Sunday, August 28, 2016

ART: JD on Hieronymus Bosch's "The Garden Of Earthly Delights" (c. 1490-1510)

JD explores the mystery of Bosch's painting:

By Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) - Galería online, Museo del Prado., Public Domain,
I found this on one of the BBC web pages about the painting "The garden of earthly delights" by Hieronymus Bosch:

It is mainly about a musical notation painted on the posterior of a naked body in the right hand panel of the triptych. The music was transcribed in 2014 by Amelia Hamrick, a music student at Oklahoma Christian University. Here is the music (played by Jim Spalink):

The convention among art scholars and critics is that the three panels of the triptych are read from left to right as Paradise; this world; a vision of hell. The music is in the panel showing hell but it doesn't sound hellish to me... quite the opposite in fact. But there is another, choral version of the same music which sounds much darker:

I have stood or sat in front of that painting many times in the Prado and it is baffling and fascinating. So what do I know about it? Well, I know that Phillip II acquired the painting at auction in 1591. He also owned this painting by Bosch:

By Hieronymus Bosch (circa 1450–1516) or follower - : Home : Info : Pic, Public Domain,
- which was used as a table top in his private rooms at El Escorial. They are both now on display in The Prado.

What does it all mean? Well, nobody seems to know. The medieval mind inhabited a very different universe. There are many theories; alchemical references, biblical references, hermetic references as well as the idea that Bosch was on a 'psychedelic trip' because at that time a great deal of the bread was contaminated with the ergot fungus. LSD is distilled from ergot so eating such bread could possibly induce similar effects. I am not entirely convinced by that last one.

Alchemical? Lots of books devoted to the idea but Adam McLean is less than convinced:

Christianity? Certainly Bosch was a devout Christian and the painting is believed to have been commissioned by Engelbrecht II of Nassau, in or shortly after 1481, when he attended the Chapter of the Order of the Golden Fleece, this Order being a Roman Catholic Order of Chivalry

Another link from the BBC page is to art critic Kelly Grovier who points to the existence of an egg at the centre of the painting:

"To find it, one’s eyes need merely draw an ‘X’ from the four corners of the work and an egg marks the spot, smack before us at the dead centre of the painting. Suddenly, the tempestuous vision collapses into a mystical vanishing point. Through the timeless symbol of the unhatched egg, Bosch offers us a way out of his troubled work: the hope of a birth that’s evermore about to be." 

There are many instances of ostrich eggs hanging from the ceilings of cathedrals as well as in Mosques or Temples of other religions both east and west. There were still two hanging in Durham Cathedral as late as 1780.

The second painting mentioned above is called "The seven deadly sins" and is very explicitly Christian. It is painted in the form of an eye with the 'sins' arranged on the periphery. In the centre, in the pupil is a small painting showing Christ rising from the tomb. Around it are written the words 'Cave Cave Deus Videt' - "Take care, God is watching!" Note also the significance of placing Christ in the pupil of the eye. There are several Biblical references along those lines including Deuteronomy 32:10, Zechariah 2:8, Psalm 17:8, Proverbs 7:2.

Hermetic? Phillip and his two principal architects of the Escorial were very well versed in The Hermetica. The new palace of El Escorial was designed to be a replica of Solomon's temple so he and they would see something in the paintings which is now hidden to us with our different perceptions, education and experience.

It is worth pointing out that Phillip, like Bosch, was a devout Catholic but at that period people would not differentiate between Christianity and magic. Phillip's nemesis, Elizabeth of England, was of like mind. One of her most trusted advisors was the Magus John Dee.

I have been looking again at one of my books called "The Mercurian Monarch" and it occurred to me that this was an age when both Phillip of Spain and Elizabeth of England believed in the divine right of Kings as being very real. They believed in a divine succession through Adam, Moses and Solomon to themselves and thus had a direct connection to God which is why they felt able, even obliged, to defy ecclesiastical authority. (The king and queen on the chessboard rank higher than the bishops.)

The established Church itself was extremely hostile to any such heresy although looking at the Gothic Cathedrals or much of Renaissance art one wonders if such hostility was genuine.

