Sunday, 19 December 2010
I've just read Jane Fonda's autobiography, My Life So Far and it contains some of the saddest things I've ever read. Here's part of what she writes about her initiation into the wonderful world of bulimia:
"Starting my freshman year at Emma Willard, being very thin assumed dominance over good hair in the hierarchy of what really mattered...Carol Bentley...from Toledo, Ohio,entered Emma Willard and became my best friend...Carol joined me in having major body-image issues. It was she who introduced me to bingeing and purging, what we now know as bulimia. She said the idea came to her in a class on the history of the Roman Empire. She read that the Romans would gorge themselves on food during orgiastic feasts and then put their fingers down their throats to make themselves throw it all back up and start over again. The idea of being able to eat the most fattening foods and never having to pay the consequences was very appealing.
...We assumed that we were the first people since the Romans to do this; it was our secret, and it created a titillating bond between us."
She tells, in very depressing detail, of how this practice lasted into her forties and caused massive disruption to her life, including bone breakages due to malnutrition. The theme of her self-perception as worthless, inadequate, ugly and all the other woeful cliches pervades the book. No-one could have imagined any of this from the public demeanour she maintained. She says that bulimia can, unlike anorexia, be concealed and that she managed to hide it from her closest ones.
It's often said that the hands go first in the ageing process. They can also give away the secrets of a self-starver. Regard the wrists and the back of the hands as displayed in photographs taken during that time and it's possible, once you've been told the secret, to detect the signs of it.
It's was a case of horrified fascination for me to read the story of her enslavement to this futile obsession and a reminder to any man with a speck of decency to never tell any girl that she might do well to lose some weight.
Monday, 29 November 2010
I was surprised to discover that this meal in a can is utterly bland. At best I'd call it mild chili. Others who tried it agreed that the claims on the label about its savoury "heat" were laughable. I noticed that the actual chili content was a very low percentage.
It's not unpleasant or inedible. It just ain't remotely what it's said to be. Perhaps in the USA they have less tolerance for real chili. Maybe we're just being conned. Either way, if you want roaring hot chili that'll rip the roof off - don't bother with this.
I denounce it as an overhyped disappointment
The toilet was a masterpiece of vindictive tenantry. The departed ones had given it their all, short of breaking the bowl. I figure that's on the same principle as a sniper wounding a soldier so that his comrades are burdened with him, rather than killing him outright. If there's no intact toilet bowl, the landlord can't suffer horribly as he cleans it, can he? Yellow-topped Bam thwarted the would-be tormentors' intentions. In a couple of minutes it ripped the plaque-like encrustations from the porcelain (with the help of mild scrubbing). I've had to use a lino knife and scrape fossilised shit off in similar circumstances; in cases where Domestos, Ajax, etc,. were impotent.
The Orange-topped Bam did a great job removing painted graffiti from a set of concrete slabs. These are old, porous and just about impossible to remove contaminants from with normal household products. Industrial-gauge chemicals and high-pressure spraying are usually required. With a bit of help from a scrub-brush, Orange-topped Bam removed all traces of the damage. And it's actually for bathroom and kitchen use! We didn't get around to using the Green-topped Bam so I can't comment on that.
A caveat: I shudder to think of the processes by which this stuff is made, in order to be so effective, and the environmental effects of the ingredients once they go down the gurgler. However, when you're in a tough spot and desperate measures are needed...ya can't be green all the time.
I endorse Yellow Bam and Orange Bam as genuine muck-busters that live up to the claims made by the manufacturers.
(I'm informed by Reckitt Benckiser that the Yellow -topped Bam is now in a new packaging with a white top - Wednesday, 4th June, 2008.)
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
The scene is from the late 19th or early 20th Century and shows a flag being raised. The men in the photograph are bareheaded and holding their hats under their arms. The women are wearing their hats and saluting by holding the brims of their hats. It's the sort of thing people probably wouldn't pass down to their grandchildren and but for the photograph I'd never have guessed the existence of this practice. I'm pretty sure the women aren't holding their hats to prevent them blowing away..the uniformity of the gesture makes it unlikely.
This sort of discovery always delights me. It's like finding a cute seashell on the shore of history. And there are billions more out there to be seen...if we look closely.
Tuesday, 2 November 2010
The capacity of Ministers of the Crown to ignore the community is infinite. No matter how often we tell them that we want the banks reined in they ignore us. No matter how loud the objections to public company fat-cat salaries, nothing is done. There seems to be a religion established in Western lands that has replaced the traditional theisms. It's called "reform" and it is based on the proposition that anything done to unleash greed is very good indeed. Politicians are obligated to subscribe to this cult or suffer beratement by the enthralled commentators of the right-wing media.
Well, I blaspheme against the false god Reform. I defile its sacred books; The Wealth of Nations and Atlas Shrugged. I profane its doctrines as propagated in The Australian and other News Ltd organs.
Reform (the real thing as opposed to the cult object) is change and that's all it is. The cultists believe that the word is a synonym for "improvement". Here's a simple proof to the contrary: Give me a two-kilo hammer and a Ming vase and I'll use the hammer to re-form the vase. Not many will find the result to be an improvement.
Can anyone get past the ranting of the Reformists and challenge their wreckage of the national assets? Joe Hockey has had a small go at the banks on that theme and even he can't beat the bullshit down. The fact that millions agree with him doesn't matter a damn. It's regarded as a quaint proof of the ignorance of the masses who don't know well enough to unquestioningly worship Reform.
