Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance
Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies
Something else altogether
All of the above
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Fall Back In Anger
And of course, while I've been doing all these posts, the clocks have gone back to return us to Greenwich Mean Time.
Why do we have to screw about with the clocks twice a year? Can people who want to get up an hour earlier in the summer not just, you know, set their alarms earlier? Why do we have to waste time, money and energy resetting thousands of clocks? (At least the ones connected to the web switch automatically.)
I took heart from this survey, until I read this article and realised that the change proposed isn't "switching to British Summer Time all year round" (though that may be what those surveyed thought they were voting on) but switching to GMT+0100 in the winter and GMT+0200 in summer. In other words, a wholly cosmetic change leaving the basic lunacy unimproved.
Last week also saw football history being mede, when Auxerre played away to Ajax in the European Champions League. Auxerre's Jean-Pascal Mignot became the first player (and it's a fair bet that he will be the only player for a very long time) to be sent off the pitch before he'd even come onto it.
Land ahoy!.......I should have said that sooner, shouldn't I?
While I was on holiday and not blogging much, the Royal Navy submarine HMS Astuteran aground on Skye.
When the reporters were telling us all about Astute and how her sonar has a range of over three thousand miles, I did find myself wondering why it couldn't detect Skye (not a small island) until it was in contact with it. Perhaps that's what they meant when they described its technology as ground-breaking.....
Anyway, Astute was refloated, and will soon be joined (at sea, that is, not stuck onshore) by six further Astute class vessels. As vessels in a class normally have similar names, I do hope that one of Astute's sister ships is named HMS Aground.
Update: I knew that Astute had been hauled off the sandbar by a tug to avoid damage to the ultra-sophisticated acoustic tiling on the hull if she simply drove off under her own power. What I didn't realise until today was that she collided with the tug during the operation.
I really would not like to be the Commanding Officer of HMS Astute right now.
I was overjoyed recently to discover that Sex, Chips and Rock'n'Roll, which is incredibly difficult and/or expensive to get hold of on DVD, is available in its entirety on YouTube here. the series is full of terrific performances, especially from the central pairing of Gillian Kearney and Joseph McFadden. Oh, and it has an amazing 1960s pop soundtrack.
The song which is central to the plot, however, is the Ice Cubes' hit single I Want Doesn't Get, specially written for the series by Mike Moran and Debbie Horsfield. Here is the promotional video of the song (yes, I know, groups didn't make videos in 1965, apart from the Beatles).
(I originally posted a clip from the series itself too but a commenter pointed out that it contained a mega-spoiler so I have removed it. Watch the series!)
President Kennedy received a Pulitzer Prize for his book Profiles In Courage, an achievement somewhat tarnished by the belated revelation that a substantial amount of the book was ghost-written.
Tony Blair has been nominated for an award for his book A Journey. However, as the award is the Literary Review'sBad Sex Award for badly-written erotic scenes in works of fiction (sic), one imagines that if it wins TB will be only too happy to pass the blame onto someone else, as with all his other failures.
My friend Chip Clark in the USA sent me this link demonstrating how people can believe something with a total disregard for the facts, even when it's as simple as "Have taxes gone up or down?" And when I say "people" I don't just mean Americans: I'm sure a similarly embarrassing poll could be conducted here. Why do you think I link to the Europol terrorism statistics every year which show the tiny proportion of terrorist attacks, even non-fatal ones, with any link to Islamic terror groups? And more recently to the similar statistics from the FBI for the USA? Yet because people like Tony Blair say so, thousands of otherwise sensible people are convinced that Islamic fundamentalism is the biggest threat facing humanity.
But once a myth has taken hold, even publicising the facts won't necessarily shake it. See here for a study where researchers first planted false rumours about the proposed Park51 Centre in New York, then demonstrated that the rumours were false by providing evidence.