I bought this book in the bookshop at El Escorial and it is extremely informative- (Originally published in English but I have never seen an English version.) The book is dedicated to Rudolf Wittkower, which brings me to another book I have with the title "Allegory and the Migration of Symbols" by Wittkower:

I looked through the last chapter "Interpretation of Visual Symbols" and it echoed the thoughts of Ernst Gombrich in his "Art and Illusion." What we see depends on perception and interpretation. Wittkower refers to the chronicles written by Marco Polo after his travels. He was widely denounced as a liar and a fantasist because those who read his stories had no concept of the things he described, they were unable to interpret his descriptions in any meaningful way because such descriptions were outwith their own experience. If you have never seen an elephant or a camel for example then you will regard a drawing of such as pure imagination or fantasy - or the product of a hallucination.

You might like to look at the illustrations from the "Livre des Merveilles", several of which are reproduced in Wittkower's book:

As you can see the landscapes are very stylised in the manner of Bosch and there are some very strange looking creatures in there too. Some of the images shown are of Marco Polo's book but, as the Wiki entry says, they should not be confused with Jean de Mandeville's book-

There is also the way in which the accepted meaning of symbols changes over time. The most obvious example is the swastika which is a symbol of good fortune in Tibet and parts of India but is now a symbol of evil in the western world.

Another and probably more serious handicap in trying to interpret and understand the painting came with the invention by Brunelleschi of single point perspective in architectural drawings and in paintings. This changed painting forever and also altered how we now look at not just paintings but the world around us. Via photography, cinema and television we have been subtly and unintentionally brainwashed into looking without seeing. We see paintings now as if through a window, it is 'framed' and therefore we are some how set apart from the scene; peeping through a keyhole as it were.

Over the years a few painters tried to highlight the absurdity of perspective; Piranesi, Hogarth, Picasso and Escher among them. Velazquez turned it around with his painting "Las Meninas" and El Greco ignored it altogether. So it is now very difficult and almost impossible to 'see' the painting in the way that Bosch and his contemporaries saw it.

Your best guide to what it all means comes from the American painter Frank Stella who said "What you see is what you see." In other words it depends on your own perception and an interpretation based on your own experience of life which is where education becomes a handicap rather than a help - anything other than the orthodoxy of received wisdom is regarded as heresy.

Make of it all what you will but always remember the famous phrase from the Tao Te Ching: "Those who know, do not speak. Those who speak, do not know" (Lao Tzu). That includes me, so what I have written above should be taken with a grain of salt. Ignore any and all experts. The best way to understand anything, anything at all is to work it out for yourself. Start with your intuition and filter that through your reason and you will arrive at something approximating to the truth.

Note: There is currently in the Prado, Madrid an exhibition of the paintings of Bosch. It ends on 25th September. Go and see it if you can!


References (other than those cited in the text):

1) "Architecture, Mysticism and Myth" by W.R. Lethaby, [1892]

2) "the apple of his eye"

3) "Hermetica" - by Walter Scott (Translator)

4) The Mercurian Monarch" by Douglas Brooks-Davies

5) Symbolism in chess

6) "Art and Illusion" - by E H Gombrich

7) Tao Te Ching

8) "The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral" by Louis Charpentier

9) "That's the Way I see It" - by David Hockney

10)"The Object Stares Back" - by James Elkins

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: The McGarrigles

A feast from JD:

Sackerson adds: The penultimate one makes my skin prickle - perhaps because of the harmonies of the sisters' voices as much as for the hymnal melancholy. But the LP I played until the grooves were pretty much worn through was "French Record" - the sequence on YouTube begins with this one:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Who’s Queen Of The Castle? Chelsea Clinton Accepts Democratic Party Nomination

Pic source:

As multiple controversies continue to swirl around her mother despite the partisanship of most mainstream news media and Google’s search-engine-tweaking, Chelsea Clinton today stepped forward into the limelight and accepted the emergency renomination in her favour by the Democratic Party.

“This not only reaffirms the established hereditary principle in US politics,” commented a senior campaign official, “but it also recasts Donald Trump as the ‘dirty rascal’, if you know the old children’s game. I don’t see how that oaf can recover from this.”

A visibly distressed Trump has been urgently consulting with his lawyers on the application of the Salic Law to the American Presidency.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: The Dance Of Creation

JD celebrates:

Your musical offering for this week is a personal one as I reflect on things 'from this high hill of my old age' :)

The music of my youth, the music of my old age, the music of my soul: "I hear it in the deep heart's core."




