Friday, 13 December 2013

Oh Mandela, Give us a Sign

I think I will begin with the story about sex segregation in universities. It is easily batted away because it is a paradigm of something I have been saying for years; that political correctness will eat itself.

PC is the child of moral relativism, which is essentially belief in nothingism. Accordingly it is no surprise when one thought of legitimate viewpoint collides with another. In this case it is feminism opposing religion, or more specifically the Muslim religion. Both have a point of view and both are seen as bedfellows of the politically correct. They are arguing among themselves, but in their confusion, they don't really understand what the argument is. If you don't believe me, read the narrative yourself.

I wish God would give us a sign. I wish he would come down and tell us what is wrong. Oh, I forgot, Jesus did that and he got the cold shoulder. So don't rely on signs, the writing on the wall is already there. That is unless you are deaf, in which case you will have to rely on signs, or sign language.

You are ahead of me.. be patient.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the POTUS, the single most powerful man on the planet, was told that he was a heartbeat away from the hands of a grade A lunatic. It turns out that the official (fake) sign language interpreter at the funeral of Nelson Mandela has a history of mental illness, prison, and is a self-confessed violent schizophrenic who heard voices and saw angels. He was a couple of feet away from Barak Obama, possibly also one of the most heavily guarded people in the world, too. The interpreter has in the past been charged with murder, kidnap and rape.

How he got to be in this incredible position is interesting, but I doubt if anyone responsible will provide a straight answer. In a country wracked with corruption, nepotism and crime, it will all depend on whether the ruling powers can find a suitably compliant scapegoat.

And what of this fake sign language specialist? I suppose the charitable view is that he was not the only fake on the platform.


Friday, 8 November 2013

Somewhere in the corner of a foreign field lies a poppy that has fallen off my coat.

I am astonished at the amount of venom aimed at people who don't wear poppies to remember those who have fallen in armed conflict. I am a patriot, but I thought we were fighting for the right to freedom of expression. Apparently not.

I have not been wearing a poppy because I don't have a buttonhole, or a button for that matter, on my goretex jacket, and it fell off today before I could get to the door.

I happen to have mentioned this on certain forums and been roundly told off. Well, unless they come up with an alternative way of displaying poppies, as opposed to the pin (bronze age solution) or a plastic one with a barb in it, the British Legion may find that interest in their poppies is going to wane. If there are poppies not being worn these days, I believe it is not due to a lack of respect, but a lack of buttonholes.

I shall be attending the Remembrance Sunday service at a local church and I shall wear a poppy in the one jacket that has a buttonhole. What is more important is that I remember how I came to be able to worship freely and express myself in this way. Those who fought for freedom paid a great price. It is therefore reasonable, but not obligatory, to get off my bottom once a year and salute them.

I have never gone in for badges of allegiance anyway. People seem to wear all manner of plastic bands and t-shirts to claim allegiance to something or other. Who the heck cares what you or I think? Actions speak louder than symbols.  It comes to something when people object to the wearing of religious symbols. Are they really offended? But when it appears that not wearing something can cause such recrimination, as the kind I have read about, the world has gone mad.

*****

John Cole, the former BBC political editor has died. Cole was an exemplar of the last time anyone at the BBC attempted to report on a political story without being in thrall to the liberal left narrative that has become obligatory at the Broken Biscuit Company. Ironically, Cole hated everything Thatcher stood for, but you would not have known it. In fact you would not have known much at all because his Northern Irish accent was extraordinarily distracting.

*****

I am currently reading a fascinating book about the Scottish Enlightenment. It is not possible to sum up the scope of the subject here, but a couple of things struck me. The first is that the protagonists met together in taverns and coffee shops, then buildings appointed for the purpose. They formed clubs, one of which exists now as the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Such allegiances were not without danger. Some came into direct opposition with the all-powerful Kirk. The last man to be hanged for heresy was dispatched in Edinburgh, with the connivance of the Scottish Church. Of course, it was all done at a time when they also executed people for witchcraft. It is the sort of thing that still goes on in other parts of the world. Except that we have it here, in the 21st Century. A man, an innocent man, was beaten up and set on fire because he was suspected of being a paedophile. There is no difference. The action was born out of hatred, fear and ignorance.

What these Enlightenment people did was crucial to their thinking; they corresponded with each other and met to debate the issues of the day. That way, they were able to test their theories and arguments with their peers. They dared to say what could not be said and many were denied positions of authority because of it. And this also still happens today. There are universities in this country that will deny recognition to The State of Israel and deny its academics a platform. Enlightenment? I call it a descent into superstition.

There is one more thing. The writer of this book on The Enlightenment explains that what came out of it was a vocabulary of thought. The discourse gave the protagonists a lexicon; words to express concepts that needed form and a common understanding. The writer argues that without this, it would have been difficult for thinkers to arrive at novel propositions or radical ideas, if the words and phrases were not readily available.

In an exposition of 1984, Orwell says something similar about Newspeak. He tells us that the purpose of Newspeak is not to censor thought, but to make it impossible to have such thoughts in the first place.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Lou Reed - Urban Hermit

There are no pictures of Lou Reed in the country, walking through fields or on the beach. In at least half of the publicly available photographs, Reed is wearing shades. And yet, mythically, Reed lived and worked solely lit by artificial light, propelled by heroic quantities of drugs and the kind of energy that only an exclusively urban world can give.

I don't think anybody can describe him primarily as a musician. John Cale is primarily a musician, Reed was not. Reed was a lyrical and vocal conduit, and perhaps that is more important. He stood in symbolic relation to a period of time and specifically, the whole milieu around Andy Warhol.

His contribution, in terms of quantity of output is sporadic and at times very sketchy. The crucial albums were the Warhol/Banana/Velvet Underground one (actually called The Velvet Underground and Nico), Transformer and Berlin. Of these, I consider Berlin to be his best. It is stripped down and lush at the same time. The line-up of top class musicians underpins what is a real album, a simple, often bleak message about loss and decay and abuse. Coney Island Baby is best forgotten, as is Metal Machine Music, Rock and Roll Heart and most of the others.

Sadly, Lou Reed is an example of someone whose reputation got well ahead of his talent. At times he was able to attract really great musicians on the sole currency of his charisma and seminal place in the development of rock music. Not all his material is profound and much of it, despite the edgy, metropolitan grime, just glib and sentimental.

One might wonder if, during the last months of his life, whether Reed mellowed at all or changed his outlook, particularly after a liver transplant. It didn't. He was nasty and egotistical to the end and rarely acknowledged that he owed much of his success to a lot of people of greater talent and humanity. He always maintained that he didn't take drugs to get high, he took drugs to feel normal. It is perhaps then, a pity that he never stepped outside his hermetic lifestyle and abandoned the wild side for the sea side.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Latvian Climate Change Scientist who killed Badger while cycling to Harlow Sex Clinic, "Unrepentant"

Valdis Sprudz, (32) Ran over and killed the badger, leaving it to die slowly on the road, a court heard today. Sprudz, an enviromental scientist and vegetarian from Riga, showed no remorse, said the Judge, but in the light of Sprudz upcoming gender-realigment operation on the NHS, was given a ten pound fine and a reprimand.

Guardian and Daily Mail readers were seen fighting outside the court.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Women! Know Your Limits!

I have to preface this with a video. Some people might not have seen it and it puts what I am about to say in context; a fairly tongue-in-cheek context.

http://www.carsite.co.uk/gallery/videos/id/5346-harry-enfield---women-dont-drive
(I can't get it to embed and the YouTube version has been removed by the BBC.)

In the Telegraph, a woman, Belinda Parmar, has been blathering on about being treated badly by car salesmen. Well, the news is that car salesmen are creeps. They are just as bad with men, but they tend to treat women differently. That is all. Differently, not better, not worse.

Here's a bit of what she is saying:

There’s no place on earth that’s more of a man’s world than the car showroom...My first stop was a Nissan show-room: the sales rep was an older gent. He’d obviously read in some salesman’s manual that if you wanted to close that deal you ought to use somebody's first name. Again, again and again. “Belinda”, he said “Why don’t you see the new ‘Note’”, “And Belinda, while you are at it take a look at the beautiful new colour - what do you think of that Belinda? Belinda...”. 
I’m not alone in feeling underserved and ignored by this entire industry

Oh grow up. If you, as a woman, want to be treated like a man, I suggest the following line of attack, based upon my own experience. But don't go on moaning about how terrible it is being a woman.

This is the advice I gave her:

Belinda. Belinda, my pal: You have failed to understand the first thing about buying a car. It's a fight. It's cocks on the table time, and sorry, Belinda, but you don't have a cock.
Last time I bought a car (for my wife, incidentally, who is sensibly just not interested because she wastes her time all day making sick people better) I went to a car supermarket.

Now, on any ordinary day I am invisible. I am one of those people who used to trot around Harrods, and be ignored - that is until I asked them to put my purchase on my Harrods account, which in those days was like a magic word.
Anyway, I could wander around at a time-share presentation and nobody would bother me. That's how invisible.

So how shocked are they when I say I want "that car"? They are shocked, because I ask for a deal, and they don't do deals. So I'm walking away, or rather I am making walking away signals. I want a deal. "Oh," says Wayne, "I'll have to talk to my boss". So Wayne goes off and gives me some time. Rather like the time you get when they have arrested you and you are left to sweat a bit in the interview room. He comes back. "It's bad news, Wrinkled. You see,,,Wrinkled, we can't really give you that much for your trade in Saab."