I see Geert Wilders is to have a retrial. Whch is funny really. First the prosecution recommended dropping the original charges: I suppose they considered that when taken in the context of Wilders' overall political message, his comparison of the Koran to Mein Kampf was intended as praise. And of course his proposals to rid the Netherlands of its "filthy" Muslims are to be implemented democratically, as of course was Hitler's similar programme against the Jews. So Wilders would almost certainly have walked free. Still, in an example of poetic justice, the fool's complaint against one of the trial judges for bias (which had already been thrown out) has now mysteriously been upheld, so the whole trial has to be repeated. I'm not sure whether to be more worried by the fact that Wilders evidently has back channels into the judicial process ohat enable him to get decisions overturned if he he doesn't like them, or jubilant that the imbecile has trashed a trial that was presumably about to acquit him in favour of a fresh trial which he might find it harder to rig.
Having just been reading some of Melanie Phillips' drivel about how the entire scientific community is engaged in a Marxist-inspired conspiracy to destroy capitalist freedoms by pretending that there is such a thing as man-made global warming, I felt the time was right to share this old advertisement with you.
You may enjoy following the link to the original 1962 Time magazine edition from which it is taken. It includes more wonderfully dated ads, as well as a report (p.32) on Dean Rusk's attempt to persuade the OAS to oppose the Castro government in Cuba. Also for all fans of The Dish, there's an article (p.41) on the newly-built Parkes radio telescope.
No doubt Mad Mel believes the Apollo missions were all faked by NASA to fool the US government into giving it more money. Let's face it, she's credulous as hell (*).
Q: Which side in Operation Cast Lead used civilians as human shields?
A: I know, I know, the questions are getting easier.....
What's really striking is that even the Israeli hasbara-merchants who keep parroting the Hamas-hid-behind-civilians rubbish only accuse them of doing so in the sense that they live in ordinary houses alongside non-combatants (instead of in barracks labelled BOMB ME in some mythical civilian-free part of the world's most crowded place). The IDF, on the other hand, was following its normal procedure of getting local children or pregnant women to do all the dangerous stuff while the brave, moral Israelis cowered behind their armour in a separate room.
As my department at work has just shed 300 staff members via invitations to take voluntary redundancy, I was a little surprised at last week's announcements of more job cuts, not just in our division but in my department. The overall scale of the cuts caused it to be a national news story: the story in my own department (which is in the first phase of the programme so the prcess starts immediately) is that we will be shrinking from 37 permanent staff to 16. While not known for underselling myself, I have to say the odds aren't great for my surviving the cull, what with my being 55 and still primarily involved in comparatively old-tech systems. When i get back from holiday next Monday I shall be doing the necessary form-filling. Right now I feel I want to carry on in my current job if I can, but if that's not available I'd rather take a package and go than attempt to be redeployed into something completely different. I don't mind change, but in the current climate of harsh performance management trying to pick up a new job is not perhaps the best idea: better to go with a decent redundancy payout than be eased out for poor performance (real or conveniently fictional) in a few years with much less.
We'll find out in January who is in and who is out, and I imagine therefore that from April 2011 I will probably be an early pensioner. Much to think about: certainly if I do leave there are things I could do with my time that could be quite rewarding. No point in worrying, and it's only a surprise because of the timing.
Meanwhile Hilary and I are up at the Ballater flat, where the Internet connection is s-l-o-w. So you'll get a drip-feed of blogging this week, I guess.
A few songs I've had running through my head recently. First of all, Sheryl Crow's awesomely funky There Goes The Neighborhood:
Then this blast from my distant childhood:
And this one too:
(Incidentally, while I was looking for that gem via Google I encountered this poem by George Pope Morris, which can certainly hold its own in any "worst poem of all time" contest.
And this week I went to see a local amateur production of Georges Bizet's exquisitely silly opera The Pearl Fishers. (My wife was playing in the orchestra.) The Pearl Fishers has a lot of good music, but its reputation is based on its One Big Tune, a splendid duet for tenor and baritone, sung here by Andrea Bocelli and Bryn Terfel. basically they're singing about how they both fell in love with the same woman years ago but vowed to give her up because their friendship was more important to them. (See the opera to find out how THAT worked out....)
