particles and other phenomena – this sounds just a tad fuzzy to me but I guess they don’t honestly know whats beyond the edge and this is the best way of finding out what some of it might be. No more guess work and speculation, this will be the proof, well the proof of what the craft comes across that is.

Surprisingly the craft carries recordings of greetings in a number of earth languages as well as photos and songs on the basis that ET might pick it up and know how to access the information therein. Well I suppose its possible.

Amazingly just as the craft was about to leave the solar system there was a solar blast which echoed back off the edge of the solar system. This was the sign that the craft had reached the edge. Coincidence or divine indication? Seems to be just a perfect coincidence to me that it happened just so; right time, right place so to speak. The earth bound scientists took just 10 seconds to realize what was happening, clever people those folks.

I’m quite certain that what they find, even if its nothing at all will be fascinating. Voyager 2 is chasing behind at about 3.2 billion kilometers (2 billion miles) behind or about 3 years and should if the scientists are right prove them correct by sending back similar information about its environment.

A new dawn awaits us I think, it will be honestly totally fascinating to see what comes from these two space craft.

David Bowie is

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I had a great weekend just gone, I was in London with tickets for the David Bowie is exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Knightsbride, London.

Image

The exhibition has been widely praised for its content, breadth of content and just the sheer quality of the whole experience.  I’m a Bowie fan so perhaps a little bias but honestly… it was brilliant.

A lot of whats on display is just the real thing that we’ve all seen in video’s and TV shows.  But, there are some very private things from David himself.  Things like pictures and paintings he’s made, story boards he’s drawn and original song lyrics.  Great (for the fan that is).  Add to this the stage costumes and the song videos and the whole experience was just fabulous.

To get an understanding of how David Bowie has become among the most influential pop stars of his, (our) generation, there are insights from musician Thurston Moore, artist Jeremy Deller, music journalist Simon Price, dedicated Bowie fan Ziggy Jacobs and artist Daphne Guinness. Between them they trace Bowie’s career from the 1960s, and take a close look at his approaches to the creation of music, image and performance.

The exhibition focuses on the two main era’s of his career; the Ziggy/Diamond Dogs era (1972 – 1974) and the Berlin years with the trilogy; Station to Station, Heroes & Low being released in the late 1970’s.  Although only part of Heroes was recorded in Berlin and the others not at all the feel is distinctly of the City.  Most other era’s are skirted across with not much to add to the common knowledge.

My favorite era is without any question the Berlin years, my favorite album being Low.  My favorite Bowie song of all time coming at the end of this period; Boys Keep Swinging – the video of which is shown on a loop, full length during the exhibition.  Its during this time that I think he was at his most original, but it is fair to say that he has been (probably still is) a magpie in his approach.

As a retrospective it beats the release of a compilation album any day.  As a lasting testament, the experience will live on till long after the music has ceased to play.

David Bowie, pop star, mime artist, actor, painter, person of our times.

Really cool stuff last bit!

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This list is going to be slight different from the other 3, once you’ve ready a couple of the points I’m sure you’ll get where its going, so here goes…..