"Nos cojimos de la mano, como los Druidas de Bretaña y Le pedimos a Dios o a los Dioses que esa danza de la felicidad. En la que estabamos immersos no terminase nunca en aquella fiesta final. Todos soplamos juntos por la pipa de la paz, De las Culturas y del Amor."- Carlos Nuñez *

Six this time - it could have been 600 or 6000! :)

* "Let us join hands like the Druids of Britain and ask God or the gods for the dance of happiness. The crowning celebration  in which we are immersed shall never end. Together let us all smoke the pipe of peace, culture and love."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Smoking: could genetic testing help smokers' cause?

Genetic research holds out the hope that health advice and public policy could be targeted more precisely. The risks of smoking are not "one size fits all."

"Family, twin, and adoption studies also convincingly demonstrate a substantial genetic contribution to the development of addiction to nicotine, alcohol, and illicit drugs. Heritability estimates for nicotine, alcohol, and drug addiction are in the range of 50% to 60%." (1)

If this is so, then theoretically people could be genetically tested for their vulnerability to substance addiction and advised accordingly. And the others could continue in their habit, moderately reassured that they could stop if they so chose. 

Testing might also help with more precise information about health risks. A longitudinal study of male British doctors (2) suggests that the average reduction in life expectancy is 10 years, but "that is not to say that all such smokers died about 10 years earlier than they would otherwise have done: some were not killed by their habit, but about half were, thereby losing on average more than 10 years of non-smoker life expectancy. Indeed, some of those killed by tobacco must have lost a few decades of life." It may be possible to identify the ones who are most at risk of dying in their middle years.

The same study also suggests that smoking for a few years may not be significantly life-threatening. For those in the 25-34 age group - where smoking prevalence is highest (3) - if they give up during this time, their life expectancy is almost exactly the same as for never-smokers:

"Mortality in relation to smoking", etc. - Fig. 4 (selected area)

If potential smokers could be forewarned of their likelihood of developing an addiction, and of their chances of dying very early from diseases associated with the habit, then the life expectancy gap might be narrowed without blanket bans. 

Those who went ahead despite personalised warnings would at least be doing so on the basis of better information - and that then becomes a liberty issue, like hang-gliding (and cycling, the most dangerous form of transport).*

(1) "Genetic Vulnerability and Susceptibility to Substance Dependence" L.J. Bierut, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, February 2012 -
(2) "Mortality in relation to smoking: 50 years' observations on male British doctors" Doll, Peto & Boreham, BMJ, May 2004 -
(3) ASH "Facts at a glance", June 2016 -

*I was wrong, I'm afraid. Motorcycling is worse: 1,789 KSI (killed or seriously injured) per billion vehicle miles vs. 1,036 for pedal cycles. 
I'm disappointed - I wanted something to get back at the Puritans of the road.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Gaming Democracy

As a girl, Mother was a great reader. She would go to the glass-fronted book cabinet in the cigar-scented study and feel behind the rows for the good stuff father had hidden there, such as Madame Bovary: every system can be gamed.

She would also spend a lot of time in the school library. However, one day, she entered to find big gaps in the shelves: without warning, all the Jewish and socialist writers had been removed. The new government was cleansing the librosphere of ideological pollution: nothing was to seduce impressionable minds away from socially-agreed norms. This was, after all, the clean and progressive East Prussia of the 1930s.

Half a lifetime later, a classical student was in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, researching an incident in the Peloponnesian War. The index occupied a room on its own, full of massive volumes with pasted-in entries giving descriptions and locations of the millions of items. You felt you had arrived as a scholar, just lifting one of these, thumping it on the lectern and turning the crowded pages. Now, where was a map of the ancient harbour at Lesbos? Ah, here, coded with a Greek φ. He filled in the order slip, but was told he would have to wait for the senior librarian to come back from lunch. The time came, and my friend was taken to another room. There was the large brown envelope; the librarian snipped the corner and slid out the contents – “Lesbos: twelve unretouched photographs of lesbian love.” So that’s what the phi was for. Still, it was a publication, so it was stored, and could be consulted on request. That was liberalism in action.

Today, while Crown copyright libraries continue to grow like Topsy, ordinary public libraries are closing and selling off or throwing away their stock - but we have the Internet, accessible at all times. It is so great that more than ever, we need a librarian to guide us through its virtual stacks. But there is no leather-bound index; instead, we have search engines, chiefly Google.

