Five for Friday

And so we say goodbye to another week, and another month. Time to take stock, adjust plans and goals, and look forward to the future with optimism, despite everything that’s gone wrong so far. But enough about the peace talks. Instead, here are some links about other stuff of interest.

Shabbat Shalom!

Close to the bone – Stuart MacBride

Detective Inspector Logan McRae is the Aberdeen copper living in a world of death and destruction. This time around it starts off with the discovery of a body, chained to a stake, strangled, stabbed, and sporting a necklace formed by a burning tire. It’s straight out of a bestselling book – one being filmed on site, locally – and yet surely it’s more to do with organized crime.

If that were not bad enough, someone is going around crippling oriental gentlemen with hammer blows to their knees, but the victims are staying schtum. Then there’s the small matter of the bundles of bones being left around McRae’s caravan home. Oh, and two teenage lovers are missing and the police are accused of not doing enough to find them. What else could happen?

Quite a lot.

And it happens alongside McRae balancing several plates on poles all at once, as he is harassed by his superior, troubled by the woes of his hospitalized girlfriend, assaulted by a deadly enemy, challenged by the behavior of his colleagues and subordinates, and wooed by a dying crime lord.

What you get here is terrific banter, a rapid fire plot with great misdirection and red herrings, sparks of black humor, and generally decent folk trying to muddle through. The major minus is that the setting and the characters are so powerful, they have a habit of reminding you of past books. (In other words, it’s very familiar territory for those who have read any of the previous books in the series.) But it’s great entertainment.

Conspiracy of the weak

From the Elder of Ziyon:

Hezbollah claims Israel plans to destroy Al Aqsa. It’s sure taking a long time.

Hezbollah on Tuesday charged Israel with planning to demolish the Al Aqsa Mosque.

Now, where have I heard that before?

Maybe in 1929.

And in 1931, seen here.

And in 1936.

And 1991.

And in 2001.

And in 2007.

And in 2009.

And in 2010.

And in 2012.

And in 2013. Including from Abbas.

It sure takes a long time to do a simple demolition job, doesn’t it? It’s taking Israel longer to destroy it than it took people to build it!

Classic. How many in the mainstream media will report this, fully? Or even ask the right questions? Like why is it the Palestinian and Arab leadership can lie, lie, and lie again, without paying a penalty for their perfidy? But every time an Israeli spokesman pops up – and tells the truth – he’s condemned as a liar, and is reported as being labelled as such by the mainstream western media?

There are times when I wonder if there’s something in the food supply.


Short summary: sex and drugs and rock and roll do not make for a happy life for Detective Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy).

Longer review: this is based on the Irvine Welsh book, and includes some of what you would expect by way of excess. Robertson, in a competition for promotion, plans his campaign, hoping to set his colleagues against one another. Unfortunately, not only is his personal life a mess, but his lifestyle is self destructive, and there’s a murder he should be doing more to solve.

At the core of the film is Roberston’s character and its dark secrets. There’s an element of sympathy for the character, but I doubt if the audience would allow that sympathy to excuse his actions. Suffice it to say, you would not want this man as a friend.

The film rattles along, and there are no dull moments. Indeed, some comedy pops up in the darkness. But ultimately, the film delivers a punch that makes it more than the sum of its parts. In other words, there is a decent film here. But also a desperate sadness and cruel and accurate observation about the human condition. Not so much entertainment, as an experience.



Short summary: go see this film.

Longer review: Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) are on routine spacewalk when disaster strikes. The film tells the story in glorious, glorious cinematography, and magnificently atmospheric (ahem) music, all combined with effective and believable performances from the two stars.

Great cinema.

The Gods of Guilt – Michael Connelly

Micky Haller (the Lincoln Lawyer) is back in action. This book opens with a courtroom confrontation that displays the lengths to which the defense lawyer will go to, for his client. Some may find those lengths unattractive. He certainly sails close to the wind. Without spoiling the plot, let’s just say that Haller lives up to the suggestion that lawyers are but frustrated actors on another stage.

After that distraction, the central thread is Haller’s defense of an electronic pimp, accused of the murder of a prostitute client – a former client of Haller’s. The defense team goes to work and the story rapidly heats up, speeds up, and steams on. It’s a good Connelly tale, with twists and danger, though not one of his best. It lacks a certain something to make it top quality, but it is good.

On the plus side, the usual Haller character depth, warts and all. The plot is well constructed, and the pacing is excellent. On the minus side, we have the seemingly enforced references to Connelly’s other creation, Harry Bosch, as well as the film of Haller’s life that featured beforehand.