Wayne is a Scandiphobic bigot, I think and clearly is not in love with Sara Lund.

"Well, Wayne" I say, "I think, £9,400". Wayne cacks himself. He is sweating. He is trying not to ring up his mum for a good cry. "I'll have to talk to the boss" says Wayne. "Ok, Wayne" I say.

I get a cup of water from the cooler and it gets even cooler in my ice cold grip.

Wayne returns and says, "I have had a word with the boss, and we don't normally do this, but we can go to 9.5 and frankly, there is no money in it for us."
I calmly get out my debit card and pay for it like it was for a jumper in M&S. Even the secretary starts ovulating.

So as I said, its a macho, cage-fighting, posing piece of theatre and you can play the game, or pay up. Women, know your limits.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Growing Old?

Fact of the matter is, most of us will be old one day. At least most of us hope so. Taking a look back at being me, 30 or 40 years ago, I really didn't see old people as people; they were kind of cipher people, metaphorical people, people with history but no future.
I met some wonderful examples. People, who, in later life I found out were ambassadors, war heroes and many who had served society in a distinguished capacity. This all went over my head when I was young.
My mistake, and perhaps that of others, is to see life as linear - a line of highs and lows. I have reason to think about and occasionally talk to some old musicians. Some are bitter at not making it, and some are bitter at making the big time for a moment, and then fading from sight. Others are happy that they managed to work for 50 years and avoided stacking shelves.
Respect seems to be ephemeral. "Retired" surgeon, general, nurse, teacher, etc is almost a prefix for failure and ultimate irrelevance.
I remember a Neil Young song that contained the lines, "Old Man, look at my life, I'm a lot like you were"

We too, lived and loved. And we are a lot like you.


Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Vaping, Bricking and Unhalfbricking

This is what I did tonight.

There was a salad, consisting of mixed grains, cucumber, red peppers, roasted sesame seeds, herbs,various leaves and some manchego cheese. A simple dressing of oil, vinegar and lemon juice. A gin and tonic was on standby throughout. A pile of ironing, the kind of pile that threatens and accuses had to be addressed. I popped on Two favourite albums to get me through; Unhalfbricking, by Fairport Convention and Nanci Griffiths greatest hits.

No, it isn't that interesting, but I am not on Facebook or Twitter. And the last time I looked, nobody is going through my garbage in order to find out more.

Unhalfbricking is eclectic - a kind word for all over the place. The world at the time (1969) was going through a disturbing Dylan Covers phase. Graham Nash even quit The Hollies over their plans to do "The Hollies sing Dylan". What happened to him? Who Knows Where the Time Goes and A Sailor's Life are the non-Dylan highlight of Unhalfbricking. I was secretly proud of my son when he used the former in a short film. (He often trawls my collection).

Nanci Griffiths, well you either like or do not like country. The late Bob Newhart once said during a show: "I don't like country music, I am sorry. But I don't denigrate those who do. And for those people in the audience tonight who do, "denigrate" means to put down."

If you think that I am a member of the Klan, drive a Chevrolet truck and live in a trailer park, you really must think again. Country music is white soul. And anyway, Nanci is about as far removed from the stereotypical white trash model that you can get. I cry every time I hear "Trouble in the Fields" and you must have a heart of stone if you don't.
I would like a Chevrolet truck though, but you can leave out the membership of the NRA and the oral tobacco.

Talking of tobacco, I can report further on my dalliance with Vaping. I think I have finally figured it out. What you need to know, is that to be a committed vaper, you have to be a physicist, a chemist and a lot of patience.  So much of the equipment associated with vaping is duff. It's almost all made in China and it is perfectly clear that they design the batteries to explode and cause collateral damage. However, because they are made in China, mine have not exploded, they just gave in after a few sessions. Ditto the cheaper cartomisers. For the record, and because one or two readers might be interested, I now have a Pro-tank Mini, connected to an eGO-T 660Mah battery. My favourite juice is Virgin Vapour Organic's Celestial Honeydew. It works and will do fine until I start getting serious. Yes, you can have this rig - when you pull it from my cold, dead hands.

The best place I know to get everything, usually by the next day, is


Excuse the puff (and excuse the pun) but they have been very understanding with me over the rotten Chinese batteries and there are a lot of very bad places to buy vaping requisites, so consider your card marked. If you can't find what you want on their web site, it is worth giving them a ring.

My local Scottish Nationalist MSP continues to stir up public discontent by advocating that all seasonal goods be banned from stores until two weeks before the event, In this week's local paper, she bemoans the fact that Christmas goods are on sale right now. This is the kind of murderous, Stalinist action you are going to get if you vote "YES" to Scottish Independence, along with eating English Children, banning laughter on Sundays and compulsory tartan pants. But seriously, the "NO" campaign shows every sign of putting Josef Goebbels to shame and I really do wish the shops would stop turning Christmas into a three-month nightmare.

My teeth keep giving me gyp. I had a wisdom tooth removed a week ago and another front tooth has been replaced by a temporary cap. Neither will let me forget the fact. The car has cost over £500 in maintenance this month and I am looking at a similar amount to have a wing replaced. I am facing my 60th birthday (at the beginning of next year) with some trepidation. I would really like to do something, but the money is tight. Ah well, it could be worse. And it is not as if I have a lot of people who I must see on the day.



Friday, 11 October 2013

Got a Boner?


I must say a word about John Boehner, but first I must ask if my American readers know who the Speaker of the House of Commons is? I thought not. First off, why is Amy Poehler pronounced Polar and why is Boehner pronounced Baynor? He has a fascinating accent. He pronounces Bob as Bab, and economy as ecanamy. Not all Americans do this, so why does he? He has a great tan and he wears those smart white button down collar shirts. I wish I knew where he got them.  I have tried to understand, but I really don't know why I can no longer visit the NASA website because John Baynor has somehow contrived to shut down the entire United States of America.

I hope nobody loses their jaab.


*****


I'm not on Facebook. You won't find me on Twitter, or if you do, you will see that I have not tweeted, since I only use it to comment on the blogs of certain individuals who insist on signing in with the damn thing. Indeed, My cyber footprint amounts only to the thousands of comments I have left elsewhere, this blog, and its predecessor. This is my message in a bottle. I have always thought that it does not matter who reads it today or tomorrow, but who will read it ten, twenty or a hundred years from now. A smart computer of the future will be able to cherry pick my wisdom, and leave aside the rest.

Frankly, I would be surprised if anyone bothered, but you never know.

We look to the past with hindsight. A tautology, I know, but an ironic one. If, fifty years ago, and only fifty years ago, I had told you that homosexuals would have their societal equality enshrined in law, that they could sue anybody who dared to discriminate, I think you would be astonished. In 1963 homosexuality was still illegal. Before that, women could not vote. Before that, it was perfectly normal for the upper classes to take precedence in matters of national importance. The point is, nobody at the time, apart from a few visionaries, dared to challenge the prevalent orthodoxy. Do you really think we are in anyway released from the shackles of our own time and our own learned ways?

It brings me, in a round about kind of way, to The Guardian. For visitor from outwith the UK, The Guardian is a Liberal Left newspaper. It has a low circulation but it is overly revered by the Liberal Elite who run this country and in particular, the British Broadcasting Corporation. In fact, the BBC only ever advertises its jobs in The Guardian and has done for decades.

So it is interesting that today, The Guardian went a little too far. One of its pundits, Polly Toynbee, cited some particularly nasty cases of child abuse and laid the fault at the door of the Tories:

It is the Baby Ps and Hamzah Khans who pay for this Tory vandalism

 Factually, she was wrong, because these cases occurred during Labour's period of office. The upshot was that, having realised they had gone too far this time, the Left's propaganda machine went into overdrive to limit the damage and to some extent backtrack. Amazingly, even the readers of this terrible rag did not agree. They came out heavily against the rantings of Ms Toynbee. I dare say she will retreat to her villa in Tuscany to get over it.

I am not particularly interested in Polly Toynbee, even though she is a favourite at the BBC. What interests me is the way the Left attack those who disagree. It is textbook Nazi handbook stuff.

Here is a summation of the way Nazi Propaganda worked:

Avoid abstract ideas - appeal to the emotions.
Constantly repeat just a few ideas. Use stereotyped phrases.
Give only one side of the argument.
Continuously criticize your opponents.
Pick out one special "enemy" for special vilification.

(What I would include, in recognition of the Guardian's comments policy is: Never allow rational, convincing arguments that are contrary to our view.)

What most people in the UK find incomprehensible, annoying, etc, is that this tiny minority, the liberal left, shout the loudest and shout down the opposition at every opportunity. They have infested our national broadcasting organisation and they continue to agitate for the abolition of thought and freedom to take a different view.



Monday, 7 October 2013

Appeasement of Hitler was a bad idea

No shit, Sherlock. But when I read some of the remarks on some of the comment platforms, I cannot help but become conscious of those who are blessed with the gift of hindsight.