Now, there is no need to destroy information: the trusted guide can bury it like a needle in a near-infinite haystack. In our world that is so very unlike “1984” (or so we are told) the hidden persuaders could – perhaps do - operate by deliberately bringing us envelopes that we didn’t quite ask for.

Twelve months ago, the former editor-in-chief of “Psychology Today” Dr Robert Epstein described a series of experiments in which people were significantly influenced in their political decisions on the basis of surreptitious manipulation of Internet search results. (1) Even with candidates well-known to the sample groups, voting could be swayed by “20% or more.” In a follow-up article last February he says, “we now estimate that Hannon’s old friends [i.e. Google] have the power to drive between 2.6 and 10.4 million votes to Clinton on election day with no one knowing that this is occurring and without leaving a paper trail.” (2) Yesterday, Pamela Geller wrote a piece relaying and developing Julian Assange’s allegation that one way or another, Google is working on behalf of one of the Presidential candidates and against the other. (3)

At this point I must emphasise that I am not American and not only cannot vote for either Trump or Clinton, but should be extremely perplexed if I could. 

 The point is, every system can be gamed. There is no need to burn material if you can hide it in some rarely-visited and unsignposted corner of the Web; there is no need to disappear dissidents if you can shut off their means of communication (imagine if Milo Yiannopoulos had no other outlet than Twitter); for every person moved by attending one of Trump’s mountebank presentations, there must be thousands making up their minds from their private, yet thoroughly-monitored and interactively-tweaked Internet searches.

The socialists have it all wrong. Great power comes not from owning the means of production but, as Rockefeller showed, from controlling its distribution. Social media and search engines are part of the modern Fourth Estate, the gatekeepers and guides of public information. If they cannot be impartial, democracy faces an existential threat from its persuaders.

Remember what happened when Athens listened to Demosthenes.

UPDATE (27 August 2016): Heads have rolled -

(3) _______________________________________________________________

This post appeared previously on Talkmarkets:

A painter on a painting: ‘Girl with a Kitten’ by Lucian Freud

Artist Catherine Beaumont looks at Lucian Freud's 1947 "Girl With A Kitten":

Image: Tate -

‘Girl with a Kitten’ by Lucian Freud, is to me as an artist, a very fascinating painting. It is a portrait of the artist’s first wife, Kitty Garman, who was the daughter of famous sculptor Jacob Epstein. Freud painted her in 1947, a year before their tempestuous marriage. The painter’s future wife is cloaked under the anonymous title, ‘Girl with a Kitten’, highlighting that this is a double portrait, equally of the ‘girl’ and of the young kitten who is clasped strangely by the neck.

The enigmatic pair are painted in muted, ashen colours, a myriad of dove greys and soft blues, set against the dark swathes of Garman’s mahogany hair, which seem frayed and static from the intensity of the painter’s gaze. The colours are a precursor of Freud’s later impasto flesh tones that would become so acclaimed, yet in this painting they appear restrained like the tight grip of the sitter on the kitten’s neck.

What so thrills me about this painting, as an artist and as a curious human being, is how impenetrable this portrait is. Freud structures the portrait with a three quarter profile of his future wife, with her gaze averted, making her inaccessible, yet he places the kitten staring directly out of the centre of the canvas. With such a direct gaze, it makes me feel that the kitten is more than just a passive addition to the painting, but an emblem of Kitty Garman herself. However, this is surprising as it is so unlike Freud to use symbols in his work, claiming that his ideal in art is to appear ‘in his work no more than God in nature’. But why is the kitten’s gaze so direct and unblinking? Why does it stare with such intensity at the viewer? To me it seems that the kitten plays with the sitter’s name, linking ‘kitten’ with ‘Kitty’, giving the anonymous ‘girl’ an identity and pairing their feline eyes and heart shaped faces.

If this is so, it would make me feel that it tells us more about Garman and Freud’s relationship. In the painting, the girl seems absent, with a look of almost horror in her eyes. She is distant from her grip on the kitten, which makes me wonder if this grasp reflects not herself but the artist’s grip on her, his ‘Kitty’, as her future husband. The look of tension in her eyes makes me think of ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning – “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall”… I feel that Garman becomes a possession of the artist, as in the Duke’s ruthless collection, to be collected with many other women that he would love and paint. In this piece, it seems to me that it captures Garman’s dawning realisation of her partner’s turbulent nature, suspending perfectly this line - ‘Then all smiles stopped together’…

On the other hand, on closer inspection you can see that Garman’s eyes are painted in startling hazel green, whereas the kitten’s eyes are a lucid pale blue, which more closely resemble Freud’s eyes.

