Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Why Michael Moore?

"Me at Trump Tower, December 16, 2015, 3:35pm."
Source: Facebook
I enjoyed "Roger and Me", "Downsize This" and "Capitalism: A Love Story". Nice stunts - especially the crime scene tape around Goldman Sachs (was it?).

But apart from enriching himself - while wearing a faux-loser slobcap - has Michael Moore changed anything? What industrial jobs has he saved, what bankers brought to justice, what pharmaceutical company greed punished?

Along comes Donald Trump, a genuinely crass populist, but one who as soon as elected starts to take action about the haemorrhage of reasonably-paid factory work. Now, citing national security, he's also put a temporary moratorium on arrivals from a list of "countries of concern" drawn up under the previous administration.

Moore wishes us to treat him as deplorable - but the attempt to do a "Je Suis Charlie" is a stretch. We are not all Muslims, Muslims are not at all the same thing as terrorists, the ban is not on Muslims, and not all Muslim-dominated countries are on the list.

You don't have to like Trump to get a little suspicious of Moore. He's good at making us cheer his ineffectual sallies at the rich and powerful, but really, if it were up to him, would anything actually get done?

For the economic issue it may be too late, anyhow - tools and equipment shipped abroad, skills rusting and lost, money flitting elusively round the world like a Jack-'o'-Lantern - but a combination of sideshow virtue-signalling and mob-inflaming isn't going to put that or any other matter right. Many Facebook users appear to be losing their minds, insta-reacting with screams to every new issue, and Moore is happy to photobomb America's existential crisis to wind up excitable idiots and make an extra buck or two.

I wonder whether, in private, Moore thanks his Maker for Trump's election to the Presidency.

Monday, January 30, 2017

1847: A gift from the dispossessed Choctaw to the starving Irish, by JD

I've been watching this series on Ch4 with Ardal O'Hanlon doing a tour round Ireland. http://www.channel4.com/info/press/programme-information/ireland-with-ardal-ohanlon

In the third of the programmes he was talking to an artist called Waylon Gary White Deer who is of the Choctaw Nation and now lives and works in Donegal.

Their conversation centred on something I had not known about. It was that the Choctaw Nation made a donation to Irish famine relief in 1847! I think gobsmacked is the (Irish) word for my reaction to this information. I didn't know that. The story of the Great Famine in Ireland is perhaps not as well known in England as it should be. Approximately one million people starved to death. A further one million or more followed St Brendan's example and set off across the Atlantic to the USA and Canada.

Inevitably the Irish diaspora came into contact with the Choctaw who had themselves been forced from their ancestral lands, and they would learn each other's history including the Famine in Ireland.

On March 23, 1847, the Indians of the Choctaw nation took up an amazing collection. They raised $170 for Irish Famine relief, an incredible sum at the time worth in the tens of thousands of dollars today.

They had an incredible history of deprivation themselves, forced off their lands in 1831 and made to embark on a 500 mile trek to Oklahoma called “The Trail of Tears.” Ironically the man who forced them off their lands was Andrew Jackson, the son of Irish immigrants.

Here is a short video retelling the story and showing a commemorative statue erected in Cork and how that came about-

Last word must go to Waylon Gary White Deer, talking about the USA but it could apply equally in any country:

"Sadly, the day will come when all the carefully crafted and promoted white vs black and liberal vs conservative and rich vs poor and old immigrant vs new immigrant and MSNBC vs Fox News distractions will fade, and then everyone in the place they now call America will wake up surrounded by their military and finally understand how it feels to be Indian…"


Other references-
Sackerson adds:

Alfred Boisseau, "Louisiana Indians Walking Along A Bayou", 1847
Charles Joseph Staniland (1838–1916), “The Emigrant Ship”
Commemorative plaque, Mansion House, Dublin

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Ladies of Jazz 2, by Wiggia

This short compilation shows female artists that emerged during the Ella, Sarah era, some indeed like the first on here started later but was born in 1930 so is a contemporary of the earlier ladies.

Abbey Lincoln (her stage name) was an actress on television and in film and also a civil rights activist. Influenced by Billie Holiday, she also wrote lyrics and composed numbers. Her first album was in ‘56 but for me the first big breakout album was in ‘61 with Straight Ahead on the Candid label. A very beautiful lady; she was married from 61-70 to Max Roach, the drummer and co-conspirator with Charlie Parker in those early days of be bop. She was still recording up until 2007 3 years before her death at 80.

A worthy obituary is here: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2010/aug/15/abbey-lincoln-obituary 
I liked her and so does JD !

And I lied about videos, only from now on this has to be audio only.

This is later in life and very good quality:

Norma Winstone was born in Bow East London in ‘41, so can claim to be a real cockney. Most of her earlier work is what I like but everyone to their own. A lyricist as well as a singer, she started with bands in the Dagenham area and went from there, and has worked with many European and American artists.

Rene Marie: born in the USA in ‘55, she did not start a professional career until she was 42 ! After getting married at 18 she raised two children and when she started singing her husband gave her an ultimatum: stop singing or go; she chose the music path ! There are quite a few videos of Rene but all have dubious sound so once again indulge me:

Diana Krall: in modern times this lady has been hugely successful, often her music wanders into cross over territory and is not jazz as I/we know it, but very accomplished. Born in Canada in ‘64 she had eight albums, more than anybody else at the top of female jazz artists in Billboard; a record.

Anita O’Day: became world famous overnight for her performance in the Newport Jazz Festival film Jazz on a Summers Day. Born in 1919, the year would suggest she should have been in the first list and career-wise yes, but to the likes of us her performance in that film was the start of her public acknowledgment.

Her early unhappy home life meant she left at 14 and did all sorts of strange things to earn a living including dance marathons. She was a capable drummer and married one, so as with so many of that era her background meant she could cope with anything that came up.

In ‘41 Gene Krupa asked her to join his band and that was followed with stints with Woody Herman and Stan Kenton. She had a drug problem all her life and admitted she was probably high during that famous Newport ‘58 film. Considering the drug abuse, something she discussed in detail in a documentary, it was a miracle she made 87, but she was someone who never forgot her Jazz roots.

Here at Newport ‘58:

Fairly new to me is Silje Nergaard, born in ‘66 in Norway. It was this album that projected her onto a world stage, with Pat Methany on guitar:

As with all lists nothing is definitive, and sadly some that would have been included were not, either because of nothing of note being available or what there was being obscure numbers, bad sound etc, so forgiveness for not including obvious favourites and jazz greats such as Lena Horne, Betty Carter et al.

