Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance
Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies
Something else altogether
All of the above
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Thirlestane String Quartet, Edinburgh 28 July 2010
The Thirlestane Quartet is an amateur ensemble from Edinburgh whose viola and cello I know as they play in Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra alongside me. This was their first public performance, a charity concert for the Sick Kids Foundation, and it featured an ambitious programme of Shostakovich (Quartet No 8) and Schubert (Quartet in D minor "Death and the Maiden"). The Shostakovich quartet is dedicated "to the victims of fascism and war", while the Schubert's slow movement is a sublime set of variations on his song about Death coming for a young girl and lulling her fears. As an amateur quartet player myself, neither is a piece I would relish playing in public: definitely performing without a net. The Shostakovich I thought came off brilliantly, with all of the composer's contrasting moods reflected perfectly. Intonation and ensemble were spot on, and there were no intrusive moments to remind me I was listening to amateurs rather than professionals. The only way it fell short of perfection is that from time to time the inner parts were slightly underpowered compared with the first violin and cello. At times like this you realise how many hours per concert professional quartets put just into balancing (playing studies in unison and the like).
After the interval we had the Schubert, whose first violin part especially is notoriously exposed and difficult. No surprise then that here there was the occasional reminder of the Thirlestane's amateur status: ensemble occasionally rocked a little, and the leader's intonation wasn't always spot on in some of the scarier passages. (Been there, done that, no intention of exposing my own dodgy tuning to the public ear, thanks.) Ruth Bush betrayed no nervousness however, displaying instead an admirably professional attitude to it all. The first movement was good, the second showed the magic that makes Schubert one of the great chamber music composers. The scherzo cames and went quickly, before the finale broke over us like a great wave. No ensemble problems here, and the Thirlestane steered it to a triumphant, and finally optimistic, conclusion.
Not wishing, as Ruth put it, to play an entire concert about death, the quartet returned for a well-deserved encore of Gershwin's I Got Rhythm, clearly prepared with as much care as the other items but delivered with a lightness of touch contrasting nicely with the Sturm und Drang of the Schubert. An altogether delightful evening, and a snip at £3.00. Even the programmes were well put together, with biographical details originally presented. Long live amateur music-making.
The Thirlstane Quartet are Ruth Bush (violin 1), Alison Kerr (violin 2), Eleanor Bennett (viola) and Rachel Lind (cello).
Here is the redoubtable Juan Diego Florez singing the Cujus Animam from Rossini's Stabat Mater.
In the nineteenth century, as soon as someone wrote a good tune there were composers falling over each other to write sets of virtuoso intrumental variations on it. The one who bagsied this particular Rossini tune on behalf of clarinettists was Domenico Liverani, and in the same way that only a few guitarists have the courage to stand on a stage and play Eddie van Halen solos (Dweezil Zappa of course being one such) , only a handful of clarinettists ever dare to attempt Liverani's flashy bundle of fun. Here is Corrado Giuffredi doing so:
In a similar vein, the composer Donato Lovreglio snatched up a whole bunch of operatic arias and gave the same sort of treatment (Google 'Lovreglio' and 'Youtube' for a selection). Here is his most famous offering, in which a number of tunes from Verdi's La Traviata are transformed into an Everest of clarinet showmanship (though to be fair to Lovreglio his pieces make more varied demands on their players than Liverani's chain-gun salvos of black notes). Back in her music college days my wife used to include this one in her programmes sometimes. She never made it sound easy (that would rather miss the point of the thing) but she made it sound just ordinarily difficult, which it really is not. Judge for yourselves (not sure who the player is, but it's not Hilary - and actually I've heard her give several better performances than this one):
Where all the versions I've watched online so far seem to fall down is in the playing of the actual tunes themselves before they get overlaid by the Eddie van Halen stuff. (They all seem to be more about playing Lovreglio than Verdi, as it were.) This guy isn't too bad, though I found his swaying around put me off a bit a first, and his breath control wavers at around the nine minute mark.
If you want to hear both these pieces being utterly nailed, there are great recordings by Colin Bradbury (ours are on good old vinyl but they're available on CD now) who latterly specialised in this kind of repertoire.
It's not often I find anything on Atlas Shrugs to agree with, but she's spot on as regards Haradinaj and the rest of the KLA. I can't share her enthusiasm though for the poor, wronged Serbs who IMO showed themselves to be at least the Kosovars' equals in murder and torture. For sure, the post-war enquiries and trials have had a built-in anti-Serb bias but that doesn't mean that all the Serb defendants were innocent bystanders. Nor do I go along with her description of the KLA as "murderous jihadists". Murderous undoubtedly, and Muslim (but then to Geller ALL Muslims are "jihadists"), but they were taking money from bin Laden simply because he was the only person willing to fund them: that is, until Tony Blair decided supporting the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo from should be his next "eye-catching initiative". The KLA had no interest in spreading Islam: the only thing they wanted to see spread across Europe was the internal organs of their Serbian neighbours. That they were largely unsuccessful was no thanks to Toe-Nibbler.
Zappa Plays Zappa, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 26 July 2010
A very different gig in many ways from the ZPZ gig I attended last year. The HMV Picture House is a small standing-only venue in Edinburgh: the GRCH is a big modern concert hall in Glasgow. It wasn't sold out, though it was quite well-filled downstairs at least. I suspect some folk arrived late: the concert ran from 1930 - 2200 with no support and no interval. (Actually it started and ended about ten minutes late anyway.)
This time round there were fewer of the big crowd-pleasers and a lot of numbers I didn't know. Dweezil described this tour as having a "grooving kind of vibe", and he was obviously taking pleasure in doing material from a wide variety of albums and eras. The musicianship, I need hardly add, was impeccable all round, with special mention for Scheila Gonzalez and Billy Hulting, the former for her impeccable precision on the vocals for "Montana" (if you know the track you'll understand) and the latter for channelling his inner Ruth Underwood, and then some.
Best moments: (1) Gonzalez and Hulting duetting on "Big Swifty" - pure rock chamber music (2) Dweezil responding to an audience request by playing the first 15 seconds or so of Eddie Van Halen's "Eruption" in what is probably the greatest demonstration of guitar virtuosity I've ever seen, and all without breaking sweat.
Here's the full line-up:
Dweezil Zappa: Guitar Sheila Gonzalez: Saxophones, Flute, Keyboards & Vocals Pete Griffin: Bass Billy Hulting: Percussion Jamie Kime: Guitar Joe Travers: Drums & Vocals Ben Thomas: Trumpet, Harmonica & Vocals Chris Norton: Keyboards & Vocals
And here's the setlist, more or less:
Big Swifty Montana T'mershi Duween Easy Meat Daddy, Daddy, Daddy What Kind of Girl Do You Think We Are? Eruption (van Halen) (excerpt) Blessed Relief The Blue Light Latex Solar Beef/Willie The Pimp/drum solo Advance Romance Lonely Little Girl Pick Me, I'm Clean Little House I Used To Live In Mud Shark City Of Tiny Lites Yo Mama
Florentine Pogen Peaches En Regalia Keep It Greasy
And here they are, recorded a couple of weeks ago on the same tour in Amsterdam, doing T'mershi Duween and Easy Meat:
And in homage to the second Z of ZPZ, here is the late and lamented Frank conducting the Ensemble Modern in "G-Spot Tornado" (with dancers). Surely one of the most exhilarating pieces one could hope to play.
You couldn't make it up: but someone could, and did
Three years ago I wrote a post on a study which once again found no evidence whatsoever to link mobile phone signals with symptoms of ill-health, and on the utter denial with which it was greeted by true believers in the evils of electromagnetic radiation such as Mast Sanity. I voted their spokesperson Yasmin Skelt the EKN 2007 Nutter of the Year.