Source image for second detail:

Perhaps then, the captured kitten is not Kitty Garman at all, but represents how Freud felt trapped and suffocated by this serious, pre-marital relationship.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Stark Naked

It’s the minor characters that haunt me, in fiction as well as in real life. On history charges, carrying the important and the celebrated, the camera of our attention pans with it, and for the rest, who remembers or cares?

In Evelyn Waugh’s “Vile Bodies”, one of the Bright Young Things, Lady Agatha, is made to drive a racing car, drunk and without a clue how to do it. The race ends, she has disappeared but her pals continue on their jolly; she is found later by someone else, incoherent, and taken to a nursing-home. Eventually the in-crowd come to see her, bringing (of course) plenty to drink. What fun! That night, her mind begins to whirl again and her temperature soars. Later in the story, we hear as a by-the-way of her funeral.

Again, in the same writer’s “Decline and Fall”, at the school’s sports day the useless teacher Prendergast gets drunk and starts a foot race with a military pistol, shooting young Lord Tangent in the heel. The boy asks “Am I going to die?” through a mouthful of cake given to pacify him; only much later do we find out, in passing, that infection set in and he did.

Some ten years ago, I was working with young NEETS and we had a weekly computer training session in a suite at Edgbaston cricket ground, guided by a man from a local college. One week, he told us he had just been given notice of his redundancy. As the group left, I looked back at his face, trying to find something to say, but the group was going and I had to turn to them; the moment passed. Next week, he was very late, in fact, didn’t come at all. Turned out he’d been found lifeless at his home, apparently having failed to take his diabetes medication. If only I’d found a way to ask him for a drink without sounding patronising. My colleagues tried to reassure me, but I knew what his face had said and that there had been a moment. I failed.

1964: a 29-year-old Ken Kesey gets a gang together on an old school bus and goes on a drug-fuelled road trip. On the way, they pick up a 27-year-old with a young daughter, whom she leaves with a friend so she can join the raucous adventure. She has a complete mental breakdown, is naked on the bus for days and eventually abandoned by the Merry Pranksters, who phone her boyfriend to fly in from San Francisco and pick her up. I often wondered what happened to this minor character – after all, some people are Lead Roles and others, well… - but thanks to the Internet, now I know. A site dedicated to Cathryn Casamo is here: (1)

She was lovely, she was charming, she had this great laugh… another pick-up for the daring boys of the Sixties. So long Marianne, goodbye Ruby Tuesday and so on. She did live, into her fifties and a deliberately nothing burial at sea off Marin County; a footnote. Some may say, she made her own choices. But Kesey himself felt he should answer for his irresponsibility, in a book published not long before his death called “The Further Inquiry.” (2) 

Leaders have to stand in the rye and catch their followers, like Holden Caulfield.

“Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world,” says the Talmud. (3)

Next time. Please.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Future culture: the Starknado phenomenon

Maenads are worse than sharks...


A worldwide smash-hit film series that began with the legendary “Starknado”.

Winkipedia summarises it thus:

“Starknado” is a 2017 made-for-television disaster film about a waterspout that lifts a group of female skinny-dippers out of the ocean and deposits them in Los Angeles. Hormonal and enraged, the women embark on a terrifying rampage through the streets of South Central LA, butchering gangbangers and creeps of every description until, screaming that they literally haven’t got a thing to wear, they storm through a shopping mall and into a series of high-end clothing outlets. They successfully effect their escape because none of the surviving witnesses can remember what their faces look like.

Aside from sequels and spin-offs, the film spawned many imitations, notably the Drawers series, of which the latest is “Drawers 4: The Revenge” (2022). Billions have been made from associated merchandising and computer games.