Wiggia's first Ladies of Jazz is here:

Saturday, January 28, 2017

China: Scaring away the Nian

As the Year of the Rooster begins, we republish a piece from 2013, about an English teacher who went to a school in Beijing and was promptly plunged into the deep end...

It didn't start off like in the brochure. A few minutes into the lesson, the teacher left Mark alone with nearly 40 Chinese children, some of them with special needs and all of them unable to understand what he was saying. And so:

From Mark's end of year report:

"English is being heavily driven in Beijing at the moment [2001-2]. As China is entering the World Trade Organisation, and also has the Olympics in 2008, it is seen as an advantage to the people of China to be able to communicate in English. Therefore the government has introduced measures to encourage this, from Chinese/English signs on streets, English language development programs on T.V. and radio, and Chinese/English publications. English is compulsory at [the] School from grade one through to senior two.

"However with China having a low percentage of non-Chinese people living or working in China and Chinese people generally not travelling outside of China, often communication with even English teachers in English can be difficult. The standard of written English is of a much higher calibre than spoken English, and English speakers' vocabulary is at a disproportionate level to the fluency with which they can use it."

The Chinese teachers at the school "followed a textbook and expanded on this where they felt it necessary," but allowed the four foreign Oral English teachers complete freedom to use their own methods.

Mark saw that there was a wide range of ability within the class, and no particular strategy for meeting the needs of the special needs children within it. Also, art was not a highly valued part of the curriculum. So his plan was English through Art: flags, maps, weather, animals, masks, cars - and doors and walls, as seen down the hutongs:

"When you stray off the main streets anywhere in the sprawling city of Beijing you can find yourself on the back streets where the humanity of Beijing reside. These alleyways, streets and back ways are affectionately referred to as 'Hu tong', they hustle and bustle with life. Whole families can be seen dodging in and out among bicycles incredibly overloaded with a three-seat sofa or cases of cabbages, open air hairdressers comprising a woman, a kitchen chair and her scissors. Life goes on past ornate and fascinating doorways, walls and architecture. What lies behind these doorways? What further dramas go on behind closed doors? Events probably not dissimilar to the family life of any household in Britain.. Often they open onto clutter, ever present bicycles, or occasionally a serene and peaceful scene, where a lonely cherry blossom tree stands central within a sunlight dappled and always dusty haven from the hustle on our side of the door."

Many of these ancient living areas were even then being cleared for modern urban projects, the former inhabitants moved far away from their jobs, local markets and lifelong neighbours.

The classroom learning continued with quizzes and games, and magic: Hallowe'en and Harry Potter, Hangman, the Hokey Cokey and Quidditch:

And celebrations, including Christmas and the New Year:

"January is a magical time in China. The Spring Festival begins with a bang for the Chinese New Year, with fireworks and lights filling the sky, almost overwhelming the eyes and ears. Chinese spring festival is a traditional holiday when people attempt to scare away mythical beasts, dragons and Nian. Nian is a mythical wild beast that preys on humans. So people light fireworks and hang lanterns to ward off Nian and keep it away from their homes.

"At this time of year homes and buildings are decorated with beautiful lanterns. The light builds to a zenith for the Lantern festival held on the fifteenth of January in two thousand and two (dependent on the Chinese lunar calendar). Lanterns come in many different colours and designs, producing a magnificant spectacle when evening falls and the lanterns bring the darkness to life."

The teaching style at the school was formal and could even be quite physically tough sometimes, but the staff felt they had something to learn from this more creative and playful approach. And so did the children:

All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday Night Is Music Night: Dorothy Donegan's Jazz, by JD

Introducing Miss Dorothy Donegan!

I had never heard of this lady until about a month ago when she appeared as one of YouTube's recommendations while I was searching for Basie/Ellington videos. And WOW! is my only response to her piano playing. She is brilliant, playing all styles of jazz while throwing in classical references and doing it with such exuberance.

Truly one of the greatest piano players you will ever hear.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Challenges to Trump: what do the stars foretell? - by "Twilight"

Sackerson has suggested that I contribute a post which might "test" astrology, perhaps in relation to remarks of J.H. Kunstler in a piece here http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/he-is-risen-but-for-how-long/ :

"If the first forty-eight hours are any measure of the alleged Trumptopia-to-come, the leading man in this national melodrama appears to be meshuga. A more charitable view might be that his behavior does not comport with the job description: president. If he keeps it up, I stick to my call that we will see him removed by extraordinary action within a few months. It might be a lawful continuity-of-government procedure according to the 25th Amendment — various high officials declaring him “incapacitated” — or it might be a straight-up old school coup d’état (“You’re fired”).

"I believe the trigger for that may be an overwhelming financial crisis in the early second quarter of the year."

DONALD TRUMP was born in Jamaica, Queens, New York on 14 June 1946 at 10.54 AM. Below is his natal chart.

Donald Trump's natal chart, by "Twilight" 

A brief run-down of personality characteristics indicated by his natal chart:

Positions of Sun, Moon and rising sign (sign coming over horizon at exact time of birth) are the "big three" items thought by astrologers to reflect most clearly in the native's personality. Trump's Sun (core self) in Gemini - the most communicative and one of the most flexible signs of the zodiac, perhaps reflects his love of Tweeting and generally making his opinions widely known. Conjunct (within a few degrees of) his Sun is Uranus, planet known for the unexpected, eccentricity, and change.

Trump's Moon (inner self) was in Sagittarius, sign known for exaggeration, expansiveness, publication, among other things. That's a good fit!

Rising sign was Leo, and at 29 degrees where we also find Royal Fixed Star Regulus. This is the part of his chart that first impressed me as a sign that, though my brain was telling me he couldn't, and wouldn't ever be President of the USA - he darn well could be and would have leadership essentials to be such, according to his chart. I pushed the thought away, deciding that this could be simply a reflection of successes he had already realised. I should mention here that Mars sits just 3 degrees from his rising degree, and Mars reflects dynamism and aggressive tendencies.

So, we have Gemini, Sagittarius and Leo - I'm keeping this down to absolute basics, these three are underpinnings to his personality: communication, over-expansiveness, leadership potential.

There's something more to mention to fill out the picture: Mercury, Saturn and Venus are all in Cancer.