I revisited their site recently and was struck by a number of things. The organisation's chief spokespersons nowadays seem to be Dr Andrew Goldsworthy and Dr Magda Havas. The former is a retired botany lecturer from Imperial College who has published a number of apparently reputable papers on cell electrochemistry - and who has also, since his retirement, published a number of other articles appearing only on the internet and relating to the biological effects of electromagnetic fields. Magda Havas is professor of Enviroment and Resource Studies at Trent University in Canada. I think the latter lady may be well on the way to my 2010 Nutter of the Year award, at least on the basis of what I have read of her work tonight.
Consider this video clip for which she claims responsibility. Watch it and then we'll consider a few basics.
At 0:24 the video reports on the LA Times' publication of an article on electrosensitivity. Perhaps the big red circle drawn around the word "Electrosensitivity" is meant to divert our attention away from the accompanying text which is "Scientists haven't found a direct link between the symptoms of headaches and general complaints and being near electromagnetic fields. Some speculate that it is a mental instead of a physical disorder" (exactly as the study I reported on three years found). Instead it draws our attention to the large headline "Victims of electrosensitivity syndrome say EMFs cause symptoms". Which has to be one of the silliest headlines ever: not because the article reckons the effects are psychosomatic, but because if you ask people who consider themselves to be "victims of electrosensitivity syndrome" they are unlikely to report that they think the condition is in fact nothing of the kind.
At 2:06 a set of figures is shown on the screen which appears to show summarised experimental results. The voiceover points out that these are taken from pre-exposure questionnaire responses. So of the 25 subjects tested, 22 already believed that their hearts were being affected by electromagnetic radiation. Not only a very small sample (20 women, 5 men) but pre-selected to be believers in the hypothesis under test. In itself that doesn't invalidate the experiment but it is unusual practise to say the least.
We learn that the actual experimental protocols and results are to be published in a peer-reviewed journal this summer. So why rush out a video now? Why not wait until you have solid results? Or maybe you plan no such publication, or don't expect to be accepted for publication, or your results don't support your conclusions?
From the video we learn of only four individual results. One (A) shows no symptoms. Perhaps we are expected to be impressed by this display of scientific honesty. We're not, as there remain at least 21 results unreported (and I imagine Dr Havas did moran one run per subject - at least I hope she did). Another (B) shows an impressive correlation of applied field with heart rate, though it would be interesting to see for this patient the "pre-exposure" figure we saw for (A). What effect did the "sham" exposure (placebo) have? Why are we not shown? Subject (C) shows a similar pattern to (B) though the differences between "real" and "sham" exposure figures are much less and that pre-exposure data becomes really significant, yet we still aren't shown it. (Nor do we ever see data from after or between the experimental runs which might show whether the stress of the experimental situation was affecting the subjects's hearts.) One (D) shows a "delayed effect" which is to say, no symptoms which correlate with the applied EM field (nor this time can we tell whether the asymptomatic periods are those with "sham" exposure or no exposure of any kind). So this is another negative: yet these random fluctuations are being redefined as positive results. What on earth do the suppressed results look like?
Finally, the results: only 40% of the subjects showed symptoms which Dr Havas claimed to be directly attributable to the radiation (and we've seen how far the data have been pushed to get even that figure). 20% of subects experienced a rapid heart rate (which we are not told had any relation to the radiation so presumably did not and is irrelevant). "So do DECT phones affect the heart? The answer is YES." Even on the basis of the partially suppressed and faked figures we are allowed to see, that isn't true! The results from this "study" appear, insofar as we can tell, to support those earlier studies which found it made no significant difference to subjects' symptoms whether the power was on or off. Yet they are presented by Dr Magda Havas, B.Sc Ph.D as being a positive result.
A little Googling shows some of Dr Havas's other publications. This, for example, on how radiation from mobile phone masts may be part of a plan by "some elite group" to reduce human fertility and reduce the population. This one on "Life Energy" which was presented to the Toronto Society of Dowsers. No, really.
There is also this article on some of her research. Note that it mentions the experioment we saw in the Youtube clip, and claims that it shows that "EMF-sensitive patients experienced significant increases in their heart rates". Now that's like the headline we saw in the LA Times: how do you know they're EMF-sensitive? Well, their heart rates increase significantly whan the signal is on. More worryingly, the article refers to Dr Havas's research on a kind of diabetes unknown to the resy of the scientific community (type 3, caused by electrmagnetic pollution). The article states "..it seems reasonable to suspect that EMF pollution could be a fundamental cause of diabetic symptoms for a significant portion of the diabetic population." If this kind of rubbish causes people with symptoms of diabetes to resort to home EMF filters (isnlt that just a tinfoil hat?) instead of visiting their GP, people could die or be severly disabled unnecessarily. But it gets worse. The next two sentences are:
"This makes you wonder about the harm caused by mammograms, CT scans and other medical scanning technologies that blast the body with electromagnetic radiation, doesn't it?
Electromagnetic radiation leads to many diseases, including cancer."
So now people are being induced to believe that the mammogram which might detect a cancerous lump which would kill them is in fact going to give them breast cancer, or that when a CT scan finds a brain tumour that it was caused by the CT scan itself.
If these quacks want to make themselves rich by fleecing the gullible out of their cash for "EMF filters", good luck to them. But if they are going to try to persuade people that the symptoms of real, well-understood, bodily diseases are caused by radio waves and that they needn't go to their doctors, they're no better than the people who used to tell epileptics they were possessed by demons. And Trent University, Canada, should not be allowing its name to be used in connection with this crap.
By way of light relief before I bash my head through my screen, I relished the hyperlink in that article which reads "according to one statistic from a 2008 study" and takes the reader to an article in GQ's "Cars and Gear" section. Well, it's where all the best research is published nowadays.
Finally, I note from Dr Havas's page at Trent University's website that the courses she teaches include Technical Writing and Communicating Science, and that these courses 'help "scientists" communicate science to the public and this is particularly important when it comes to health and/or environmental related issues. Although these courses don't deal with health issues directly they do support the successful and effective communication of technical scientific information that is essential to communicating information about health issues.' (The inverted commas round "scientists" are in the original.)
George Monbiot at the Guardian (Comment is Free and in today's print edition) is dead right about the Crown Prosecution's all-too-explicable decision not to proceed with any changes against PC Simon Harwood, the policeman caught on film beating to the ground an unarmed man who wasn't even part of the protest Harwood was "policing". The man, Ian Tomlinson, died of his injuries a few minutes later, and the decision is all-too-explicable given Britain's previous track record on killings by police (there have been around a thousand in the past seventeen years) for which there hasn't been a single conviction.
George ends his article
This is a moment in which the pomp and majesty of the law falls away to reveal a squalid little stitch-up. In years to come you will hear Keir Starmer's decision mentioned alongside the Widgery report, the Hutton report and the failure to prosecute the killers of Blair Peach and Jean Charles de Menezes. The Tomlinson whitewash will be seen as one of British officialdom's most notorious swindles.
The difference in this case is that, thanks to citizen journalism and the Guardian's investigation, we have unequivocal footage of what happened to the victim. We also know that the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which made its own assessment of the evidence, found that the case was strong enough to warrant prosecuting PC Harwood for manslaughter. This time the Crown Prosecution Service cannot hide behind police lies about what happened. We know what happened: we've seen it. This makes the stitch-up even more infuriating and obscene.
So what can be done? Ian Tomlinson's family doesn't have the money to mount a private prosecution. But could we not raise it for them? I would welcome some advice about how much would be needed and how it could best be found. But right now our duty as citizens is to raise Cain: to show that we will not accept such blatant inequality before the law. If not now, when?