Good, but not great.

Five for Friday

Blogging has been impossible over the last few days, and will probably be sporadic over the next couple of weeks while I am engaged on a special project. However, I want to try and make time to at least mark the passing of another week with a set of links for your attention. And a bonus video.

Be well one and all. And Shbbat Shalom.

Turning the cheek, or twisting the knife?

Over at Harry’s Place and the Times of Israel a must read post from Kay Wilson.

Kay’s Times of Israel profile reads:

Kay Wilson is a British-born Israeli tour guide, jazz musician and cartoonist. She is the survivor of a brutal terror attack that occurred while she was guiding in December 2010. Since the attack, she is in a demand as a motivational speaker and also speaks to audiences on issues of human rights and justice for victims of terrorism. She is a lecturer for Global Justice Group and is registered at the Israel Speakers’ Agency.

Kay’s piece, entitled In the shadow of death, starts like this:

Bound, gagged and barefoot with machetes at our throats, we were pushed through the trees to the site of our execution. I whimpered, “Please don’t kill us.” One terrorist looked me in the eye, put his hand on his heart and declared, “I am good, I not kill.” I believed him. I did so because I subscribed to the delusion of reprieve, the hope that if we did what they say, we would be set free.

Throughout three years, where day has blurred into night, I have relived the horror again and again. I shudder to remember their deranged faces contorted by deluded, perverted, intoxicating power. I recall those unfathomable moments of helplessness, placating, pleading and promises of liberation, all meshed together in a concoction of sadistic terrorism.

A few months after the attack, I approached a certain “Christ At The Checkpoint,” (CATC) a Christian conference held in Bethlehem. I wanted the opportunity to speak and honour the memory of my murdered, Christian friend. The conference prides itself on being ecumenical and draws a mixed audience of western Christians and Palestinians. One protagonist of the conference is an Israeli Arab. I hoped that the seeming openness of the CATC towards Israelis coupled with the fact that Kristine was a Christian would grant me a platform. I was declined on the grounds, “there is no space” bizarrely concluding, “this is not what the Lord wants.”

I suspect that I was refused because the CATC manifesto does not allow a voice like mine to be heard. It calls only for partisan justice,“There are real injustices taking place in the Palestinian territories and the suffering of the Palestinian people can no longer be ignored.” This bias conveniently ignores Israel’s innocents, Israel’s murdered and Israel’s maimed.

It’s a variation on freedom of expression. We – say the people of CATC – are the Christians who are free to express ourselves by turning away (or turning the cheek) from Israel’s victims. Or should that be Jewish victims. Bear that in mind.

Kay continues:

The CATC manifesto also states, “All forms of violence must be refuted unequivocally.” However, they have no qualms about inviting violence into their room, by giving the platform to the likes of personalities from the PA, that hateful organisation which overtly sponsors terrorism. They also have no reservations in inviting Victor Batarseh, the Christian mayor of Bethlehem. Batarseh is a supporter of the savage, Marxist terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The PFLP’s armed division is the Abu Ali Mustapha Brigades, which has carried out many suicide bombings in Israel, murdering civilians.

There is hope, however, albeit marred by further church based bias.

For any self-respecting person, and especially for Israelis such as myself, the endorsement of terror by association, at a Christian conference, is obscene. Yet it is also a spurn for Palestinian Christians such as the Bethlehem Baptist minister, Naim Khoury. Khoury has been shot three times and his church has been bombed fourteen times because he advocates Zionism based on his understanding of the Bible. Khoury is too busy to care. He is exerting his energy pastoring a vibrant and unexpectedly, flourishing congregation, even though the PA has informed Khoury that his church now lacks the authority to function as a religious institution – announcing this decision the week following CATC. Unlike Khoury, a Christian minister who is always welcome at conference is the Reverend Stephen Sizer.

Sizer, an Anglican priest who oversees an English congregation, has been accused of anti-Semitism – a charge that he vigorously denies. The allegations arose in part due to links that he posted on his numerous blogs that directed people to anti-Semitic sites. Sizer, insistent that he “loves Jews” and “loves Israel,” agreed to remove the links, although he still has photos of himself standing alongside those who advocate the murder of the very Jews and Israelis whom he loves; people such as Yassir Arafat, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Raed Salach and Nabil Kaouk the senior commander of Hezbollah forces in Southern Lebanon.

Read it all, here. The conclusion should strike home with an awful resonance; the sound of antisemitism making its way along the mainstream of modern society. Again.