UCU at pains not to single out Jews for protection; boycott’s another story

Eve Garrard points out the illogic of UCU’s insistence, in response to the All-Party Parliamentary Report on Antisemitism, that antisemitism should not receive attention beyond what is given to Islamophobia (very even-handed, well done) while – hang on – failing to rule out motions which propose to boycott only Israel. Is UCU even trying? In an astounding vote of confidence, our outgoing member of the local exec told me to attribute this kind of behaviour to UCU’s natural incompetence rather than intent, but all the same…


Sometimes I wish there were a half-viable alternative to UCU.

I dream of a journey and 2 space hoppers

A night out with GS and Kate P. I’m in pyjamas, and they are pretty unimpressed. They are in slinky dresses and are worried about appearing fat. I’m saying it doesn’t matter, they say I would say that because I’m in pyjamas.

Later – early morning, brilliant sun, warm, hazy – I sit with G and somebody else on a fallen tree (I had to circumnavigate an enormous fallen tree in York the other day) in her garden which is like a wild meadow – her house is solid, old red brick, ivy etc, far above London (the view is a cross between Parliament Hill and the meadow I looked in briefly on the way to the HEA in York). There is some disapproval about my pyjamas and how I have to make changes to the way I go about things (actually, we have had conversations recently and she thinks I should change jobs). Then I set off for home south of the river and after some journey I reach the river – huge, built up and many bridges but I don’t recognise where I am. I have two things to carry, one of which is a giant space hopper (SG’s birthday present to me last week) and the other I don’t remember but it’s bulky, and the whole journey is turning into a sweaty, uncomfortable pain in the neck. Two young geordie men are in the river by the bank (which is more of a kerb than an embankment – the water nearly reaches the top, like a canal). They have 3 tiny canoes, too small to fit inside. One of them straddles a single canoe, the other, two. They call out to me and I approach. I’m a bit self-conscious, and say “As you can see, I’m in pyjamas”. They don’t seem to notice. The river smells rotten and I advise them to get out. They hoot with laughter and roll of the canoes. They allow themselves to go under the surface to show me they aren’t bothered about the filthy water.

I leave them and make my way along the embankment with my stuff. I try to ride the space hopper, but it makes it hard to hold the other thing. I acquire another space hopper because I confuse it for my one (forgetting that that’s underneath me) but soon realise that it’s not mine (because it’s smaller and grubby) and abandon it. The river-side is very built up and central-looking and I feel it should be familiar, but it isn’t. Eventually I get to a building which looks as if I can find a way through up to street (bridge) level and at least head south. I cart my stuff through strange Oxo Tower-like retail units – haberdashers etc – and it’s very labyrinthine (like the end of One Hour Photo when Robin Williams is trying to get out of the hotel). Then I wake up (into brilliant sunshine, and spend half an hour sunbathing on the bed reading something of Matt’s about Rochdale’s coming renaissance).

Royal ‘pain-in-the-arse’ Mail

The tears have just dried.

Reference: DH601202782GB

This was sent Signed For for Christmas, but was not delivered successfully. It was then Returned To Sender, but the sender (me) was on holiday and could not receive it. I did receive a card notifying me of an attempted delivery and I suspect that this related to my original delivery above. But I wasn’t able to pick the item up from the Sorting Office (Ilford) within the week that was stipulated on the card.

Last Monday 22nd Jan 07 the Web Tracking service said that the item was in transit. I called Customer Services. Customer Services told me it was still at Ilford after all. I was offered the opportunity to pick it up from Barkingside High St from last Wednesday 24th. Today (Saturday 27th) I queued at Barkingside to pick up the item, but they didn’t have it. The agent there gave me the number of the Ilford Sorting Office but it was constantly engaged.

I then called Royal Mail and held for ages to eventually speak to Tracking agent Denise. She said that the previous Customer Services person I tried to speak with made a mistake. Denise said that person shouldn’t have offered the opportunity to collect from Barkingside. Instead the item was held at Ilford for a further 7 days but have gone now. She then said all she could do was put me through to Customer Services. I didn’t get to speak to anybody but heard a recorded message directing me to the Web site. Then I was cut off.

