Monday, March 31, 2008

Not so Keenan: from Beirut to Stockholm

The Beeb just broadcast two fascinating documentaries back-to-back.

The first was an excellent 20 minutes of Brian Keenan revisiting Beirut and talking about what had changed and his own emotions about returning to the scene of his kidnapping over 20 years ago.

The second was a 40 minute propaganda film in which Lebanon's woes were blamed on Israel, along with the usual broadside of accusations about massacres, disproportion, torture, occupation and myriad other injustices. This was also hosted by Brian Keenan, but somehow the two films merged into one with no credits rolling in between.

Keenan's initial time in Beirut in the 1980s, and his subsequent kidnapping, had absolutely nothing to do with Israel or Israel's presence in Lebanon, and certainly had nothing to do with events in the summer of 2006. Nonetheless, the war that took place then was the focal point for about half of Keenan's documentary, and he placed absolutely no blame on Hezbollah (in fact, he didn't do more than mutter the word under his breath) for any of the terrible loss of life that took place.

Is this the same Keenan who spent over five years as a captive of Islamic Jihad, an associate of the very same Hizbollah? And wasn't his release brokered with Iran and Syria, the only two parties who had influence to do so, and who continue to wage proxy wars in Lebanon and have helped make it volatile and a terrorist hotbed for thirty years?

This is the same Keenan who said in reference to Israel's highly accurate precision bombing of Hizballah's stronghold in Beirut that:
"The word "holocaust" entered my head as I looked back at the devastation."
This seems to be an example of the famed Stockholm Syndrome. I am struggling to put into words how incredulous I am at such an articulate and intelligent man, who has been through so much, taking the standard emotional line of "I see dead people and destruction, Israel dropped bombs, so it's one-sided and all their fault". This is especially distressing from someone who really lived through the complexities and nuances of Lebanon's fractious history.

Norman Geras over at Normblog has summed up in concise fashion:
"It is sometimes said that one of the fruits of personal suffering is wisdom, and I know that can be true. But Keenan's sentiment shows that it is not a truth without exceptions - that even one who has suffered unjustly can make himself the conduit for the most poisonous of themes, this one repeated now often enough to be acquiring the status of a special version of the blood libel."
It is even worse - but totally to be expected - that the BBC would broadcast this uncritically.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Apprentice 4.1 - people in glass houses

After giving the entire third series a miss due to my total disdain for the muppets we met in volume 2, and my own hilarious experiences of the selection process, I thought I would see whether standards had improved this time around. So you will be treated to my weekly critiques of The Apprentice Series Four - or Serious Flaw, as I am already calling it.

The redeeming features of this series are likely to be everyone but the candidates; the Big Koala has already come out with some belting one-liners, whilst Nick's repertoire of pained facial expressions is growing by the week. Best of all, I notice that down on the set of the follow-up You're Fired show, someone's clearly pushing Chilesy and his guests to bare their teeth a bit more.

So, Episode 1 opens with the boss reminding candidates that, despite the obvious spoonful of Sugar gags, "Mary Poppins I am not" (but surely Yoda of the business world he is). Straight on the offensive, he follows this up with a nice put-down regarding their living accommodation:
"In my day it was a glass factory, nowadays they convert them for posers like you lot to live in."
Get in there, you beast.

The first task involved selling - how original for an Alan Sugar task! Boxes of fish from Billingsgate appeared, and candidates had to work it which where what, set prices, pick a location for a market stall, and SELL SELL SELL. Not too complicated to plan and set up, you wouldn't think. But these are the kind of people who think Dover sole is some kind of Kent-based musical genre.

Before we even got to the market, we had the hilarious moment of Sloaney Penelope Pitstop combo Lucinda persuading the girls to call their team Alpha because "it's the first letter of the Greek alphabet, kind of looks like a fish, reminds me of womens liberation due to its Homeric use as a nickname for Helen of Troy's lady-garden, and also because I drive an Alfa Romeo." Okay, I may have made some of that up. But I don't think it would have made Nick Hewer screw his face up into any more of a scowl than the rictus he pulled for what she did say.

So the task unfolded with the girls getting immediately bitchy, using lots of annoying MBA-speak, but at least getting down to the market pronto and nabbing the best stall. Then they used their feminine charms (despite several of them looking like some of their produce) to push all their stock, either at the stall or by flogging it to restaurants and randoms. I'm sure that the Oirish bird who claims to be the "best in Europe" when it comes to sales would present this in a slightly glossier way, but here at Freedmanslife, we call a spade a spade. We may also resort to calling quite a number of candidates a spade as the series progresses.

Meanwhile, the spades on the boys' team quickly divided themselves into two groups along class lines ("I have a Portuguese for that" vs. "use ruddy shoovels"). They then disintegrated completely. It's amazing how a combination of up-themselves chinless wonders and floppy-haired posh twats cannot know the price of a lobster. I keep kosher and even I know it's a bit more than a fiver.

So they went and sold a load of stock before noticing this mistake, whilst blaming each other, mashing fish-brains with a cleaver, wrongly identifying half the product, and getting hilariously ripped off by a bunch of smug lawyers. Given that they wanted to sell for £130, you'd think a starting price of £150 or so and then negotiate would be a good idea.