And whenever I read Uncle Jimmy, Geert Wilders or other racist creeps bemoaning the horrors of multiculturalism, I start humming this old Peter, Paul and Mary song to myself. The song has already lasted longer than anyone will remember the Euronazis' hate speech.
Blair criticises Ahmadinejad's speech without bothering to read it. How scholarly. How statesmanlike. How utterly Blair
You may have noticed this in the news. Yes, in Washington they have so little idea of what either a statesman or a scholar looks like that a bunch of imbecles has declared Tony Blair (who was never remotely close to being either) as a "scholar-statesman". Well, you can imagine how the Monstrous Ego preened and puffed at such an honour. You can also imagine the kind of twaddle he came out with when making his acceptance speech. (If you have the least desire to do anything but imagine, there are plenty of video clips around: Uncle Jimmy's site has them all. For some reason he thinks that Blair's acceptance of a phoney award in Washington means that "he's back" on the British political scene. Dream on, Jim: Failed, Fired, Forgotten, that's Tony Blair's epitaph in British politics.)
Anyway, buried in "scholar-statesman" Blair's (you'll just have to imagine my shoulders heaving with mirth as I typed that) same-old-same-old Islamophobic tosh was this:
"We should make it crystal clear to Iran: acquiring a nuclear weapon is unacceptable not just to America but to the civilised world. And if people say, why should India or France have a nuclear bomb but not Iran, I say go and read the speech of Iran’s President to the United Nations just days ago here in New York, and tell me that is someone you want with a nuclear bomb."
OK, first up, the guy is clearly a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. but there are plenty of people in the US government, in congress and governing states, who buy into equally whacked-out conspiracy theories regarding the "myths" of climate change and evolution, or regarding their own President's birthplace and religion. Blair doesn't seem to have any problem with these people's holding power in a country with nuclear weapons.
Then, if you actually read Prime Miniuster Ahmadinejad's speech, apart from the 9/11 nonsense it's perfectly reasonable. Most importantly, Ahmadinejad calls for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. He points out that Iran has gone beyond its commitments in honouring the Non-Proliferation Treaty (a treaty to which Israel has never been a party, BTW, though it has nuclear weapons - which it tried to sell to apartheid South Africa - and Iran hasn't). So whether I would trust Ahmadinejad with a nuclear bomb is irrelevant: he doesn't want one, as Blair might have spotted if he (a) read the papers now and then and (b) read the bloody speech he criticises so freely. Would I trust Prime Minister Netanyahu with one (and he has hundreds of them)? Absolutely not. Is Blair bothered about illegal nuclear weapons? Is he bothered about non-proliferation? Evidently not. Is he repeating the same tired old lies that have made him a laughing-stock everywhere except Israel and right-wing circles in the USA? Sadly, he is.
Personally, I'm just glad that our own nuclear deterrent is no longer within reach (whatever happens in elections) of someone who believes that Islamic extremism is the greatest threat facing the world today, who led us into the futile wars we lost and are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who is now itching for someone to attack Iran so he can cheer then on and claim it was all his idea in the first place.
Still, for all Ahmadinejad's clumsy rhetoric and 9/11 lunacy, his speech is worth ten of Toe-Nibbler's (and can be had for a tenth of the price). Now if he could just get round to sorting out the little matter of the rigged election back home, we might get somewhere. (Funny how Blair didn't mention that in all his Iran-bashing: mind you, he praised the state of democracy in Afghanistan FGS, so flagrant election-rigging is clearly OK with him).
Essential viewing: a video on the appalling bias at the BBC in Jane Corbin's "documentary" on the Mavi Marmara atrocity.
And in case you should imagine that this was an isolated instance rather than an example of the long-standing systematic pro-Zionist bias of the BBC, here is a post I wrote last year on the way an otherwise excellent religious series was hijacked to hammer home crudely misleading Zionist propaganda as though it were factual.