A noteworthy social response has been the massive increase in men applying to enter monasteries. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Reading 2 weeks of the Daily Mail, so you don't have to

Back off a fortnight's hols last weekend, and a pile of newspapers kept for us at the agent's. We keep the crosswords and I thought I'd see which stories still looked worth reading. Here's my digest:

Psychoanalysis that aims to gets results fast: ... the Guardian tried it, too -

A pill that might cure asthma:

Can't find the DM link just now, but it's where I found the following item. Labour voters were even more definitely for "Leave" than Conservatives:

Can you know when you're lucky? - - which reminds me of a very old news item about a man who shook a Royal's hand, reckoned it was his lucky day and did the football pools - only one line, though he was entitled to several - writing above it "winning line" - which it was, "big-time". The company was understandably suspicious and investigated, but it was genuine.

Trump, the Mafia and his vengefulness: - having said that, the Clintons have previously been described by "a Beltway insider" as "retributive" and there are some very nasty rumours about what happens if you cross them. Here's one recent one:

The 5p "nudge" succeeded hugely in reducing unnecessary plastic bag use:

How the introduction of easy credit via cards 50 years ago tempted and stuffed the British consumer:

And one non-DM story off the internet that I didn't expect - Icelandic horses walk differently (and now we know why): - possibly related to the Vikings:

Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: Sol Gabetta


I gave up watching The Last Night of the Proms many years ago. Too boring and predictable, orchestra and audience just going through the motions in a parody of a sacred ritual.

The first night on the other hand is always worth watching and this year, as usual, it featured something new and interesting.

Sol Gabetta is a young cellist born in Cordoba, Argentina and now living in Basel, Switzerland. I had never heard of her before but after a splendid performance of Elgar's cello concerto and an unusual and excellent encore I went looking for more of her work.

This is part of what I found covering a wide spectrum of music, all of it wonderful -

This was her encore at The Proms. The Beeb version has poor sound quality (unusual for the Beeb) so this is a different recording but still excellent -


All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

"Reasonable adjustment" for smokers

There are many smokers who strongly and quite understandably resent their exclusion from society by stupid blanket bans. Here is a current post airing some of those feelings:

I gave up cigarettes nearly 40 years ago, but I don't see why they should be chosen as the one minor vice to be stamped out. This is not Puritan England. If we don't try to accommodate differences, we will be perpetually at one another's throats.

So I comment on the above piece in this way:

Targeted change is what we need.

In schools, there is an expectation that schools will make "reasonable adjustment" for special needs children, to promote inclusion. Special needs children aren't expected to stand outside the school building in the cold and wet.

Yet as you say, in other contexts the approach is draconian.

I would suggest that the way forward is to campaign for "reasonable adjustment". If airport smoking lounges are dingy goldfish bowls, get the airport to improve the furnishings. If pubs can offer a separate and nicely-appointed smoker's room, why not?

Besides, if the government succeeds in its obvious plan to legalise cannabis and find another way to raise tax that soaks the lower orders and makes vast, low-taxed profits for beardy businessmen, there will have to be somewhere for stoners to go, too.

"Reasonable adjustment": the war is won by language.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Squaring The Love Triangle

Imposing a way of life can have terrible consequences. This story has a universal feel to it, about the dangers of trying to dam natural drives:

I well remember an aboriginal couple who were married "Christian way in church". The woman was not aware that the union was a fixed one - not as in the tribe, where the people can become divorced by mutual consent.

The marriage irked her so much that she decided to break it up and take to herself another man of the tribe. Her method was simple and ingenious.

She became the friend of another native man I knew and, unknown to him, used him as a means of arousing her husband to such a jealous madness that he crept upon the man, who he thought was his wife's lover, and killed him with a spear.

I found it all out too late, and even then I could not stop the self-satisfied smile on the real killer's face, as her husband went to jail whilst she returned to her true lover.

From "Life among the aborigines" by W E Harney, Robert Hale, 1957 (pp. 31-32)

This post appeared first on The Polynesian Times.


All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Sunday Serenade: Betjeman/Hawthorne on The Way We Were

A lovely find from JD:


All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

There is something going on

Four times now, I have posted a piece on a certain, increasingly notorious, Trump-supporting, gay free-speech campaigner who has recently been banned by Tw*tt*r.

Although successfully published on Broad Oak each time, it seems to have been consistently blocked from the feeds that are connected to the new bloglist for Martin Scriblerius (see right-hand side). Other pieces published both before and after, have appeared on the feed - I shall look with interest to see how soon this one does. If it does.

Could this be covert action by Google?