Shit to Reform and all who adore it. I'm allowed to say that ... because it won't make a bit of difference.
Thursday, 28 October 2010
I read the same article the author, Sarah, is responding to, and it says just what I felt.
Here's the post:
The latest in a grand tradition of anti-porn screeds in the mainstream media
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
This was the most recent occasion where I've discovered that my memory has improved or embellished an original. The usual trend with memory is that things fall out. In the case of movies, books, paintings and anything else remotely artistic I discover that the reverse occurs. My own aesthetic sense papers over the failings and produces a fine gloss on what might really be dross.
I received one of my rudest revisions when I saw a special broadcast of an episode of the Doctor Who serial Tomb of the Cybermen. It was a shocker to see the crudity of the sets, the woeful quality of the ham acting and the excruciatingly rough props. An "x-ray laser" pistol prop looked like a piece of jaggedly-sawn water pipe taped to a piece of scrap plastic which, naturally, was exactly what it was.
This was episode 2 of the serial which ends with the release of the Cyberleader from his compartment.
This was my favourite moment from the serial and it's not as badly divergent from memory as much else but it's still not great. The scene where the Cyberleader is released shows a door being opened and the Cyberleader sitting on a step inside. In my memory, which is superior, of course, the cybermen lift the hatch and place it to the side, rather than opening it on a hinge and then reach in and help the cyberleader to stand. The whole appearance is more dramatic and ritual.
Sunday, 3 October 2010
Tony Abbott was nearly wiped out when visiting a patch of undeveloped land for some election stunt a few months back. His driver indicated and stopped on a major highway to turn right and a semi-trailer nearly ran him over. The owner of the trucking company later maintained that Abott's driver should have pulled off the road on the left verge and waited for the road to clear before trying the manouevre. Like who owns the road?
This sort of brutal reasoning is the norm for Eastern Australian driving. I spent three weeks in the ACT in 1989 and got a good look at it from close hand. I doubt that it's become more merciful since then. Canberra is a beautiful city which has been planned from scratch for facility of travel. Wide, well-designed roads carry the comparatively light traffic through large systems of roundabouts. Sounds good doesn't it? In fact, a drive through Canberra is like a trip through a theme park recreating the battle of the Kursk Salient. As a temporary resident I relied on the buses but, on a couple of occasions, had to resort to taxis to reach meetings on time. These taxi-drives provided a ground-level view of the maniacal behaviour of the locals. The roundabouts, which are supposed to be traffic-calmers were the worst. The approach was to simply point the vehicle into the entry-path, regardless of traffic, then accelerate like a starship approaching a jump-gate. The driver maintains a stony forward stare while depressing the horn to maximum volume. All other traffic in the roundabout does the same. Fists are shaken out windows, single and double finger gestures are made and there is a constant background of shouts of "You fuckin' wanker", "Arsehole", "Fuckwit" and other traditional Australian greetings. Exiting is the reverse; no matter what lane you are in, point the vehicle at the desired exit, indicate and depress the horn. Accelerate to maximum speed. This mayhem should produce massive carnage but they manage to dodge around each other miraculously.
In New South Wales proper I once stood on the verge of Darlinghurst Road in central Sydney and was spellbound by the impenetrable river of vehicles passing by. It looked like a volcanic lava flow of metal rather than traffic. No more than 30 centimetres separated the vehicles at front or rear bumper.
I once discussed this topic with a woman from NSW whom I met in Canberra and she said she "really enjoyed the agressive quality of driving" in NSW. I saw a sample of this agression outside the domestic terminal of Sydney airport when I was waiting with some colleagues in the law enforcement community for a vehicle to take us across the tarmac to a meeting in the Federal Police office. It was about 7:30 am and there was practically no traffic on the road. A few people sauntered over to a drop-off/pick-up stand next to the road from which vehicles collected them at intervals. I noticed and became fascinated by the behaviour of the drivers. The only things that I can compare it to are the action in the pits at Grand Prix races or the style of get-away drivers leaving the scenes of bank robberies. The cars would roar in, scream to a halt, the boarding passenger would rip open a door, hurl in their baggage, leap aboard and slam the door. The car would then blast off with massive thrashing of the engine and frantic working of the transmission with snarls of acceleration and bursts of dark smoke from the exhaust. The road was usually completely bare of other traffic and there was no competition for them. I called the attention of the others to this and they observed that it was perfectly normal in Sydney.
I also rode with a colleague in Canberra in his private car and noticed that, despite the light traffic, he accelerated towards each set of traffic lights before pulling to a hard stop at the red light. As there was no traffic worth a damn this achieved nothing in terms of advancing his progress...it was force of habit. An old school-mate of Greek ancestry once told me that the same practice applies in the old country and that he had a torrid time visiting the place because of it. He was blessed with having a cousin in the police in Athens and rode with him in his police jeep through the city on several occasions. He was obliged to put his hand over his eyes as though rubbing them because of the drag-racing to each stop-light. "Someone like me couldn't survive there", he said. At least in Athens the style may have some use.
The Eastern proponents of this style argue that the comparatively soft Western Australian approach would slow traffic to catastrophic proportions. They argue, for example, that when a light changes everyone must move forward simultaneously rather than waiting for the vehicle ahead to move. To my enquiry "What if a vehicle stalls or has broken down?" they respond with a perplexed stare.
Since I began composing this post the following has happened and this. There is a simple and eternal truth in this matter: Impact force equals mass multiplied by velocity. The faster you go, the harder you hit. That is my answer to those who find the WA driving style too timid for their taste.