It's OK, I don't think Jimmy has $2m and a sinkful of Thorium
BlairSupporter (aka Uncle Jimmy) is of course a huge fan of Euronazi Geert Wilders. He recently posted two impassioned pieces in support of him, first this one supporting Wilders' doomed attempt to discredit the judge, and then this one moaning about Wilders' failure.
There's a lovely little call to insurrection tucked in at the bottom of the first piece:
PLEASE, lawmakers and lawyers – get a grip, before the public does.
Ooh, gosh, I'm scared of Jimmy and his Fairly Secret Army leading the masses against the wicked government and courts to establish his military dictatorship (perhaps with the sainted Wilders as its Fuhrer).
I might be more scared if Jimmy weren't too craven to give his real name and Wilders didn't come over all shy and retiring when faced with anyone he can't bully.
Populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, known for his strident anti-Islam and anti-immigration views, has held a speech in a Berlin hotel amid protests outside the venue.
"Germany too needs a political movement that defends the national identity of the country. Germany's political identity, its economic success, is threatened by Islam," Wilders told an audience of some 500 people at a hotel in Berlin's Tiergarten district.
Because that worked out so well last time......
Still, creepy Wilders may not be troubling us much longer. Funny that someone who is happy to shoot his mouth off all around the world about the evils of Islam and how Germany needs another Nazi party is struck dumb when placed in a courtroom. Never mind, if he doesn't have the courage of his convictions at least he should soon have a conviction. (His challenge to the legality of the court was, not surprisingly, unsuccessful.)
But...but...aren't all terrorists Muslims? You mean the peace-loving civilians in the illegal settlements commit acts of terrorism against Palestinians? Reality alert!
And will this be reported in the British press? A quick Google shows nothing in the Guardian or the Times, nor on the BBC News site (though THAT's hardly surprising)
This didn't get reported either (though I won't go along with the blogger who describes the terrorists as "not human": if they weren't human they couldn't be blamed for their acts. They are. They can. I do.
This time about the threat from Islamic terrorism.
I bet you didn't know that according to the FBI's statistics for 1980 - 2005 there were more terrorist attacks in the USA carried out by radical Jewish groups than by radical Muslims. Or that in Europe last year there was one terrorist incident carried out by an Islamist group. Yet we keep being told by Richard Spencer, Pamela Geller, Daniel Pipes and the like that while not all Muslims are terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims. And Tony Blair, of course, believes (really, sincerely, y'know, believes) that the greatest threat facing the world today is radical Islam.
It's bad enough that Lord Young, whose proposed health and safety "streamlining" was in the news last week, comes out with the tired old urban myths about restaurants banning toothpicks for safety reasons and all the rest. But then along come the BBC who add their own collection of urban myths and report them as fact. (You know, just the way they did with fake Israeli videos of the Mavi Marmara attack.) And see here:
The BBC later use the issue for a Have Your Say discussion, adding: “However, unions say the Tories are distorting facts about health and safety legislation for political ends.” Great job, guys.
And heaven help us, here's The Sun, right on cue, taking up the refrain .
Siegfried - Edinburgh Players Opera Group, Portobello Town Hall, September 26th.
Another thing I've been busy with is the Edinburgh Players Opera Group. You may remember that a few weeks ago I mentioned that we would be putting on a concert performance of Wagner's Siegfried on 26 September. Well, we did that very thing, and it went off pretty well. The orchestral playing seemed a bit more ragged than the first time we did Siegfried back in 2003, which is funny because the orchestra had a lot of players in it who had also played then. There were certainly more anxious moments than the first time: perhaps we were all simply wearier this time (I think I got through the 2003 weekend on a supply of Pro-Plus). Maybe Mike Thorne's conducting was less clear? Hard to say. The 2010 anvil sounded a bit nano-tech for my ears: it sounded more as though Siegfried was making a biscuit tin, or at best panel-beating a 2CV, rather than forging a magic sword. But hey, it got the job done. The music, of course, was wonderful: every time I play Siegfried I think it has the best music in the entire Ring. There is Siegfried's big Act 1 Forging Song, brilliantly carried off by Jonathan Finney. There is the Wanderer's music, earlier in Act 1: a combination of Gerard Delrez's singing and Wagner's fabulous orchestral accompaniment. And a lot of little touches that are easy to forget: after Siegfried has killed Mime, as he drags the corpse to lay it on Fafner's hoard he sings music that confers a kind of tragic grandeur on both Fafner and Mime, two nasty pieces of work whose ugly sides were brought out by the desire for the ring whose curse saw them off.