For the latest version of the putatively "offending" post (published 06:47 this morning and still not appearing on the MS list opposite), please see here:

Please let me know if you have seen any other kind of link to it. Otherwise, I shall continue to suspect that this is secret suppression.


All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

A Penny for Milo's thoughts

... You won't find them in the Guardian piece by feminist LAURIE PENNY, who snapshots alt-right free-speecher MILO YIANNOPOULOS but photobombs it herself.

Gays make the best women. In full Lily Savage fig, Paul O'Grady once met the über-macho Charlton Heston at a Hollywood party and asked if he'd got anything to eat. "I've got a hot dog in my pocket," grinned the hero of Ben-Hur, who kissed Savage's hand and went off in search of his wife. The incident cracked Robin Williams, who said that as a right-wing Republican the great actor "would have run a mile" if he'd realised "Lily" had a hot dog, too.[1]

There are advantages for a man, if he is a sexual southpaw. He does not feel compelled to agree with a woman as part of a program to get laid. Kipling knew the penalty for contradicting the fair sex[2], but to some that is no loss. I knew a very cultured and entertaining gay teacher who handled manipulative teenage girls beautifully: "There's no point in looking like that at me, dear," he would say, "I'm spell-proof."

And so we get to the second decade of the twenty-first century, in which homosexuality is mainstream; Conservative parties on both sides of the Atlantic find it convenient to co-opt gays as cover for their other, more illiberal agenda; universities have become censors of free debate; feminists have no-platformed their modern pioneer, Germaine Greer; and in some cases, journalism has become emojournalism, almost entirely devoid of fact and argument, so sure is it that you must agree with fashionable opinion.

Like all monocultures, "political correctness" is systemically vulnerable. Enter Milo Yiannopoulos, a preening British gay and defiantly Republican-supporting PC-baiter. Here he is at Rutgers University, New Jersey - and his act is very entertaining:

My father once worked with a union representative who, he said, would pour oil on troubled waters - and then set fire to it. This is Milo's technique, too, interspersing his opening remarks with inflammatory one-liners to provoke target social-justice groups, who cannot help but erupt noisily as he sips water and flashes blue eyes at us from under his brow like the sky-hued lids of a play-signalling red-shanked douc monkey.

Nevertheless his presentation is worth watching in full, for he does get to a serious central point: you should be able to say anything in a liberal institution of learning, and you should listen to others so that at least you know what you are disagreeing with.

Where he is mischievous is that he treats his audience as a practical demonstration of what is wrong with universities. He isn't trying to convert the downscreamers: he is winding them up so that others, especially we who are not there, can see what modern America is up against. He has literally cleared the room of the most intransigent before pitching liberalism to those already half-sold on his message.

But then, irony is a core element of his show, which he calls The Dangerous Faggot Tour. As a gay, he uses PC against itself, saying that he is "off the reservation" and his opponents can't easily pigeonhole him with their habitual personal slanders. To the right-thinkers of the left, the best punch is always below the belt; but Milo is too nimble for them, and they are so used to fighting dirty that they haven't got a second shot in their repertoire. They simply stand and splutter.

Which brings us to Laurie Penny, professional feminist and writer for both The Guardian and The New Statesman. You would think that as a fellow Brit, Penny could handle Milo's paradox and nuance; but not a bit of it. "I've always refused to debate Milo in public. Not because I'm frightened I’ll lose, but because I know I’ll lose, because I care and he doesn't—and that means he’s already won."[3]

How easily does that "caring" become an appeal to gang up on an outsider; some women readers may remember what is was like at school, living in the Non-Acceptance World. Penny's refusal is not defeatist, then - it's simply unscrupulous: "You're my friend, you'll hate him too, won't you?"

One of the most valuable exercises we had to do at school was précis -  reducing a passage of prose to perhaps a third of its original length to reveal the central structure. I did this a while back for Russell Brand's revolutionary manifesto, cutting about 92%[4]; so I tried the same for Penny. Her Guardian article runs to 1,865 words[5] and here is my first attempt:

Milo Yiannopoulos offered me a ride to the Republican national convention. Privately he is charming but what he says publicly is harmful. I hate him and everything he stands for. He abuses women and minorities but when I attack him he laughs and remains friendly. 

Milo has just been suspended from Twitter. He is delighted because this will increase his fame. 