Cancer has a very different flavour from the signs already mentioned. Cancer (symbol is the crab) is, first and foremost ultra-sensitive; also home and family loving, tends to withdraw when threatened. We've seen Trump's sensitivity to criticism many times. He draws on that natal Mars on his ascendant sign, combined with Gemini Sun's communication skills, exaggerated by Sagittarius Moon, to produce his frequent counter-punches when attacked. Deep inside, though, he will be feeling genuinely hurt. He will, I'm confident in saying, be a quite, quite different guy at home surrounded by family, than the one he presents to his voters and opponents.

There's lots more in the chart, via aspects and cycles, but the above elements are key.

Since 1946, the year Trump was born, the planets have been moving along in their respective orbits at varying speeds; faster moving planets will have frequently joined Trump's natal planets - this isn't particularly significant; but the slower-moving outer planets, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto when they, in course of their transits, meet up with a Trump natal planet, they sit close to it for much longer periods, and that is what needs to be noted if a prediction of near future events is required.

In this case Saturn, Uranus and Pluto are going to be the planetary transits most involved.

Saturn, planet of restriction and limitation, in its transit, was exactly conjunct Trump's natal Moon from late December 2016 to early January this year, signifying some inner feelings of tension no doubt, during the time up to inauguration day. Saturn is slowly moving away now, degree by degree. However, come this summer Saturn will appear to backtrack (retrograde) and "hit" his Moon again, and from late June to October it'll be within a few degrees of his Moon again. So there's more extra tension to come. Exactly what form it will take can't be known, perhaps it's the financial crisis expected by Mr Kunstler. Will it be enough to bring on the "coup" event Mr Kunstler mentioned?

Uranus, planet of change and the unexpected, currently sits at around 20 to 21 Aries, will travel from there to the end of that sign between now and May 2018, with a retrograde motion or two. Though transiting Uranus is currently in friendly aspect (angle) to Trump's Sun and Moon, it's also in challenging angle to Venus and Saturn in Cancer - possibly a reflection of the arguments about his conflicting business and presidential interests.

Pluto is transiting the mid-to-late teens of Capricorn right now, and will until around this time next year. Pluto represents needed transformations preceded by some chaos and difficult times. While Pluto will not be conjoining any of Trump's natal planets in the near future, it will be in awkward aspect (at a significantly challenging angle) to some of them, namely Jupiter in Libra, Uranus in Gemini and later even his Sun in Gemini - at times later on this year and next year.

One doesn't need to be an astrologer to foresee what astrology is telling us - i.e. that there are tough times and challenges ahead for the new President. Whether these times will be tough enough for J.H. Kunstler's prediction to be fulfilled is another matter. Personally, I doubt it.

Another way to investigate this would be to look at the Vice-President's chart, for he would become President should any kind of "coup" occur. A very quick look - it has to be a 12 noon chart because Pence's exact time of birth isn't known.

MIKE PENCE was born on 7 June 1959 in Columbus, Indiana. Time of birth unknown. Chart set for 12 noon.

Mike Pence's  natal chart (approximation), by "Twilight"

Moon position and rising sign will not be as shown here as time of birth isn't known. Moon could have been either in late Gemini or early Cancer - impossible to guess which. It's interesting that Trump chose a fellow-Gemini as his VP. Pence, though, is a very different Gemini-type. He doesn't have Uranus conjunct his Sun for a start, though Uranus is in a friendly angle to it, he's not averse to change, just not an innate change-maker. Pence is a very smooth communicator, as was shown during the VP's debate when his skills in that area were undeniable contrasted with Clinton's VP, Tim Kaine's bluster.

Pluto will be (and has already been) at a similarly challenging angle to Pence's Sun , 16 Gemini and to his Mercury (planet of communication) at 21 Gemini as to Trump's Sun and Uranus. They'll both be dealing with multiple challenges from "We the People" as well as their peers in congress . What affects one will affect t'other, whether in dealing with every day difficulties, or, I guess, even via one taking over the position of the other.

But, in general, from the information here, I do not see any clear indication of future significant change of actual career status or position for Mike Pence.

Sackerson comments: "Faites vos jeux, Mesdames et Messieurs." Let us see how the chips fall. 

Many thanks to Twilight, whose blog can be found here: http://twilightstarsong.blogspot.co.uk/

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

"Burns Nicht", by JD

So now you want to try the national dish of Haggis?
This is how to make it-

Haggis Ingredients:

1 sheep's stomach bag
1 sheep's pluck - liver, lungs and heart
3 onions
8 ounces of beef Suet
4 ounces of oatmeal
salt and black pepper
about 10 tablespoons of stock/gravy (quarter of a pint approx)

1. Clean the stomach bag thoroughly and soak overnight. In the morning turn it inside out.
2. Wash the pluck and boil for 1.5 hours, ensuring the windpipe hangs over the pot allowing drainage of the impurities.
3. Mince the heart and lungs and grate half the liver.
4. Chop up the onions and suet.
5. Warm the oatmeal in the oven.
6. Mix all the above together and season with the salt and pepper.
7. Pour over enough of the pluck boiled water to make the mixture watery.
8. Fill the bag with the mixture until it's half full.
9. Press out the air and sew the bag up.
10. Boil for 3 hours (you may need to prick the bag with a wee needle if it looks like blowing up!) without the lid on.
11. Serve with neeps and tatties. (neeps = turnips)

If that has put you off then take refuge in a wee dram. I would recommend Ardbeg or Cardhu among the malt whiskies and the best blended whiskies are The Antiquary or Cream Of The Barley!
Slàinte mhath!

Burns wrote many love songs and none finer than 'Ae Fond Kiss'. This is a beautiful version by Eddi Reader. In her introduction she mentions 'Nancy' who was Agnes Craig for whom the song was written-


Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Ladies Of Jazz, by Wiggia

I always for non-too-obvious reasons thought that the singing of the ladies in the jazz era outshone the equivalent male; maybe it was simply that there were more of them, certainly the big band era had a whole bevy of great singers fronting these bands and many were launched into their solo careers after many years of “learning the ropes” in front of some great musicians and bandleaders.

Ella was of course the stand out performer and it is easy to forget she started recording in 1935 first with Chick Webb Orchestra and in the same year Billie Holiday with Teddy Wilson's Orchestra , so both had been around a long time when I first heard them in the sixties.