Friday, 20 August 2010
There they are, all wearing black shirts, all raising their right arms in stiff salute, all shouting ‘Sieg Heil’, all praising Adolf Hitler and his commitment to ethnic purity. Where are we exactly – in the back streets of Munich or Berlin, or any other place in the west where unregenerate extremism continues to exercise its baleful fascination? No, as a matter of fact this is Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia.
Yes, indeed, there is a Nazi movement in Mongolia, including a group which goes by the name of Tsagaan Khass – White Swastika -, led by a man who calls himself, wait for it, Big Brother. Please stop laughing; it’s all true! Big Brother has a rather confused view when it comes to Hitler, which involves some bizarre cherry-picking;
We don’t agree with his extremism and starting the Second World War. We are against all those killings, but we support his ideology. We support nationalism rather than fascism.
What Big Brother fails to mention is that in Hitler’s racial pyramid the Mongolians came close to the bottom. It’s such a bizarre irony that Nazism is now embraced by at least some among the ‘degenerate horde’ as a positive ideology.
There is really no great surprise in this. Racist nationalism is often adopted by people with a deep sense of personal grievance or inferiority, people who excuse their own failings by scapegoating some minority or other. In Germany it was the Jews. I confess I don’t know an awful lot about Mongolia but I’m guessing that Jewish people are something of a rarity. No, it’s not the Jews that Big Brother and his kind are getting upset about – it’s the Chinese, or the Chinks, their term, not mine.
China is imperialistic and evil, the message goes out; the Chinese are a danger to the ‘pure blood’ of Mongolia. Just how is this danger manifested, you may wonder? Well, you see, the Chinese have a lot of money, allowing them to come and ‘take’ Mongolian women.
This fear of deracination is not simply the fantasy of a fringe; it feeds on wider prejudices among the nation. One of the most popular urban myths in Ulan Bator is that the Chinese government has a secret policy of encouraging its male citizens to come and have sex with Mongolian women. A popular hip-hop track regularly played the capital’s bars and clubs is called Don’t Go Too Far, You Chinks, with a chorus of “shoot, shoot them all.”
There have been attacks on some foreigners, something that the US State Department has warned potential visitors about, though those in most immediate risk from this xenophobia seem to be Mongolian women themselves, threatened with head shaving if they sleep with foreigners. Tsgaaan Khass takes an altogether moderate approach here, insisting that its role is simply one of “law enforcement.” Their policy is to carry out targeted checks, going to hotels and restaurants to make sure that Mongolian girls are not involved in prostitution and foreigners are not breaking the law.
We don’t go through and beat the shit out of everyone. We check our information and make sure its right.
Now that’s a reassurance, I feel sure you will agree.
Friday, 13 August 2010
1. Stooge: Natural person or other entity secretly acting on behalf of another candidate.
2. Stooge Party: Usually has a misleading name and is intended to draw votes away from a rival and funnel those votes via preference distribution to its masters in the main party. An example would be a party with a name such as "Forest Defence Party" which is actually owned by the lumber industry. It would pull votes from the genuine Green Party and transfer them via preferences to the Liberal or National Party. A "Small Business Advance Party" could, conversely, stooge for the Labor Party, drawing votes from the Liberals.
3. Stooge Candidate: represents the stooge party or runs as a bogus independent. Usually has their candidate's deposit paid by the sponsoring party.
Stooging has been subjected to various attempts at curtailment. The requirement for parties to have 500 members to qualify for putting their name on the ballot paper has made the practice less common. The other trick of having a stooge candidate change their name by deed poll to something sloganish (E.g. Mr John Savetheforests) has been thwarted by requiring natal names or chosen names used for a significant period to be shown on the candidate's application. Stooges now try to raise their profiles by false-friending real candidates and slipstreaming their publicity.
Saturday, 7 August 2010
I'd suspected the possibility but it's pretty harsh; the government's response was the bare minimum of diplomatic gesturing. Essentially, the Mossad were obliged to swap their local chief with one from another country. That's what expelling the guy boils down to. He could shake hands with his replacement at the airport on the way out. This quote from The Australian is also significant:
"The Australian government has described Israel's action as deplorable and called for a full investigation. Although this is commendable, the Australian people should demand Australia reassess its close ties with Israel. On the day the government sent ASIO officers to Israel to investigate the passport forging affair, Australia signed a $250 million arms deal with Israel. This speaks volumes on the real relationship with Israel."
Steve's constituency contains the largest community of practising Jews outside Melbourne. Most of them are uncompromising Zionists and the supermarket crew are not a minority. My subsequent enquiries to over a dozen acquaintances in the Jewish community indicate that even the feebleness of the government's response won't placate their resentment of any slight to Israel. Everyone had stories of the impact on the opinions of their family and friends of this issue. The general tone is that they're going to send Steve a message. It will also be a message to all MP's on this topic. If Steve wants to save his - salt beef - he needs to start pleading his case hard in this group...there are enough votes there to tip him out.
Monday, 19 July 2010
1. Polling Day: Always a Saturday and the polling stations are open from 8am to 6pm.
2. How-to-vote cards: Doesn't really tell you how to vote but attempts to tell you for whom you should vote
- handed out by scrutineers outside the polling station.
3. Scrutineer: Agent of political party who distributes how-to-vote cards for their party and
monitors activity at polling stations to prevent the other mob(s) cheating.
4. Candidate: Aspirant for political office. Described (by someone I can't remember the name of ) as coming from the ranks of the ambitious, the lonely or the mentally unsound.