I checked the comments at CiF to see if there were any contact details for making such a contribution, and there are. Ian Tomlinson's family have a website where contributions to a fighting fund can be made. Paypal donations should be available from next week, or cheques can be sent to
Ian Tomlinson Family Campaign c/o Newham Monitoring Project 170 Harold Rd London E13 0SE
There is also a petition here to show solidarity with Ian's family.
Let's see what we can do to help the Tomlinsons obtain redress.
And how immensely proud it makes me as an adopted Scot (and how proud it makes those Scots by birth with whom I've discussed the matter) that neither of them had any truck whatsoever with the ludicrous "invitation" earlier this week to attend a US Senate hearing on the matter. The crime took place in Scotland. Al-Megrahi was tried under the Scottish legal system, imprisoned in Scotland, and eventually released by the Scottish government. Nobody gives a shit what the US Senate thinks about it, or Hillary Clinton, or David Cameron for that matter.
He isn't happy that Nick Clegg referred to the "illegal " war in Iraq. Bless. It's a shame when people say things Jimmy doesn't like, especially when they're in a position to (a) know what they're talking about (as Deputy PM Clegg will have access to documents Jimmy isn't even allowed to know exist) and (b) influence events. Though we didn't need Clegg to rid ourselves of the cancer of Blair, thank you very much.
Anyway, his comment was "Can we run that general election again, please?" Stop all the clocks! A mouthy Yank with a blog doesn't like the government we ended up with, so the election must be declared void, and re-run until the country is run by Pamela Geller, Geert Wilders and the EDL. (If the people elect the wrong government, dissolve the electorate and appoint a new one.)
Though he'd be just as happy if we were being run by Ramush Haradinaj. One thing I agree with Jimmy on: it's funny that the mainstream press hasn't made more out of what is surely one of the week's best pieces of good news: a genocidal terrorist (oops, there I go - an alleged genocidal terrorist) who escaped justice by getting his cronies to threaten witnesses will soon be back in the dock.
This one's classic point-and-giggle Jimmy. First of all he tells us "personally I don’t know enough about this case to cast an opinion" (I've never heard of anyone "casting an opinion" before - no speak English too good, Jimmy? - but I can think of several places Jimmy could cast his). Then in his usual "written by committee" manner, just four lines further on we have "SO DOES THIS RE-TRIAL MATTER? In my humble opinion very much so". Make up your "mind" Jimmy. Opinion? No opinion?
Of course Jimmy does have an opinion, which is that as Kosovo has just given Blair the order of the Golden Gaschamber or whatever they called the vile gong, it is utterly unacceptable for any Kosovars, even the ones caught massacring Serbs, to be prosecuted for war crimes. After all "the upside-down world means that even in wartime situations, so-called war crimes/human rights are king, are they not?" Well, yes, war crimes are normally an issue in wartime, Jimmy: the clue is in the name. Jimmy helpfully links to this so we can see who these chaps are that he thinks should be above the law. And note that there were several instances of threats against prosecution witnesses the first time round, hence the demand for a retrial. Not, as Jimmy suggests, that UN courts are "permitted to keep trying until they get the verdict required". (The way he would like to be able to do with our elections.)
Let's not be fooled by Jimmy's usual buffoonery, or even the passive racist attitudes we saw in the previous post. It's not only the thugs of the English Defence League he supports. Not just "parliamentary" European racists like Geert Wilders, not just belligerent Middle Eastern racists like Benyamin Netanyahu. Not just strident American hate-merchants like Pamela Geller or Michael Savage. Oh, Jimmy considers all the above to be fearless defenders of "freedom" (as against what we have in Britain, a country he clearly despises). But it's folk like the brave heroes of the KLA that he really admires. Blair is happy to let bygones be bygones and suck up to their supporters if there's money and airtime in it for him, but Jimmy really gets with the project. Human rights and war crimes are of concern only to "littlies": what matters is strong leadership. (Look at his blog's masthead if you doubt that.) A few thousand dead Serbs? Who cares? The Serbs lost, right? The kind of Britain Jimmy would love to see is the kind of ethnically homogeneous, dissent-free dictatorship the KLA terrorists were striving for.
A word of advice, Jim: you won't get it. The KLA managed to get their supporters into power because Blair armed them and funded them. Sadly your hero is no longer in a position to arm or fund anybody, being - how shall I put this? - a busted flush, a political has-been, a talk-show personality. So however much you suck up to him, he won't be able to get your Fairly Secret Army any WMDs, or even helicopters and artillery. You could head home to the USA (if you're even in the UK right now) and buy yourself a revolver or two, but sadly wicked liberal Britain won't let you bring them back here. So why not just go home and stay there? If you're so full of hate for the Britain I grew up in and love, don't let us detain you. Stand not upon the order of your going, but go at once.
(And yes, I am aware that as there's only one Jimmy the question of "order" doesn't arise. Though he could take his Fairly Secret Army with him. They never would be missed.)
And ten to one Jimmy gets neither of the literary references there without Googling. British my arse.
I was searching Uncle Jimmy's blog for a quote on human rights when I came across this piece which I hadn't spotted before. As a piece of racist filth it takes some beating. Apologies, but this one isn't funny at all, even in a point-and-laugh way.
I used to work with a young lady called Asmat Saddiqui (not sure how she spelled it). I once asked her where her family came from and she replied without hesitation "East Kilbride". Which put me firmly in my place and taught me a lesson I have not forgotten.
For Jimmy, however, Haroon Siddique's "ancestral family" must come from somewhere else. Well I have news for Jimmy, the anonymous Yank who claims that his own ancestral home is BRITAIN. First of all, "Britain" didn't exist until the 17th century: elsewhere he has claimed to be a Scot so you'd think (if he wasn't lying through his teeth) he might know that. If he's Scottish, is he of Celtic, Pictish, Irish or Norse descent? Perhaps he's descended from the Romans (after all, it is said that the British habit of wearing socks with sandals comes from Roman soldiers' cold-climate practise). There are quite a few Scots with French ancestry too. I'm English, and on my father's mother's side can trace my lineage back in one specific place for hundreds of years. Yet I have a French privateer among my ancestors as well as a German immigrant. And as for the Queen, bloody hell: more "British" blood from her Scottish Mum than her royal Dad. So what exactly is Jimmy demonstrating to us except racism of the most open kind? "I know I have no racial prejudices" he says. If he really believes that then the man belongs in an institution.
The quote I was originally looking for was from this post, where he says (regarding an article by Peter Oborne on the judicial enquiry into the cover-up of British involvement in torture)
"Oborne – do you really think that even the Daily Maul readers are bothered about torture against murderous, torturing Islamist terrorists?"
Which he combines with
"And some of us think it’s about time the Human Rights Act applied to human behaviour only."
So there we are. If your name is Siddique you must be "foreign". If you're a Muslim (bear in mind that the people whose torture is being investigated had never been tried, far less convicted of any offence) you're a terrorist, and if you're a "terrorist" you're not human (so break out the Zyklon B and cleanse this infestation, boys).
Jimmy claims to be better than the BNP because they're racists. Breaking news: the BNP are a hundred times better than this piece of Blair-Supporting (poor Blair, and I don't often say that) shit, because at least they're honest about their attitudes.
Unlike Jimmy who obsesses about it, I have no strong opinion as to what should happen to Tony Blair. As far as Jimmy goes, though, were it not for the fact that he's too cowardly to blog under his own name I would take some pleasure in discovering that he'd been found dead somewhere. Murder, suicide, illness, accident: whatever. I would just like the vile scumbag recycled with the rest of the trash. If only Dexter Morgan were real......
