Cramming in as much socializing as I can manage - Livre d'Or

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Cramming in as much socializing as I can manage
Monday, 20 March 2006 at 10:13 am
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On Friday I went out for coffee with daneres, whom I last saw in 1989 (!) We chatted for several hours over tea and gateau at the Victoria cafe (a new discovery on my part). It's very comforting that we get on well now, when our original connection was so long ago and when there was a huge age gap between us.

I was planning to make a post about how much I like living in the digital age, because being online allowed daneres to get back in touch with me, and LJ allows us to keep up with eachother's lives with almost no effort. And in the afternoon I wanted to get hold of some journal articles to read in preparation for starting work next month. So I showed up at the University Library, logged on to a computer there, downloaded a reading list from my email, and then downloaded pdfs of all the papers I wanted from online journals to my memory stick. Which is so incredibly easy and convenient even compared to how I would have gone about retrieving those papers five years ago. But when I got home the internet was full of interesting stuff which distracted me from writing a post about how much I love the internet...

I met up with megamole and company to ogle the Three emperors exhibition at the Royal Academy. It is both gorgeous and really informative; this is actually my second visit, though I didn't get round to writing up the first. My opinion is that anyone who finds themselves in England between now and the end of the exhibition in a month's time should try to get there. It's everything an exhibition should be, both in terms of the presentation and the content.

Things that are cool about it: official portraits of the Imperial family alongside the original formal robes they wore for the portraits! Examples which illustrate the Chinese discovering European art, so pictures which mix both Chinese-style and European style perspective, Chinese-style treatments of European subjects and European-style treatments of Chinese subjects, Chinese-made astrolabes and clocks and other such European scientific instruments, an engraving of the mirror image of the Brighton pavillion, a folly in the Imperial gardens built in the European style. Some antiquities from the collection of one of the emperors, which are startlingly old, and also the tenth century BCE originals are displayed alongside the eighteenth century CE artworks inspired by said antiques. A huge boulder of carved jade, taller than me but with detail down to the mm level. My absolute favourite thing is the long scrolls, the length of a fairly large room, which depict Imperial processions. And they have hundreds and hundreds of tiny little people, some of them watching the procession, some taking part in side attractions such as opera shows and food stalls, some just getting on with their own thing in the vicinity... and each little person, an inch or so high, has their own facial expression and clothing and, just wow.

London on the day after St Patricks day and with the Irish rugby victory was, well, full of loud drunk people in green. (I make no assumption that any of them were actually Irish, mind you.) There was also an extremely random demo, which I think was meant to be anti-war but also included banners for everything from "Free Palestine" to "Support the Norwich Association of Strawberry growers". I don't like demos at the best of times, and I have reasons to be suspicious of some of the Socialist Worker / Stop the War crowd.

I hate that my first reaction on seeing the demo go by was "eek, scary" rather than "yay, people are protesting about the war, maybe the government will pay some attention if enough people make enough fuss about it". I hate that I can't tell whether someone is waving a Palestinian flag because they genuinely care about Palestinian independence, or because it's just a cause du jour for the trendy left, or because they have swallowed the line that Israeli actions in the Territories are part of the same problem as American and British actions in Iraq. Or because they are anti-semitic infiltrators who are taking advantage of people in the former categories and using these attitudes as an excuse to cause trouble for Jews. So anyway, when I saw the demo I changed my route to get out of its way (and consequently got mildly lost in some of the back streets around there), and hid what I was wearing that would have made me visibly Jewish. Whereas I am in agreement with the main point of the demo, and I would have been happy to join it if I hadn't been scared. I hope unnecessarily.

Anyway, our party (myself, megamole, cyberlibrarian and wryelle) did manage to find some decent places to drink that were not full of yobs. The Golden Lion, where I had some very drinkable cider. Then, since we were looking for food and the Golden Lion weren't serving just then, we headed into Soho and ended up in the Warwick by Picadilly Circus. It's a bit verging towards the trendy winebar side of things, but that meant it was classy enough not to be showing the rugby or encouraging its clientele to get pissed in loud obnoxious ways. And it managed to stay the right side of pretentious. We shared a platter which would have served as a pretty good introduction to pub food for someone unfamiliar with the concept.

Then to lethargic_man's place for a very pleasant evening and Sunday morning. He fed me exceedingly well, including birthday cake and pumpkin soup and other good things. And we chatted lots, and generally I think we're at the point of being just as comfortable together as when we were going out, which is really pleasing. I still don't know how to deal with him when he's in a bad mood, but then I never did. But the general conclusion is that I really like spending time with lethargic_man. Yay.

Finally I ended up chez fluffymark. We've been meaning to get together for ages and we keep failing to arrange it. But anyway, we had a very pleasant chat over some rather intense Japanese jasmine tea, so that was very nice.