Instead, they do something that's not a good idea anywhere, let alone with a bunch of (apparently quite literally) hungry shark-type lawyers. They attach themselves like maggots onto the hook, then fling themselves into the infested waters, and seem surprised when the bait is gobbled up along with the rod and fisherman: "...but we'll take £100."

According to the wonderfully named Michael Sophocles (oh lordy, he's Jewish apparently - the shame!), offering less than that would be a price that was "too diminutive". A bit like other parts of the team anatomy, I think.

Final negotiation: the lawyers pick up a fortune's worth of fish for £50. Pretty damn diminutive.

Back in the boardroom, the girls are saved by the boys' even worse incompetence, despite the fact that they spent most of the day selling the fish below cost price. That left Nicholas de Lacy Brown back in the boardroom with raffish Raef and the northern down't'pit charmer Alex.

Nick clearly has no idea who Sir Alan is, or where he's come from (the streets, to the very top, via his bootstraps, blood, sweat, tears, selling his own grandma at Hackney wholesale market etc etc, you know the story, it's told in snarling tones during the opening credits each week). I think the guy (Nick, not Sir Al) is prissy, campy, sly, conceited, snobby mummy's boy, with no real-world experience. I'm thinking not really the Big Koala's type.

So then it may not be the cleverest thing in the world to defend yourself against the "working class and proud" Alex with comments like these:
"It's just that some of us are more educated."
"I feel that the barrier that has been drawn is kind of, you know, like maybe, kind of, educated against, you know, more kind of gritty salesmen."
"I'm very into art and culture... I find it very difficult to have conversations about football, for example - I don't really like football."
Idiot. Especially because Alex was really to blame in this task, for botching up every aspect of it from start to finish. He allowed and encouraged the class division, screwed up on location, pricing, sales strategy, general management, and just getting the f***ing team to a market to set up within, like, half a day.

Still, I was quite glad to see Nick take a hike, especially with his even more excruciating performance on You're Fired, in which he continued his oily arrogance, showed off his ghastly paintings, and generally proved himself to be exactly as vile as I had first thought.

The Sugababe got it spot on when picking up on his conceit about having only "failed" once in life, and duly sent him on his way:
"Tu as été dévasté quand tu gagnais une "B" dans ton GCSE de français, et tu vas être bien plus dévasté maintenant parce que tu as gagné une grande graisse "F". Tu es licencié!"
Nick, that's Sugar's own French for "p*** off, you posh tw*t, and get some life experience."

Until next week...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cycle of silence

Some empirical evidence about blogging came out this week, showing that the average blogger starts out with good intentions, posts regularly, then hits "blogger's fatigue"... seems this happens to me on a cyclical basis. Apologies for the lull... oddly enough, it usually happens when there is too MUCH to write about that I don't know where to start.

Obviously the Israel thing is pissing me off just now; the crazy moral equivalences are so absurd it's hard to rebut them succinctly, and pretty much the entire planet seems deluded or in some way under the influence of mind drugs in that they still just don't get it. Wake up, planet. These people want to kill us, then make it look like our fault because we react "disproportionately", then get you to help them stockpile more weapons, and kill us some more. Eventually they will slaughter you too, but I'm sure you'll just blame yourselves again.

You might note, moronic world, that we have outlived the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Cossacks, Nazis and many other persecutors, invaders and so-called "great civilizations". If I were a betting man, I'd say the odds were that we will survive both you, the wonderful liberal, multicultural society that is a borderline cult of misplaced guilt and self-hate, and the Islamofascism that you embrace just as it tries to destroy you.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

You shall rise up early and strike them first

Before I put myself through the torture of reading the papers and internet comment on what has been happening in Gaza in the last 24 hours, I am going to hazard a guess. If I later have to go and change this article, I promise to leave any amendments in strikethrough, so you can see where I messed up.

The world is largely going ballistic with Israel for what it sees as the heavy-handed and indiscriminate way in which it has gone into Gaza. No doubt they believe the intent is to re-occupy it (some will say "formally" as they think Israel never really left). Israel has been attacking "the Palestinians", many women and children are dead, and as a casual aside, yes, so are lots of "militants".

About now, the UN, and even the Condi-led US State Dept, are probably calling for Israel's withdrawal. Hardly anyone is going to mention the very interesting stat that Sderot, just over the border from Gaza, has been in the last year the most-bombed place in the world on a missiles-per-head basis. Nobody will spare a moment to think about how their own government would react if a neighbouring government launched such an attack.

And yes, we can use the words "state" and "government" because most people see Hamas as legitimately elected, already refer to Palestine like it's a country, and indeed a few weeks ago, Costa Rica recognised it formally as such. This also means, as far as the Israelis are concerned, that it should damn well act like one. The nonsense of media and diplomatic criticism of Israel attacking the poor, defenseless Palestinians on the one hand, whilst legitimising a government that, depending on their whim (and audience), directly carries out, or indirectly supports, the rocket attacks, is just perverse.

Now I am going to have some breakfast. Maybe I will be back later to edit these assumptions, because just for once, the world is seeing Israel's actions in Gaza for what they are. However, I will probably be too busy blogging about Lord Lucan flying a pig to the blue moon of cheese.