As an atheist, sometimes I find myself exclaiming "Thank God for that!" in relief; "Good God!", "Good Grief", "Jesus!" etc. in surprise. Usually, though, it's because I'm in company where "Fuck me!" "Thank fuck for that!" or "Fuck my old boots!" would cause offence. I don't want to be rude, after all. *ahem*
And I am seriously thinking of adopting "May God Dress You" (though the comment that Gok would be a better choice has much to commend it).
Here's a post from my favourite fascist which starts out in London and then becomes another anti-Iranian diatribe.
Where to begin? Well, apart from his having found his video while avidly reading a BNP fansite? Apart from his inability to understand plain English? (GG is clearly telling the EDL that there are 10,000 people in the crowd who will fight to the death to defend themselves).
We then have a digression on Iran, which while utterly irrelevant is very interesting. Jimmy lists various bad things that have happened in Iran:
1) Opposition journalists sentenced to death (Jimmy OTOH only wants opposition journalists locked up forever without trial)
2) Supposed terrorist executed - what, so if Osama bin Laden was captured would Jimmy be campaigning against the death penalty for him? Perhaps he would, but permit me to doubt it.
3) Teenagers hanged for being gay - vile, no doubt about that, but rather hypocritical of homophobe Jimmy to start trying to pass himself off as a champion of gay rights
4) Woman hanged for killing her abusive husband. We havent't hanged women in Britian since the year I was born, though I imagine before that some of the ones we executed were fighting back against abusibve husbands. In the USA I note most such cases are given life sentences. So what's Jimmy's point? That Iran has the death penalty and he's against it? He next cites a woman executed in Iran for a crime she may not have committed/ Well, that is a commonplace situation in the USA, but I don't see Jimmy doing big spiels on the iniquity of America's Death Rows. How strange.
5) Dalara Darabi executed for a crime she may not have committed (the USA's death rows are full of people convicted on flimsy, contradictory or discedited evidence) when she was only 17. Jimmy's rants about Iran's "disgraceful record" of executing juveniles would ring truer if he had ever said a word about America's equally disgraceful one (19 states still do it and there is a long queue of American kids waiting to die).
I'm not in any way condoning any of the Iranian executions Jimmy cites: quite the reverse. But to foam at the mouth about Iran's death penalty while staying mute about America's is simple hypocrisy. Rather like berating Iran for its government's nuclear ambitions while ignoring the hundreds of illegal nukes stockpiled by Israel.
We then have "This, THIS is what Galloway clearly thinks is quite the thing." Which is interesting, because I have never heard of George Galloway supporting the death penalty anywhere. Jimmy on the other hand has just described Iran (in this post) as treating insurrection "as it deserves to be". Which suggests that he is the one who thinks it's "just the thing".
Still, I'm sure Jimmy will furnish us with references to support his accusation against GG that he supports the death penalty in Iran. He'd better. We have laws about that sort of thing.
After that he just degenerates into an incoherent rant about how everyone at the demonstration was a foreign-aligned Islamist fundamentalist, how the NUT is in favour of Sharia law, how George Galloway was calling for the murder of 10,000 of his fellow-countrymen. Simply barking. 'The poster in the background “Celebrate Our Diversity” is a fig-leaf for Islamist fundamentalist separatism. This is NOT celebrating. This is incitement to kill. CLEARLY. There can be no argument.' Certainly no arguing with Jimmy.....
To Jimmy, everyone he dislikes (which is most folk except the EDL and the BNP) is inciting murder. George Monbiot was inciting murder by calling for (explicitly non-violent) direct action against Tony Blair. Roman Polanski and Piers Brosnan were inciting murder by filming The Ghost, in which a fictional ex-PM is murdered. Yet when I took him to task over his own incitement to his readers to go round to the office of a human rights lawyer he described as a traitor and an enemy of the state, he claimed to have forgotten all about it.
At least he only suggests that GG's punishment for warning the EDL thugs to back off should be ten years in prison. Then he provides no less than four links to an online site where readers can report GG to the Metropolitan police (if they can find anything to report him for).
I do feel sorry for Jimmy, who clearly isn't right in the head, but not so sorry that I haven't reported his libellous accusations to George Galloway in case he feels like suing him. So just to channel my inner Jimmy:
IF YOU WANT TO TELL GEORGE GALLOWAY ABOUT THIS SAD LOSER MAKIING LIBELLOUS CLAIMS THAT HE SUPPORTS IRANIAN EXECUTIONS AND CALLED FOR THE MURDER OF 10,000 PEOPLE, EMAIL HIM AT THIS ADDRESS firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is Uncle Jimmy talking Britain down once again. This time its Sir Richard Dalton, a former ambassador to Iran, who incurs his wrath by being less than enthusiastic over bombing Iran (with which, remember, we are not at war and which poses no threat to either Britain or any of its allies). He compares Sir Richard unfavourably with the United Arab Emirates' ambassador to the USA who is wuoted as nbeing in favour of bombing Iran. (Jimmy happily mentions that the UAE disowned his remarks: why would we let little matters of fact stand in the way of such a stinging indictment of a British diplomat? Jimmy asks "in all seriousness"
» Are (diplomats) not expected to represent OUR country, its government and its views? » Do they NEED to be stupid, or will treachery suffice?
He then posts a picture of Robert Mugabe and implies that Sir Richard supports him.
Leaving aside that hardly anyone in Britain has any desire whatsoever to attack Iran (it's much easier to find apologists for the Iraq war than for a repeat performance against Iran), and the chutzpah of an American criticising one of our ambassadors, it seems to me deeply ironic that the Muslim-hating Jimmy chooses a diplomat from the UAE to hold up as an example. This is the UAE where (unlike Iran) women still don't have the vote; where political parties are banned and the press, TV and internet are routinely censored. Perhaps Jimmy considers all those things to be worthy of praise: I beg to differ.
I'm playing catch-up a bit with Uncle Jimmy, as he posted a lot of idiotic stuff just before I went on holiday.
Here, for example, is his fawning review of Mad Mel Phillips's Londonistan. The most interesting thing about it (the book itself is worthless trash) is his comments about Enoch Powell's most famous speech, which show what happens when you sit at home in the USA somewhere getting all your news from right-wing talk radio and cable TV.
Earlier immigration from the British West Indies and African former colonies had resulted in NO "rivers of blood" contrary to Enoch Powell's prophesy. The reason he was wrong? West Indians and Africans were from Christian roots.
Jimmy ignores the fact that there had already been substantial South Asian immigration to Britain by the time of Powell's speech, Indeed, along with his references to "wide-grinning piccaninnies" Powell himself refers to problems with the Sikh community. Perhaps Jimmy thinks the Sikhs came here from Jamaica: perhaps he thinks they're Christian. Perhaps he's an imbecile. And as for Africans all being Christian, substantial numbers of Kenyan Muslims immigrated in the early 1960s along with some Ugandans (though the big wave of those came in 1972 when Idi Amin expelled them).
Of course Powell never prophesied "rivers of blood": he never even used the phrase, which was dreamed up by some headline writer or other. He quoted from Virgil's Aeneid, like the brilliant classicist he was, the line about seeing the Tiber "foaming with much blood". Here's Powell's speech which I'm prepared to bet Jimmy has never read.
3. Counselling provided to "rescue" women from mixed-race relationships. (This link explains the "intermarriage is illegal in Israel" line in the main article: there is no civil marriage in Israel, so Jews and non-Jews can only marry by going abroad, although the marriage will then be legitimate when they return.)