Our singers were a mix of old and new faces. I mentioned Jonathan Finney and Gerard Delrez, who have formed the core of many of our previous productions. Normally our Brunnhilde would have been Elaine McKrill, but she had been involved in a production of her own, recently producing a baby boy (cue much debate as to its likely name - I still reckon Alberich). Her place was taken by Kim Myers, whose singing was a revelation to us all. It will be interesting to see who EPOG go with for next year's Brunnhilde: back to Elaine, or stick with Kim?
Our own Alberich was once again Nicholas Fowler, but our Mime - Ben Regan - was a last-minute replacement who did really well. At the first rehearsal he sounded like a stand-in, but two days later he had grown into the part (can one grow into a dwarf?) perfectly. Our cast was rounded out by Colin Heggie as Fafner, owner of perhaps the creepiest leitmotif in the whole Ring, Katrine Townhill as Erda (owner of one of the loveliest), and Susan McNaught as the Woodbird.
All the singers were great, but special praise has to go to Jonathan Finney for his singing of probably the hardest of the Wagnerian tenor roles, and Gerard Delrez who made singing Wagner seem the easiest thing in the world, and whose presence seemed to make everyone else sing and play a little bit better. Special thanks to conductor Mike Thorne, without whose enthusiasm and drive none of the above would have happened: and to Philip Taylor without whose own crazy enthusiasm for Wagner and for music-making not even Mike could have brought Edinburgh Players Opera Group into being.
Next up: Götterdämmerung in 2011.
Here is Brunnhilde's awakening from the last act of Siegfried, taken from the Bayreuth Centenary production by Patrice Chereau and conducted by Pierre Boulez. Still just about my favourite Ring production.
Busy, busy, busy....sorry I haven't updated the blog for a couple of weeks.
One thing I've been busy with is the new season for the orchestra I play in, Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra. Lots of people wanting to join, so now we have a really decent size of string section (except double basses - any bass players in the Edinburgh area fancy playing Elgar's Second Symphony?) Also an AGM for which I had to do a Chair's report - but somebody has taken over as Chair now so I'm back to doing just one committee job (Orchestra Manager, which is a grandiose title for roadie).
We're also practising the Brahms Violin Concerto, and this Beethoven Overture, which I've been wanting to play for many years:
Ding Dong, the failed NuLabour experiment is dead (perhaps)
Readers of my earlier post here will know that I voted for Ed Balls as Labour leader. But even though Balls came third, I have the satisfaction of knowing that the contest went right down to fourth preference votes, which means that my fourth prference for Ed Miliband over his brother helped to save the Labour Party from a return to the failed policies of the Blairites. (I was going to say 'and the country' but with David at the helm Labour would never have stood a chance in an election: just think how the Labour vote haemorrhaged during Toe-Nibbler's years in office.) Nobody but the Daily Mail believes Ed Miliband is a leftist, though I'm sure the leaders of Unite, Unison and the other unions which supported him wish he were. I wish I could believe he had the spine to undo the decades of damage that Thatcher, Major and Blair (Huey, Dewey and Louie) did to the unions and the Labour Party, but I can't see him delivering much in the way of reform. Better to have Ed, though, however disappointing he turns out to be, than his torture-supporting brother.