For this week, I'm going to the Carlton this evening, and Borders tomorrow, so do come along if you happen to be in the area and want to see me.

Whereaboooots: Cambridge, UK / London, UK
Moooood: refreshedrefreshed
Tuuuuune: Natalie Imbruglia: Torn
Discussion: 8 contributions | Contribute something
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lethargic_man: serious
Date:March 20th, 2006 12:41 pm (UTC)
25 minutes after journal entry, 01:41 pm (lethargic_man's time)
I'm sorry I got into a bad mood*, but I think you acted in the right manner, i.e. ignored me for a while to let me get it out of my system, and then distracted me and put me back into a good mood.

* It wasn't livredor's fault, and I wasn't angry at her or anything. It had occurred to me that now I had broadband I could upgrade the software on my computer. I decided to start out with Mozilla, and the upgrade completely broke it. After a while trying, and failing, to get it to work, I installed Firefox instead... only to find (after spending some time figuring out how to get my preferences set up again) I'd run into the same problem with Hebrew vowels I'd had beforehand. Previously, I'd fixed it by using a version of Mozilla with Pango support and an environment variable set to say to use Pango, but it's not working with Firefox 1.5, even though it's supposed to have Pango support built in! Any ideas, anyone?
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livredor: portrait
Date:March 20th, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC)
7 hours after journal entry, 08:50 pm (livredor's time)
Oh! I wasn't expecting a public apology, but thank you anyway. You were a great host, you fed me and gave me tea and found me a warm place to sleep... And you were most excellent company.

I wasn't complaining about you being in a bad mood, I was frustrated that I couldn't find a better reaction than just flapping at you and retreating when that didn't work. I'm glad you thought that was ok, and at least I wasn't further annoying you anyway. I'm very impressed how well you separate being a bad mood generally with being in a bad mood with me; goodness knows I've snapped at you enough times when I'm annoyed or stressed about something that isn't to do with you at all. So thank you for that.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) (3/20/06 03:23 pm)
livredor: ewe
Date:March 20th, 2006 03:32 pm (UTC)
3 hours after journal entry, 04:32 pm (livredor's time)

eeep, sorry!

I was really confused when I got your comment, because I was sure I had included your name with the list of people. It turns out that I made a typo, so LJ swallowed the tag altogether. Now corrected; thanks for pointing that out to me!
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smhwpf: Giles party weasel
Date:March 20th, 2006 04:36 pm (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry, 06:36 pm (smhwpf's time)
It's really sad that you feel too scared to go on STW demos and the like, and I think clearly the STW movement and/or the Palestine Solidarity movement must be doing something wrong, or at least failing to do something right, that that should be the case.

I am fairly confident that your fears are unfounded. People do not get attacked for being Jewish at anti-war stuff. In the pro-Palestine movement specifically (which I know rather betetr) there are a lot of Jewish people involved - in fact I'd say a disproportionately high number, compared to the overall population! And there is no question of anti-Semitism. On the trips I've made to Palestine itself there have been numerous Jewish people in the ISM groups (I mean more clearly and visibly Jewish than I am, with my three-quarters-Jewish-by-ancestry-but-Christian-and-never-really-having-been-part-of-a-Jewish-community status), and they have always been welcomed with open arms by our Palestinian hosts.

That is not to say that there are not a small minority of assholes. At one meeting on Palestine I was at a few years ago someone in the audience came out with the old "the Jews control the media" saw, and I personally took him down (verbally speaking!). But this is the thing - on the rare occasions you do get some idiot coming out with that sort of shit, there will always be plenty more around them to shut them up. The overwhelming sentiment amongst people involved is that no-one gives a damn whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Atheist, it's about standing up for justice.

With regard to the STW movement generally, my experience locally and nationally is that I have never encountered any anti-Semitic views (though they may exist amongst a minority), no suggestion that somehow "the Jews are to blame" (though there's plenty of other loopy conspiracy theories doing the rounds in some quarters), and Jewish people are involved and are not treated any differently to anyone else. The SWP do have a very significant voice (probably too much) in the movement it is true. But for all their many faults, one thing they are not is anti-Semitic (they were one of the leading groups involved in the Anti-Nazi League in the 70s), though they are certainly anti-Zionist.

One group who might be able to tell you more about this issue 'from the inside' is Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
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livredor: ewe
Date:March 20th, 2006 05:02 pm (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry, 06:02 pm (livredor's time)
People do not get attacked for being Jewish at anti-war stuff
The thing is that I personally have been attacked for being Jewish by people affiliating with the anti-war movement. Specifically, when I approached the Stop the War stand at a Freshers' Fair in Dundee, and just opened my mouth to say that I was interested in getting involved, and I got a rant that started, and I quote: I'm not antisemitic or anything, I just think Jews are scum... That was the point when I started making sure I wasn't visibly Jewish if I wanted to approach any war protest group. And I feel really really uncomfortable about being in situations where I need to hide the fact that I'm Jewish, which in turn has made me a lot less keen to get involved with any of that kind of thing.