Writing about the Soviet period now exposes a particular irony. Like British troops today, Soviet soldiers were assured they were there to help a legitimate domestic government modernise a backward country – liberating women, planting gardens, constructing hospitals and schools. (The front page headline in last Friday's Times was "The mission was to build a school, but we ended up under fire in Helmand".) In fact, the Soviets became caught up in a tragedy of Aeschylean scale, whose unintended consequences have reshaped the world. It's now clear that the Carter White House set out to provoke the 1979 Soviet invasion by aiding Afghan rebels against the weak but domestic communist regime, tipping the balance in favour of an invasion that would ultimately bring it down. As everyone knows, that invasion created an insurgency which, armed by the Americans, turned into what we now call the Taliban. But behind a story that didn't have to happen is a story that could have. Amid The Great Game lurk glimpses of the modernised Afghanistan which might have flowered had it been left alone. As David Greig puts it in his play: back in the early 1990s there were miniskirts on the streets of Kabul.
A year on from the season's premiere, such a reality is even harder to imagine. When we opened in April last year, 153 British troops had been killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion; since then, the British death toll has more than doubled. Last August, President Karzai "won" an election so clearly corrupt that his opponent refused to participate in the runoff; in September, he passed a law banning women from leaving home without their husband's permission.
Nearly nine years on, the invaders face a stark and familiar choice between the Mastermind principle ("I've started so I'll finish") and the Denis Healey injunction ("If you're in a hole, stop digging"). As a result of 200 years of outside intervention, the people of Afghanistan now face an even darker prospect.
Jim-Jiminy Jim-Jiminy Jim-Jim-Jeree, this guy is as nutty as nutty can be...
Can anyone furnish the vaguest clue as to Eliza Doolittle's relevance to Blair, Iraq, the Chilcot Enquiry or MI5?
Much of the time Uncle Jimmy's outpourings are those of an odious racist creep. The rest is mainly divided between stuff he's been sent by the Israeli government or his American no-niggers-in--the-White-House pals, puff pieces for the EDL, Geert Wilders and other neofascists, and (especially at present) pieces trying to blacken Gordon Brown's reputation in the vain hope of thereby rescuing that of Blair. But just occasionally he comes out with something so completely random as to cause me to feel almost - but not quite - sorry for the guy. I mean, I knew as soon as Eliza Manngham-Butler gave her evidence to Chilcot that Jimmy would be out to rubbish it. In the even, as usual, he pinches someone else's rubbishing (Crispin Black, in the Guardian's Comment is Free, about which Jimmy normally has only vile things to say). He adds to it only one thing of his own: interpolated bits of My Fair Lady.
Yes, Eliza Doolittle shares a first name with Eliza Manningham-Butler. (I did get that, yes.) Wow. Just think, when Tony Blair gave his own evidence to Chilcot what fun the other incisive political commenters missed out on. They could have scored telling points by quoting bits of Some Like It Hot (Tony Curtis), The Great Race (ditto), I Left My Heart In San Francisco (Tony Bennett), or if they wanted a Broadway musical they could have had West Side Story (whose doomed hero is called Tony). They could even have had the "randy Scouse git" from Till Death Us Do Part (Tony Booth). Though that last one would actually have had some relevance as he's Cherie Blair's father (and no fan of his son-in-law).
Jim-Jiminy Jim-Jiminy Jim-Jim-Jeroo, with nutters like this what on Earth can we do?
I, too, love Kung Fu Hustle. And easily my favourite Bill Murray line is the final line from Dr Peter Venkman in this scene from Ghostbusters:
Dr. Egon Spengler: There's something very important I forgot to tell you. Dr. Peter Venkman: What? Dr. Egon Spengler: Don't cross the streams. Dr. Peter Venkman: Why? Dr. Egon Spengler: It would be bad. Dr. Peter Venkman: I'm fuzzy on the whole good/bad thing. What do you mean, "bad"? Dr. Egon Spengler: Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light. Dr Ray Stantz: Total protonic reversal. Dr. Peter Venkman: Right. That's bad. Okay. All right. Important safety tip. Thanks, Egon.
The whole family went to see this recent comedy, and I have to say we all enjoyed it very much. I'd read some reviews which complained that the storyline was far-fetched (well, yes, but have you seen Some Like It Hot lately? it's a comedy) and that it was over-sentimental. Sentimental, yes, though a film about not only Russian, but Russian Jewish musicians really would be far-fetched if sentiment was wholly absent. I should add that all the comments under the poor reviews were positive and reckoned the reviewers were talking through their backsides: which they were.
Basic plot: conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra is sacked by Brezhnev along with all the orchestra's Jewish musicians, and has to work as a cleaner. One day he intercepts a fax from the Chateket Theatre in Paris asking the Bolshoi Orchestra to do a concert there at short notice. He gets together his old sacked buddies and they pass themselves off as the Bolshoi Orchestra and do the gig, various subplots and a lot of very funny scenes. Melanie Laurent (the cinema owner from Inglourious Basterds) plays the soloist in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, and - I speak as a violinist - mimes more convincingly than anyone I've seen recently. My son wis convinced that Dmitri Nazarov, who plays Sacha, is in the opening scene of Men In Black, but IMDb doesn't list him in it so he's probably wrong. (Though as with the Rain Man toothpicks scene, there may still be four in the box.....)
Anyway, go and see the film. It's no doubt funnier if you spend a lot of time trying to organise orchestral concerts, but then The Full Monty is probably even funnier if you're a steelworker. You'll still find plenty to laugh at, trust me.
Vanessa and I drove through to Glasgow in torrential rain tonight to see Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter books. He read a couple of extracts from his latest book Dexter Is Delicious (the first chapter, and a bit where Dexter and his stepchildren are being followed by someone in a red car). He reads very well indeed, but then he was an actor before he turned to writing. Apparently he kept being asked to write things: a playwright pulled out of a project he was involved in and he was asked to finish the script, the band he was in wanted him to write lyrics, etc etc until eventually he gazed heavenwards and said "I GET IT, OK?" and went full-time as an author. He spoke about how the Miami he grew up in has changed in character from being a sleepy place full of good ol' boys to the den of iniquity it is today, and which Dexter helps to clean up in his, er, special way. (Dexter Morgan is a blood-spatter analyst with the Miami Police whose spare time occupation is serial killer, specialising in murderers and other violent criminals who have escaped justice.) He talked about the TV series ("still my favourite TV show"): although its plot line has now diverged from the books he reckons it's still very much in the spirit of his characters, and he thinks Michael C Hall is great as Dexter. He'd originally dreamed of a film adaptation "with Johnny Depp, of course", but as he said a successful TV series is much better for book sales than a film in the long run. Asked if he'd ever considered doing a book with Dexter outside the USA, he said he'd once jokingly suggested Dexter Down Under when he was in Australia, and the suggestion was met with such rapture that he felt he might actually have to do it. The possibility of Dexter In Dundee was mooted.....
It was all over in an hour, but we both felt it was very worthwhile driving through for. It was Jeff''s first visit to Scotland, and I can only hope the Edinburgh Book Festival gets him back some time, as I think he'd go down especially well with the EBF audience.
The news today was full of David Cameron in Washington wittering on about the release of al-Megrahi and how he wouldn't have done it if he'd been (a) in power (b) Scottish (c) asked for his f***ing opinion. Less coverage was given to this fine chap's early release.
Unlike Megrahi, Hayb wasn't ill, not was there any doubt of his guilt (indeed, he later admitted he'd perjured himself and that in fact Hurndall's killing was murder and not manslaughter). So why release him? Perhaps to punish the UK for raising protests over the Maya Marmara peace activists who damaged valuable Israeli bullets with the backs of their heads? Or for our disinclination to look the other way when an Israeli death squad tried to pass itself off as British?