A recent article springs to mind, about Neville Chamberlain. Remember him? The Prime Minister with the bit of paper? The revisionist writer tells us,

"I cannot sweep aside the stubborn realisation that Chamberlain’s misjudgement cost millions of lives"

Debate on contentious issues takes place in a historical context. It might sound obvious: people only know what they know at the time and they are influenced by their education, prevalent social mores and previous experience.

It came up again the other day with a predictably chaotic discussion (in the Guardian) about Christianity. Essentially, one thread of the putative "debate" was about historicity and whether or not Christianity had an influence on slavery, socialism, the NHS and the introduction of the tambourine.

For every one who pointed out that there were committed Christians at the heart of the emergence of Socialism (Keir Hardie for example, or the Tolpuddle Martyrs) or the Abolition of Slavery, there was a biteback post telling us that Christianity is responsible for all the evil in the world and that Slavery in particular was condoned in the Bible.

My point is that unless you have a clear understanding of historical context, your summation of important milestones in our social evolution will be worse than bad, they will simply bugger up our ability to cope with the future.

As for Chamberlain, his world was one with a daily reminder of the Great War. Burnt out and crippled men, trudging the streets looking for a job - great if you have the requisite number of limbs and eyes and an ability to cope with the occasional loud bang. (Don't forget, a hundred years ago we shot soldiers who had nervous breakdowns on the battlefield.) The Western world had no stomach for war. At the time, Chamberlain was paraded as a master of diplomacy.

Churchill was heterodox. Today, ironically enough, he would never have assumed the greatest office of state. Vanilla, he was not. He was, practically, a lone voice in the wilderness, who believed that war was inevitable. The general reaction was, "No, no, no, I'm not listening" In Cabinet, the reaction was that Churchill was dangerous and bitter. There were plenty of personal attacks on him and plenty of the powerful media barons who supported appeasement. All over free Europe, he was a hero.

No alternative to the policy of appeasement was ever consistently articulated in the
press.(Richard Crockett, Twilight of Truth)
So, I think there has to be a mending of the disconnect between received wisdom - hindsight - and the kind of reality that stares us in the face. Without it, we cannot properly address the problems we face today.


Friday, 4 October 2013

Bad Day at Black Rock

The loner comes into town and already he is asking too many questions. Questions like, "Where's the lavatory?" and "Can you recommend a decent place to eat?" In the case of Spencer Tracy as a one-armed stranger in that movie, he might be asking, "Where's the fork buffet?" "Do you sell single gloves?"

How we treat strangers is a reasonably good indicator of the temper of a town. My guide rule for traveling abroad is, how do the locals react when things go wrong?

Italians are frustrating in the extreme, but it is true that once they get to know you there is an emotional bond. There is a reason why Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi are such bosom pals. They are both emotional types. They may also be bastard types, but they appear to engage in the man-to-man bonding that nearly reaches, but just stops short of homosexuality. (As far as I know). Germans do a lot of sneering, but they must always make sure the rules are stuck to. Have a minor tussle with officialdom, and they will do it by the book. I find that re-assuring. If you ask for information, you will get it, and it will be truthful and accurate. Make a mistake, and they will gently let you know, but also they will tell you how to do it right.

This kind of thing is important if you find yourself in a jail cell through no fault of your own. In some places, they will do their best to effect justice, and in others they will simply shrug and leave you to rot. It is a kind of sobering thought that within Europe, you can experience both ends of the spectrum. Spain is an example of the bad end and Switzerland is an example of the good one.

Britain is interesting in this respect. Officials and the Police respond generally well to politeness. If you are thinking of coming here, remain polite and pleasant at the Border. If you call a member of the Border agency an asshole, expect him to spend a great deal of uncomfortable time examining yours.

I have been stopped by the police three or four times in my life. Twice for traffic violations and on both occasions I simply said, "It's a fair cop" (which it was). They like that kind of response and hey, you have to fess up and move on. I think a lot of this is my own personality. I avoid physical confrontation and I don't believe in treating people disrespectfully. It seems to work.

But what do you do when it is clear as day that the other one is at fault? My problem is that I only think of what I should have said, half an hour after the event. My mind does not run on real time.

My trick is to be prepared in advance. I do a lot of phoning organisations, public agencies and call centres. Not for a living, you understand, but because my life seems to be full of a hundred niggling things that need to be put right. Call centres of course, are by far the least pleasant experience. This is because people who work at them are stupid, or they could not care less, or they do not have a grasp of basic English or English culture. And quite often, they routinely lie. Examples are legion, but recent ones include our bank, who, having been informed of Mrs Weasel's trip to Moldova (I suspect they did not have a clue where Moldova was) made sure that her debit card would not pay her hotel bill.) Fortunately, we had pre-empted this possibility by carrying cash, but as you see, their lips move, they say all the right things, and then nothing happens. In another instance, I had a personal apology from the said bank because "unfortunately, one of our operatives fell short of our high standards of customer care." He actually told me a lot of lies.

Recently, there was a reported case of a woman at a supermarket check-out who was refused service by the check-out operator because she was on her phone at the time. People who work at these places aren't robots - though they may feel like it. Ignoring them while they do their job, scanning your stuff, shows contempt. It shows that you are too busy, too important to give them the time of day.

There is a balance to be had in our human transactions. "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." It's a reasonable aphorism to go by.

In other news, it has been a bad week for me. Dr Weasel has been away on one of her foreign jaunts, I have partially lost a front tooth and have had to have an extraction of my wisdom tooth. This is going to cost me £500 to have repaired properly, even at NHS rates. I ruined Ten quid's worth of steak by accidentally leaving it out of the freezer and the car is a collection of must-do jobs. I also seem to have had more than the usual number of opportunities to screw up online transactions, and then finding that the remedies were non-existent. There really are a lot of very badly written websites out there.

Well, never mind. I shall spend the weekend in the company of Jack, Jim and Johnny, take in an F1 Grand Prix and get into some good books. Funnily enough, I am feeling quite chipper!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Miliband leaves a suicide note

You wonder about suicide notes. I have written a few in my head but I never get past the bit where you offer advice/excuses/reasons for the terminal action, to those nearest and dearest. In the end, you think the better of it and live.

Not so, Ed Milliband. He's not only written the note, he's had a lot of help writing it and it seems he cannot go back. I am talking about his announcements at this year's Labour conference. Now, conferences are not real events. They are as staged as the wrestling bouts between Kendo Nagasaki and Giant Haystacks used to be. But this one was different.

Milliband announced that, should Labour gain power at the next election, they will freeze energy bills for two years. It is not often that I read something and find that I am truly astonished. The immediate effect of this announcement caused shares in Centrica and others to go into meltdown. One Hundred Million pounds was wiped off their value and another firm saw a similar dip. On top of that, the energy firms are threatening to pull out of Britain altogether. That image, that seminal image of Neil Kinnock and the light bulb came into my mind. What were they thinking?

The utilities in this country, for the benefit of our colonial friends, are privately owned. It means that they operate in a free-market, at least as much as Brussels will let them. Whatever Milliband's strategy is called, it is in reality a return to a Command Economy.

Those who do not study their history are condemned to relive it. Command Economies do not work. It is not difficult to see the history or to take heed of it.

The reason that Labour's stance on this will fail is simple. Today's economic news should be a good signal, but in case anybody is in doubt, the politicians  are not in charge. Business is in charge of this country. What do you think all those Bilderberg meetings are about? The economy of the Western World is more powerful than any individual country, including Germany. How else would you get the kind of madness, the dead parrot of the European Union, propping up Greece, Spain and Italy? They did it to save their own skin.

For all we know, Centrica could bundle Mr Miliband into the back of a Cessna Citation and fly him to Cuba, where he could simply disappear. They certainly have the money and the contacts. But no. Miliband has shot himself. The money and influence will start pouring in (if it already hasn't) to ensure that Labour does not gain the upper hand in 2015. It's not democratic, and neither is it in the spirit of democracy, but it is better than a return to the days of Stalin.

Friday, 20 September 2013

A good day to bury bad news?

Biteback Publishing has launched the memoirs of Damien McBride and it is being serialised in The Daily Mail. I am sure the book is fascinating, but it will not tell us what we don't know already; that Labour spin doctors are evil lying bastards.

Nigel Farage has just given an address to the UKIP party conference that will be played over and over in years to come. There is nothing in it that he hasn't said before and he was sweating like a fish, but he dissected the dishonesty and the big lie at the heart of LibDem/Tory/Labour policy towards Europe with coruscating clarity; that is, the obvious fact that none of the above will give Britain a choice on Europe.
No politician smells of roses, Nigel included, but if the Damien McBride memoir does anything, it should reveal the profoundly vile state of mainstream politics.
No sane person can accept this way of governance. Nobody can excuse Gordon Brown for first ruining the country and second, employing a corps of myrmidons to do his dirty work.
I very much hope that Damien is yesterday's bad news.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

What's funny?

Mrs Weasel has bee giggling insanely in another room. Upon closer investigation this turned out to be the source of merriment:

http://terriblerealestateagentphotos.tumblr.com/

I don't laugh very often but this was an exception - tears, choking, giggling and involuntary evacuation of the bowels. The guy is a genius. I would contact him and ask to show a pic, but he's on something called tumblr (not a recreational party drug).

Very occasionally, there's more to the internet than cats and porn.