For me Ella became such a big star her music became somewhat “as expected” in later years. Her early work is not easy to find but this example is exquisite. I vowed to only put up items with videos but with the older material it is not always possible and the later Ella works don’t have this purity.

Of course with Ella the output was enormous and several articles on her alone would not be enough to cover her work.

Billie Holiday falls into a completely different category: an appalling life of prostitution as a youngster and drugs finished her in the end but not before such from-the-heart numbers as this - the words in this number were indeed so much her.

Sarah Vaughan was always my favourite female artist. The Divine Sarah was indeed just that in her youth and the voice matched, she later had a pop interlude and a big success with Billie Eckstein and “Passing Strangers” before returning to her roots later, a lot bigger in person but having lost none of ability. This again is an earlier number with video, not the best of her catalogue but the best I could find with video; not only is she sublime in this but the diction is nigh perfect.

A lady who is often overlooked but was a huge star of the time is June Christy or “cool” Christy as she was known. She sang with one the great bands of the time, Stan Kenton and had this clean cut style she made her own. Again videos with Kenton are few and quality poor but this whilst not my favourite Christy number shows her where she was at her best fronting Kenton's Orchestra.

I have tried and will keep this short intro to the ladies of the time and will put together another item with some later additions, many of course who cross over.

But I will include this slightly off topic June Christy number for one reason that having Nat King Cole on the piano which is where he started out and Mel Torme, my favorite male singer on drums is something of a coup and shows that at the time she was a huge star, indulge me on this one.

Helen Humes was an early singer with Basie and here she is with the man and a small group, she came from a blues gospel background and much of her later work was in that context, but here she is enjoying herself.

Smooth is how I would describe Julie London and in this ‘64 rendering of Cry Me a River she certainly is. There are several versions available of this but I wanted to keep it as of the time.

I always felt that Dinah Washington was a lot better than a lot of the schmaltz and strings numbers she punched out in later life; this number she made her own though not the first to record it. I finish with another videoless offering, despite several versions of this none are ‘live’, so you will have to just suffer the glorious tones of Dinah's voice on its own.

And another non video to finish, Helen Merrill, a lady much respected at the time but not so well known now. Here she is singing with the trumpeter Clifford Brown whose own career sadly ended at the age of 25 in a car crash.

There were of course many others from this “Golden Age “ of jazz but these ladies were a big part of a wonderful era.


Many thanks for the above piece by guest contributor Wiggia, who also posts on Nourishing Obscurity http://www.nourishingobscurity.com/about-wiggia/ and AKHaart (e.g. http://akhaart.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/wiggia-on-wine.html)

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday Night Is Music Night: Skye's The Limit (JD's Runrig selection)

Runrig are more or less completely unknown in England but they have been performing for more than 40 years. They are from Skye and are hugely popular in northern European countries and in the US and Canada as well as at home of course.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Can the poor be helped?

Last week, Jeremy Clarke recounted how he met a City trader friend who tried to help the poor:

"Ivan told me a story about a Brazilian girlfriend who took him home to a shack in the favela to meet the family... The mother, father, brother and sister were sunk in inertia, booze and daytime television. Ivan bought the brother an 18-wheel truck to start a haulage business; he paid for the sister to go to college; and he bought the father a Chevrolet. 

"One year later the haulage business was bankrupt and the truck confiscated, the sister had dropped out of college, and the Chevy was written off. All three were back boozing in front of the TV... 

"He drew no firm conclusion from his Brazilian experience and told other stories illustrating how a small piece of timely luck or support had transformed people’s lives, including his own."

Online discussions are often not very pleasant - wearing a persona tempts us to let our ignoble side off the leash - and so I suppose there will be those who laugh at the story, saying it was inevitable and let the poor stew in their own juices. But as Clarke says, even the trader drew no firm conclusion from this.

My feeling is it was just too much all at once. Windfalls - gambling wins, handouts - come and go, have no connection to our essential selves.You have to get people to grow by stretching just a bit beyond their comfort zone - what they envision as currently, realistically possible for them. It's the self-sabotaging gremlins you have to fight.

We all have that challenge, and it's very real - if JK Rowling hadn't faced down her personal "dementors" she could not have gone from sitting in an Edinburgh cafe to billionairess. [Her fiction is successful because it contains solid psychic fact - "imaginary gardens with real toads in them", as Marianne Moore said. Who can fail to recognise the wrenching longing when Harry looks in the Mirror of Erised?]

Most of us do not have to go from rags to riches. We can't all be rich anyhow - who would wash our cars?

A job would do - reasonably paid, secure, with defined hours (half the country does little or nothing now, the other half loses its life in overwork) and a sense that one is doing something useful. Comradeship at work, respect at home for your contribution.

Can it be done?


Jeremy Clarke: http://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/01/the-therapeutic-effects-of-modafinil-and-a-mob-doctor/
Dementors: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Dementor
Marianne Moore: http://www.poetrybyheart.org.uk/poems/poetry/
The Mirror of Erised: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Mirror_of_Erised
Adult literacy advert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8JHeIS5Lo8

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Quantum Cubism", by JD

This recent post ended with an image of Georges Braque's painting 'Bottles and Fishes' and the conclusion - "Rather than individual historians arguing from differing standpoints, maybe modern history should be Cubist, offering many-faceted perspectives in the same composition."

That is a very astute observation and it is a viewpoint which could be applied to many other things.

A few months ago I was reading about quantum fragmentation as well as something else on consciousness and the fragmentation of memory and the quantum nature of our neural network. Can't remember exactly where I read it but it also mentioned how the visual cortex 'constructs' images from photons striking the rods and cones in the eyes etc etc (complicated thing to explain) and I had a 'light bulb' moment. I thought - that's a description of cubism! So I went searching in the almighty Google and, sure enough, others had been struck by the same idea. One of the things I found was this about the painter Jean Metzinger-

"For Metzinger, the classical vision had been an incomplete representation of real things, based on an incomplete set of laws, postulates and theorems. He believed the world was dynamic and changing in time, that it appeared different depending on the point of view of the observer. Each of these viewpoints were equally valid according to underlying symmetries inherent in nature. For inspiration, Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist and one of the principle founders of quantum mechanics, hung in his office a large painting by Metzinger, La Femme au Cheval,[7] a conspicuous early example of 'mobile perspective' implementation (also called simultaneity).[8]"


And this is the painting-


Clearly Niels Bohr had seen the connection between his own thinking on the nature of reality as described by his work in the field quantum mechanics and Metzinger's thinking on how to represent reality using the medium of paint, how to represent time and movement as well as different viewpoints all within a single painting.