Now here's a thing. Uncle Jimmy has been doing his usual lazy cut-and-paste blogging, lifting whole posts from other blogs. This week he's copied a piece about an "al-Qaeda magazine" from a site called Homeland Security US. Despite its title this site has nothing to do with the US government, of which it seems to take a rather dim view. No, it's a bunch of birthers, Tea-Partiers and other assorted right-wing nutjobs calling themselves the Northeast Intelligence Network. (I'm always impressed by the variety of loonies Jimmy manages to dig up and nod happily at.) They seem to view the whole thing as part of President Obama's (sorry, Barack Hussein Obama's) plan to impose Islam on the USA. Do take a look at their site - it;s a hoot.
Quite apart from where Jimmy found it, there are good reasons to doubt the authenticity of this "al-Qaeda" magazine. (And yes, plain common sense would be another, funnily enough.)
So why am I about to do my own cut-and-paste on an article from the magazine which is likely to be a fake? Well here's the thing. One of the articles purports to be a piece, by Osama bin Laden no less, on combatting climate change. Have a read of it before I carry on. (I've copied it because the original is buried in a pdf which is moreover apparently a virus risk, though Norton didn't raise any objection to it on my machine.)
The Way To Save The Earth,by Usamah bin Ladin
All praise is due to Allāh, who created the Creation to worship Him alone, and ordered them to follow good and avoid evil, and forbade them from corruption on land and in the sea. As to what follows: This is a message to the whole world about those who cause climate change and its dangers – intentionally or unintentionally – and what we must do. Talk of climate change isn’t extravagant speculation: it is a tangible fact which is not diminished by its being muddled by some greedy heads of major corporations. The effect of global warming have spread to all continents of the world. Drought, desertification and sands are advancing on one front, while on another front, torrential floods and huge storms the likes of which only used to be seen once every few decades now reoccur every few years. That’s in addition to the islands which are quietly and calmly sinking under the waters of the oceans; and the pattern is accelerating and reports by organizations dealing with the affairs of displaced people estimate the displacement of as many as a billion humans during the next four decades as a result of this.
I am not about to talk here about partial solutions which merely lessen the harmful effects of global warming. Rather, I am going to talk about looking for a solution to the crisis at its roots. In front of the world are the records which show the huge numbers of victims of climate change, some of whom died of hunger and others of whom died of drowning. In the same year in which [James E.] Hansen, NASA’s senior expert, confirmed the seriousness of global warming, 140,000 died and 24 million were displaced in floods in Bangladesh alone; and the caravan of victims of climate change hasn’t stopped since, so those behind it must be identified and a way of dealing with them specified. All industrialized countries, especially the major ones, bear responsibility for the global warming crisis, except that most of them have called on each other to commit to the Kyoto Protocol and have agreed to reduce emissions of harmful gases. However, Bush Junior – and prior to him, Congress – rejected this agreement in order to please the major corporations. They, therefore, are the real culprits behind the assault on the global climate, and this isn’t the first of their crimes against humanity: they themselves were also behind the current global financial crisis, and they themselves were behind all the speculation, monopolization and price rises in peoples’ sustenance. They are also behind globalization and its tragic consequences represented by its adding tens of millions of people to the ranks of the impoverished and unemployed. And then, when the culprits themselves fall victim to their own evil deeds, the presidents of countries rush to their rescue with public funds; and in this way, the people’s wealth is seized without right twice: one time through corporate fraud and monopolization, and another time through governmental deception and power. Many senior capitalists are characterized by wickedness and hardheartedness, and thus they don’t care about the human disasters caused by their economic activities. Words, conferences and demonstrations are of no use with such people. Hansen spoke out and warned Americans about the seriousness of global warming in 1988, but they didn’t respond to him. As for conferences, the Kyoto conference took place at the end of the last century, but they didn’t respond to it. And as for demonstrations, not even the largest of them – much less the smaller ones – were able to deter them from their greed and tyranny. Prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, people throughout the world’s continents took out million-strong demonstrations in which they echoed one phrase: “No to the spilling of red blood because of black oil.” But the result was that the mob boss mocked them and gave orders to start the savage assault on innocent people in Iraq whose only sin in his eyes was the presence of black gold in their country. So they killed, wounded, orphaned, widowed and displaced more than 10 million Iraqis, and they are still murdering and pillaging. That’s not to mention the crimes at Abū Ghraib and Guantanamo, those ugly crimes which shook the conscience of humanity. And after these lean years, there has been no mentionable change in the things which matter; and after all of this, their new proxy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and he accepted it in an extreme example of the deception and humiliation of humanity.
With this, the bitter truth becomes clear, which is that the world has been kidnapped by the heads of major corporations who are steering it towards the abyss. The policies of the world today are not being steered with the power of superior intellects to serve the interest of the people; but rather, with the power of the motivation and greed of oil-robbers and warmongers, the beasts of predatory capitalism. Noam Chomsky was right when he pointed to a similarity between American policies and the policies of Mafia gangs. So they are the real terrorists, and drastic and decisive solutions are required to restrain and subdue them: restrain them from their sin and subdue their savagery; and I place in front of you a number of solutions. These are:
First: the corruption of the climate stems from the corruption of hearts and deeds, and there is a close relationship between the two types of corruption. We know that Allāh جل جلاله has punished peoples with tsunamis due to the corruption of their hearts and deeds and their disobedience to Allāh, the Most High; among them were Pharaoh and his people. Allāh جل جلاله says, (Corruption has spread on land and in the sea because of what men’s hands have wrought, that He may make them taste the fruit of some of their doings, so that they may turn back from evil) [Ar-Rūm: 41]. Thus the happy one is he who learns his lesson, asks for forgiveness and dedicates all worship to Allāh جل جلاله alone, who has no partner, through His final message to all of mankind.
Second: that we be economical in all of our affairs and avoid luxury and wastefulness, especially in food, drink, clothing, housing and energy.
Third: factories’ emissions stop when the factories stop, and the way to achieve their stoppage is easy, simple and in your hands. The wheel of the American economy is like a bicycle wheel: if it loses one link in its chain, it stops moving; and among the links of the wheel of the American economy are raw materials, capital and consumers. We can affect all these links to varying degrees, but the last one is the weakest and our ability to influence it the greatest. So if the peoples of the world were to stop consuming American goods, this last link would become even weaker, leading in turn to a decrease in harmful gases.
Fourth: there must be accounting and punishment for those who head the major corporations and their political proxies, so that they stop their harmful actions against humanity. This is an easy thing for the American people, especially those affected by Hurricane Katrina and those without jobs as a result of the economic crisis, because the culprits live in their midst, particularly in Washington, New York and Texas. And here is their position at the Denmark conference demonstrating their evasiveness and how they are not serious about making the moves required to deal with climate change, as has also been shown by their denial of responsibility for previous catastrophes and their refusal to compensate the victims. On the contrary, they continue to insist on meddling with world climate for the sake of acquiring wealth, even if that be at the cost of our children’s lives.
Fifth: we should refuse to do business with the dollar and get rid of it as soon as possible. I know that this action has huge consequences and massive repercussions; but it is an important way to liberate humanity from enslavement and servitude to America and its corporations. And whatever might be said about the repercussions of this decision, the fact is that remaining enslaved to them has great and more serious repercussions. An opportunity should be first given to individuals to get rid of the dollar and related currencies, inasmuch as states with large reserves of dollars – particularly in East Asia – are able to bear many of those repercussions. It isn’t a secret that the dollar has lost more than 80% of its value against the euro since the latter’s introduction, and the same is true for currencies tied to the dollar. Additionally, gold has risen more than 400% against the dollar since the events of September 11th, and the dollar is continuing to slide, by the grace of Allāh, and I reckon that its losses against the euro will be a whole lot more than 100%; and it’s no secret to those familiar with military, political, economic and social sciences that America’s star is waning, its economy is shriveling and the dollar’s ship is sinking. And the happy one is he who learns from other’s mistakes.