5. Voting system: Preferential. Each candidate must have a unique number written next to their name. Omitting a candidate invalidates the vote. So does repeating a number or using numbers that aren't consecutive between one and the total number of candidates listed on the paper. As for how preferences are distributed - see the AEC's website.
6. Ballot Paper: Small piece of paper for the House of Representatives - increasingly wide for the Senate. The number of candidates for each of the House seats has been quite stable. Aspirants for the Senate have proliferated in the past 20 years. The Senate paper allows party-ticket voting by marking a single box or the option of full distribution of preferences by the voter. I'm one of the few battling on with the full monty fill-in. The one-box option means your preferences are allocated according to instructions given by the party to the AEC. Finding out what that is has become progressively harder as the AEC no longer list them on their website. You have to visit their office and read the damn things on a noticeboard. I like to know exactly where mine are going and I also enjoy personally putting the Liberals last.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
Tuesday, 13 July 2010
Oh, these two guys were in it as well...James Darren and Robert Colbert.
The unfortunate pattern with this series, as with so many others in the genre was the disintegration of the story quality. This was a repeating failure with Irwin Allen productions and stands as proof that its the story that matters most; all the special effects in the world can't save a yarn which breaks the suspension of disbelief by disrespecting its own conventions. The Irwin Allen series tended to veer into the realm of the fantastic rather than the far-fetched. What's the difference? The far-fetched may be excused as a necessary convention of the theatre. In this category are the English-speaking French, Mongols, Renaissance Venetians, Russians, aliens etc. whom the boys encounter. It's obviously baloney but a remotely realistic treatment would have each episode consumed with communicative antics and a dialogue consisting mostly of "I can't understand you" and less polite versions in multiple tongues. Thus also for the artificial gravity in space craft. Artificial gravity is anomalous to the spacecraft design because it's a technology usually way beyond everything else aboard...just like the Star Trek transporter.
Where the fantastic and bizarre intrude is with the introduction of entities such as the ghost of the Emperor Nero, Merlin the Wizard and utterly crazy storylines such as the one where the aliens turn up in the bunker and want to know what happened to their raiding party which visited Earth during the 19th Century. These critters are from a culture which has practiced and recently abandoned piracy as an economic model. They want to be assured that the humans didn't zap their boys...otherwise they'll destroy Earth. They're eventually placated by seeing their colleagues' ship leaving Earth intact through the Time Tunnel video scanner. Then they leave. So how do they know the temponauts were near their pals anyway? If they can figure that, why do they need the humans to tell them what happened? Aren't they remotely impressed by the fact that Earth has time travel? Don't they want to buy it/steal it?
The Tunnel remains a tantalising conceit for all that. Now if only someone would do a quality remake...
Thursday, 24 June 2010
So, Julia Gillard has snatched the mantle which once looked set to fall upon a much less worthy aspirant...first woman in the Lodge. By assassination, admittedly, but at least she tapped the Ruddster herself. I always thought that she was an inherently tougher person than him and I doubt that there will be any stories of foul-mouthed tantrums and bullying. I believe that Kevin's lapses in this regard were a product of having his spring wound too tight. He's been running about like a frantic ant and appearing to be ineffectual. His actual achievements have been diminished in public esteem by the failure of so many of his projected schemes. If he'd concentrated on a couple of main projects - health and education reform, ideally - and left the rest to others he would probably be riding high now with some worthy results.
My main fret with Julia is that she's being urged by the idiot brigade to revive the carbon tax/levy/ETS monster. I dread that she will listen to them.
Sunday, 20 June 2010
They're behaving as if all oil drilling wasn't by licence of their own hypocritical selves. They make play of anomalies in crisis plans which have been anomalous for many years and which they could have called for and studied any day they pleased. Obama signed a decree allowing massive expansion of coastal drilling just this April.
They failed to notice that 40% of "British Petroleum" ' s dividends are paid to U.S. investment funds.
If BP and the other drillers are delinquent it's because they've been allowed to become so.
Friday, 30 April 2010
Do you know anything of his life, that strange, horribly claustrophobic existence he led with his aunts and his mother, above all, his mother, in Providence, Rhode Island, living through ever downward spirals of gentile poverty and psychological tension to outright breakdown?
I suspect that, in the end, the death of his mother in 1921 came as something of a relief to him, if my reading of his 1933 story, A Thing on the Doorstep, is correct. Edward Derby, the protagonist, a weak-willed character, very much in the shape of Lovecraft himself, professes shock-as the author did himself-at the death of his mother-but afterwards this initial emotional purge “…he seemed to feel a sort of grotesque exhilaration, as if of a partial escape from some unseen bondage.” Later he would write to one of his friends that “My health improved vastly and rapidly, though without any ascertainable cause, about 1920-21.” He is giving away much more than he suspects.
What do I think of Lovecraft as a writer? This is a difficult question for me, conjuring up some quite mixed emotions. He is not my kind of writer; his prose is far too flowery, bombastic and overblown for my taste. For me he is to the craft of words what Antonio Gaudi is to architecture; grotesque, over-decorated and over-ornate. Consider this passage from The Call of Cathulu, generally reckoned to be one of his best stories;
The Thing cannot be described-there is no language for such abysms of shrieking and immortal lunacy, such eldritch contradictions of all matter, force and cosmic order. A mountain walked or stumbled. God! What wonder that across the earth a great architect went mad, and poor Wilcox raved with fever at that telepathic instant? The Thing of the idols, the green sticky spawn of the stars, had wakened to claim his own…After vigilations of years great Cathulu was lose again, and ravening for delight.