Time for a bit of personal anecdotal. I am not drinking. This is purely involuntary, down to me taking an antibiotic that carries dire warnings about mixing it with alcohol. It's all due to a wisdom tooth which I shall probably have removed on Thursday. Now, there has been a side-effect, and I am not sure if it is the lack of booze or the drug. I have been having really weird, graphic dreams. They are too strange to record here, but one of them involved going to see a show full of chorus boys and as we left the theatre, Mrs Weasel broke down in tears in the emergency stair well and confessed to having a "fancy grope". I awoke at that point so never got to hear the full confession, or indeed, a definition.

I have been toying with e-cigs. Last time I mentioned this the blog got spammed by people trying to flog them, so, if you are reading this Mr Spammer, just bugger off. The problem with e-cigs is not the experience but the paraphernalia. It all appears to be made in China and is consequently programmed to fall to pieces, leaving goo everywhere. If you are interested at all in the idea of e-cigs, it is best that you avoid watching demonstrations on YouTube because they all appear to have been recorded by people you will soon see on the news, along with a statement from the Mayor and the Chief of Police telling everyone to keep calm and lock their doors. The only person I have seen using them is me and frankly, I feel a bit self-conscious and liable to offer my services as a menacing henchman.

I still get amazed at the way garages up here refuse to spend my money. I have asked them to look at the air-con three times at three different places. "Cost too much - and anyway we are in Scotland. What would you be wanting it for?" The question always leaves me feeling guilty, guilty in particular of being a poofy Englishman who does not understand the value of fresh air and damp underpants.




Monday, 16 September 2013

Fear and Phobia in DC

I try not to do knee-jerk reaction posts. Having just learned of the shootings in Washington, however, it perhaps is ok to think about the wider implications of such events.

Let's deal with some of the patellar reflex material.

Always there is a debate about gun control, whether or not citizens have the right to bear arms. There is no real answer to this because, if you live in Switzerland it is compulsory and if you live in the United Kingdom it is illegal. Even the continent of Europe is at odds with itself. The American model goes back to England also, where at various times, it was illegal, or a right or a duty. Nobody seems to be able to make their minds up about it and it seems down to whoever wields the most power and influence. In the case of the US, it is currently, as I understand it, the National Rifle Association.
In other words, any debate about gun control, borne out of tragedies like this is somewhat pointless. What is required is a global mindset and an understanding of the relationship between the state and the individual. If you take away the right of self-defence you must put a safety net in place. One that works.

The second knee jerk reaction is to the usual suspects. It became clear that the Boston bombings were done under the umbrella of Islam. The fugitive Tsarnaev scrawled on the bloodied boat where he made his last stand,

“We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all” and “Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said [unintelligible] it is allowed,”

As yet the information on the identity of the Washington attackers is scant. One is described as white, another black. They were apparently dressed in para-military garb.

Again, the knee-jerk reaction, of making connections which currently do not exist,  does not really address the long term effect of American foreign or domestic policy, it merely provides ammunition for people who look, in these terrible times, for scapegoats.

The third kind of knee jerk reaction is perhaps a personal one. People get scared. As I write this a considerable sector of the Capitol is in lock-down. The disruption is incalculable. People have been advised to stay in their homes and lock their doors. All that can really be said of this is that the actual risk of coming face to face with one of the perpetrators in a city of about 600,000 is minimal and the risk as such is rather less than being shot in a regular hold-up in DC.

So how should people react? Whenever there is a multiple killing, whether it is a dozen or thousands, the reaction is I think, down to a societal feeling that they have been corporately and jointly assaulted. Essentially, apart from the friends and families of the bereaved, these events are an assault on values and perceptions we have. They are an assault on our imaginary sense of well-being.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

John Bellany - As I knew him

On Wednesday, 28th September, 2013, John Bellany, the Scottish artist died "clutching a paintbrush as he took his final breath." (You can read the rest in The Scotsman)

The BBC showed a documentary, directed by one of his own sons. It is well worth watching, but it gives little away about the nature of his work and just tantalizing glimpses into his methods. Bellany said, "If a painting must have anything, it must have intensity". Certainly, if you know his work, you can see the proof of this. The caveat is that there is probably not one painting of his that I could ever bear to have on my wall.

There may of course be another reason why I am not, let's say, sympathetic to his work.

I knew John Bellany. He was my personal tutor at art college in 1972/3. During term time I would see him more or less every day and more or less every day he would arrive very late, drunk and disorderly. If we were lucky, he would simply disappear with a bottle into his tiny office and we could get on with painting. But occasionally he would give us the benefit of his drunken rage. He once lifted me against a wall and threatened to beat me up. I learnt nothing from the man, partly because I was still in my teens and not that teachable, but mainly because he was unable or unwilling or both to share any of his talent with us. He was a violent yob and his contribution to the education of young artists, at least during that period, was to primarily de-motivate and distress. By his own admission, he was a bastard.

I find it personally sickening that someone who spent most of his life making the lives of others a misery (see what his family have said on record) that there should now be an outpouring of sentimentality about him now that he is dead.

As strange as it is sometimes in life, decades later I moved to Scotland to live, about five miles from Bellany's hometown of Port Seton. On the occasional visit there the memories would come flowing back, of a young man, quite confused and at sea emotionally, being abused by an arrogant, violent drunkard.

I did not complete my course at Art College and left after a year. My life up to that point had been damaged by my father, also a violent drunken alcoholic. He had long gone, but those days in the art room were no different. Only the actors had changed, not the characters. It was too much for me to bear.

Bellany leaves a legacy of work that is prolific, intense and individual, but it will never atone for the people whose lives he damaged and whose hopes he destroyed.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

"Human Rights".. the new name for "I'm Taking the Piss"

They did it with Marathon bars
They did it with Opel Fruits
The even did it with Mr Dog.

And now..

"Human Rights"..the new name for "I'm taking the piss".

The lefty darlings have been at it this week with a vengeance. The lovely Shami Chakrabarti, Paul Mason and a few others, this week writing about "Human Rights".

Shami is celebrating 60 years of the European Convention on Human Rights - she opines,

it has proved an essential check on oppressive and arbitrary government throughout Europe. In Britain it's given us our very own bill of rights – the Human Rights Act.

Yes, and it has given us Abu Qatada, Somali rapists who get to stay, murderers being given a vote, and traveling people who appear to circumvent our planning laws at will, among a lot of other travesties of this law. As for arbitrary government, all government is arbitrary, especially that which emanates from an unelected body such as the European Commission.

Paul Mason is crying real tears about Sub-Saharan Africans, self-confessed economic migrants who are roughed up a bit when they arrive in Morocco. He tells us the EU are ignoring human rights of illegal migrants. Well, Paul, the clue is in the word, "illegal".

My comment on the thread, in the Guardian (surprise) was as follows, and like most of the comments, they were not sympathetic:

Most of these people do not belong in Europe. They neither understand our culture, nor do they wish to accommodate our culture. Already, immigration is causing mayhem in places like Boston in Lincolnshire and that's just the ones who the EU force us to have.
This kind of migration is made illegal to protect our way of life. That is OUR human right.

It currently shows 198 "recommends" and tends to sum up the feelings of the majority.
So even Guardian readers can see the absurdity of it. Mason is of course a senior BBC journalist and a screaming lefty. He accused commenters on the thread of reacting "viscerally and emotionally". I would react viscerally and emotionally to illegal, dirty, ignorant and potentially violent people living on my doorstep. The irony is, I could do nothing to remove them. It's their human right to make my life a misery.

People like this are playing the human rights thing like a Stradivarius. It's Human Rights, the new name for "I'm taking the piss".

There is a subtext to this rant, and I believe a very important one. There is a new feeling about, a feeling that is ditching political correctness and getting real about the abuses brought about by a woolly, left-leaning liberal elite. The concept of PC is dying. The new Zeitgeist is a slow burning fuse that will ignite reaction and revolution, albeit a probably a democratic one. Syria is perhaps a paradigm. A massive majority of the people of this country did not want involvement in a country of whom we don't understand, nor do we wish to accommodate its culture. We are not the world's policemen. It is clear to me that Syria is about maintaining trade balances; something that is of major benefit to the EU and the rest of the global elite. It is certainly not instinctively humanitarian, because it is arbitrary and opportunistic in a world where there are too many injustices to fight.

I am beginning to see a backlash. It is the voice of the ordinary people who are no longer fooled by leaders who exist to lie and deceive. I see that even the BBC is holed below the waterline and cannot continue to make a case for its funding, based upon extortion and menaces.

I see the likes of Paul Mason becoming objects of ridicule in decades to come, their redundant Marxist ramblings a mere dot in history.

We did not need a convention on human rights to understand what is right and wrong. It is only because those who hold sway have decided there is no right and wrong and no absolute truth that we have had years of arbitrary and contradictory messages from them. In the end, they will dissolve in a puff of their own warped logic. And it will have been a long time coming.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Syria vote: nobody's a winner

Nobody "won" the Commons vote tonight. The killing will continue, and would have continued if the result had been different. But their have been some surprise victories.

Even a dwarf fares better on the shoulders of giants. That is Ed Miliband. Tonight, with Milliband leading the vote to head off intervention in Syria, he has joined the ranks of those whose moment in history will be remembered for some time.

Don't get me wrong, hitherto I had no impression of him. As Churchill once said; "An empty cab pulled up in Downing Street, and Clement Attlee got out of it. You might have said the same of Ed Milliband.

