Saturday, July 28, 2018

Mad Dogs and Englishmen, by Wiggia

The extremes of temperature, because they are so rare in this country, bring out the weird, the eccentric and the downright baffling.

We have all seen the wonderful world of the clothing innovator who manages to convey a sense of the sea in winter trudging the aisles of the local supermarket in full fisherman's regalia, sou'wester and all, and the inventive shorts, hats, sandals and socks - no British white male would wear sandals without socks such as those louche Europeans of questionable stock do, or effete actors. Some years back in Africa a tourist appeared for dinner wearing shorts, an open neck white shirt and a Tweed jacket; only a Brit could have carried it off in 90 degree heat.

Of course this hot weather is a positive boon for the tattooed, all manner of sleeveless, legless and worse garments appear, allowing the inked areas to show in all their awfulness, and the pink people come out - they have no choice of course having burnt themselves the first time they laid in the sun and now can’t bear to have anything on the skin apart from calamine lotion.

On the road open top cars with blonde sunglassed drivers are everywhere trying to give the impression they always drive around like this; a sort of Promenade des Anglais in Peckham. In a normal year you could be forgiven for thinking no one buys convertibles, but we are wrong, it is simply that in a normal year, nine out of ten, no one drives them: they remain tucked up for this very occasion.

Camper vans and caravans abound, seemingly reproducing en route as there are so many of them making a bee line for the same field somewhere on the coast. Today either of these is not enough, many have bicycles, motorbikes attached as well, canoes on the roof and for real oneupmanship you have all that and a small car on a trailer behind, or a yacht or powerboat, in all taking up about sixty foot of our small roads.

I am biased: I have never seen the attraction past the formative years when it was a cheap way to see the world of spending huge sums to sit in a field with others of the same persuasion. There was a motor home show last weekend on the showground near us; not content with looking at the latest models they all came in their motor homes for the weekend and sat in a field - the conversation must have been riveting - and then all went home !

I have a cousin who owns a motor home: his wife puts photos up on Facebook of him having a cup of tea by a pond or feeding ducks or sitting in a deckchair with an inane grin and a glass of wine - does anyone care ?

How do I know? Well I joined Facebook under pressure for a local community page but after three months being asked to be friends with people I had no interest in and having rows with “community members I deleted my account. Facebook has a strange pull for those who like to post gurning photos of themselves and family members all telling each other how wonderful they are, but I digress.

The Met Office is in full flow with yellow and amber warnings, localised flooding, power cuts and travel disruption all included in these warnings, I have been keeping a record of these over the last four weeks and we have had eight; all have disappeared as the moment of doom approaches, or moved to a later time and then deleted. Result, absolutely nothing: clear blue sky and skorchio all the way. Not a single drop since the heat started in June, yet still they persist with the warnings; like a stopped clock, one will eventually be right.

As a finale to all this last, with the windows and doors open the sound, loud, of a man's voice wafted in from the direction of the park alongside our garden. They have now and again a local band that uses the hall and at first I thought that it was them, an aspiring rapper perhaps, but there was little in the way of music to accompany this voice. Where the hell was it coming from? My curiosity got the better of me and as I approached the boundary hedge I could see a few figures the other side and the voice got louder. It was only when I put my head through a hole in the hedge that  the truth dawned: it was the fitness class. They had debunked from the center because of the heat inside and had come over to this side of the field as my tree boundary provides shade. The voice of course was the instructor using his amplifier for his instructions and the accompanying musical beat.

At that moment I should have retreated but the large contingent of ladies of varying ages and shapes were in their tights, shorts, leotards about to spring into action or were supposed to. It has to be said I was getting a rear view of all this and in different circumstances could have been accused of voyeurism or worse, so I slowly retreated to the safety of my garden with the rear view of multiple ladies' bottoms contorting in the heat. The last words I heard from the instructor were "One, two, three, four, you can do it!" - they probably could.

Friday, July 27, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: John Martyn, by JD

Music from John Martyn (1948 - 2009) with some help from a few friends.

"In a world that lacks compassion, John Martyn and his music, is a breath of fresh air. John was an incurable romantic who sang from his heart; no other artist sang with such commitment and emotion. People have fallen in and out of love listening to the most enduring and magical songs of deep sensitivity that have been sung over his forty year plus career. A truly progressive artist John never stayed with a tried and trusted sound, preferring to explore, experiment and break new ground. His trade mark melodies and lyrics are in a class of their own and his voice which is steeped in pleasure and pain, joy and fear and love and hate, expresses emotion like no other and can reduce even the strongest of men to tears."