In closing, the world has before it a rare and historic opportunity to liberate itself from servitude to America, as the latter finds itself in a serious predicament – by the grace of Allāh جل جلاله – drowning in the marshes of Iraq and lost in the passes of Afghanistan. The heroic mujāhidīn are inflicting on them severe moral and material losses, and they want to escape but cannot, and they are looking with sorrowful and dejected eyes at their rivals in the East and West whose situation has improved and wealth has increased following America’s hemorrhaging and its preoccupation with combating the mujāhidīn; and for Allāh is all praise. So to all people, all inhabitants of earth: it is neither just nor equitable nor wise nor smart that the burden be left on the mujāhidīn alone in an issue whose adverse effects concern the entire world. What is being asked of you is simple: it is that you tighten the embargo against them. So be earnest and take the initiative in boycotting them, in order to save yourselves, your wealth and your children from climate change and in order to live freely and honorably [instead of standing on] the steps of conferences and begging for your lives, for there is no good in a life which incurs humiliation. And wealthy states must stop lending to America, because to lend to it is to finance its tyrannical wars against the weak, particularly the one against your neighbors in Afghanistan. As for the mujāhidūn, they will – Allāh willing – persist in their fighting of the oppressors in Iraq and Afghanistan, in order to achieve truth, cancel falsehood and help the Muslims, especially in Palestine, and in order to defend weak and disaster-stricken people in Asia, Africa and South America who have neither strength nor power.
And our final prayer is that all praise is due to Allāh, Lord of the worlds.
Now my first reaction on reading that piece was how mild it is. Bear in mind that the "Inspire" magazine is full of bomb-making recipes, calls to kill Americans and Israelis, and general standard-brand Jihadi rhetoric. (Also full of praise for the wonderful "achievement" of the saddo who set fire to his underpants on a flight to the USA.) Yet apart from support for the defenders of Iraq and Afghanistan against foreign invaders, the bin Laden piece contains no praise for violence of any kind and nothing about jihad: it simply calls for a worldwide economic boycott of US interests.
My second reaction was that the language seemed a bit homespun and folksy for bin Laden, an aristocratic techie with excellent English. Perhaps it was written in Arabic and deliberately translated that way. Perhaps.
But my question is, who would go to the trouble of faking a non-violent bin Laden article? One that makes him look like a moderate Muslim (there is nothing in this piece which would get its author into trouble anywhere in Europe if it was repeated in a public forum). Could it be that the document's creators wish to portray concern over climate change as being an al-Qaeda-inspired plot to destroy the USA? Or is it the idea of a boycott that they're gunning for, given the increasing calls for just such a boycott to force Israel to face up to its responsibilities? Is the plan to paint the BDS movement as al-Qaeda sympathisers?
Of course, there remains the possibility that it is a genuine piece by bin Laden, though the reference to Noam Chomsky, favourite whipping-boy of the American right, seems all too convenient (bin Laden reads Chomsky? then it's OBVIOUS that Chomsky must be an al-Qaeda supporter, right?).
What do you think? The real deal, or a fake? And if the latter, why?
Following on from the "blacked out swimming-pool" non-story, here (courtesy of Tabloid Watch) is another case of the press inventing news when they can't be bothered doing that boring reporting stuff. And of course its the Muslims who are being demonised (again).
If you read to the end of the post you will see that when the MCB report was first published the Daily Express said it called for all children to be "taught in Taliban-style conditions". Yes, really.
It's not of course only Muslims who suffer from tabloid distortions. Take this story, which is about the resurfacing of part of one of the paths up Snowdon.
When considering how this irresponsible act will encourage unprepared folk onto the mountain and lead to accidents, bear in mind that it is possible to reach the top of Snowdon in a train.
You could also consider that the Daily Mail believes Snowdon (1085m) to be the second highest mountain in the UK. It's actually the fifty-seventh highest mountain in the UK, with the first fifty-six all in Scotland. Here is a picture of the real number two, Ben Macdui.
None of which stopped the always reliably fatuous Janet Street-Porter from stiking her uninformed oar in.
I promised last week I'd post about our holiday on Orkney. This was my (and Hilary's) fourth visit to the islands, and our first without fairly small children on tow. It was just the two of us plus Hilary's mother (who had been to Orkney even more often than we had). This time we only had a week rather than our more usual fortnight, so we decided against visiting (or revisiting as the case might be) the more distant islands, as they really benefit from an overnight stay. (We were based in Kirkwall, in a delightful flat.)
Our first visit was to Skara Brae, the neolithic settlement which Historic Scotland proudly proclaim as being "older than the pyramids". Which it is, but in fact on of the other Orcadian islands (Papa Westray) there are the remains of an even earlier settlement (Knap of Howar). Anyway, Skara Brae, now part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is just as wonderful as ever, and HS continue to improve its presentation. There is a full-scale replica of what a completed (ie roofed) version of one of the houses would have looked like, and we were amused to encounter in it a person in one of the electric buggies they provide for infirm visitors. The interior of a neolithic house is not a buggy-friendly environment, and her husband and I had to manhandle it part of the way out when she got stuck.
We revisited St Magnus's Cathedral, and managed to book onto a tour of its upper levels (there are four a week, each limited to six people). It was very interesting, as not only do you get to see parts of the cathedral not normally visible such as the belfry, and to go out onto the tower, but the triforium holds a small museum of items relating to the cathedral and to restoration work (especially the major restoration which occurred at the end of the 19th century). So we have the Kirkwall hangman's ladder (a double ladder: two went up, one came down), and examples of wood- and stone-carving, as well as the unused members of a set of stained-glass windows, ordered but eventually not all used.
We visited Hoy, the largest island after the Mainland. Hoy's main claim to fame is the Old Man of Hoy, which folk of my generation saw being climbed for the first time in a ground-breaking BBC outside broadcast. In the 1960s it took advanced techniques and three days: now its easiest route is graded a mere E1 and has been climbed solo by Catherine Destivelle.
We took a taxi fronm the ferry to Rackwick and walked out to the Old Man and back, then walked back across Hoy to the ferry. On the way back from the Old Man we investigated a marvellous little museum just outside Rackwick in an old croft. Mostly it contains a variety of furnishings and implements, but there are some great old photographs. Best of all, though, is a little display honouring fomer resident Andrew Muir, to whom we are all indebted for his inventive genius. Here are the displays:
and here are two examples of his great Orcadian-American invention:
Well, they do say travel broadens the mind.....
We also visted Rousay and Wyre. After Maes Howe, the biggest neolithic tomb on Orkeny is Mid Howe on Rousay. It is a stalled cairn, meaning that the various burial chambers are separated by stone dividers which give it the appearance of a gigantic urinal. It's undeniably impressive though.
On these small islands visitors attract attention:
The Community Centre on Wyre contains a copy of the Declaration of Wyre, an appeal to the crowned heads of Norway and Denmark regarding the perceived risks from nuclear reprocessing at Dounreay (just over the Pentland Firth from Orkney). Dounreay has gone now but the Declaration is still there.
We also visited the Brough of Birsay, a peninsula cut off by the tide for much of the day and containing both a splendid ruined 700-year-old palace and the nests of a large number of seabirds. For example, these young shags:
We rounded out the holiday with a meal at the Hamnavoe restaurant in Stromness, and vowed not to leave it so many years before our next visit.