One other person should get the thanks for the vote against war. Tony Blair - the legacy of Iraq just keeps on giving.

As for the United States of America..

Some of us sniggered a bit when Obama was hailed as the Messiah, on his election.
The BBC's John Simpson cooed,
The United States has seen the biggest transformation in its standing in the world since the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in November 1960..But there are times when it (the hype) is entirely true. With Barack Obama's victory, one of these moments has arrived. As an African-American (literally, since his father was from Kenya) his background is not one of privilege and superiority. He will be open to the world in a way President Bush never was. And he will show once again the value of the American dream. In the rush to war in 2003, when many American politicians were frightened to stand out against the crowd, Barack Obama condemned the invasion loudly and publicly.
The fact that he has been elected president is his reward for that. And everyone around the world who felt that the Iraq war was wrong will feel that America has now chosen a different path - a path that leads away from extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, waterboarding and all the rest of it.
Yes, and there is a Santa Claus after all. And the BBC are just as complicit in this obscene deception as the politicians.

So all in all, perhaps we can sleep a little easier tonight, but it is of little comfort to the  many Syrians are going to suffer and die.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Interlude

I am taking a break from blogging for a bit. Real life has overtaken me, such as gardening and other people. It's actually all pleasant stuff, but it needs attention.

Trawling through the news and comments in the MSM, I am depressed by the level of the debate. I like to think I am even-handed, but the Guardian comments are perhaps the most rabid and bigoted of the lot. Most of the commenters are sheep-like in their ever-decreasing race to be the most right-on and most hate-filled and nihilistic. The Telegraph is barely better and the Mail, well, just does not bear thinking about.

We seem to be on the brink of another war, so I shall stick to the gardening and wait a bit until things become a little clearer.

best wishes

WW

Friday, 16 August 2013

Weasel's Weekend World

There is a post-script to my post below about the Western Isles and it is about the people. There is an inner strength and a lack of fear about them that is both fascinating and difficult to pin down. I suppose it is born out of generations whose main preoccupation was staying alive. We were walking in a small village and came across some stray chickens. Being keen chicken fans and having spent ten year's keeping the little dears, we investigated further and discovered a little lad of about 8 or so who seemed intent on rounding them up. "Would you like to stroke one of them?" he asked us. With that, he picked on up and gave it a cuddle.

The mantle of anonymity is something that cyberspace must come to terms with. I am quite shocked at the excess it encourages, usually along the lines of some pretty disgusting comments. I don't suppose I am the only one who is shocked by the rotten core of our fellow humans who seem to think that it is ok to threaten violence and scatter obscenities.

I have been blogging for almost a decade and I can say that I have tried to ensure that I have the courage of my comments. I cannot think of any post where I was not prepared to back it up with facts or in person. Sure, I have expressed my opinions, and often forcefully. I have also said things that, upon reflection, were best left unsaid, but I was lucky because I was a trained journalist and the habit of fact-checking and a nod to the libel laws, not to mention a distaste for verbal abuse have helped me to do what I do without hurting people. Oddly enough, one of my favourite blogs was The Devil's Kitchen. It no longer exists now, but it was probably the swearyist blog in the Universe, full of vitriol, piss and vinegar. But it made a kind of point in a way which never offended me or anybody reasonably thick skin. The point of it was to vent spleen in a very targeted and clever way. It never descended to nihilism. Its author probably got tired of it, but also, as I recall, realised that he was too well known in real life and had to either tone it down or pack it in. He was not really the personification of the Devil, more a kind of Malcolm Tucker, a modern Thersites. He is missed.

Gibralter interests me. It is one of those issues which always brings out people who pick a point in time, any point in time, and try to justify their arguments by claiming that that point in time is the one by which the current problem should be viewed. The flaws are obvious; perhaps we should claim compensation from the Roman Empire because they scarred our landscape with unwanted building projects that we now have to maintain at tax-payer's expense. I would shut up about it if I got a Lamborghini Aventador and a villa in Capri by way of reparations.


We have been told recently to get used to decades of blistering heat-wave summers. The blistering heat wave summer up here lasted under two weeks and the thermometer never went above 25c. I can barely get out to mow the lawn between showers.


Nigel Farage, feared by the bad, loved by the good..(Oh sorry, that's Robin Hood). He is the man with a pint and a fag. Cameron and Eggy Milliband have a lot to learn from him. After all, who of the three can you most identify as an actual human?

Album of the week: Bakerloo, the eponymous. An often overlooked piece that came out on Harvest at the tail-end of the Sixties. This Worried Feeling is a Blues gem.


Monday, 12 August 2013

Life on the edge of nowhere


I have just come back from the Outer Hebrides - the Western Isles if you will.

It's a terrible place; wind and rain scour what's left of the vegetation from the ugly rock. Dead cars, dead houses and dead dishwashers line the roads, as if Armageddon had come last week. It's a tree-less tundra, sodden with peat and moss. The roads don't often run to two lanes. Instead, there is a series of passing places, sometimes a dozen or so in a half-mile stretch. (Why don't they just build two lanes?)

When someone leaves a house on Uist, they don't knock it down, but they were so badly built that a few years of neglect ensures their descent back to the rubble from which they came. Some got electricity in the 1970s. Some residents had running water, too. They made their own fun until television came along and until then the custom was to have visitors from day to day who would sit and talk the hours away. That doesn't happen anymore, according to one man of my age who was born there.

Nothing extraneous can be seen. It is devoid of visual culture, a testament to the (until recently) subsistence living. Townies from London sometimes move there and decide to paint and make sculptures. The results are mostly very good renditions of not a lot.

When the sun shines, which it did on one day of our week, it is possible to be lost on a three-mile beach of white sand, gently nudged by a turquoise sea. Stuck in the dunes, about half way up on one such beach, there was a rusting Citroen 2CV.

It is life in the raw; no wonder the monks liked it. Because the march of progress and IKEA has left the islands behind, there are a large number of prehistoric monuments and earth works. Standing stones and burial chambers, left, like the houses that nobody needs anymore.


The people, as you might imagine, are insular and obsessed with what each other are doing. An incomer does not really stand a chance. The standard type of entertainment is drinking at home (The few pubs are devoid of all but the most unsavoury locals), gossiping and watching TV. On the latter, I was told that it goes on for breakfast and stays on, all day, until bedtime. Few do any gardening for, there are no gardens. Homes stand as if stuck like houses on a monopoly board, clinging to the rocks for dear life. Most range from functional to just ugly.

There is a kind of myth that some communities close the swings on Sunday. Well. some shops close and the churches seem to be stuck in the 19th century and a care nurse we met told us that she was advised against cutting an old man's fingernails on a Sunday, since it was non-essential. We saw washing out on a Sunday. Curiously it appeared to be a mixed weekly bag of two towels, two pairs of knickers and some shirts. Washing goes on the line in all weathers and stays there until it dries. Perhaps only the prostitutes put their washing out on Sundays as a kind of signal - short skirts, co-ordinating clothes and make up seem to be out of the question.

A word about food. It is over-priced, but some of it is very good. If you want beef that actually tastes like beef, or crab claws that taste of the sea, there is no better place in the UK. But on the whole the Western Isles don't really get tourism. It is no place for sophisticated tastes or dependence on modern technology. Sure, you can get TV and the internet, and a phone signal, but not always.

Why did I go? To see for myself and to have a change. I'm curious. I am also spoiled; I am used to things like planning permissions and garbage regulations and Marks and Spencer and soft toilet wipes. Suddenly finding myself on an island that resembled a social housing project was a shock.

If, however, you truly want to be alone, to shun civilisation give up most of its comforts and culture and become one with the Universe, the Earth and Donovan, then The Outer Hebrides is for you. But don't forget; it rains most of the time and most of your meditations will be soggy ones.



Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Bradley Manning, traitor

I wonder how many people will recognise the name of William Joyce? Otherwise known as Lord Haw Haw, Joyce was a British Fascist who fled to Germany and broadcast throughout the war, mainly with the intention of demoralizing his British listeners. At the end of the war, Joyce was captured near Flensburg and returned to England to stand trial for treason.

It is worth putting his final words here:

In death as in life, I defy the Jews who caused this last war, and I defy the power of darkness which they represent. I warn the British people against the crushing imperialism of the Soviet Union. May Britain be great once again and in the hour of the greatest danger in the West may the standard be raised from the dust, crowned with the words – "You have conquered nevertheless". I am proud to die for my ideals and I am sorry for the sons of Britain who have died without knowing why.

Joyce was unrepentant and believed he'd done the right thing but there was nobody around on the day he was hanged to support him in his claim. Regardless of what Joyce believed, he had aided the enemy in a time of war.

And so to Bradley Manning, by all accounts a feckless and unstable character who managed to gain access to the kinds of things that governments prefer to keep secret.

The basic inequality of justice in the civilized Western world is pretty much beyond doubt. The fact that Bush and Blair et al have not been arrested and charged with war crimes is a travesty. Global elites evade their day in court with seeming impunity on the whole and it is only the little people who take the rap. But that is a separate issue and should have no bearing on this case.

We have armies to provide security for each and every one of us and the people who are entrusted with our security pledge to do their duty. The only exception to this is complicity in war crimes.