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Seismic changes in the Conservative Party

Britain is witnessing the birth of a new political party, according to commentators on the Internet.
Insiders working in the remote Tunbridge Wells region of the UK say Brexit will eventually split the Conservative Party in two, though it will take about 10 years.
Used to understanding changes in Parliament on timescales of decades, the international team of commentators have seen amazing changes in the Tory party in the past few years, where the “natural party of Government” is cracking open, quite literally underneath their feet.
Hot, molten fury from deep within the membership is trickling to the surface and creating the split.
Underground eruptions are still continuing and, ultimately, the free-trading but patriotic elements of Conservatism will fall away and a new political party will form.
More here:

Friday, July 20, 2018


More Afro-Cuban music, this time from a younger generation. Twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz record together under the name Ibeyi which is the word for twins in the Yoruba language of West Africa.

Where older artists had been more 'showbiz' and entertainers, these two sisters have gone deeper into the roots of their music to produce a more soulful, spiritual sound mixed with a touch of modern 'electronica' and they have beautiful voices. So here is a varied selection of their music and the final video features their mother, Venezuelan singer Maya Dagnino, with a song about their late father, Miguel "Angá" Díaz who was part of the Buena Vista Social Club.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

JD: The fake wisdom of the elite

Responding to yesterday's post about doomster-prepper billionaires, JD says:

On 6th June 1968 (fifty years ago) John Lennon sat in a press conference at the National Theatre in London to talk about a new play based on his book "In His Own Write" As is the way of these things the conversation drifted into other topics. This is what Lennon had to say about the Government, all Governments:

Looking at the world of 2018, it appears that governments have become ever more remote from the citizenry who all, if only subliminally, agree that our leaders are even more insane than they were fifty years ago. Voters around the world have been rejecting the established political parties and have turned to alternatives. I am reminded of Chesterton's aphorism “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”  and that choice is also what our political 'leaders' have given us. We no longer believe in them and are casting around searching for something, anything which is not "more of the same."

It is not just politicians who are insane, our technological 'wizards' are also insane: "Men like Thiel (Paypal founder) or Amazon’s Jeff Bezos have invested millions in immortality projects; meanwhile Yudkowsky, the MIRI theorist, thinks anyone who doesn’t sign their children up for cryogenic freezing is a “lousy parent.” In that quest for an immortal soul, two things stand in the way: death and a revolt of the underclass. AI threatens to combine both—semiotically and, just perhaps, literally."

I have already made some observations on that subject in the second part of this post -
You have continued the theme in your recent post about the pessimism of the 'elite' They are not pessimistic, they are insane or, at the very least, they are lacking in imagination (something which also applies to the aforementioned 'techie geniuses', they have no practical expertise in or experience of anything)

John Cleese was right when he said in a lecture recently “If I can persuade you this evening to abandon this hope, you will find yourself a lot more relaxed, you'll worry less and laugh more.  I promise you that.”

Monday, July 16, 2018

The pessimism of the elite

"When the hedge funders asked me the best way to maintain authority over their security forces after “the event,” I suggested that their best bet would be to treat those people really well, right now. They should be engaging with their security staffs as if they were members of their own family. And the more they can expand this ethos of inclusivity to the rest of their business practices, supply chain management, sustainability efforts, and wealth distribution, the less chance there will be of an “event” in the first place. All this technological wizardry could be applied toward less romantic but entirely more collective interests right now.

"They were amused by my optimism, but they didn’t really buy it. They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves — especially if they can’t get a seat on the rocket to Mars."

These people are successful in a particular context. In a different one, maybe not.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Why China Will Never Rule The World

For a different take on China it is worth reading Troy Parfitt’s book - Why China Will Never Rule The World: Travels in the Two Chinas . This is not a book about facts and figures and neither is it a hymn to Chinese economic success. As the blurb tells us, the book is mostly travelogue told from an outsider's perspective, albeit an outsider who lived in Taiwan for ten years and who speaks Mandarin.

Three quotes may give a flavour of the writer’s standpoint. 

China is a nation of much fakery; there’s fake sushi, fake steak, fake gravy, fake music, fake goods, fake pharmaceuticals, fake news, fake weather reports, fake education, fake rights, fake laws, fake courts, fake judges, a fake congress, a fake constitution….