I simply can’t read that without laughing!
In essence Lovecraft’s prose is like an overstuffed Victorian drawing room; a place where one longs for a breath of crisp air. I contrast him with Maupassant, whose style is taught, precise and stark, a real economy of words that makes the overall effect of his horror story, The Horla, that much the greater.
Yet, for all that, there is a quality to Lovecraft uniquely his own. His ideas on science and life in general were old-fashioned, even for his own time, but there are still deep wells, perhaps even new modes of understanding. Above all, his pseudomythology, expressed in the so-called ‘Cathulu Mythos’, shows a universe where people are not at the centre, and where the gods, such as they are, care nothing for human existence, which is a mere incident in the great cycles of creation…and of destruction.
Tuesday, 27 April 2010
It was fascinating stuff and I discovered that Western Australia features in the story, The Shadow Out of Time. At 22 degrees, 3' 14" South latitude and 125 degrees, 0' 39" East longitude is supposed to be the remains of an ancient city established over 150 million years in the past by a non-human race. He introduces it through a letter from a correspondent whose address is 49 Dampier Street, Pilbarra. This is a conflation of the name of the town of Dampier and the Pilbara region (including a still-common misspelling).
I also found the foundations of many of the themes to be found in later science fiction; ancient aliens, alien possession, reanimation of the dead, lost languages and scripts. There's an interesting yarn called The Colour Out of Space which prefigures The Blob...a meteor-borne infestation.
Although generally admirable, Lovecraft has a style which, when you read a lot of his work at one hit, becomes unintendedly funny. The words "horror", gruesome", "hideous" and suchlike are liberally spread through every story; he seemed to think that using these terms would induce the described tremors in the reader; I felt they broke the spell by being constantly noticeable. In his honour I produce the following tribute:
"In that year of 1932 I worked in an architect's office in Arkham with Ashley Clarkson-Smythe. My prospects seemed good but a most hideous event soon destroyed my nerves. I entered the office one morning in unwitting good cheer and opened the top-left drawer of my draughtsman's desk and beheld a most abominable spectacle. I was confronted by a sight of such nefandous and abyssal cruelty that I was hard-pressed to restrain myself from uttering a demented scream.
In the drawer was an artefact of a fiendish and inhuman mind. I can barely force myself to describe it - but I must! (The reader has, by now, suspected the nature of the atrocity.) Some filthy, perverted, daemon-possessed thrall of dark powers and worshipper of contumacious and strifeful gods had performed an abomination of the kind only hinted at in the Necronomicon of the mad Arab, Abdul AlHazred. The thrice-accursed villain had bent my favourite paper-clip!!"
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Do the boys and girls in Oz get news of the current political jinks in England? Here is my personal assessment of the most recent episode in our national soap opera. :-)
The British people like an underdog; they always have. We warm to the little person, the abject outsider, something foreigners will never understand about us. Who but the British would have taken a failure, an embarrassing failure, like Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards to their hearts? He’s a joke, yes, but he is our joke!
Now he’s joined by another; he’s joined by Nick Clegg, the little man, the underdog and –dare I say it? – the colourless mediocrity. Still, he has new admirers after he appeared as Jack the Giant Killer in the recent telly debate. I didn’t watch the whole thing, merely edited highlights, so I’m not really in a position to comment on all aspects of his performance as a debater.
I attend debates in the Union, though, and often vote for a motion that I happen to disagree with because I was impressed by the skill of a particular speaker. There is no harm in that. But the government of this country is a much more serious matter than a Union debate. If people are to be swayed by the ‘Mark Anthony factor’ they really do need to stop and think, think not about the man but the ideas. And the ideas embraced by Clegg and his party are, in my estimation at least, a real danger to this country.
I’ll come on to this in a moment, First let me say a word or two about the debate itself, the dynamics of this futile exercise. I think it’s worth reminding people that we do not have a presidential system in this country: we vote for the party, not the leader. In the circumstances of this gladiatorial contest Clegg, no matter what, was bound to have come out at an advantage.
The reasons for this are simple: people are still alienated from mainstream politics in the hangover from the expenses scandal, so the outsider was always a favoured bet over the chief contenders. That he spoke well merely added to this advantage. That Gordon Brown took on the part of Uriah Heep, ever so ‘umbly trying to ingratiate himself with Clegg added to it still further. This was the worst part of all, the part that made me cringe with embarrassment, the way in which the haggard, tired-looking Prime Minister tried to flirt with the Corporal – “I agree with Nick; Nick agrees with me.” The man is obviously so desperate to hang on to power, no matter what it costs. A deal with the Liberal Democrats offers him one way of doing this.
I am convinced, no matter how much Clegg denies it, that a hung Parliament will mean a Lib-Lab pact; that a hung Parliament will mean ‘voting reform’, which essentially means tinkering with our political system to the permanent advantage of the Liberal Democrats; means that we will never have strong and stable government again; means that we will bring back to permanent power a party that last won an election a hundred years ago. Now is the time for those swayed by the Clegg factor to look long and hard at just exactly what he and his muddle-headed party represent.
So you want to vote for the Liberal Democrats? I take it, then, that you are in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament, joining the Eurozone, becoming part of a European super state, removing the right of this country to opt out of European regulations on justice and home affairs, granting citizenship to illegal immigrants, an increase in air passenger duty to levels that would make travels by ordinary people all but impossible, committing the country to a green energy policy that would effectively mean a return to a pre-industrial economy, and a property tax, supposedly on the ‘wealthy’, but one that would inevitably be extended downwards as a Lib-Lab government shrunk the economy of Britain?