The damage done by Manning to national security is barely imaginable. It is obvious that every potentially malign security service gained information that will hurt us. The Russians, the Chinese and a whole bunch of others will have spent months analyzing the data. I wonder how many readers think that giving them a significant intelligence advantage is a good thing? The irony of it all is that Edward Snowdon has fled to a country which routinely imprisons and executes detractors.

Bradley Manning is clearly an unstable and needy character. He should never have been recruited and under no circumstances have been given access to anything more sensitive than the mess-room luncheon menu. He is a perfect example of what happens when basic discipline breaks down and it is potentially catastrophic.

You can argue the fine philosophical nuances; you may believe that armies are wrong. You may believe that the apparatus of Western Democracy is wrong.You can argue all you like about the "truth" coming out and who's the baddie in all of this, but anybody who jeopardizes national security and gives advantage to potential enemies, is a traitor.



Friday, 26 July 2013

Motown - Nowhere to Run

You may wonder why I am interested in the City of Detroit, which is currently hoping to file for bankruptcy. You can get the basics of the situation here:

http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-krauthammer-detroit-bankruptcy-warning-to-co-20130725,0,4353676.column

It's a paradigm of what happens when a left-leaning, liberal hegemony flies in the face of facts. "It speaks to a sad state of affairs for American progressivism." as one Detroit citizen said. For years, Detroit has been racked by corruption. A former Mayor is due to be spending a long time in jail; it's once mighty automotive industry destroyed by mafioso union bosses like Jimmy Hoffa. The movie, Blue Collar (1978) was a gritty vignette of the vile reality in Motown. It was not nice.

On the ground, in reality of today, the dismal statistics include the 60% of children who are living in poverty. Violent crime is the highest in any US City. Retired public employees stand to lose their pensions. This wealth has been plundered by state-sponsored gangsters. The whites have fled.

The extent of Detroit’s white flight is staggering. In 1950, there were 1.6 million whites living in Detroit. By 2000, 1.5 million of them had left. In that same time, the black population more than doubled. Consequently, Detroit’s population has been more than 80 percent African American for decades.  (Sam Butler, Detroit Urban Planner)

The city leaders, I suppose, had hoped that this town would become a kind of totem for Black entrepreneurialism, but it didn't happen. At least not in the good sense.

In a world where mobility is the preserve of the wealthy, those that could followed the money, out of Detroit.

Well, I don't suppose it will happen here. We aren't stupid. Occasionally you get a leader in public life whose methods and tactics are questionable, but on the whole they tend to be political prats rather than greedy prats. Not only that, we live in close proximity to the kind of poverty and despair that the UK must squarely face as a whole nation if it is to remain creditworthy. If there is a warning from Detroit it is this:

We live on a small Island. There is Nowhere to Run.



Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Just another lunatic day

It did not start well. I got lost on the way to a hospital appointment. (It's me skin, doctor)

On the way there I noticed a hitchhiker. I didn't like the look of him and I was late so I didn't stop. On the way back from the hospital (They couldn't have been nicer, but the place smelled of school dinners) I saw another hitchhiker. He was probably in his late fifties or early sixties and I thought, "Why not?" The following is a record of part of the conversation, or rather, rant that I endured during the longest 20 minutes of my life:

Thank you, thank you.

Where are you going? 

Just to Haggisburn. I'm in the Royal Fusiliers and I get out on January 9th

That's good. Have any plans?

I'm in the Royal Fusiliers and I get out on January 9th. I am in the army and I have been in the Navy as well. You are English, aren't you?

Yes I am, but I have lived in Scotland for ten years.

But you are English. We could start a formula one team with a Renault Engine. You are English and you could contact somebody in Formula One. I'm in the Royal Welsh. I get out on January 9th.

Not really. I don't know anybody in Formula One, but I wish I did.

Do you know anything about engines? Are you bright You look as if you can handle yourself?

(The guy is twice my size)

Well, I'm OK.

We get a formula one team. Renault Engines. I used to be in the Police and then Scottish and Newcastle Breweries. Do you like beer? Do you know McEwen's Export?

Yes, I like beer and I drink McEwen's

What's McEwan's?

It's a beer.

So you know Nigel Mansell?

I wish I did, but I don't.

But you are English. You could get Nigel Mansell and start a Formula One team with Renault Engines. So, you are going to put me in touch with Nigel Mansell?

I don't know him. Do you, erm, like Haggisburn?

It's where I live. We are just coming into it now.

Oh good. Oh, good.

Monday, 22 July 2013

I wonder, with the arrival of Baby Windsor, (a boy born yesterday at 4.24 pm) what kind of world he will inhabit as an adult. First, I am pleased that both mother and baby are well. I am not interested in debates about the monarchy, because, let's face it, the monarchy is a quaint anachronism or, perhaps, a great source of national identity and pride at a push. The monarchy today is a symbol of our democratic evolution. Close studies of it throughout the centuries must show that we have matured as a democracy through years of bloody battles and a great deal of national heart-searching. We are what we are as a nation, due in part to our system of kingship. Our culture is predicated on the whims of former Monarchs. And of course today our Queen is Head of State, but in name only. I would not abolish it because it is a reference to our past, and perhaps, still an important one. It is after all a symbol of national unity.

This child will possibly not even enjoy the latter designation. He may be subsumed into the maelstrom of interpersonal babble, mediated by the internet, and in doing so, join the many simulacra and impressionistic memes that underpin our current reality.

On the other hand there may be a renaissance of real life and a rejection of most of the stuff that plays out daily in our overcrowded lives.

I was at a county show at the weekend. These take place all over the country and it is a great opportunity to show off the fat of the land; the cattle and sheep, the alpacas and the John Deere buggies that all real men harbour a desire for. It's a magnet for small entrepreneurs and table top businesses. I counted four sellers of hand-made soap.

Why buy hand made soap when you can get it at the supermarket where is is cheap and in an unbelievable number of options? Because it appeals to our sense of individuality and our need to make real choices.

As we hurtle at light speed into this 21st Century, it seems to me that what young baby Windsor will crave, like the rest of us, is less, not more. I hope that my children, and their children, will abandon the instant consumerism and immature use of web technology and the access to worlds that they cannot alter or join. Yes, they may do their online shopping for bread and butter. They may occasionally consult the oracle for directions, but perhaps, with the coming of age of the www, they will consign it to a shelf or a corner table. Perhaps, the need for human experience will cause them to yearn for their own reality, one that is grounded elementally and spiritually.

Perhaps, if you could walk into someone's room in fifty years' time you might be astounded at the monastic simplicity of a 2060's lifestyle. I hope so.


Thursday, 18 July 2013

Efterklang

Something for the weekend, then.

I have to credit Young Master Weasel for the tip on Efterklang. Efterklang are a Danish band. My immediate reaction was, "Sigur Ros meets Philip Glass after hearing "Modern Drift". However, they have a distinctive sound of their own and I suspect you will be hearing a lot more about them if there is any justice in this world.

They seem to do some gigs with established full concert orchestras. Well sometimes they do. I have always been a bit wary of that sort of thing because it usually shows the band up to be a bit duff. However, in the case of the Klangs, it works!

For those who can make it this weekend, they are appearing at the Latitude Festival, and I will get a full report from YMW, along with some info on Richard Thompson and Kraftwerk.

So here's a video. When it starts, you might think, "hang on, it's Noggin the Nog!:

EFTERKLANG - The Ghost - Official Video from Rumraket on Vimeo.

You can find another goodie at:

http://youtu.be/skFIn0wpIew



Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Independence Day

All continental waiters have a duty, bound with with an oath of the very serious kind, not unlike those of the Knights Templars or the Waffen SS, to chat up any female who enters their restaurant. It is a solemn duty, involving flattery, inquiry and the oblique suggestion of casual sex.

Women expect it and their men feel rather upset if they don't. Women expect, and should expect to be admired and lusted after. It is their duty and their privilege. Since I live in Scotland, there is always a problem with this. If some drunken Glaswegian were to come up to me and slur "Are you looking at my wife?" There is no good answer. If you answer in the affirmative, you get a Glasgow kiss. If you answer in the negative, you get, "Why not? Don't you think she is attractive?"

I recall a few years back that I took my daughter to a very good French Restaurant. I know this restaurant well and the head waiter and I are on good terms. Of course, he was charming to my daughter and a proper gentleman. She was probably 17 years old at this point and very sensitive to her looks and attractiveness. My head waiter friend, as I said, was charming to her, but very, very proper. Too proper. In the end I made up a little bit of business about the waiter and how he had told me how beautiful my daughter was and how he asked questions about her. It seemed to do the trick at a time when young Miss Weasel needed a bit of self-esteem.

So, we jump to today. Today, Mrs Weasel is in Vienna on a mission vital to the security of this country. She dined alone tonight at an Italian restaurant in the Capital. As you would expect, the Italian waiter chatted her up. All Italian waiters chat females guest up. It is not only their duty; they do it because they are Italian and because Silvio Berlusconi says its alright.

So the conversation goes on and the Italian waiter says that Mrs Weasel reminds him of a famous English (sic) singer. Could it be Florence Welch? Could it be Adele? (No, she's slimmer than Adele) Could it be Dido?

(Clearly, he is doing well and it looks as if Mrs Weasel will melt into the Limoncello.)