  1. Maxou; Vanessa Paradis.  Now to be honest I could have chosen any of VP’s songs, She’s an absolute star! honest!  As a Brit the nearest we got to VP was probably Joe le Taxi, but really?  Brits don’t do foreign, they do Brit and American.  Well I got news for every “everybody speaks English anyway…” types, the world is a wide and varied place and this song is FAB!!!!!  VP can act too, so check-out her films.
  2. Messrine; I don’t mean the man, I mean the film.  By the way its in French, so either read the subtitles or learn to speak French.  Great film (there’s two actually), stylish, just like most French films and Vincent Cassel (he was in the Oceans series of films) is fantastic in the lead role.
  3. Paris au Printemps, that Paris in Spring; simply stunning.  As a city, its got to be the best place on earth, if you like city’s that is.  Take a trip down the river, cheesy I know but great fun all the same.
  4. The Rodin, the window looking out of the garden has to be the most romantic place in the world when the sun’s out.  Love, Love, Love the place.  The art is GREAT, the atmosphere is GREAT, just a great place to be.
  5. Wine from Bordeaux, I’ve already had this in a previous list but hey, its sooooooo good its worth a second mention.  If you’re an alcohol free type, hard luck you don’t know what you’re missing.  Bottle truth!
  6. Jose Bove, this guy’s a rebel in the true French mode.  He more or less tore down a McDonald’s to make a point about local cheese.  I’m sure there’s some dodgy politics going on behind the sceans but hey anybody, and I really mean this, anybody who can take down McDonald’s has got to special, seriously special.
  7. The French Presidential system.  This is an object lesson in how to do democracy for real.  Its more democratic that the American system and way more democratic than the British system.  In fact its damned near perfect!  One person = one vote for the President, not an electoral college, and not for a party who then choose a leader.  WOW, this is real power for the people.  And you know what else, its impossible to have a hung parlement or a coalition government.
  8. French driving; this is huge fun to watch, and read about if you’re not involved in it that is.  They have a well deserved reputation for driving like maniacs.  I think its something to do with the attitude that nothing and nobody is going to get in the way of them doing whatever it is that they’re doing which at that moment in time is the most important thing to do.
  9. Payee system.  The French quite rightly ignore skin colour, religion, sex…. once you’re French, well that’s it, you’re French.  So they have their very own version of localism, the Payee system.  It’s related to the land, food, drinks and some customs.  It’s almost underground whilst being right out in the open.  To an outsider it can be confusing but trust me on this, once you get some sort of handle on it your time in France will be 100 times better for it.
  10. Department administrative system.  This is a bit like the French attitude to being French in that everybody no matter where they live will live in a Department and will be given equal access to facilities.  So you will get the same level of governmental service if you live in Guadalupe as you would in the centre of Paris.  It just works that way.  They and you can thank Napoleon for the system.
  11. French Language; the sound of beauty.
  12. Tour de France, I’m not very sporty (this is probably the first point in this list about sport) but this is the worlds most watched single sporting event, that’s a fact, you can if you like check it out, I’m not making this up.
  13. Eiffel Tower, once you’ve seen this structure you will never forget it.
  14. Paris Metro, as a undergound, and I’ve been on quite a few, this is the absolute best by some margin.  Generally on time(ish), easy to navigate and pretty clean.

Now I know I’ve given you 14 points instead the usual 12 but over 4 lists this brings the total to a nice round 50 points.  I hope you enjoyed my take on whats cool, I might put some more really cool lists up again in the future because to be honest I could keep going for some time yet on cool stuff.

Thanks for reading.

Even more really cool stuff

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This is the third of 4 lists of cool stuff (well what I think is really cool stuff anyway), so here we go again:

  1. Forbidden Colours; David Sylvian, yes I’ve started with a song again.  Music is at the heart, the very essential beat of my life.  I surround myself with music whenever and however I can (probably because I can’t sing a note in tune or play any instrument I am forever in awe of those who can).  This song is so damned beautiful it hurts, its sweet, bitter, considered, sparse and great all at the same time.
  2. Peebles on a beach; to understand this one you need to go to Nice, France where the beach is all pebbles.  Just watch the posers trying to get out of the water, it’s so funny.  But pebbles themselves can be so endearing, I love them.
  3. Stand-up Comedy; I like stand-up pretty much no matter what (so long as it doesn’t offend too much).  My favorite, well at the moment probably Stephen K Amos, check him out! Laughing makes problems seem much more in perspective, it’s a break from the everyday stuff.
  4. Bridges, any bridge really but the really big ones are sooooooo impressive.  So seem to just defy gravity, totally mesmerizing.
  5. Citroen DS car, this has got to be a car to die for.  they aint cars really, they’re works of art on wheels.  You could put one in a gallery and it would fit right in, stunningly beautiful objects.
  6. Citroen 2CV car, now this would be my car of choice if I was allowed to pick excluding modern practicality.  Not great in the north of England but I can see myself in one in the South of France.  Comical, yes but so comfortable ton the behind.
  7. The moon, luna it may be but I find myself some evenings just sat at my bedroom window staring out at our closest neighbour.  Our lives would be so different (if we existed at all) without it.
  8. Skinny dipping, not done this for a whole lot of years now, don’t want to be accused of scaring anybody.  But if you’re young and you’re with somebody special, and its night-time, and you’re alone give it a go.  It’s just totally liberating and you never know what might happen with that special other person.
  9. Cool showers in summer, now I don’t mean the type that falls out of the sky, rain that is I mean at the end of the afternoon when you’re all hot and sticky after a day in the hot sun there aint nothing better than having a cool (not cold) shower.  Standing there under the running water a constant temperature now that is a great way to pass the time of day.  And if you have a shower big enough have the shower with somebody special, the fun just increased by a factor of 100, I guarantee!
  10. Pizza; there aint nothing better than settling down with friends, and those close to you on a Friday (or any other day) at the end of a long working week with Pizza and beer/wine, slobbing out in front of the telly watching some non-sense.
  11. Full height windows; I mean the French type, really classy!
  12. The French Connection, set in Nice, one of the prettiest city’s on earth! The last time I was in Nice I met friends from London, Paris, Israel, New Zealand & French Polynesia, totally epic.  I couldnt we could actually organise the get together, but we did. EPIC!!!!!!!