It is popularly assumed cubist and abstract painting was a response to photography and how the camera could portray the world just as well as or better than painters could. But that is not true. David Hockney has suggested that the invention of photography was a logical consequence of the invention of perspective in art. "The photograph is the ultimate Renaissance picture. It is the mechanical formulation of the theories of perspective of the Renaissance."

As I have explained previously in these pages, perspective is an aberration in the history of art. Look to Chinese scroll painting or Japanese art or even the Bayeux Tapestry and at no other time in history was verisimilitude considered important for the representation of the world.

Just as scientists at the end of the 19th century were dissatisfied with the orthodox view of physics so artists at the same time were also dissatisfied with the constraints of the rigidities of perspective. In both cases, scientists and artists 'knew' the world did not conform to previously held theories.

Before cubism appeared Claude Monet was increasingly preoccupied with the depiction of light. He would paint the same subject again and again trying to catch the subtleties of light at different times of day or different times of year. Think of his many depictions of haystacks. There is a series of paintings of Rouen Cathedral hanging side by side in the Musée d'Orsay (they may have been moved since I saw them there) and the effect is impressive.

"The cathedral paintings allowed him to highlight the paradox between a seemingly permanent, solid structure and the ever-changing light which constantly plays with our perception of it."

What Monet was doing was exploring the effects of what science calls quantum electrodynamics -

"QED mathematically describes all phenomena involving electrically charged particles interacting by means of exchange of photons and represents the quantum counterpart of classical electromagnetism giving a complete account of matter and light interaction."

The study of QED has its roots, believe it or not, in the scientific investigations of two Arab philosophers - Al Kindi (801 - 873 AD) and Ibn Al Haytham (965 - 1040 AD). Their theories were examined and expanded upon by Roger Bacon (c.1219/20 – c.1292) and by Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln (c.1175 – 1253) But with the arrival of the Renaissance (and the reconquista in Spain) interest in Arabian philosophers and scientists faded and such studies were forgotten until the 20th century.

The painter who really fused science with art was Salvador Dali.

"A symposium titled ‘Culture and Science: Determinism and Freedom’, held at the Dalí Teatre- Museu in 1985 was a fitting realisation of Dalí’s contemporary Renaissance belief ‘that artists should have some notions of science in order to tread a different terrain, which is that of unity’ (quotation in response to a journalist from Le Figaro newspaper, Salvador Dalí and Science, Carme Ruiz, Dalí Study Centre, Newspaper El Punt, 18 October 2000).

Attended by scientists, including some Nobel prize winners, philosophers, artists, writers and musicians, the conference sought to explore the role of chance in nature. Dalí, too weak to attend, but fascinated by the ideas and arguments expressed, watched from a television monitor in his bedroom, He later invited some of the key speakers, including René Thom and the Nobel Laureate chemist Ilya Prigogine, to meet him personally in order to engage in further discussion.

Dalí’s level of understanding of modern science is debated, but it is clear that his deep intuition allowed him to feel totally at ease in the company of scientists whose language was a constant source of inspiration to him. When Dalí died in 1989, books by Matila Ghyka, Erwin Schrödinger and Stephen Hawking were found by his bed."

A study of his paintings reveals a subtle incorporation of scientific ideas; "The persistence of memory" with its melting watches, "Leda Atomica" and especially "Corpus Hypercubus" which he described as a four dimensional representation of the Crucifixion. Even his elaborate signature was inspired by the liquid crown visible in a stroboscopic image of a milk-drop splash photographed by engineer Harold Edgerton in 1926.

Here is one of Dali's more interesting cubist pictures which plays games with our perception -Lincoln in Dalivision: This is a lithograph based on a painting by Dali. There are two versions of the original painting, one is in the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres, Spain and the other is in the permanent collection of The Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.


Recently David Hackney has been exploring similar ideas and this painting is a wonderful portrayal of spatial illusion as well as time, because of the time involved in looking at each part in relation to the whole and to other parts.

Hockney: A Walk Around the Hotel Courtyard, Acatlan, 1985 oil on 2 canvases, 72x240 in.
I have come to the reluctant conclusion that after the Renaissance, the scientific revolution begun by Robert Boyle and others, the Enlightenment, 'the age of reason', the industrial revolution, political revolutions in France the Americas and Russia and all culminating in the modern dream of artificial intelligence, it seems as though western 'civilisation' has lost its soul, has denied the existence of anything other than the material world.

Scientists delved deeper and deeper into matter looking to find the 'building blocks' of our existence and eventually found........ nothing. There are no building blocks, there is only energy. Einstein concluded that matter was nothing more than 'congealed electricity' and the Indian philosopher, Sri Aurobindo Ghose, describes the material world as being composed of 'frozen light'.

Over the past 500 years or so, all of western philosophical and scientific thought has been driven by logic and the error of that can be summed up by one of Niels Bohr's more famous quotes - "You're not thinking; you're merely being logical."

If one is only using logic, then no real thinking is taking place. Thinking requires logic along with critical analysis to form an evaluation. Or in other words, love of logic has superseded love of humanity. And AI, in particular, is an expression of the negation of humanity and a denial of the spirit within man.

It comes as no surprise then that the leading figures in sub-atomic enquiry were confounded by what they had discovered and, in order to make sense of it all they turned to to the east. Robert Oppenheimer went back to studying the Bhagavad Gita. David Bohm's book 'Wholeness and the Implicate Order' begins by looking at the differences between western and eastern ways of thinking.

This is all getting very complicated! But it is good to have our imagination teased and stretched, to continue to try to make sense of the world. And the only way to do that is to close your books (burn them as Michael Maier suggested?) and switch off all of your electronic distractions and go out and look at the world as if you had never seen it before. Look at it as being 'cubist' in appearance. See it in the way Dali 'saw' both Lincoln and his wife Gala within the same space. The fragments of reality you see depend on how you see them, whether they are close up or at a distance, in light or shade, static or moving etc. The mind must assemble and re-assemble these constantly changing fragments to come close to understanding what it is that we perceive.

To rephrase the quote at the beginning of this short essay, "Rather than individuals arguing from differing standpoints, maybe the world is Cubist, offering many-faceted perspectives in the same composition."