Besides which, in 2003 a good friend of my brother's was killed when he admitted to being Jewish during what he fully believed was an anti-war conference. So if you tell me it doesn't happen, I'm simply not going to believe you, because I have direct reasons to know differently.

That said, I am well aware that most of the antiwar movement, including Stop the War, including all the other groups that get involved, are good people, or at worst, they're the rent-a-mob sort who just want something to protest about. Again, the pro-Palestine movement as such is a wonderful movement and I have all the respect in the world for those who are fighting for the vulnerable who need defending. But it is very hard for me, as an outsider, to be able to tell genuine supporters of Palestine from people who are promulgating the blood libel and waving a Palestinian flag so they get the sympathy of anyone with leftwing tendencies. (I'm not just guessing this is something that might happen, it is something that I personally have experienced.)

I admire those Jews who do feel able to get involved with such groups. My brother is one; despite what happened to his friend he is very active in that sort of politics, both anti-war and pro-Palestine. He is convinced that even the worst thugs would hesitate before attacking a guy in a wheelchair, and I only hope he's right. I'm reluctant to get too close not because I don't agree, but because I'm frankly too scared. And that's what I was trying to get at in my comments in this post. I'm not saying that everyone on the demo was an antisemite, I'm saying that I'm scared some of them might be. And I resent the fact that some nasty elements within an otherwise admirable movement make me scared to join with a protest that I do support.
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smhwpf: Head broken
Date:March 20th, 2006 07:03 pm (UTC)
6 hours after journal entry, 09:03 pm (smhwpf's time)
Besides which, in 2003 a good friend of my brother's was killed when he admitted to being Jewish during what he fully believed was an anti-war conference.

Shit. I'm sorry. That is... there are no words. I take it from what you say it was something decidedly more sinister masquerading as an anti-war conference?

What that person said at Dundee is clearly of a much lesser order, but it is still appalling, and it is doubly appalling that they weren't instantly slapped down by whoever was on the stall with them and thrown out of the group.

Clearly the STW movement is not doing enough to tackle this, or to even acknowledge that a problem exists. I should probably make a start myself by being more up-front about my Jewish roots in the movement. Not that I hide it, but I don't generally go out of my way to mention it. Smoke the bastards out so that they can be beaten down. Pardon the somewhat violent language, but it makes me intensely angry that you or anyone should get treated like that in a movement that's supposed to be about peace and justice.
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livredor: ewe
Date:March 21st, 2006 11:31 am (UTC)
23 hours after journal entry, 12:31 pm (livredor's time)
I am sorry to give you such shocking news. I have mentioned Jerry's murder quite a lot in my journal and had forgotten you weren't reading when I spoke about it. This post has some links, some of which have expired, but there's enough there to give you the background.

I don't know quite what the conference was, if it was wholly sinister or if it was merely infiltrated by extremely nasty elements. I am absolutely not concluding that the whole anti-war movement consists of people who would happily kill someone for being Jewish. I do think that some of the attitudes of the militant left make the movement a rather easy target for this sort of scum.

As for my being insulted, eh. I think the guy was probably justifiably angry about the IDF's actions and I just happened to be there and he wasn't terribly coherent. I wouldn't have expected his companion to defend a random visitor to their stall at the expense of a comrade, honestly. The thing is that that kind of attitude, in the context of a demo where there's the mob emotion thing going on, could be potentially scary.

And I'm coward, too. I'm whining at you, when I know that you have put yourself in much more serious personal danger to uphold the cause you're committed to. Myself, I am more inclined to stick to safe things like writing letters to MPs, or joining protests I'm convinced are peaceful like Women in Black or Quaker peace vigils. And if I do interact with the more militant types, keeping quiet about the fact that I'm Jewish.

If you do make your Jewish background known, I hope you'll get only positive responses, and I imagine that even if you don't, it won't put you off because you're not as easily scared as I am. And I am all too aware that there are parts of the Jewish community where someone might well be concerned about admitting to being Muslim. So I do very much relate to your anger at seeing that sort of racism among people on your side.
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daneres: default
Date:March 21st, 2006 01:25 pm (UTC)
1 days after journal entry
It was lovely to see you on Friday and I'm glad you seem to have enjoyed it as much as I did. "Huge age gap" does make me feel really ancient, although I do understand what you mean - the difference between 8 and 16 years old as we must have been when we first met, is much greater than between 27 and (not quite) 34!
I do agree with you about the joys of electronic communication, as hopefully this will also enable us to stay in touch when you're living overseas just as easily as if we were still only 20 miles apart.
Hopefully it won't be another 15 years before we meet up again....
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