I have so much to do today that tears of frustration at my wasted morning are rolling down my cheeks as I type this. The whole experient has been so awful I feel like screaming. Please tell me how I can get this important Christmas present back so I can deliver it by hand.

I really should chill out, but I have to apply for a job, write an Expression of Interest for the HEA, get a guide to Amsterdam out of the library, and go to a Hen Night, and write down an interesting dream I had last night.

My Student Union wants to twin with a Palestinian institution

Late in the day, our UCU administrator sent an email to all local members about a meeting organised by my Student Union to discuss twinning with a West Bank uni.

Just for the record, when I tried to publicise the OneVoice event- organised by the Student Union back in November – in a similar way, she eventually emailed back (late in the day – the evening before, in fact) to tell me that the Exec had decided not to forward my message, which should instead go on the discussion forum it had set up for these kinds of notices. Hmm. That’s the kind of double standard that adds to my suspicion that this twinning thing is as much about two fingers to Israel as it is about standing with the Palestinians.

How to write a critical letter

From the THES site, included in full because otherwise you have to log in.

Interdisciplinary read

David Buckingham and Andrew Burn
Published: 19 January 2007

We are reassured that The Times Higher has not abandoned its policy of commissioning reviews of books in the field of media and cultural studies from reviewers who have absolutely no understanding of the field.

The review of our recent media studies textbook on computer games (Books, January 12), written by a computer scientist and professor of geometry, provides a delightfully amusing example. It displays an exceptionally acute eye for irrelevant detail and a refreshingly naive ignorance of the fundamental aims and methods of cultural analysis.

We urge you to extend this entertaining approach to other subject areas – the books on atomic physics reviewed by medieval art historians, and the books on poststructuralist philosophy reviewed by monetary economists.

Perhaps you could ask some media and cultural studies scholars to review the latest titles in computer science and geometry?

David Buckingham and Andrew Burn. Institute of Education. University of London

Gutenberg Project and how to bind what you print from it

If a book is out of copyright, chances are it’s here for free. Project Gutenberg is one of the great reasons for the Internet.


Only please let people not throw away their printouts (old boyfriend of mine used to bind entire photocopied books with some G-clamps, cardboard, glue and two bits of wood. I don’t remember him sewing them but according to this Instructable – http://www.instructables.com/id/E37671RK7XEQEC18BI/ – it’s the thing to do.). Because I really don’t think I can read from my handheld (and consequently I’m avidly awaiting the mainstreaming of e-books – or are they e-readers?)

The Gate, Hammersmith – review of a meal

The Gate vegetarian restaurant – http://www.thegate.tv/ – where M&M took me for a birthday meal.

The building, a former church, is lovely – there’s an enormous painting taking up most of the end wall, repeated on the stairs, of Marx addressing a huge crowd of trades unionists in a warehouse – the point of view is behind and slightly below him.

The food came in what appeared to be distressingly small portions which turned out to be perfect.

First I had japanese vegetables wrapped in wilted lettuce for £5.50:

julienne carrot, red peppers, mange-tout & shiitake mushrooms rolled with garlic, ginger, coriander & toasted sesame seeds in romanian lettuce, served with pink ginger, wasabi & a miso dressing.

It was good, but on retrospect, where was the wasabi?

Next I had a mushroom fricassee over a jerusalem artichoke and potato mash – £13.00.

sauteed girolles, horse mushrooms & pied-de-mouton in a marsala wine sauce, served with baby fennel, turnips & carrots, & jerusalem artichoke mash.

This was too salty, drowning the flavour of the mushrooms, and none too hot.

Finally, from a small choice of vegan desserts, I had an apple and rhubarb strudel with sorbet (again £5.50) – this doesn’t appear on the Web menu. I really should have been offered vegan custard or ice-cream – instead I had to ask forwhat turned out to be sorbet in place of the advertised creme fraiche (maybe they have a problem with soya). The filo pastry seemed not to have any fat in it – quite startlingly similar to nearly-charred paper (I know because I left my camera manual on top of the log burner at New Year). But the filling was alright (though better on taste than texture, which was uniform) and the fruit garnish was fun to pick at.