If we are unable to make up our minds in a decisive fashion on 7 May that’s what we will get, at least to some degree, as Brown and Clegg haggle over the distribution of power and the price of office. Vote Liberal Democrat by all means, vote for the suicide of this nation.
All great fun. :-))
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
It's an analogy that occurred to me in connection with United States foreign policy:
In the beginning the U.S. supported Batista in Cuba. Then they supported Fidel Castro because he purported to be U.S. - friendly. They supported the Shah in Iran because he was a bulwark against communism. When the revolution came they found a regime in place which hated them and responded to their sequestration of Iranian assets by taking embassy staff hostage. This humiliated them and caused them to support Saddam Hussein's war against Iran. Coincidental with their agitation against the Iranian Islamic regime they provided support to the Islamic mujahideen in Afghanistan...because they were resisting Soviet occupation.
Meanwhile, back in the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. blind-eyed the supply of materials and equipment to Saddam to further his chemical and biological weapons research. (This led to the cartoon, years later, showing an American spokesperson waving papers in the air and shouting: "We know Saddam has weapons of mass destruction - we have the receipts!!") At this point, things become complicted. In Nicaragua the U.S. had supported the dictator Somoza...because he was anti-communist. He was overthrown by the Sandinista rebellion which was belatedly revealed as communist, in the same style as Fidel. The U.S. Congress wouldn't fund the Contras, the anti-communist Nicaraguan rebels. At this point, a gentleman named Oliver North had a brainstorm. He was trying to obtain the release of American hostages in Lebanon (more hostages - the others in Iran had been released years before) and decided to sell the Iranian regime weapons for use against Saddam. The profits were then used to fund the Contras. This was published to the world in the form of the Iran-Contra Scandal and made North a new career as a television personality. This all took place during the late 1970's and mid-1980's during the tenure of Presidents Carter and Reagan. By 1990, George Bush (Senior) had decided that a small victorious war against the Panamanian despot, Manuel Noriega, would buff his image so the generalissimo (formerly a U.S. protege) was deposed and incarcerated in the U.S. Noriega was accused, among other things, of drug trafficking...a charge also levelled against the CIA and North.
In 1989, the Soviets threw in the towel in Afghanistan and the U.S. lost interest in the place. Then came the civil war between the warlords/former mujahideen. This ended in 1996 with the emergence of an even more fundamentalist Islamic faction which had been nurtured in Pakistan; the Taliban (Scholars). Once victoious, they began a campaign of social reform which provoked the Iranian government to accuse them of giving Islam a bad name! They harboured the terrorists of Al Qaeda who attacked the United States in 2001 and provoked the invasion of Afghanistan by the U.S. and its allies. Now, back in Mesopotamia, Saddam had run out of kudos with the U.S. in August 1990. he had attacked Kuwait and occupied it. Saddam had been too enthusiastic with the weapons of mass destruction and had been making menacing noises at Israel. As this coincided with the petering-out of his war with Iran and the end of his usefulness as a goad against the ayatollahs, the balance tipped against him. He was called a "Hitler-figure" and beaten back behind his palisade. Then began a twelve-year siege which ended with his ouster in 2003 and eventual hanging. Now, way back in 1988, the Iranians (I believe) had bombed a Pan American Airlines aircraft, probably in retaliation for the destruction of an Iranian civilian airliner by a U.S. warship. The original published suspicion was that Syrian agents, acting on behalf of the Iranian regime, had recruited a PLO bomb engineer to make the bomb used in this attack. As the U.S. needed the cooperation of Syria during the 1990/91 Iraq war they developed a scenario to place the blame on Libya for the Pan Am bombing. They never thought that Gaddaffi would call their bluff by allowing his agents to be put on trial...but he wrongfooted them and did just that. One was acquitted, the other's conviction continues to be disputed...
ENOUGH ALREADY!!! Hell, I can't remember half this stuff, let alone make sense of it.
So where is the moral, if any? The enemy of my enemy is probably my enemy? Here's my formula for avoiding rude surprises in foreign dealings:
Do as you would be done by...and trust no one.
Monday, 29 March 2010
The usual suspects emerged to proclaim the advent of Global Warming, someone suggested that a good line could be had in printing "I survived the Great Storm of Perth (2010)" T-shirts and a natural disaster was declared.
I found the most enlightening aspect of this episode to be the demonstration of the fragility of our construction and infrastructure. It just goes to show how mild the weather is here. In most parts of the world that "storm" would be a joke. I'd hate to show the data to the inhabitants of Bangladesh or the American "Tornado Alley".
Friday, 12 March 2010
Now, on with the show: Katy has had a life and loved and made two children. Along the way she also became an Australian and hooked up with Barry Crocker. Katy's looking her age in the later photo which adorns the Wikipedia article about her but the delightful young woman is still there...it's just the travelling machine that's suffered some damage. Katy also injured her prospects of appearing in BBC children's television. As follows:
From: "Doctor Who - The Key to Time - A Year-by-Year Record" by Peter Haining:
1978 : May 5 Another former companion makes headline news. Katy Manning poses in the nude with a Dalek for a girlie magazine, and tells journalists: "I did it for the money. Iwas skint. I'd had two good holidays abroad, three months out of work - and to top it all, the VAT man was after me. So why say no when an offer like that is manna from heaven?" Of the photographs, she jokes: "I'd never pose for full frontal pictures. Anyway, why should there be a fuss about my going topless? To catch a glimpse of anything you'd pretty well have to put me under a microscope!" Jon Pertwee comments: "Typical Katy!"