Then he says, "Yes, you are like that famous English (sic) singer, Susan Boyle." Of course, he has totally ruined it. Not only that, I must now fly to Austria and smash his face in. For the record, Mrs Weasel looks nothing like Susan Boyle and I know for a fact that she bleached her moustache before she left.

As for my daughter, today is a special day. This is the day that she can legally marry the person she loves, who happens to be a woman. The wedding, for that is what we can now call it, is next year.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Trident - It's MAD

One of my all-time favourite movie scenes is the "Greed is Good" speech, by Gordon Gekko, in "Wall Street". It is worth repeating here:

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.

You might wonder what this has to do with the issue of our Nuclear "deterrent", Trident, and a recent letter to the news, signed by former Defense secretaries and chiefs of staff. But please bear with me.

The essence of the letter is this:

In an uncertain world in which the number of nuclear weapons remains high and some states are increasing their holdings, we should not take risks with our security by downgrading to a part-time deterrent.
We cannot possibly foresee what threats will develop over the next 30 years. Reducing our submarine-based Trident capability would weaken our national security for the sake of a very small fraction of the defence budget. It is our view that if Britain is to remain a leading global power with strong defences, nothing less than a continuous at-sea deterrent will do.

The words "if Britain is to remain a leading global power" jumped out at me and it seems to me that this is the breathtaking anomaly in the argument; we are no longer a global power and we have no coherent foreign policy that will back up such an illusion.

How did we achieve global power in the first place? What sense does it make now?

I refer you to Mr Gekko. The power house of Britain's conquest was, to put it crudely, greed. The colonies were dominated by entrepreneurs and adventurers. They were protected and policed by what became the greatest sea power in the world and I for one don't condemn that. If it hadn't been us, it would have been the French, or the Spanish, or the Dutch.

Would that we could send Her Majesty's Navy to quell and control the excesses of the Brussels bureaucrats. Would that we could send a gun boat to police Gibralter and shoot a few Spaniards while we are at it. Would that we could Invade Rhode Island and take the USA back into British hands.

The point is that business is no longer conducted by gunship. Admiral Nelson was a hero of his time. Today, he would be the head of a multi-national corporation, or the IMF or maybe if we were lucky, Prime Minister. It is a certainty that, had he joined the Royal Navy today, nobody would ever hear about him.

Aggression, for want of a better word, is conducted in two ways - it is either ideological and nihilistic or it is financial, global and nihilistic. And we can control neither. We certainly cannot control them with the use of Nuclear Weapons.

Britain still appears to operate on a 19th Century model of Foreign Policy when it comes to defense. While pretending to maintain the remnant of a viable fighting force, it has ignored internal security and allowed the enemy to penetrate from within. The threats to our security from abroad come from our meddling in the affairs of countries whose culture we do not understand, together with a woeful lack of clearly defined Foreign policy.

The forces of "greed", the global economy, is impervious to nuclear attack. It thrives on being able to sell and exploit, and there is not much point in taking out your customers. As for the others, the tin-pot dictators and the rogue states, they too are impervious to the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction because they are either deeply indoctrinated by some ideology or they are mad, or they are evil. There can be no doubt that the wounded leader of a country like North Korea would press the nuclear button if he realised that his own life was over. Hitler would have done it and so would Saddam Hussein if he had had the mythical WMD.

And the last fact is the crux of the argument. We were sent to war with Iraq on the word of a politician who lied and fluffed up the reasons to go to war. Why should we believe them now?


Friday, 12 July 2013

I can believe it's not Rock and Roll

There's a food product in the UK called "I can't believe it's not butter". Apart from a hugely crap name, I sort of wonder why anybody in their right mind would want a butter substitute that pretended to be butter. You can get plenty of good alternative spreads - mainly made up of olive oil. You can also get butter with a bit of oil in it so that you can spread it straight from the fridge.

But no, you have something called "I can't believe it's not butter". Oh, you of little faith. Believe! It isn't butter.It is: Water,Vegetable Oils ,Modified Starch ,Salt (1.5%) ,Buttermilk (1%) ,Emulsifiers: Mono and Di Glycerides of Fatty Acids ,Sunflower Lecithin ,Preservative: Potassium Sorbate ,Citric Acid ,Flavouring ,Vitamin E ,Colour: Beta-Carotene ,Vitamins A & D.

And neither is Mumford and Sons, by any stretch of the imagination, Rock and Roll. And yet, they are doing the rounds of Glastonbury, T-in-the-Park and others. Still, I can go on about them being "Coldplay with Banjos", but I came across this today and dear old Alice says it better than I ever could:

Thursday, 11 July 2013

E Cigs etc

I have to explain; I gave up cigarettes during my first marriage and for pretty much most of my second. (That's about 17 years in the latter case). However, having said that the lure of nicotine has not really left me, so I have of late dabbled with E Cigs.

The first thing you need to know about "Vaping" (Sounds cool but rhymes with "raping") is that it has already spawned a very hard core culture. Just look on You Tube and you will understand what I mean. There are lots of very elaborate videos that will explain how to vape, what to vape and how exactly to get the best "throat hit". I am not kidding.

So anyway, after dabbling with a few throwaway e-cigs, which by the way are terrible, I have taken the plunge and ordered a kit. This kit looks like the kind of thing that Jason Bourne would have. The fact that it delivers nicotine in precise quantities is almost irrelevant because it consists of many parts that resemble a bomb-making kit. Goodness knows what happens if you try and take one of these on board an aircraft.

Well, I will let you know what happens and how I get on.

The other thing that interested me this week is the report that somebody (?) has complained about the movie "The Railway Children", on the basis that it may encourage children to play on railway lines. I find this baffling. If you play on railway lines, you risk getting killed. Even children understand this concept, at a very early age.

But it reminds me of a Jenny Agutter story. Years ago when I was in the Meedja I met a publicity girl. She was nice and we used to chat. I asked her out and her excuse was disappointing but very convincing. It transpired that Jenny Agutter was in London all on her own. She had flown in from the USA. My publicity friend was charged with taking Jenny Agutter out to dinner, since nobody on this planet, well at least in London, wanted to do the gig. I felt a bit sad for JA. There she was, in some posh hotel, probably to discuss a film or something, and all she had for company was a paid lackey. I never had the wherewithall to volunteer. FAIL

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Hedgy the Hedgehog

Of late I have seen a little hedgehog at the bottom of our garden. I have called him Hedgy.

He may be "nocturnal" but he tends to shuffle about most days until about midday, at which time he retires to the dense foliage on the river bank. This is the first time in my life that I have seen a live one. He is not especially worried about me and I have taken a few photos and some film of him.



And then there are the inevitable chickens - fugitives from next door whose interest in us has been aroused by our liberal sprinkling of sunflower seeds.




Monday, 8 July 2013

Count Arthur Strong

Count Arthur Strong - BBC TV

Did you see the show? What did you think?

I have just seen the first show and was prepared from the start not to like it, but watched it anyway just to see how bad it was.

Though the show was a little uneven - I don't think Barry Cryer  added anything to it particularly (His contribution somehow jarred with the internal "reality" of the show), but the cafe scenes were remarkable and very, very funny. It's full of some cleverly devised visual and verbal humour and references all sorts (I won't spoil it for you by giving the gags away.)

I think the character of Count Arthur Strong, as seen elsewhere, suffered from being on stage, naked, as it were. His stand-up stage act was a kind of slow motion car crash of ineptitude. He really needed a context; something to ground him in some sort of reality so that the slower viewers among us could get a handle on it.

Thankfully, the context created by Graham Linehan hits the spot. Like his illustrious progeny "Father Ted", CAS works because the characters are likeable and endearing. The comedy business is priceless; the "two teas" bit - just one of many running gags, puts it up there with Father Ted. The "Heineken Manoeuvre" will get played over and over on You Tube. The killer visual gag is priceless.

It kind of makes sense to me now. Some may not agree, but this is going to be up there with the greats.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

IIl considered musical gems

I have been mouthing off about the mainstream music scene, so I thought I would try and be positive and drop in a few gems that appealed to me.

First off is Doyle Bramhall ll, who can name-check more stars than rocket scientist. The name must surely be enough to get you interested, but he's played with Clapton, Elton, Billy Preston and Roger Waters, to name but a few. In addition to playing with the above, his solo work is breathtaking and reminiscent of the late and great Jimi Hendrix. It is raw, immediate rock.

Next up is Yezda Urfa. It sounds like a constellation in the galaxy, but in reality it was a 70's American Prog band. They reference a number of great progressive bands with their Nicey nods to the classical canon, some breathy, Tullian flute, some classic Yessy tube Bass and the keyboard pyrotechnics of Emerson Lake and Palmer. So, ok, the vocals are a bit patchy, but since the majority of their fantastic Debut/Demo, "Boris" is instrumental I wouldn't let that put you off. That this band is largely overlooked in the Prog canon is a scandal.

For something completely different to the above, check out The Shirts. The Shirts were a CBGB band and so it's no coincidence that they sound a bit like Blondie. Try, as a taster, "Laugh and Walk Away". It's just great, three-minute pop. They are still in business apparently.

Then there is Giant Sand. Listen to The Inner Flame. It was a collaboration with the late Rainer Ptacek. It's a very laid back, mesmeric track with a sublime lick.