Don’t think The Gate really delivered that night, but there are other dishes on the menu I’d like to try. I’ve had consistently better, more creative food at Manna, but I’ll certainly return.


“There are few cases of straightforward genocide in which a dominant state sets out to annihilate an ethnic group because of who they are (rather than what they do or think). The Nazis arguably did so against the Jews; Rwanda’s Hutu génocidaires did so against the Tutsis.”

And in Darfur, the Janjaweed are slaughtering the ethnically African.

The article is http://www.newstatesman.com/200701150028, the author is Brian Brivati, who’s one of Engage’s advisory editors.

(With my Jewdar on, I can’t work out what he means by “arguably”. Because I can’t imagine a difference. Unless he means that Hutus and Janjaweed are unsophisticated thugs without the need for genocide-licensing rhetoric and mythology. That casual little “arguably” – I can’t figure it…)

A summer night

A Summer Night by Matthew Arnold


In the deserted, moon-blanch’d street,
How lonely rings the echo of my feet!
Those windows which I gaze at, frown,
Silent and white, unopening down,
Repellent as the world; — but see,
A break between the housetops shows
The moon! and, lost behind her, fading dim
Into the dewy dark obscurity
Down at the far horizon’s rim,
Doth a whole tract of heaven disclose!

And to my mind the thought
Is on a sudden brought
Of a past night, adn a far different scene.
Headlands stood out into the moonlit deep
As clearly as at noon’
The spring-tide’s brimming flow
Heaved dazzlingly between;
Houses, with long white sweep,
Girdled the glistening bay;
Behind, through the soft air,
The blue haze-cradled mountains spread away,
That night was far more fair —
But the same restless pacings to and fro,
And the same vainly throbbing heart was there,
And the same bright, calm moon.

And the calm moonlight seems to say:
Hast thou then still the old unquiet breast,
Which neither deadens into rest,
Nor ever feels the fiery glow
That whirls the spirit from itself away,
But fluctuates to and fro,
Never by passion quite posses’d
And never quite benumb’d by the world’s sway? —
And I, I know not if to pray
Still to be what I am, or yield and be
Like all the other men I see.

For most men in a brazen prison live,
Where, in the sun’s hot eye,
With heads bend o’er their toil, they languidly
Their lives to some unmeaning taskwork give,
Dreaming of nought beyond their prison wall.
And as, year after year,
Fresh products of their barren labour fall
From their tired hands, and rest
Never yet comes more near,
Gloom settles slowly down over their breast;
And while they try to stem
The waves of mournful thought by which they are pressed,
Death in their prison reaches them
Unfreed, having seen nothing, still unblest.

And the rest, a few,
Escape their prison and depart
On the wide ocean of life anew.
There the freed prisoner, where”er his heart
Listeth, will sail;
Nor doth he know how there prevail,
Despotic on that sea,
Trade-winds which cross it from eternity.
Awhile he holds some false way, undebarred
By thwarting signs, and braves
The freshening wind and blackening waves.
And then the tempest strikes him; and between
The lightning-bursts is seen
Only a driving wreck,
And the pale master on his spar-strewn deck
With anguished face and flying hair
Grasping the rudder hard,
Still bent to make some port he knows not where,
Still standing for some false, impossible shore.
And sterner comes the roar
Of sea and wind, and through the deepening gloom
Fainter and fainter wreck and helmsman loom,
And he too disappears, and comes no more.

Is there no life, but these alone?
Madman or slave must man be one?

Plainness and clearness without shadow of stain!
Clearness divine!
Ye heavens, whose pure dark regions have no sign
Of languor, though so calm, and, though so great,
Are yet untroubled and unpassionate;
Who, though so noble, share in the world’s toil,
And, though so task’d, keep free from dust and soil!
I will not say that your mild deeps retain
A tinge, it may be, of their silent pain
Who have long’d deeply once, and long’d in vain —
But I will rather say that you remain
A world above man’s head, to let him see
How boundless might his soul’s horizons be,
How vast, yet of what clear transparency!
How it were good to abide there, and breathe free;
How fair a lot to fill
Is left to each man still!