Donald Trump has just been confirmed as the presidential nominee. He is a psychopath. Milo supports him and calls him “Daddy”. 

The VIP room is full of unpleasant right-wing people who are celebrating gay Republicans. I surprise another of Milo’s invitees by agreeing that gay men should be able to adopt children. 

Milo gave a successful speech that decent people will deplore. 

Milo does not believe his own utterances, but his followers do. They are dangerous. They feel threatened by Muslims and immigrants. They are speaking for many fearful and ignorant Americans. Donald Trump is merely a mouthpiece. There is much hatred in the country and this will end badly.

Suiting that newspaper's house style, her piece is full of self-regard and hip jargon. Even the précis cannot eradicate the passive-aggressive, self-righteous egotism, but how far can one go? Can one summarise the argument of someone who refuses to argue?

Condensing her writing is like dehydrating water. Essentially, she seems to be saying this:

I hate everything Milo stands for, but I won't tell you what it is.
He gave a successful speech, but I won't tell you what he said - or even supply a link.
He does not believe what he says, but I will not say how I know that.
His supporters feel threatened by Muslims and immigrants. I need not explain why this is wrong, or why they might feel like that.
My tender feelings trumped my duty as a journalist to stay in the room and report on the whole meeting. My friends felt the same way, so that's all right.
Hate is a bad thing if I encounter it at a political convention. This is consistent with my hating Milo, despite his charm and friendliness towards me.
He is a bad man. They are bad men. America is a bad place.

Infuriated by her inability to out-reason Yiannopoulos, Penny resorts to emotional appeal. It is all about her and her Care Bear heart, and if you do not fall into line with her autocratic limbic rule you are, well, damned.

This is the end stage of the New Journalism of the 1960s. The ground was broken in writing that was experiential, impressionistic and essentially narcissistic. The Age of Reason was swept away in a new Children's Crusade against the old order. Now we have arrived at the Age of Unreason, where (for example, during the Brexit referendum - for some, still ongoing) the mere expression of feeling is sufficient to justify oneself and call others to arms. Audience members on BBC's Question Time can say they are "disgusted" at a speaker's stance, and think that will do.

Democracy is founded on a centuries-old assumption of rationality, but like the worm Ourobouros, it is eating itself. Welcome to the feast, but leave early.


[1] "Open the Cage, Murphy", by Paul O'Grady, Penguin Books, 2015 [pp. 350-1 in 2016 Corgi edition]
[2] "The Female Of The Species" [1911]:
      She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties; 
      Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!— 
      He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild, 
      Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.
[3] This admission is omitted from the Guardian version.

A note on publication:

The above article, without the sub-headline, was first posted at 08:08 UK time on Friday 5 August, with the title "The Guardian: Content is free - of facts". 

Although I was writing from Vienna via rather than, it appeared on the blog as normal. 

What wasn't normal was its failure to register on the Martin Scriblerus bloglist (right-hand sidebar), certainly not for the next 2 1/2 hours or so before we went out for the day. Yet a later piece by "JD", scheduled for 5 p.m. the same evening, did register.

I edited the above post to reschedule it for 19:40 the same day. Again, published fine but no show on the blogroll. By 4 a.m. the next day, it still hadn't appeared.

I began to suspect that like Twitter, but rather more subtly, Google was working to deny Milo "the oxygen of publicity" - by reducing access via blog subscription. So at 04:21 on Saturday I rescheduled/republished, substituting the name of John Wilkes (the scurrilous pamphleteer and libertarian) for Milo's. If anyone saw this via the blogroll, please let me know - I didn't.

This time, I am reinstituting Milo's name, but publishing as a new piece (copying and pasting the html from the old) - the only other changes are the new title/sub-heading, and this note about publication. 

Let us see what happens.


All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Friday Night Is Music Night: Folkish

JD assembles some more of what he calls "folk (style?)" music -

The (largely Celtic mix) Waterboys' "Room To Roam":

Ronnie Lane (of the Faces/The Small Faces):

Chicagoan Tom Paxton, with possibly his most famous song:

The Scottish singer-songwriter, Edie Reader:

From 1971, East Of Eden's disco-livener,"Jig-a-Jig" (if you can remember the Seventies, you were there):


All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Unless indicated otherwise, all internet links accessed at time of writing. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy. The blog author may have, or intend to change, a personal position in any stock or other kind of investment mentioned.