These all can be found out there. I haven't provided links because, if you cannot be arsed to check them out, then it is not you I am talking to.

Eating Out

The practice of eating out is to be part of a social conspiracy; you connive with the waiter by exchanging recondite tit-bits about the wine or the source of the vanilla, you resist asking for your steak to be well done in order not to be chased out of the restaurant by a cleaver-wielding chef and (if you are a heterosexual man) you calmly and with faux casualness over-contribute to the bill in order to look in control, whilst watching the hen party at another table who are arguing about who had the prawn cocktail.
Of course, by mentioning the prawn cocktail, I have immediately given away the kind of restaurant I frequent. Fail. I'll get me coat. (Which, by the way, has cuff buttons that can be undone.)

Monday, 1 July 2013

Listen to an album like it was vinyl

That's it really:- listen to an album like it was vinyl.

It was Christmas 1971/2 and I got given Surf's Up by The Beach Boys. I think that in 1971 I probably had no more than half a dozen albums that had cost full price, most of my collection consisted of bargain-bin stuff. I can't remember how much it actually cost but it is perhaps more relevant to say that it was probably the equivalent of a day's pay. Indeed, it was more than that for me, still a school student who earned about £1.50 on Saturdays.

Bob Harris, on The Old Grey Whistle Test, had been waxing lyrical about it all summer. I liked the Beach Boys and the album sounded as if it had marked the transition from what was essentially a singles band to an album band. Well almost. Remarkably at that  point I had never heard Pet Sounds. Well, why should I? It never got played on the radio and I wasn't about to buy up the Beach Boys' back catalogue. I also had no idea about the background or the Smile debacle that sort of spawned Surf's Up. All I knew was that the BBs had done Good Vibrations and that was enough for me.



So, over 42 years later I put it on the turntable. (That's a figure of speech, like, "video".)

It's very uneven, for a start. You'll have to read elsewhere about the history of its making but sufficient to say that Brian Wilson was not a major part of the creative process and it more or less happened around him. Much of the work on the title track (the tapes lifted from a 1967 TV recording) was overdubbed. Wilson's contributions were considered to dark, even for a band that was trying to aquire some hip album credentials.

I remember liking it in total. I put that down to having invested heavily in the product, even if it was a gift. Disney Girls I liked. Student Demonstration Time I did not like. The title track blew - me - awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

The only more recent equivalent is perhaps Bohemian Rhapsody. It has that kind of operatic, impressionistic feel and is segmented and segued. It shows the amazing partnership of Wilson/Parks at its creative best.

Surf's Up was well received and generally like upon release but did not sell in huge quantities. I believe that is because the Beach Boys fan base did not understand it and the hipsters were snooty about it being the Beach Boys. Nevertheless, in contemporary production terms it was an excellent audio experience.

In many ways it fell between two stools; the fantastic and daring breadth of the title track and at the other end the derivative and doctrinaire Student Demonstration Time. None of the tracks were three minute hits.

It only lasts for 34 minutes. I was a little impatient with it to start with, but the last three tracks - all Brian Wilson songs - still worked for me after all these years. It does not equal Pet Sounds but it shows that, had the internal politics of the band been healthier, The Beach Boys could have been a lot more respected as an entity, rather than simply a backing band for Brian.

Rating then: 4/5
Now: 3/5

So, over to you. Listen to an album like it was vinyl and get back to me!

Sunday, 30 June 2013

England's green and peasant land

It should have been a strawberries and cream weekend; the Stones play Glastonbury, Lewis was on pole and an English girl makes it through to the second week of Wimbledon.

Now, I have to be honest here and risk losing readers, but firstly I have never rated Elvis or The Rolling Stones. Shortly before their virgin appearance at Pilton I listened to Paul Gambaccini's radio 2 show where he featured all the original versions of the records that the Stones covered in the early days - "You'd Better Move On", "It's All Over Now", etc. Without exception, every one of them was better than the insipid renditions by a band who for me have never really lifted themselves out of the pub circuit. (As for Elvis, just listen to "You Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog" by Big Mama Thornton and you may agree)

The internet was abuzz with opinions about the Stones' performance. Many of them agreed with me, even the die hard fans were not impressed and, horror of horrors, some people made dark suggestions that that Keef and Ronnie were being musically "augmented" by other musicians from behind a curtain.

Mick himself kind of croaked his way through the songs. Having personal experience of old rockers who still think they can sing when they reach their fifties, sixties and seventies, I would just say that Rock and Roll is a game for kids. Best leave the business or die young.

I have yet to watch the British Grand Prix, but poor Lewis appears to have had a mishap with tyres. Pirelli are clearly not flavour of the month down in the paddock.

Elsewhere, people have been lining the streets of our Isles to celebrate the contribution of our armed forces to our security and well-being. I salute them. We live freely because, freely, they gave.

So this weekend there have been a lot of bank clerks and council workers donning wellies and seeking nirvana. Of course, on Monday, having been "in touch" with their "real selves" in a field in Somerset, they will be back, making their contribution to the shittyness of our lives.


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Lizards lose Control

Last time, I wrote about the Bilderberg Group and their probable complicity in the saga that is the European Community. In the past week I have been surprised by the amount of time spent by very powerful people on trying to reel in one Edward Snowden. Snowden appears to be a mega whistle blower whose revelations have made uncomfortable but not really surprising reading. Governments are bidding for this guy. Presidents are talking about him. He's not only made the shit hit the fan, the fan has disintegrated, along with the effluent, and turned into an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

As I write, the news wires are abuzz with speculation on his whereabouts. And let's not forget that Julian Assange has a permanent surveillance cum swat team that is waiting to get him when he leaves the Embassy of Equador - currently the number one destination for the disaffected and traitorous.

In other news I read a fascinating article about Bitcoins. Now, I don't know much about Bitcoins, but they are a sort of cyber currency that is supra national and impervious to political control. This last fact is worrying the world financial institutions. I bet it is.

And of course there is pornography. The idea that governments are seeking to control something that has been scrawled on walls since pre-historic times, by curbing its presence on the www is absurd. It won't work and, why should it? What, after all is porn? Looking at naked bodies? Looking at a collection of pixels arranged in a certain way? What is intrinsically wrong about being titillated by sex? I thought that is what it is supposed to do. Perhaps the answers goes a lot deeper and has something in common with the way in which others seek to restrict what we can and cannot know.

Over all, we live in an era of extreme censorship and proscription. I cannot step out of the current narrow orthodoxy without risk to my freedom.

All this must be obvious to you. But have you any idea where this Spanish Inquisition is headed? It cannot carry on because by its own terms of reference, it will end up locking everybody up. It has even created a special category of crime, called a "hate crime". What I want to know is, since when has violence against another individual not been in part due to hatred? Personally I resent the idea that, because I am white, straight and male, if someone beats me to a pulp, the value of my injuries is somehow mitigated by my falling outside the remit for "hate". I suppose it means that sooner or later they will run out of white straight males to blame for all the ills of the world because we are all on disability benefit or dead. In Scotland, the principle of corroboration in legal cases is being abolished by the SNP after hundreds of years and with the almost unanimous opposition of Scottish lawyers. The reasons for this are, again, very telling. It is to appease the rape activists. It's a liars charter - and it is not as if false accusations of rape are unheard of. It will result in innocent men being convicted on the word of a women who wants revenge. (Not an uncommon concept).

Hope lies in the mess that the world elites are in. It is a mess of their own making; there's a former Italian PM who has finally been nailed, like Al Capone for various misdemeanors. Berlusconi has spent years playing the Italian legal system like a Stradivarious. There have been years of a blind refusal to understand the implications of Islam on Western Culture and the damage that is already done. We are committed to foreign wars that defy a rational explanation of our involvement. So much so that our own Government was complicit in lying to Parliament and lying to the British people in order to "justify" their war.
Most commentators do not think the Euro will survive for much longer. It is the mainstay of the failed Euro Odyssey, which is kept alive by political will and subterfuge.
Our Empire, once kept at arms length, is now so dismissive and scathing about our former Colonial power, is intent upon traveling, by any means possible, to join us here in Britain. Yes, we are so hated by the rest of the world, especially places like Pakistan and Somalia, that their people are flocking to this country.

And so on, but you get the picture.

It comes down to something I have said for years, over and over. Political Correctness, and its ever decreasing frame of logic, will eat itself. It cannot do otherwise because it is inherently nihilistic and intellectually deceitful.

The world elites depend upon keeping the rest of us at arms length, preferably in the dark but always, always under observance. History shows us that at times when the ruling bodies feared for their own position there was usually a repressive backlash of some kind, often accompanied with state-sponsored violence. But today the main way they control the narrative is to do just that; i.e. make it impossible, in Orwellian terms, to articulate opposition without being accused of one "ism" or "phobia" or other. I suggest you read Paulo Freire on that score, in his book, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In other words we are being controlled on the level of public discourse, to such an extent that it is virtually impossible to articulate a concept that is outwith the current orthodoxy.

Right now, one power base is competing with another for a prize, one lone maverick spy. They are fighting like cats in a cage over the last piece of meat. The spectacle of three major powers arguing over one individual is so supremely ironic and tells us a lot about the sense of entitlement and consequent outrage of an oligarchy who can no longer  guarantee to control the agenda.