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-Il’s personal shopper has written a book. No, that’s not a mistake; you read correctly; the North Korean dictators had a personal shopper. His name is Kim Jong Ryul, a former colonel in the Korean army, now seventy-five years old and living in Austria. His book- so far only available in German – is called Im Dienst des Diktators (At the Dictators Service).
In this he tells of the two decades he spent coming to the west on spending sprees, buying such essentials of the dictatorial life as gold-plated handguns and silk wallpaper. There were also the luxury cars- of course –, metal detectors, hunting rifles, crystal chandeliers and monitors capable of detecting the heart beats of people hiding behind walls! Well, one clearly needs to know if there is anyone there, any potential assassin, anyone who wants a glimpse of a fantastic and forbidden world.
Then there was the food. Kim and Kim liked takeaways, as in takeaway everything, and for some reason they both had a particular fondness for Austrian cuisine. Kim Il-sung went so far as to send a team of cooks to Austria to learn the art behind Wiener schnitzels and the like- “The crazy dictators heard rumours that Austrian cuisine was world-famous and that’s why they wanted the foreign cooks to come here.” All this while ordinary Koreans, the citizens of the termite state, those who did not live in the palaces, often had to live on tree bark to survive periodic mass famines.
Kim Jong Ryul eventually had enough of this farce, taking the decision not to return home in 1994, having faked his death on a final shopping trip. In a press conference he said;
I wanted the truth to come to light before I die so people know how horrendous and brutal it is, as well as to highlight how western companies have – for years – been making money through their dealings with the dictatorship, and helping to support the regime and that these dealings, despite all the embargos that are in place, are still in full swing today.
Well, it has. :-)
Friday, 26 February 2010
Post#142 "Teach Yourself The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" (Zionism, our response to it and USS Liberty)
I noticed the book with the title referred to above on the library shelf and couldn't resist it. It provoked some wry thoughts along the lines of; "Does it come with bomb designs or toy tanks?"
Stewart Ross, the author, appears to me to have made a sincere effort to achieve the balance he promises in the book's introduction but I'm sure he'll attract the fury of many nonetheless. There's nothing that can be said about this topic that doesn't vex somebody. As I was reading it I could see where various statements that seem perfectly reasonable to me would have some of the partisans frothing at the mouth. In fact, the words "Israel" or "Palestine" alone will provoke some to deny that one or the other of those places even exist. "There is no Israel! It is a false state!"; "Palestine is a fiction of history!", and so on.
That reminded me of what I felt when reading the Wikipedia article on the USS Liberty incident. In this episode Israeli aircraft and torpedo boats attacked and severely damaged a US Navy intelligence-gathering vessel in June 1967. This was during the Six Day War and the dispute about it has become a forty-one year war of words. The two combatant factions are those who accept the Israeli claim that the attack was erroneous and that the Liberty was misidentified as an Egyptian ship and those who believe that the attack was deliberate and intended to prevent the US passing intelligence about Israel's deployments to the Egyptians, either deliberately or through falling victim to Soviet intercepts. I had seen some TV documentaries about this matter but didn't take a strong interest until I read James Ennes' book, Assault on the Liberty*. It convinced me that the attack was deliberate and that was good enough for me to settle for. (I don't really buy that the Israelis are as incompetent as they would need to be to make such a mistake.) One day, out of idle interest, I looked at the article on Wikipedia. The version at the time (several months ago) was so frantically pro-Israeli that it offended me. I felt like adding a flashing banner header to the article, saying "Shalom! This article is brought to you by Mossad! Enjoy!" On the talk page I found the edit war in full blast. The Zionists and their nemeses had been slugging it out for quite a while and were expending millions of keystrokes and were (and are) apparently happy to continue until Doomsday with it.
I am in earnest about Mossad skewing the Wikipedia article. It would be the height of naivety to think that the intelligence agencies of the world don't prowl the Internet putting the case for their nation's interests. As the most commonly-accessed research site, Wikipedia is probably a high priority target in the propaganda wars. I don't have a problem in principle with agencies of governments contributing to websites. They probably correct a lot of errors and provide information that would otherwise be omitted. However, they don't confine themselves to defending the truth. Nor even the truth as they perceive it. They tell downright lies. As do their opponents.
This ruthlessness is what exasperates me about the so-called "Middle-East conflict". I've seen the same film footage used to illustrate television documentaries about the subject which have utterly opposing messages. One is pro-Israel, the other anti-Israel. The footage is cut and voiced-over to give a completely different significance to it, according to the purpose of the propagandist. Another manifestation of this is in the letters pages of the newspapers. In The Australian last year I read a letter from a person purporting to be a professor at an Eastern States university. I hadn't read the letter which he was responding to but it apparently had contained an argument against those who refer to the "Holocaust" as a justification of the existence of Irsael. The writer had apparently made the fairly obvious and well-worn argument that two wrongs don't make a right and that the Palestinian Arabs had nowt to do with killing Jews in Europe, etc. The professor set out to show that the Palestinians were complicit in the genocide of Jews in Europe because...the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was a confrere of Hitler and had conspired with the Nazis against the Jews. Now that's the sort of thing that jacks me off. This professor is obviously a Zionist partisan and is using sophistic argument of the most tawdry kind. Here's a perfect comparator for this allegation: I know of a country whose leader admired Hitler and was prepared to make a deal with him. He visited Hitler both in a private and official capacity to build the relationship. He was fully aware of Hitler's anti-Jewish ferocity and obviously found it no obstacle to friendship. Think about that for a few moments. Think hard, then read on...