David Hockney- http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/812376.That_s_the_Way_I_See_It

Monet; Rouen Cathedral https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rouen_Cathedral_(Monet_series)

quantum electrodynamics https://www.britannica.com/science/quantum-electrodynamics-physics

Al Kindi and Ibn Al Haytham http://grouporigin.com/clients/qatarfoundation/chapter2_4.htm

Roger Bacon https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Bacon

Robert Grosseteste https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Grosseteste

the observer effect- http://www.radha-krishnaism.org/2009/12/the-observer-effect/

Dali and science https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/illusion-chasers/dali-masterpieces-inspired-by-scientific-american/

Dali and science http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/dali/salvador/resources/daliandscience.pdf

The dream of reason http://www.nourishingobscurity.com/2011/06/the-dream-of-reason/

Sri Aurobindo Ghose http://www.poetseers.org/the-poetseers/sri-aurobindo/index.html

Robert Oppenheimer and the Bhagavad-Gita https://amphilsoc.org/sites/default/files/proceedings/Hijiya.pdf

David Bohm, 'Wholeness and the Implicate Order' http://gci.org.uk/Documents/DavidBohm-WholenessAndTheImplicateOrder.pdf

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


It's odd, but just as Western society is becoming very laid-back on sexuality, we are seeing the rise of a class of linguistic law-makers battling prejudices that are ceasing to exist.

I'd have thought that this modern nonsense started with "Ms", but Wikipedia tells us that the first proposal for this marital-status-neutral honorific goes back to 1901:

"The earliest known proposal for the modern revival of "Ms." as a title appeared in The Republican of Springfield, Massachusetts on November 10, 1901:

There is a void in the English language which, with some diffidence, we undertake to fill. Every one has been put in an embarrassing position by ignorance of the status of some woman. To call a maiden Mrs is only a shade worse than to insult a matron with the inferior title Miss. Yet it is not always easy to know the facts... 

Now, clearly, what is needed is a more comprehensive term which does homage to the sex without expressing any views as to their domestic situation, and what could be simpler or more logical than the retention of what the two doubtful terms have in common. The abbreviation "Ms" is simple, it is easy to write, and the person concerned can translate it properly according to circumstances. For oral use it might be rendered as "Mizz," which would be a close parallel to the practice long universal in many bucolic regions, where a slurred Mis' does duty for Miss and Mrs alike." 

Before then, as Shakespeare readers will know, "Mistress" ("Ms" for short) merely indicated an adult female. In an age when gays can marry and nearly half of British children are born out of wedlock, the issue is dead anyhow.

Although the Académie Française-like attempt to regulate our language is associated with the Left, this week the Archdruid says that prejudice against gays sometimes came from that side, not from the Right:

"The crusade against the “lavender menace” (I’m not making that phrase up, by the way) was one of the pet causes of the same Progressive movement responsible for winning women the right to vote and breaking up the fabulously corrupt machine politics of late nineteenth century America. Unpalatable as that fact is in today’s political terms, gay men and lesbians weren’t forced into the closet in the 1930s by the right. They were driven there by the left."

There are serious dangers in skewing the coding of our thought-processes. Words are so fundamental to the way we perceive and communicate; we don't need yahoos pissing in our mental swimming-pool. But on they will go - here is one try at gender-neutral pronouns:

The above - somehow reminiscent of the dialect-poetry of William Barnes - is reproduced from the University of Wisconsin's website. I'm glad I'm not at college now. When did universities turn from the free exchange of ideas to the suppression of them? This isn't about liberation; it's about power.

Still, after the ant-lion comes the ant-lion wasp, and I follow Milo Yiannopoulos with interest as he explodes the intolerance of those who claim to represent tolerance; it's mischievously delicious. UC Davis in California is the latest example (and to be consistent, now I have to reconsider my intense dislike of pharmaceutical profiteer Martin Shkreli, who was also scheduled to speak).

Come to England, dear children. We have been a conquered nation for almost a thousand years, and despite many changes of axe-handle and blade the structure of exploitation and oppression remains the same - how else could we explain the deep, systematic treachery of our elite? Little wonder that we pretty much taught the world principled civil war and revolution, and those experiences taught us a lesson, too. One positive consequence for us grunts is that we have a don't-give-a-damn attitude to most attempts at whipping us into some fresh Puritan frenzy. "We don't need no re-education," to misquote the [college-educated] boys of Pink Floyd.

Thirty-some years ago, a teaching colleague met one of her ex-pupils, a burly lad who had decided to "come out" and made, she said, a most peculiar-looking woman (though of course he was not attempting impersonation). She wished him well, calling him by his name, Bill, to which he replied, "Billette, if you don't mind." Very sweet; so polite.

And no problems with assertion there.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Lower 45: How The USA Could Have Lost 3 States To Mexico In WWI

The Zimmerman deal

100 years ago this month, Germany was losing World War I and was looking for help. Its Foreign Secretary sent a telegram to Mexico, promising the return of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico in return for military support if the USA should enter the War.

Thanks to a cable-cutting competition between the Allies and Germany, the only way for the latter to transmit the message was from London via the first submarine link laid to America, which ran into the sea near the tiny, remote village of Porthcurno, Cornwall.

The line was tapped, and the code was cracked by a Classical scholar genius called De Grey - the Alan Turing of his time, but unassisted by computers. When the telegram was made public and Zimmerman admitted its authenticity, that tipped the balance and America joined the Allies.

The three States promised to Mexico currently have a combined population of 34 million - more than 10% of the USA's total - and a combined GDP of c. $1.75 trillion dollars, which is around 9.6% of the US national turnover. Oil resources include the East Texas Oil Field (originally holding c. 7 billion barrels of oil) and (recently discovered) up to another 20 billion barrels in West Texas.

The proposed Wall between the two nations could have been longer - and who knows which way the people would be trying to cross?


And if you're planning to visit Cornwall:

http://www.porthcurno.org.uk/ [the Telegraph Museum]

Sunday, January 15, 2017

From Chautauqua to chatroom: Trump in the world of modern communications

I think the dislike among many Americans for Mr Trump is as much visceral as political. It is his style - bluff, swaggering, arrogant, coarse, seemingly half-educated (actually he's an Ivy Leaguer) - that irritates them.

Peter Hitchens in the MoS today calls him "an oaf" [a term I have frequently applied to Trump] "and a yahoo" - but in fairness, also notes that Jimmy Carter was a "disaster" and JFK's personal life would have disgraced him in office had it been common knowledge at the time.