I like the bit about the ORIGINAL modesty barrier. The only people to pick up on that were BBC Radio Four's The Now Show who ran a piece on the story. They pointed out that in fact the story boiled down to "Council replaces fabric modesty panel with tinted glass". Or, "NOTHING HAPPENED!"
Though I suppose the thought of Blair on the loose is also pretty scary
Uncle Jimmy bemoaning the lack of sycophantic coverage of Blair''s award of the Golden Gaschamber or whatever it was in freedom-loving Kosovo:
As for the Sundays – have any of them covered several pages with the Nine Toniblers? You jest. What a daft question. They’re all too busy reporting on the man who shot his former girlfriend and killed her new boyfriend, tied up the police and press and broadcasting outlets for at least a week, and then killed himself.
Because finding a serial killer who has been terrorising a whole county (and killing WHITE BRITISH people!) for a week is hardly newsworthy beside the parading of a bunch of kids supposedly named after Blair, is it? (Toniblers? That stunt must have been dreamed up by a foot fetishist.)
I was looking up some choice quotes from Buffy The Vampire Slayer just now (see, my daughter and I had been talking about Disney and Pixar and she remarked that Joss Whedon who wrote Buffy also scripted the original Toy Story). I really loved this one:
Buffy: Like the kid in the story, the boy that stuck his finger in the duck. Angel: Dike. It's another word for dam. Buffy: Oh, okay, that story makes a lot more sense now.
Buffy: So not stellar, hunh? Willow: Talk all talk blah blah Gaia blah blah moon menstrual lifeforce power thingy. You know, after a couple of sessions, I was hoping we would get into something real but... Buffy: No actual witches in your witch group. Willow: No, bunch of wanna blessed bes. You know nowadays every girl with a henna tattoo and a spice rack thinks she's a sister to the dark ones.
The education minister has outraged the 540 professors who signed the petition by his open backing of a nationalist youth movement, Im Tirtzu, which demands that teachers be required to prove their commitment to right-wing Zionism.
Mr Saar’s campaign to “re-Zionise” the education system, including introducing a new right-wing Jewish studies syllabus and bringing soldiers into classrooms, has heightened concerns that he is stoking an atmosphere increasingly hostile to left-wing academics and human-rights activists.
Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva who called for an academic boycott of Israel last year, has reported receiving death threats, as has a school teacher who refused to participate in Mr Saar’s flagship programme to encourage high-school recruitment to the Israeli military.
(Im Tirtzu's) biggest success to date has been a campaign last year against Israeli human rights groups that assisted a United Nations inquiry led by Judge Richard Goldstone in investigating war crimes committed during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008. The human rights organisations are now facing possible government legislation to restrict their activities.
OK, there are a lot of John Lennon fans out there.
OK, they are very protective of their dead idol and of everything connected with him.
I feel the same about Frank Zappa. Or at least I would have said I did. However, it wouldn't occur to me to abuse Dweezil Zappa if he allowed someone else (someone "unworthy") to play one of Frank's guitars - not even the restored one that Jimi Hendrix set light to at the Miami Festival (or more likely the Finsbury Astoria - see here).
A political has-been gets rewarded by terrorists, to some folks' delight.
So what's Uncle Jimmy been up to while I was away? I had a few things lined up to post about his twaddle before I went on holiday, and I'll get round to them in a while. But since I've been gone he has partly been concentrating on Tony Blair's new book, and why its title has changed from The Journey to A Journey. Most of us are too busy concentrating on avoiding the bloody thing to care what it's called, though I suppose a further change to A Junket would be an improvement given the infamous cupidity of its (supposed) author. But with new or recent books out by Mandelson, Alistair Campbell, Cherie Blair and Mel Phillips, however will we find the time to avoid all of them?
There are a few other bits and bobs I'll deal with later, but the greatest excitement in Jimmy's sad life has been the hero's welcome his own hero has received in Kosovo. Well, no shit, Sherlock. Alone among world leaders, Blair threw in his lot with the Kosovo Liberation Army, the bunch of genocidal terrorists who started an armed uprising in Kosovo which Blair then persuaded other countries to get involved in. The KLA were good at ethnic cleansing but not much cop at actual fighting, and if Blair hadn't backed them to the hilt with weapons and troops they would have received from the Serbs (whose troops were of course every bit as vile) what they had formerly been dishing out to them. But there we are: history is written by the winners, and thanks to TB (and eventually Bill Clinton) the KLA terrorists were the winners. Unsurprisingly their successors in power think TB is the bee's knees and presented him with their Golden Medal for Freedom. Unsurprisingly the biggest ego in Europe accepted this travesty, from a country where (with no pressure from the government, of course) no fewer than eight children were named after him. (Whether at birth or specially for the ceremony we shall never know.)
It's funny to think that the KLA had far better-documented links to both Osama bin Laden and the Taliban than Saddam Hussein (who was known for brutally executing any Muslims he considered extremists, which was any who expressed opinions). Yet Blair armed and trained the KLA while deposing and hanging Saddam. But then the KLA's gratitude to TB probably didn't begin with the Genocide Gong for him to hang round his neck. Poor dumb Saddam, unlike the Kosovar drug billionaires, couldn't fathom what might motivate the foreign policy of someone with a network of shell companies and tax-avoidance schemes.
Jimmy comments that on Blair's "return" to Britain (not that the spends much time here these days - too much tax liability) "I expect our streets too will be adorned with his pictures, in thanks and recognition. Yeah, right." Well, Jimmy, I can tell you that my street and many others in Edinburgh are covered in images of the Self-Regarding One, renewed nearly every day. I have to hose it all into the gutter in case someone treads in it.
The Arab minority in Israel are full citizens who enjoy equal rights, including voting rights; in fact, it is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote. Arabs are represented in the Knesset, have served in the Cabinet, on the Supreme Court, in high-level foreign ministry posts (including one who served as Israel's ambassador to Finland), and as deputy mayor of Tel Aviv.
Well, we've seen what happens to Arab members of the Knesset. We've seen how "equally" Arabs are treated regarding where they can live, work or own property. But the bit about votes for women must be true, right?
As of 1995, women had a legal right to vote everywhere in the world except in 6 countries in the Middle East—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates—as well as in Brunei, a small oil-rich monarchy in Southeast Asia.
Heck, as at 2010 Brunei hasn't yet given MEN the vote. So by comparison with them even Saudi Arabia looks pretty good.
Here's a timeline so you can see when the other places gave women the vote.
And just to make it quite clear, Palestinian women over 18 (including those in Gaza) have the vote. Hamas in particular appear to have benefited from women's votes to elect them as the Palestinian government in 2006, though of course the Israeli-backed Fatah coup removed them shortly afterwards except in Gaza.
But that's the thing about Zionist propaganda: it doesn't have to be correct or even plausible because any statement which shows Israel's superiority to its Muslim neighbours will be picked up, repeated ad nauseam in the European and American press, and will then become part of What Everyone Knows because it has been repeated so often.
In the country which loves to pretend it's a Middle Eastern democracy while behaving like a 12th-century theocracy, being an opposition member of parliament can be damaging to your health, citizenship, etc.
I'm on holiday in Orkney right now, where until this afternoon (pouring rain, sitting in a Kirkwall internet cafe) I had trouble getting a connection with enough bandwidth even to check my email. (My iPhone works in some places, though not where we're staying, so I've been able to check for urgent stuff.)
Normal service will be resumed, with holiday pictures, when I get home (heading south tomorrow, though it may be Sunday before I log on again).
FWIW, Orkney rocks. But I knew that really (it's my fourth visit).