Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • The real danger of the BNP

    Marcus Dysch
    May 28, 2009

    I’ve never liked Rotherham.

    It was my first 'patch' as a trainee reporter in south Yorkshire. On the first day I was pounding the streets in search of news stories when a driver decided to purposely speed through a sizeable puddle at the side of the road, thus drenching me.

    Also, on the first day of the 1998/99 season I travelled to the town to see Hull City take on Rotherham. It was the start of Mark Hateley’s second season as Hull manager. He’d been built up as the saviour, the ex-England striker who would fire us up the Football League. This was going to be our year.

  • The 210 bus must go that extra mile

    James Martin
    May 28, 2009

    Orthodox residents in Golders Green and Stamford Hill desperately want a direct bus service between the respective areas, but the capital’s transport operator, Transport for London, is unlikely to listen to them.

    A four-month survey by transport watchdog London TravelWatch, which was published on Tuesday, shows there is heavy demand for either an extension to the current 210 bus route, which runs between Brent Cross and Finsbury Park, or a new route.

    However, the operator, which doesn’t have to adopt recommendations from London TravelWatch, is standing by its previous stance that “the cost of introducing a direct bus link can’t be justified”.

  • And this is our dictator range...

    Marcus Dysch
    May 28, 2009

    I’ve found myself working on some bizarre stories in my short career.

    Meeting a chap who had a full-size replica cow dumped in his garden, interviewing a dog which had been banned from a care home and meeting Billie Jean King are all fairly high on the list.

    But this week's case of a man complaining that his underpants featured an image of Hitler could be my new favourite.

  • He's ronery

    Stephen Pollard
    May 27, 2009

    I'm not sure why the commentators appear so unsure of North Korea's intentions.

    Everything was made very clear in that fascinating documentary a few years ago, Team America. As the astonishing undercover footage of Kim Jong Il showed, his motivation is straightforward: 

    I'm so ronery. So ronery. So
    ronery and sadry arone. Dere's
    no one, just me onry, sitting on
    my rittle throne.

    I wook rearry hard and make up
    great plans. But nobody
    listens, no one understands...
    Seems that no one takes me
    And so... I'm rone-ry... A rittle
    rone-ry... Poor rittle me.

    Dere's nobody I can rerate to.
    Feel rike a bird in a cage. It's
    kind of sirry...But not rearry...
    Because it's firring my body
    with rage!

    I 'm the smartest most clever,
    most physically fit but nobody
    seems to rearize it.

    When I change the world maybe
    they'll notice meeeeeeeeee---
    until then I'll just be
    lonely...poor little me...
    I'm so rone-ryyyyyy.

  • More Britain's Got Talmud

    Simon Rocker
    May 27, 2009

    The Talmud is second only to the Bible in religious importance for Jews: or as Rabbi Norman Solomon elegantly puts it, “If Scripture is the sun, the Talmud is the moon that reflects its light.”
    Today, there are probably more Jews than at any time in history seriously studying Talmud, but still its language and difficult style make it inaccessible to the majority.
    But now you can take a dip into the debates of the ancient rabbis more easily. A selection of Talmud has just come out as a Penguin Classic, translated with an introduction by Rabbi Solomon. You can sample an extract in our Judaism section.

  • A mystery

    Jenni Frazer
    May 27, 2009

    I have just tried to find an Israeli residential phone number via international directory inquiries.

    I was in the middle of spelling the town name when the (very nice) operator stopped me. "I'm sorry," she said, "but I can't look it up. It's all in Hebrew. Business numbers are in English, residential numbers are in Hebrew." And, she added, trying to be helpful, "Hebrew is a very difficult language."

    Is this a new development? And if so, at whose instigation?
    I'd like to be told.

  • Britain's Got Talmud

    Simon Rocker
    May 26, 2009

    If you want a rabbinic take on the Susan Boyle phenomenon, try this from Yitzchok Addlestein writing on the Cross Currents blog:

    A frequently repeated motif of the coverage she received is that she was deprived of years of her life because she devoted them to the care of her aged mother. She was underemployed, and sang only at the church she regularly attended. It was only after her mother’s death that she thought of publicly competing, something she had tried decades earlier without much success. Devoting her life to her mother made her pitiable; people were delighted that at times, the loser can turn things around.

    In our circles, of course, we’ve heard the story before. Had Dama ben Nesina (Kiddushin 31A) lived today, he would probably also be seen as a loser, for losing an opportunity for a windfall profit because he did not want to dishonor his father by rousing him from his sleep. We can imagine the looks of condescension he received for an entire year. “Poor chap. It’s lovely that he still cherishes that old value of caring for the old folks, but he took it a wee too far, didn’t he?” When an extremely rare parah adumah was born to him a year later, and he sold it for a handsome profit after all, some of those former critics might have cheered. Nice guys sometimes do come out ahead – despite themselves.

  • Make mine a Gibson (please don't)

    Jenni Frazer
    May 26, 2009

    It seems only yesterday — in fact it was just over three years ago — that columnists and commentators were falling over themselves to badmouth Hollywood bad boy Mel Gibson. Gibson, it will be remembered, had fully illustrated the reality of "in vino veritas" by indulging in an antisemitic tirade when pulled over by the police for being drunk.

    I recall at the time forecasting that it wouldn't take long before Hollywood would re-clasp Gibson to its bosom since he is, of course, fabulously wealthy.

    And so it proved today as chat-show host Jay Leno was all over Gibson like a rash, the occasion being manly congratulations on the film star having got his Russian girlfriend pregnant. Lest it be forgotten, Gibson, though in the throes of divorce, is still married and has seven children with his wife.