The people prefer skilful talkers, but they will settle for ambitious bullsh*tters. How else could one explain the success of the egregious Tony Blair (George Macdonald Fraser called him "Andy Pandy")? He may have saved the Monarchy with his stagy tribute to the late Princess Diana, but look at those lookatme hesitations, cocks of the head (in a fey, almost camp way merely a beta version of President Obama's stately turns of the countenance and elegant pauses). I half suspect that the check before uttering the phrase "people's princess" (Diana was the daughter of an Earl) was not so much rhetorical as a desperate attempt by Blair's throat not to let this shark-jumping, finger-at-the uvula description leave his mouth. And yet it worked, for enough of us. What a performer; sort of.

PT Barnum said "The people like to be humbugged." Perhaps it's that they like the alert-making challenge of having their intelligence tickled and misled ("This way to the Egress"); maybe it's that oratory can be a kind of word-music, effecting our temporary escape to another, more wonderful land. Or do we delight in witnessing the construction of a complex verbal edifice, on the way learning new words, unexpected twists of meaning, fresh associations of ideas? In admiring the superior man's ineffable cerebration, ratiocination? Might it be a sort of pack-animal relief at being shown one's proper place in the social order? One thinks of Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles"):

Hedley Lamarr: My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.
Taggart: Ditto.
Hedley Lamarr: "Ditto?" "Ditto," you provincial putz?

Max Beerbohm was another to note the colonials' love of talk (in his Oxford novel "Zuleika Dobson"):

"Americans, individually, are of all people the most anxious to please. That they talk overmuch is often taken as a sign of self-satisfaction. It is merely a mannerism. Rhetoric is a thing inbred in them. They are quite unconscious of it. It is as natural to them as breathing. And, while they talk on, they really do believe that they are a quick, businesslike people, by whom things are 'put through' with an almost brutal abruptness. This notion of theirs is rather confusing to the patient English auditor."

But of course that is a nationalist tease: in reality, everybody falls for oratory. William Hague's biography of Pitt the Younger tells of an all-night speech that Prime Minister made, which ended just as dawn broke with a Latin quotation that was as perfectly appropriate to the sunrise as it was fitting to the conclusion of his peroration. MPs walked through the morning dew to their lodgings in awe at his linguistic feat.

And then there's Trump.

No vilification is sufficiently vile, no fabrication base and lewd enough to satisfy his fevered opponents among the populace maddened by vicious Chinese whispers in the social media. One begins to understand how the excesses of the French Revolution were made possible by the hot words of professional speakers building the cyclones of passion among the common folk. (What more could Julius Streicher have done had he had Twitter and Facebook as his tools? Indeed, his demonic successors are promulgating Jew-hatred by electronic means even now.) How far we have declined from the attempts to educate the public a hundred years ago - the WEA in Britain, the Chautauqua in the USA. Now, it is about appeals to our worst, unthinking instincts, anything to get the cross in the right box, the right placard held up for the TV cameras; and what marvellous ways we now have, to spread toxic messages among groups of the like-minded! Facebook in particular is full of eager amateur propagandists. Lately, tragically, the Fourth Estate seems to have forgotten its role and is limping as fast as it can behind social media, willing to parrot the latest rumour so as to seem in the loop; whereas it should find and tell the truth not only to power, but to the people.

I have been told in all seriousness that he is worse even than George W Bush (whom I regard as a genuine psychopath). Yet to date, Mr Trump has ordered nobody's death, started no war.

Is his behaviour towards women reprehensible? What of President Harding, pleasuring his interns in a cupboard while a Secret Service man stood by ready to knock if Mrs Harding should approach? Or Juanita Broaddrick's bruised lip?

Venal sins, or mortal? Think of Macduff's interview with Malcolm in the Scottish play, where the latter, testing the former's real intentions, pretends to be not only lustful but ruthlessly avaricious: "We have willing dames enough...  Scotland hath foisons to fill up your will", answers Macduff; it takes far more to make the pretender "not fit to live".

The system will adjust to Trump. A friend noted yesterday that the President-elect's Twittering has changed recently, as though another hand has been interposed between Trump's stubby fingers and the keyboard. No doubt it has; and less doubt, that the Chinese and Russians are studying his style, so that they too can read beneath the surface and ascertain his true position. It is will and direction that count; the rest is detail and diplomacy. Let us see how well Mr Trump steers and delegates.

In a mass democracy, politics tends to be personalised, but it is not one man's personality only that matters. More worrying for Americans must be the capture of the State by one party in Congress and the Senate; the partisanship of such organs of government as the intelligence services; the destabilising greed and influence of big business and its servants in Washington, and the private banks that own and rent out America's currency. And then there are the complexities of world trade and lightning-fast international finance, which may resist Canute-like attempts at control.

Perhaps the question for Trump is not so much the damaging things he may choose to do, but the good things he will not be able to do for his country.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday Night Is Music Night: JD's New Year's Honours for Sir Ray Davies

I am somewhat ambivalent about the nation's Honours System but if the country feels it is necessary to award honours to popular music 'icons' then it should pick those who are worthy of it. Ray Davies was this year knighted in the Queen's New Year Honours list and it is well deserved, if a little overdue. For the past fifty years or so he has been a chronicler of our times and has produced some wonderful, thoughtful and whimsical songs, a sort of modern troubadour observing the oddities of modern life and translating them into song.

I think you will enjoy this selection from Sir Ray Davies, some of them well known and some of them less so.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Two Fat Ladies

My friend used to tell me that women didn't doll themselves up for men but for each other. I think this must be true as when I go out with my wife I sometimes think I should take a phone photograph so I would have a clue how to describe what she was wearing when I lost sight of her.

We recently re-watched (everyone should) a comedy series called Hebburn. In the last episode of Series 1 the family is going to a church blessing for their son and his wife, who previously had got married in a wild moment in Las Vegas without them. Mother asks father how she looks; he tells her she looks beautiful; she says he hasn't looked (true: he is feeling unwell and about to have a mild stroke); he (crafty beggar, even in crisis) says he doesn't need to; she accepts the compliment; and so she should. Is it just me, or does your true love become more a feeling, a numinous presence, rather than something to be critically, objectively observed? When will women understand? Maybe it's just the continuing need to be reassured that the dynamic relationship that is love is still crackling with energy.