Not that the Zionists will care about my credentials. I'm not with them so they won't give a damn about my motives. For those with remotely open minds I'll specify that I am an Australian of British Isles descent (some of my Irish cousins would take violent exception to that phrase, "British" Isles) . My great-grandparents all arrived in this country in the 1850's. All of my antecedents at that point and a couple of people I know of further back don't include any Jews or Muslims. My religious position is agnostic.
Australia's official position has been one of relentless sycophancy towards Israel. "Official" in that sentence means the political class, not the citizenry. More and more of us are wearying of the Zionist intransigents. Perhaps even the politicians are beginning to wonder. I have with me the edition of The Australian for Friday, 26 February, 2010. Above the banner headline "Aussies caught in Israeli spy hit" is a quote from Stephen Smith, Australia's Foreign Minister:
"If ... the abuse of Australian passports was in any way sponsored or condoned by Israeli officials, then Australia would not regard that as the act of a friend."
This is his response to the discovery that a Mossad hit squad used forged Australian passports as part of their cover for the assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai. For the Australian government, in the context of Israel doing a naughty, that's tough talk.
One of the things that delayed my writing this post was that I didn't want to add another dead blowfish of opinion to the massive pile that's been dredged up on this topic over the past 62 years. They usually boil down to "Drive the Jews into the sea!" or "Drive the Arabs into the desert!" These entrenched diametrics are so worn out that you'd have to be mad to bother writing in support of either. I finally came up with an innovative solution. It's about as likely to come to fruition as all the others..not at all...so no harm done in indulging in this flight of fancy.
My plan to solve the Israel-Palestine problem: Wind the place up. The Western countries that supported this lunacy can take the Israelis into their lands. I'll even suspend my support for zero immigration and suggest that Australia could take a few hundred thousand.
Like I said, no chance. However, the fact that the problem will never be solved doesn't mean it won't be
resolved. What the Zionists can't see is that final victory for them will be the removal of the last restraint upon the most fanatical of Palestinians. When all hope is extinguished for them they will have no reason to refrain from the detonation of nuclear weapons in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Yes, even Jerusalem. And the rest of us shall sit and watch. In that regard we shall enjoy the judgement of history that we were consistent if nothing else.
*Assault on the Liberty: The True Story of the Israeli Attack on an American Intelligence Ship, by James M. Ennes, Jr. (ISBN 0-9723116-0-2) Currently in its 9th printing.
From the early 1960's the pledge of JFK to land a man on the moon was the spring driving the increasingly regular and efficient launches. Gemini followed Mercury, Apollo followed Gemini. It seemed to be an unstoppable progression. Tragedies and mishaps such as the Apollo 1 fire or the loss of Grissom's capsule after splashdown didn't appear to hinder the advance of the machine.
Then came the triumph of Apollo 11 in July of 1969. A genuinely outstanding moment in history; the first recorded voyage to and landing on another celestial body by human beings. The television broadcast must have set a record for the most-watched programme of the most abysmal visual quality. The headline on the West Australian newspaper was massive: MAN LANDS ON MOON.
The missions that followed were, as is now well-remarked, anticlimactic. But for the near-fatal events of Apollo 13, they would have received even less attention. That's one of the most astounding things about these events; people became blase about them in an eye-blink.
The last Apollo moon-mission was in November of 1972. An Apollo launch system and capsule which could and should have gone to the moon were wasted in the Apollo-Soyuz farce of 1975...a pointless exercise in the name of "detente". The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 showed what that was all worth. Caught between the Kennedy-hate of Nixon and the apathy and skepticism of Congress and the American public, the programme was extinguished. Its remnant equipment was used as "lawn furniture" at NASA establishments. As a Australian I can't damn the American taxpayers for this...they were paying for it and it would have proceeded only if they had really wanted to continue paying for it. Still, it was depressing to see.
The "space-race" provoked the imaginations of humanity, then became a historical landmark which was progressively receding. The expression "We can put a man on the moon..." became part of the treasury of cliche...it was usually hooked up with "but we can't - " followed by whatever the speaker felt was outlandish for being undoable. This saying is used less often now and I suspect that there are many now who have completely forgotten that it ever happened or never knew. Imagine that...a child who has never heard of it is probably not a rarity today.
From Perth, Western Australia, my home town, the Moon is now the only celestial body which is easily observable at night. Light pollution has progressed to the point where even the most prominent stars and planets are feeble in the clearest viewing conditions (except for Venus, goddess of UFO's). The stars of "our radiant Southern Cross" are winking out. No one seems to even think it's worth a comment. As for the moon, I feel that Stephen Baxter put it best in his short story "Moon Six"; it has become "just a light in the sky that no one cares about".
The initiative in lunar colonisation has passed from the democracies and is now being pursued by China.( I covered that in Post#22, way back when.) It's difficult to see how the withering away of will can ever be reversed. Perhaps the simple answer is that it won't. There's always going to be a Proxmire, a world recession or some damned thing to soak up government money. In the West private enterprise is the best hope for progress...if a profit can be demonstrated in the venture. Not much chance then.
The rockets are dormant now. Fizzled out. Snuffed out. By economic necessity; by failure of imagination. Those of us who lived in the years of the rocket had a great historical privilege. We heard those words:
"This is Tranquility base...the Eagle has landed"
For a moment we had a glimpse.