Apparently loser (in every possible sense) David Miniblair is considering retiring from frontline politics. If he does, we'll be able to see if he has truly taken on board the mantle of Tony Blair: if he has, then the instant he no longer has a grand title he'll dump the poor constituents who returned him to Parliament in the expectation that he would work for them, and take up some lucrative consultancies instead. Meanwhile, he can still make asinine comments for the cameras such as his jeering when Harriet Harman applauded Ed's criticism of the Iraq war: "What are you clapping for? You voted for it." Well, David, it's like this. Most normal people, unlike Toe-Nibbler and you, have what are called "morals" (get a grown-up to look it up for you) which means that if they make mistakes they own up to them, then change the way they behave so as not to make the same mistakes again. Amoral self-seekers who are incapable of admitting that they ever make mistakes are unable to do that, which is why they are no use to anyone. And that's why Toe-nibbler was shown the door in 2007, and why you never had a hope of even seeing the door.
I have copied the picture below from Uncle Jimmy's site. Jimmy is busier than at any time since the general election doing down the Labour party and its leader and trying desperately to convince himself - if nobody else - that everything would be peachy if Blair the arch-Thatcherite and the rest of his crypto-Tory crew were still running the country. Which means that mostly his blog doesnlt even rise to the level of ridiculous at present: it's all "Labour are BAD because they didn't elect a Tory as leader and they aren't continuing Blair's failed Tory experiment, so you mustn't vote for them. The leadership election was clearly rigged because all the London constituency parties voted for Miniblair, and who cares about littlies in other places? And the Lib Dems are terrible because they're in a Tory government but they're not Tories. So why not just vote Conservative and do it properly?" (Though actually I think Jimmy's more of a closet UKIP supporter, or even - despite his utterly unconvincing disavowals of racism - a BNP man.) Jimmy clearly believes that the demise of NuLabour is a bad thing (after all, Labour is only tolerable whan it's Tory). I beg to differ, and if there really were a grave for NuLabour I would go and dance on it, pausing in my corybantic glee only to urinate on the headstone in reply to Blair's treatment of trade unions and their members.
At least now we know that when the IDF talk about acting with restraint they're referring to the use of plasticuffs as torture tools
The report of the UN Fact-Finding Mission into the attack by Israeli forces on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla should be required reading for all the clowns who continue push the lies that the Israeli troops had a perfect right to board the vessels and that the poor darlings were forced to kill all those wicked terrorists in self-defence. Yes, I'm looking at you, Jane Corbin, BBC propagandist-in-chief for the IDF.
The report also explodes the myth - much peddled by the Israel-right-or-wrong brigade - that the violence on the Mavi Marmara must have been caused by it passengers as the other ships in the convoy were seized peacefully. Certainly the passegers and crews of the other ships offered no resistemce, but that did not protect them from being beaten, having limbs broken, being shot in the face at close range with paintballs, tasered, and later subjected to torture and attempted deprivation of medical attention. Orwell's slogan "War Is Peace: Freedom Is Slavery" springs to mind if this is supposed to be what "peaceful" acts of piracy look like.
Read the report here, and Tony Greenstein's succinct analysis of it here.
An everyday story - sadly - of extrajudicial executions, torture, denial of medical attention, theft and fabrication.
Israel, meanwhile, is refusing to co-operate with the full UN enquiry onto the incident if it calls on Israeli soldiers to give evidence. They've had their fifty minutes of taxpayer-funded advertising on UK television: why would they want any more exposure in circumstances where they're not in total control of what gets reported?
Meanwhile, apparently in a private universe of his own, what was Tony Blair's response to a report recommending prosecution of the Israeli forces for several counts of war crimes? Why, he recommended that the Israeli government be allowed to skim more money off the Palestinians by running tours of Israel's illegally-seized Lebensraum. Sadly for his future earnings, Blair's attempt to divert attention away from the UN Report was largely unsuccessful. Journalists covering the Middle East must have got so used by now to Blair's Zionist rhetoric that not even this demonstration of his dissociation from reality could keep their attention on the deluded loser.