For women, the self-dissatisfaction includes the clothing of the frame in flesh, too. January is another time for the effort to lose weight and become bikini-ready by summer. It seems married isn't good enough; one has to be forever nubile, permanently in that neotenic in-between stage, like axolotls. Yet reason breaks through sometimes: my wife's friend, in a new relationship this year, said she'd been putting on weight and didn't care; my wife told her it was contentment.

It looks as though men like contented women, and always have. Only three months ago, an 8,000-year-old female figurine was unearthed in Turkey:

... and a century ago, another (three times older) in Lower Austria:


Of course, in places and at times when food was chronically scarce, this shape would imply wealth, social standing and the body-stored ability to survive periods of privation. Now that we Westerners have no fear of famine, we can afford to leave our supplies of food in our cupboards and shops.

But still - consistent with health, what's a pound or two between lovers?

Maybe we men should do more reassuring. I knew it would be our fault, somehow.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Friday Night Is Music Night: JD's Januadry

... or, hangover cure?

Is everyone recovering from the excesses of the Christmas and Hogmanay festivities?

I forgot to take part in the traditional New Year's Day dip in the North Sea. Again! That is, I think, the 39th year in a row that I have forgotten. Ah well, never mind. Here is a better method for clearing away the cobwebs from your mind - open the windows, turn up the volume and play these loud!

- with thanks to Wiggia for helping to compile this selection.
Sackerson adds:

Here's a lovely New Yorker article on the demon drink:


- of which a nugget:

"... prehistorians have speculated that alcohol intoxication may have been one of the baffling phenomena, like storms, dreams, and death, that propelled early societies toward organized religion. The ancient Egyptians, who, we are told, made seventeen varieties of beer, believed that their god Osiris invented this agreeable beverage. They buried their dead with supplies of beer for use in the afterlife."

If you want to follow that up, here's a couple more links:

The tomb of an ancient Egyptian beer brewer (from The Atlantic monthly)
Beer in ancient Egypt

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Midnight's Grandchildren: the history and legacy of India's partition


Hat-tip: http://twilightstarsong.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/untold-history-always-historian-sees-as.html

Past history is never final, for perspectives change and new facts come to light. Yet sometimes, "new" facts are old ones that have been in the public domain a long time, like unexploded bombs.

Only a few years ago, The Independent reviewed the partition of India in the light of a fresh book by Jaswant Singh, who was a member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party until 2014, and was nine years old when Partition occurred. Supposedly, the responsibility for the terrible bloodshed between Muslims and Hindus as the country tore itself in two had previously been laid at the door of the Muslim separatist Mohammad Ali Jinnah; now (2009) we were to remember the intransigence of Jawaharlal Nehru and his Congress Party.

Yet 38 years before the above-linked article, exactly the same points were made in John Masters' 1971 autobiography "Pilgrim Son". Masters, a fifth-generation Indian Army man, was working at General Headquarters in Delhi in 1946, and was passed a request from the Viceroy, Field Marshal Archibald Wavell, to draft a paper (overnight!) on "the strategic results of splitting India". Masters concluded [see pp. 33-35] that there would be serious flaws in defence capabilities:

"Would the new countries be militarily viable? It didn't look like it. Pakistan would be like the peel of an orange. It would have all the dangerous frontiers, and much of the military accommodation - but no flesh, no core of industry, manpower or finance. Everywhere the lines of defence or counterattack would be in Pakistan, the base depots to support them in India...

"Briefly, my paper declared that the partition of India was militarily possible, but unsound. For over a century military problems had been worked out on the basis of one country, its natural boundaries the Himalayas and the sea, and this unity was built into the military fabric... I concluded that partition would place a very severe strain on Pakistan, particularly. The official advice of the Defence Department therefore was: don't."

Masters immediately received many plaudits from colleagues and superiors, but politics trumped his caveats:

"As everyone knows, India was, in fact, divided, but it is not perhaps so widely appreciated that the responsibility for this tragedy lies with Mr Nehru. For when the Congress, the Muslim League, and other parties had at last been persuaded to agree to the Cabinet Committee Plan, he gave a press conference at which he stated that the Congress considered itself 'completely unfettered by agreements and free to meet all situations as they arise'. As he was the president of the Congress this could only mean that his party, once it attained the majority power promised to it under the Plan, would be free to break the terms under which the other parties had agreed. With a sigh of delight - for in accepting the plan they had been forced to give up the goal of Pakistan - Mr Jinnah and the Muslim League also reneged on their agreement and returned to the old and now unalterable demand for a separate country of their own."

Then came pressure from the British side to get it done:

"The London Government wanted to set a date for transfer of power - but to whom? The political parties in India had not agreed, so to set a date for transfer was merely to set a date for chaos. Lord Wavell stated that this would cost a great many lives, and that he would not be responsible for carrying out such a policy. As the Government in England intended to do just that, they set about finding someone to replace him, who would do what they wanted." [p. 38]

Referencing a 2007 book by Richard Mead ["Churchill's Lions"] the Wikipedia article on Wavell spins this as:

"At the end of the war, rising Indian expectations continued to be unfulfilled, and inter-communal violence increased. Eventually, in 1947, Attlee lost confidence in Wavell and replaced him with Lord Mountbatten of Burma."

Estimates of the consequent loss of life vary between 200,000 and 2 million, plus massive disruption to millions of others. Churchill foresaw something of the kind in 1931 (though he was wrong about unemployment in the UK - the devastation of WWII forced Britain to restock human labour capacity from its colonies.)

If only Nehru could have been a reasonable-compromiser; if only the new British Labour Government hadn't been so hell-bent on resolving the issue with maximum despatch; if only Gandhi had not been murdered in 1948 and so might have lived to be a moderating influence on Nehru.

But it's funny how these reinterpretations have to wait for some much later, perhaps random event to set off the explosive.

And since then, tensions between India and Pakistan, possible chess-playing by other nations looking to use one side or the other for their own purposes, and the problems of relations with neighbouring states such as Afghanistan; and the Sunni-Shia sectarianism that threatens to ravage Pakistan as much as elsewhere in the Islamic world.

Perhaps we should be writing multiple-viewpoint histories of today - e.g. on what I see as the Bush-Blair wrecking ball in the Middle East. Rather than individual historians arguing from differing standpoints, maybe modern history should be Cubist, offering many-faceted perspectives in the same composition.

Georges Braque: “Bottle and Fishes”, c. 1910–2