Unambiguous but not unconsidered. Parfitt thinks there are profound influences behind the fakery – a deep-rooted preference for appearances over reality. The second quote concerns a China Central Television (CCTV) show the writer watched from one of his hotel rooms.

That night on CCTV, a panel of Chinese scientists was explaining how the Americans had never landed on the moon. Not only were the lunar missions faked, they said, but the Apollo program itself was largely a matter of science fiction. The shadows were all wrong. Where were the craters? And just look at that ridiculous flag – not moving even with solar winds. Their tone was both mocking and disdainful, as if even having to explain why this was the biggest fraud of all time insulted their very intelligence.

CCTV is the main state broadcaster in China. The third quote is taken from a conversation with a taxi driver.

“Food in China is packed with shit – shit that will make you sick and kill you. I have a daughter, you know. I’m worried about what she eats. But what am I supposed to do? Complain? Yeah, right. The government would say, ‘Well, that’s very interesting, sir. Why don’t we take a walk and talk about it? Please, tell us whatever it is that’s on your mind.’ And then they’d shoot me in the back of the neck. Bang! And that would be the end of that.”

Obviously an entire country cannot be dismissed on the basis of a single taxi driver's complaints, however chilling they are. However there are many more examples highlighting what Parfitt sees as endemic weaknesses in Chinese culture. For example he sees Confucianism as a significant cultural problem with its emphasis on obedience and harmony.

The book is easy to read and although Parfitt can come across as someone who simply does not like China and the Chinese, he tells us quite clearly why that is. In so doing he provides an interesting and accessible cultural alternative to the usual facts, figures and technology.

Friday, July 13, 2018

FRIDAY THE 13TH MUSIC: Proms and Prokofiev (plus a swan), by JD

It's Friday the thirteenth! Unlucky for some, as the saying goes but it is also the First Night of the Proms. Everyone knows the Last Night of the Proms and everyone likes to sing along with the usual favourite tunes. However, the First Night is always more interesting and tonight it is an all British programme of music by Holst, Vaughan Williams and Anna Meredith.

Herewith a selection from those composers, plus an inquisitive swan who is lulled to sleep by a harp (video courtesy of Mr Sackerson who found it and sent it to me) and the final piece here is not British but is by Prokofiev by way of a consolation for the England team who didn't quite win their own 'battle on the ice' (yes, I know it is summer but suspend disbelief for the duration and for artistic licence!)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Postwar Europe - secret struggles

Fascinating. Lord Walsingham (92 last year) is in his anecdotage - and none the worse for that, in his case - but some startling things jump out of the flow.

He worked for a time in 1950 in the German Department of the Foreign Office, and explains how the French and German governments were still secretly Nazi but were being used to hold back the threat of Communism (both within Western European nations and also of course from the Soviet Union, which had started the Berlin blockade in 1949.)

And he tells how MI6 discovered there were secret parts of the 1951 Coal and Steel agreement relating to mutual support by France and Germany of each other's industries, designed to weaken Britain's capacity for self-defence.

The UK Labour Government's Attlee and Bevin spotted the threat to Anglo-style democratic self-government and kept out of this "community".

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Real life: does it really reflect dreams? - by Wiggia

I had one of those days when all seemed quite normal. I had an appointment at the optician's for a hearing test - that is not a mistake, as many do both now in this competitive world.

What was strange was the way the day panned out: a simple visit to town for a bog-standard test and the appointment ended up being a carbon copy of one of those dreams we have.

You know the ones, those where we can’t find the car, the station, the way home, all ending up in blind panic, what started out as a perfectly normal journey or day out ending in total chaos of the mind as every effort to find the car, the station, the way home, becomes ever more barred by having completely lost the plot.

Or the ones where you are trying to communicate with someone who can’t hear you and you are being pulled ever further away.

Many of these dreams are recurring in theme, the desperately lost being the most common, well for me anyway. And then this is usually compounded by finding that you have no money to pay for a train fare and the car is totally lost to you. Sometimes you cannot even get to the right area to find the car or station whatever as ever more obstructions are put in your way. Of course you rarely ever have a final ending to these dreams as you wake up before the finale, or that is how it seems.

One of those great changemaker films of cinema was based on those sorts of dreams: Federico Fellinis  8½. I include the great opening sequence and other snippets, partly as an excuse to see the wonderful Sandra Milo - she is briefly in the opening sequence; I lusted after her then and she always remains a symbol of the unattainable.

As with the dreams everything started well, with plenty of time to take into account the extra traffic in town, and as I came off the ring road I was grateful (though if I had known the future I would have taken it as a portent of things to come), as there was a traffic incident on ring road ahead of the turnoff and the vehicles were at a standstill. Lucky me, I thought.

On I went into the city center with no further hint of problems and as I arrived near to my destination I made the fatal mistake of changing my normal plan. The car park I use for the optician's is not a big one. Being the nearest to the city centre it is the most expensive and at the back of my mind that may have had an influence on what I did next.

As I approached the roundabout leading to the road with the car park I noticed one of those signs that inform of the spaces left. The number indicated for the one I wanted to use was very low so I thought rather than enter, not be able to park and end up having to exit and start again, with the chance I would be late for the appointment, I would instead go to the other car park that is a similar distance from my destination.

No problem getting in: a huge below-the-shopping-mall labyrinth of a place on several levels, all below ground. I parked the car got out and looked for the exit. 

It all started there at that moment. I have never used this car park so had no idea about the exits. After walking around a bit there appeared to be no direct way to the outside. In fact there wasn’t; the only way out was up by the lift or escalator into the mall itself. I had asked a couple of people if there was an alternative but needless to say they were new to the area and had no more idea than I did.

Once in the mall, which is huge, there still didn’t seem to be any signs for an exit, so I went to the inquiry desk, stated where I wanted to go and asked which was the best exit. Having been given what seemed like simple instructions I strode out in the direction given only to end up, well nowhere. Still no exits, and time was running against me as I had now lost all idea as to where I was in relation to my destination. I asked another person who gave me a similar simple route out, only to find myself then back where I started. So I nabbed a passing security guard, gave him the story again and he did indeed direct me to the exit, but it must have been getting to half a mile from that position.

At last the exit hove into view. By now time was running out and I had left my phone in the car so I could not call the opticians to let them know of my predicament. Once out of the exit I discovered I was in the main shopping road and a mile from my destination; it transpired later there are no exits at the other end, only the car park entrance - and that has no pedestrian exit.

Nothing else for it but to right turn up to the junction then right again back to the original roundabout, all this with sciatica setting in on a stinking hot day. I followed the small parallel road until I got to my starting point, the car park entrance, and then went on along a wide grass verge by the old Roman wall. 8½ again: all was going well until the path ran out and I had then to cross a dual carriageway. What next? I asked myself. Fortunately the road has traffic lights and gaps there to cross in safety, which I did and continued to the first roundabout, then on to my destination.

Arriving dripping with sweat and having still no inkling as to the time I went in and presented myself. "Oh dear," said the receptionist. "We had given up on you. I will go and see if they can fit you in." Luckily they did and I sat under the air con the very nice lady put on for me whilst she checked my ears. All done, I made to leave but asked the receptionist having explained my dilemma if there was an entrance nearer than the one I had left by at the mall. She said yes and came down the road with me to direct. "Follow that road and take the next right and it will take you to the entrance." The road I was to follow seemed endless and skirted a small park where a fun fair was being erected for the week end; the music that was emanating from the fair reminded me of the dream circus sequence from Fellini's 8½. On I pressed, on, tired, sweating and with sore toes from the new shoes I had on and the sciatica (though that had numbed to a background nuisance by now.)

The end of the road beckoned: still no entrance but I recognised I was back at the car park entrance. No way in there, cars only, dark and too dangerous to try. There was eventually another entrance but it was so near my original exit that I had almost retraced my steps. In I went, found a way down to the car park and I had remembered the area number where I had parked - but no car! Wrong floor. Down another one; and then I saw that the area numbers are repeated on each floor; found the car, got in, started it and put the air con  on full blast and coldest setting and went home.

The wife's first words were, “That didn’t take long but what’s happened to you? You look knackered.”

"Well no the examination was very quick but the rest….". and all I could hear was her laughter, no bloody sympathy at all; so life can match dreams!

Friday, July 06, 2018

FRIDAY MUSIC: Jack White and the White Stripes, by JD

Currently popular among football supporters (and Jeremy Corbyn fans) is the 'hook' line from Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes

But there is more to Jack White than a fairly simple pop song. He is something of a musicologist with an interest in the roots and history of American music which is probably why he is a board member of the Library of Congress' National Recording Preservation Foundation. He also records a lot of that music as can be seen in some of the videos in this selection.